The Oscar For Best B2B Sales Methodology Goes To: Value Based Sales

The Oscar For Best B2B Sales Methodology Goes To: Value Based Sales

 

 

 

What is the best sales methodology for B2B sales today? What are the most popular sales methods and why do so few B2B salespeople use Value Based Sales? In this post we will review a number of sales methodologies used to improve sales performance and why the Oscar for best B2B sales methodology goes to :Value Based Sales.

 

Sales has changed over the years. Salespeople and the companies they serve are constantly searching for the best sales method.

 

As I watched the Oscars the other night I thought how we need Oscars for sales and marketing strategies.

 

To understand why a Value Based Sales methodology outperforms other sales methods we need to briefly unpack how sales people sell and how sales has evolved over the years.

 

What are the sales methods salespeople have used and are using today?

 

Selling on Price

 

This is not a method most CEO’s and business owners want to hear. In this method you must have the lowest cost to manufacture and your team leverages this low cost-manufacturing competency to win and keep business.

Salespeople sell on price when they do not know or believe your value proposition or no one has trained them how to connect the dots between what you sell and the value proposition for customers.

Why this method is so common is it is what buyers want.

Buyers want to commoditize all products and services so the only differentiation is price. Just as we train our salespeople, companies like Karrass teach buyers to dismiss sales pitches and gobbledygook sales and marketing teams spew and quickly make the key buying decision all about price. If you have the lowest price you win today. When the vendor you displaced finds they lost the business what do they do? They drop the price and you loose. This starts a gross margin death spiral and the only one who wins is the buyer.

If you have never hear the term “gobbledygook” it means all those things we say and share on our web sites that no longer mean anything since everyone we compete against claims them too like:

Innovative

Best in class

Best Quality

Top performance

Flexible

Groundbreaking

Scalable

Robust

Cutting Edge

If you would like to learn more I encourage you to download the Gobbledygook Manifesto

What I have found disturbing over the years when I ask salespeople why we lost a particular sale or account for that matter they say “price.”

When I conduct Win-Loss interviews with buyers, “price” is rarely one of the top reasons why a buyer buyers or chooses not to buy.

In this model your salespeople do not understand or believe your value proposition and they do believe the only thing that matters to buyers is the lowest price.

Sales finds all kinds of ways to sell , selling on price internally like : volume discounts, sales incentive rebates, volume purchase discounts, blanket order discounts and so on.

All of these and more are sales based on price.

 

 

Relationship Sale

It is true people buy from people they like. Buyers will have an impression of you within 7 seconds. In this model the salesperson strives to be liked by the buyer. They work hard to build a friendship through social lunches, dinners, and ball games. As one relational seller told me years ago: “I was the only rep invited to this buyer’s daughter’s wedding. “

In meetings you often wonder whose side the relationship seller is on? The buyer’s or yours? This seller believes their relationship with the buyer is their value proposition not your product or service.

A relational sales methodology is all about building a relationship and reinforcing that relationship through acts of service.

When I work with relationship sales people they often bring donuts and bagels and “check in ” with buyers and purchasing decision makers. When the relational salesperson is in the customer’s building everyone loves them. Rarely do they close the sale, or ask for the sale for that matter. They never have a pre-call sales plan and believe they will win whatever business the buyer has based on their relationship.

After a sales call with target accounts you will hear a relational salesperson share “it was a good meeting” although the sale did not advance and they did not win an order.

We find relational salespeople in sales farmer roles because they are terrible sales hunters.

Do you have relationship salespeople?Look where your salespeople spend their time. Are they selling and creating sales presentations? Or, are they checking on orders, when orders will ship, how we can ship them earlier, following up  with customer service to determine when something will ship? If so, you have a salesperson using the relational sales method.

This is the least effective sales methodology, but unfortunately the one most underperforming salespeople rely on.

 

Product Sales

In this methodology the salesperson’s product knowledge is leveraged to win sales. The thought here is your salespeople are trained in features and benefits of your product or service. As Mike Shultz President of The Rain Group shares “If your people cannot speak fluently about your product and service offerings and ask the right questions to uncover specific needs that your solutions fulfill, then they are leaving money on the table and losing you deals.

