Sales Predictability Is Boring!

Symvolli

What if you could predict your sales growth within +/-10% so that you could run your business efficiently, effectively, and profitably? Boring?

Think of the possibility of:

Actually being able to plan the use of your resources and to identify when more might be required.

Of being able to rely on the sales forecast so that an accurate revenue and cash flow forecast could be produced with the minimum of intervention from senior management.

Identifying any future shortfall in the pipeline so that marketing campaigns can be carried out to produce leads so that the sales targets can be met.

Most sales directors I talk to tell me that one of the biggest problems they have is the erratic nature of their sales forecasts.  It makes planning so difficult.  Yet they believe that the inconsistency in sales forecasting is part of the sales environment and that it can only be controlled via the regular sales meetings that take place on a ‘one-to-one’  basis or as a team.  This is not true! There is a sales process, based on the questions used by the sales director, which establishes the credibility of any sales forecast.  Imagine a system that would   emulate that sales process for you.  In effect each sales person using the system would have their personal sales process manager/advisor.  Management can look at the trends and refine the sales process to achieve even better results. The regular sales meetings would continue but be more productive.

Not so boring after all knowing when, where, how and why!  More time to do everything else!!!

10 Coaching Questions Managers Use That Work In Any Conversation

By Keith Rosen

Whether you’re a seasoned manager or just starting your career in management, one thing is for certain. When it comes to coaching, and more specifically, guiding a conversation with the artful and strategic use of well crafted questions, managers, regardless of age, location or experience, struggle with the right questions to ask when coaching.

After coaching thousands of managers and thousands of salespeople across the globe, I’m overly sensitive to the fact that great coaches coach from their heart, not from their head. However, just like learning anything new, such as how to swing a golf club, you’re initially focused on the mechanics of your swing, each movement, step by step. It is only after consistent repetition of the same movement, does it become your own. You stop thinking about the mechanics, and habitually just do it.

This also holds true when it comes to the questions managers ask when coaching. I certainly know there’s a multitude of different questions you can use in any coaching conversation. However, when the best ones are used and used consistently, the conversation becomes magical and both the coach and coachee walk away from that experience feeling great.

That’s when this shift happens; the coach starts recognizing positive results from coaching and as such, begins to trust their intuition, their gut, their coaching abilities and their instincts more and more. The byproduct? The right questions just show up naturally and organically within the conversation. But you still need to start with a baseline of best practices as a solid foundation to build from before you can make it your own and leverage your own style, strengths and personality into your coaching.

That’s why I’ve listed ten coaching questions here which I’ve used over the years that I have found can work in practically every conversation you have. These questions will guide the person to greater accountability and ownership of the problem so that they can in turn, develop their own solution or create a new possibility.

Of course, depending upon the conversation, you may not need to leverage every single question. However, as you use them throughout your coaching efforts, you’ll start recognizing how many of these questions you need and which ones are the most appropriate. Keep in mind, if you don’t have a great manager or a coach in your corner, you can also leverage some of these questions for self-coaching! (Just don’t argue with yourself over the responses you hear! ;- )

1: Can you share the specifics of what’s going on?

2. What is the outcome you’re looking to achieve here?

3. What have you tried so far?

4. How have you handled something like this before? (What was the outcome?) Why do you feel this is happening?

5. What’s another way to look at this/respond? What else can also be possible/true? (And…..?)

6. What’s another solution/approach that may work (which you haven’t tried yet)?

7. What’s the first thing you need to do to (resolve/achieve this)?

8. What resources do you need? (Who else do you think needs to be involved in this? How else can I support you?)

9. What are you willing to commit to doing/trying/changing (by when)?

10. When should we reconnect on this to ensure you achieved the result you want?

BONUS QUESTIONS: If you sense any resistance to change or a lack of ownership around the issue, goal or problem, you can weave in one of these questions here:

*What would it mean to you if you could (achieve this, resolve this, etc….)? (This question helps the person visualize what’s in it for them – and it’s the thing that they want rather than the manager trying to tell or ‘sell’ them on what the benefit is.)

*How would this impact/affect you (your team, career, etc.) if this (continues, doesn’t change, doesn’t get resolved)? (This second question enables the person to see/articulate the measurable cost of not changing vs. being told the negative consequence. Remember, if they say it, then they own it.)

The Only Four Things That You Sell

By S. Anthony Iannarino 

Maybe you believe you sell a product. Or maybe you believe you sell a service. Or perhaps, you believe you sell something more complex, like solutions. Really, you sell only four things.

You Sell Visions

You sell an imagined future. You sell the story of how things might be better.

