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We Fix Sales Problems

No Smoke and Mirrors Approach to Sales

We establish market driven repeatable sales processes that mirror how your buyers want to buy. Market driven sales processes create consistent sales velocity and produce profitable revenue growth.

Once we identify how your buyers want to buy, we find places in the sales process that create “spin cycles” or places where the sales process “goes dark” or spins off the journey to a close. Through the creation of new sales tools based on how your buyers want to buy and their current buying criteria we increase your lead to sale ratio and shorten the sales cycle.

Don’t “SELL” your accounts “SERVE THEM” with products and services that solve their problems.

We have over 25 years experience solving the following common sales problems:

Over the past 25 years we have heard many common sales performance problems for sales teams throughout the US as well as internationally. We have solved the above and look forward to the opportunity to serve your team with the “no smoke and mirrors” approach.” – Mark Allen Roberts

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11445 East Via Linda
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email:mark@outbsolutions.com
p: 602.206.6918

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“Mark is one man business accelerator. He is a seasoned executive with a broad range of experience in sales and marketing. What makes him unique is his ability to align his organization, people and processes to 'serve' the market. His results speak for themselves ... with each step, the businesses he managed outperformed expecations.”

- Phil Myers, President, Pragmatic Marketing

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Recent Entries from Our Blog

Increase Sales/Fix Sales Problems: Do a Midyear Sales Gut Check

Posted by on July 24, 2014 with 1 Comments

 

Last year approximately 70% of sales mangers achieved their sales goals and of that approximately 10% surpassed their goals. So that leaves 30% of the sales manager’s not hitting plan in 2013 and in 2014 their sales regions received another increase.

What can those at plan do midyear to insure they close the year at plan?

What can those not at plan through the end of June do to insure they hit plan year end?

Quick question: How are your sales performing to goal? If you are like most companies this year’s goal was difficult as we scratch and claw our way out of the recession and you just might hit plan. How can you be sure you not only hit your sales plan but exceed it? You need to perform a midyear sales gut check.

I have been leading sales and marketing teams for more years than I like to admit. (over 30 years… but who is counting) I have used a simple process that has often resulted in a dramatic increase in underperforming sales regions as well as keep the momentum building in regions at or above plan: a midyear sales gut check. What we do is basically review each sales region’s performance to the sales playbook you prepared when the year began. Now that half the year has passed we need to review how the region performed to the sales plan we developed to hit sales objectives. Change and the rate of change is constant in our dynamic markets and as Sales Benchmark Index shared in a  recent review on Jill Konrath’s new book Agile Sales discusses:

“Fighting these changes, or denying they exist, is pointless.  You need a new skill to cope with being an overwhelmed worker. The skill needed to exceed in this environment is agility.”

If you have never done this process I want to share how I have done it in hopes it adds value to you and your salespeople. I also highly recommend you buy Agile Sales. As David Meerman Scot shared in his recent post; Agile Sales Requires a Real Time Mind Set. Good sales leaders are always asking questions and practicing what I refer to as: Clean Sales Management. Your midyear sales gut check needs you to direct your questions internally as well as externally.

What did we set out to do this year? (restate goal(s) and how we agreed we would achieve them)

What are our goals in dollars and profit dollars contributed from sales?

Where did we expect them to come from?

How has this region performed through the end of June to the goals you established for the current sales year?

What is working? (and you need to do more)

What did you think would work, has not produced the desired sales impact and you need to stop doing?

What have we learned?

What are the results on key performance indicators that drive top line results? (discuss each)

Has the market experienced any strategic shifts that can be trigger points for new sales or challenges to existing sales?

Based on the data discussed what will be your three key focus areas for the rest of the year?

If you had to pick just one, with the intent that perfectly executing that one would make the other two obsolete…what would it be?

 

A midyear gut check is something I like to perform both for the businesses I am serving but also personally and I have added this process to every team I serve. If you have not tried this process I highly encourage you to do so.

Let me leave you with a few questions that may make you want to try this process…

How is your team performing to plan YTD?

What did you plan for this year and it worked?

What did you plan and it did not work?

Based on what you have learned what changes have you made to insure the sales plan is achieved year end?

( if I served on the board of your company this is one question I have asked that has left the best CEO’s pale and at a loss for words)

As the team who has been tasked many years with” just making it happen” we need to have the desire and process to gather current market data and agilely approach our markets to insure we achieve and surpass our sales objectives.

 

Does your team practice agile sales?

 

The Quickest Way to Increase sales and Profits is…

Posted by on May 29, 2014 with 0 Comments

 

By Mark Allen Roberts

What is the quickest way to increase my sales and profits…turn my sales around?” This question is by far the most frequent question business leaders and owners have asked me over the last 30 years. I wish there was a magic “create sales velocity pill” we could all take and everything would be fixed tomorrow, but unfortunately it does not work that way. It took time to get where you are today, and it will take time to get sales and profits back on course. However the quickest way I have experienced to turn sales around and quickly increase sales and profits is; Win Loss Analysis.

What is Win Loss Analysis?

If you are not familiar with conducting win loss analysis, let me share from 45,000 ft what we are doing. When you conduct Win Loss Analysis what you are desperately seeking is the answers to a few questions;

Why do buyers buy from me?

Why don’t buyers buy from me?

What criteria are they using to make buying decisions?

What process are they using to make those buying decisions?

