Increase Sales Profitably: Put A Collar On Non-Selling Behaviors

Increase Sales Profitably: Put a Collar on Non-Selling Behaviors

 

 

What % of your salesperson’s time is actually spent selling today? (are you sitting down?) The average salesperson is spending less than 20% of what I call “sellable time” actually doing sales behaviors today. That’s a problem, a big sales problem we need to fix to keep our sales leaders, owners and shareholders happy. In this post we will discuss how to put a collar on non-sales behaviors.

 

Meet Duke, pictured above. He is our current Lab rescue. Our family fosters Labs, and Lab mixes for the Lake Erie Lab Rescue. (an awesome non-profit organization of people who love animals) When the rescue found Duke he was a hot mess: two ear infections, could not put weight on a hind leg, underweight by about 20 lbs., lime disease, and also anemic.

 

For the last few months we developed a plan to bring him back to health so we could find him a forever home. Our plan had very specific behaviors we executed, tracked and even logged on medical forms. We gave him various medicines and a special food. We slowly started walking him and exercising him including water therapy. We put drops in his ears and basically loved on him. He was not thrilled about all these new behaviors but is a gentle old soul and went along with it.

 

The last thing we always do before adoption is spay or neuter. The surgery went great and Duke came home. To insure the incision healed we had to make sure Duke did not bother it. We corrected him many times but his nature was to lick the incision and it started to get infected. So we collared this behavior with a cone he wears for a few weeks.

 

So what does a lab rescue with a cone collar have to do with growing your sales profitably?

 

I thought you would never ask!

 

If you want to increase your sales profitably and create sales velocity for years to come you need to reinforce the sales behaviors you have seen that drive profitable sales and collar non-selling behaviors.

 

Like what?

 

If you read my content you know I have served many companies in a variety of markets both domestic and international over the last 35 years. At the fear of sounding like an attorney, the answer to what behaviors drive profitable sales for you depends. It depends on your company, markets and what your buyer’s journey looks like. That is why we do voice of the customer work and data analysis before we develop strategies and plans.

 

If you have done your voice of the customer work you understand what your buyers want and need in their buying journey. You know their buyer personas, and the value drivers for their businesses.

 

I have worked with 1,000’s of salespeople that have been on my teams and on distributor sales teams and some of the common behaviors I have seen salespeople doing include:

 

Lead Generation

Building and leveraging relationships

Qualifying opportunities

Qualifying prospects

Qualifying leads

Follow up

Making presentations

Servicing customer needs for information on deliveries

Account management

Networking

Trade shows/ Industry conferences

Territory management

Creating monthly email newsletter blasts

Training and education

Training accounts and distributors

Handling Quality issues

Helping AR collect past due funds

Searching for content

Driving and transportation

Creating new customer target lists

Lead nurturing campaigns

Writing content for industry articles and trade publications

Weekly reports

Call reports

CRM updates

Phone calls

Emails

Social Selling

Customer visits to your plant or corporate office

Applications advice

Helping customers sort parts that may have quality issues

Visiting end users with distributors

Tracking order status

Expediting ship dates

Finding out why orders did not ship on time

Dealing with product damages that occurred in shipping

Reviewing plant inventory

Personal Social Media

Personal emails

Webinar training updates

Team sales meetings

Product demonstrations

Creating content

Working with field service to resolve customer problems

Entertaining customers

Booking hotel rooms

Booking airfare

Booking rental cars

Expense reports

Family time

Workout time

Plant tours with customers

Driving late orders to customers

Picking up material and driving to your plant to help make late order re-promises

Meeting with customer engineers and influencers

Meeting with other buyers at key accounts

Meeting with C-suite executives at key accounts

Product installation and repair

Monitoring and helping with product tests

Distributor training

Distributor management

Customer audits and assessments

Computer and IT issues

Booking advertisements

Managing point of purchase

Ordering content for customers and distributors

Company vehicle cleaning and maintenance

Ordering and stocking sales tools

Creating new sales tools

Customer events and outings

 

And you thought you had a lot to do…

 

Is it any wonder when we ask salespeople why they are not prospecting for new business at current and new accounts say it is because they are too busy?

 

Is it any surprise we find the below statistics for sales teams today?

 

The Average Salesperson spends less than 20% of their time selling today

 

30% + of time searching for sales tools (or building them and that’s really scary)

 

40%-50% administrative

 

10%+ non-selling activities

 

Multitasking decreases productivity by 20-40%

 

Workers waste an average of 40% of their workday because they have never been taught organizational skills and how to focus on behaviors that matter.

 

I have yet to meet a salesperson that is not busy. We are all hard working competitive people and the top performers are seen as strategic advisors by their customers.

 

The question becomes: is your sales team busy doing the behaviors you know drive profitable sales based on the VOC work and sales analysis data, or are they just busy?

