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

SELLutions

ales Teams need More and Better Coaching By Scott Edinger

by GSchulz 11. May 2015 12:18
On the ride back from Redwood City to San Francisco, my manager John and I hardly said a word to each other. We’d just left the headquarters of Oracle, and one of my worst sales calls ever. During the meeting, I had done my best to identify specific objectives the company might have that would benefit from our sales- and leadership-training programs. I talked about the problem of decreasing employee turnover, how fostering teamwork encourages cross-selling, the challenge of improving new-product launches. Nothing resonated. I tried to discuss the impact of current market conditions, like competitive pressures on margins, and the specific circumstances created by a recent acquisition, to probe for an opportunity to bring value. I even described similar client circumstances to illustrate the kinds of results we had achieved. I was met with no interest. Zip, zilch, nada.To break the deafening silence, I said to John, “Can you just tell me what the hell went wrong in there, or are you going to lead me through some laborious process of self-discovery?”We both laughed, and then we had a very useful conversation. I knew how he coached, and it was extremely valuable on most days. We would dissect each interaction together. He would typically ask me what I thought was effective, and we’d discuss what the client had responded to best. Then we’d talk about what could have gone better, and he’d highlight skills to improve. The discussions were always focused on how I could further develop my abilities and meet my goals.John Rovens was a terrific coach, and he invested a significant amount of time in my development as a sales professional. By the end of 1998, my third year in sales, I was the number 2  salesperson worldwide in the division of the Fortune 500 company we both worked for. I quickly became proficient at creating value in selling in large part because of the culture of coaching John created in our office.We hear constantly about the importance and value of coaching, especially in sales. But, the reality I have observed while working with hundreds of organizations is that a true culture of coaching rarely exists. In a survey I conducted few years ago with a sales team in a Fortune 500 telecom company, I found an interesting contrast. Leaders reported that they spent a considerable amount of time coaching their direct reports and scored themselves high on their efforts– on average, just shy of the 80th percentile. Direct reports responded by saying that they’d received little to no coaching from their leaders and scored them low — on average around just the 38th percentile. Then the leaders criticized their direct reports for being a bunch of ungrateful complainers. In their minds, these leaders had devoted all kinds of time to coaching. But in reality that simply wasn’t so.My observation is that in most cases, the further you go up the chain from managers, to directors, to VPs, the more sales leaders ask for help from their direct reports to do their own jobs, rather than investing time in improving the performance of their people.Maybe a manager will spend time coaching his direct reports.  But a manager getting coached by a director? Or a director being coached by a VP for sales? That almost never happens. Instead, time for coaching to improve future performance is increasingly crowded out by time spent tracking and scrutinizing past results – that is, time spent requesting forecasts, reviewing pipelines together, revising forecasts, and pushing to close more deals in this quarter.That may be necessary (well, that’s a whole different subject really), but if you want to improve the capability of your sales organization, rather than just keep track of it, coaching is the most powerful lever you have. And, creating a culture of coaching is your best bet. Here is how:Establish uniform expectations. Everyone, from the executive vice president of sales down to the frontline sales manager, needs to share the same definition of what good coaching is. Good coaching includes observation and feedback, certainly, but also strategy development, creating opportunities for practice, and even detailed help in meeting preparation. John Rovens had a specific development goal for each of the members on our team. He himself was also coached by his boss, our regional vice president, to help him become a more effective coach. Setting expectations for coaching is a strategic imperative that the CEO and executive committee leaders must drive. You can’t simply declare “There shall be a coaching culture” or delegate its development to the VP of sales or HR. The decision to create a coaching culture must be done in the context of a broader corporate goal — a growth strategy to increase revenue, perhaps, or a need to speed the time it takes new salespeople to become productive,  or a desire to decrease costly sales turnover.Highlight the exemplars and use them to spread your best practices. In any sales organization, everyone knows who the best sellers are. Frequently they are top producers, but not every one of them always exhibits the behavior you may want to foster. Look for the great sellers throughout the business who are doing the work in the way you want to see everyone working, and use them as role models, even if they’re not atop the revenue leader board. As it happened, during my first 18 months in sales, my assigned mentor was the top rep in our company the prior year. His name was Steve Lunz, and I had the chance to accompany him on many sales calls during my first 18 months with the firm and through him see how our company succeeded with clients. He showed me how to reach truly mutually beneficial agreements with clients, and I paid careful attention to how he did it. In exchange, I took notes and helped with follow-up and with the subsequent engagements. Provide rewards to those who engage in coaching and consequences for those who opt out. Coaching should not be viewed as extra credit or something to do if you have time on your hands. If it’s a priority for you to develop sales talent in your business, reward those who coach well just as you would any other key responsibility — with recognition, compensation, and promotion. Otherwise you’ll end up denying some of your developing talent the support they’re entitled to, the support required to grow your business. This is likely to require a mind-set shift for some.  For those who don’t manage it, place them in a job where developing others isn’t important. There are a lot of people promoted into sales management and leadership roles who have great strength in selling but really don’t have an interest in coaching. Let them sell.Before you suggest that this seems like a lot of work, I’ll concede the point. Coaching is a lot of work. But it needn’t take extra time if you consider the scope of activities sales leaders currently engage in. Take an honest look at the volume of effort your sales organization devotes to reporting, inspection, and scrutinizing results versus the time spent actively engaging in improving results. Create a coaching culture, and your leaders will spend considerably more energy on the latter. Click here to share this post.

