Sales Tool Helps Buyer Parrots Lay Golden Purchase Orders in Your Hands

golden egg hand

 

In a recent post about are your salespeople calling on power or parrots I shared how your sales success or failure may be in the hands of the parrot buyer’s ability to present and sell your solution to decision makers and influencers within their organization. Time and time again a salesperson reports back after “good meeting’s” that they will win the purchase order. Weeks turn to months and the buyer has gone dark. What is happening with the order we expected? What can we do to shorten this sales cycle? What can we do to insure we win the order? In this post I will share one technique to help you, help parrot buyers lay golden PO’s in your hands.

 

Buyers today are doing a tremendous amount or research on the internet. It is estimated that as much as 60%-80% of the sales process is over before the buyer contacts your salesperson. Now more than ever we must find ways to help our buyers buy. Often buyers are actually trained buyer parrots that accumulate and repeat information they have heard to key decision makers and influencers in their organizations who have the power to buy. Here’s the problem; do you want your sales results, your team’s ability to achieve your sales growth targets, your income at the fate of a buyer’s ability to present and sell your product and or service? Ya…I didn’t think so.

 

How can we equip and empower buyers to effectively present and sell our products and services to decision makers who have the ability and power to approve purchase orders?

 

One technique I have used in a number of industries is to provide the buyer a presentation slide deck that speaks to the specific buyer persona’s of those who do have the power to approve the purchase. So what is a buyer persona? Per one of the leading thought leaders in buyer persona’s Adel Revella;

 

“Buyer personas are examples of the real buyers who influence or make decisions about the products, services or solutions you market. They are a tool that builds confidence in  strategies to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor or the status quo… insightful buyer personas readily inform strategies for persuasive messaging, content marketing, product or solution launches, campaigns and sales alignment.”

 

If you want to learn more about buyer personas I recommend you download and read; The Buyer Persona Manifesto.

 

In one company we found we were presenting buyers and those buyers had to gain the approval of the; CFO, CEO, COO, and Engineering. We spent some time interviewing these key decision makers and identified what was important to each, the criteria they used to make decisions, and what they needed from us to make those decisions. For example;

 

CFO– they made decisions based on number, return on investment, mitigating risk for the least cost, insuring the investment supports the strategic vision of the organization. They hope and plan to be CEO one day. They want to make smart business decisions that demonstrate their ability to move into this job when the time is right. They want to avoid decisions that jeopardize or could limit their plan.

 

CEO– frequently from an accounting and finance background with strong understanding of operations. Sets the vision and is constantly looking for anything that could be a roadblock in achieving that vision. Responsible to shareholders, often the owner, they are about growing the company profitably and investing in equipment and services that support that growth.

 

COO – operations focused, key words; efficiency, production, productivity. Often grew up through the manufacturing ranks as plant manager, may have had some purchasing and quality control experience. Focus is on meeting the needs sales has sold as effectively and efficiently as possible. In this example we kept hearing the desire to reduce manufacturing variance.

 

Engineering– They have a laser like focus, all data no emotion to solving the problem to be solved with this purchase. Needs to make sure you clearly understand the problem they are solving. They not only need to see and hear your solution but also see the information and decision process you used to make this recommendation. They want information and ideally open communication with your engineers to have the ability to speak with someone highly educated like themselves and not someone trying to sell them.

 

 

Based on the above we created a slide deck of 10-12 slides. The first two slides were basically a requirements summary sharing our understanding of the problem to be solved. The rest of the slides provided what each key decision maker with power needed to commit to purchase. In addition to the slides we provided an appendix that included product data sheets, engineering drawings, key content web links, engineer contact information within our team, and a deep dive in data should an engineer wish this information. For example, we provided a ROI on the product and shared expected returns. We provided testimonials from other well known companies in the same industry. We established a cost on doing nothing and a weekly cost of not purchasing. The last slides clearly mapped out the steps and expectations of how to commit, what they should expect when. Ideally we always asked to present these slides in person, via web conference, but worst case we have now equipped the buyer with a sales tool to gain funding to support the purchase.

 

What will surprise you most is we did not talk a great deal about us, if all as much as the problems we solve, who we have solved them for and provided what we have learned others have needed to make informed buying decisions.

 

How about your company….

 

Do you provide tools to help buyers sell your solution internally? Or do you count on your brochures to do that?

Do you understand who the power decision makers are in the buying journey your customers go through? If so who are they in your industry?

 

What tool(s) have you created to help educate and inform key influencers in the buying decision?

 

While the statistics show buyers and influencers feel 97% of their interactions with possible vendors are not worthwhile, isn’t it time your company becomes one of the rare 3% who proactively provides useful, relevant , insightful information in a way and language your influencers need to lay golden purchase orders in your hands?

Want to Improve your Sales and Profits? “Reboot Your Business”… (and yourself)

crtl book

 

If you have been in business for a while like I have one thing we can always count on is “change”. Markets change, the way buyers buy changes, and how customers find you have drastically changed over the past 10 years. Like it or not, there has been a huge shift in power from the company and salesperson to the buyer who can now find more information about your company and products (and you) with a few simple mouse clicks. Has your business been agile and identified these changes and adapted? Or are you waiting for business to get back to normal as I hear so many say? Well, I hate to be the one to tell you, this is the new normal! If you are one of those business leaders that recognize changes have occurred but are having a hard time getting your head around what to do about it, there is a brilliant book by thought leader Mitch Joel titled; Ctrl Alt Delete, Reboot your business. Reboot your life. Your future depends on it.

 

 

My wife and I had a plan over the July 4th holiday. We invited all my wife’s relatives and my daughter’s college friends over for an old fashioned July 4th cookout. We planned a simple menu per my daughters request with hamburgers and hot dogs, baked beans, my wife’s aunt Shannon’s famous potato salad and my daughter planned to make another one of her creative desserts. I bought charcoal and decided to grill old school instead of over gas. We bought the supplies, invited everyone, and planned an afternoon out side that included some bocce ball, Frisbee, and watching the fireworks from the deck. We had a plan.

