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 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identify Purchase Influencers With VOC

Identify Purchase Influencers with VOC

 

 

One of the leading reasons why sales do not grow as planned is something changed and your team did not adapt. Your salespeople are selling like they have been trained and coached to sell but it is no longer effective. Companies who identify change(s) and more importantly adapt to changes hit their numbers. Understanding the voice of your customer today empowers your team with current buyer information. In this post I will share how the voice of your customer helps your team identify buying influencers.

In my last post I shared how understanding the voice of your customers helps your team create content your buyers need when they buy. Companies who clearly understand what buyers must have to make a purchase today create new content that is used on their web sites and in sales tools to help move buyers through the sales funnel to a closed sale.

Understanding the voice of your customer also helps teams identify people who influence a purchase decision today.

What is an Influencer?

The influencer-marketing manifesto by Brian Solis shares:

Influence is the ability to cause effect or change behavior. Influence is not the act of trying to influence. Nor is an influencer someone who simply has a lot of followers. It should be very clear. Someone who influences does so because they have the capacity to have effect on something…”

What do companies who focus on influencer marketing have to say?

81% of marketers who have executed Influencer Marketing campaigns agree that influencer engagement is effective

65% of brands have plans to spend more on Influencer Marketing this year vs. last

Ad weeks shared an article that Influencer marketing is the next big thing in marketing. The article went on to share …

“There are few things that drive a sale more effectively than a warm word-of-mouth recommendation. A study by McKinsey found that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” And of those that were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37 percent higher retention rate.

Influencer marketing presents a glaring opportunity for brands to leverage the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire.”

I was asked to help a company that manufactured wheelchair accessible vehicles grow their sales. We spent a considerable amount of time out in the market speaking with consumers in wheelchairs to understand..

Why they buy?

Why they don’t buy?

What is their buying process?

What are the key criteria they must have to buy?

Who are the leading influencers in your purchase?

We discovered for consumers who recently started using a wheelchair because of a medical condition and or an accident their influencers included certified driving instructors, association groups like the MDA, MS Society, Veterans Association , personal injury attorneys and many more. However one key influencer they all shared was their rehabilitation therapist. As one consumer shared with me…

“When I need something or face a new challenge I turn to my rehabilitation therapist who taught me how to get dressed or take a bath again…”

We developed and initiated an influencer-training program where our regional mangers would conduct in service trainings at rehabilitation clinics and educate one of our top buying influencers about our vehicles. We shared how they worked, the right vehicle based on the five most common buyer personas and provided education and information. We connected training and education with these influencers with our local mobility dealers. Our local mobility dealers did a great job of building a relationship with therapists and were on call to answer any questions they may have.

 

The key to influencer marketing is education or as I share in my next book: “Serve don’t sell”. The quickest way to shut down an influencer is if you start selling.

 

Your mission is to provide much needed information and education the influencer can share. If you have created new content as I recommended in my last post you can leave that content with your influencers and or show them where they can find it so they can share it.

 

What our dealers experienced over time was consumers coming into their dealerships already sold so to speak. Their leading influencers shared our dealer who they had a relationship of trust with. The therapists shared content specific to what consumers needed to make a buying decision.

 

Understanding the voice of your customers identifies leading buying influencers in the purchase process.

 

Who are the leading influencers for your buyers?

 

Does your team strategically educate and share content with influencers?

 

Does your team understand the voice of your customers today?

 

Influencers play I critical role in the purchase decision today. As markets shift and change, influencers also change.

 

Make it a key initiative for your team to understand the voice of your customers today and whom they turn to as purchase influencers.

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.

Are Your Salespeople Guilty Of “Sales Malpractice”?

Are Your Salespeople Guilty of “Sales Malpractice”?

 

How do market leading sales teams consistently achieve and surpass sales goals? What is the secret sauce…if there is one? Why do buyers buy? The main reason why buyers buy is a feeling of trust the salesperson understands their problem to be solved and what they are proposing will solve it completely. If your salespeople are not taking the time to qualify buyer pain they are guilty of “Sales Malpractice”.