Before we go much further I want you to add the word “today” behind each of the above questions. Why? I have helped so many companies over the years who at one time clearly knew their market, buyers and how their buyers bought so well that they could almost finish buyer’s sentences for them. They built repeatable sales processes based on their market knowledge, created sales tools, and taught their sales teams how to use them. The trouble is markets are dynamic and constantly changing, evolving and we must constantly be aware of the answers to the above questions. Fail to understand you’re your buyers are buying today and your salespeople will resort to feature and benefit BINGO hoping they figure it out and close the sale. However buyers want to buy from partners who know them, understand their problems and quickly demonstrate they are capable of solving their problems. When your salespeople resort to playing BINGO, they become just like every other sales guy trying to sell me something and not help me.

If you plan to take my advice I want to share rules I learned the hard way…

Never let the salesperson that was involved in the sale or attempted sale to conduct the interviews. Why?

  • They fail to listen to details we will need in the next step
  • They filter what they hear
  • If sales was won, it was won because of salesperson ability and relationships, if lost it was price( an price is rarely on the list of why people do not buy) The biggest reason is when a sales person starts hearing why they did not win they start selling and stop listening and the interview is pretty much over.
  • Gain senior management buy in to make changes as needed early ,their commitment  if you conduct win loss analysis you will act on the results. They say the pain of change must be less than the pain of not changing. If your senior leadership team is not committed to make changes you will find some very interesting information but sales will be told to;”just make it happen” or “try harder”.
  • Never conduct a win loss interview with a customer currently in one of the stages of your sales process on a key sale.

Once you gather information from your current customers, customers you lost and potential customers you have always wanted, you need to group like buyers. Once you group like buyers map how they buy and the criteria that is important to them.

Mirror what you have learned against how your team sells today and the tools they use. Quickly you will identify new tools needed based on how buyers are buying today. One common outcome is your current repeatable sales process will change based on the needs of buyers in your market(s) today.

One word of caution again and that is you must have senior leadership buy in to act on what you learn. The only time I have not seen this process increase sales and profits is when I unknowingly enters a Borg Culture where this is how we do things around here trumps achieving sales and profits objectives. If you find you are in a Borg Culture the best solution is to hire a consultant to conduct the win loss analysis.  Senior leaders in these cultures are often much more attentive and willing act on information from a prophet from another land than an internal employee with fresh ideas that seems like they are not on board.

Do you want (need) to increase sales and profits quickly?

Become intimately aware of how your buyers are buying today!

If you would like to learn more about win loss I recommend the following links;

Win Loss and customer satisfaction

Why What How Win Loss.. 

Learn why you are winning…

5 ways CEO’s learn from losses

What will a Win/Loss ….

A competitive tool  

Typical questions loss analysis answers 

Win Loss and value propositions 

Making win loss work

A real win loss analysis 

 

 

Why Do Salespeople Lead With Price?…They Lack a Strong Current Value Proposition

Posted by on May 27, 2014 with 0 Comments

 

 

By Mark Allen Roberts

A common frustration I hear among senior leadership teams is; Why do my salespeople lead with price? In my last post I shared one is reason your salespeople may be “selling naked”. In this post I will share why you must create a value proposition that instantly connects with buyers and drives the maximum sales and profit increases.

To get started we need to answer a question;

What is a Value Proposition?

Simply put it is your promise of value you propose to deliver your buyers, and the buyer’s belief of how that value will be experienced by them.

Kaplan and Norton (the authors of the balanced scorecard) put it this way;

“Strategy is based on a differentiated customer value proposition. Satisfying customers is a source of sustainable value creation”

How do we create value propositions that connect with your buyers today?

When creating a value proposition you must conduct win loss market analysis and identify why buyers buy from you and why they don’t. You must clearly understand, through doing the market work, your buyers and prospective buyer’s problems and pains today.  You must clearly understand the problems they have, the criteria they look for to solve them and the buying process they are using today and create distinction.

At the end of the day, the two main core attributes buyers use to determine value and differentiate your product or service from that of your completion is: Price and Quality. If your product and company can produce a higher quality overall buying experience, and solve buyer problems completely you can command a higher price. Unfortunately this Gain /Pain teeter totter also swings the other direction as well. If your products or services lack a value proposition that resonates with buyers in your market(s) today, your salespeople can only lead with price.

Let me ask you;

Have you equipped your salespeople with current value propositions that shares how you serve your buyers today?

The most common problem I see when asked to help companies increase sales and profits quickly are they lack a current value proposition that connects with buyers. I have served many companies that make quality products and once clearly understood their markets, buyers and the value they provided was so strong buyers were often willing to pay a premium for their service. Then something changed…it could be a new technology emerged in your market, your competitors improved, your company stumbled  in delivering what you promise, and sales stalled and profit margins started to decline. What I have seen are the buyer’s journey and the criteria buyers using to make purchasing decisions have changed but your team failed to identify and adjust to these strategic shifts. The result is your salespeople sound like they are playing Marko Polo on sales calls, calling out possible problems they think they can solve for your buyers just waiting for the buyer to yell: “BINGO now I understand the problem you can solve for me!”When your salespeople have enough of these types of sales calls they resort to the quickest method in their minds to sell: lead with price…and that’s where the sales and profits death spiral begins.

Have I convinced you spending time you’re your value proposition is worth your team’s effort?