 

Ohio weather decided to change our plans with rain on and off all day. I hoped it would stop long enough to grill the food but around 4:00 pm I needed a plan B. So I moved the grill under the shelter of the front porch and although “no one grills on their front porch” we adapted, the food was great and everyone had a great time together.

 

porch gill

 

This experience reminded me of the book I just finished this week; Ctrl Alt Delete. It reminded me of how environments and business landscapes change and will be changing again and we must and need to adapt or we risk going hungry. I wonder why it is so easy, second nature for us to adapt in our everyday lives but in business we struggle to change, we fight the tendency to be nimble and agile. Why? Is it hubris, laziness, and or even fear? Or is it something deeper, something that was blended into my generation’s’ DNA? I was born in the early 1960’s and my father started out his career as a meter reader with the local natural gas company. His company sent him to college at night and after 25 years of moving up the corporate ladder  held a senior level financial position when he retired. This is the way we were taught how it works, how it was supposed to be… right?

 

So imagine how I feel, and how my dad must scratch his head with the crazy life I have led. I have served many companies over the past 30 years as you can see from my Linked In profile. My titles have included Account Rep to VP of Sales and Marketing, from COO for one assignment to Managing Director for another company. I have been a sales coach, entrepreneur,  marketing strategy consultant, author, and public speaker. I led a few start ups and turnarounds as President and CEO. However admittedly if I am being totally transparent with you (and myself) a part of me has felt there is something wrong with me. Why have not I not been able to do what my dad did and work for one company for 30 + years retire with a pension, benefits and winter in Florida like everyone else from Ohio? In the second part of Mitch Joel’s book he discusses how we as individuals must also adapt and change. He calls it embracing the squiggle. The squiggle is what I have done….a number of different roles based on the problems to be solved, many different industries and if you were to graphically plot it it would not look like my fathers straight line career trajectory, but would be a squiggly line with little if any ability to plot or predict the next data point.

 

Another area where I feel I do not fit in and quietly has made me feel anxious and sometimes guilty is… I like to work. I enjoy bumping into problems to be solved. I have developed over the years the ability to see around corners as I share with my children. I use this gift of pattern recognition and shape strategies that work. What I do for companies does not feel like “work” but more like my sport, play, my art. In the early 2000’s I even branded it “the art of thoughts” trying to explain the service I provided but quickly stopped using that description as my customers and market were not quite ready for it yet. This book shares how today and the future will challenge all those leave it to beaver work  life models we have had woven into our DNA and how there now is a blend of work and non work life. Technology enables us, affords and empowers us the ability to work anywhere, anytime, and because of this make more time for our families if we use it correctly. The future strategies that will drive explosive sales growth will not be developed in boardrooms but in coffee shops deep in the markets you serve.

 

Not since David Meerman Scott’s book: The New Rules of Marketing and PR has a book grabbed me like Ctrl Alt Delete and I wanted to share it with you. I highly recommend if you have been waiting for your  business to get back to normal, searching for a crystal ball that will give you some hint of what the future has in store you, or like me have seen and felt a blending of your work and non work life, …you  buy and study this book.

 

How about you…Have you too seen and experienced major changes in your business?

 

Have you adapted and embraced social marketing?…or do you still think it’s a fad?

 

Has your business raised the surrender flag and admitted you no longer have the power, or have you dug in like Colonel Custer who also had a plan?

 

 

The reality of today is buyers can now find more information about your company, product, salesperson, and the leaders of your organization with a few simple mouse clicks. How buyers buy, how consumers shop, and how employers search for and hire new team members has forever changed and will continue to evolve and change. Will you adapt and survive or dig your heals and do it the way we have always done it around here? ( and how’s that working for you?)  It truly is your choice; I hope and pray you chose wisely.

 

 

 

What are the top 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

By Mark Allen Roberts

super man

 

I believe there is a problem festering deep within a number of companies that may, if left untreated be the single biggest threat to your team achieving sales, profits and your bottom line objectives. A study not long ago said 60% of your employees plan to leave when the economy improves. Well the economy has and is improving? Is your organization at risk? Most companies think they clearly understand salespeople, what motivates them and how to motivate them to achieve super human sales results…and most are wrong. In this post I will share what sales super stars need, why sales stars will leave, and how to keep and attract top sales performers.

 

Like all my posts this post has been swirling around inside my mind for weeks. This one however has bounced around much longer. I have my opinions based on leading sales and marketing teams for over 30 years…do I share them? what if the experts have different opinions? My desire when I write it to share what I have found to work to help you make strategic corrections , adjustments before you find your business in a crisis of chaos. So how do I best serve you? The more I thought about it the more I delayed following up my last post; Why Do Star Salespeople Leave? (it is not what you think)… I decided to share what I have experienced and provide thought leadership from others in hopes of helping better serve you and your organization.

When I am asked to help a company turnaround their sales, increase sales, I always use the same process and it starts by identifying current market truths. I bring them into the light as the Bible guides us to do for once in the light we can clearly see them and address them before they become terminal. Then I seek internal truths about your companies’ true strengths, weaknesses and ideally clearly define your distinctive competence in the perception of your market. Once we have this information we can shape and design a go-to-market strategy that drives explosive results. So I want to use this same process to identify what I am referring to a “Sales Force Sink Hole” that could result in one….two…or even three of your top sales producers leaving your team and crippling your results. I hear that voice of clients past saying; let them leave I will just hire more… Before you quickly jump to being defensive you need to ask yourself some practical questions;

 

How long does it take for a new salesperson to gain traction and start truly adding value to your bottom line?

 

What is the cost of lost revenue when a Sales Super Star “just leaves”?

 

If you are truly honest, it takes much longer than it should for a new salesperson to gain traction and losing a top producing salesperson (or two or three) is estimated to cost you up to 10 X their annual compensation package. Note; When I keep saying one-two- or three it is because when your top salesperson leaves, studies show there is a high probability your other top performers will leave as well.  So why not intentionally create a culture that keeps and attracts sales super stars? Why not understand what truly makes sales stars tick and meet those needs?