Let’s say you were feeling off, just not right. You noticed a lack of energy and you occasionally felt dizzy.  This goes on for a while then you notice when you climb stairs you have a tightness in your chest. If you are like me, you probably ignore the symptoms and hope they go away. But then one day you mention them to your wife and the next thing you know you have an appointment at the doctor’s office.

You arrive and the doctor’s office and He or She quickly looks you over and starts talking…”I see you look to be in your 50’s or so? Based on my experience my patients in their 50’s have issues with blood pressure so here’s a prescription for Lisinopril  , and you look a bit overweight so you may have type 2 diabetes so I will prescribe Meltormin . You know, based on how you are dressed I am guessing you are a busy executive, and over the last 6 months I have seen a great deal of patients like you with anxiety so I will give you a prescription for Paxil. Oh and as we age, and if you have any history of heart disease I will give you a prescription for Coumadin. Please pay my office manager on the way out.”

Question: would you trust this doctor and fill the prescriptions?

I hope your quick answer is; NO!

Why?

I heard a great quote I want to share:

“Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice “

Is the doctor in the above example a bad person? No. Is there a high probability based on the frequency he or she sees people one of the above may solve your problem? Possibly? So where did they fail, why do you lack trust in their prescriptions? The simple answer is they did not take the time to understand you. They did not run tests to determine if the symptoms you are having can be tied to a specific problem. The doctor in the above example “assumed” what has worked for people who look like you will work for you.

“Mark, this is a crazy example, no doctor would do this, and they would be sued for malpractice!”

I hear you and you are right. Now let me ask you…

Are your salespeople guilty of malpractice?

Do you know?… I mean really know for sure?

What are some signs your salespeople are guilty of  Sales Malpractice?

  • Poor close rate on new customers
  • Lower than industry gross margins
  • Not prospecting the right customers
  • Having to deliver on promises your product or service was not designed to solve
  • Poor customer satisfaction survey results
  • Low repeat purchase percentage
  • New accounts slow to pay and or request return authorizations

If you ask salespeople why buyers buy and why they don’t you will often hear one of two reasons;

  • Price
  • Relationship with current vendor

If you ask buyers why they buy and why they don’t “price” is not on the list. You will hear things in the win loss call like;

  • Salesperson did not do their research on our company, asked me questions my web site could have answered
  • Salesperson did not understand the problem(s) I need to solve, so I did not trust their proposal ( prescription)
  • Salesperson assumed what my problems were and pitched me asking for my current vendors business.
  • Since I do not understand how this new salesperson and the company they represent are different, all I can do is compare price

Years ago I heard a great quote: Salespeople are like water and they seek the path of least resistance” If you are a salesperson you have that sales goal monkey on your back. You are accountable to a specific number and everyone in the company sees your results and asks questions if you fail sell. A common problem I have seen salespeople do is what we refer to as “spill their candy in the lobby” in hopes of closing sales faster.

When salespeople meet with buyers they have a bag of offerings (their candy) they can offer. Maybe it’s an onsite audit of your current system for free for a large commitment. Maybe they can offer extended terms if they need to. Your company may have the ability to do 100% outgoing product inspection, and if it’s a retail product your sales may be  empowered to offer free ½ page ad to support a large enough order.   The salesperson is so anxious to sell and get their goal monkey off their back they proceed to spew all offerings hoping one or more connects. In my training I refer to this also as “Feature and Benefit BINGO”. As I shared in a video in 2010;

Feature and benefit BINGO is a game untrained salespeople play far too often. They “show up and then they throw up” and they spew all the features and benefits they can think of waiting for your buyer to jump up and yell”…BINGO….I get it….I figured out what problems you can solve for me…”

Will a salesperson occasionally make a sale this way? Sure. What I recommend is teaching your salespeople meaningful questions by market and by buyer persona type that helps them clearly and completely understands the buyer’s pain. If your salespeople fail to understand pain they are guilty of Sales Malpractice and it will cost you….

  • Sales you could have won
  • Profits if you win the sale
  • Customer retention
  • And worst of all cause” brand damage

How about your company….