Top 5 Things Every Salesperson /Business Developer Should Know!

by GSchulz 16. February 2015 15:08
    What’s the new normal when it comes to developing business? This is not the old ‘ask a few questions, give your features and benefits and trial close’. The 70s wants their slick sales guy back. Today you need to be smart, curious and a true consultant to sell. Here are a few things that today are imperative in business growth.    

 1)   Tell the prospect its OK to break up….Rejection is a result of trying to sell someone your product or service as opposed to tell them you what you are calling about, let them know it seems that because of what they do you could potentially work together, but (pull back) you don’t want to assume that you are a good fit. What you’d like to do is ask a few questions to see if the two of you are a fit and if not, we decide it’s a NO then we only wasted a few minutes? Sound OK? This allows you to give a NO as an option right upfront. Then you have asked for it as opposed to a prospect pushing you away and that is the rejection.
  2)   Mining for customers is different today. Networking is the true key to finding and keeping customers but most people do it wrong. Networking events ate not for direct prospecting! Recognize this scenario? “Hey do you guys use promotional products? here’s a sample, we can really help you!!”..” NO! Instead I say go to an event and look for Strategic Alliances, people that you can refer business back and forth to as opposed to hitting your potential prospects so hard. We all know building business on referrals is the best way to do business so lets network for good alliances that you can refer business to and that is a good source for your referrals.

 3)   Research should be used for credibility. Research is essential today before you pick up the phone and call anyone. No excuses! The most important reason to do your research on their web site, Google etc. is to create good, quality questions to ask them to engage your prospect in conversation and truly understand their needs not to tell them that you’ve researched their company and since they do this, we can sell you that…  

 4)   If you need to discount to get the business is almost always a result of one of these things. a) The customer doesn’t truly trust you/your product or service so there is only price to use as a differentiator or b) you haven’t truly understood the need for the product. I know need seems simple but it isn’t.              What are they trying to say? What impression are they trying to leave, how do they want to be seen? What are they using it for? There are lots of questions to not only understand what a prospect needs but the true deep-down ‘whys’. Asking questions will let you also gain credibility and trust but not Selling and truly asking and listening….     

 5)    Listen and shut up!! Wow! If I could teach people that are in sales/business                   development to ask questions and listen there would be a lot more success in business! Telling isn’t selling…but it comes from a good place. We are excited about what we represent and want other to be excited too but excitement doesn’t sell, questions and true engagement does. Long ago we were taught to ask a few questions and when you hear a “ buying signal” jump in and tell them you can help with that and how. NO! When you ask a question, wait for the answer and whatever the answer is, especially if it may be something your product or service can help with, the best next question is, “tell me about that”, then SHUT-UP!!! Click here to share this post.

The 20-Minute interview - How to Hire a Sales Superstar

by GSchulz 30. December 2014 13:37
The secret to hiring a sales superstar is to radically change your hiring process, which concludes with a powerful 20-minute interview.    

Step 1.  Define the ideal candidate.  Describe your selling environment that identifies the perfect salesperson.  For example:  “Our ideal candidate has successfully cold called CEOs, presidents and owners of medium size companies and can close sales for conceptual services prospects.  Our ideal candidate is successful at finding budgets when there are none, and can close $50,000 worth of  long-term contracts in two calls or less.  The candidate must have had prior earnings of at least $80,000 per year.” Be very specific --not about what you sell, that’s secondary, but about the environment that you sell in.  