 

What are the top 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

Trust

Be a company that has a history of doing what it promises, doing what it says it will do for internal and external customers

 

Communication

Take the time to clearly articulate expectations, objectives and why those objectives must be met, and quickly follow up on questions and concerns

 

Competitive

 

Top sales people are competitive, they need it, and they thrive on it so intentionally build it into your culture

 

Be a winning team

 

Top salespeople win, its what they do. They win new business, more orders from current customers and they desire to be on teams of other winners. Do you have a team of winners or do you need to fix areas of your company that are underperforming and have been for some time?

 

Driven

 

Most executives that do not have a sales background assume its all about “money”, but in reality top salespeople thrive in organizations that are driven to be the best just like your top salespeople.

 

Leaders have High Emotional Intelligence

 

Teams that are open and transparent, that welcome new solutions attract and retain top salespeople, they have the courage to say “I don’t have all the answers today but I know a process to find them, and I will”

 

Strong Values and Integrity

 

Do not ask your salespeople to compromise what is best long term for the market and its customers to hit short term financial objectives

 

Strategic Compensation Plan

 

A results driven plan that is easy to understand, reinforces desired objectives of your strategic plan, and has no cap, no claw backs

 

Listen

Organizations that learn to actively listen to identify and bust through common roadblocks in the sales process, listen and sense their market, that are agile and adapt quickly to strategic shifts in how buyers buy and the criteria they are now using to make buying decisions

 

Sharpen the Saw

 

An almost paranoid drive to constantly improve your people and processes with training and new technology

 

Passion

 

Make what you do about more than you, your numbers, make it a quest , top sales performer embrace objectives much bigger than themselves

 

Lead and Coach, do not Manage

 

We lead and coach people, we manage processes, don’t confuse the two

 

 

If you are committed to focusing on this area and intentionally creating a culture that keeps and attracts top sales performers then I recommend you also visit the below links to content to serve you and your team.

 

Clayton Christensen’s “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7007.html

 

Micromanagers: 6 Reasons your Employees Don’t Like You

http://www.recruiter.com/i/micromanagers-6-reasons-your-employees-dont-like-you/

 

War underway for top sales talent http://blog.sellingpower.com/gg/2013/06/3-reasons-to-apply-for-our-50-best-companies-to-sell-for-list.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fgerhard+%28SellingPower%29

 

10 laws of successful sales management http://www.thepeasegroup.com/_blog/Articles/post/The_Ten_Laws_of_Sales_Management/?goback=%2Egde_2392593_member_246416948

 

Communicate clear expectations http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57586930/great-leaders-manage-expectations/

 

How to hire, find a sales star http://www.salesforcesearch.com/download/eBook-How-to-Find-Assess-and-Hire-a-Sales-Star.pdf

 

 

Hire recruiter if you can http://web2.salesforcesearch.com/bid/148121/How-Can-Sales-Recruiters-Benefit-Your-Business?goback=%2Egde_71410_member_246012667

 

10 tips to motivate people http://humanresources.about.com/od/motivationrewardretention/a/motivating_employees.htm

 

How people are motivated to work http://humanresources.about.com/od/rewardrecognition/a/needs_work.htm

 

How to motivate sales people http://sales.about.com/od/trainingasalesstaff/a/Motivating-A-Sales-Team.htm

 

Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business…. http://www.nosmokeandmirrors.com/2010/05/24/want-to-jump-start-sales-and-morale-write-a-%E2%80%9Cpassion-statement%E2%80%9D-for-your-business%E2%80%A6/

 

Does my business need a “passion statement”? Take a short quiz…  http://www.nosmokeandmirrors.com/2010/05/26/do-i-need-a-passion-statement-for-my-business-take-the-short-quiz%E2%80%A6/

 

I hope you found the above useful and you agree keeping sales happy and productive is about much more than just “money”.

 

      “Sales Super Stars leave when their intrinsic needs are not met and they validate this decision with extrinsic conditions”

–          Mark Allen Roberts

 

What have you found to keep and attract your top sales performers?

 

Do you agree with the above 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

Which of the above do you believe is most important? Why?

 

 

 

 

Why Do Star Salespeople Leave? (it is not what you think)…

 

 jump ship

I received a call from a past client a month or so ago, the CEO of a manufacturing company, and I could tell he was very upset. Being the typical busy business owner he jumped right into the reason for the call; “why do star salespeople just leave, no warning, …poof …they are gone , jumped ship, and now what am I going to do?” I asked a few more questions and Tom who had been his top salesperson for years just resigned and announced he will be working for another manufacturer in their industry that has some products that compete with my past client’s company. As we talked, it was clear this was first a big surprise, and CEO’s hate surprises that could interrupt their plan. Second, this experience has caused major unrest throughout the sales and senior management team. Third, he was concerned because Tom had most of their large key customers …What would they think? What has Tom said to them? …Is there a risk in losing their business?  Last the CEO had a hard time describing what he was personally feeling, but what heard was; betrayed, hurt, and concerned. “I just can’t believe it, after all Tom and I have been through he just leaves?”He was very concerned about how this exit would impact what should have been a high sales growth year. I agreed to connect with Tom and find out what made him jump ship so abruptly.

 

In any given year a business will have salespeople come and go. It is the nature of the sales beast. We created a high performance driven culture with a high degree of accountability in the work we did years earlier so it was not unusual to cull the sales herd and this typically resulted in under performing salespeople leaving of their own accord. However, when a sales star, a sales super star, A player  in this case, leaves it can be devastating.

Why do sales super stars leave?

I have seen this situation happen at a number of companies so I decided to spend some time in this blog discussing why sales super stars really leave.In my last blog post I shared the results of a survey I did in my various Linked In sales groups and networking with sales stars I have worked with over the years. I reviewed the most common reasons that sales mangers and business owners believe as to why sales leaders leave organizations; money, promotion, boss is a jerk…. I also asked sales super stars why they left past teams or why they would leave their current team.

What company leaders must realize is the reason most sales super stars leave is not “money”, money is  one  extrinsic measuring stick they use to measure how much your A player intrinsically feels  you value their contribution.

Intrinsic needs include feeling valued , trusting those they serve, and appreciated. They also include feeling challenged and learning new things as well as being proud of the work they do and the contribution they are making.

