5 tips on teaching people to manage a sales team: an Asian view

by Geoff Alexander

Ever since I started my inside sales training company, I’ve been working with internationally-based teams. This week, I met with Mike, a professor at a well-known university in a large Asian city. He’ll be teaching a course on managing sales teams, and his students are MBA folks from all over Asia. The class will be held in Thailand, and we discussed bringing me in as a guest speaker. I’ve got commitments in the U.S. during that time, so instead, he asked me for some tips on teaching the class on how to be effective sales managers. Over coffee, I suggested 5 priorities, in terms of effectively managing a team. Although initially applicable to Asian companies, several of these points are applicable to everyone:

1)      Emphasize that you’re teaching techniques that work in the United States and Canada. Not all the techniques will work in all countries. But encourage students to “think out of the box.” I’ve made a career out of calling high, and it works in Asia, too. And you don’t need an introduction to do it.

2)      While “relationship selling” has its benefits, many deals are lost all over the world because despite the closeness of the relationship, a competitor offered something more beneficial, at a better price point. Even if you have a strong relationship, focus on helping the prospect to solve a problem, and prove by ROI (return on investment) math formulas that the solution makes financial sense.

3)      In Asian countries, be an expert in familial relationships that run corporations. In Thailand, for example, a few dozen families run the lion’s share of the country’s business. There’s a book, even, that describes these families, provides links through marriage, and lists many of the companies that are connected-family-wise. When you’re prospecting to an enterprise, ensure that you know as much as possible about the people running it, as well as their familial relationships with leaders in other companies.

4)      Begin developing a personal “brand” through LinkedIn, and develop a significant list of business contacts as soon as possible. MBA school is a great place to get started. And observe business etiquette: don’t invite people you haven’t met, or talked to. You’re not making “friends,” you’re making valid business relationships, and inviting everyone under the sun to be your contact runs your credibility. Those management contacts in your LinkedIn profile will be of great assistance to you as you hire salespeople, and will more than occasionally offer you personnel insight that references can’t.

5)      You’ll be hiring salespeople, right? Place a lot of value in role-playing during the interview process, and check references thoroughly. Don’t place any value at all on “personality tests.” No test can tell you who will or will not be a great salesperson. Lots of superior performers I know just walk away from an interview if they’re asked to take a test. You’re dealing with professionals, not elementary school children.

So now Mike’s on his way, with some additional ideas for his curriculum that weren’t in the textbook. The class itself is somewhat ironic, because Asians have been selling things far longer than we have in the U.S. But concepts such as ROI selling, electronic business networking, and calling high, which were perfected in the west, have begun to change the face of selling in Asia too. Mike’s looking forward to some spirited dialogue in his class, and I can’t wait to hear about the feedback from his students regarding how they can potentially put these ideas to use in their current of future sales operations, internationally.

4 Steps to Shorten Your Sales Cycle

By Aaron Prickel

There are several key ingredients that go into shortening your sales cycle, here are a few:

  1. Referrals- Get them and get a lot of them.  I’m talking about solid referrals, not what most salespeople get (call them and use my name….this is not a referral).   By receiving a true referral you have already progressed the sale along.  Warning: this does not give you the right to cut steps out of your process.  It will just speed it up.
  2. Understanding why they would buy from you- too many times salespeople tell prospects why they should buy from them instead of having the prospect tell them.  You will quickly realize how much faster opportunities move along when it is their idea not yours.
  3. Shorten your own buy cycle- If you are a person who shops on price, likes to compare, do research and think it over for a period of time you are going to accept these put-offs from your prospects. It’s amazing how some salespeople don’t get out of the way during the sales process and unconsciously extend the cycle.
  4. Have clear next steps- The key word here is “clear.”  Too many salespeople think they have clear next steps but they don’t.  Example: I have a clear next step, I am supposed to send a quote then follow up in a week.  That is NOT a clear next step.  Now the salesperson spends 1-2 weeks chasing this person down trying to get them on the phone.  Take this scenario and multiply it by every other opportunity a sales rep is working on and look at the amount of time spent just in the “Follow up” phase.  Strong salespeople don’t have follow up, they have clear next steps.

Next time you or your company is looking to have more time to generate new business take a look at the length of your sales cycle and why it is happening.  You might be surprised how easy it can be to get decisions quicker.