Are your salespeople guilty of Sales Malpractice?

Have you experienced any of the above signs of Sales Malpractice?

Have you seen other signs of Sales Malpractice?

Our markets are more competitive than ever before in the history of your business. Your buyer’s problems change and your salespeople must be skilled at asking questions, qualifying pain and prescribing solutions that make that pain go away. The quickest way to see if your salespeople are spilling their candy in the lobby is attend 7-10 sales calls with them. Once you train your team to diagnose buyer current pain you will be back on track to achieving your sales objectives.

Photo credits http://www.abpla.org/what-is-malpractice

Three Methods To Understand Your Buyers And Markets Today …ASK!

Three Methods to Understand Your Buyers and Markets Today …ASK!



It is not unusual the simplest of strategies are often the most difficult for some people to execute. Why? Why is it so important to understand buyer and market needs today? Sales teams who understand their buyers, how buyers buy and what they need to make buying decisions today achieve their sales goals. When salespeople approach buyers and their markets with dated value propositions and not address current market problems sales teams fail to hit goals. In this post I will share three ways to better understand your buyers and markets.

In my last post I asked a question: What if I told you growing your sales profitably is actually “Simple” if you focus on one strategy? I shared the key to growing your sales and profits are: know your customers and markets. So far no one argues with that premise. However the behavior that needs to change (and quick) is companies who assume they understand their markets based on dated information. They have leaders who believe their gut and intuition that have gotten them this far will help them lead their teams to future wins. My argument is, as I shared in 2009, the sales game has changed and your gut and intuition are not enough to win today. We serve dynamic markets that are constantly changing and shifting. A value proposition that resonated with buyers six months ago may no longer connect due to a shift in economic conditions and or a new technology.
“Companies who build strategic plans based on dated market information fail. “
– Mark Allen Roberts
In a recent post by SBI they asked the question: Could last year’s market research be killing your chances to achieve next year’s sales goals? If you have not read this post I highly recommend you take a few minutes to review it. As shared in their post:
“Strategic alignment is the ultimate goal, but it’s not a fixed destination. It’s a moving target. That’s because market conditions are always in flux. If you continue to rely on outdated market research, you’re not just taking a step backward. You’re returning to square one, year after year.
How do you stay current with your buyer and market data to insure your sales strategy leads to goal achievement?
How do market leading companies equip and empower their sales teams to consistently achieve sales targets year after year?
In this post I will share three ways I have used to insure the sales and marketing teams have value propositions that resonate with their buyers and markets.
The best technique is time in the market. I enjoy working with my sales and marketing teams in the field with what I have referred to in previous posts as “four legged sales calls”. You shadow your team members with current customers and as they call on new customers. Your sole purpose is to listen and observe. I have to warn you though it is very difficult to not jump in on a sale that feels like it is heading south or take over the call that seems to not be leading to a close. I highly recommend you listen with the intent to learn rather than to show what you know. You must put on a market research hat and leave your sales hat in your reps car to receive the most benefit. In this post I shared things I am listening for and setting out to understand;
• What are the buyers’ buying criteria today?

• What is the buying process?

• Who else is involved in making buying decisions? 

• Does your sales process mirror the buying process?

• What sales tools does your salesperson have and which ones do they use? Are they current, or something they created themselves?

• Does the buyer have other problems they verbalize but your salesperson fails to hear?

• Where does the buyer turn today when faced with an unresolved problem? …the internet, a trade journal, calls a local representative…

• What other products does your buyer buy from competitors that they could be buying from you?