Once you gain an understanding of your client’s dissatisfaction (or help them to become dissatisfied), you sell the vision of the future where that dissatisfaction is no more. You sell the vision of the desired state, of something far better than your dream client’s current state.

Without a vision of the future, your dream client isn’t going to go through all of the trouble, or all of the pain, that accompanies a change initiative. They have to see a better, brighter vision of a future that is worth pursuing.

What you sell is a vision.

You Sell Ideas

How you make the vision a reality is through your ideas.

You sell the idea of your values. You sell the idea that is your unique view. You sell the differences that make a difference for your dream client in achieving the results that they need. You sell the ideas that are your diagnosis before you sell the ideas that are your solutions.

You sell the ideas that are the changes your dream client needs to make so that their vision becomes a reality.

What you sell is ideas.

You Sell Outcomes

It isn’t your product, your service, or your solution that your dream client is buying; they are buying the outcome your product, your service, or your solution provides.

You may have heard it said this way: “People don’t buy drills; they buy holes.” But if your company makes drills, it’s easy to believe your customers want to buy drills. You also have heard it said this way: “If the railroads would have believed they were in the transportation business, they would have opened airlines.” They believed they were in the business of running railroads.

You sell holes.

You sell the outcomes that make your shared vision of the future a reality.

You Sell Trust

You sell the fact that you can be trusted, that you can be counted on to ensure that those outcomes are achieved. You sell the fact that you are the best, the most capable, and the most dedicated choice of partner to help your dream client reach their future desired state.

You don’t have to have the best offering. You don’t have to have the best price. You don’t even have to be the best salesperson. But to win the opportunity to help your dream client, you do have to be the salesperson that your dream client trusts most to help them achieve the outcomes they need.

Your dream client is choosing a business partner. They are hiring someone they trust to own a result that they need. They need that trusted partner.

You sell trust.

The currencies that you trade in as a salesperson are vision, ideas, outcomes, and trust.

Questions

What is that you really sell? Is that enough?

What do you need to do to provide a vision or to help your dream client achieve their vision?

How do you help your clients with the ideas that will help them cross the bridge to a better future?

You sell holes. What are the holes that you sell?

Why is trust one of the major currencies in which you trade?

KEEP IT SIMPLE WHEN IT COMES TO SALES COMPENSATION

By Matt Smith

In an earlier blog post that cited some key data from a recent CSO Insights report on best practices in tracking sales metrics, we noted that companies that measure 4-7 key sales metrics had higher sales performance than companies that tracked 3 or fewer key sales metrics. My first reaction when I read these statistics was that if measuring sales metrics drives sales performance then compensation plans should be used to reinforce those behaviors. The problem with this approach is that it adds incredible complexity when calculating commission compensation (and in some cases the payout associated with certain metrics would be so low most sales people would ignore them completely).

So if measuring sales metrics drive sales performance how can a firm get the desired results with the least amount of complexity?

There are two key tenets in the sales world, sales people are motivated by money and companies need new revenue to survive. When it comes to sales compensation the carrot is to highly compensate sales people to bring in new logo business and at the highest possible margins.  The problem with this approach is that it can cause a sales person to neglect key activities such as updating the CRM system; following established sales processes and accurate forecasting, etc.. These activities are critical to running an efficient company – and sometimes a stick is needed to make sure they are completed accurately and on time.

Rather than using the carrot and stick approach to this issue I prefer the small carrot / big carrot approach.  You may want to consider a quarterly bonus or commission accelerator for those team members that religiously follow the sales behaviors you desire. This bonus or accelerator needs to be large enough to be meaningful and would be on top of commissions for actual closed deals.  I especially like the accelerator approach because sales people can’t control the timing of most sales so they will stay continually motivated to follow all the sales rules rather than risk losing commissions unnecessarily.

When designing nest year’s compensation plan include key stakeholders from sales finance, operations, and IT.  Strive to keep your compensation plans simple and easy for you and your sales person to calculate, and always pay them on-time.

Sales Partner Or Dancing Puppet?

 BY  

After closing a sales conference this week, one of the audience approached me to ask about a sales presentation that they had recently failed to win. They wanted to know what they could have done about it and how they could improve their chance of winning a similar pitch next time.

After asking a few questions it became patently clear that the reason why the sale had failed was that the salesperson had never been treated as an equal by the client and was never really in the running.

Many things had not gone perfectly…

  • Prior to the sales presentation the client had refused to answer any questions from the sales team making the presentation.
  • The client had only informed the presenters of the time and date of the presentation the day before.
  • The presentation was at 9am in the morning 200 miles away from the office of the sales team.
  • The client was running late on the day and kept them waiting for half an hour with only a scant apology.
  • The client’s team who attended the presentation deliberately refused to make any polite chat,refused to engage like normal human beings, were overtly rude and refused to answer any questions.
  • No feedback was given at the time of the presentation and no promise of timely feedback was given.
  • The sales team had no idea who they were “competing” against nor the criteria by which they were being judged…

A particularly bad example and I could carry on but I am sure that you have had to deal with many similar situations.

