Sales Management Challenges: 2 of 6 - Building the Right Team

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review reports on current research into teamwork. It seems that the fault may lie more with managers who do not know how to get the best out of their teams rather than the team members themselves.

I'd like to share the benefits of my 30-year experience in sales and marketing with you. This series of blogs tackles 6 of the top sales management challenges with sound advice and a practical 'do today' tip.

Sales Challenge #2: Considerations for building the right team

Whatever you are selling requires the right team to maximize its sales.

Are you ...

  • selling a commodity or a solution?

  • selling to accounts where you are upselling and cross selling?

  • selling new business into new name, "new logo" accounts?

  • selling a product that takes hours to sell or months?

  • selling locally or nationally or internationally?

Not every salesperson is suited to every type of sale.  

Given the choice, I would do new business rather than manage accounts. It suits my temperament (and I really don't mind cold calling!) but this does not suit everyone.  

Consider: How long is your sales cycle?  
Many sales people need the constant motivation of getting orders every day. Others don't mind a longer sales cycle, and in fact, prefer getting one big order every so often--usually it's less paperwork to contend with!  

Some sales folks enjoy the technical challenge of selling solutions and writing detailed proposals and RFP responses and all that entails whilst some people are happy just quoting and selling commodities.

As Lord Alan Sugar once said, "Pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap." (For my non UK audience, he is the businessman that did the UK version of The Apprentice).

Consider your customers: who are you selling to, at what level do you need your salesperson to operate, and what does the customer expect?  
We worked on a project a couple of years ago to develop a global account process for a client selling in the credit card sector. For the position of 'Global Account Director' (aka salesperson) for one account, we hired an ex-divisional GM - that was the level of experience it took to manage the account to the level the customer wanted.

Here is the point I am getting at: when it comes to sales people, one size does not fit all and while that seems like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, you would be surprised at just how often sales managers hire a mismatched sales person for the job.

No point whatsoever (well, rarely) hiring an account manager to do new business or a new business hunter to manage accounts.  Biggest mistake we see is a sales guy used to getting lots of orders at a [comparatively] low value being given a job selling a few orders at a high value.

Do-today Tip #2: Create a person profile to go with the job description when you are hiring. Use some tools to ensure the person is matched to your specific sales role and the temperament the role needs, not just the skills.  Brief your recruiter or HR professional about the 'type' of salesperson you need--a hunter, a farmer, a solution seller, a commodity seller, a collaborative seller.

Next time, we'll take a look at how to choose the right spot on the
'sales management continuum' to get your sales management style right to match the team.

Read more: see my last blog 


Is Building the Right Sales Team a challenge for your orgainzation? What have you been doing about it? How has that been working out for you? Like an answer to a question? Our readers would love to hear your thoughts and help with your queries.  Comment below to start a dialog.

Posted in Articles, Best Damn Sales Blogs, Sales Management. Tagged as building a team, hiring, recruiting, sales leadership, sales management, sales team.

Sales Management Challenges: 1 of 6 - How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives

Read Forbes, Fortune, or any other top sales and business publication. What will you find? Articles about the top sales challenges commonly faced, no matter which product or service you are marketing.
I'd like to share the benefits of my 30-year experience in sales and marketing with you. This series of blogs tackles 6 of the top sales challenges with sound advice and a practical 'do today' tip.
Sales Challenge #1: How to create clearly defined sales processes and sales objectives
If you don't know where you are going, you are almost certainly not going to get there.
Sales organizations need a road map--the sales process; you need to know what you need to do at each stage of the process, what KPIs to expect at each stage, and how to get sales opportunities through the process from lead to closure.
Then, your sales organization needs to follow that process (preferably mapped in CRM) so you can measure and report on each stage of the sale.
Likewise, for each deal, there is a need for a clearly defined sales objective--what are you selling, for how much, and when.
Do-today Tip #1: Build yourself a dashboard so you can track who has got what in the pipeline, what stage it is at and that the KPIs are being met.
Next time, we'll take a look at how to build the right team.
How has your organization been dealing with this challenge? Have a great story or hot tip to share? Any questions? Our online community looks forward to reading your comment or answering your question below.