 

Here’s the deal…some salespeople believe if they are busy they are safe. So they get real busy. How do they determine what to do? There is a high probability they are doing what their sales manager did when they were in sales. They are prisoners to an out-dated sales process…Let that sink in a minute or two.

 

“You mean to tell me my salespeople are doing the behaviors my sales team did say 20 years ago? 20 years ago before we had a customer service department, the Internet, a CRM system, a formal sales process? Before we spent all that money with the consulting firm? Before invested in new IT systems? Before we invested in a marketing department?

 

Yep!

 

Salespeople, like all of us, will gravitate to their comfort zone of behaviors they like to do. If someone has been in sales for any length of time they likely spend a great deal of time in service and relationship activities.

 

One last consideration is fear. Sales people have been managed (not led, true leaders inspire and motivate they do not use fear) by fear for years. If you are fear filled the creative and strategic part of your brain shuts off. So they do not see what behaviors drive the best results so they do what they are told and stay “busy” to feel safe. They are in fight or flight mode.

 

The shame is busy salespeople lack focus and they often experience problems and not hitting their sale numbers like 70% of the sales people and then what do you do? We put them on a PIP…performance improvement plan and share what happens if they don’t improve. Then we see behaviors that really hurt the bottom lines like unnecessary discounting, extended payment terms, promises our products and services could never meet. This results in more fear, even more busy behaviors, more stress, altercations with other departments and so it goes.

 

How do we put a collar on non-sales behaviors?

 

Do your voice of the customer work

Create buyer personas

Map buying journey and what buyers need today to make a buying decision

Mirror your sales process to the buying process 

Determine the behavior your data shows drives sales velocity today

Determine the top 5 behaviors that drive the sales you want

Train your sales leaders 

Train your sales people 

Train support departments on new sales process and how they help

Establish / reinforce service expectations for support departments

Track support indicators weekly

Create leading indicator behaviors sales must execute

Measure those behaviors

Have sales report on those behaviors weekly and in each coaching discussion

Coach those behaviors on four legged sales calls with your team

Coach sales to eliminate, put a collar on non-selling behaviors 

Inspect what you expect

Reinforce behaviors you want

 

When we implemented the above in a number of companies we experienced:

  • Sales growth exceeding 20%-40% year over year
  • Gross profit increases of 6%-10% in 18 months
  • Customer satisfaction increase
  • New business increases at current accounts
  • New customers (one company realized over 200 new large accounts in 12 months)
  • Sales close rate increases of 30%-50%
  • Improved moral inside sales team
  • Improved sales efficiency
  • Reduced cost of customer acquisition
  • Improved relationships with other departments
  • Reduced marketing expense
  • Improved engagement form entire team
  • Reduced turnover
  • Reduced recruiting expenses

 

If you want profitable sales increases you must focus your sales teams behaviors on those activities that drive the maximum return. When your sales team is aligned with what buyers have shared they need and you deliver it when they need it in their buying process your team too will experience the healthy sales results above too.

 

As for Duke, he is meeting with his new forever family today. He is happy, healthy and not only walking on his hind leg but running! He did not want to do everything we had to do get him strong and healthy but we coached and trained the behaviors that would lead to this day where he will be placed with a loving family, and put a collar on those behaviors that did not support our long term goals.

Increase Sales: Sweet Sales And Profits From Value Based Sales

Increase Sales: Sweet Sales and Profits from Value Based Sales

 

 

In my last post: The Oscar for Best B2B Sales Methodology goes to Value Based Sales I shared why a Value Based Sales method is by far the best B2B sales method. Over the last 34 years of solving sales problems I have observed sales teams using a variety of sales methods. In this post I will share how one team I served leveraged value based sales into sweet sales and profits and created a lifetime customer.

 

If value based sales produces more profitable sales faster why do so few salespeople use this sales method?

 

From what I have observed in the field on four legged sales calls coaching my sales teams the average B2B salesperson is much more comfortable discussing their products features and benefits than the customers’ market and business issues.

 

However when you ask buyers what they value and how salespeople can become more important they want B2B sales representatives discussing and sharing solutions that are relevant to their business.

 

 

According to SBI, on average 87% of the revenues in complex B2B sales environments are being generated by just 13% of the sales population.

 

Value based pricing adds value in B2B sales.

 

As Value Based sales thought leader Bob Apollo shares:

 

This terrible mismatch has profound consequences. 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 across their entire sales and marketing organization. And the results can be seen in top line revenue growth that far exceeds market averages.”

 

In 2000 I was asked to help a company Innis Maggiore. Back then they were called an advertising and marketing company. They had been my vendor partner for years. Today they have evolved into one of the top strategic positioning firms in North America. They wanted my help landing large accounts with the focus on creating lifetime customers.