Far too many clients think that the way to conduct sales meetings and presentations is to treat your potential business “partners” as dancing puppets where all they have to do is tweak the string and you do the jig. And far too many sales teams accept this course of affairs as just the way things are or the way that they have to be.

One of my friends works for a well-known organization who set up meeting after meeting for him to attend. At every one, by the time he attends, the client is looking down on him from a great height. It’s a totally one-way process. He performs, they yell to him from the stage wings, “Jump!” and he has little choice other than to scream back, “How high?!” Failure to do so would be unacceptable to his clients and unacceptable to his management team who are the very people who position the meetings so poorly in the first place. His management team think that this is how you do business.

Once you are out of position it is difficult to get back into position. Once you position yourself as less important that your prospects, it is unlikely you will repair the mismatch. Once you devalue your offering, you will struggle to create the value or the relationships that you want and need to build the relationships and the business that you want.

Far too many sales presentations are one-way affairs where sales teams effectively beg for business and prospective clients bestow their deity-like, benevolence on the lucky “winner”.

It doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be this way. If you want partnership relationships with clients who believe in you and appreciate the value that you add, if you want to be paid commensurate with the work you do, if you want sustainability, satisfaction and success then you have to get your positioning right and this has to be done right from the start of your relationship.

Getting yourself in position may sometimes prove challenging and it may not always be possible but equally getting out of position is not something that just happens, it is something that you allow to happen!

I talk about this in my sales masterclasses and even run one off seminars from time to time on positioning. It is that important. I even touch on it in my New Rules of Selling seminar which will be taking place in London in November… but you can start to do something about it today by focusing on a few simple things.

Here are 6 to get you started…

  1. Define your clients. Who are they? Why do they work with you? How do you add value for them?
  2. Position yourself as an expert. Create a brand and a name for yourself that attracts clients to you because of what you can do for them. Clients come to me because of what I do not because I am just another sales speaker.
  3. Keep your engines running. Far too many salespeople take their feet off the gas when they have “enough” business and their sales activities career to a grinding halt. Lack of opportunities can create desperation and desperation makes it hard to not start playing the fiddle furiously whenever anyone instructs you to dance a jig.
  4. Get familiar with the word, “No”… saying it and hearing it. If you are in the wrong place, with the wrong client or pursuing the wrong opportunity and you cannot do anything about it, “No” can be the most liberating, time saving and sales boosting option.
  5. Build huge value. It’s easy for clients to treat salespeople as “all the same” if they are pretty much interchangeable. Whilst technology and transparency may have made products and approaches pretty much interchangeable, your expertise, your personal approach and the value that you deliver is not.
  6. Be honest. Many sales and business people have long wooden noses when it comes to not admitting that they are dancing like puppets on a string. Without honesty about your current relationships and your current situation, how can you improve it?

Start now by having a think about the relationships you have, where they’re at, how you can add more value to them and what you need to do to be seen as more equal than your competitors in the future…

Why A Sales Process?

by Krista Moore

Today we’d like to discuss why having a sales process is so important and begin to help you better understand the key elements that make a sales process successful. Chances are you already have something like a sales process in place, but unlikely that you have taken the time to document it, create support material for it, train around it, and ensure everyone is executing it in the same manner.

A successful sales process is a proven, documented sales approach with messaging and job aids that represent your winning model for gaining, penetrating and retaining accounts. A formal process would include standardized scripts that ensure everyone is saying the same things, conveying the same message to customers, and is supported by consistent job aids and marketing tools that are appropriately aligned to the steps and activities in the process.

Sales reps appreciate a standardized process because it helps them be more efficient, develop stronger skills through repetition, and spares them from having to reinvent the wheel with every prospect or opportunity. When they get stuck in pursuit of an opportunity, a process provides them guidance with suggested next steps, instead of leaving them floundering and feeling stalled in their efforts. Sales reps also gain a sense of company commitment, support, and dedication toward the sales department and their efforts. But the greatest satisfaction—for both the company and its sales reps—comes when they see the true outcomes of being more professional and closing more accounts faster.

Sales managers and business owners appreciate the sales process concept. Once the process is defined, it is easier to manage the sales funnel and the expectations surrounding sales activities. A process creates a system of accountability to new business and better information for estimating new cash flow. Managers can also determine where in the sales process the sales reps are getting stuck so they can address these issues sooner rather than later. Sales reps’ problems are often the result of not giving the appropriate amount of effort, or their selling style or methods aren’t effective; a process takes the guesswork out of the latter, and allows a manager to manage the sales reps behavior and activities accordingly. Then the results will come.