That Complaining Customer Could Have Become Your Next Advocate!

By Jonathan Farrington

It’s a mistake to think that because a customer has expressed dissatisfaction with your product or service, they will not come back to you.

They won’t return if you handle the situation badly. However, some of your most vociferous complainers could become your most loyal customers, because you handled the situation well and treated them with respect.

This means recognizing some essential traits:

• Customers want to be respected
• They want attention
• They want to be appreciated and recognized
• Most of all – they want to be understood!

Losing Customers

Why do businesses lose customers?

My experience this week is, sadly, a typical example, and regular visitors here will know that I am on a campaign – crusade even – to improve standards of customer service, and I’ll describe those experiences on Saturday.

A survey with which you may be familiar, asked customers why they changed supplier/vendor. Here are the results:

• Developed a good relationship with another supplier (5%)
• Less expensive products elsewhere (9%)
• Unhappy with service/product (18%)
• Because of the poor attitude of the supplier (68%)

Your Customers Are the Lifeblood of Your Business

It is never easy to win new business, which is why we should nurture existing customers and try to minimize problems and inconvenience.

It’s a good idea to:

• Make regularly visits or calls – spotting trouble early on can help prevent it
• Reply to calls/queries as soon as possible
• Talk to your customers – find out about them
• Keep them well informed
• Conduct regular reviews of your performance – see your service through their eyes

Ensure that the lifeblood keeps flowing through the veins of your business.

Solving Problems

Suppose they are difficult.

Few people are truly difficult. In any case, it is important to make a distinction between difficult people and difficult behavior, which is often a result of non-co-operation on your part.

• Focus on the problem (challenge?), not on them
• Show interest – bring out their likeable side
• Put yourself in their shoes – remember empathy?
• Be personal – use their name if that’s what they would like
• Appeal to their better nature – ‘as a parent of small children you…’
• Cultivate their goodwill

Saying Thank You

Let your customers know you appreciate them. Find little ways to thank them for their custom, especially when they are not expecting it. This is a great way to attract compliments – especially after sorting out a difficult problem.

• A simple, but sincere thank you card – personalized
• Gift vouchers
• Cards at Christmas or other appropriate festivals – Diwali, Hanukah, Eid
• VIP days for special events, launches, dinners
• Social gatherings for key clients

Loyalty cards are very popular now with many organizations. Discounts, bonus points, free samples, all help to make your business stand out.

Compliments & Comments

Why do we find it difficult to accept compliments?

Is it because:

• We don’t have enough faith or pride in our product?
• We think it’s probably a back-handed complaint?
• We don’t trust people?
• We don’t know how to react? (How about ‘thank you’?!)

Compliments tell us what we are doing right and give a boost to our morale. If we allow it, they bring us pleasure.

Some customers just mutter a comment, because that’s how they are. They don’t really want you to take them up on it (it’s a good idea though to take note of what they say and, if appropriate, ask ‘Is everything okay?’).

And Finally

Some key lessons on keeping abreast of customer needs and minimizing complaints:

• Use as much of the available technology as possible – make it work for the customer
• Focus on customers as individuals
• Listen and act on what they say
• Increase the value of each customer – especially in the long term

Finally, finally, welcome complaints – always, always, welcome complaints

News: If you make your way over to Top Sales World today, you’ll find an excellent tip from Linda Richardson – “Make a List – Delete Excuses” and you can also catch a brand new Top Sales Hardtalk interview with Anthony Iannarino – “Take Your Clients as You Find Them” all HERE

Top 7 Critical Sales Trends for 2012

By Steve W. Martin

What are the top sales trends for 2012? Here’s my list based upon my experience of studying and working with some of the world’s greatest sales organizations last year.

1. Sales Linguistics – For 2012, it’s not only what you say, but equally important, how you say it. “Sales linguistics” is the revolutionary new field of study about how customers and salespeople use and interpret language during the decision making process. If you are in sales, you make your living by talking. If you were a pilot, you would attend years of flight training school before you were allowed in the cockpit of a jumbo jet. If you were a lawyer, you would intensely study law for several years and have to pass your state’s bar exam to ensure your proficiency. If you are in sales, you need to study language and perfect your use of words because your most important competitive weapon is your mouth.  Read more about Sales Linguistics here.

