Escape Poor Sales Execution…Find Market Clues

Escape Poor Sales Execution…Find Market Clues

 

 

Why is sales execution such a big problem for most sales teams? In this post I will share a technique to find why teams have a sales execution issues and how to fix those sales problems.

 

Recently I took a team to an off-site team-building event at an escape room. If you have not heard of escape rooms it is something my daughter introduced me to. Escape room venues are opening in a number of cities. They are rooms you enter as a team, look for clues, solve puzzles and hopefully escape in time.

 

For those of you feeling anxious relax, you can physically leave the room at anytime if you need to. The challenge is to work as a team, find the clues to solve specific puzzle challenges in the allotted time and escape.

 

Our room challenge had an old time gangster theme. Our room was pitch black and we were given 4 flashlights for 8 people, our mission and a clue to get started. Our mission was to find four hidden jewels in 45 minutes.

 

We received instructions from the staff, entered the room and read more instructions quickly and distributed flashlights.

 

(41 minutes remaining)

 

It was interesting to watch the team’s behavior once we entered the room. The team quickly broke out into groups of two with one flashlight and started looking for clues. We quickly found one clue that helped us open a locked box that produced a jewel. Then we found another box to be opened but this one was a series of color-coated buttons that needed to be pushed in just the right sequence to open the device. The clues to the right sequence were around the room in paintings. We struggled with this for some time all the while the timer was clicking in the background.

 

(30 minutes remaining)

 

We made a mistake; we all split up and did not work on each clue as a team. We tried to find all four jewels at once. We wasted about ½ our time in this mode. Once we started working each clue sequentially as a team (did I mention it was a team of engineers?) we started having much more success.

 

(18minutes to go)

 

As I watched and participated this reminded me of what it feels like when I have helped teams struggling with sales execution problems.

 

When I speak with senior leaders of organizations sales execution usually comes up as a problem in the first 15-20 minutes. As I shared in a short video back in 2010 nothing frustrates CEO’s more than spending time developing a strategic plan and they find out six-eight months into the year sales is not executing the plan..I call this the Great Disconnect. Why is sales execution such a problem for most teams? In this same article I shared …

 

Market leaders create tactical sales play books by territory.

 

Market losers tell salespeople to “just make it happen”.

 

What I have found over the past 33 years of helping teams fix sales execution issues is it is rare to find a sales team not trying. They are working very hard, but often not smart. Salespeople in general are very competitive. We love to compete and more importantly win. If your compensation program was strategically designed to drive the behaviors your senior leaders have deemed critical, we also have skin in the game. We must hit our sales objectives to achieve our targeted compensation.

 

I bring this up because I often hear senior leaders say things to me like….

 

Our sales team has become complacent they just need a kick in the… rear (edited)

 

“We have clearly mapped out what we need sales to do and they are simply not executing the plan”

 

“ The sales team seems very busy…but we are not seeing the results we need.”

 

“Our team is not executing our plan , they have gone back to how we have always sold and we are missing our sales goals”

 

“The sales team needs to understand what we expect and do it …or else we will find people who can.”

 

The problem with the above statements and the many others I have heard over the years is they are built on a few core assumptions:

 

  • Sales knows the plan
  • Marketing provided a value proposition to execute the plan that resonates with your customers and solves issues today
  • Sales has been trained to execute the plan
  • Sales has the tools and knows were to find them
  • Sales compensation rewards the behaviors you want them to strategically execute
  • Your team clearly understands your markets, customers, buyers and the journey they take to purchase and the criteria they use to make buying decisions
  • Your sales managers are coaching your team to overcome obstacles

 

What I have experienced is sales teams who are failing to execute sales plans lack one if not all of the above.

 

Lets get back to my team in the escape room…time is ticking away and will soon run out. (like you only having 4 months left in the year to hit sales plan)

 

We found a few of the easy clues early and solved the challenges and won our jewels. (this is like how your sales team will have some quick early wins in a new sales year with a new plan. ) However now we were stuck, in this pitch-dark room, flashlights desperately searching everywhere trying to find a solution to escape this room. We needed to solve two more challenges.

 

(15 minutes left on the timer)

 

Our team members grow frustrated and as if saying we just need to try harder…(sound familiar?) Some grew noticeably agitated. Then one of our team who was paying attention when we were trained by the staff said: “ you know they said if we get stuck we can ask for clues” YES! This is what I was looking for. Did they listen and hear all the instructions and training before we entered this game or were they so focused on playing they missed the instructions?

 

(13 more minutes and we could hear our other half of our team successfully escaped their room and are waiting outside our door)

 

What happened next was also interesting. Half of our group said : sure let’s ask for clue, we want to win this challenge... Two of our team had basically given up and were no longer engaged and wanted to just give up and exit so we could go to dinner at the local brewpub. One of our team members was adamant we should not ask for a clue..we are engineers we can figure this out, we don’t need help!

 

(8 more minutes to find the clues and exit)

 

We tried hard to solve the puzzle but no luck. We asked for another clue, worked as a team and quickly solved another puzzle and won another jewel.

 

(5 more minutes one puzzle left)

 

We identified the location of the last jewel and the team frantically worked to solve the puzzle. Some team members could see what previous participants tired based on markings on the wall so they tried that..no luck. What did we do next? Try it again, harder…faster!

 

(3 minutes to solve the last clue or loose the challenge)

 

One very competitive engineer suggested …look we know its in there, I can bust it open..” NO! (that’s all I need to have to explain on my expense report!)

 

We worked hard and tried to use the clues we had to solve our last puzzle challenge to successfully escape.

 

The timer went off and the lights came on. We failed.

 

One of the staff came in, read the clue again, and solved the last puzzle in 30 seconds. Ouch!

 

What we missed was the last clue told us exactly what to do if we would have taken the time to slow down and understand each word in the clue. However we were so focused, so busy, and under so much pressure as the clock was ticking we missed a clue.

 

So why share this story of a recent team building event at an escape room?

 

I share this story because if your sales team is not executing on their sales goals they too are in an escape room and this is what they are feeling.

 

  • some of your team are frustrated, its not about money its about winning, pride even
  • some of your team are no longer engaged, just going through the motions waiting for this years’ challenge to end
  • some need training, they are motivated but need to revisit past training because they probably missed something very important
  • some want to break the game, cheat basically to win at all cost ( that gets really expensive fast… trust me)

 

What are your sales teams doing?

 

The good news is the answers; the clues are out there, in your market, with your buyers if you know where to look and how to ask.

 

Instead of trying to work more hours, harder, why not work smarter?

 

If your sales team is not executing on your sales plan stop and spend 2 weeks and capture the voice of your market today. (Find current relevant market clues)

 

Use this current market data to identify the journey your buyers take when making a purchase and mirror your sales process to match how your buyers want to buy.

 

Write your plan based on current market information.

 

Focus on sales enablement.

 

Identify the process your buyers are using today and create your sales process to mirror the buying process.

 

Give your sales people the perfect sales tools to help buyers at each step of the buyers’ journey.

 

Keep listening and looking for market clues, apply, pivot and adjust.

 

Understand the criteria your buyers must have, and when and provide it.

 

Focus on serving your buyers and not selling them.

 

Implement the above and your team will be on the path to executing their sales plans and solving their sales problems.

 

Is your sales team achieving their sales goals this year?

 

As the clock is ticking on achieving your sales goals…are you telling them to just make it happen or are helping them find current market clues to help them win?

 

Does your current sales process mirror how your buyers are buying today?

 

Does your sales team have the right sales tools and do they know where to find them? (or are they cheating and making their own)?

 

If your team is struggling with sales execution, I highly recommend you find a local escape room and help them understand the importance of looking for market clues and solving them as a team. ( perhaps your senior leaders would enjoy this experience too?)