Step 2.  Search.  Write compelling advertising copy that describes the ideal candidate so when its read, he or she says, “that’s me,” and understands how your organization is different from any other.  Look outside of your industry so you don’t get stuck with industry re-treads with below average selling skills. If someone is leaving an organization, there is usually a reason. Plus, someone from the outside, once hired, can objectively ask the question, “why can’t we do that,” while someone inside the industry might have a stagnating a pre-conceived notion.  

Step 3.  Qualify:  In a five-minute telephone screen, read your pre-determined key criteria and ask the candidate to prove he or she can meet them.  

Step 4.  Test:  Use a proven test to separate those that will sell from those that can sell.  

Step 5.  Conduct the interview. DO NOT tell describe your company and why it’s a desirable place to work. Make your candidate sell to you why you make the hire.   To separate the “real candidate” from the “interview face,” you must run the interview dramatically different from most employment interviews.  In 20 minutes, you must unveil how the candidate would act in a tough selling situation.  How?   Act like the toughest prospect the person will ever encounter. 

Yes, you need to be tough – like the toughest experience you’ve ever had in front of a prospect.

Begin the interview without the normal pleasantries.  You are not there to make the candidate comfortable, you are there to test abilities.

Start with, “Are you my two o’clock? Go in the conference room, I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”  Make your candidate wait.  Don’t smile.  Don’t be nice.  After 10 minutes, walk in and say, “We’ve only got 20 minutes for this interview to cover an hour of information.  Ready?”   This is the first test.  You want someone who’ll push back to get control.  At the very least, you want someone who’ll try to break the ice and bond with you.  If the candidate rolls over and acts like a compliant puppy dog, (by answering, “yes” or “sure”) you know he or she will wimp out in front of tough prospects.   Ask “prove-it-to-me” kinds of questions.  “We’re looking for strong closers who can handle themselves well in front of presidents and CEOs.  Prove to me that’s you.”   Keep the pressure on.  Look for signs of discomfort or emotional involvement, such as rapid eye movement, giggling, staring at the ceiling or out the window, movement in the chair and changes in voice pitch or volume.  

Here’s a strong move to determine if your candidate really will make cold calls.  “If we get beyond this interview to the next step, (remember to keep the pressure on!), you’ll be required to find $250,000 in new business.  Once you’ve identified whom to call, how would you get appointments?”

The answer you are looking for is some form of cold calling AND referrals. In a new position such as this, cold calling will be a necessity.  If your candidate says it’s the only way to start in a new position, you know the cold calling will actually happen.  If your candidate caves in and starts talking about research, letter campaigns and marketing…you know you don’t have a hunter in front of you.           Click here to share this post.

Don't Take Shortcuts in Sales

by GSchulz 3. November 2014 18:46
Tim, a software sales rep, had been having a rough day. He’d been bombarded with questions from several customers and had gotten behind on a proposal that he needed to finish before the end of the day. Then he got a call from Gene, a prospect who introduced himself by saying:

- "I’ve heard great things about your accounting software package. I saw a demo about a year ago, and was not in a position to purchase it at the time, but since then it’s become very apparent that I need to integrate it immediately into my system."
-"Wow," thought Tim. "This will be easy. It’s about time something went right today."

Then Gene said:

-"I need to know about pricing and availability. And tech support is important, too. Tell me how that works."

Tim went into his pitch. He discussed tech support in detail, covered availability and other options, and explained that the price was $8000 with 30-day terms. Gene’s response was unexpected. He said that $8000 was quite a hefty price tag and he needed a couple of days to consider the purchase more carefully. He’d call Tim back next week. Tim did a double take. "What just happened?" he thought. "This sale was in the bag, a sure thing, and now he’s thinking it over? He said he needed the software right away." And that was the end of the call.  

Diagnosis: Tim got lazy, plain and simple.

He thought Gene was sold. All he had to do was give Gene the info he needed, then write it up. He got conned into doing a presentation without getting Gene to demonstrate why he was so excited about buying the software. The entire transaction was conducted at the intellectual level.

Prescription: Don’t be lured into taking shortcuts.