Here you will find companies that are often very inward looking and not customer centric. They design and manufacture products but their salespeople are not trained on what specific types to customers to call on and what problems their products solve.

As I have shared in the past, I have observed salespeople trained in the product methodology “show up and throw up”. It’s like they are playing feature and benefit Bingo with buyers just hoping one buyer will jump to their feet and yell: “BINGO! I know a problem you can solve for me!” When you are working with a product salesperson they speak 80% of the time in the sales call and do not ask many qualifying questions. After all what they are selling is so amazing a buyer would have to be an idiot not to buy right?

Every seller must understand their products and services. However today , with as much as 70% of the buying process being over before the buyer speaks with sales this method is not as successful as it once was. Back in the day, before the internet of things, buyers had to meet with sales to learn about products and services. Today this buying criteria is just one mouse click away.

Product knowledge is a part of a top performing salesperson, but can not be their sales method today if they want to achieve quota.

 

The Lone Wolf / Sales Mercenaries

In this sales method the salesperson relies on their personal sales skills, abilities and experience to close the sale. They have been through the school of hard knocks, feel they have been there, done that and nothing will surprise them. They are very self-confidant and often deliver results even if they can’t share how they do it.

The Lone Wolf / Sales Mercenaries are often the product of a poorly designed compensation structure and a culture that does not value salespeople. They are hired sales guns that sell their sales services to the highest bidder. Salespeople who use this method are masters at following their own instincts, and writing the rules as they play the game. They win various games but often leave sales, money, on the table because they are only focused on what benefits them the fastest personally.

I had a friend share once:

Salespeople are like water, they find the path of least resistance.”

Lone Wolf Mercenaries are often found at inward facing companies who believe their product or service is so smart “even a monkey in kakis” could sell it. Their company not only does not value and appreciate the salespeople; they treat them like a necessary evil. Salespeople are treated like they are only as good as their last…sale. Their compensation plan creates commission junkies looking for their next fix not strategic partnerships with clients.

Lone Wolf’s have a high utilitarian trait. Other words if I do this I expect to get that.

The shame is these folks could create much more value if they were valued and appreciated.

They will get-r-done many times but how they do it will leave a mess to clean up and they are very hard to manage.

 

Consultative Sales

In this sales methodology salespeople are trained in product features and benefits and how to  find buyer pain and solve the pain. Salespeople are trained in markets, and common problems their products solve in these markets.

In these buyer calls the salespeople speak about 50% of the time and ask open-ended questions searching for a problems they know they can solve. They are problem solvers.

When you observe salespeople using this method it feels like the child’s game we played in the pool “ Marko Polo”. “Marko… do you have this problem?” “Polo…yes we do” and sales races to tag the buyer and close the sale.

This model produces results if the buyer can connect the dots from the product or service to how it will impact their business drivers.

 

The Challenger Sale

This methodology became popular in the book The Challenger Sale, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson present a sales model to give buyers new ideas to solve problems they may or may not be aware they have. In this book the author shares 40% of high sales performers use this model. More than 50% of sales superstars use this method.

In the for what it’s worth column this was my sales method for a number of years.

This model teaches the selling to take control of the sales process.

You will find some sales calls feeling more like a debate than trying to solve the buyer’s problems. In this model you uncover issues the buyers may have they are unaware of that need solved.

I continue to recommend this book to business owners and salespeople wanting to improve their skills.

I have some advice if you choose to use this model:

First, it requires you to have some experience and knowledge about your customer, their industry and the business of their business. When I have seen young salespeople try to use this model is when they lacked the emotional intelligence and situational awareness to pull it off. They failed to earn the trust early in the relationship so their challenge felt like a canned marketing pitch not a real solution.

Second, I don’t want salespeople feeling they are in charge of the buying process. You are not. You can influence the buyer’s process but if you think and act like you are in charge you will fail. Top performing salespeople clearly and intimately understand the buyers buying process and criteria and they help move the sale by giving buyers what they need at each step of their buying process.

Don’t believe me?

Ok, how many of you reading this like to buy stuff? Almost all of you right?

How many of you like to be sold? Oh, big difference yes?

Enough said.