If so below are some excellent articles on Value Propositions:

4 steps to creating a value proposition http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelskok/2013/06/14/4-steps-to-building-a-compelling-value-proposition/

Value Proposition Kit http://www.jillkonrath.com/value-proposition-kit

How to write a value proposition http://www.kinesisinc.com/branding/how-to-write-a-powerful-value-proposition/

Creating a value proposition http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ValueProposition.htm

The Customer Value proposition http://www.appliedproductmarketing.com/resources/CustomerValuePropositionEssentials_eBook.pdf

Three rules to building a value proposition … http://www.raintoday.com/blog/3-rules-to-building-a-value-proposition-that-sells-like-crazy/

The Value proposition canvas http://www.raintoday.com/blog/3-rules-to-building-a-value-proposition-that-sells-like-crazy/

How to create a strong B2B value proposition http://www.slideshare.net/DanielNilsson4/how-to-create-a-strong-value-proposition-for-b2b

 

A couple more questions and I will let you go….

Do you have a Value Proposition that resonates with buyers in your markets today?

If so are your salespeople trained to use it?

Are you frustrated and feel like you are in a sales and profits death spiral?

Are you tired of explaining to your owners, investors, and your board why sales have stalled and profits are declining?

 

If so, creating a value proposition is critical to driving explosive sales and profit growth for your organization. If you lack a value proposition that resonates with your buyers today that Gain /Pain teeter totter will shift and you will experience poor financial results. Take the time to do the market work and understand your markets problems and how they solve them today and you will be on your way to creating a strong value proposition.

Increase Sales and Profits; Stop Asking Your Salespeople to Sell Naked

Posted by on March 24, 2014 with 1 Comments

clothes

By Mark Allen Roberts

 

 

The process of sales does not need to be as difficult as we make it. Market leading organizations understand it all starts with understanding your market, its buyers, and the process and criteria they use to make buying decisions. Once you have a clear understanding of your buyers you position your product or service in your market with a value proposition that resonates with your buyers and you are on a path to a sale. Unfortunately far too many sales teams today are being asked to “just make it happen” in their markets and they are unprepared to achieve the increased goals they receive every year. They lack a current value proposition and distinction from competitors and therefore they are being asked to sell naked.

When I work with a company who is asking their team to sell naked I often give their CEO one of my favorite children’s books; The Emperor’s New Clothes. If you are not familiar with the story; there once was an emperor who spent a great deal on money on clothes.( consultant advice) One day two swindlers came to town and said they would make the emperor clothe the most beautiful he has ever seen, but if anyone could not see the clothes they were unfit for their positions and or just stupid. So the deception begins and the emperor does not want to admit he can’t see the clothes so he pretends to put on this invisible garment. His minister (senior management team) does not want to admit they do not see it in fear of being judged unfit so they pretend to see it and they compliment the emperor. So the emperor proceeds to walk around town naked and no one tells him until he comes across a little boy who is our heretic in this story and shares the emperor is naked.

Organizations that send their salespeople out lacking a value proposition that connects with buyers today are asking their salespeople to sell naked.

Like our emperor sales teams have been told what their senior leadership team believes (hopes) to be their value propositions; any maybe some of them once were true. However if you send your sales team out lacking a current value proposition that instantly resonates with buyers in your market because it shows you understand them, their needs, their pain…then you are sending your salespeople out to sell naked. Yes, you probably say what you believe to be your value position in sell sheets, and on your web site, or what a high paid consultant crafted for you, but the buyers instantly know you’re naked.

Note; just because you and your team say something over and over again is does not make it true for your market.

Like the child in the story buyers are not worried about your politically incorrect market secrets that no one on your team is talking about. Some (most) buyers will let your naked sales team discuss and play feature and benefit bingo, and when they leave agree to never meet with your team again. Not because your salesperson was not a good person, or did not listen, but because the buyer does not see how your product or service can help him. The buyer does not care about all the opinions your senior management team has shared about how brilliant your strategy is. Your buyers are not worried about being judged internally as unfit, non loyal, not a team player; they simply make judgments based on what your salespeople say and present on whether or not your company can help them with a current unmet need.

I can hear some CEO’s saying; “cute story and probably true for some small companies, but not mine, I have been in this industry for over 20 years”…well I hate to be the one to tell you, but you , your senior management team and your salespeople could be naked too! You are naked sitting at the head of the boardroom table and your team is afraid to tell you that your product or service lacks a value proposition today. They all know it but how do you tell someone their “baby is ugly”?

If your sales and profit results are not at plan I promise you, you look naked to your board, your owners, investors, your team, and other business leaders in your community.

Let me give you a quick example;

If a sales rep came to me and presented a Blackberry cell phone as the most innovative, best in class, state of the art, most robust, best service, highest quality….and positioned his product as the “only” cell phone that allowed me to have email on the go ,  he or she would basically be naked to me. Although the salesperson may have the best enthusiasm, product knowledge, presentation skills and desire to win, they clearly are not aware they are naked. What they are saying was once true and it drove sales, however the competition has not only caught up and offers the same thing, they leaped over and past Blackberry and offer solutions Blackberry does not. The CEO and his senior team at Blackberry can try; dictating, motivating, training, pontificating all they want, but the current market truth is their value proposition no longer connects with buyers today. “I hear some of you saying;” Oh well that I agree with for Blackberry, but that is not happening at my company”…are you sure?

So how about you and your salespeople…

Are you and your salespeople naked when they walk into a room?

Do you have a value proposition that resonates with your market and its buyers today?

Are you sending your sales team in wearing the robes you told them are amazing only to be seen as naked by your buyers?

Do you find the only way your salespeople win new business is price?

Have you lost one or more large accounts and were not given the opportunity to “sharpen your pencil”?

Have you been in a meeting with your senior management team and one of them makes a comment …” our buyers are just not smart enough to see…”

Has someone on your team justified losing a large account because they were a pain to deal with?

Have you seen your gross profit margin erode by more than 5% in the last 5 years?