Extrinsic needs are things like base pay, commission, benefits, vacation time, bonuses, expense reimbursement , company car, vacation time policies and so on.

Sales super stars leave when their intrinsic needs are not being met and this is  validated by extrinsic conditions.

Keep in mind we are discussing” sales super stars”…these guys and gals who charge into a new market and open new business….they “just make it happen“…when a new product is launched they crush their numbers…your customer satisfaction surveys for them all come back A+….they consistently exceed sales quota…..their profit per sale is higher than the team average….their close rate is 20% greater …..and their cost per sale is the lowest. If you have a hard time determining who your star / A players are, you can find a great tool to do so here. These are the people you dream about finding, hiring and keeping so it should be no surprise when they leave it is often a shock. Sales super stars know how to drive results. In this post I plan to share the real reasons why they leave, actions you or members of your team have done ( or not done)  that have asked a sales super star to leave. What I am not discussing are personal life issues that cause a sales super star to leave like needing to care for their children or an elderly parent, or a health concern that makes them have to leave the job.

 

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs work he shared the continuum of needs most people have.

Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs

 

The needs start with the basic Physiological needs for things like food, water and so on and graduate to self-actualization needs for things like creativity, spontaneity, and morality to name a few. The ERG theory followed with a simpler model (Existence, Relatedness and Growth).  This model is what market leading business owners intuitively think about as they develop their sales cultures and compensation programs. However the disconnect I argue occurs in sales super stars at non market leading companies because business owners think if they take care of basic extrinsic needs their sales stars will be happy. Sales super stars however know their value and are driven by something much deeper and pay is something they know they can earn and expect anywhere. To put it another way, they are good, they know they are good, and they are not worried about being unemployed for long should something occur in their current job that is unacceptable. The threat of a compensation decrease does not scare them into submission like it does average or below average salespeople who have nowhere else to go. Sales super stars  know how to help buyers buy and they know if not treated well where they are they can confidently and quickly find new employment to meet their basic needs for food, shelter and so on. These sales super stars have a much greater need to feel valued, trusted, and to trust those they serve with their skills. They also see themselves as winners and must feel they are on and supported by a winning team . To make their value even greater a recent article it shared how the gap between good and great sales people seems to be growing wider…and sales super stars know it.

 

A better model can be seen from the work of the famous book: The five dysfunctions of a team as shown below.

fivedysfunctions

 

 

 

The reason why this is much more relevant to sales super stars is it is built on a foundation of trust, an intrinsic need. This model was designed to be used with teams of people to create a strong foundation that ultimately leads to best in class performance. In this case I want you to consider the above in the context of a sales super star. Your sales super star is a star at what they do and will be your star as long as there is a foundation of trust. How much do they trust you? How much do they feel valued by and trusted by you? If there is a break in that foundation; intrinsic trust, they will seek extrinsic factors to validate their belief, and when they find them…poof…they just leave.

 

I hear some of you saying…enough of the Psycho mumbo jumbo…so let me share common scenarios that illustrate why sales super stars actually leave.( and it did not happen in just a “poof “instant)

 

 

Scenario One: they left for more money

What you heard was they left for more money…here’s what really happened.

A lack of trust occurrence– they sold something and it had huge quality issues, they are asked to sell a new product that is not ready to go to market yet, they are given an unrealistic goal since they seem to crush their goal every year anyway. They made a large sale and when they receive their paycheck they are informed the compensation plan changed. They made a large and profitable sale and no one said atta boy…

Feeling they are not appreciated – may have been called out in a meeting in front of peers over something that was not their fault, criticized for misspelled words in their monthly report that highlights once again they blew past their sales goals or some other minor issue while they continue to crush their key sales performance indicators.

Validation of feelings of being unappreciated–  a change in pay, maybe a change in benefits, a new compensation model, a new expense limit program, take away company credit card asked to use personal credit card and expense reimbursement is very slow, change of sales territory, and a new targeted income model with a capped pay plan (nothing demotivates a sales super star like a cap on compensation).

Put out some feelers about job opportunities

Poof they just leave…

 

 

 

 

 

 Scenario two; Left because boss was” a jerk”

What you hear is they left because they thought their boss was “a jerk” a real “ass-kicker”.

 Not trusting new boss/ boss kicks ass and provides no help or assistance to help him hit quota- boss lacks product, market and management training,  in a recent survey of sales people only 34% of salespeople believed their manager and leaders knew what they were doing, boss believes the beatings will continue until the performance improves.  New boss implements micro management tactics and challenges how the sales super star spends their time and who they meet with although they continue to exceed sales performance indicators. Sales star feels he is not trusted, does not trust boss, does not trust where the company seems to be going.

 Concerned about the direction of company if they would hire someone like this – they feel a cultural shift, often not an intentional strategic shift. They refuse to be on a team managed by someone who adds no value to growing sales. “Help me hit my numbers or get out of my way.

 No longer trusting ownership and senior leadership- they have to know this is happening right?

 Feeling new boss does not appreciate nor value their contribution to the team’s overall sales performance, access to upper management cut off my new boss

 Possibly has a run in with boss privately or publicly-  new sales managers with low emotional quotients are often intimidated by sales super stars

 New boss does not back sales super star with customers or upper management when conflict occurs- new sales manager has strong political experience and plays it safe and fails to address real issues

 Sales star loses relationship with owners who in the past have shared how much they valued his contribution – you always had an open door to your team, particularly when you were much smaller , but you have grown and hired people to manage the front line so you can run the business.

 Puts out a few feelers

 Poof …Leaves team

 

 

 

 

 Scenario three: They left for a “better opportunity”

What you heard was they left for a “better opportunity”.

Quality changes for the worse, product, service, communication, lack of new innovative products, no new sales tools, poor marketing, no leads

 Feeling of being disconnected, alone in the market and unable to share all the quality issues that are hurting the achievement of sales results because it is not “politically safe” and they are accused of “just making excuses”

 Not trusting the company, what it says, or the products you are selling will do what they are promised to do in your literature

 Concerned about personal reputation in market

Missed a sales quota and gets less commission or no commission

 Lost a key account to a competitor with new innovative solutions that do not have quality issues

 Unresolved product quality issues from past sales sucking them into conflicts when they should be selling new opportunities 

Relationship with long term key account strained

 Less commission again, had to explain why to their spouse

 Put out feelers

 Poof…Leaves team

 

 

 Scenario four; Sales super star got a great offer they could not refuse

What you heard was the competitor made them an amazing compensation offer.