 

Agile Sales

A recent article in Selling Power shared how Agile Sales is the best method. You can read this article here and it shares the methods top sales performers use. The article is basically saying don’t get all hung up on one sales method or another. Top performing salespeople have situational awareness and they adapt their sales method based on the situation and buyer.

This thought leading article poses the question: what if we taught our sales teams 4-5 top sales methodologies and trained them to know what to use when? The author’s share having agility, flexibility does not imply we want sales teams “winging it”. We want them to have the EQ and situational awareness to be agile within defined parameters established in sales training.

I guess what gives me pause, is so many sales teams I have been asked to help lacked a formal repeatable sales process. Their leaders and owners thought they had one. How would we implement 4-5 when sales is not even executing on the one you thought they were using? Secondly, companies often provide very strong product training and little if any situational and sales scenario training. Companies will need to do voice of the customer work prior and identify the most common sales scenarios before training their sales teams.

I have adapted my sales method based on the industry, buyer, buying process and buyer personas over the years.

The difficulty is in tracking what worked when and where and in what scenario so it is difficult to scale throughout the sales team.

I believe Agile Sales Methodology is a smart strategy but is has so many moving pieces it will be difficult for most companies to implement and scale.

 

Value Based Sales Methodology

 

This is by far the best sales methodology I have experienced over the past 34 years of leading sales and marketing teams.

In this model you know your product or service. You know your market and ideal customer profiles. You have built rapport with the customer so you can have a meaningful business discussion. You know the problems your product or services solves and you have content and case studies to prove it. Your salespeople understand business acumen and speak in the language of business. They help buyers connect the dots between their proposed solution and how it impacts one or many of their key business drivers like…

Increase Sales

Reduce Costs

Increase Net Income

Improve Efficiency

Increase Market Share

Reduce the Cost of Sale

Increase Sales Close Rate

Increase Gross Margins

 

Salespeople who use a value based sales method are about creating value for their customers and in so doing win the sale today and create lifetime customers.

Don’t get me wrong, these salespeople are likable, but they are also not afraid to challenge customers. They help buyers connect the dots to how their product or service speaks to one or many of their business drivers.

This sales method has seen tremendous success and when used properly you will see it impact your business by:

 

Faster selling cycles

Higher Gross Profits per sale

Higher lifetime value of customer revenue

Higher sales to close %

Higher customer satisfaction

 

… but admittedly it is not easy!

 

From my own experience less than 10% of salespeople use a value based selling method. The reason why so few salespeople use this model is they too often struggle with connecting the dots between what they are selling and the value impact their customers receive.

As I have shared before salespeople who are not adequately trained in your value proposition assume the position of your product or service. The value based sales method requires mastery in commercial sales skills, business acumen, product knowledge and understanding of your value proposition, knowledge of the customers’ industry and common pain points, competitive analysis and the ability to propose innovative ideas professionally.

In this sales method you qualify and identify ways your product and or service can impact one or more of your customers’ business drivers.

Is that why so few of salespeople use it? They lack an understanding of how to impact a businesses’ bottom line?

Salespeople have told me this model is hard and takes way too long.

My argument is how can you enter into any negotiation with a customer until you understand and establish value? Or is that why so many salespeople resort to relationship and selling on price? Salespeople trained in value based sales know how to impact the customer’s bottom line so they can establish and reinforce value.

 

What Sales Methodology do you want your salespeople using?

 

What Sales Methodology are they using?

 

How do you know?

 

When was the last four legged sales call you went on to inspect what you expect?

 

Is there any scenario value based sales would not be the best sales method for B2B sales?

 

Congratulations… the Oscar for the Best B2B sales methodology goes to Value Based Sales.

 

Best supporting Oscar without any drama goes to Sales Enablement.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 

Fix Sales Problems: Are “Gaps” Holding Your Sales Team Back This Year?

Fix Sales problems: Are “Gaps” Holding Your Sales Team Back This Year?

 

Do you have Gaps that need closed to improve your sales team’s performance this year? Is your team hitting their sales plan or do you have a sales problem that needs fixed? (and fast!) In this post I will share how identifying and closing three key Gaps will improve your team’s performance,  sales effectiveness and sales engagement.