Are your salespeople pitching Blackberry’s when your buyers need Apple I phone solutions?

If any of the above questions make you squirm a bit inside then you are sending your salespeople out naked. The good news is the first part of making any change is recognizing the need to change. I have helped many companies reconnect with the needs of their buyers today and quickly get them back onto the path of increasing sales and profits. You must do the “market work” and develop a value proposition for each market you serve that instantly connects with what your buyers are looking for today. Or you can keep telling your salespeople to drive profitable growth, sell on value not on price, and keep having those quarterly meetings with your board and owners you dread lately. How? How do you create value propositions that resonate with your buyers today? Well that’s my next post.

Increase Sales and Profits ; Create Distinction

Posted by on March 1, 2014 with 2 Comments

By Mark Allen Roberts

 bookcoverCD

 

The most common question I hear is; how do I increase sales and profits quickly? If you have read any of my other posts my answer will not surprise you; understand current market truth, understand your internal truths, and communicate with buyers how you uniquely solve their problems in a way that resonates based on the way they are buying today. Wow, quite a mouthful and I just wrote it. After meeting Scott Mckain recently and reading his book; Create Distinction I now will answer that question much more concisely.

If you want to increase sales and profits quickly you must Create Distinction!

This book does an excellent job of identifying four pillars of creating distinction and the author provides a summary and action items after each chapter that helps you regardless of your experience or inexperience in creating distinction. Having been tasked with increasing sales and profits quickly for over 30 years now I wish I would have had this road map much sooner.

It was the late 1980’s and I was asked to help a small plastics company increase sales and create a repeatable sales growth process. At the time video rental was beginning to grow rapidly. It seemed like video stores were popping up on every corner. Our company made two primary product categories; manual security devices to prevent the theft of music at retail stores and video protective packages. Before I get too far I need to share we were very small and we faced an 800 lb gorilla of a competitor in a company; Amaray. They were so entrenched in this market our customers would fax us, Alpha Enterprises, orders for Amaray boxes. Ouch!

As video rental continued to grow the number of independent rental stores grew to over 28,000 locations. For those of you much younger than me there were no Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, and Red Box was just a crazy idea in its inventors mind. Even libraries started adding video inventory and you could check out a movie, like a book and the best part they were free!

I received a call from an angry librarian in Nashville Tennessee one day. (My local dealer was kind enough to give her my direct phone number we did not have cell phones back then) She was very upset that our video rental boxes were not lasting and the VHS tapes inside were being damaged. As an aside you have not been chewed out until you have been chewed out by a highly educated, underpaid librarian.  So I decided to visit her Library to better understand how this could be happening. When I arrived I was shown our boxes behind the counter in cabinets with the tapes securely snapped inside. Then she showed me to her 24 hour book drop return and I quickly saw the problem. Unlike video stores who only have other videos drop through the night return slot, in libraries they have books and journals of various sizes dropping approximately three feet onto whatever was returned recently including video boxes. The return tray was littered with shards of plastic and I observed a damaged VHS tape with the tape spilling out. I assured the librarian we would find a solution to this problem and we would make it right.

When I returned to our offices I met with our engineers and purchasing department and shared the new criteria, new conditions our video boxes needed to perform in. Working together our engineers changed our designed and reinforced the inner hubs that held the tape securely in the case and tightened the latch that kept the case closed. Our buyer did a great job working with our plastics vendor and we developed a blended material that would make our boxes almost have a rubbery bounce. We tested our product, refined it then launched; The” Alpha Case” with the new exclusive polyduralyne material. We shared how we improved our video boxes and launched a campaign that made sure all our dealers, dealer salespeople and their customers were aware of what we did. I wrote a pretty basic PR story that was featured in the industry trade magazine at the time.  The next thing we knew we were receiving calls from Library distributors like Demco, Highsmith and Gaylord wanting to buy this new video box that lasts in library 24 hour drop boxes with polyduralyne.  Polyduralyne is a name I made up , it was much more interesting that saying X% of this resin, X% of that resin…. The other thing we did was increase the price for “Alpha Cases” to 48 cents. This was unheard of as you often lost orders to competitors for 1 cent price savings and the market price for video boxes was around 36 cents.  Word spread to video retail stores as well and the next thing we knew we were seeing sales climbing 150% per month. In addition we realized a 25% increase in profit margins! Back then I did not know we were creating distinction; we were just focused on being the leader in the market.  We knew were onto something when our rep from our resin supplier called one day….” Mark, what the hell are you doing? And what is Polyduralyne? My boss is getting calls from your competitors wanting to buy this material!”

What our team did back then was take a product, considered to be a commodity and we created distinction. As a result our sales continued to climb and we reinvested those additional profits in other new innovative solutions. Eventually we grew larger than our 800 lb Gorilla Amaray, and we eventually bought their business in the US! Flash forward and we eventually sold our once $ 3 million small plastics company to a venture capital firm for over $300 million!

If you do not create distinction for your buyers, they will use price as the only distinction.

Scott McKain’s book; Create Distinction provides you a common sense road map to drive similar results in your business.

Is your sales team facing price pressures?

Has your product or service been determined to be a commodity with your buyers?

Does your business need to create distinction?

How often do you find in your win loss calls you lost an order due to price?

What has your business done to create distinction in the minds of your buyers?

If your business would like to experience increased sales and profits you need to read Create Distinction. If you would like to see your sales growing 150% per month and your bottom line 30% greater than others in your market you need to buy yourself and everyone on your team a copy of Create Distinction. ( or you can worry your competitors are reading it and applying its road-map today) There has only been one instance, in 30 years now where this did not work and that was due to a company culture that did not want to accept they needed to change…but that’s another future post.