Posted in Articles, Best Damn Sales Blogs.

Consultative Solution Selling by Telephone?

I once had a sales manager who used to say you've got to "see 'em to sell 'em".  These days, whether we like it or not, a number of factors collude to make it either impractical or not financially viable to "go see 'em" higher volumes, lower margins, geography for example.

Demographics play a part too there is a generation of B2B buyers out there who have been brought up on cell phones, the Internet, facebook, twitter, ebay et al, and they really don't feel the need to deal with sales people face to face.

The challenge of getting your sales message over (especially for more complex products such as software, consultancy, financial services) still requires a consultative, solution sales approach.

So here are a few pointers

1.  When you get a lead or a download trial from your website don't launch straight into a sales call do your research, is the enquirer the decision maker, could you call someone else higher to see if this is a real opportunity and check things out [discreetly] before you speak to the enquirer?

2.  Do a good discovery / needs analysis job before you present or demo your product, use the demo / presentation to prove the case not open the sale.

3. Don't send your proposal too early, get all the decision makers and influencers lined up and present your proposal to them DON'T SEND IT- you can do this online.

4 Above all stay in control don't get rushed into selling and presenting too early and to the wrong people just because its all being done on the telephone.

We came across a great product recently, we use tools such as Webex and Adobe Connect but we have found the killer app is this space Vonei Meeting.  Its a great system you can talk, present share screens and documents but where Vonei Meeting is really different is with its video capability.  The video is "many to many" rather than presenter to many so everyone can see everyone on the call.  The user interface and connection is simplicity itself AND you don't have to mess with client software on your PC.  (Go try out Vonei Meeting and mention Ian Farmer!)

Vonei Meeting is great because you can see the prospect's reactions, its more personal, you can gauge their "buy in".

We have helped a large number of clients (such as Oracle, BEA Systems, Orange, Embarcadero Technology, TeamStudio) to develop their "solution selling by telephone" skills and processes.  Tools like Vonei Meeting are going to make telephone selling even more viable and productive.

Heh.... perhaps we can "see 'em to sell 'em" after all!

Good luck, good selling!

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Posted in Best Damn Sales Blogs.

Is channel sales really the way to go?

In the current climate all of us are looking to generate more leads, make more sales and lower operating costs.  The thought of doing your sales and business development via an indirect sales channel operation suddenly becomes very appealing lots of sales people, who you don't have to employ, out there selling for you.

Problem is you still have all the responsibility for the numbers but no authority to back it up.  Your own sales guy does not perform you can put them on a plan or even fire them.  The channel guys don't perform you've got a problem but little authority to sort it out.

So you want to set up a channel sales program?  Here are some tips based on my channel experience that goes back to 1983!.

1.  Work with your channel partners helping them to write a plan for the business they are going to do for you nothing complicated, you can use a template to guide you.

2.  Do your margin analysis early not as an after thought, your channel needs to earn enough margin points to sell your products, you neeed to earn enough to be able to let them.

3.  Select your channel manager carefully, you need skill to run a channel but above all else you need experience because you need credibility.

4.  Make sure you are planning for managing channel conflict there WILL be some, either with your own sales team or with other channel partners.

5.  Make sure you get the pricing strategy right and be careful about how you "publish" it, you don't want the end user to think they can play you all off against each other further eroding revenue and margins.

The bottom line?  Channel sales is not an instant panacea for winning new sales without the cost of a sales force, it needs thinking through, planning and controlling.  We would always advise get some experienced help writing the plan and training your people.

Channel sales is the way to go so long as its by design and not by accident.

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Posted in Best Damn Sales Blogs.

Building Rapport – do you let it happen or make it happen?