I recently enjoyed the book: The Three Gaps, Are you making a difference? by Hyrum W. Smith. If you read my posts you know I like to read…Ok, I read a lot! This book was recommended in one of my social feeds and what captured my attention was the question: “Are you making a difference?” Isn’t that what we all really want at the end of the day?…to make a difference in our families, our church, our social networks and our work? Are you making a difference? The author shared in a quote…

“Inner peace comes from having serenity, balance, and harmony in our lives through the disciplined closing of three gaps”

  • Hyrum Smith

So what are these three gaps and how can I help close them to better serve others?

Values Gap

Time Gap

Beliefs Gap

Let’s unpack each one but really spend some time on the beliefs gap.

Values Gap

The values gap is the gap between what you value most, and what you are actually doing. It asks the question: How are you spending your time, energy and resources compared to where and how you want to be spending them? When you read the book the author does a great job of explaining this with a story of a beam stretched over a deep canon. Of all the crazy things to be afraid of, I am afraid of heights so this story really resonated with me. Would I run across this beam for $1000? …Probably not.  $10,000? $100,000? Now let’s add some new information…its pouring rain and winds are blowing 35 -50 mph…would you run across the beam for $ 1 million? Unfortunately I think my answer would be no. Now let’s change the scenario… I look across this deep cannon and a rain soaked beam and winds howling and see someone about to drop one of my children over the side…I would run across the beam!

“When daily Activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace”

  • Hyrum Smith

 

Time Gap

For as long as I have led  teams I have heard; “ I don’t have the time to do all the things you are asking of me and have a life outside of work too” The truth is we are in absolute control of your time. Every minute, every second you are making decisions on how to spend your time. Right now you are choosing to spend time reading this content ( thanks by the way) but you are also choosing not to make that call to the new sales target, have that meeting with your underperforming sales regional manager and so on. I am choosing to write instead of watching TV right now. So we all have “time” it’s how we choose to spend it is the real issue. The author does a great job in sharing three principles to help us better manage time.

 

Beliefs Gap

This is my favorite gap and the one that I believe if we spend some time on closing we can help heal our companies, ourselves and help our sales teams get back on track. The author shares how we all have a beliefs window through which we see the world and it is a function of our age, life experiences, training and so on. Now picture this window with little see through pictures on it. These are your beliefs. I was taught at a seminar long ago: a thought, true or false, repeated over and over again becomes a belief.  So my challenge to you is what if you have incorrect beliefs on your window clouding how you see your market, your companies’ value proposition today, and your salespeople and so on? The author shares a simple test. If you want to know someone’s beliefs, check their behaviors. For example, I believe the best thing I can do to serve my company is be in the market meeting with customers and prospects listening for unresolved problems. I listen and ask questions about those problems, and even note the words they use to describe them. My friends at Pragmatic Marketing would say I am practicing “NIHOTO”. So it should not shock anyone I am writing this post from a Holiday Inn in Indianapolis after attending an industry trade show for one of our markets. If you look at my behavior: travel 50-60% of the time it shows you what I believe. The author also shares how our beliefs drive future behavior.

“Any belief that drives behavior that does not meet your basic needs over time is an incorrect belief”

  • Hyrum Smith

So let me ask you the million dollar (goal achieving) questions…

What do you believe about your markets?

What do you believe about your current customers?

What do you believe about salespeople?

What do you believe about your salespeople?

What do you believe about marketing?

How do you believe your buyers shop today?

 

Now let me ask one more question so you can get back in control of your time and serve someone…

Are your beliefs true (today)? Or are they based on some past experience or how we always to do things around here? How you answer will have more impact on your sales and future sales than you can imagine. If there are disconnects between what you as a leader in your organization believe and what is actually true it is negatively impacting your team’s performance. Your beliefs shape how you interact with team members and even the strategies you ask them to implement.

