Create a Selling Culture

by: Colleen Stanley, Woodridge Sales Management Articles

Everyone at your company is in sales. The person answering the phones is in charge of first impressions. The employee delivering your products has the ability to spot new opportunities and build relationships. Customer service personnel can determine whether or not you keep a client based on their handling of a complaint.

However, if you walk into any organization and ask a member of the team what department they work in, the typical answer is accounting, legal, or marketing. What would happen if the answers changed to: I am in sales and service. Isn’t this at the very core of why a company exists? If you don’t sell something, you have nothing to bill, ship or service. If you don’t service the client, you soon have nothing to sell or ship.

So how do you create a selling culture at your company? What do you need to do to change or teach your employees that sales is not a department?

Start with basic education and communication. Help members of your organization recognize how to contribute to the top line by learning a few sales basics. Focus education and communication on these three areas.

Who Do You Serve Best?

Most companies build their target lists around SIC codes, size of company, revenue, number of employees and/or geography. This criteria is called demographics. However, when you really dig into who your best customers are, you will hear different criteria. “They treat us like a partner, they value what we do, they collaborate, they pay their bills” appear. These attitudes and behaviors are called psychographics and are often overlooked when educating your employees on who you serve best.

Teach members of your team how to recognize both the demographics and the psychographics so they can listen and look for opportunities. For example, if one of your employees reads about a company that is philanthropic, that company might be a good target for your organization because their values align with your culture. If an employee is at a party and hears an acquaintance discussing expansion of their firm into another part of the country, that could be a good trigger event to report back to headquarters.

What’s Your Value Proposition?
Your employees belong to community organizations such as home owners associations, churches and school groups. At some point in their involvement, the question will pop up, where do you work? This is a prime selling opportunity for any of your employees. Your staff can reply with one of two answers. The first response is a dud. “I work at XYZ company. We DO this.” It’s a dead end response that doesn’t enlighten the person asking the question about problems you solve or opportunities you create for clients. Teach your team basic sales skills and change the response to, “I work at XYZ company. We help our clients customers decrease frustration with technology that doesn’t work. Or, “We help our clients figure out which new products to roll out and which ones to shelve.”

Now, there are a few of you reading this article thinking….my people can’t do that. Folks, if your team can learn the Pledge of Allegiance in grade school, surely they can learn a one line value proposition!

Create Raving Fans

Everyone knows that it’s less expensive to keep a client than acquire a new one. There is an old saying that two heads are better than one. How about getting 15 heads together? Ask each person to share their ideas on how to exceed customer expectations?

For example, the accounting department could sign invoices, thanking your best clients for paying on-time. What about having the warehouse team send a picture of their staff with a note thanking your customers for the opportunity to serve them every day?

At your next department meeting, set aside time for brainstorming on ways to WOW your customers. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Study some of the companies that are already doing it well. Zappos, an on-line shoe store company, is the one of the darlings of the business world. Everyone that works at Zappos knows they are in the customer service business, not the shoe business. And as a result, every employee is focused on ways to WOW the client. Some of you might have experienced this WOW factor by receiving your first order overnight—without any extra charges.

Everyone is in charge of customer happiness at Zappos. And everyone at your company can be in charge of sales and service at your company. Sales and service is not a department. Harness the power of many and get everyone in your company involved in selling and servicing your clients. Double your sales force without any additional payroll. How’s that for a competitive edge in 2012?

Coaching Guarantees Real Measurable Accountability

By The Brooks Group

A Google search of “measurable accountability” yields more than 1.5 million results, just one indicator of how obsessed corporate America has become with the concept. Unfortunately, most typical measures of accountability are evaluating too little, and they’re doing it too late.  If you asked 100 managers to define “accountability,” you might get 100 different answers, but virtually all of them would be related to observable results: number of closed deals, whether a customer service rep resolves a specific percentage of complaints, or if a sales team meets its target for the quarter.

As CSO Insights put it in the 2010 Sales Performance Optimization Survey, “Sales managers have historically had many measures to review… But all of these measures are historical; that is, by the time you know what the number is, it’s already history.”  We usually talk about accountability after the fact, when it’s too late to affect the outcome and someone’s looking to place blame for poor performance.  And that’s why accountability has such negative connotations.