Don’t mistake the prospect’s enthusiasm for your product or service as a sure sale. Take the time to qualify the prospect and make sure he’s real before you make your presentation. In Tim’s case, a couple of quick questions would have made a world of difference. He might have said, "Before we discuss pricing, help me understand why this software is so important. I want to make sure the application is correct for you. Mind if I ask you a couple of questions?" Of course, you’re probing for pain and one of the most important things to find out is the financial impact of not implementing a solution. Having discovered the financial impact and, assuming it was significant, you will find that the cost of the solution disappears as an objection.

Don’t take shortcuts! Don’t assume anything. Get the prospect involved at an emotional, not an intellectual, level. Use the system, qualify completely, and get the sale.   Click here to share this post.

Is social media killing our sales skills?

by GSchulz 27. October 2014 17:11
Recently, I spoke to an organization that spent an ungodly amount of time, energy and money on Social Media to create Lead Generation.

So my question was, "Now what?” they said, "What do you mean?" I said “Okay, so you got a whole bunch of people calling you or contacting you through a web form, email etc. How's your closing ratio?” They looked at me like I had three heads.

The issue is a simple one, just because we believe that we have found a new way to generate business, it is not generating business…alone. Lead generation is Interest, lead generation is getting people to the door. Are they coming over the threshold and are you closing the door behind them? That's a very Important step. One without the other results in no revenue.  

Between Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and Bing ads on any of the Social Media sites, Blogs amongst other things we do today to build leads is it really working? That's one question. If we’re doing all of the things that we need to do in Social Media and all the ‘white noise’ is going out, what is it bringing us? Well, it should be bringing us Leads. It should be bringing us Emails, filling out contact Information or a website, web forms and phone call, and if that's happening, Great you have reached step one. This is a very important step but it is ONLY step one.

The million dollar question is "Now What?"  It's important to make sure that we know once people contact us or when we contact them back, we are using the right process to follow up from any kind of lead generation that we get. Are we setting some ground rules at the beginning of the conversation? Are we asking good. Thought provoking open-ended questions to engage them and truly understand their needs beyond what the told you? DO we have a true picture of all of this before we have the cost conversation and do you clearly understand the next step and what that means as opposed to just “checking back” or following up with them?

It's important to understand that when someone contacts you, they are often contacting several people within your industry. You don't have a relationship built, there were just some low levels of interest that got them to contact you. Is it better than you calling out cold? Well certainly it is but you still needs the same attention to process as you always did. Getting somebody to call you is only the beginning. So, what are the other steps: What are we doing when we contact them or they call us. Are we using the process properly? 

Here is what we typically see;    When we get them on the phone, they will typically ask you a simple question that I call a "Wall Question" which is they put up a wall and the question sounds something like this:

- "Hey, I see you guys sell widgets. Can you tell me if I bought a hundred widgets what that would cost?" and we say,
- "Sure, let me look. What kind of widgets you are looking for?

- "We're looking for widget A or widget B."
- "Okay well, widget A would be $75,000 for a hundred widgets and widget B would be $82,000."
- "Oh, that's a lot of money. "
- "Well, maybe I can do a little better."

You negotiate a price and they say

- "Okay sounds good, ah we'll call you back” Or “Sounds good, can you send me a proposal / price sheet/ some more information?"  

We get their email, we send that information in writing and cricket, we never hear from them again. We try to contact them back, they don't contact us. We try to call them, they don't take our call, and we leave messages. Sound familiar? Of course, it does. The same situation that happened before when you did your prospecting more proactively occurred. Prospecting hasn't changed. Sales and the sales process hasn't changed just because they're contacting you.  In fact, I would say that it is more difficult now because we are not as on top of our game since they contacted us we feel it is a ‘hot’ lead. Not only do you need to do a good job on working on the sales process in closing the sale, you need to do a better job than you ever have before because remember, they have control. They're the ones that are calling you but they're also calling your competitor. So they've done a little homework, they know who's out there and they know what the pricing is out there. That's where the sale process comes in. If you don't have a process, you're going to fail. Whether they're lead generating through Social Media or not.  

Greta Schulz is President of SchulzBusiness, a sales Consulting and Training firm. She is a best selling author of “To Sell IS Not To Sell” and works with fortune 1000 companies and entrepreneurs. For more information or free sales tips go to www.schulzbusiness.com and sign up for ‘GretaNomics’, a weekly video tip series or email sales questions to greta@schulzbusiness.com     Click here to share this post.

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