 

If you would like to learn more about this topic of Sales Execution I recommend you check out the following links:

 

9 ways you can start improving sales through sales enablement

Why do 78% of sales strategies fail? 

A guide to sales resource optimization 

New rules of sales execution 

Here’s what you can do to improve sales execution

 9 steps for sales enablement

 How do I quickly improve sales ( short video) 

 Fix sales problems, create a sales  a sales GPS for your team  

Fix Sales Problems With Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Fix Sales Problems With Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

 

 

 

 

A few Salespeople have “IT”. They all need “IT” to achieve their sales numbers. ..What is “IT”? In this post I will discuss Emotional Intelligence and the role it plays in helping our salespeople achieve their profitable sales growth objectives. In the book:  Sales EQ, How ultra-high performers leverage sales-specific emotional intelligence to close the complex deal by Jeb Blount

Leading and coaching salespeople you find some salespeople just have “it” and some do not. It’s hard to describe. It is more of a feeling than a word you can use to describe it…at least until now.

For years I have assumed it was experience, product knowledge, sales skills, personality, communication and presentation skills but they just did not completely cover what I was experiencing. What I was seeing is called Emotional Intelligence.

I shared another book on this topic some time ago: Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success by Colleen Stanley.

In that post I shared Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include 3 skills:

  1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;
  2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving;
  3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.

So the topic of Emotional Intelligence is not new. Solvey and Mayer first introduced it in 1990. However it really did not pick up steam until Daniel Goleman a Harvard trained psychologist wrote an article in 1995 for the New York Times about his book: Emotional Intelligence.

To add to this discussion I just competed an excellent book by Jeb Blount titled: Sales EQ, How ultra-high performers leverage sales-specific emotional intelligence to close the complex deal . Like the other books mentioned this book is a must have in every sales leaders library. Why? Why this book now you might ask? The short answer is to adapt to a shift that has occurred in “power” during a sale.

The author shares…

“ Technology has disrupted the traditional sales process by giving buyers unprecedented access to product and industry information, more control over the sales process, and more choices of products and vendorsTo differentiate yourself from competitors and hold the short-lived attention of buyers, you need to be a master of emotions, interpersonal skills, influence frameworks and human relationships ”

–       Jeb Blount

For years I have helped companies Fix Sales Problems.  Many companies believe if we just train our people in products, markets and selling skills we will achieve our profitable sales growth goals. However what they all were missing is something that was often a disruption for their leaders to hear:

Buyers buy with emotion and justify their decisions with data

Let that sink in a minute….

So we have been training salespeople for years…in my case over 30 years in product features and benefits, sales processes, closing techniques, how to overcome objections, the challenger model, the sales consultant model, value based selling…and the list goes on but how many of us work on the Emotional Intelligence of our salespeople? Not many I am afraid.

Jeb Blount captures this later in the book…

Managing disruptive emotions is the primary meta-skill of sales. The combination of situational awareness and the ability to consistently regulate disruptive emotions is what puts ultra-high performers on a pedestal above average salespeople….We know that the buyer’s emotional experience along with the buying journey has as much( or more) impact on their propensity to buy from you as anything else…the paradox of emotions is that the same time they are your most powerful ally they’re also your greatest enemy

Let me share a real example ( from my youth)  where I blew it and I hope helps bring the importance of emotional intelligence home.

It was early in the 1990’s and I was leading the retail division of a plastics packaging company. We made retail loss prevention devices to prevent the theft of music and we made video storage packaging for video rental. The video rental market had shifted and we introduced a new product to meet that need I branded: The Squeeze Box. The name described how it worked…you squeezed the bottom of the plastic storage box and the video tape would slide out. I named it that after the song,..mama’s got a squeeze box..but changed the lyrics ..and my competitors can’t sleep at night.

The industry was so excited about this new product we could not make them fast enough. One mold became two, two became four and the demand kept growing. It was an exciting time and did I mention it was also the most profitable product we were selling? We priced it based on the value it gave the end customers not our costs.  Because of the high demand we used this product to gain share leveraging availability based on buyers giving us more of their base business our main competitors owned.

One of my largest accounts was a distributor in Iowa, who was later acquired by Ingram Entertainment. I had a great relationship with this account, its executive team and the buyer. The buyer helped me in the gathering of requirements for this new product design and in our market verification. I helped them use this innovative new product to land large video retailers and some targeted grocery accounts they always wanted. A real win-win relationship.

I was calling on the buyer and he said: “Mark, I am moving to a new division and I would like you to meet Frank (not his real name) he comes from purchasing in our electronic accessories business and has made quite a name for himself here …”

He walked me to Frank’s office and we were introduced. Frank was very rude with my past buyer, almost dismissing him. I sat down to start trying to understand his needs and goals and he quickly said: “what are you doing, I don’t meet with salespeople in my office , this is where I get work done, go find a conference room and we will meet there

Huh?

You heard me, I am a busy guy, I manage millions of dollars of inventory and its time someone whipped you and your company into shape. “

I connected with the executive assistant for all the buyers who had become a friend over the years and asked for an open meeting room. She said: I suppose it is for a meeting with Frank? Sorry you got him Mark he’s kind of a jerk but quite the climber around here” (and she rolled her eyes.)

Frank came in, sat at the head of the table as I guessed he would and started…

I understand we are your largest distributor in this space.

My guess is you use my volume to be competitive with many people in this market?

To increase the sales of your products we need to increase the advertising allowance and we will not be providing you proof of ads as we have been doing. I have done this for 5 years and I know what I am doing.

I see you have been winning more and more of our overall category purchase dollars? …That ends today.

The last buyer was way too easy on his vendors, …I am not.

Your prices are too high and must be reduced immediately and I expect an adjustment for the entire inventory we have on hand. Here’s a report of our current inventory. I need to see the credit transaction in the next 5 days.

As a salesperson you probably do not understand the business we are in and I would not expect you to. Just give me what I need and we will get along just fine. Make me look bad and I will make you pay.

I hear you have a hot innovative product called a Squeeze box? We need an exclusive on it and we will sell it to our competitors.

The rep for your competitor is a golf buddy of mine and his line of plastic boxes comes from a much bigger and more impressive company than your little Ohio company.

Who are your large video chains buying this now direct? That is going to end and you will send them through us too.

The Squeeze box is twice as expensive as the other boxes we buy from you. I weighed it and it’s actually lighter than the other products you sell for ½ the price…you need to drop our price at least 30% immediately. I will not be a push over buyer like my predecessor (your buddy) .

I understand you have independent sales reps calling on all my locations? That stops today and I want their compensation paid back to us as a 5% year-end rebate.

If you do not have to power or you are not smart enough to understand what I am asking for give me the owner of your companies’ name and office number….tell you what… just give me his name I can tell you do not understand strategy…

Well?

( my blood was boiling)

I shared how we have grown with his company based on service and training his salespeople how to sell our products. I personally trained his telemarketers every quarter and his field salespeople. I shared the issues we helped his company with like; on time delivery, just in time inventory, new products we developed for them, training his salespeople, helping his people close large accounts and so on.

I shared I heard each of his requests…and was about to answer them one by one….

“Oh, you think these were “requests” do you? ( he stood up and slammed his hands onto the conference table) No.., you will do what I told you to do or you and I will have a problem, or don’t you understand this?”

You are going to do this right? You want our business right?

 

No!!! (I stood up nose to nose with him and I lost my temper).

How I was feeling inside was like I was in another street fight with a bully. I shared we do not do business this way, we value working with his company because they shared the same values and ethics as our company and I would like to speak with Earl, his boss now, who I have known for years, had dinner at his home,  so we can work this out.

 

Get the F@#ck out of here!… and don’t come back until you give me what I want,… if you call Earl …your sales here are over, do you understand?

 

As I left the meeting room I passed a number of people who obviously heard our heated exchange. I was angry, confused, surprised …and now worried how I will explain this to the president of our company.( dead man walking)

 

Why did this meeting go so bad?