At The Brooks Group, we have a different view.  We believe that measurable accountability is about in-process measurement of how results are achieved, not just end-process measurement of what the results are.  In-process measurement requires checkpoints along the way to accomplishing a goal, not just judging final results.  In this way, accountability has a direct relationship with coaching.  Once you understand where in the sales process a salesperson is losing sales, you can coach them to improve the necessary skills (and probably have an impact on their results).

Let’s say you have a salesperson who has trouble closing deals. What if that person is actually a perfectly good “closer,” but terrible at probing prospects for information about what they need and want?  If you only evaluate the salesperson on closed deals – an end-process measurement – you’ll never help them improve their close rate (and you may risk firing someone who has the potential to be a top-performer).  On the other hand, if you have checkpoints throughout a systematic sales process, and you’re observing the salesperson “in-process,” you’ll uncover the real reason they’re not making sales:  poor questioning skills.  Now you can work with them to improve their questioning approach, and you can hold them accountable for it in a much more meaningful way.

When sales managers tell us their salespeople aren’t meeting quota, we ask two questions:

1. Where are they having difficulty in the sales process? 

Frequently sales managers admit that their salespeople don’t follow a systematic selling process; or if they do, the manager doesn’t know where in the process the salesperson is stumbling.  It’s simple:  salespeople need to know where they are in the sale and what step to take next.  If you and your salespeople are working from the same selling “playbook,” you have a common language with which to discuss how each sale is progressing.  You can set up metrics for each step of the sale and evaluate your salespeople against the expectations.

2. Have you coached them on the problem area?

Certain actions are required to complete each step of the sale; for example, in our IMPACT Selling® system, you shouldn’t try to Probe a prospect (Step 3) until you’ve fully qualified the prospect via Step 1: Investigate and Step 2: Meet.   When you and your salesperson are using a linked, sequential selling system, the salesperson will know exactly what’s expected of them at each step in the sales process, and you’ll have measurable accountability built into the system.

NFL football teams measure virtually everything:  yards per rush, penalties per game, completion percentage, sacks per game, and so on.  During every game, the coaches have access to eye-in-the-sky photos, and after each game they review tapes and stats.   The best coaches call attention to positive performance and deconstruct what went wrong during the game.  Then, they coach their players so the next game has a better chance of being won.  Each offensive and defensive player knows exactly what “metrics” he’s accountable for achieving in every game, and his coach coaches him to continuously improve the skills needed to get the desired results.

In just the same way, sales managers should be coaching their salespeople!  (In-process, not just end-process, remember?)  The best salespeople want to be held accountable for their results, and they don’t hide from the facts.  When you have in-process measurement of metrics related to a systematic selling process, you will drive end-process results like higher margin sales, higher volume sales, increased sales of a specific product or service, growth in certain geographical areas, or other goals you’ve set for your sales team.  In-process measurement yields end-process results!

The Sign of a True Sales Pro – Admitting we’re never too good for coaching

By Nancy Bleeke, Sales Pro Insider

Ringggg. Ringggg. Not my favorite sound in the evening when I am in the midst of all kinds of fun mothering activities – homework, cleaning, and moderating disagreements between teenagers. And yet I picked up the phone…”Hi Nancy, its Virginia.”

Oh, okay, I know who this is…and after some pleasantries…

“I’m calling to tell you about my work because you asked me about my new job the other night.”

Hmmm. Okay.

She continued…”I’m so excited and want you to meet the guys I work with.”

And so the discussion went. Me justifying I didn’t need to meet these “guys” as I don’t need their services and Virginia giving me more and more options on time and location because I should meet them. She was determined that I needed to do this because they are so great! And I was determined that I wasn’t taking a half day of my life to meet with anyone that I didn’t need to meet with. I hung up feeling like I had dodged the bullet for now…and went on with my evening.

Forty-five minutes later … Ringggg. Ringggg. Now who?

“Hi, it’s Virginia again. I’m calling to get some advice. Do you have a few minutes?”

Of course…

“I don’t think the conversation went the best before and I want your advice on what I can do to have different outcomes in making my calls.”

What??? Calling a sales expert who trains people to be more successful in sales to ask for advice? Now THAT got me involved! We then had over an hour discussion on the objective of making calls, how to put the focus on the caller instead of our own excitement about what we do, asking good questions and being a great listener. Fortunately, all of these actions are critical skills she had already developed in her years in the medical profession! Now she needed to apply them to her new career in sales.