The idea of qualifying leads can be daunting, especially if you do not have a lead generator, database, or a CRM to assist. You should first consider a lead generation system. Examples of such a system might include your local chamber of commerce, business journals, existing customer referrals, Hoovers, or DMB. Consider the waste of time, money, and energy involved when sales reps are left struggling to identify their own prospects in an unorganized way.

Some companies consider the sale process begins after lead generation, and others believe the sales process technically does not begin until you have prequalified the lead and determined they are an ideal customer and a valid opportunity for your business. In such cases, prequalification may represent the first step in your sales process.

When we work with business owners on sales process creation and job aid designs, we customize these tools to their strengths, brand, and messaging. Then we supplement and enhance these tools with best practices, proven paths, and a library full of job aids and sales training resources. The outcome is a documented, phased sales process with steps, established goals, activities, and job aids for each step.

Below is a sample outline that demonstrates possible steps in each phase.

Phase 1 - Get Appointment

Goal: To get an appointment

Activities: Make the phone call. Leave a voice message if you don’t speak to them live, and then follow-up with an email.

Job Aids: A script for leaving an effective voice message, a talk track that is creating values, a sample template of an email that can be sent with the same messaging as the conversation, a template email thanking the prospect for the appointment while setting the agenda and expectations.

Without this, your prospect may reasonably think Who is this? What’s in it for me? Why should I listen? This type of customer response makes it difficult to get to the next phase of your sale process, resulting in wasted time as well as a potential loss of opportunity.

Phase 2 – Uncover Needs

Goal: Have a successful sales call and uncover an opportunity.

Activity: Pre-plan the call and prepare an effective opening statement for the meeting.

Job Aid: A professional script, conversation guide, sample questions to uncover needs.

Lacking this type of preparation and planning, your reps may have a tendency to show and tell, talk too much about your company and not ask questions and uncover the needs of the prospect. They may be doing their own thing instead of representing the company in the manner you prefer, or a manner that has already proven successful.

Phase 3 – Present Proposal

Goal: Close the business

Activity: Prepare a price offer as well as a service proposal.

Job Aid: Sample template proposals, talk track for handling objections.

Without a structured, customer-specific proposal, a sales rep may fall back on simply providing a price list and a catalog, rather than presenting a full program and addressing concerns. When sales reps focus purely on price, they squander the opportunity to communicate the full spectrum of value your company offers its customers. The customer may also feel that the sales rep didn’t listen to his specific needs.

Phase 4 – Closing

Goal: Get the commitment

Activity: Prepare an implementation plan and eliminate the customer’s fear of change.

Job Aid: Sample implementation plan, talk track and tips for addressing the fear of change and asking for the business.

Failing the approach of this last phase… well, you know the rest of the story.

We hope that this has given you an idea not only how to establish a formal sales process, but also demonstrated why a process is necessary for the continued success of your business. By giving your sales reps the structure and support of a sales process, you help them develop their strengths and effectiveness, while affirming that the features and value of your company are properly represented to each and every customer.

When One Door Closes, Another Opens–If You Have Your Mind Right!

by Brooke Green  

I was recently invited to lunch with 2 members of an executive team who were interested in joining our public sales training program.  Their company is at a size where leadership is the only face of the company, therefore, responsible for bringing in new business. I was really excited about the opportunity as we are always looking to raise the bar in our public programs, and these 2 would definitely do that.

The first question I asked them was, “Why do you think you want to join our group?” What they told me had nothing to do with sales training and everything to do with growth, leadership in a changing environment and really deciding what they want to be in the next 5-10 years.

I think joining our sales group was the only solution that came to mind. They were obviously feeling some discomfort with everything that is going on, and sales training would put them with other smart people, learning new stuff. That can feel good when things back at your office are a bit discombobulated!

So, why am I telling you this? I’m telling you because, even though I teach the inner game concepts of intent and detachment everyday, the lessons I learn in the real world never fail to slap me in the face. This is what I learned:

  • Had I been attached to getting them into our sales training program I would have:
    • Agreed to enroll them and then lost them as clients within a few months because, while the training is great, it isn’t solving the real problem OR
    • Left before the salad arrived because they didn’t say what I wanted to hear!
  • Because my intent was focused solely on helping them, the conversation, while different, was still valuable. I might not be helping them with what I had originally hoped, but now we are helping them with their entire organization—starting with the leadership.

While this story has a happy ending, staying present, detached and having my intent only on helping them allowed us to uncover things they had not even considered.