How to Create “Sales Velocity”; Turn “Street Legal Salespeople” into Servant Salespeople

Posted by on October 1, 2013 with 0 Comments
It's not enough to just be "street legal"

It’s not enough to just be “street legal”

 

I am often asked by business owners and leaders; “What is the best way to create sales growth that becomes repeatable and predictable?” I prefer to phrase this somewhat differently to achieve what the business leaders really want;

How can I create real Sales Velocity?” 

When I hear someone say;

I want more sales

I need more sales

How do I increase sales quickly?

What I immediately think is ; how do we create sales velocity for this team? In this post I will share one way to insure you build a foundation for achieving and often surpassing your sales goals by creating Servant Salespeople .

 

So what is “sales velocity”? In a previous post I said;

 

Sales Velocity is Sales Acceleration, with Direction and creates Momentum.

 

Sales velocity is not just “more sales”. When you ask your team to “go get more sales”, or my favorite with regards to hitting their sales growth goals; “just make it happen you are in essence saying any sale is a good sale. We all know this is not true, but what will happen is sales will take a shotgun approach to the market and often bring in business you may not want and worse yet may not be able to execute effectively and create brand damaged buyers. In addition to often permanently damaging your brand in the marketplace you also run the risk of turning your salespeople into “snake oil salesmen” and they will make all kinds of promises your product or service was never meant to do. If left unchecked you will receive crazy orders you never should have received from customers you will never extend credit to and your team will jump through costly hoops to try to fulfill them.

 

When I used to conduct sales and marketing seminars, I would share the worst kind of business to win is one order. Once you win that “one order” you now have the liability of servicing it, hearing customer complaints (often now through social media), and sales assumes the position you want more orders like this.

 

I was in church last Sunday at Grace United Methodist Church and Pastor Don was talking about how it’s not enough to be a “street legal Christian”. Don does a great job of telling stories that have analogies to help people understand the message. In this message he shared how he and a buddy when they were 16 years old had this old beater of a car. He shared how the steering wheel had about 90 degrees of play in it and how the floorboards were all rusted out and you could see the pavement while driving. They had a rear brake light broken out so they covered it with cellophane and used red paint to make it look and somewhat work like a brake light. The car had all kinds of issues but technically it was “street legal”. The car met the basic requirements to be on the road, but really should not have been driven as it was an accident waiting to happen.

 

Don later pulled this analogy full circle and shared how Jesus taught us we are not to just be street legal Christians that go to church, maybe read a bible once in a while and go through the motions. As I drove home it dawned on me I have seen this many times over the past 30 years in leading sales turnarounds with “street legal salespeople” too. They have the title of sales and they go through the motions of sales but really do not have the heart to serve their clients and solve their customer’s problems.

 

What is a Street Legal Salesperson you might ask?

 

Received some basic product training.

 

They have some understanding of how to reach buyers.

 

They want to hit their sales goals and corresponding commission checks.

 

They often have some bad sales habits.

 

They come close to hitting their sales goal each year, not terrible but not sales super stars.

 

They try hard.

 

They are often commission junkies. (not their fault by the way)

 

At or below the acceptable targeted profit margin for your product or service.

 

Have problem customers, who complain, pay late or not at all.

 

When you hear them on the phone with a customer you cringe, but if it works… ah what the heck…

 

They go through the motion of sales…

 

The role of sales has evolved over the last 30 years from my perspective. At one time the salesperson was the keeper of the information keys. They did not need to be as good at listening and understanding customer needs as they needed to be aggressive and persistent and know their product inside and out. The salesperson had all the product information and used their sales product binders to answer questions as they arose. They worked hard on relationship selling. Back in the day we taught salespeople the objections buyers would probably make and how to overcome objections.

 

Next we saw sales consultants/ consultative selling emerge as product experts who would help buyers understand how their product or service might solve the buyers’ problems. In essence they were sales translators who translated what their products did in a language buyers understood once they found a problem they can solve.

 

Then the internet shifted the power from the salesperson to the buyer. The buyer now can Google almost anything and now has access to the product information keys. We have seen social selling emerge as buyers investigate products and their salespeople with tools like LinkedIn, blogs, online case studies and industry group forums where they openly share poor buying experiences. Buyers are connecting with companies who are seen as thought leaders and they make it their quest to understand buyer problems, criteria and buying processes.

 

I believe the next sales person emerging is  the Servant Salesperson.

 

What are the characteristics of Servant Salespeople?

 

They understand the various buyer personas in their market.

 

They understand why buyers buy and how buyers buy.

 

They understand the buying process and criteria buyers use to buy.

 

They are constantly sensing their market for any changes in how buyers buy.

 

They listen for problems buyers’ share that can be solved by their product or service.

 

They have a continuous improvement approach to both product and sales training.

 

They do online research prior to reaching out to a potential customer.

 

They have large social networks with many customer referrals praising their service.

 

They ask open ended questions to understand buyer problems.

 

They seek first to serve and believe if they solve customer problems income will follow.

 

The days of snake oil salesmen promising their products and services do whatever the buyer needs is over. Buyers are seeking authentic sales servants who seek to win their business by completely solving their problems,providing the best total buying experience, and salespeople who help them buy. Buyers today see a commission junkie coming from a mile away. Aggressive salespeople are blocked and filtered with email, voice mail and gate keepers. Buyers are looking for salespeople who are focused on serving them.

 

What stage of selling is your sales team in today?