When we ask salespeople to list their strengths most include rapport and relationship building, getting on with people and listening.  When we then ask the customers to list what they dislike about salespeople they usually include they are over-familiar, they don't listen, they are complacent, they only call us when THEY want something.

This is interesting because when you then analyse what sales people count on to win they will tell you product, price, brand and relationships.  But we have all had the best solution at the lowest price but lost the deal we were outsold because we built relationships poorly and/or with the wrong people contrary to what we initially thought.

When it comes to building relationships and rapport are you really as good as you think you are?   Ask your self:-

  • Do I actually listen when I am on a sales call?
  • Do I prove  / show I am listening?
  • Do I display empathy?
  • Do I get on the same wavelength as the customer?
  • Do I show interest in them, their company, their situation?
  • Do I talk "with" the customer or "at" the customer?
  • Do I communicate in a way that the customer likes and is at ease with too many statistics not enough statistics, to quick fire too slow, not detailed enough -  too pedantic, too formal too informal?

Building good rapport is not just about being friendly, buying lunch, playing golf, asking about the family.  Its about communicating effectively and in style the customer prefers.  Building rapport is about proactively making it happen not reactively letting it happen.

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Posted in Best Damn Sales Blogs.

So, your prospect wants a “partnership”?


  • A venture created by contract, a co-operative relationship.......
  • People or groups who agree to share responsibility for achieving some specific goal.....
  • A contract / agreement  between two or more persons who agree to pool talent and money and share profits or losses.......

Many customers claim to want a partnership with their key suppliers but this is often no more than "customer speak" for better pricing.

Never be concerned about challenging a customer, reseller, dealer, channel partner about what they mean by a partnership.

In any partnership there are 4 elements all of which should be shared by both parties.

The customer gets lots of attention, dedicated support, favourable pricing, they commit to work only with you or certainly with fewer suppliers.  The vendor gets a fair profit on sales, has a closer relationship with, and access to, the customer which lowers the cost of sale.  The customer probably purchases in bulk and so admin costs are lowered too.

Of course you are asking the customer to become more dependent upon you, they may consider it a risk to commit to using less suppliers.  You may not always have what they want, when they want it.  You will be putting in a lot of effort for a single customer, this will reduce your ability and options of finding new customers, suppose you put in a lot of effort and they don't purchase?

Things will go wrong that's life!  When they do you do not expect the customer to be on the telephone screaming, you will not be going into hiding or passing the buck, blaming others.  You and the customer will be sitting around the table discussing options and working together on solutions.

Of course if the customer just wants a big discount, if they think these are not the components in a partnership then its never going to work.

Develop a "what we mean by a partnership" presentation that you are comfortable with and means something to you, your prospects, your markets.  You need to own the presentation, you need to deliver it so that the other party sees you really mean and believe it

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Posted in Best Damn Sales Blogs.

Are you slipping into a dependency culture?

Its very easy to give all  your attention to one or two customers who, despite the current market are giving you lots of business "better look after these guys, can't afford to lose them".  Its easy to fall into the trap of relying on one product line that, despite the current market is selling well "better keep pushing these, thank goodness we have this line".  Its easy to stick to one market that you know inside out "phew, good job I am expert in this sector, the rest of the market is dead".  Don't forget the suppliers, reliance on a single vendor can be commercial suicide, if for example they go out of business or exit the market.

All of a sudden you could find yourself in a "dependency culture".  Too reliant on a single market, customer, product/service offering or supplier.  Heavens forbid you were to become totally dependant on a single customer, that you a sell one product too, that you get from a single vendor!

So how do you avoid the dependency culture?  Here are few pointers.

1.  No matter how strong your pipeline looks [through those rose tinted sales spectacles] keep marketing and prospecting always be creating demand.

2.  Don't get complacent keep researching your market, keep asking customers if they REALLY are happy, keep an eye on your competitors, don't let service or quality slip a millimetre.

3.  Don't become too reliant on single vendor, keep them on their toes, remind them they they need you as much (if not more) than you need them.  Have a contingency plan for alternate suppliers.