 

The trouble is all large accounts have marketing departments who own strategy and already have relationships with advertising firms. What most business development salespeople do is try to wear down the buyers with features and benefits of their services, all the awards they have received and so on.

 

Our team created a list of large accounts that matched our ideal customer profile and one of those accounts was Harry London’s Chocolates just 4 miles from our corporate offices. Harry London’s Chocolates are a premium chocolate supplier and we wanted to serve their team because everything they did demonstrated a value for quality and providing their customers a strong buying experience.

 

We tried sending brochures and examples of our work. We called their marketing department with a regular cadence  and dropped of creative demential mailers…nothing. We heard “ we are happy with what we have, and if we ever need your help we will call you.” (They even say no thanks in a quality way…we have to work with this company.)

 

What if we took a Value Based Sales approach?

 

We did market research into possible new markets for Harry London’s. Our firm had experience serving the floral industry for many years and about 30% of a florist’s revenue are non-flower product like vases, candles and even …chocolates. (Interesting)

 

We did more research and used our relationships in the floral industry and found:

 

Number of florists: about 33,000 retailers

Revenue of industry: $7 Billion

Approximately 30% of revenue not flowers: $2 Billion

Estimate of possible Chocolate sales: $750 Million

If we won just 10% of market share: $75 million in incremental sales

Estimated Gross Profit impact to Harry London: $25 Million

 

We interviewed three local florists on tape and asked them about their business, their challenges and how they increase sales and profits. Each business owner mentioned adding non-floral  products to their services. We asked about chocolates and they all admitted they use chocolates as an added value offering to bouquets. (Back then the interviews where on VHS tapes and the cameras were so big we looked like a news crew). We asked what brand of chocolates they were using? None could share the brand. (sounds like an opportunity for a leader in quality chocolates to position themselves) We asked if they ever heard of Harry London’s chocolates and what that brand meant. They all shared yeas, and their perception was it was one of the top quality chocolate manufacturers, We asked if they thought using a premium brand chocolate supplier like Harry London’s would give them the opportunity to increase their selling price and increase their gross profits because their consumers would value this brand and each agreed it would.

 

I reached out to the CEO of Harry London’s chocolates.

 

First he received an amazing custom floral bouquet with his chocolates in the arrangements with a short note: “we found a sweet new profit opportunity for your company, I will be calling you this afternoon to discuss it. Mark Allen Roberts , Innis Maggiore”

 

That afternoon I called the CEO and my call went through to him. I asked for 20 minutes latter that week to share a new market opportunity, and I asked if we could have a TV and VHS player in the room and he agreed, …but just 20 minutes.

 

We started the meeting exactly on time and shared the size of the market opportunity and our estimates and some of his senior leaders baulked at our hypothesis. I remember sharing : “tell you what, lets say we are wrong, lets say we are off by as much as 20%…that would still be a huge amount of incremental revenue wouldn’t it?”

 

“Nothing speaks louder than the voice of customers”

  • Mark Allen Roberts

 

About 10 minutes had passed and we could tell they were interested but skeptical.

 

You know that look like …if this was a good idea we would already be doing it …look?

 

We put in the VHS tape the player and you could have heard a pin drop.

 

The senior leaders were listening and watching florists share how they would value buying their high quality premium chocolates.

 

I looked at my watch, about 18 minutes had passed so I took out the tape when it was over, closed my portfolio and said: “we promised to only take 20 minutes, thank you for your time, and we would appreciate the opportunity to help your team add $20-$25 million in incremental profits in the floral market, a market our firm has served for over 20 years…” and I started to get up from the conference table.

 

Their CEO said: “where are you going?…please sit down lets discuss this more and tell me more about your company.”

 

After following up and some negotiating we won their business back in 2000 and even after they were acquired years later , Innis Maggiore still has their business in 2018. Why? Because when all the other ad firms (and there are many of them) came in talking about their company and all their awards and cutting their hourly rates, we came in and gave Harry London’s Chocolates a new business opportunity that would increase sales and ultimately add net income to their bottom line.

 

That was a Value Based Sales Approach.

 

Lets break it down to its key components:

 

  • Determine your companies value drivers, how you create value for your customers’ businesses
  • What possible new customers match your ideal customer profile
  • Research the company
  • Research their leaders
  • Take time to understand their value proposition, brand and positioning
  • Take time to understand the business of your customers’ business
  • Know your customers’ markets
  • Create a challenge, a hypothesis, a way to create value for them
  • Present the hypothesis in the language of business
  • Build trust in every aspect of communication
  • Follow up
  • Negotiate after you establish value
  • Close with clear next steps
  • Follow up and verify the value created
  • Ask for another opportunity to create value

 

 

How do your salespeople sell today?