Why did this new punk get to me so much?

 

Working with a coach later in my career , and receiving training and coaching I discovered my emotional triggers are:

 

  • Bully me

 

  • Bully someone who cannot defend themselves or are not there to defend themselves

 

  • Threaten me …fine no big deal, my family? My company? Or someone I care about…game on!

 

  • Treat me like I am stupid, inferior mentally

 

What Frank did in our first meeting was pretty much trigger all my emotional hot spots I was not aware I had at the time. This resulted in a reflex response of threatening him back by bringing the merchandise manager (his boss) into the equation. My voice became louder and my tone became attacking to mirror his. My face became red and the veins in my throat and forehead were enlarged. My physical size was much bigger than Frank so when he stood I stood nose to nose so to speak …all the things I did, I did not think about, they happened as a reflex like when the doctor taps your knee with the rubber hammer at a checkup.

 

I can vividly still remember this meeting as if it were yesterday.

 

Why?

 

Emotion!

 

I let the meeting get personal to me and I reacted with reflex and not strategy.

Frank made our company pay for about 6 months with significantly less orders.

Eventually Earl heard about how I was treated and intervened but Frank and I were never friends. He lasted about 2 more years and was let go. Who was the new buyer? My friend the administrative assistant who rolled her eyes when she booked the meeting room with Frank. She said I was one of the few “Factory Guys” who treated her with respect over the years and would appreciate me helping her be successful in her new role. As the years went by we grew to be a preferred vendor, and won almost all of their purchase dollars in our category.

Your salespeople will be in negotiations that build to red-faced moments.

Are they prepared?

The great news is Emotional Intelligence can be a learned skill and this book : Sales EQ, How ultra-high performers leverage sales-specific emotional intelligence to close the complex deal by Jeb Blount will help sales leaders and salespeople understand and leverage Emotional Intelligence.

Salespeople who are trained in Emotional Intelligence sell more at higher profits.

Leaders with high Emotional intelligence drive stronger team performance and are more resilient team members as the US Army found in their studies.

I highly recommend everyone add this book to your business libraries and apply the author’s practical advice.

Are your salespeople emotionally intelligent?

Are you losing sales you could have won with Emotional Intelligence training?

Is there a reason you might not want your salespeople trained in EQ?

As the number of competitors grows and buyers push to commoditize products and service, how your team sells can be your market differentiation.

Buyers today are hungry for authentic knowledgeable salespeople who have a strong EQ so working together you can work through those red-faced moments in negotiations.

I just met with an interviewed a senior level purchasing director with over 35 years of experience on the other side of the desk in a sale. In my next few posts I will share the strategies he teaches buyers to use to disrupt salespeople’s emotions to win lower prices, better service and a number of free services that companies typically charge for.

 

 

 

 

 

Fix Sales Problems: Wear Hats Not Masks Leading Your Sales Team

Fix Sales Problems: Wear Hats Not Masks Leading Your Sales Team

 

 

 

 

As I shared in my post: “ Congratulations you have been promoted to sales manager…now what?” leading sales teams requires new skills you may not have acquired as a sales super star performer. Just because you were an amazing salesperson does not mean you will be a top performing sales leader. A common mistake new managers make is they put on masks of who they think they need to be to effectively lead their sales team. In this post I will share why sales leaders must learn to put on hats not masks.

 

“The most common mistake I see sales leaders make is they wear masks not hats.”– Mark Allen Roberts

…. let me explain.

Leading sales teams is about serving your team and helping them achieve sales goals and objectives. Often those goals and objectives are difficult and seemingly beyond reach for your people.

You cannot and will not effectively and efficiently lead your sales team until you remove the masks you developed over the years and start strategically putting on hats your teams require.

What do I mean by wearing a mask?

A mask is an adapted behavior we all use to adjust to a belief that is often not true. It is something we create to protect us.

You have seen people wearing masks many times I am sure…

 

The person who has to be the smartest person in the room..

 The jokester who makes a joke out of everything..

 The debater who has to win every argument even if they are wrong..

 The intimidator, gladiator if you will..

 The belle of the ball that needs to be the center of attention …

 

What these all have in common is they are about that person, for that person to feel safe. These masks and more were developed to protect that person from triggering a belief that makes them feel they are not safe and to avoid feeling fearful.

There are many others but what they all have in common is they are adaptive behaviors people have developed over time to protect themselves.

Would it surprise you to learn, as much as 50% of your personality was developed by the time you were seven years old? By the time you were eleven almost 90% of who you think you are and how you see the world was developed.

Over time you have experienced both positive and negative experiences. We create masks as defense mechanisms to protect us from future negative interactions. Think of a mask as you playing a role, an actor if you will in a play. You become whom you think you need to be to survive. However these masks prevent us from having authentic human interactions. Those people you deal with feel your lack of authenticity and they put on their masks…resulting in interactions that fail to discuss real issues.

Let that resonate for a minute….

Would you let an eleven year old make key decisions in your life?

Would you let a seven year old run your company? Lead your sales team?

I hear some of you saying..

I don’t wear masks…I authentically lead my sales team”…I hear you but you are probably wrong.

Unless you have worked with a coach, discovered all those false beliefs and reprogrammed them chances are you are wearing masks.

I gave a very short speech on this deep topic recently for a toastmaster’s competition. If this idea of the masks we wear and how they interrupt and interfere with being the leader you were born to be is something you would like to learn more about you could watch my speech here.

 

Wearing masks interfere with leading your teams authentically and must be removed.

 

Masks prevent you from authentically connecting with those you serve and negatively impact you’re your team’s performance.

 

Just as buyers are hungry for authentic salespeople, your salespeople are hungry for an authentic sales leader.

 

What sales leaders, leaders in general for that matter, must do is drop their masks and understand the various hats we can and often need to wear to serve our teams.

 

What are the most common hats a sales leader needs to wear?

 

In “Developing a Leadership Style,” Alan Murray shares six styles of leadership from Daniel Goleman’s “Primal Leadership.”

 

  1. Visionary.
  2. Coaching
  3. Affiliative
  4. Democratic
  5. Pacesetting
  6. Commanding

 

I found this content on how to develop your leadership style and the various hats leaders must learn to wear very informative. If you would like to learn more I recommend you read this Wall Street Journal Article and buy the book.

Hats are about serving others, how you adapt your service based on the needs of others.

The hat you wear helping one salesperson, one employee, may be much different than the hat you wear for others.

If your true goal is to grow your organization profitably you must learn how to loose masks and put on the right hat for each leadership opportunity.

 

How about you?

What mask do you wear? 

What hats do you feel comfortable putting on?

Are there any hats discussed above that make you feel uncomfortable? Why?

Are you letting an 11 year old run your sales team? Your company? Your life?

 

You were born to be great. You are destined for greatness! You have specific gifts and talents to serve others.

 

It is time we all must loose our masks and start wearing the right hats to authentically serve our teams.

 

What we are discussing here is emotional intelligence. In my speech I shared one way to help you identify false beliefs that cause you to wear masks and reprogram them.

 

In my next post I will share an important new book all sales leaders must have in their libraries Sales EQ, How ultra-high performers leverage sales-specific emotional intelligence to close the complex deal by Jeb Blount.

 

If this topic of “masks” is new to you, and you would like to learn more, I highly recommend you read the following books.

 

True Faced, by Bill Thrall

 

UNMASK, let go of who you’re supposed to be & unleash your true leader by Jeff Nishhwitz 

 

 

Pre- Sales Checklist :The Secret To Hitting Your Sales Number

Pre- Sales Checklist :The Secret to Hitting Your Sales Number

 

Salespeople who are prepared for meetings outperform others who just show up and throw up; it’s as simple as that. We all know this right? Not being prepared for buyer meetings is one of the top reasons over 50% of salespeople will fail to achieve sales quota each year. Our markets and how buyers buy has changed significantly with as much as 70% of the buying journey being over before a salesperson meets with a buyer. In this post I will share how I coach salespeople to prepare for sales meetings to drive the maximum sales results in an authentic way.