 Sales star sees favoritism to under performing sales associate(s) – basically poor results are not addressed and under performance is ignored and politically correctness is rewarded.

Sales Star is financially impacted by poor performance of under performing team member – the group’s sales number are down so everyone suffers, maybe the under performing team member is in product development and they keep throwing products over the wall the market does not want…need… or are not finished, or marketing failing to produce qualified leads, or manufacturing.

Sales star disciplined for results out of  their control – your comp plan is weighted to drive new product sales and the new product you launched is poorly designed, late, and has numerous quality issues so the sales star fails to hit compensation levels. The launch is late but the sales goal by month stays the same. Marketing does a “soft launch” and there are no or very little qualified leads and or support.

Under performing team members allowed to go on unchecked- poor performance issues not addressed, situations do not change, but sales star told ; “ you are not paid to tell me why you can’t sell, you are paid to hit your numbers, just make it happen”

Sales star wants to be working with other winners not B and C players- super stars want and need to be on teams of other super stars. They lack an understanding or the patience to accept team members who are not accountable

Put out feelers…

 Poof…they leave

 

Scenario five; offered a much higher position with more responsibility

What you heard was he or she was offered a much bigger job, role , with a competing firm.

No new products for 18-24 months – sales person sees competition launching new products, new marketing support tools and your team has not launched anything new.

Focus on making more profit from current customers and not growing market- the mood, strategy seems to have shifted and salesperson is hitting their numbers but can achieve those results with three-four hours of work per day.

They become bored- they are not having their intrinsic need to feel challenged, learn new things , “take new hills“, met

No Longer proud of what they do

Put out a few feelers…

Poof…they just leave

 

As you can see a sales super star does not just wake up one day and decide to leave. As a matter of fact sales super stars are actively recruited on a frequent basis because they are so good. They stay when they trust you, your company and feel their extra effort is appreciated. They listen to new job inquires when their trust is broken, they feel they are not supported, not valued, asked to sell something of poor quality and or find themselves on teams that lack a commitment and accountability to the goals of the organization.

What my past client was feeling was a lack of loyalty after all these years, and the sales star selfishly chasing bigger bucks for the short term. When I called Tom what I found was the reason he left was rooted in a thought that became a belief many months earlier and only validated by some external, extrinsic needs changed. As the CEO’s business grew he hired a number of new people; CFO, COO, VP of Sales and Marketing. Tom felt distanced from the CEO and his efforts to reconnect were seen as “not following the chain of command” and he was reprimanded by the new VP of Sales and Marketing.  Tom was hitting his numbers out of the park, but now the new team members were changing the compensation program, implementing a number of new rules regarding expenses and limiting what Tom can do out in the market without their approval. Tom felt unappreciated  he lacked faith and trust in the new management team, and felt he would be valued more somewhere else. The competitor has been after him for years and as Tom shared and it took one meeting over coffee to receive an offer. The offer was a little more money upfront, but he would once again be reporting to the CEO, and they had a number of new and exciting products to launch into current and new markets. The variable portion of his compensation was uncapped once again and he saw a huge opportunity and challenge.

The intrinsic fuse was lit when they stopped trusting you….and Poof they are gone when that fuse meets some external validation.

 

Have you lost a sales super star on your team in the last 12 months? Why?

 

What is the value of a sales super star compared to an average sales person in your organization?

 

Do your sales super stars feel appreciated and valued? How do you show them?

 

Or are your sales people treated like sales mercenaries and told to “just make it happen or I will find someone else who can” ( if so I promise they are already looking for new teams to serve)

 

As a leader/owner of your organization do you know how your salespeople are being treated? If so how, what have you put in place to prevent an “ass kicker” from chasing away your best people?

 

The economy is rebounding and our customers and potential customers have cash reserves they want to spend to solve problems they have needed to solve for years. It is the perfect condition for sales super stars to create sales velocity for your team and add real dollars to your bottom line. Will your huge growth year be sucked into a sales force sink hole when one, two or even three of your top salespeople leave? How can you be sure your year is built on a strong foundation for sales growth? In a recent survey 60% of employees said they will change jobs when the economy improves . What would happen in your company if the 60% who leave are all your A players ( and may become competitors)? In my next post I will discuss how to keep sales super stars on your team and how to attract other market leading sales super stars to want to join your team.


As the owner and or leader of your business I can hear some of you saying; “Mark, the above examples are obvious reasons why anyone would leave including a sales super star. However in my company this would never happen.

Are you sure? I have seen each  of the above, and many more occur in companies just like yours.

 

 

 

 

Dispel 5 Myths about Fixing Sales Today and Insure Strong Future Sales

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Over the last few weeks I have been discussing common myths business owners and leaders believe to be true about the fixing sales problems and how to immunize future sales performance. I recently went for my annual flu shot and the myths people in line were discussing as truths reminded me of the five main myths sales leaders need to lose to fix poor sales performance and how we can immunize future sales results. Before I can help you fix your sales problems we need to dispel the 5 myths that you may be carrying as market truths;

 

You cannot Train your way out of a sales problems alone.

 

You cannot Manage your way to improved sales alone.

 

The Economy is not the only reason for your poor sales performance alone.

 

Hiring outside help to work on your Sales Process will not hurt your current sales.

 

Just because you have Good Sales Now does not immunize you from future poor sales results.

 

What is the best way to immunize your sales performance from poor results?

 

Clean Sales Management

 

Clean Sales Management as I shared in a previous post entails being in your market on four legged sales calls with your sales team. As a reminder, you are not there to close sales but to observe buyers.

 

You need to answer;

 

Why do buyers buy from you and why don’t they?

 

What is their buyer journey today?