Virginia showed great professionalism. She did what so many sales professionals will not do. She:

  • Evaluated her call objectively — putting aside her emotions and focusing on process and outcome
  • Acknowledged that it could have gone much better — admitting that first to herself, and then she
  • Asked for coaching to do better next time — can you imagine how hard it was to pick up the phone and call me back?

She realized that these first calls in her new role – to the people she had existing relationships with – could make or break her future. She didn’t get defensive. She listened to the advice, asked for clarification and drilled down to specific actions she could take. And finally Virginia then committed to those actions.

What a great demonstration of strong emotional intelligence!

Rookie or not, her willingness to call me back sets her apart from a lot of seasoned sales professionals. I think she has a great career ahead of her with that type of mindset.

What about you? What are you currently doing that isn’t producing the results you want/need? Who can you call for advice or coaching so you can do better?

And the challenge…pick up the phone and call them…you’ll be glad you did.

Winning complex sales – the fundamentals are more critical now than ever!

By Richard Ruff, Co-Founder and Principal, Sales Horizons

There are performance fundamentals required for winning the complex sale, ranging from core performance skills like: asking questions and active listening; to competencies like: identifying and qualifying leads. 

There are performance fundamentals required for winning the complex sale, ranging from core performance skills like: asking questions and active listening – to competencies like: identifying and qualifying leads.

In this post we examine why the fundamentals are more important than ever and put a spotlight on three high payoff areas that warrant increased emphasis.

Given the extensive nature of the Book of Knowledge for a sales person engaged in a complex sale, why the big fuss about developing the fundamentals? After all, there are a lot of advanced selling skills and bodies of knowledge requiring attention. Yet four reasons stand out for emphasizing the fundamentals:

1. Fundamental and simple are not synonymous. It’s true in sports; it’s true in leadership and it’s true in selling. There is nothing simple about the fundamentals. Plus, when it comes to winning, whether it is an NBA game or a major sale, good is not good enough – mastery is the standard. Go on field visits with top performing sales people engaged in a complex sale – observe how they plan and execute the fundamentals of each call. Both what they do and how they do it is not simple but it is masterful.

2. Frequency matters. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to master any complex skill. So, it makes great sense to commit to making an investment when the skill in question helps out in all kinds of places – in all kinds of ways. One of the characteristics of the sales fundamentals is high frequency of use. Take, for example, core sales skills like asking questions or active listening. Regardless of the purpose of the call or the person on the other side of the table, these two sales skill sets are a part of the formula for success.

3. Fundamentals enable advanced skill development. Let’s take another difficult discipline to master – mathematics. Like sales, the skill sets in mathematics are hierarchical – leaning more advanced skills can only be accomplished after the fundamentals are in place. For example, you can’t master calculus without trigonometry. In sales, getting good at an advanced skill like negotiation requires being very good at asking questions and the ability to build and maintain customer relationships requires a number of the fundamentals including objection handling.

4. Transformational shifts are occurring. In many markets, like health care, transformational shifts are occurring in the buying environment. The buying processes involve more group decisions, senior-level involvement, keener competition, and more price pressures making this complex sale even more complex. To succeed even the most successful sales people have to adjust and adapt what they do to the new reality. The list of fundamentals skills don’t change, but how they are applied do.

These four reasons suggest companies should consider developing sales fundamentals as a candidate for the short list. If that argument rings true, what are some specific areas that deserve the spotlight? Three stand out:

1. Launching new products. In many cases the sales team needs sales skills training to adjust and adapt to selling the new product. The greater the extent to which the new product is different from the existing product portfolio, the greater the necessity for revisiting the application of the fundamentals to the new product sale.

2. On-boarding new hires. If one could return to earlier decade, on-boarding for sales people in sales fundamentals could be a relatively straight forward process at the time of hire. Today, if you want a world-class sales team that can win in the complex sale market, training in the sales fundamentals needs to be an on-going process, not a one time event during boot camp. This is particularly true if the new hires have less than five years of sales experience.

3. Building a superior strategic account group. As you move from a complex sale at the territorial level to one at the major or global account level, the nature of the sale changes qualitatively. Clearly additional skills and bodies of knowledge must be learned. Equally important, the fundamentals must be revisited. This is a training challenge ideally suited for sales simulations customized for the application of the fundamentals to the realities of the major or global account sale.