• What % of the time is your salesperson listening versus talking? ( my favorite indicator)

If you are experiencing “death by meetings” at the corporate office and find it difficult to meet with buyers in your market I highly recommend win-loss analysis . I prefer win-loss calls face to face however if this cannot occur I have seen where win loss phone interviews have proven extremely valuable. If you have not heard of win loss analysis I shared how I use it and common questions I ask here. After approximately 12-20 phone interviews you will quickly see trends on why buyers buy from you and why they don’t. You will discover the buying process and criteria your buyers are using today to make buying decisions. Market leading companies strategically plan win loss analysis as an ongoing strategy to stay tuned in to their market.
A new technique to understand your buyers and get target buyers to share insights on their problems and how they buy is shared in the book: Ask… The Counter intuitive Online Formula to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level , by Ryan Levesque. I just finished reading this new book and found it very useful.
In this book the author shares a proven process he developed and personally uses to understand customers, get customers to speak to you, and ultimately fall in love with your product or service. In 1970 we saw approximately 500 ads per day. With the average consumer seeing over 5,000 Google ads per day how do marketers break through all the noise today? In his book he shares a process to get answers to the following questions;
What do buyers want to buy?
When are they ready to buy?
Why did they not buy?
What I liked about this book is its’ “how to “approach. The author uses 4 primary surveys to capture current buyer process, criteria and it is done in such a way the customers fall in love with your product.
The key to insuring your team achieves their sales goals is a clear and current understanding of your buyers and markets and how they make buying decisions.

Companies who take the time to strategically  understand their markets and buyers and recognize shifts early achieve and surpass their sales goals.

Nothing compares to meeting with buyers and influencers in the markets you serve and asking them questions. If you struggle to break away from those “important” meetings at corporate you can conduct win loss analysis calls and now the book: Ask provides a step by step process to use surveys to capture what you need to know.

There is no excuse to lead by gut and intuition in today’s dynamic and shifting marketplace. Make understanding knowing your customers and markets a key action item in your strategic plan and your will consistently achieve and surpass your sales and profit goals.

What If Fixing Your Sales Problem Was Simple?

What if Fixing your Sales problem was Simple?

 

 

I love the above quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. What if fixing your sales problem was simple? What if your sales team could be great? Far too often I see clients try too many tactics and fail to connect to a core strategy to understand then completely solve the problem. I hear owners and CEO’s describe sales problems that need fixed in many ways; We need “more sales”. We need “increased sales”. How do we “sell new products”? How do we “increase our sales close rate”? How people describe sales problems they want to fix varies but what they all want and need is to create sales velocity that I shared in a post some time ago…

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

Easy to say, but the perception is it is hard to do…Not so fast!

What if I told you growing your sales profitably is actually “Simple” if you focus on one strategy?

I was asked to be the keynote speaker for a large local company having their national meeting recently. I asked the person in charge of the meeting what they wanted me to speak about?  How can I best serve those in attendance? What is the outcome you want from me kicking off your national meeting? He responded: we want what everyone wants; more sales, higher profits, and product launches that hit and surpass our product launch sales goals. Can you share how to fix these sales problems? No Problem I shared it’s what I have done for over 30 years, I will give your team a great experience.

To get my creative juices flowing I did some Google searches to read advice this group may have already found…

Increase sales : 623 million results

Increase Sales and Profits : 270 million results

Fix Sales Problems: 85 million results

The trouble is so many of these results is they jump right into tactics and lack a focused strategy. No wonder so many companies struggle with increasing sales profitably. What advice should you listen to? What programs, training, coaching should you follow?

What I am about to say may cause some people to say;” It can’t be that easy”, but I have case study after case study that proves it is.

If you want to fix all your sales problems and increase sales and profits you must …..Are you ready?

Know your customers and markets. (That’s it …simple right?)

“The reason sales goals are missed and sales increases fail to happen is companies jump into sales tactics without clearly knowing their customers.”

  • Mark Allen Roberts

Teams try tactics until they find one that seems to work. The trouble with this approach is we serve dynamic markets. Markets shift quickly and we must constantly be in tune with our customers and markets. We must understand the process they use to buy, the criteria they must have to make buying decisions and clearly understand the problems they are solving today.

Who is the worst person to inform you of market shifts and understand unresolved problems?…Salespeople! (Kills me to say this) Why is this the case? For the same reason they are the worst people to conduct win loss interviews. They are focused on selling. It’s what you pay them to do. The trouble in most sales organizations is they have been so focused on selling they fail to practice active listening. Therefore they miss the problems buyers share. What is the #1 reason buyers don’t buy? Hint it’s not price… as I shared in this post it’s the buyer felt the salesperson failed to understand the problem and therefore they did not trust the solution they presented would fix the problem completely.