Let’s assume you are not from a sales and marketing background. Let’s assume you grew up through the ranks of your organization in other areas like accounting and maybe operations like a number of company leaders. Twenty years ago when you were working hard to serve your company, salespeople used to drive you nuts. They seemed to ask for things we were always out of stock on. They complained that what we just shipped was late and when it arrived it was defective and now the customer is upset. They all drove fancy foreign cars and when you were in accounting you saw those expense reports at expensive restaurants, golf and hotels. Or let’s say you had a bad experience with a poor example of a sales manager who only cared about his personal income, a commission junkie as I call them in other posts. So as you look through your window from now the CEO’s seat and you look through little snap shots, thoughts that you have repeated over and over again for the last 30+ years and you believe all salespeople are:

  • A pain to deal with…they are just different than everyone else
  • Always complaining, never happy
  • Are on the customer’s side and not yours
  • Not accountable
  • Commission junkie’s who only car about themselves and not the long term health of the organization
  • They lie
  • They sell on price not value
  • Spend company money foolishly
  • Feel free to fill in your own….

Can you see how those thoughts are plastered over and over again on your window explain why you don’t trust salespeople? (and why they don’t trust you?)

Chances are you probably have met poor salespeople who had bad behaviors ( like I have)  but I can assure you not all of us like that. The role of Sales has also changed over the years. Just look at the statistics on “the internet of things” and its impact on how buyers buy. Salespeople today have more resources to sharpen their saw and get more effective at their craft than ever before.

If you study why sales super stars leave organizations just like yours it might surprise you to learn it is not one of your possible beliefs: more money. (you can learn what it really is here) If you do not feel like checking out the link…the number one reason why sales super stars leave is their belief if you value them. So do you?

If you want to get the most out of your sales team it’s time to come clean. Scrub all those past thoughts repeated over and over again off your window and take the time to understand what your salespeople  and buyers are really like today and what they are doing and why. You need to practice what I refer to as clean sales management. Once you have done this, I highly recommend you and a few of your senior executives spend time meeting with customers and prospects in your markets to determine if your organizations ‘beliefs match who they really are today. I recommend you conduct win loss interviews or hire someone to do it for you and understand your markets today. They will tell you the unfiltered truth, the truth not clouded by your past.

This a great book and I highly recommend it to leaders or those wanting to be leaders to help you close the three key gaps that stand in the way of your success. We have all read articles on the impact engaged employees can have on the bottom line. Closing the 3 Gaps will fix your sales problems and help your organization get back on track to a profitable sales year.

This book is written on a much broader context to help you close three common gaps to help us as individuals. The author shares that getting our own life together is the first step in having a positive impact on the world. In this post I shared how to apply his content specifically to helping to heal sales problems.

How do I  correct sales problems after a market shift?

 

foccet

Your sales team was aligned and equipped to have a strong sales growth year. Your team created sales playbooks, buyer personas and new sales tools to insure you hit your sales goal (this time). Your team was building a strong momentum and then it feels like someone turned off the sales faucet. What just happened? What probably occurred is your team has experienced a market shift. How do you fix sales after a market shift? In this post I will share the strategy I have used when we experienced a market shift. ( and it’s not likely you are starting in the right place)

 

Before we discuss the strategy to refocus your sales efforts I want to remind you of a quote from my last post that shared various caused of market shifts. I used the below quote for years as a filter when asked to help companies in the middle of a market shift or more often after a market shift.

 

“Are you prepared to stake everything, change anything, and do whatever it takes— even if it means altering long familiar habits, redeveloping precious programs, and redeploying sacred assets?”             

  – Tom Bandy

A market shift will cause your company to change and adapt to the new reality. The degree of the shift and the severity of the shift’s impact on sales performance will determine just how much your team will need to adapt.

 

I can hear some skeptics saying …”We have been doing business this way for 15 years and we do not need to change, we need to wait until the market goes back to normal” The trouble is when your market shifts, you will never go back to normal.

 

Don’t believe me when I say  how much markets change and shift? OK, how many people reading this have a Myspace account? From 2005 to 2008 Myspace was the most visited website in the United States, even more than Google! Today? Myspace is ranked 1272 on most visited website. What happened? A shift! New companies felt the shift and created products buyers wanted to buy.

 

Or listen to a leader who transformed shopping with Zappos.com.

“There’s a trans-formative shift in business, and what worked before is no longer an option. It’s time for evolved entrepreneurs, visionary creators, and change makers to rewrite the rules of business for the 21st century.”

Tony Hsieh,  CEO of Zappos.com

 

Or read one of my past posts about when sales plans fail and how to adapt.

 

Do you agree markets shift ?