 

Would a “servant salesperson” be welcome in your organization? Why or why not?

 

Why wouldn’t a buyer in your industry welcome a “servant salesperson”?

 

Just as we are not designed to be “street legal Christians” buyers today do not want “street legal salespeople” who go through the motions of trying to solve the buyers problems.

Servant Salespeople create sales velocity because they authentically seek to solve buyer problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increase Sales; Take a Snake Oil Salesman Test and Implement Corrective Action

Posted by on September 21, 2013 with 1 Comments

snake oil sales

 

In my last post I asked the question if your team’s execution is turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesmen. What I found interesting is the calls I received from past teams I have served. They sounded something like; “Hey, what are you doing sharing our dirty laundry in your blog? Everyone here knows you are talking about us…” In this case I shared that I am writing about a common problem I have observed over the last 30 some odd years that I would say most companies have in some degree or another. This post is for the business owner, and or leadership team to quickly determine if your salespeople tasked with driving revenue are perceived as “snake oil salesmen” in your market and how to quickly fix this sales problem to insure your sales team hits your growth goals.

 

As I shared in the last post, snake oil salesmen in the Wild West would travel from town to town selling their snake oil. They would make a number of promises and few were actually true so they could never return to the same town twice. They were knowingly being deceptive to close the sale. What I have observed as a common problem that prevents sales teams from experiencing explosive growth is when salespeople are selling based on what they understand to be true, have been trained that is true, and often what was once true but no longer true. If your salesperson is knowingly lying to customers to close the sale and make his or her commissions you do not need a blog to advise you on what action to take.

 

How do we know if our salespeople are unknowingly perceived as snake oil salesmen today and what can we do to quickly repair this and build a foundation of trust required to serve your markets?

 

I look at each new team in three ways;

 

Observe and Listen

 

Unfiltered Data

 

Open Ended Questions with Buyers and Market Influencers

 

 

 

Observe and Listen

 

I live in the markets I serve. So go out and meet with 10-12 customers and observe what your salespeople say, promise, and listen to what your buyers say. These four legged sales calls are critical as nothing speaks the volumes as current market unfiltered comments.

 

What do your buyers have to say…?

 

Did your last order ship on time?

Did you last order ship complete?

Did your product solve the problem your salesperson said it would solve?

Was the problem solved completely?

Did the buyer receive timely follow up from your salesperson, customer service, others?

When the bill arrived was it correct at the promised sales price and terms?

 

In one industry buyers told me: “your salespeople are the used car salespeople of this industry”…ouch!

 

 

Unfiltered Data

 

What does the data say? This is where, particularly new teams struggle with my approach to seek truth. Seeking truth by the way is the first step in my next book as it is a critical step in serving any market and building a strategy on a strong foundation. In the seeking unfiltered truth step you may be labeled a Heretic as I have been,…but let it go as your critics will all love you down the road when their bonuses grow 2X.

 

What kind of truths do we need to look at?

 

What is your actual on time shipments?

What is your current order turnaround capability?

What % of your orders ship complete?

What is your quality problem occurrences as a % of total orders shipped and total parts shipped?

What do customers say? Specifically, did your product or service completely solve the problem it was promised to solve?

Does your product or service solve the problems your web site and sales literature says it solves?

 

 

Open Ended Questions with Buyers and Market Influencers

 

Last we gather open ended buyer feedback. Our goal is to capture our buyers and leading influencers’ perception, feeling, confidence in our brand promise. Are we living up to our brand or are we branding backwards? Have we successfully planted our brand and executed it….or are we branding by default and the frustrated market thinks we do one thing and its no wonder we are losing business because that is not what we do( anymore). To gather this information I highly recommend you ideally meet with customers and potential customers your team has called on without the salesperson in the room. Your goal is unfiltered feedback. If meetings are too difficult and or costly, then conduct phone win loss interviews.

 

Some questions that have served me well over the years include;

 

So tell me some of the challenges your business is facing today? ( I am listening for problems we solve and the buyer is unaware we have products and services to solve them)

 

When buying what are the top criteria and considerations you use in choosing a vendor partner?

 

How did our team do in meeting those important criteria and needs?

 

Have you and would you refer us to someone in your network as a great vendor? Why or why not?

 

There are many win loss questions I have used but the top three are at the core and will get the conversation started. If you want other open ended questions you can go here , as well as here. There are a number of excellent thought leaders in this space and their web sites are below if you prefer to hire an outside firm to conduct win loss.

 

http://www.zhivago.com/revenue-growth-services

 

http://www.healthtrendresearch.com/about-us

 

http://under10consulting.com/about/

 

* there are many more firms that help teams with win loss but the above individuals I know and are confident you would have a great experience with if you are looking for win loss analysis.

 

So you have determined your salespeople are in fact (like many) perceived as snake oil salesmen?

 

What do you do?

 

  1. Determine what your capabilities actually are today.
  2. Communicate those capabilities to your sales team, buyers, and market.
  3. Do what you say you will do, consistently over and over again.

 

If you determine what you are currently doing and capable of doing does not meet the market criteria and requirements of today you must create a roadmap to quickly be able to serve your market as they now require.

 

So how about your company?

 

Do you do what you say you will do? Consistently?

 

Does your team consistently execute your brand promise?

 

Do your products and or services do what you promise on your web site and sales literature?

 

Are your salespeople told to “just make it happen” and they are promising things that were once true but are no longer true?

 

Do your salespeople know disconnects between what your brand promises and what you deliver but feel it’s “politically incorrect or safe” to share them?