So who in your organization is focused on knowing your customers and market?

After sharing this I paused and watched the reaction in the room. I could tell some had this look like: it can’t be that easy…that simple. I am sure the salespeople in the room were thinking: we already know that, what a waste of time…who is this guy, I know my customers, and why did they bring him in? I had one marketing person approach me after the event and say; we have wanted answers to these questions but sales won’t let us meet with customers. In case you are thinking the same thing, let me ask the same questions I asked this room to turn this speech (this post) into a discussion….

Who are your customers? (Notice I did not say who pays you, who are your customers?)

Who are your buyer personas? … Are they predominantly male/ female? Age?  Education and background? How do they shop? Where do they shop? How are they paid? How are they measured inside their organizations? What discipline do they come from…Engineering? Accounting ? Human resources? What are some current market problems others like them have?

What problems are they facing today they may or may have had a year ago?

How do they describe them in their words?

What do your buyers need to make purchases today?

How big are their problems?

What is the cost if they do not solve these problems?

How do problems like this show themselves?

Who influences the sale at your customers?

What do the influencers need to make purchase recommendations?

When your buyers search do they use a desktop or a mobile device?

I asked a number of industry specific questions …. (Because everyone is convinced their market is unique and special and to help those who may have tuned out want to engage and it worked)

People in attendance were sharing some feedback but for the most part the questions I need answered to fix their sales problems were not answered. Some of the answers were true 10 years ago, but based on my limited research prior to the event I knew were no longer the case. Some of the answers were fresh off their web site and were described as features not solutions to problems. I wish this was unique but it’s not. As I shared in one of my most popular posts: the reason most product launches fail is mullet marketing.

Mullet Marketing is a terms I have used for years and it implies very short efforts in the front, the researching the problem and customers. However when sales fail to meet plan its long on the back side, all hands on deck. In this phase sales, marketing and others are scrambling to gain answers they should have had prior to launch. I argue the same is true for all products we sell every day. So much energy and budget is spent on training, marketing, CRM systems and very little time is spent understanding and knowing your customers today.

Would you like a “simple “test to see how tuned in to your customers and market your team is?

Most of the people who read my content have midlevel or senior level roles, please ask the above questions to your teams today both marketing and sales, (don’t be alarmed even your own team does not have the same answers or no answers) . Then call three customers that you probably have a relationship with and explain how your company is always looking for better ways to serve your customers and ask them the above questions? How many did your team get right? How many did you get right? From my experience less than 20% of the companies I work with have most of the answers to the above questions. Even more disturbing is what I find most often…they share answers that were true 10 years ago but are no longer relevant. If that is the case their sales training is dated, their sales tools fail to help sales flow through the funnel, and worst of all the value proposition your salespeople are using no longer resonates and this all creates sales problems. If your value proposition is too dated it also damages your brand because you are not tuned in to what buyers require today.

If you want to fix your sales problems and increase your sales and profits: Know your customers!

The strategy of knowing your customers is a very simple one. What you must do is focus on knowing your customers and market to remove the stress of missing your sales goals. As a recent post shared one was to remove stress is to force you to focus.  Once your team achieves a clear understanding of your customers and markets it causes rapid profitable sales increases.

If you agree with the “what” that needs to be done but you are struggling with the “how” my next post will share an innovative way to capture what you need to know to not only survive but thrive with your customers and markets.

Increase Sales And Profits (Faster) With Ideal Customer Profiles

Increase Sales and Profits (Faster) with Ideal Customer Profiles

How do you increase sales and profits quickly? Are there any secrets our team should consider in our new business development objectives? Yes! …teach your salespeople to disqualify potential poor fitting customers sooner with ideal customer profiles.

I can hear some old sales dogs saying; “what are you talking about Mark? Every sale is a good sale…” but I can assure you this is not true. I have learned the hard way that not every prospective account is an account you should sell.