 

 

Assuming you are willing to adapt and change: “how we have always done things around here” in this post I will share the process I have used over the years to help sales teams fix sales problems due to a market shift.

 

 

 

 

Meet with your key customers who represented 80% of your sales opportunity before the shift. What you are looking for in these meetings is to clearly understand what shift occurred, when, and more importantly how your buyers plan to react to this shift.  Having faced market shifts many times the first reaction for most sales teams is to target new customers. You may need to do this if your current market is not likely to produce sales to meet your sales goals. You must clearly understand what changed, how your buyers are and have reacted to that change.

 

 

Improve overall buying experience. Take the information you have gathered and update the way you deliver solutions to your market based on the way they want to buy and receive them.

 

Explore for technology shifts. Was the shift due to a technology shift? (72%) of business leaders think technology will transform their company’s competitive landscape in the coming years according to an IBM report .

 

While meeting with your key accounts ask if there are other departments within their organization that would value your team’s distinctive competence. Why? One of the reasons why buyers do not buy is risk. Can this new vendor execute what they are promising? Is their quality as good as they say? Will it be easy to work with them of difficult? The more a buyer feels there is risk the less likely they are to engage with a new vendor. The exception occurs when you are a:”vendor of record”. Your company is  in their system. You are set up to receive purchase orders, get paid and so on. Assuming you have done a great job you can share your on time service statistics, your billing accuracy and have your other buyers refer you.

 

Based on meeting with your accounts you need to gather what you learned and create the following I shared In a post some time ago :

 

Write a market truths document based on gathered current data

 

Highlight strategies and tactics in your current sales plans that are no longer in alignment with the market of today

 

Asses your internal truths, capabilities, discard action items that do not support your objectives

 

If your team lacks a motivation to serve your market, create one

 

Determine your ideal customer profile

 

Write a plan you will execute based on the information you have gathered from the market and your capabilities. (allow some flexibility, design your sales plan to be Agile)

 

 

Once you complete the above you need to determine if making adjustments in your current markets with current customers will provide sufficient sales opportunity to achieve your sales goal. If yes proceed with executing your plan and you will not need the following steps.

 

After you have gathered your current market truths and internal truths and you determine your market does not have the opportunity necessary to achieve your sales goals please continue with this process and complete the following steps:

 

 

 

Find other accounts in the same market you have not sold yet. In most of the companies I have helped their “customers” have represented 20% to 30% of the entire market. In this step you will identify other accounts in the same market that are likely to have similar problems as the account(s) you have been selling. Keep in mind when business slows down buyers have time. They have time to meet with new vendors and they often have new goals like specific cost savings targets. When you discover this to be the case make sure the solutions you propose are shared in a way that speaks to the buyer’s company and personal goals.

 

Explore surrounding markets that include accounts buying products like those you supply. I look for adjacent markets that are interconnected to the markets I have been serving.

 

Expand your search for new markets that have similar problems your current market has. The key is to clearly understand your companies’ distinctive competence. What is your product or services’ value proposition? Is that value transferable into new markets? Ideally you want to find one to three accounts and test your assumption. In this process you will learn new information and a new language for the new market. Assuming your test clearly demonstrates value, you will want to scale that solution in the language of this new market.

 

Design new Innovate solutions if your current products no longer solve your current customer’s problems.

 

Share innovative new products in your current markets.

 

Share product innovations in adjunct markets

 

Share product innovations in new markets

 

As you lead your team through the above process you need to stop when a step will achieve your desired sales goals. For example, let’s say as you explored adjacent markets and you found a number of new accounts who agree with your value proposition, have agreed to buy your products and their sales will help you meet goal. Stop and execute.  Stop following the steps and focus on executing in the adjacent market. Why? Why wouldn’t you have us do all of the above just to play it safe? Three reasons;

 

Focus – you want to lead your sales team with as clear a focus as possible. When you lack focus your team will be “very busy” but fail to achieve desired results.

 

ROI- The farther your team expands from your known core business the less RIO you will realize in the short term.

 

Timing – Often when sales teams experience a problem they have a short window to fix the sales problem. The farther you move from your core the longer it will take to win sales.

 

 

Have your sales taken a downward turn?