2. Sales Force Verticalization – A “specialist” beats a “generalist” every time. Closely related to Sales Linguistics, is the accelerated trend of sales force language specialization based upon the following strategies:

A) Industry verticalization (finance, government, retail, etc.) to promote domain expertise.

B) Technical application segmented by different solutions to promote extremely deep technical knowledge.

C) Business process improvement focus as opposed to the recitation of standard “generic” product features and functions to customers.

3. Sales Force Behavior “Modeling” – Models are verbal descriptions and visual representations of how systems work and processes flow. Models enable repeatable and predictable experiences. More top salespeople will be studied in 2012 to understand how they formulate their winning account strategies based upon customer politics, evaluator psychology, and the human nature of decision makers that are unique to every account.  Read further about the Personality Traits of 1,000 Top Salespeople here.

4. Sales Process Ineffectiveness – Many companies have realized that their sales effectiveness didn’t improve even after spending a great deal of money and effort implementing a sales process methodology. The reason for this is because the “black hole” of the sales process is what happens during sales calls. Today, it’s the personal interactions with prospective customers that determines winners from losers, not the internal processes of the sales organization. In 2012 more companies will be studying and categorizing these customer interactions so they can improve sales force effectiveness. Read about 101 Advanced Sales Call Strategies here.

5. Organizational Buying Psychology – If you are involved in selling enterprise solutions, you already know the importance of understanding the inner workings of the various departments within the prospective customer’s company. Your solution might be purchased by the information technology department and used by accounting and human resources. Therefore, it’s critical to map out the interrelationships of the departments within an organization. The essence of successful enterprise sales is understanding not only who to sell to, but how to craft a message that appeals to various departmental constituents. Understanding organizational buying psychology becomes an even more critical topic in 2012.

6. No Decision as the Main Competitor – For sales forces involved with large capital expenditure sales cycles, never before has the mantra “Call High or Die” been so true. You must reach C-level executive decision makers early in the sales process because the default for organizations today is to do nothing and delay every major purchase.

7. Win-Loss Analysis Studies – Most companies are well versed on the logical arguments for selecting their product. However, the decision to make a major purchase is primarily based upon individual needs and desires, how the decision-makers receive information, and internal politics. Unfortunately many companies don’t do any type of win-loss analysis so they don’t understand their customers in these regards. Because of the economy and relentless competition, 2012 will be the year that many companies have to re-discover the lost art of win-loss analysis. Read about The Three Critical Win-Loss Objectives here.

One final trend that bears mentioning is the accelerated move from field-based sales to phone-based internet sales. Many companies have quickly transitioned the majority of their field reps to be almost exclusively phone based. Therefore, these reps must now be able to create winning relationships with their voices as opposed how they sold in the past with their physical presence. Never before, has understanding and mastering the art of persuasion been so important.

Do You Really Believe That?

By Colleen Stanley

SalesLeadership, Inc.

The self help guru’s are the best at teaching, “You are what you believe. Your thoughts determine your outcomes and actions. And what you think about most will manifest in your life.”
These guru’s are right and many salespeople and sale managers still subscribing to old beliefs and ways of selling do not serve them well in the information age.

Prospects are smarter, well armed with information and detect sales techniques quickly. They don’t enjoy sales meetings that seem like a role play. Prospects want salespeople that are the real deal and real smart.

Here are three beliefs to check and change if you’d like to enjoy better results from sales in 2012.

#1: You can only expect people to stay with your company for a short amount of time. Business owners and sales managers are told by the experts that the alphabet generation, X, Y, and M (millennials), are different than the boomers. They are motivated to stay in a position for only two years. Then they will move onto the next opportunity and throughout their career enjoy approximately 14 different jobs.

Here’s a tip that will make you money immediately. Let your competitor hire this traveling group of salespeople. The numbers show that a short tenure by a salesperson is not a profitable business model.

Let’s walk through the numbers. You hire a new salesperson and even with the best on-boarding and training process, it takes about six months to get her up to speed. She must learn the business, fill the sales pipeline and close business. According to the job hopping experts, you now only have one and half years for that salesperson to produce revenue for your company before moving on. The formula doesn’t make sense. Most top sales producers hit their stride after two years. By then, they’ve built relationships, referrals are coming in and repeat business is in place.