 

Do you have a sales force sink hole brewing just below the surface of your sales team?

 

 

When you boil down why buyers buy and why buyers do not buy the root is always: Trust. The quickest way to establish or reestablish trust is do what you say you will do.

Improve Sales: Stop Creating “Snake Oil Salesmen”

Posted by on September 7, 2013 with 2 Comments

 

making promises you can not deliver on

making promises you can not deliver on

 

 

The role of sales is a difficult one. You face more rejection than acceptance and have to break through the many roadblocks in connecting with potential customers you can solve problems for. We are paid to “make it happen” often in environments that are not conducive to sales growth both externally in our markets but also internally, in our own organizations. A common problem organizations face today is they are turning their sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” because their operations is failing to do what they said they would do.

When you study why buyers buy as I have, you hear things like;

I buy from people, companies who take the time to understand my needs, the problems I am trying to solve, and who “do what they say they will do”.

… let’s boil this down a little more;

I buy from people who listen, hear, and I can trust.

We have seen many changes in our markets over the past 7-8 years in how buyers buy as I have discussed in past posts. The reality I hope everyone will agree with is that how buyers buy has changed. As I have shared ; If you have not changed your sales process in the last six months….it is broken and you are losing sales you should have won.

We have seen many changes within our organizations in the last 7-8 years;

Less People

Less budget

Less time to do our jobs

Less inventory of finished goods

Less product in work in process

Less inventory at our customers

Less time to deliver, just in time

…and more competition, often from competitors who are so aggressive it feels like they must not truly know their costs ( or they are that mush better than we are)

My challenge in this post is with all these changes do you really know , based on your capabilities and market realities of today, what your organization is able to do? able to execute regularly, consistently, predictably? If not your salespeople in the market working with you most valuable assets; customers and potential customers and making promises you can not deliver on. To put it another way;

When your company fails to do what it says it does and or will do, you turn your sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” and it negatively impacts your trust factor.

Back in the days of the wild west there were traveling salesmen who would stop in a town and sell snake oil. When we Google the term “snake oil salesmen” we find;

“ a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself or herself a fraud, quack, charlatan, and the like.”

Snake oil’s origins are believed to come from an oil the Chinese laborers brought to America made from a Chinese water snake believed to cure joint pain.  However the snake oil salesmen of the wild west were known to plant people in the crowd who would lie and say how the oil cured their various ailments. Snake oil salesmen had a sales process of basically traveling town to town and never selling the same people twice because once you bought the snake oil and found it failed to do what you were promised, you did not trust that salesmen.

When your salespeople serve customers , win an order from buyers it is based on a foundation of trust. Buyers naturally , because they have been burned so many times over the years ( by other traveling snake oil salesmen) do not trust salespeople. So trust must be earned and the simplest way of earning trust is execution. ( doing what you say you will do in the small things and the big things, over and over again) When your operations team fails to execute what the sales people have been told to promise, it immediately breaks trust and creates brand damage.  This is particularly a urgent problem when you fail to deliver on promises to new customers as we only have one chance to have a “good first date”. ( first order experience)

The unfortunate reality in the world your salespeople live in day in and day out is their buyer’s perception is the reality they must deal with. The buyer rarely talks to your shipping department, plant operations group, your purchasing department, quality, and they are not aware of the internal challenges your team may be facing nor do they care. What they do care about is buying from companies who consistently do what they say they are going to do.

So let me ask you again;

Is your current operational performance turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesman in the eyes of your customers? 

Are your salespeople making promises based on a dated information set that was probably true five years ago but not true today?

Is your team aware of operational issue but treating them as politically incorrect secrets you hope your buyers and salespeople do not discover? 

Are the competencies you share in your brochures and web site still true today?

What expectations do your buyers have, and how is your team performing to those expectations? 

If your team is not focused on understanding what your buyers need, what your salespeople are promising, and what your organization is capable of executing today you need to be and you need to reboot your business.

In my next post I will share how to quickly access if buyers believe your salespeople are snake oil salesmen and how to quickly repair this perception.

 

 

Improve Sales Execution; The Power of One Thing

Posted by on August 11, 2013 with 1 Comments

The One Thing

 

Multitasking is a lie that far too many people believe to be true. Scientific data proves multitasking is not as effective as focusing on one thing at a time and completing it before moving on to the next task. This is particularly true for salespeople as we have the reputation of; chasing shinny objects. When salespeople develop the discipline of focusing on one thing and seeing it to a close they meet and exceed their sales goals. In this post I will share a great new book I have been reading; The One Thing, the surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.

 

As I have shared before sales execution is often a common problem in sales teams. Senior leadership did their 2-3 day strategy planning, came away with the plan and rolled it out to the team. However in most cases, CEO’s find themselves frustrated six months into a new sales year when sales results are not achieving plan and upon investigation they find what I refer to as the great disconnect…sales is not executing the plan. Why does this occur and what can be done to insure sales execute the plan and achieve their sales goals?

 

Focus

 

As the authors of the book; The One Thing share we achieve more when we go small. It takes great discipline to ignore all the things we could do and focus on the thing we should do. The authors share six lies that stand in the way of our success;

 

  1. Everything matters equally
  2. Multitasking
  3. A disciplined life
  4. Will power is always on Will call
  5. A balanced life
  6. Big is Bad

 

I highly recommend you buy and read this book. You will find yourself highlighting each page and writing notes in the margins.