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff has worked with the Fortune 1000 to design and develop sales training programs that make a difference. To learn more about Sales Horizons, visit our web site at or join the conversation at our blog:

An Interview With Bill Lee


 1. The title of your book, 30 Ways Managers Shoot Themselves in the Foot, makes me want to look inside. How did you come up with the title?

I began my speaking and consulting practice in 1987, and since that time, I have conducted over 250 corporate consulting assignments. In doing this work, I kept observing very similar mistakes among the owners and managers I interacted with, so I took the top 30 mistakes I observed and used them to make up the content of this book.

2. Of the 30 top mistakes you observed what would you say are the top two?

There is no doubt in my mind that the number one mistake is failure to hold employees accountable for measurable results. I frequently found that the managers I interviewed evaluated their people based on how hard they worked or how supportive they were.

At the end of the day, it’s what a salesperson or manager accomplishes that is critical and managers who keep their eye on these measurable accomplishments are the ones who are most likely to achieve their overall corporate goals and objectives.

 3. Interesting. What would be number two?

I believe number two is failure to invest in training for their employees. It has been my experience that managers, salespeople and other employees in a business are often guilty of breathing their own exhaust day in and day out.

Managers who expose their people to quality training that gains them access to fresh new ideas and techniques almost always build more productive teams.

4. Could you answer the same question, but specifically as it pertains to sales managers?

For sales managers, I believe it would be #30, Hiring too Quickly and Firing too Slowly. While first impressions are important, a first impression is certainly not the best reason to make a hiring decision.

Many sales managers are so impatient that they rush the hiring process. I encourage sales managers to slow down the hiring process, take advantage of psychological testing products to gain insight into the raw talent of their candidates and ask each candidate an identical series of open-ended interview questions designed specifically for the job they are attempting to fill.

Then when they have given up on a salesperson they already have on board, go ahead and cut their loses rather than keep giving a salesperson chance after chance to turn his or her territory around. At some point it’s necessary to change horses.

5. Do you believe the most effective managers have common characteristics?

I’d say yes. The most effective managers I work with are close with their people, but they have the ability to keep their emotions out of their management decisions. As a rule, they have the ability to turn up the heat on a talented, but unmotivated employee without becoming angry or overbearing. They care enough about their people to keep the pressure on as they coach them to higher levels of success. And their people know they are not pushovers; they possess a management style that commands respect.

6. What are the common characteristics you observe among sales managers?

I believe the most effective sales managers were effective salespeople, but not necessarily sales superstars. They understand what it’s like to be challenged to achieve a quota or to be paid on performance, but most importantly, they enjoy coaching and nurturing marginal performers as much if not more so than they do closing a sale themselves.

Their joy comes from seeing their people grow and overcome the obstacles to success.

7. How do you help managers do a more effective job of achieving their goals and objectives?

When managers are falling short of their goals and objectives, I try to convince them to try a different approach since the approach they are currently employing has proven to be ineffective.

My biggest challenge is persuading managers to change their management style. I realize that change is can sometimes be difficult, so especially if the manager is a big fan of a particular sport, I have found it effective to use analogies from that sport.

All professional athletes have a coach. Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and Albert Pujols have coaches whose job it is to call their attention to mistakes they are making that are preventing these great athletes from achieving their full potential.

So if I can persuade a manager to recognize a bad habit, eliminate it and substitute a more effective approach, the improvement in the results they are able to achieve will get make it easier for them to make future changes when that’s what the situation calls for.

About Bill Lee:

Bill Lee is a business expert. Starting out in 1965 as a field sales representative and later promoted to sales manager with New York City based GAF Corporation, Bill soon became a part-owner of one of the fastest growing start-up companies in the US ? Builder Marts of America, Inc. (BMA)

In just 20 years, Bill and his partners grew BMA from a startup to sales of $640 million. Bill served as a corporate officer at BMA with general management responsibility for the company?s largest division.

Today, Bill is a sought-after seminar leader and business consultant who works extensively throughout the US and Canada.

He is author of Gross Margin: 26 Factors Affecting Your Bottom Line, now in its third printing.

His most recent book is 30 Ways Managers Shoot Themselves in the Foot.