Look around at the most successful people you know. Are they job hoppers or job committers? Bill Gates, Warren Buffet……even Mark Zuckerberg. What would have happened to Facebook if Zuckerberg would have followed the trend to explore another opportunity after two years? You can bet they wouldn’t be getting ready for one of the country’s biggest IPO’s.

Business owners: Don’t lower your expectations or standards. There are salespeople out there, of all generations, with longevity in their resume. Change your beliefs and expectations. You will be amazed at who shows up at your company’s door step.

#2: Buyers are Liars: This belief creates an interesting scenario for a sales professional. How in the world does a salesperson build a relationship with someone he has profiled as a “liar?”

Prospects aren’t liars–they’re just tired, really tired. They’re worn out from outdated selling techniques that create stupid conversations. For example, many salespeople have been taught to ask leading questions. “So, Mr. Prospect, if we could save you money, would you want to?” The question is not only outdated, it’s an insult to a prospect’s intelligence. What is the prospect supposed to reply? “No, we are proactively planning to lose money in that same area again this year.”

Another reason that prospects get labeled liars is because salespeople have been taught to overcome the objection. Prior experience has taught the prospect that when he says no, the salesperson moves into overdrive and starts overcoming the objection. They offer up trial closes, assumptive closes, and the mother-in-law close. (You’ll have to think about that one.)

So instead of telling the salesperson the truth, prospects says, “I need to think it over.” In 2012, ask for the truth and then be ready for the truth. Don’t force your prospects to lie to you. Let your prospects know that giving you a “no” is actually a gift because it saves you time and money from writing a practice proposal.

#3: ABC: Always Be Closing
Now that’s a sales meeting a prospect can look forward to. It sounds like this. The prospect meets with a salesperson, decides to be vulnerable and opens up about a challenge. The salesperson hears the problem and translates it to a buying signal.

She jumps on the challenge like a sumo wrestler and does a trial close. “Wouldn’t you agree that some of solutions we offer would solve this problem?” (Does anyone talk like this at home?) The prospect recognizes a set-up question and closes down.

The skilled sales professional avoids leading questions like and trial closes like, “Wouldn’t you agree….?” They are students of neuroscience and emotional intelligence. They understand that leading questions create a biological reaction in the prospect. (Yes, biology 101 is now part of an effective sales meeting.)

Here’s how it works. There is a part of the brain called the amygdala, often referred to as the old brain. Under pressure, the old brain goes into fight or flight mode. The prospect either gets hostile, (fight) or ends the meeting early, (flight). Neither reaction is a good way to end a sales meeting.

Real world sales professionals aren’t always closing. What they are doing is always opening up conversation by asking questions and not offering up solutions quickly. The old brain calms down and a smart, peer to peer sales meeting happens.

Get rid of old beliefs and outdated sales techniques. The new economy demands a new approach and philosophy in sales.

Tips That Help Acclimate New Employees into the Sales Team

By Gregg Gregory

Out With The Old And In With The New

With Newness come anticipation for both the new-hire and the organization.

It is a fact – team members change – sometimes they leave of their own accord and sometimes we offer what I like to call ‘career re-direction advice’. Regardless, team members change, and the trick becomes to integrate new members into an existing team successfully?

Let’s look at this from both the perspective of the new employee and how he or she can acclimate themselves into the team, and then how we can help acclimate the new employee into our team.

First, if you have been traded to a new team (excuse the sports metaphor here) what should you do to feel like you are part of the team quickly? We have all been there – started a new job or position and not known anyone on the team. Here are a few tips and tricks you can employ if indeed you find yourself in this position.

Knowledge Is The Most Critical Tool


Take the initiative to meet everyone on the team. Getting to know your new teammates can be fun and when you learn something about them, and get them to talk about themselves; you have made deposits into their emotional bank account. Everyone likes to talk about themselves and when you talk casually you can ask questions. Now, the true secret is to bank this information. Don’t retain this so you can manipulate them at a later date – instead retain this information and use it to build trust and alliances.

Learn as much as you can about the organization as possible. If this is a new company for you, then you likely did some online research before the first interview. Take this several steps further. Know the big picture about the organization. Having knowledge about the organization is a critical tool in any employee’s tool belt and when you take the time to know this information early on you are demonstrating your ability to work with everyone.