 

What sales process is your team using? (… if any)

 

What are common buyer personas your team is presenting?

 

What criteria are important to your buyers today?

 

When your buyers shop for a solution, where do they go, what process do they use?

 

Are there any “Spin Cycles” in your current sales process that no longer mirror how your buyers are buying today? (Spin cycle- those places in the sales process where the sale stalls, spins, or even goes dark)

 

What tools could your salespeople use to overcome or eliminate buyer Spin Cycles?

 

As a sales manager, and more so if you are the VP of Sales you have a number of activities all vying for your time and attention. Having been a VP of Sales and Marketing myself I experienced the following all pulling me like they had a gravitational power of their own;

 

Your CEO and President want answers to specific questions

 

Hitting your new sales goals

 

Hitting your profit objectives

 

Controlling expenses

 

IT wants to book SAP training and your opinion on what a CRM should do

 

A/R wants help collecting from difficult customers

 

Marketing wants your sales guys to ask their buyers …. (you fill in the blanks)

 

Forecasting

 

Cost of Quality meetings

 

Meeting with the CFO forecasting ROI and sales forecast for new products

 

HR wanting to have succession plans in place, quarterly performance reviews, performance improvement plans, and on-boarding discussions

 

Product Development wanting to know why we are not hitting new product sales

 

Meetings with Product Engineering discussing problems with their last new design

 

Product Marketing wanting to meet about why sales is not closing a higher % of leads

 

Social Media group wanting stories from the field

 

More meetings you did not even know were on the list

 

…do I need to keep typing or do you agree I have lived this?

 

If you try to do all of the above you can quickly become an “an office bound VP of sales” and this is the beginning of the death of a sales VP. The reality is you (we) need to do all of the above and more. However what keeps us employed, hitting our bonus objectives and answering the top four activities above; answering President and CEO questions strategically and timely, hitting sales goals, achieving profit objectives and controlling expenses…you need to be in the market practicing clean sales management. In your market you become aware of market changes, viruses, which can infect your sales results early and keep your team’s sales performance on plan.

Good Sales Results Today Does Not Immunize Your Sales Team From Poor Sales Performance in the Future

By Mark Allen Roberts

Assuming since you have never experienced poor sales results you never will is like assuming since you have never caught the flu you will never get sick. I hear it all the time; “Mark your content about staying close to how and why your buyers are buying is interesting but we don’t have a Sales Problem to fix”. Congratulations, and I hope it stays that way. My personal experience for over 30 years now has seen however businesses operate in cycles. One predictable cycle you want to avoid is when the phone “just stops ringing” and you don’t know why.

The leading cause of why businesses experience poor sales performance is losing touch with their market, their buyers, and specifically how they buyers buy and the criteria they are using today.

I returned home from Walgreens after getting my annual flu shot and my mind was racing with all the misperceptions the others in line were sharing about the flu, how you get it, how to cure it and so on. Imagine my surprise when my own wife said “why do you get a flu shot every year?….I have never had a flu shot and I have never had the flu” I went on to share with her that I am happy she has never been sick with the flu, and that just because she has never had the flu it does not mean she never will. The flu changes, evolves and new strains are born everyday and she may have been immune to the past strains but that is no assurance she is immune to current or future viruses.

I will close out this train of posts on how just as there are myths about the flu we also find myths about sales, sales performance and how to prevent poor sales performance. Myths that become beliefs over time are dangerous as they often impede and impair the preventative measures that could have kept your business healthy. Businesses you do not stay close to their markets and their buyers run the risk of poor sales. If your business is in the practice of telling your market as apposed to serving your market are already infected and will experience a poor sales performance outbreak often at the least convenient time. As someone who helps businesses get back on track and build sales velocity, I listen for common statements that indicate a virus is present in the core of their sales team. I listen for comments like;

Our buyers don’t need that…

Our buyers do not value …..

No one in our industry does…so why should we?

Our customers are not smart enough to understand…

Everyone in our industry has this policy …

We have been in business for 50 years we know what our buyers need…

We can not afford to ….

And my recent personal favorite: No buyers in our industry use the internet or social media in making buying decisions.

As I have said before, (and will probably say again soon) you could say that…but you would be wrong!

As someone who spends time in markets, a variety of markets, meeting with buyers on a regular basis one common trait they all have is buyers use the internet to educate themselves. The role sales once played as keepers of the product features and benefits information keys is over. Industry statistics show  70%-80% of the sales process is over before the buyer calls you today. Where are they gathering information about products that can solve their immediate problems? We see they are using the internet, social networks, industry trade group forums, and utilizing technology to gain product referrals and recommendations.

Not sold yet? Don’t believe me? Ok….In a recent Forbes article the author shared 19 things successful people do using social media. The article shares how 69% of adults admit to using social media. Ah ..I hear those voices again …”Not in OUR industry Mark”…Really?

Lets take a look at a recent white paper by HIS Global Spec titled; Social media use in the Industrial Sector. I really want everyone to download and read this report’s content. Some of the findings included;

  • 81% follow business / groups within their industry
  • 26% reference or read work related content
  • 36% had a Google + account
  • 47% view you-tube for work related purposes
  • 85% viewed you-tube product demos
  • 80% viewed How to video on you-tube

Why? Why and how are people even in the industrial B2B sector using Social media?

  • 52% keep up with the latest industry news and technology
  • 48% reach additional contacts and network
  • 37% find peer reviews and recommendations

If your business does not believe that up to 80% of your buyers are doing their homework on the web prior to calling your salesperson, or that your buyers are not using social media I can only guarantee you one thing; your company is invisible to a large number of buyers who are actively searching to solve problems your company can solve for them. Web sites that are basically virtual brochures that take up cyber space because we are supposed to have one because everyone else does do not help sales teams achieve sales goals or create a 21st Century Sales Pipeline.

Market leaders understand how their buyers buy, where they shop and gather information and leverage technology to insure their product or service solution is found.

Has anyone on your team said: “our buyers do not use the internet”?

Have you been in a meeting where a senior leader said we do not need to invest in that social media mumbo jumbo…?

How were your sales results from your last new product launch?

Are your salespeople asking for more or less qualified leads to meet with?