I have led sales and marketing teams for over 30 years and I am a practitioner of what Pragmatic Marketing refers to as “NIHITO”. This stands for: Nothing Important Happens In The Office. Therefore I travel, check that, …I travel a great deal in the market doing four legged sales calls with my sales teams.

One area that is a common sales coachable skill is pre-sales call planning.

Traveling often I have taken a number of flights. As sales leaders we can learn a lot about being prepared for our mission of increasing sales profitably by watching airplane pilots. Before each and every flight pilots conduct a pre-flight checklist.

They have a standard checklist that starts at the left wing tip and they walk around the plane, checking each wing, each tire, the tail section, the nose of the plane, the cockpit instrumentation panel. They check the fuel manifest to insure they have enough fuel to fly safely to their destination.

Ben Franklin said:“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Why do salespeople fail?

There are 3 major reasons that salespeople fail.

  1. Lack of mental preparation
  2. Lack of physical preparation
  3. Poor quality of conversations

… all of them involve being prepared.

What are the top five things sales super stars do to prepare for each sales meeting?

  1. They’re prepared for anything – especially the negative circumstances
  2. They’re genuinely interested in their prospects
  3. They check their ego at the door
  4. They master the art of managing expectations
  5. They have done their research

The below checklist must be completed before trying to start a journey with a buyer today.

Buyer information

  1. Who will you be meeting with?
  2. What is their role, and title?
  3. How long have they held this position?
  4. How long have they been with their current organization?
  5. Where did they go to school?
  6. Where did they work prior to this company?
  7. Do you share any mutual contacts, if so call them and ask them about this buyer
  8. When was the last order?
  9. Do you have a buyer persona for this type of buyer? If so read it.
  10. Is there a current order in the system?
  11. If so when will it ship and arrive?
  12. What is the status of the accounts payments, do they have any money past due that may interrupt service if not paid?
  13. Has the buyer and or their teams experienced any quality issues with products and or services in the last 6 months and were they resolved?
  14. How is the buyer measured?
  15. What are your buyers’ key performance indicators?

The account

  1. How long has your company sold this account?
  2. What are your current sales with this account, and how does this compare to last year?
  3. Does this customer buy predominantly one or two products or do they support your full line of products and services?
  4. When was the last buyer call or phone discussion on the CRM?
  5. What was the topic of the last conversation and action items?
  6. Were the action items completed?
  7. Visit their web site, click on “press” and or “news’ …what is the most recent news event they posted?
  8. What are your customers value proposition to their customers? You can gather this by cutting and pasting their landing page copy into an I cloud service and see prominent words.
  9. Who are their competitors? Do you sell them?
  10. Who else is involved in buying decisions?

The Industry / Market

  1. Google this industry read top three articles.
  2. What is news worthy in their industry in the last three months?
  3. Visit industry trade association web pages and read last three news articles. What is news worthy in trade groups?
  4. Is the customers’ market up, down, or flat?
  5. What are the future projections for this market?
  6. How is this customers market segment performing for your company?
  7. Is this customer’s sales performing at the industry average, below, or above and why?
  8. Have competitors introduced any new products or programs in the last six months?
  9. Prepare two to three questions that illustrate you know the buyers’ industry, what is happening and can be used to build trust.
  10. Is their industry consolidating or highly fragmented?

Competitor information

  1. What other companies like yours also sell this account?
  2. What are their strengths?
  3. What are their weaknesses?
  4. What are your competitors’ value propositions?
  5. Do any of your other customers also use these competitors and if so what have they shared with you?
  6. Visit competitor(s) web sites, what is new?
  7. How do your competitors market their products and sell their products?
  8. Know your competitor price strategy.
  9. Does the competitor provide products you do not?
  10. Do you have unique and or patented products your competitors do not offer?
  11. What is your competitor’s service history compared to yours?
  12. What are your competitors shipping and delivery policies?

 Your Strategy

  1. Why are you meeting with this account?
  2. Why did the buyer agree to meet you?
  3. What is the buyer’s expectation for this meeting?
  4. Is meeting with the account in person the best form of communication based on your objectives?
  5. What sales tools will you need to be successful?
  6. Will you require any video or computer presentations?
  7. Will you require access to the Internet? If so bring a device to give you access in the event the company cannot allow you to access their connection.
  8. What is your value proposition? Answer the question: Why your company?…and or your product?
  9. Who are your competitors at this customer and what are the strengths of your competitors and their products?
  10. What are the perceived weaknesses of your competitors’ products?
  11. What case studies should you bring to support this sale?
  12. What STAR stories will you share in your presentation to build trust?
  13. What will you leave with the buyer?
  14. How many copies will they need for other influencers in their company?
  15. What is your buyers buying process?
  16. What criteria must your buyer have from you to make a buying decision?
  17. What does this account, this buyer’s journey look like?
  18. What are your 2-5 challenger questions for this meeting?
  19. How will you judge if this meeting was a success?
  20. What are typically next steps in the follow up process you can offer proactively in this meeting?

 

I hear some of you saying…

but mark that’s a lot of information to have before we meet with someone! On a normal trip I can meet with up to 8-10 customers…do you expect me to have all of the above for each meeting?”

My answer is YES!!!

The markets we serve are dynamic and competitive pressure is only growing. In your buyer’s world they too are experiencing pressure and demands on their time. Buyers want to meet with salespeople who do their homework and understand their account, and their markets and any challenges they may be facing. Buyers are hungry for authentic salespeople who want to understand and help buyers and their companies solve urgent market problems.

The days of …Hi how are ya meetings …are over!

The days of just dropping buy, or my personal favorite…. buying two dozen donuts are over!

…“But Mark I want to build my relationship with this buyer….”

Then do your research prior to your buyer meeting and demonstrate the following:

You know the buyer and have an interest in helping them

You know the industry and share how you help buyers like them

You understand your competitors

You know the buying journey

You know the criteria your buyers must have today to make a buying decision

You understand your products and services and the problems they solve

You build trust with buyers by being prepared

Doing your pre-flight checklist before each buyer meeting will insure a safe buying journey and help you land are your desired goals. 

Are your salespeople prepared to meet with your buyers?

What is your cost of sale today?

Do you believe having a pre-call checklist can improve your sales cost as a percent of sales?

Does your team have a pre=call checklist?

How often are your salespeople prepared for each buyer meeting?

Have you experienced a buyer meeting that took a nosedive because your salesperson was not prepared?

Below are some great articles on preparing for a sales call.

Pre-call planning the forgotten step https://www.customercentric.com/news-and-resources/articles/pre-call-planning

 

4 tips for effective pre-call sales planning https://www.jillkonrath.com/sales-blog/bid/130501/4-Tips-for-Effective-Pre-Call-Sales-Planning

 

7 steps to ace pre-call sales planning https://www.jillkonrath.com/sales-blog/bid/130501/4-Tips-for-Effective-Pre-Call-Sales-Planning

 

Pre-call planning: It’s more than just research http://www.sellingpower.com/content/article/?a=2847/pre-call-planning-it-s-more-than-just-research

 

Finally–a Sales Pre-call Checklist That Will Help Your Opportunities Soar! http://customerthink.com/finally_a_sales_pre_call_checklist_that_will_help_your_opportunities_soar/

 

Three Steps to better Pre-call Planning http://www.sellingpower.com/content/article/?a=1458/three-steps-to-better-pre-call-planning

 

How to prepare for a winning sales negotiation https://www.salesreadinessgroup.com/blog/how-to-prepare-for-a-winning-sales-negotiation

 

Preparation and Sales Success http://blog.anthonycoletraining.com/Sales-Training-Sales-Brew/bid/30683/Preparation-and-Sales-Success

 

Pre-call planning strategy checklist http://www.mentoru.com/sanfilippo/pre-callplanningstrategy.pdf

 

8 Steps to successful sales call https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/207016

 

Develop your companies’ pre-sales call checklist and watch your sales and profits soar!