Take the time to get to know the team as a whole. Find out about previous successes they have had and yes – find out some of the failures. Learn what the goals and objectives are for the future. The more you know, the greater asset you can be to them.

Know the expectations up front. Many organizations are weak at sharing very specific expectations up front. This is critical for you as you want to make sure you are on track or ahead of schedule. This will show your new team mates that you are pulling your own weight and this also builds trust among your peers.

Now, as my company grows and we bring on new team members, what can we do to get the new members up to speed quickly and get them to feel more comfortable and avoid ‘The Lone Ranger Syndrome’?

The Working Environment

1.    Make sure their work area, looks, feels, and is fresh. There is nothing like coming into a new place and feeling like it is a fresh start for you only to find a desk that has not been cleaned out, with condiment packages in the drawers and a phone that looks and smells horrible.

2.    If possible, get the new teammate his/her computer password so he can at least get online the first day. Of course it can be changed later – this shows that you care about getting your new-hires up to speed.

3.    Assign the new-hire a mentor to help acclimate them to the surroundings, people, and the way you do things. You may also want to provide them a mentor as it relates specifically to the job function they will be doing. Having two mentors accomplishes a couple of things – they meet more people more quickly, and it helps the existing staff assume some of the leader roles on the team and makes them feel better about working there.

4.    If the position allows, you may want the new-hire to work with different people on the team to learn the different styles and methods of accomplishing work tasks.

Remember, it is about making sure that everyone knows, trusts, and respects each other. While you will not likely get everyone to ‘LIKE’ everyone else – it is critical that they trust each other in order to accomplish the mission, vision, and values of the team, division, and organization.

Don’t Let Your Client Decide On Their Own

By

 

You have done all of the work in front of your opportunity. You have paid in advance for the deal by creating value and building consensus. Now, you have presented and you are waiting for your dream client to pass judgment. Your contact said that they will notify you by week’s end and, as the deadline looms, the only communication you have received is that “we are still deciding.”

Is it wrong to call? Are you being a nuisance? They did promise to call you, didn’t they? Should you take action, or should you wait?

The Case for Taking Action

(Don’t worry. There is no case for waiting.)

If you dream client is still deciding, they have concerns. They don’t know whether or not they should choose you or your competitor. They have seen your presentations, and they have seen your competitors, and they aren’t sure which of you will help produce the result.

There is an internal sale occurring.

Contacts within your dream client are discussing you and your solution, and they are discussing your competitor. Some may be trying to influence the group in your direction. Others may be trying to influence the group in another direction. They might want to choose your competitor, or they may be arguing for the status quo.

The worst place to be when this sale is occurring is somewhere else.

You don’t want to leave it to your clients to decide without you. Instead, you want the opportunity to resolve any concerns that would prevent you from winning the opportunity. The only way you can ensure that you get the opportunity to resolve their concerns is to ask.

A Second Bite at the Apple

There is nothing wrong with saying something like: “I can’t help but believe that you are struggling with this decision because some of you have some concerns. I’d like to help resolve those concerns and help make sure that we have answered every question in a way that would allow you to be 100% confident in choosing us—if we are the right partner for you and your team. Can we meet with you briefly to answer your questions and resolve any concerns that you may have?”

Buyers want growth, but they fear risk. At the end of their buying cycle, the risk starts to crowd out the need for growth, and it makes decision-making more difficult. As a professional salesperson, you know this is true, and it is your job to help your clients understand and mitigate their risks. It is your job to help them come to the right decision—even if it isn’t choosing you (but let’s hope the right decision is to give you their business).

Your clients can’t answer their own questions. They can’t resolve their own concerns. They don’t know what you know, and it’s likely that their concerns cropped up as they discussed their options and after you were long gone.

Waiting isn’t a good strategy because you are leaving your clients to decide without the information that you could give them to help them make a better decision. It is wrong to leave them to decide for themselves.

Don’t fear asking your clients to allow you to help them decide. Instead, fear not asking them and allowing them to come to the wrong conclusion.

Questions

Why do your clients need time to decide?

How do you help them come to a decision when they lack information?

Why don’t they share their concerns or issues with you?

What should you fear more, asking to resolve their concerns or waiting and allowing them decide poorly?


For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancyemail me, or call me at (614) 212-4729.