The paperclips didn't need a sales pitch. Neither do your clients.


Common CEO Questions

by GSchulz 26. August 2011 15:12

I thought I would write about the most common questions I get from Presidents and CEO’s around the country about their sales organizations. It doesn’t matter the industry, the time of year or the economic outlook, these are pretty consistent.

1. Why don’t our sales people prospect more as opposed to waiting for business to come in?

Human nature is to take the path of least resistance. If enough business for them-and this might be a completely different number then for you and your goals- is walking in the door or calling on the phone, why should they prospect? Being reactive is a whole lot easier then being proactive so if you haven’t made those activity goals very clear then why should they?

Revenue goals are important but activity goals are a whole lot more important. Yep, you read this right, more important. When someone is consistency meeting their activity goals then you have the ability to track #1, are they committed to what you have asked them to do (this is huge), #2 you can help them on what they are actually saying and doing in front of  a prospect to improve their closing ratio. Without knowing the amount of calls they are making consistently, this information is completely irrelevant.

2. How do I motivate my sales team to do more?

First of all, do more then what? There needs to be goals established for them as mentioned above, for revenue and activity. You may already be doing that and congratulations if you are. They still may be falling short so I have a few questions for you to ponder.

  1. Are they making more money then they have previously either in this position or another? If so, they may not be motivated enough to work hard enough to reach a goal you want them to reach. We often take the goals we set for them last year (and the year before and the year before) and hike that number up 10% or 15%. That may be your goal, but if it isn’t necessarily theirs and if they don’t see a need to reach so high, you could be in some trouble. They can be motivated to reach that number, but you better have that discussion with them not for them. 
  2. If your salespeople don’t reach goal (whether revenue or activity) what is the consequence? Salespeople -actually all of us-are just big kids. They need what is expected of them to be clear and laid out, they need to know the benefit of reaching and exceeding those expectations and the consequences if they don’t. Be careful not to just assume that if you tell them the goals and leave them alone they will get there. They might but if they don’t, wouldn’t you rather try to help them rather then having a revolving door of salespeople through your organization?   

3. I can talk to a local business person about our product/service and sell it and I’m not even a salesperson? Why can’t they?

In order to answer this, I'm going to make a few assumptions. As the owner (president ,CEO) of an organization, a conversation you have with a colleague will be different then a sales person has because you aren’t selling anything. You are more often then not, having a conversation about some other topic as well, the local state of business, the economy, politics, take your pick, but there is a much higher level of conversation happening so it doesn’t feel like a sale. There are other factors as well. Maybe you are someone of stature or clout in the community and people look at you as an equal, a partner, maybe even someone that can help them down the road. So shouldn’t your salespeople be seen different then you? Actually, the answer is no. Every day we teach people how to treat us. If we are acting like a salesperson, they will be treated like one. You don’t act like one. So the key here is you need to get your salespeople to act as an equal, a partner not a person trying to “pitch” something. When they accomplish that, they will be able to sell like you do.

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Salespeople Born or Made?

by GSchulz 8. March 2011 20:33

Are salespeople born or made? This is a question I hear a lot. The answer is surprisingly, “made,” but there are characteristics that help catapult success in sales. The characteristics are not what you would think.

First and foremost, the two most important things that you can’t do without are commitment and desire. Desire to be successful and commitment to do whatever it takes to get there. That being said, the other characteristics necessary for a salesperson to be successful influence their ability to sell, and they are based on beliefs.

  1. Takes Personal Responsibility. Someone who lacks this trait believes that there is someone else to blame (the prospect, the competition, the economy) for his or her lack of success. They have an answer for everything, and an external explanation for why they didn’t get the business. What to ask to test this trait? “If the economy shifts downward 15-20 percent, and your goals were based on last year’s figures, how should your goal numbers change?”
  2. Has the Ability to Control Emotions. Someone who lacks this trait will take things that the prospect says personally. They will become excitable with comments made by the prospect. They do a lot of defending instead of becoming a “third party” and finding out why the prospect said what they did. What do you ask to test this trait? “If a prospect says they are unwilling to work with us because of a past bad experience, knowing the company is different now and has corrected the problem, what would you do?”
  3. The Way Your Salesperson Makes Their Own Purchases. Yep. This is a big factor in the way that person will sell. A salesperson that comparison-shops will empathize with prospects that do the same. Typically, this person will not only comparison-shop for an item, their #1 factor in getting a “good deal” is the lowest cost. This is trouble. How do you test this trait? Simply ask,” When you are shopping for a large purchase, what is your process like?”

There are a whole bunch of others, but these are pretty interesting because most employers look for “someone outgoing, a real ‘people person.’ ” Not only is this what not to look for, these characteristics can hurt you because the underlying beliefs are unknown.

So, here’s how the ideal salesperson should look in these categories;

  1. Takes Personal Responsibility. They shouldn’t. Not at all. Here’s why. When the economy is good, salespeople are often “order takers” and not true salespeople. Sales have come easy and they have forgotten, or never had, real selling ability. They need to find a way to make it happen, not accept external factors to blame. I wonder how your mortgage company would feel about the explanation, “the economy is down so I will only be paying you 80% from now on.” Let me know how that one goes!
  2. Has the Ability to Control Emotions. Find out why and what happened. The wrong answer begins with, “yeah but…” Defending something not only doesn’t work, it doesn’t get to the real problem. For that, you must ask the right question and dig deeper.
  3. The Way Your Salesperson Makes His or Her Own Purchases. Their process should include things like, “decide what I want, go to one or two stores, and buy the item that day.” Why is this important? The more research they do and the more comparison-shopping they do will override what you teach them about getting a commitment from their prospect. Their belief of having to look around and compare will kick-in and they will of course empathize with the prospect who says, “this looks good, but I will need to look at a few other proposals.” Translation: “I am not interested in yours.”

So, no matter how friendly and outgoing someone is, don’t confuse that with characteristics of a good salesperson. If they have some of the above characteristics, they can be taught, even if they are quiet and reserved.

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