4.  If you think you dont have the resources to get into a diferent market or customer segment, think again.  Could you  "re-purpose" what you sell for a quick entry into other markets (here is a great white paper on re-purposing ). You can capitalise on your knowledge, expertise and investment whilst broadening your market reach, quicker than you may think.

Every so often you need to be honest with yourself "am I as a salesperson, or are we as a business, falling into a dependency culture?".  Keep asking because dependency will creep up on you before you know it.

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Posted in Best Damn Sales Blogs.

Persistent or pestering?

There is a fine line between being persistent in pursuing a sales opportunity and becoming a pest.  Tenacity will always win out but not if you upset or annoy your prospect during the sales cycle.

Like most sales problems prevention is better than cure.  Too often we lay ourselves open to becoming a pest by not setting the expectation of what we are going to do in the sales process, and how we are going to work, with the prospect.  In most sales processes it's not a one step process, follow up is needed.  Perhaps the prospect asks for information, a call back or maybe later in the sale you have submitted a proposal there are many scenarios where we have to "get back" with the prospect.

Whenever your sales activity requires a next step you need to be assertive with your prospect in agreeing the follow up.  "Can you call me back next week" should be responded to with "certainly, let's put a date and time in the calendar for that now" and get the prospect's commitment that they will be there, they will take your call and they have it in their calendar too.  Otherwise why are YOU agreeing to call back?

What happens instead is that you loosely agree to call back / follow up.  When you do, the prospect doesn't take the call or they are out or you leave a message.  You don't get a call back, so you call again.   A few calls and messages later and you have still not spoken to the prospect but you have (in perception or reality) left so many messages your prospect thinks you are a pest and now they definitely don't want to work with you.

Don't put yourself in this position, book follow ups assertively and always think twice before you leave a voice mail message.

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Posted in Best Damn Sales Blogs.

Time for some serious sales help?

There has never been a more appropriate time to look at using an Interim Manager CxO For Hire, VP of Sales for Hire - whatever term you are using in your market.

I don't normally blog about "me" but this interim topic keeps coming up.  I have 30 years, international sales, marketing and general management experience including board and non executive (advisory board) posts, doing start ups and turnarounds.  Many companies especially SMEs, simply do not have the budget for the salary that this level of experience commands.

However, if they looked at an interim CxO even a few days a month they would get the experience they desperately need but not the salary bill. Furthermore, an experienced interim will fit in and pick up the reins quicker than you would believe. I have being doing interims for 20 years, I can bring experience of succeeding in market conditions that many of today's "younger" managers and business owners have simply never seen before and don't know how to handle.

The added bonus of an interim (that people forget) is the up to date, market intelligence that your interim brings it is priceless. I ran a sales team for a Fortune 500 during a merger, I managed the team 3 days a week, I was out in here market the other two days and bought an invaluable view that an internal person would not get. I also delivered $14m in sales against $12 target in a down market.

Don't dismiss interims and CxOs for hire you are missing a big opportunity.

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Posted in Best Damn Sales Blogs.

10 years experience or 1 years experience used 10 times?

When the market is tough and leads are few and far between, sales opportunities cannot be wasted and you need the right sales people on board.  This week the best damn sales blog has got a best damn sales tip and a best damn management tip!

Take two sales people sales person A has 10 years experience, sales person B has 1 years experience they have used 10 times!  You might want to read that again.

Are you hiring A's or B's.

As a sales manager or a sales person are you thinking and acting like  A or B?  if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.

Sales people aren't all born they can be trained, but even the "naturals" keep learning otherwise they become salesperson B.

So when you are hiring you need to be on the look out for evidence of real experience not just time in the job.  What training has the candidate attended, how do they keep up to date, how open minded are they to continuing professional development?

There is lots of help, support and insights out there (you are reading one source).  Sales person A always puts the effort in to pick up and learn new ideas and techniques.  Sales person B they just do the same pitch but on a different day.

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Posted in Best Damn Sales Blogs.

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