Is QDD Crippling Your Sales Growth?

 

 

 

 

 

Salespeople are disqualifying 70% of leads, why? Of those 70% of possible new customers disqualified, 80% go on to buy from someone in the next 12 months! Those lost sales are sales you could have (and should have) won. In this post we will identify a disease called QDD and how to cure it and fix your sales problems.

Your marketing team developed a lead generation strategy that is dropping a number of potential opportunities into your marketing and sales funnel. The accounts feel like they have a good possibility of becoming orders since they are from your core industries and you know they are buying products and or services just like yours. You have been tracking this  activity and it looks like you will see a strong return on marketing dollars invested based on the number of new opportunities. The entire senior management team and the board are excited and they are waiting in anticipation of hitting the sales and profit numbers. However as the sales leader you are not seeing these opportunities moving along the sales journey from opportunity to prospect to customer, and you are not seeing closed sales dollars increasing? Why?

 

Your salespeople are suffering from QDD.

 

I get excited when a team embraces the concept of marketing and driving what should be warm opportunities to my sales teams. They took the time to do voice of the customer research and determined problems their markets have, understand how buyers buy, and what buyers need today to make buying decisions. They positioned their products as solutions to those current problems in their markets. They understand their company’s value proposition and launched their message. The number of new opportunities is climbing each week and reviewing some of the account names you know they buy a product or service like yours…but you are not seeing new orders? How can this be? Having lived this scenario more than I care to admit, what you are experiencing is QDD; Quick to Disqualify Disorder.

 

When presented with new opportunities sales super stars say;

 

awesome, I know they buy products like I sell and I will one way or the other figure out the problems they currently have and help them”.

 

If your salesperson is suffering from QDD they say;

 

ah, I have heard of this company( even if they haven’t) , I tried to sell this company six years ago( one voice mail) , I doubt they will buy, they are probably happy with their current supplier and just price shopping us, so I will follow up.”

 

Do you hear the difference in mind set? The sales star understands the value he and your products bring and is excited to help authentically serve one more person. The salesperson suffering with QDD will “go through the motions” but already believes he or she will not sell the account. ( and they won’t) The sales star is seeking to serve; the QDD salesperson is focused on disqualifying the opportunity quickly so no one asks the status and next step to win their business. Who do you think will win the sale?

 

How do you know if you have someone on your sales team suffering from QDD?

 

By the Numbers

The first thing I do is look at the numbers…how many opportunities has this person been given in the last 3-6 months and how many went from possible opportunity to lead to close? Compare this to others on your team and if you find a disproportionate amount of opportunities are not turning into qualified leads, your salesperson has QDD.

 

By Mix

Review the product mix sold by your team. Quickly you should see a few patterns emerge. Look for anyone on your team who does not meet a similar product mix. What I am particularly looking for here is new products; sales from products you have been aggressively marketing. Salespeople suffering from QDD will have their product mix heavily weighted with older products or services in your offering.

 

By Margins

Assuming your marketing group has done their job and the products you have and are launching are brilliant solutions to unresolved market problems, you should have priced them at a higher margin based on the value they provide. Salespeople with QDD will have the lowest blended profit margin for their area of responsibility. They do not understand how to sell value so they take a commodity and relationship selling approach.

 

By Listening

Sales super stars will focus on the value, the value the customer will receive once their problem is solved. They are excited to help the customer, serve the customer they are shocked if they don’t move to the next step in the sales process. Salespeople with QDD will tell you their (your) customers are all about price and we are too high.

 

The shame is when I interview buyers on why they do not buy, rarely is price even on the list. What buyers do say is the salesperson did not seem to understand my problem, did not listen, and therefore I did not trust their solution. You very likely could have, should have won their business, but because your salesperson is suffering from QDD the buyer lacked trust.

 

You will also hear another why you are not able to break into this account and it will sound something like; “a competitor’s got a great relationship with his current supplier and won’t even consider us.” Relationships are important don’t get me wrong, however if a buyer trusts you can better solve a problem than a current supplier you should at least move to the next step in your sales process and not be dismissed so early.

 

View the CRM

Take time to review the CRM entries. Sales stars will be logging discussions, and have future appointments scheduled and maybe even new business quoted. Salespeople with QDD will have a series of entries that say; “left voicemail” and “sent email” and the prospects will only have one or two entries. Sales stars know you need to engage with buyers 8-15 times before activity occurs. QDD salespeople go through the motions, as if to say; “yes, I did my job, I made the call, but they obviously were not interested or they would have called me back,” They are focused more on showing activity than driving results.

 

One company I helped had a 42% close rate historically so 58% of the time they did not receive a return on their lead generation and cost of sale investment. Each of their sales team had QDD to some degree. Over the years they tried to fix their sales problem by adding more people, more costs and focused on having more quotes. They even rewarded sales with a variable compensation based on numbers of quotes ( not quotes closed). Sales were declining and profit margins were dropping.

 

We did customer voice work, created a repeatable sales process, trained sales, coached sales launched a strategic business development program and increased the average close rate to 68%,and key whale account close rates to 90% in 18 months.

 

We opened over 250 new customers and sales from new customers represented over 24% of total sales year in year three.

 

The good news is QDD is curable and does not need to be terminal. 

 

So how about your sales team…

 

Are you hitting your sales and profit goals?

 

Do you have one salesperson consistently missing their goals?

 

Do you have a number of new leads that are not turning into revenue?

 

Are you seeing this salesperson not moving opportunities through your sales process to the next level?

 

Are you concerned one or more of your sales team has QDD?

 

QDD cripples sales and profit growth efforts.

 

QDD salespeople believe if new sales were out there they would have already won them. They are not sold on how sales occur today and are waiting for things to get back to normal. Well, this is the new normal and they must adapt.

 

The first step in solving any problem is identifying you have it.

 

If this post made you wonder (or made you a but nervous) about one or a couple of salespeople on your team I recommend you take the five steps above to learn if one of your team members has QDD.

 

Aside from lost sales and profits you team could have won, should have won, I want to warn you QDD is highly contagious and must be identified, quarantined and cured as soon as possible.

 

This condition is curable if the salesperson agrees they want and need to fix it.

 

Some teams will put the QDD salesperson into more of a farmer than hunter role.

 

The trouble is QDD cripples sales results for new products to current customers just as selling new customers.

 

If you find QDD has infected your sales team you must cure it or remove to as soon as possible while there is still time to hit your numbers.

Differentiate And Grow Your Sales With: Authentic Communication.

Differentiate And Grow Your Sales With: Authentic Communication.

 

 

When you think of the word: “sales” or “salesperson” what comes to mind? Chances are it is not a positive image? Why? If your role in your organization is that of a salesperson, sales manager, or sales leader how can we stand out and differentiate ourselves in a market full of salespeople? In this post I will share a methodology I have used for years to grow sales faster and more profitably than my competitors…being authentic.

Would it surprise you to learn what we think about ourselves has a huge impact on how we communicate and relate to others?

Let me ask you…Who do you think you are supposed to be?

When you think of the word “salesman” or “salesperson” you may (like most people) have a negative image of sales. Chances are this belief was established at some time in your past as the result of a negative sales experience.

I heard David Meerman Scott speak at a marketing and sales conference and he asked two simple questions:

How many people here like to buy stuff?….

Every hand in the room was raised!

How many people like to be sold?…

Almost every hand went down. Why?

 

For years when we heard the word “sales” we think of a manipulation. The salesperson wins and I loose somehow.

So I looked on the Internet and asked “why we hate salespeople”, why we don’t trust salespeople?