Some business leaders believe because they have never had sales problems in the past they never will and this is like believing if you have never had the flu you never will. The reality is just as flu viruses change over time so too will your buyers, their buyer journey and buying criteria. One change we all must face is buyers today are using the internet more than ever before and they are leveraging social media. To immunize your sales from future sales problems you must embrace the process of understanding how your buyers buy and strategically embrace new technologies the buyers are using today.

Improve Sales; Practice “Clean Sales Management”

By Mark Allen Roberts

Relying on old dated and often false market beliefs will result in sick sales performance. Growing your business profitably is not about continuing to consume the beliefs that got you here in hope they will help you to grow in the future. The only way sales leaders can insure their sales teams do not experience poor sales performance is to practice “clean sales management” daily.

In my last post I shared how sick sales performance is much like catching the flu, and far too often sales leaders believe a number of myths about what caused the poor performance and how to cure sick sales. Another myth about how to improve sales is to do more of what you have always done. This like believing if you normally take a handful of vitamins each day, taking two will cure the flu… it’s simply not true. Some believe they just need to better manage (micro manage) their way to healthy sales and this is simply not true. The flu is something you catch by coming in contact with it. You touched a door knob, a car door, shook someone’s hand and you picked up the flu virus. At some point that virus then entered your system and you got sick. The best method of avoiding catching the flu is to wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer so the virus is killed before it enters your body.

Practicing clean sales management involves being in your market with your salespeople on four legged sales calls. You wash those old beliefs that may have got you to this point clean each day and humbly approaching your market and listening and observing  how buyers want to buy, the process they are using today, and the criteria that they require to purchase from you.

Understanding how your buyers are buying today and what their buyer’s journey looks like , is like taking a daily shower in hand sanitizer ; it immunizes your sales team from poor sales performance.

Doing more of what you have always done is not the way to fix poor sales performance today. You must get out in your market and clearly understand the problems your buyers have and how they seek to solve them.

How are your sales performing to date?

Are you trying to manage fruit ripe? Or are you strategically, humbly, seeking to understand your market?

Is someone in your senior leadership team starting conversations with; “When I carried a sales bag we….”?

Is anyone in your senior leadership Monday KPI meetings starting their point with “I think we should…..” instead of sharing current market data?

Practicing clean sales management is the only way to immunize your sales team from poor sales performance. If you find your team is experiencing sick sales it’s often because you allowed an old belief of how and why your buyers buy to infect your sales process. The quickest cure is to get out in your market and determine how your buyers are buying today.

Improve Sales; Hiring Outside Help To Work On Your Sales Process Will Not Make Your Sales Results Worse


The first quarter of each new year often starts out as a struggle for sales teams to achieve their new goals. Your sales team has received a new and bigger goal, (there’s a high probability they missed last year’s goal) and now your team’s sales performance is poor or put another way; it is sick. When you ask business leaders why they will not hire someone to help  improve sales performance and immunize their team from future performance issues we often hear a fear that the market work will actually hurt sales and cause sales results to get sicker.

Assuming your team’s poor sales performance to goal will get worse by hiring an outsider to help your team is like believing if you get a flu shot, you will catch the flu….it is simply not true.

As I shared in a previous post it is not just a sales training problem, a sales management problem, or a poor economy alone. It is often so much more. Before we can clearly diagnose why your sales team is experiencing poor sales performance we need to identify a squash myths your team may believe.

I was in the line at Walgreens to receive my annual flu shot and I could not help but listen as people in line shared myths that they believed to be true about the flu and the flu shot it’s self. This reminded me of the myths I have heard over the years about poor sales performance and I wanted to dispel some of the reasons people use to rationalize poor sales performance. One that always amazes is me is leaders who chose to go it alone and actually believe working on their sales process will somehow hurt their sales.

Hiring an outsider who conducts win loss analysis will add a tremendous amount of value quickly. They will interview current customers, past customers and buyers in your market you have always wanted to sell. Their mission, if they are good is to identify the buying process, buyer journey and buying criteria your buyers  are using today. They will compare how buyers are buying and want to buy to your current sales process and identify what I call “spin cycles”. Spin cycles in the current sales process are places the sales stalls and basically spins instead of proceeding to the next step. Spin cycles are resolved by adding needed sales tools and or adjusting your current sales process steps.

If your team fails to stay current with how buyers are buying in your market your team risks contracting a disconnected market virus. The longer the virus runs in course through your team the more difficult it will be to cure. There are no quick pills, quick fixes, and without senior management support to cure this condition it can become terminal.

There is only one situation where conducting market win loss work can and often does hurt your sales is when you interview a buyer currently in the sales process. Buyers in the current sales process must not be interviewed until the sale is closed or lost.

How about your team….

Have you noticed an increase in price discounting over the last three months?

Has your sales close % decreased in the last 30 days?

Are 60% or more of your sales team missing sales plan goals?

Have you lost a key account (or two) in the last 120 days?

The above are some of the symptoms your sales and specifically your sales process are sick and your team has a disconnected market virus. There are no quick fixes for viruses but the best defense is a strong offence. A flu shot will expose your body to a very small sample of the flu and allow your body to build your immunities over time. Staying current with how your buyers are buying and the buying criteria they are using to make buying decisions is the best way to immunize your sales from experiencing poor sales results.

I would be remiss if I did not warn you that win loss analysis and working on your sales process will likely have some side affects;

  • challenge assumptions your senior leaders believed to be true and they will become uncomfortable
  • expose disconnected and dated processes
  • can cause some emotional upset when you learn lost sales were not based on price
  • may give your marketing team heartburn when you find 80% of the buying process is done before buyers call you and your current web site is invisible
  • may make you feel ill when you learn how your salespeople believe their main responsibility is to protect the fort and not help buyers buy

The side affect will pass overtime and your team will quickly become stronger and your sales results healthier as you adjust your sales process and introduce new sales tools to help your buyers buy.