 

Why do you win sales?

 

Why do you loose sales?

 

Does your team use a value-based model?

 

Why wouldn’t a value-based sales model work for your salespeople?

 

That CEO is now the CEO of a custom candle company. Maybe my old team at Innis Maggiore needs to send another custom floral bouquet with a candle made from bees wax?

 

Like I shared in posts about the value of doing voice of the customer work in a number of posts sharing examples, I will share other value based sales examples in the next few posts so stay tuned.

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Selling on Price

 

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

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

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

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

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

Innovative

Best in class

Best Quality

Top performance

Flexible

Groundbreaking

Scalable

Robust

Cutting Edge

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

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

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

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

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

All of these and more are sales based on price.

 

 

Relationship Sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Product Sales

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Lone Wolf / Sales Mercenaries

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

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

I had a friend share once:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Consultative Sales

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

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

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

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

 

The Challenger Sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t believe me?

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

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

Enough said.

 

Agile Sales

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Value Based Sales Methodology

 

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

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

Increase Sales

Reduce Costs

Increase Net Income

Improve Efficiency

Increase Market Share

Reduce the Cost of Sale

Increase Sales Close Rate

Increase Gross Margins

 

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

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

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

 

Faster selling cycles

Higher Gross Profits per sale

Higher lifetime value of customer revenue

Higher sales to close %

Higher customer satisfaction

 

… but admittedly it is not easy!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What Sales Methodology do you want your salespeople using?

 

What Sales Methodology are they using?

 

How do you know?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Best supporting Oscar without any drama goes to Sales Enablement.

 

Are You A Prisoner To An Out Dated Sales Process? Break Free With VOC And Sales Enablement

Are you a Prisoner to an Out dated Sales Process? Break Free with VOC and Sales Enablement

 

 

In my last post I shared how to determine if your sales team is following an out dated sales process. If your team is experiencing declining sales, lower profit per sale, losing orders you should have won and a decline in your sales close % you have a out dated sales process. If your sales team can’t seem to open new markets or sell new products you have an outdated sales process. In this post I share how you can stop being a prisoner to an out dated sales process and break free of poor sales results.

The first step in solving any problem is clearly defining the issues and impacts or as I like to say: “ throwing the skunk on the table”.

Sales is a changing process in today’s markets and we must constantly be sensing those changes and adjusting to them.

Some sales problems sales teams are experiencing today include:

  • Buyers going dark, you thought you had good sales meetings and now no feedback
  • Longer sales process from first meeting to close
  • More influencers involved in purchase decisions
  • Gross margin per sale declining
  • More competitors
  • Strong price pressure
  • Buyers commoditizing products and services
  • Up to 70% of buying journey is over before buyers speak with a salesperson
  • Buyers choosing to do nothing
  • Buyers choosing to solve their needs internally
  • Difficulty in having discussions with buyers
  • Faster service requirements
  • Buyers wanting JIT and not large stocking orders
  • Buyers needing 100% on time delivery
  • Higher quality expectation
  • Real time conversations – wanting answers now when they have them, immediate response

The above are some challenges sales teams are facing with buyers today and there are many more.

When sales, marketing, customer service, Hr and operations align sales teams break free of the above sales problems and win more business.

The trouble is sales and marketing are often not working strategically together and this leaves them both in a prison of their own making.

Are you familiar with what is referred to as : The Prisoner’s Dilemma ?

I found the below explanation on Wikipedia in case this is new to you.

 

The prisoner’s dilemma is a standard example of a game analyzed in game theory that shows why two completely “rational” individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. It was originally framed by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher working at RAND in 1950. Albert W. Tucker formalized the game with prison sentence rewards and named it, “prisoner’s dilemma”

Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They hope to get both sentenced to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to: betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent.

The offer is:

  • If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
  • If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
  • If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge)

It is implied that the prisoners will have no opportunity to reward or punish their partner other than the prison sentences they get, and that their decision will not affect their reputation in the future. Because betraying a partner offers a greater reward than cooperating with them, all purely rational self-interested prisoners would betray the other, and so the only possible outcome for two purely rational prisoners is for them to betray each other.[1] The interesting part of this result is that pursuing individual reward logically leads both of the prisoners to betray, when they would get a better reward if they both kept silent. In reality, humans display a systemic bias towards cooperative behavior in this and similar games, much more so than predicted by simple models of “rational” self-interested action.[2][3][4][5] A model based on a different kind of rationality, where people forecast how the game would be played if they formed coalitions and then maximized their forecasts, has been shown to make better predictions of the rate of cooperation in this and similar games, given only the payoffs of the game.[6]

So what does the “prisoners dilemma” have to do with fixing the above sales problems teams are facing today?

A great deal!