One article seemed to sum it up.

Six reasons why we hate salespeople 

  1. Has a lack of transparency (they’re in it for the sale!)
  2. Is not trustworthy
  3. May not honor their promises
  4. Might not be selling me the right product/services for my needs
  5. Does not understand my needs
  6. Is too pushy

 

Author Perter Smith shares Why do we hate ( our own) sales people

Have you ever noticed that in a company there often seems to be jealously, almost bordering on hatred, for the company’s own sales team? 

A myth I see in a lot of companies is that the sales reps are overpaid, underworked and often only a bystander to the sale. 

 

I speak in local colleges in the area quite often. I asked a room of soon to be graduating seniors how many plan to go into sales? Not one hand raised in a room of 40. So I ask college seniors why,… why they do not want to be a salesperson and here are some of their common responses and perceptions…

  • Salespeople sell us things we don’t need, I do not feel I can do that
  • I did not go to college and spend what I did to become a salesperson
  • I don’t want to travel and be away from home very night
  • I don’t want the pressure to hit a goal
  • I don’t like dealing with unhappy customers

Their comments go on and on, and each has one thing in common they are all negative!

What I found interesting about these articles and what college seniors believe is they captured how many people feel about sales, and how some salespeople feel they need to be to be successful.

Could it be that what we think about what sales is,  is shaping our behavior, communication, and how we relate to buyers?

I believe it does.

When we ask buyers why they don’t buy…

I did not trust what the salesperson proposed would solve my problem…

I feel salesperson is more focused on hitting their goals than helping me..

 I found another article: Why buyers do not like salespeople?

Most salespeople bring to their buyers only information.  Interestingly, information is something any buyer can gather from other sources. At the end of the day, you as a salesperson must ask yourself, “Am I merely a conduit of information?”  If you are, then you’re wasting your time, your company’s time, and your customer’s time.”

What do buyers want?

“…you need to develop questions to which you don’t have answers.  More than likely, these will be questions to which your buyer doesn’t have answers either.  By asking these questions, you’re helping move the buyer to viewing you differently.  Your role is to be seen as the one salesperson who is genuinely committed to helping them move themselves and their company to a higher level. This may be by growing their sales or helping them reduce their costs.”

What if we looked at this as an opportunity to create a distinctive competence in the market?

What if we listened to these perceptions and developed a strategy to stand out in the market and be unique?

What kind of salesperson would business leaders, customers, and graduating seniors want to be?

An authentic human being who has an interest in helping buyers identify and solve problems. ..Someone I can trust.

How do we change this?

With trust, like-ability, and the feeling that they know you – you’ve got the winning combination for higher sales conversions, more repeat business, greater profits, and a windfall of referrals.”

-Peter Smith

“Differentiate and grow your sales with: Authentic Communication.”

-Mark Allen Roberts

What you think about yourself shapes how you communicate with others and the relationships you build. Over time we experience interactions both positive and negative. How we often adapt to those situations is to create masks. This concept of creating masks based on who we think we are supposed to be, or what others expect is something we all do. Masks are also created as protective defense mechanisms. The trouble with masks is they interrupt authentic human communication. If you are wearing a mask and your buyer is wearing a mask  you never get to the real issues to be solved (as I shared in a post about the iceberg principle) and never build a meaningful relationship.

If you think salespeople are manipulative commission junkies who win orders and customers loose…that is how you will act.

If you treat your salespeople like pushy salespeople who are only out for themselves…that is how they will act.

However, if we start seeing sales, as I do as the ultimate act of service, helping your customers identify and solve problems, how you interact with buyers will change.

Its time for the Authentic Sales and Service!

Its time to stop wearing masks you think your buyers want to see or you think your companies want you to wear and be your authentic self and serve others. Buyers can sense a mask a mile away and will never open up to you.

Sales is about acts of service not trick-or -treat.

Being an authentic sales service partner focused on helping your customers identify and solve problems will become your distinction in a sea of other salespeople playing trick-or-treat.

You will become that salesperson buyers can’t wait to meet with, and value. Because buyers trust you and your motivations and they will want to have a relationship with you and give you more business. Buyers will share their burning issues and problems the other trick-or-treaters never hear.

When this occurs you sell more, gain more referrals, you sell based on the value you create and your gross margins increase and your company will notice your contribution.

Sales is a difficult but very rewarding profession. I have used the above advice for over 15 years and driven profitable sales growth for many sales teams.

Still not a believer?

Below is what the Vice President of one of my past top customers wrote about my acts of service …

Mark is an awesome example of understanding what it takes to build success – focus on your personal relationship with anyone you’re attempting to do business with, and all the rest will follow. People want to conduct business with people they trust and feel are adding value – two traits Mark exhibits every time you have contact with him. He truly wants you to be successful – not just lip service for his own gain – and will help in any way he can to assist that “.

-David Sullivan

Or another customer wrote…

“Mark’s infectious personality is evident from the moment you meet him. Everyone wants to work with a professional who is a strong communicator, team member, who has strong interpersonal skills such as empathy, tact and humor. He is intellectual, innovative and creative. He is always a pleasure to work with. You won’t be disappointed when working for or with Mark

-Jack Brake

It feels like I’m bragging… so I’ll quit.

My goal in sharing the above comments is to better capture how your customer partners can feel when someone is authentically committed to serving them and their business. (If you think the above quotes are a fluke, you can read over 60 more similar comments on my LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/markaroberts/)

Its time for salespeople to be proud of the contribution they make for their organizations.

Its time for business leaders who may have seen salespeople as a necessary evil in the past due to bad experiences to value their contribution today.

Its time salespeople become committed to understanding and solving buyer problems.

Its time for we, as salespeople to drop the masks we wear and be authentic with our customers and improve or acts of service and relationships.

One final point, whatever your formal title is, I hate to be the one who tells you this… you are a salesperson. When you are convincing your operations team to stay over time you are selling. When you are at home with your spouse trying to take that cruise vacation instead of touring New England towns…you are selling. As the quality manager working with the auditor to win your ISO certification…you are selling. When you are meeting with new employees to join your team you are selling. As a sales leader working with a salesperson that is not hitting goals you are selling. When you are meeting with your board and investors and discussing how you plan to hit your numbers this year you are selling! Now that we are all in sales…what do you think of salespeople?

It is time for us all to change what we think about sales and salespeople!

Should we create a new title perhaps? …Customer Solutions Advocate 

It’s time we all drop our previous beliefs about sales and salespeople and masks we created and start having authentic meaningful conversations that build trust early and often.

When you hear the word “salespeople” how does it make you feel?

Do your customers value your salespeople?

What masks are your salespeople wearing today?…hows that working for you?

If you are a salesperson, are you being your authentic self or wearing masks you think your buyers and your company want you to wear?

As the leader of your company do you see salespeople playing a critical role in helping you achieve your sales and profit goals or a necessary evil?

Would you like to have your customers making comments about your salespeople like those above about me?

Who do you think sells more and at higher margins…someone authentically committed to serving their customers or a salesperson wearing the mask of a commission junkie? 

The market is hungry for authentic service providers who are authentic and solve market problems. It starts with how we think of the profession of sales and how we treat our salespeople and buyers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 Benefits Of Voice Of Customer

 

 

 

 

Understanding the voice of your customer is critical to achieving your sales and profit objectives today. Taking the time to clearly understand your buyers, how they buy, what they need to buy and why they don’t buy today is critical in developing a strategic business development growth process.

 

Below are 17 reasons why companies who capture and leverage the voice of their customers consistently win year over year.

  

1.Fix Sales: Knowing Buyer’s Journey is like Creating a GPS for Your Sales Process

 

2.Fix Sales Problems With The Power in the  “Voice of the Customer”

 

3.Leverage Customer Voice into “Explosive Sales Growth”

 

4.Who Owns the Voice of Your Market and Voice of Your Customer? . Hint (not sales!)