 

Did your sales team experience a recent market shift?

 

How does your sales team fix sales problems due to a market shift?

 

We serve dynamic markets and we need to expect them to change. When you experience a  market shift the key to reacting and fixing your sales is clearly understanding the shift and having a systematic approach to finding new sales to insure your sales goals are still achieved. Most inexperienced sales managers will quickly launch into a new market. Why take this strategy that has a history of the slowest contribution, lower ROI per sales transaction and highest risk when a current market or a market close to your core will fix your sales problem? The above is the process I have used for years and I welcome comments on other processes and advice for when market shifts occur.

Are Your Sales People Suffering From QDD?

Are your Sales People Suffering from QDD?

Your marketing team developed a lead gen strategy that seems to be 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 what looks like a strong return on marketing dollars invested based on the number of new opportunities. The entire senior management team is excited and is 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 lead, and you are not seeing closed sales dollars? Why? Your salespeople are suffering from QDD.

I get excited when a team finally embraces the concept of marketing and driving what should be warm opportunities to my sales team. They took the time to do the market work and determined problems their markets have and positioned their products as solutions to those current problems. They understand your company’s value proposition and have launched your 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.

As I have shared many times; “Salespeople are like water and they always find the path of least resistance”…In this case it is easier to disqualify a prospect than qualify one. 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 sell 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 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. 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 as I do, 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 of, 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; “he’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 8-10 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.

So how about your sales team?

Are you hitting your sales and profit goals?

Do you have one salesperson consistently missing their goals?

 

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 growth efforts. Arguably all good sales stars have a bit of ADHD , but this along with a compelling desire to serve and win they charge forward believing they have the talent and products to win. 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 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 is QDD. Aside from lost sales that could have, should have been 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 to fix it. If you have a team member who does not agree they have symptoms of QDD and are not willing to change you must quickly remove them from the responsibility of calling on new prospects and possibly explore more of a service to existing customer’s role.

 

 

Why Do 78% Of Sales Strategies Fail? … Culture Must Come Before Strategy

Why do 78% of Sales Strategies Fail? … Culture Must Come before Strategy

You have completed your off-site meetings and developed your objectives and strategies…but why will  you find out six months in the future your sales strategies are not being executed and you are missing your sales and profit goals? Nothing drives business owners,  CEO’s and senior leadership team’s crazy like taking the time to develop a strategic sales plan that no one is executing. Why? What causes this Great Disconnect in Sales Execution? The common cause I have seen over many companies in a variety of industries is a lack of focus on establishing a strong Sales Culture first.

SBI just posted a blog titled why are 78% of Sales Strategies hopeless? It was an interesting article that discussed common execution failures like;

Your strategy is a follow the competitor strategy

Your Strategy is not aligned with the needs of buyers in your market

You have tactics masquerading as strategies

You have no sales strategy

Your sales strategy is not aligned with your product strategy

Your sales strategy is not aligned with your corporate strategy

This post goes on to explain each of the above and if you have not read the post I highly recommend it.

The more I thought about this post the more I felt something was missing, something much bigger, much deeper  than all the above combined…what is it?

I was taught years ago: “Culture Comes Before Strategy”

The best way to illustrate what is meant by this is a story I heard in an Alpha class. The speaker describes how he took his son to his soccer match and the referee was not there. The young boys were growing restless so the speaker thought; how hard could this be? (like a lot of CEO’s when planning sales strategies since very few CEO’s, less than 10%, ever carried a sales bag or goal, so how hard could it be?) So he jumped in as referee and the boys started playing. The ball went out of bounds …whose ball is it they asked him, don’t worry about it… play on. One young man tripped the opposing player and everyone was waiting for him to make a ruling but instead he said… play on. (or “just make it happen” in the sales world) The trouble was the boys now lacked the fundamental rules for how to play the game, the boundaries  and what is acceptable to do to win. No one was having fun, no one knew the score and a number of players were getting hurt. When the referee finally arrived he ran into the center of the field, blew his whistle and established boundaries and reinforced the rules of play. He called violations to the rules of the game quickly and penalties stopped. The story goes on but the outcome was interesting…the boys had more fun and scored more goals once they understood the rules and boundaries and no one was getting hurt so they played with abandon , striving to win.