When I helped sales and marketing teams in the past, I always heard the same things…

Marketing would share…

  • Sales is a bunch of “prima donna’s” and they want everything served to them spoon fed on a silver platter
  • Sales has no appreciation for marketing
  • We spend so much time and money creating sales tools and we latter find no one is using them
  • I can’t produce great content if I don’t know what’s going on in the market and sales will not take me on calls
  • We give sales leads and they can’t close them
  • We are crushing our leads generated goals but sales can’t seem to close them
  • Why can’t sales sell new products?
  • Why can’t sales sell more of what we have?
  • Why can’t sales win new business in new markets we identified?

Sales would also say….

  • Marketing has no idea what its really like out here..Selling today
  • Marketing spends all this time and money on new brochures and new sell sheets but they are all ”company speak” I can’t use them.
  • Marketing feels so distant from what is really going on out here today its like they think our customers are like they were 10 years ago
  • Marketing gives me “lists” not “leads” ( there’s a big difference) to chase and they are worthless. It takes time to follow up on each and none of them are actually leads.
  • My buyers say they can’t find what they need on our web site
  • I can’t find the sales tools I need quickly in our system
  • We have the worst web site in our industry
  • I spend more time building sales tool than selling anymore
  • if our product had just one more feature I could sell it
  • Marketing launches this new product, or asks us to open new markets but we don’t have the tools to do so

 

The Prisoners Dilemma…instead of working together many teams choose to stay in a poor performance prison for years to come.They betray each other and in the process lengthens  their time in poor results prison.

 

What if Marketing and Sales would stop complaining about each other and defending their silos and work together? If they did they can both break free from the prison of poor performance metrics and in about 8-12 months be free to be the market leaders they were meant to be.

How do sales and marketing teams break free?

Voice of the customer 

Sales Enablement

 

Since I have shared close to 20 articles on the voice of the customer and shared the financial the impact this work has on sales and bottom line, in this post I will discuss the power of sales enablement.

What is Sales Enablement?

 

Lets quickly review 5 definitions…

 

A strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training and coaching services for salespeople and front-line sales managers along the entire customer’s buying journey, powered by technology.

Brain shark 

Sales enablement is the technology, processes, and content that empowers sales teams to sell efficiently at a higher velocity..

Hubspot

“Aligning marketing processes and goals, and then arming sales with tools to improve sales execution and drive revenue.” 

 The Pedowitz Group

Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools that help sales people sell more effectively.

TOPO Blog

Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process that equips sales teams to have consistently effective engagements with prospects and customers throughout the buyer’s journey.”  – Highspot

From my experience, Sales Enablement is about intimately knowing how your buyers buy today and what they need to buy today. Secondly it’s about having the right content at the right time in the buying journey, in the right format that helps your buyers buy. Sales enablement is about teaching your salespeople a sales process that mirrors how buyers are buying. It is about serving your customers .It is about training and coaching salespeople on what you have, where they can find it and when they should use it.

How about your sales and marketing teams?

Are your teams hitting “their goals” but your overall company is losing?

Do you have a sales enablement? How is it working?

Is there any reason why sales enablement would not work in your sales and marketing efforts’?

When sales and marketing teams start working together strategically with voice of the customer and sales enablement, sales and profits increase, new products achieve ROI targets and customer satisfaction scores climb. Sales becomes less of an art and more of a science. 

In future posts we will unpack sales enablement and how you can use sales enablement to break free from a prison of outdated sales processes and grow sales profitably.

 

 

Is Your Team Using An Out Dated Sales Process?…answer A Few Short Questions To Find Out

Is Your Team Using an Out Dated Sales Process?…answer a few short questions to find out

 

 

Many sales teams will have a sales problem this year. They will fail to achieve their sales and profit goals. Is it a sales team motivation issue? Compensation issue? Sales is not working hard enough?…Maybe… but from what I have experienced in most cases sales teams are failing to hit their goals because they are using an out  dated sales process. They are working hard (probably harder and longer than ever before) to execute an out dated sales process that no longer works with how your buyers buy today.In this post I help business leaders quickly determine if they have a dated sales process so you have time to adjust.

 

Everyday salespeople are hitting the streets working hard to achieve their sales goals with the tools and training they were given. Some will hit their goals and have a great year but unfortunately most will not. For those who fail to achieve their sales targets they are often resorting to what I refer to as “Bare Knuckle Selling” . They don’t understand what their buyers want , what criteria buyers are using today, and they do not know the buyer’s buying process. They resort to old out dated sales processes and they will have sales problems this year too if things don’t change quickly. For your sales team members it feels like they are pushing mud uphill and not making any progress.They are doing what they were told to do, using the tools and training they were given but nothing seems to work.

 

In this post I offer 15 questions for business leaders to help you determine if your team is using a dated sales process and what to do if you need to update it.