Improve Sales; You Can’t Have Poor Sales Performance because of “The Economy” Alone


The first quarter of each new year often starts out as a struggle for sales teams to achieve their new goals. Your sales team has received a new and bigger goal, (there’s a high probability they missed last year’s goal) and now your team’s sales performance is poor or put another way; it is sick. When you ask your salespeople why you will often hear them rationalize  since “the economy” is bad  their sales performance is also suffering. Assuming your team’s poor sales performance to goal is solely based on a “poor economy” is like believing if you go to bed with a wet head you will wake up with the flu…it’s simply not true.

As I shared in a previous post it is not just a sales training problem, or a sales management problem it is often so much more. Before we can clearly diagnose why your sales team is experiencing poor sales performance we need to identify a squash myths your team may believe.

I was in the line at Walgreens to receive my annual flu shot and I could not help but listen as people in line shared myths that they believed to be true about the flu and the flu shot it’s self. This reminded me of the myths I have heard over the years about poor sales performance and I wanted to dispel some of the reasons people use to rationalize poor sales performance.

I remember my mother telling us kids that if we went to bed with a wet head we would wake up sick. So we made sure we completely dried our hair before we went to sleep each night. We believed this to be true so we took action based on that belief. The strange thing is we still got sick on occasion and on those nights we did go to sleep with a wet head, we did not wake up sick the next day. (our hair may have had a mind of its own in the morning but we were not sick) However now as a parent I find myself sharing this myth with my children as if it were true. If you look into and investigate this myth you find that is it simply not true. (Sorry mom)

What myths do you and your sales teams believe to be true but make no sense?

One way salespeople today are rationalizing poor sales performance is; the economy. Specifically they share that the economy is the reason why they are not achieving their sales goals. It’s a lot easier to blame external factors than to look inwardly. Blaming the economy is actually a sign your team lacks accountability and is identified as one of the five sales management blunders. What is scary to me is so many actually believe this to be true. Admittedly the economy has an impact on sales performance. With the economic conditions  we have been living in buyers have changed. As the leader of your business you must understand those buying process and buying criteria changes and adjust. If you do not one day you will wake up with sick sales and your lack of market knowledge will be showingthis is usually where the “sales hunter” becomes the hunted.

As a leader you must not accept your sales team feeling like victims to the economy and you must position them to becoming victors in your marketplace.

How is your team performing to goal?

Have any of your sales team shared: “The Economy” as the reason they cannot hit their sales goals?

When was the last time you went on four-legged sales calls to see for yourself?

Do you know why buyers buy from you? Why they don’t?

Are you practicing “clean sales management”?

Believing “The Economy” is the main reason your sales team is not achieving goal is like believing if you go to bed with a wet head you will wake up with the flu….it is simply not true. If you want to identify the truth cancel a few meetings and get out in your market and ask some questions. After about 6-8 meetings with buyers you will identify true “why’s” that are contributing to your poor sales performance and be well on your way to creating a sales improvement roadmap that will turn around your results.

Improve Sales; How do you improve sick sales before they become terminal? Not a sales management issue

In my last post I shared that sales teams have received their new sales goals and often the results first quarter are sick and not close to plan. This time of year in particular, sick sales is an epidemic. Unfortunately their leaders misdiagnose the symptoms and the sales flu lingers and sick sales can become terminal if not properly treated. One common mistake teams make is assuming they can just manage their sales teams to better performance.

As I shared in a post some time ago; “you can not manage fruit ripe”. Curing sick sales is not about taking a quick pill and driving your sales team to work harder. However if you ask CEO’s a number 32% of them believe they just need to make their salespeople work harder. That’s one of the reasons why I often share with companies that sales should not report directly to the CEO?

As we discussed symptoms of your team having the sales flu include;

  • new product sales missing plan by 30% or more
  • key sales performers leaving after last year’s bonus’s are paid
  • gross profit decrease of 3% or greater in the last 30 days
  • loss of a key account
  • 40% or more of your sales team missing sales goals
  • Your competitor launched a new product that took the market by storm

If you misdiagnose the sales flu as a sales management problem you are likely to start popping some quick pills to remedy the symptoms like; launch a CRM system, increase the frequency of sales meetings, add new sales reports, and possibly start interviewing new potential team members to upgrade your talent.

CRM solution

I am not saying adding a CRM system or upgrading the one you have will not add value. However if you do not clearly understand the process buyers are using to buy , and mirror your repeatable sales process to the way buyers want to buy, even the best CRM system will not help your teams results.

Increase the frequency of sales meetings

I see teams go from quarterly and month sales meetings to weekly sales meetings when sales results need to improve. Managers who use this tactic believe the problem they are having is an accountability problem and subscribe to the old adage “ the beatings will stop when the moral improves” and we know that is not the case. They believe if the salespeople have to report poor results, frequently enough, the sales results will improve. From my experience this will not motivate your top sales performers and actually result in their leaving your team and joining a competitor.

Add new sales reports

The assumption with this tactic is the salespeople do not know their sales results are sick so adding a few more reports will somehow improve their sales results. This tactic, like more meetings, results in your salespeople spending more time not selling and actually hurts your teams sales performance.

Hire new salespeople

Leaders who immediately start interviewing new salespeople when their sales performance is sick are looking for a quick fix and often fail to consider they may be introducing a new disease to their current team. This tactic believes the reason for your poor sales performance has to be your people and its time to upgrade your talent. If a sales manager on your team recommends this tactic I guarantee its because they have not spent enough time in the market with their current salespeople. In my experience the biggest reason why sales performance suffers is poor marketing and not understanding the sales opportunity, and not inexperienced sales people.

Is your team considering the purchase of a new CRM to improve sales?

Have you already announce more frequent sales meetings to fix sales?

Are you asking your salespeople to spend more time writing reports and less time in front of buyers?

Have you started looking for new sales talent to upgrade your team’s skills?

All of the above may make you feel someone better, but you are not taking the time to truly diagnose the reason(s) your sales performance is not meeting goal. The quickest way to truly understand what your salespeople are experiencing is spending time on four legged calls meeting with potential buyers.Trying to improve sales performance without clearly understanding your market is like taking an antibiotic to make the flu go away.” You may  feel you are taking the appropriate action but the sick sales symptoms will linger and often make your entire team miserable.