 

5.Voice of Market Identifies “Roundabouts” in your Sales Process

 

6.Voice of the Market Identifies Key Buying Triggers

 

7.Increase Sales: Key Buying Seasons Surface in “Voice of Market” Work

 

8.“Voice of the Customer” Increases Profits…Lesson from a Christmas Ham

 

9.Voice of Customer Finds “Sales Secret Weapons”

 

10.Voice of Customer: Understanding the Entire Iceberg of Purchase Decisions Today

 

11.Improve Sales Productivity With Voice of the Customer Research

 

12.What is The Biggest Threat to Customer Voice Research? (It may surprise you!)

 

13.Give Salespeople More Time to Sell With Voice of The Customer Research

 

14.Customer Voice Research Identifies Content Buyers Need Today

 

15.Identify Purchase Influencers with VOC

 

16.The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth and What We Can Learn About Training

 

17 Voice of your customer identifies new markets and channels

 

How does your team capture the voice of your customers today?

 

How often do you conduct this research?

 

Is there any reason you feel you should not understand the voice of your customer today? (please share)

 

Have you experienced other benefits from capturing the voice of your customers?

 

We serve dynamic markets today. How buyers buy today is much different than how they bought 5 to 10 years ago. How buyers buy tomorrow will likely change as well.

 

Market leading organizations understand the importance of capturing your customer voice today and leveraging what they learn to increase sales and profits.

Voice Of Customer Identifies New Markets And New Product Applications

Voice of Customer Identifies New Markets and New Product Applications

 

 

 

 

Capturing and leveraging the voice of your customers is a powerful tool to grow your sales. In addition to helping your sales team realize explosive growth in sales and profits, it also can identify new markets.

My daughter and son in law just bought their first home. Like a lot of starter homes it has a number of fixer upper projects. Each room needed painting, the kitchen cabinets needed updated and the wallpaper in the bathroom had to go. What I learned is, as dad’s we typically get the jobs no one wants like removing layers of wallpaper.

It is a small bathroom but the first day I spent four hours removing wallpaper. I shared my frustrations with a friend and without missing a beat she said…Did you treat the walls with downy fabric softener first? What? I was using a tool to score the wall and a steamer, what will fabric softeners do? I figured it could not hurt so I tried it.

It turns out this is something home remodelers use often to make removing wallpaper much easier and quicker. I searched the Internet and there are article about using fabric softener you typically would buy for your clothing for stripping wallpaper. There is even a You tube video that shares how using fabric softener helps making wallpaper removal easier. A do it yourself website talks about using this process.

It worked so well, if Downy did voice of customer research they might offer small 4-6 ounce bottles at Home Depot and Lowes in the wallpaper isles. I would recommend they charge between $3.50 and $4.95 for these small convenient bottles to be mixed perfectly with one gallon of water when stripping wallpaper.

 

How do your customers use your products and services?

 

What problems do your products solve?

 

Could you have a new market you are serving today that you can expand?

 

Take the time to capture the voice of your customers and learn how they buy, what they need to buy, and how they use your products.

 

You may find new markets and new distribution channels for current products that can grow into profitable new business.

What Karate Taught Me About Making Sales Training Stick

What Karate Taught Me About Making Sales Training Stick

 

 

 

In my last post I shared how doing customer voice research can help identify needed sales training for your team. Training salespeople is over a $ 3 billion business. However studies show 80%-90% of training does not stick and will be lost within 24 hours. How do we train adults and make it stick? In this post I will share a training process that is proven to make training stick.

 

Somewhere, right now as you are reading this someone is in sales training. Training occurs for many reasons. One of the most common reasons teams conduct sales training is to change behaviors and beliefs. I have been hired to train sales teams for a number of reasons. The most common is: “we want to improve our overall sales efficiency, effectiveness and increase sales profitably. We want our sales team to be more proactive,…. more hunters than farmers” Sales training is about modifying behavior so the new behavior now becomes the norm. Why does some training create a positive impact and some does not? In this post I will share a training method I use that I learned as a Karate student.

 

While in college at Kent State University I took a Karate class as one of my non-business electives. I enjoyed it so much I joined the local karate club and over the years became club president and helped teach Karate classes.

 

I started out as a white belt. A big part of that training was getting our bodies in shape for the training that would come next. We were taught basic movements that we would build on as we progresses through the other belt colors.

 

If you have never taken a Karate class the design methodology of how they teach is brilliant.!

 

Organized

 

Everyone first lines up from the highest-ranking students in the front with the instructor to the lowest ranking new students in the back of the room. How the students participate and interact is designed into the training for the maximum expereince of the student.

 

Make us want to learn

 

Our Instructor first tells us what we will be doing and discusses the important parts of the technique and when we might use it. Next they show us what we will be doing.

 

Team Alignment and consistency

 

As we begin the entire class is moving in unison. If you are new you can always watch people in front of you to follow along.

 

                                                                  

Practice

 

We practiced techniques over and over. While we practiced our instructor would walk around the room and observe our form.

 

 

Coaching/ demonstration

 

If we were not moving correctly they would give us adjustments to make and once again show us how the movement is supposed to look.

 

 

Break into small groups

 

About half way though the practice our instructor would break us up into groups based on skill level. The white and yellow belts would work on basic techniques and would often be led by a green belt.

 

 

Teach based skill level ( fill in gaps)

 

The groups were broken out by our skill level and  belt rank. Our belt rank was something we were tested on to demonstrate our understanding and ability to execute a very well designed series of movements.

 

                                                    

Show me you get it

 

Once a student had practiced the basic movements for a specific period of time, usually months and we felt the basics created the foundation we could build on we introduced application. What is the movement you are doing designed to do? This instruction was instructor led and involved working with a partner. We practiced our blocks, punches, and kicks very slowly with a partner. Some times we were on the offensive and other times we were on the defensive side of each technique.

 

                                    

After foundation established build upon it

 

While the new students were learning the basics and how to apply them, the other ranks were learning more advanced techniques and series of movements called Kata’s . The more advanced your belt rank the more advanced your training. All training however was built on a common foundation of basic movements practiced over and over again.

 

 

Assessment to understood standards of performance

 

When your instructor felt you have consistently demonstrated your understanding of techniques for your belt rank you would be tested. The entire club would watch you perform what you have learned and hear the instructor’s comments and suggestions.

 

 

Importance of skill level badges

 

If you passed the test, and some did not, you would be awarded your new belt and the process would start all over again with new techniques demonstrated, explained, you execute them, practice, and the instructors would continuously coach you until you performed behaviors correctly without thinking to the agreed level of performance.

 

                              

Introduce stress to see use of new behavior

 

Once you have demonstrated your ability with basic techniques and applied them successfully you will begin sparing. Sparing is a controlled fight to use the techniques you have learned in a live situation. What we are looking for at this phase is does the student apply or try to apply what we have taught? Does the student freeze, and this often happen the first time they step into the ring? Does the student continue to demonstrate control or does their emotions take over in this stressful situation?

 

 

Create safe environment for coaching

 

When I taught it was not unusual the first time a student would move into a live sparing they would spar with me.

 

 

Training success is determined by student’s ability to demonstrate

 

This is not about winning but helping the student feel what it is like to apply what they have learned in a safe and coaching environment.

 

 

Ask students to teach other students

 

                                                                  

Coach

 

                                                              

Practice

 

                                                                

Repeat

 

Why all this talk about Karate and making sales training stick?

 

I believe all sales trainers would value taking Karate and learning how to make training stick.

 

The model traditional martial arts have used for centuries is brilliant.

 

This is the same model I have used for years when training, coaching and leading salespeople. The only thing I would add today is record your employees being trained and record your coaching in a digital format so they can take with them. As new training skills are introduced and practiced, the student can review the recordings and see their progress over time.