 

Let’s agree the buying process our buyers’ use has changed significantly in the past 5-10 years and continues to adjust and evolve. If you believe your buyers have not changed how they buy, they are not needing new criteria and there are not more people involved in the buying decision, and your buyers are not doing research online before they buy…you are wrong.( sorry)  It is like your salespeople are playing darts blindfolded. Once in a while a dart may hit the target, but most of their attempts fail to achieve sales velocity. They resort to selling on price and we all know the impact that has on your margins.

 

Sales and marketing teams who recognize strategic shifts in the buying journey and adjust increase sales profitably.

 

Unfortunately most sales teams either lack a sales process or  they are executing an out  dated sales process and they will experience sales problems this year. The severity of the sales problem you will experience is directly related to how far your sales process is disconnected to how buyers are buying today. Luckily most companies just need to make a few minor tweaks to their sales process and build a few new sales tools. However some teams struggle needlessly each year and are selling like their company did 20 years ago.

 

A friend who owns a manufacturing business asked me out to dinner and shared the following :

 

“What keeps me up at night is wondering…will we have a good sales year this year? How can I be sure? As you know I am not a sales guy, my experience is in  in operations and finance. My team assures me this will be our “best year ever” but how can I know for sure? (They told me the same thing last year and we missed our financial metrics significantly). What bothers me most is ….are there any better ways, strategies our team should be using to insure we meet our plan this year? I wish sales was more logical like operations, more of a scienceOur top competitor grew last year and we did not. My gut says there has to be better and smarter ways are out there. Sales should not be so variable, so hit or miss. I can’t have another year with our investors where we find out third quarter our plan did not work.”

 

I asked a question:

 

When was the lat time you and your sales team reviewed your repeatable sales process?

 

If you are like most teams you either lack a formal repeatable sales process or the one you are using is out dated.

 

It sounds like the selling process your team is using feels more like an art than a science?

 

“How can I know if we have an out dated sales process?”

 

Answer a few questions for me…

 

  1. What events trigger your buyers to shop today? Please list at least two.

 

  1. Where do your buyers go when they are looking for a new supplier, new product to solve a problem?

 

  1. When buyers in your industry shop what criteria do they use to make their buying decisions? List and rank the top three.

 

  1. How many people at your ideal customers are involved in the buying decision today? List at least 4 and what each needs.

 

  1. What sales tools, process and or content did sales use to open your last three new accounts? List three.

 

  1. List at least 3 urgent buyer problems your product or service solves for buyers in your industry.

 

  1. What % of the buying journey is done online prior to your fist meeting with a new customer?

 

  1. Why do your current buyers buy from you?

 

  1. In the last 10 quotes that did not buy from you? What were the top three reasons?

 

  1. What is your product’s value proposition that resonates most with your buyers today? Explain the specific financial impact to their business.

 

  1. Who are your top three competitors? what are their value propositions?

 

  1. When buyers choose one of your competitors over your company what is the reason specific to each competitor? List two per competitor.

 

  1. When a new buyer contacts your company, how (what process) and where did they find your company?

 

  1. When a possible net new customer visits your website, where do they spend the most time and what content bought them to your site?

 

  1. Can you describe your top 4 buyer personas? What are they and what does each need to make a buying decision today?

 

We went through the questions and for many he assured me “someone” on his team knew the answers but I could tell he felt uneasy.He asked if I wouldn’t mind emailing these questions and he would ask them at his Monday senior leadership team meeting. I shared how I used to qualify and coach new clients with these questions to help me know where to help most.

 

He suggested I should share our conversation on my blog to help others who may be thinking and feeling the same way as him, which prompted this post.

 

Below are some guidelines for you to consider based on how your team answers these questions and what the probability is your will hit your sales goals this year.

 

If your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently answer 13-15 of the questions…congratulations! Your team is in the top 10% of sales and marketing teams. You know your markets and buyers intimately. You know your buyers’ key criteria and the buying journey they take to purchase products. The plan you have should be market focused and customer centric and you will, if your team executes the plan and uses your sales process and sales tools at the right time in the buying process, have a good sales year.

 

If your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently only answer 10-12 of the questions… your team is doing good and with some voice of the customer work and a few win-loss calls your team can be a top performing sales team in your industry. You need to do some research over the next 30-60 days and adjust your plan, sales process, create new sales tools and train your teams how and when to use them. You could still have a very strong sales and profit year.