Thousands of owners, managers and salespeople read Bill’s award winning ezines and magazine articles on sales and gross margin improvement and best management practices.

Bill is currently president of Lee Resources, Inc., a Greenville, SC – based consulting, training and publishing organization.

And Bill how can people contact you?

Call Bill at 800-277-7888.

or you can visit his website here: 

Can’t We All Just Get Along? YES!

By Jill Myrick, Meeting to Win

The topic of getting along with one another is a central theme in the inside/outside sales world . Let’s visit ways to resolve “workplace” problems.

Below, are 3 ways I wanted to share about reducing workplace conflicts.
1. Man Up.  Do not ever send an e-mail about a sensitive issue or a conflict. The only e-mail that is acceptable is one that requests a time to sit down and talk. Schedule enough time with the person involved and bring your issue to them face-to-face.

2.  It’s NOT About YOU.  When having your face-to-face discussion about whatever issue you are facing, do not make it personal.  Talk about the situation, not the person.  For example, if someone keeps disrespecting you in team meetings, instead of saying “YOU always interrupt me” or “YOU always put down my ideas, WHY do you do that?” try something like “When I’m interrupted by your comments during meetings, I get the impression that you don’t value my contributions.  Is my impression correct?“  Then be quiet and let them answer.  The conversation is already less confrontational, but no less direct and clear.

3.  If you must TATTLE, do it like a Kindergartner.  Kids are very open communicators and we can learn something from that.  Typically, before a kid gets an adult involved in their conflict, we hear something like “I’m gonna tell”.  Here’s a life lesson.  There are times that an issue needs to be escalated and resolved at a higher level.  If you’ve practiced #1 and #2, this should rarely, if ever, happen, but if it does, the right way to escalate is to include the other person(s) in the conflict.  Say something like, “I realize that we both feel strongly about this issue and we disagree about how to handle it.  We must get it resolved for the sake of the customer/project/business.  I plan to involve [insert supervisor’s name here] to get their opinion and decide how to move forward.  Would you like to be involved in that conversation?” 

Put these ideas into practice and enjoy workplace communication and collaboration like never before.  Have a great day!

Top 7 Etiquette Tips For Successful Meetings

By Lydia Ramsey 

Some people love meetings and others dread them. Despite having the reputation as sleep enhancers, meetings are actually an opportunity for you to network with management, fellow employees, clients and vendors. You may be asked to help with problem solving and share in making decisions at a meeting or you may be included for the sole purpose of building relationships with other attendees. No matter how you feel about meetings, this is a chance for you to use your best business manners to showcase your abilities. If your meeting manners aren’t impressive, you won’t be either. Here are seven helpful tips for making the most of the business meeting:

1. Check your calendar immediately and let the appropriate person know if you can attend. If you cannot be present, say why.

2. Get ready for the meeting. Review the agenda, read any important materials such as memos or briefs and use the Internet to research topics if necessary. Make it clear that you are a person who attends to details and comes prepared.

3. Let the organizer know that you will be an active and interested participant by asking if there is anything else you should know or do in advance. If you find research material that would contribute substantially to the meeting, offer it to the meeting leader.

4. Arrive on time, not too early and certainly not late. You may interfere with the meeting preparation if you show up more than ten minutes in advance. If you arrive late, you create a distraction and an interruption. Offer a brief apology—not an excuse of epic proportions—and take your seat.

5. Choose your seat carefully if seating is not assigned. If you are new to the group, ask where you should sit so you don’t accidentally take the spot where someone else customarily sits.

6. Participate and show that you are involved. Making eye contact, smiling, leaning into the conversation and nodding are all ways to let others know that you are engaged. Be careful not to interrupt. You may have a brilliant point to make, but wait for the right moment.

7. When the meeting is over, offer to help clean up and volunteer to distribute handouts or do extra research if appropriate. Let the meeting leader know that you paid attention and you are willing and able to take on extra assignments when needed.Lydia Ramsey is an international business etiquette expert. She is the president and founder of Manners That Sell, a firm based in Savannah, Georgia, offering business etiquette training through seminars, keynotes and executive coaching to corporations, associations, colleges and universities. She began her career as an etiquette consultant over thirty years ago and has become one of the foremost trainers in her field. People from all industries and professions come to her business etiquette classes to add the polish that builds profits.