 

Using this training model helps your sales team own what you are teaching and make the behavior modifications you desire.

 

Teach me

 

Show me

 

Ask me to do it

 

Have me practice

 

Coach me

 

Teach me how to apply new behavior

 

Test me in a live situation, assess and coach

 

Follow up training with coaching

 

Add new skill sets once basics are consistently demonstrated

 

Break us up into small groups

 

Have clear training levels, in this case belts and everyone knows what is expected at each level

 

Today our sales teams need short bursts of teaching followed by how to apply and practice.

 

If you would like your salespeople to adapt to how buyers want and need to buy today I recommend you implement or hire a sales training company that follows the above methodology.

 

Does your team need sales training?

 

What new behaviors would you like to see your team demonstrate?

 

Does your sales on boarding training build on a foundation of basic skills?

 

How does your team assess the ongoing future sales training needs of your team members?

 

How do you currently identify gaps in new sales employee training?

 

Our markets and buyers are changing how they buy. Our teams must adapt and to help them adapt we must lead training programs that result in new behaviors that meet what our markets and buyers want and need. Implement your own or hire a sales training company that follows the above methodology and your training will stick and you will realize the ROI you desire.

 

For more information on training adults and trends in training methods please visit some of the following web sites.

 

Latest training methodology 

 

Most effective training

 

Effective training methodology

 

Creative training techniques 

 

Sales training do’s and don’t report 

 

Sales effectiveness training 

The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth And What We Can Learn About Training

The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth and What We Can Learn About Training

 

 

 

Understanding the voice of your customer and voice of your markets is critical to hitting your sales and profit objectives today. With all the changes and shifts occurring at a much faster pace than ever before market leading organizations are capturing the voice of your customer to insure they improve sales productivity and achieve profitable sales growth. In this post I will share how customer voice research helps identify needed shifts in how we train our sales organizations.

 

I can remember, growing up in Cleveland Ohio when the Circus came to town. There was such an excitement. Streets would be closed for parades and as children we would line the streets to see the clowns, tigers, and elephants. Our families would buy our tickets and we filled the big top. If we were really lucky, our parents would buy a ticket so we could sit on an elephant. Even as a child I felt sorry for the elephants, they seemed to have a sad, almost surrendered look in their eyes. They looked more like their spirits have been broken than trained.

 

2017 is the end of the greatest show on earth. Why? I was not alone all these years feeling sorry for these magnificent elephants and other animals. Animal rights groups investigated how elephants were treated and trained. Elephants are first given a large tight chain around one of their ankles and the other end of the chain is staked into the ground a specific distance away. The elephant quickly learns the length of its chain. If the elephant tries to wander beyond its training limits it experiences pain. Over time the elephant surrenders and the chain is removed and a much smaller rope is used. However the elephants, now “ trained “ do not try to explore. They are set in their ways. Even with the chain removed they do not step outside of their understood paradigm. Consumers learned about training conditions and ticket sales decreased . The Circus announced it would no longer have elephants in its show by 2018. However they adjusted too late. The greatest show on earth is over.

 

At a recent Toastmasters meeting I heard this story about elephant training and it reminded me of how some sales teams have been trained over the years. Before the “Internet of things” we often chained our sales teams to features and benefits. Our training was 90%-75% technical and maybe 10%-25% communications and relational. I was trained in this time and it made sense back then. Buyers did not have easy access to your product specifications. If a buyer wanted and needed technical information about a product or service sales was the keeper of the information keys so to speak. There was no Google searches, Smart phones, …heck we did not have laptops or cell phones when I was trained to sell. Back then we were trained in 2-3 day long death by power point presentations and given 3” thick three ring binders with copies of all the slides and more product data sheets than we could ever want or need. We were taught to sell using features and benefits, and “overcome objections”.

 

In a post some time agoI shared the leading reason why sales stall or decline is a shift, a change occurred and the team failed to recognize it and failed to adapt and pivot. I see customer voice research work helping us to adapt how we train our sales teams for markets of today. What buyers want and need has changed. In most industries buyers have instant access to technical data now.

 

I want to emphasize salespeople who are our serving their customers and meeting with potential new customers must still understand the technical information and be able to accesses it quickly to give their buyers amazing service and win more business. I believe buyers are telling us through voice of the customer work their needs have changed and sales training must adapt to those changes. Your type of product and industry requirements will dictate how much your training will need to adapt to your buyers of today.

 

How should sales training evolve today?

 

In an excellent article by Bob Apollo the author shares …

 

 

 

“It’s a sad fact that today’s average B2B sales person is still far more comfortable talking about their products than they are discussing business issues. However the average B2B buyer regards a sales person’s relevant business knowledge as being far more valuable than their ability to regurgitate product features, functions and benefits

Even more telling the author explains ….

87% of the revenues in complex B2B sales environments are being generated by just 13% of the sales population. Needless to say, the gap between the best and the rest is far narrower in best-in-class sales organizations. What sets these top performing organizations apart?

There’s abundant evidence to suggest that one of the most significant differences lies in their ability to systematically create unique value to their customers through the disciplined application of value-based selling techniques

Buyers today no longer want (not that they ever really did) salespeople trained in overcoming objections. Buyer’s today value a salesperson that understands their industry and possible challenges the buyers company may be facing and offers value based solutions to those problems.

Why are many teams adapting Value based selling?

Jim Heffernan shares in his article: Why Value Based Selling Is So Successful ……

Good value-based sales techniques are tailored to the needs of the customer, making them understand why they are buying a quality product for the asking price. Value selling resolves potential customer issues with pricing and prevents the stalling of important deals and the wasting of precious employee man-hours.”

Market leading organizations listen to their buyers and are adapting. I see companies allocating 50% of training to technical product training and 50% to value based selling, understanding buyer personas, commutation skills. presentation skills and other sales methods like the challenger model. Studies show companies who have a complex sales environment experience 4.5 times greater performance when applying the challenger model. Teams are adapting based on their type of product, market and what their buyers are requiring in terms of much needed criteria to help them make buying decisions today. Market leading sales teams are no longer chained to training methods that fail to serve how buyers buy and what buyers need to buy today. They have a balance of technical, relational and strategic sales and communication training. As markets change, and they will, salespeople are encouraged to venture beyond their current skill levels and explore and learn new skills and adpat to better serve their customers.

Just as markets shift how our buyers shift. Therefore how we train our sales teams must also adapt to give our buyers the best overall buying experience and equip our teams with a strategic advantage to help them win more business. For example Richard Branson shares just how important communication is and how story telling is a powerful communication strategy. Warren Buffet recently shared how if we want to double our value we need to improve our communication skills. John Millen shared in an article ….

“Buffett believes so strongly in the importance of leaders being effective communicators that he offered his own return-on-investment estimate for effective communication.”

There are many benefits of listening to your customers and capturing and leveraging customer voice. One big benefit this current understanding provides is how we train and equip our sales teams to serve their customers.

We must also capture the voice of our internal salespeople and leverage that information into new sales training and tools. We need to ask and understand what our salespeople are facing and develop tools and training to serve them.

 

What do your buyers value today?

 

How do your buyers want to be served today?

 

What % of your sales training today is technical verse value based sales techniques?

 

Does your sales training today include communication training?

 

Could how your salespeople are trained to communicate with buyers become your value proposition?

 

Conduct internal and external customer voice research and adapt your sales training to how your buyers want and need to buy today and enjoy profitable sales growth. Sales today are no longer about being the greatest “show” on earth and have evolved into the greatest “value” on earth. Sales today is about serving your customers and helping them buy. Our training must help our salespeople build trust early and often in the sales process.

We must adjust how we train our teams.

 

What if the Circus was listening to their buyers voice sooner and learned new ways to train their elephants?

 

Would they be going out of business today?

 

My guess is no.

 

What new sales training is your team adding today?