 

If your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently only answer 7-9 of the questions… your team has been experiencing some sales and profit challenges over the past few years. You have seen your sales success be highly dependent upon the purchases from large customers your team has sold for 10+ years but you have not been successful at opening net new customers in your markets. You have seen your gross profit margins erode at your large accounts over the last 5 years and if you Google problems your company solves you may not be found in the first two pages of a search. If your customers have a good sales year your team should have an OK sales year, but your bottom line may see some continued erosion like the last few years. Your team will continue to work on operational efficiencies as in the past but they will not contribute as much this year. You have a outdated sales process and you need to update it quickly. You need to do voice of the customer research quickly and map the current buying journey your buyers go through and create a new sales process that mirrors what your buyers want and need today. If you do this quickly your team could have a good sales year.

 

 

If you and your sales and marketing teams could quickly and confidently only answer 6 or less of the questions… Your team will have a sales problem this year and will not hit sales plan and significantly miss your net income target. Sales are flat if not declining for the past few years. Your top sales and marketing leaders may have said when asked about the poor performance:“ our markets are down and we are waiting for the business to return to normal again.” I am sorry to be the one to tell you this is the new normal and you must adjust, you and your team must adapt and quick. Like a ship at sea with a strong wind but no rudder to strategically steer your sales and marketing teams, sales feels more like an art than a science. Your senior leaders meetings are not fun and your company owners and or investors are looking to make changes if the performance does not improve. You will miss plan this year and you will likely see some of your key sales team contributors “just leave” to the surprise of the rest of your team. You will see at least one maybe two of your top customers fade away in the next 12-18 months. You need to quickly do voice of the customer market work, win-loss work and develop a new strategy and new sales process with the right tools at the right times for your buyers or you will have a big sales problem.(again)

 

I was happy to hear in a voice mail message my friend’s team could answer 11 of the above questions. He went on to share what bothered him though was how long it took some of his team to answer these questions.I shared if your team needs hours/days/weeks to answer these questions, they are probably tracking dated performance indicators and not the right KPI’s that drive success today and he may want to adjust what they report on each Monday.

 

How would your team answer the above questions?

 

Are the answers based on current market conditions or “ the way we have always done things around here”?

 

Can your sales and marketing leaders quickly answer these questions or do they need to do some homework?

 

I hope this post helped you do a gut check with your sales and marketing teams to see just how much they know about your markets, buyers, and the buying process your buyers are using today.

 

In my next post I will share how market-leading teams are constantly sensing for shifts in how their buyers buy and the criteria they use to buy, and they adapt.

 

One strategy market leading organizations are using to adapt, align and improve their sales is Sales Enablement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fix Sales Problems With Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Fix Sales Problems With Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The author shares…

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

–       Jeb Blount

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

Buyers buy with emotion and justify their decisions with data

Let that sink in a minute….

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

Jeb Blount captures this later in the book…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huh?

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

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

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

I understand we are your largest distributor in this space.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well?

( my blood was boiling)

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why did this meeting go so bad?

Why did this new punk get to me so much?

 

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

 

  • Bully me

 

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

 

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

 

  • Treat me like I am stupid, inferior mentally

 

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

 

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

 

Why?

 

Emotion!

 

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

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

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

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

Are they prepared?

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

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

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

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

Are your salespeople emotionally intelligent?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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 

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.

Customer Voice Research Identifies Content Buyers Need Today

Customer Voice Research Identifies Content Buyers Need Today

 

 

 

Companies who understand the current voice of their customers and markets outperform teams who keep selling the way we have always sold. Customer voice research helps your team identify shifts in how buyers buy today and the criteria they must have to make a buying decision.

 

In my last post I shared how understanding the current customer voice helps sales teams spend more time selling and less time searching for and creating content.

 

Capturing the current voice of your customers has many benefits as I shared in a guest post recently.

 

  • Increased sales
  • Increased Profits
  • Increase in market share
  • Improved sales close rate %’s
  • Identify new product needs
  • Improved operational efficiencies
  • Increase in current customer sales
  • Increase in new customer sales
  • Strong overall buying experience for your customers

 

What about benefits to your buyers?

 

How can understanding the voice of your customers and voice of your markets help your buyers?

 

In a recent article by Sales Benchmark Index they shared how buyers only have so much time to search for information. The article shares how one company uses content to help buyers solve problems.

 

For content marketing to generate revenue you must know exactly what your customers need, where they need it, how often they need it, and in what form they need to consume it. Miss any of these items and your content marketing efforts will fail to contribute to revenue growth in any meaningful way.”

  • Steve Keifer/Leaseaccelerator

 

If your team clearly understands why your buyers buy, why they don’t buy and the criteria they need to buy it puts you far ahead of your competitors to capture buyer mind share.

 

With as much as 57%-70% of the buying process occurring before a buyer speaks with a salesperson, market leading teams take the time to understand what their buyers need to buy today. Teams create content based on the feedback received from customer voice research. They update their sales tools and web site to include the content your buyers are searching for.

 

What content is your buyer actively searching for today to make a buying decision?

 

What criteria does your buyers need today?

 

Does your website provide content your buyers are searching for?