My client had a major shift in one of their markets and this caused a sales decline of over 40% within 18 months so they brought me in to help fix their sales problem. This company had been serving their various markets for over 40 years and wanted to avoid possible layoffs at any cost. So like many companies they were focused on selling their way out of this problem. Quickly we reviewed our current customers, the industries they served and conducted win loss calls to better understand why they buy and why they do not buy. In addition we mapped the buying process and made a list of all the potential customers in this market. (Typically the customers you serve today only represent 25%-30% of the actual potential market.) The main qualifying filters sales and marketing used included;

  • Does this possible customer have a problem we can solve?
  • Is the problem painful enough they want to solve it?
  • Are they willing to spend money to solve it?

(…and that’s where I blew it, I should have required our salespeople to ask one more question…but that will follow soon)

Lists by sales region were created. A multi touch marketing campaign was launched; funded and new sales tools were created from what we learned in the win loss calls and customer interviews. Very quickly accounts were being qualified and salespeople were buying airplane tickets and having many potential new customer meetings. New accounts were being added to our mix. These are great results right? That’s what every company leader wants and needs right… new customers? Not so much… We engaged and sold some companies we wish we would have never sold. Some had cultures that were in direct competition with how we served our customers and more importantly how we treated our own employees. These new customers resulted in painful (and costly) experiences in service, payment, and became an overall a drain on our recourses that started to negatively impact the accounts we valued most. In a recent post I shared how “fit” is one of the three criteria we should use when evaluating salespeople. I can now say with 100% conviction sales must also qualify possible new customer partners based on fit. The additional question we should have asked was;

  • Does this account match the type of customers we value and have proven our capacity to provide exceptional service and profitable relationships with?

As the leader you must answer the above question. How do you know if this “whale” of an account will launch your needed sales velocity…or be an anchor that negatively impacts your teams’ sales and profits?

There are many resources on the internet on how to qualify customers you can search if you wish. However providing your salespeople your ideal customers is critical to winning new business you want and will value.

Some questions to consider as you create your ideal customer characteristics:

Who are your top sales accounts today?

What markets provide over 40% of your sales today?

Why do they buy from you?

What gross profit % do you realize?

What products do they buy?

What is the location of your most valued customers? North America…International…East Coast US…?

What is their service expectation?

What is their quality expectation?

How do they pay their bills? (net 30? net 60? Net 90?)

What is our value proposition for these customers?

How will your partnership be defined? …An informal discussion of expectations or a binding contract?

What is their preferred method for placing orders? Fax, call in, email, EDI, vendor portal?

What buyer persona’s value your brands promise most?

What sales cycle is your team familiar with? short…three to six months…over one year?  

Who is your ideal influencer that drives the purchase order? Buyer… Engineer…Owner…CFO… Operations… a team of department leaders?

What is their preferred form of shipment? Delivered or FOB your plant?

Is there a cultural fit in how their employees engage with each other and your team?

Can you serve the new customer today or will the new customer require new investment?

The above is not a complete list and I would encourage you to develop qualifying questions and identify the type of new customers that are ideal for your organization today. Once you create a list of the ideal traits and attributes of a customer for your organization you must map the areas that are non negotiable. For example I have served a number of startups and turn arounds and terms greater than net 60 days were a deal breaker. As our salespeople met with prospective customers the terms question was addressed very early in the relationship. Next create boundaries for other areas. For example; we will invest in the capabilities to receive orders via EDI for sales that exceed $xxxxxx.  The more detailed you can be in your ideal customer the faster your new business growth objectives will be achieved and they will have profits that meet your owner’s and investors expectations.

So how about your team…

Does your team need to sell its way out of a sales and profits short fall?

Have you identified potential customers you could sell?

Did you take the extra step to identify the traits and characteristics of customers you want?

Are you convinced the difficult customers make your organization stronger? Or do you agree they can negatively impact your service to all your customers?

 

The secret to turning around sales with profitable new customers is helping your salespeople understand what your ideal customer looks and feels like. The above questions may feel like extra work and may slow down your sales, but in reality they will improve your sales close rate, create more quick wins, and help your sales team win more profitable customers.

 

 

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.