 

Having lead sales and marketing teams for over 30 years as well as coaching salespeople, one common area salespeople must get over to achieve sales plan and hit their goals is the myth of multitasking. They believe busyness drives business… and this is simply not true. What does drive sales results is focusing on serving the customer. However when you ask a salesperson a simple question; what did you do yesterday?…you will often hear;

 

  • worked with frank in shipping to get my order out
  • I helped Joanie in customer service with…
  • I worked with engineering to quote the part #…
  • I did my call report from my last trip
  • I called and left messages with 6 current customers
  • I did some research on a guy I have been trying to sell for over a year
  • I worked with Lisa in accounting to get one of my accounts to pay their bill
  • I booked my travel plans for the meeting we are having in two weeks
  • I chased down the reasons why my order for …..did not ship on time as we promised
  • I worked with scheduling to try to move up the delivery on my order for …..
  • I did my expense report from the trip I did a month ago…
  • I entered some updates into the CRM
  • I sent email follow ups on order ship dates to some of my customers
  • I read an article in our industry trade journal about how a number of our customers are moving to …..

So what is a sales manager to do? where do you start?

I am a big fan of four legged sales calls. This is where you travel with your salespeople and meet with current customers, potential customers and often past customers you have lost and are trying to win back. One of the things I am also doing is determining how focused the salesperson is. Yogi Berra said ; you can learn a lot by observing… and what I often observe that is also occurring in a salesperson’s day they may not be aware of includes;

 

  • Multiple calls from their spouse or the person they are dating
  • a text from one of their children or friends
  • an email joke from a friend
  • junk emails with links to content salespeople read
  • LinkedIn updates on who visited their profile, who found a new job, and who may have endorsed them today
  • Facebook updates
  • Twitter updates
  • Maybe Google + updates
  • You tube videos they just have to watch
  • Good articles from industry trade journals sent to their email
  • Emails from customers needing help with quotes, order status updates, why an order did not ship
  • Reading blogs about how to improve their sales performance
  • Reading blogs and articles about their personal interests

 

* to make this even more of an interruption all of the above and more come through or cell phones.

 

You get the idea….salespeople today have a tremendous amount of distractions and can easily fall into the trap of believing being busy, having a great deal of activity , adds value. What adds value is bringing in and closing more profitable sales.

 

A great quote from the book; “ It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel we need to do too many tings in the time we have” – Gary Keller

 

What I really enjoyed about this book is how they blend in clinical research. Research shows workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and spend 30% of their day recovering from interruptions. We have an average of 4,000 thoughts a day flying in and out of our minds. We change a thought every 14 seconds so it’s easy to see how we fall into the trap of multitasking. But sales people who multitask get more done right? Wrong! Research shows;

 

  • the more complex the task you switch from when distracted the less likely you are to go back to it
  • chronic multi-tasker’s develop a distorted view of how long it takes to do things
  • workers who multitask make more mistakes
  • they have more stress
  • multitasking makes us slower witted

 

The book goes on to share more statistics and if you are like me will quickly agree we have been sold a lie with regards to multitasking.

 

How do we break this cycle of poor sales execution as a result of the multitask lie? The authors give us a grounding question to ask ourselves and our people each day;

 

What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?

 

Let that question soak in, seep deep into the marrow of your bones….

 

What is the one thing your salespeople can do that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

 

What is the one thing you as the leader can do that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

 

What is your to-do list for today? How many to-dos do you have today?

 

How can you boil that list to one thing that you will do today that will have the most impact because you focus on it and see it to completion?

 

I highly recommend the book; The One Thing as at first it will help you, your team, and your ability to drive extraordinarily results. The hidden benefits will also arise as you apply its wisdom to your personal life….your health, your marriage, spiritual life, your relationship with your children and so on. This book, like Ctrl Alt Delete will be a resource tool in my library for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Increase Sales Quick Tip; Breaking Through the New Gate Keeper…No Gatekeeper at All

Posted by on July 23, 2013 with 2 Comments

 

lobby

 

I was asked to share some quick tips that are in my seminars and coaching calls so once per month I will share what I will call; “Increase Sales Quick tips”. Keep in mind “I “did not make these up, these come from working in the market and observing what works.

 

The first quick tip is; how to break through the new gatekeeper; no gatekeeper at all. In this post I will share a technique for finding and connecting with the right buyer when you enter a prospect’s building and you are greeted by a few chairs, a phone and a call list.

 

If you follow my content you know I am not a big fan of “cold calls”. I feel with technology today there really is not excuse for a cold call. You can do some quick research on your smart phone, identify key contacts through linked in, and even send an introductory email or make a phone call prior to the traditional cold call drop by. But let’s say you are still not sold, and have grown your sales by “dropping in” on prospects in your market, often near appoints you have already booked. A new gate keep that keeps many salespeople from connecting with the buyer and or key contact is the lack of a person in the lobby.

 

You have decided to drop in at an account near one of your customers, you walk into the lobby and you are greeted with a few chairs, a phone, and a locked door…now what?

 

While working with a Gary, a salesman in Knoxville I observed a great technique; call the HR manager. If you do not have a receptionist to guide you to the right contact and buyer, one of the most helpful people in most businesses is the HR manager. When this salesman does a cold call and is greeted with a phone in a lobby, he finds the HR manager and in most cased the HR manager connects him directly with the right person. The right person picks up because the call is coming from the HR manager.

 

Although we all know there are no excuses for making “drop by cold calls” today ….we all still do them. If you find yourself greeted by an empty lobby, try contacting the HR manager to improve your odds of connecting with the right person.

 

What area(s) of sales, sales management, marketing, business development do you struggle with?

 

Please share the roadblocks you encounter to hitting your sales goals and I will answer them in this quick tip post format.

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