So let me ask you…do your sales teams play with abandon because they understand your culture, the boundaries, and the rules in your company?

I hear some past CEO’s and business owners I have served saying; YES! We have a mission statement, a vision statement, they all know our culture! You could say that but you would be wrong in most cases. Just as in my short video about the great disconnect; sales execution your job as a leader is to create a bridge between the sales strategy and what it specifically means to each sales team member. We need to translate what our mission and value statement means and the boundaries it establishes in “how” we achieve our sales goals. If you work with a corporate coach and or consultants they will tell you: Culture is very hard work, it takes a great deal of time and you will not realize a quick benefit. I agree its hard work but disagree adamantly that it will not have a quick benefit.

Your Sales Culture is the foundation for all your strategies, including your sales strategy.

If you fail to build a sales culture you will realize poor sales execution and as high as 78% of your strategies will be hopeless.

If this is something new to you or like many of the owners I have served over the years, you want to argue with me, let me share some fundamental sales culture statements that have served my teams over the years. These rules of the sales game, the boundaries my teams have played in have resulted in measurable wins like;

$ 38 million mechanical security Company grew sales to $79 million in 14 months

$2 million dollar company, needed a turnaround, could not make payroll, within 6 months not only cash positive but investing in new equipment and technology, sold 3 years later for $7 million

$ 4 million dollar plastics company consistently surpassed sales and profit objectives over 13 years and was sold for $ 300 million

We spent six months understanding buyers and developed buyer personas in the durable medical products market, within six years sales grew from $14 million to just shy of $90 million

Another $20 million  company realized 40% sales increase in 12 months

A $3 billion company showed a 48% increase in 18 months

One last one for you…another company had sales decline from $150 k per month to $20-$40 k per month when the 2008 recession hit, within 8 months sales grew to over $500 k per month…during the worst part of the recession.

HOW?

Do I have your interest yet? I hope so … This works if you have the courage to implement it.

It starts with establishing the sales culture foundation then developing market focused strategies based on how your buyers buy and the criteria they use to buy, today.

I encourage your team to develop sales culture statements before you develop specific strategies and tactics.

The common sales culture statements that have served many teams over the past 30 years are;

Error in the form of action serving the customer

We will be Agile, and we will learn and get better every day

We focus on results not actions (actions are tactics that lead to results and we will track them as indicators but we are judged by results)

We “serve” our customers, we help them buy, and we do not “sell” them

We work smart not hard

We do not put all our eggs in one basket

We set goals with the end in mind

We embrace “sharpening the saw

We set goals from the market up, not the boardroom down

We get the right people on the bus, and we make sure they are in the right seats where their gifts can add the most value to the team, focusing on strengths and providing training for weaknesses

We play like champions

We “manage” processes, we “lead” people

Four legged sales calls result in explosive sales growth so they will be a part of our sales culture

None of us are as smart as all of us

We believe the Golden Rule is profitable

We create written sales strategies by region, by salesperson that exceed the objective because we know a goal not written is a dream and we will not succeed at every tactic we develop but we own the goal, the results

We embrace  Heretics who challenge : “how we do things around here”as we recognize markets change and companies need to change or get left behind

It’s about “we” so we must tear down silos

We will listen to our markets, buyers, and understand their criteria and buying process

We create sales tools to help buyers buy

My job is to is to  help and equip you( sales and marketing)  to meet and exceed your objectives, and know when to get out of the way

We win and lose as a team; we are all in this together

Would the above Sales Culture boundaries work in your organization? Why or why not?

Do any of the above statements make you feel uncomfortable? ( if so you need to spend some time investigating why)

If you want and or need to create sales velocity you must establish a strong cultural foundation first. It helps your team know the rules of engagement, what your company holds dear and where the boundaries are. If you fail to establish a strong sales culture before strategy you too will realize 78% of your sales strategies will be hopeless.

 

The Quickest Way To Increase Sales And Profits Is…

The Quickest Way to Increase sales and Profits is…

 

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 

 

 

Increase Sales And Profits; Stop Asking Your Salespeople To Sell Naked

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

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.

Improve Sales: Stop Creating “Snake Oil Salesmen”

 

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.