 

Who will buyers perceive as a market leader…someone with the perfect content they must have today, or a company that is not even found in their online research?

 

Capturing the voice of your customers today helps you understand how your buyer buys. In that buying journey it often includes research for meaningful content they must have to make a buying decision. When buyers find that content on your web site it starts to build trust with them.

 

Spend time understanding the voice of your customers and develop content that helps them buy.

 

Improve Sales Productivity With Voice Of The Customer Research

Improve Sales Productivity With Voice of the Customer Research

 

 

Each year sales reps hit the streets armed with their new goals and striving to hit their numbers. The sad reality is close to 80% will not hit plan. Why? There are many reasons but the leading cause is they are using dated value propositions. Your sales team is saying what they have said for years and it does not resonate with buyers today. In this post I will share how to leverage the voice of the customer to improve sales productivity by understanding your customers today.

 

I read an excellent report: The State of Sales Productivity report. This repost is the result of the authors surveying a number of sales leaders to understand how they plan to achieve their new sales goals. 56% of sales representatives are expected to hit a sales growth goal of 20% higher than last year. What gives me pause is close to 80% of those same teams failed to hit their number in the last sales calendar year. How can VP’s of Sales and Marketing change this trend?

 

In my last few posts I have been sharing the dramatic sales increases companies can realize once they capture the voice of their customers and markets today. As I have shared the key part of that thought is the word “today”.

 

With voice of the customer / market work you will understand:

 

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

 

What is your buyers buying process today?

 

What criteria do your buyers need today to make buying decisions?

 

With this information you will create a repeatable sales process that mirrors how your buyers are buying today, and create new sales tools that proactively provide the key buying criteria.

 

Once you create this for your sales team we must conduct sales training to insure your salespeople understand the sales process and are aware of the new sales tools, where to find them, and how and when to use them.

 

Voice of the customer work improves your sales teams’ overall productivity!

 

What percent of the time are your salespeople actually presenting and selling customers?

 

I have seen some teams where sales spend less than 20% of their time actually selling. In the report mentioned above they found salespeople spend 32% of their time selling. Having been the president for two companies and CEO for one, this is the kind of data that drives me nuts!

 

What are my salespeople doing most of the time?

 

  • Searching for data and content to help them sell, 30% of the time
  • If they can’t find it they are creating their own content (that should really scare you)
  • Updating CRM and reports
  • Administrative duties
  • Customer service functions

 

Sales spends as much time selling as they do searching for meaningful content and or creating their own sales tools.

 

That’s a broken unproductive sales model.

 

In this report 79% of sales leaders plan to hit their numbers by improving sales productivity.

 

62% said they plan to increase head count.

 

What if sales were spending 60% of their time selling this year?

 

*30% of the time selling as they have been

+

* And 30% more time selling because they are trained in the right sales process and where the right content tools can be found

 

In a recent post I share one company I helped that sold training. We conducted customer win loss interviews; mapped how the buyers were buying today and identified the HR managers had experienced a shift, a roundabout in the sales funnel where sales stalled and spun out of the funnel. HR managers now needed to get budget approval from the CFO and or CEO. (Something that was not the case prior). We listened for places in the sales funnel where sales experienced roundabouts and created tools to keep the sales on track to a close. We created content. We developed a very short slide deck to help the HR manager win budget for our training. We adjusted the sales process and introduced the instructor earlier in the process. We conducted sales training and shared the new sales process with our team, the slide deck for HR managers and other key content to be used in the trust building early funnel activities as well as case studies to be used after our quote. Within months we experienced a 200% sales increase.

 

Was our process perfect out of the gate? No, but we were experienced significantly improved sales close rates. I coached sales to adopt the new sales process and challenged them when I saw they shifted back to old sales tools or created their own.

 

We kept listing to our buyers, adjusting and experimenting with content until we consistently realized our sales objectives. This took a focused effort for over 12 months and after 12 months are team was breaking monthly sales records.

 

What percent of the time are your salespeople selling today?

 

How does your team measure sales productivity?

 

Do you track team and individual close rates for example?

 

To close this report also shared that 80% organizational leaders felt creating meaningful content and helping sales find it was a top priority.

 

However only 35% of those surveyed had a plan to do so.

 

Let me help your team improve sales productivity and not have to keep hiring more people.

 

Spend the time capturing the voice of your customer. Once you understand how your buyers buy, the journey they take, and the criteria they must have you will be able to create a repeatable sales process and sales tools that help your buyers buy. Your process will be a GPS system that takes your team, step by step to closing more sales.

 

I would appreciate your feedback…

 

What would be a good reason not to do this and set your sales team up to hit their numbers this year?

 

Understanding your customers and markets creates a foundation for a sales business development plan that creates sales velocity for your organization.