Sales Tip No. 29 - Who are you really competing against?

We frequently hear sales people saying "there's no competition on this deal".  When we dig deeper we find that there is competition after all, but not from where they think.  The "competition" is coming in the form of 1) lethargy, the easiest decision is no decision, do nothing or 2) competition for use of the funds earmarked for your deal - not a directly competing product, service of solution.
Lethargy is always a challenge - remind the prospect of why you are there in the first place - the need has not gone away, spell out the business drivers and compelling event that you are addressing and re-present your value / ROI case - proving how they can't afford to do nothing .
Competing for use of the funds - that's a bit trickier. In most organizations there is always someone with the power (the influence and/or the authority) to find budget where other people can't. The consequence?  If you have not made a strong case, if you don't have an ally or champion fighting for you, then you are exposed to the risk of having your budget stolen by that someone.
Make sure you have a good value based proposal with a strong ROI case with the prospect, coach your ally / champion on making your case on your behalf.  Ensure the budget owner is on your side and he/she wants to buy as much you want to sell and they will, as a result, be willing and able to defend their budget.

Posted in Weekly Sales Tips. Tagged as competition, Competitive Advantage, Power Base Selling, sales skills, the fox.

Why the best products, services and solutions don't always win the order.

Posted in Video Blogs. Tagged as compete selling, Competitive Advantage, complex selling, political alignment, Political plan, relationship selling, solution selling.

Is your sales team slipping into a dependency culture?

Posted in Video Blogs. Tagged as management skills, sales experience, sales management.

Sales Management Challenges: 6 of 6 - Managing for maximum performance

In the current market, we are seeing some complacency creeping into how sales leaders are operating. They seem to be thinking, "Business is going well, so what do we need training or development for?"  This doesn't refer to you, of course. You would not get complacent--you are far too professional!

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 Management Challenge #6: Managing for maximum performance

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  But when the going is good, do the good get better?

Managing a sales team takes time, energy and resources--often more than you would think--and it can often be counter-intuitive.  For example, when business is good, some sales managers take their feet off their performance management gas pedals. Yet, they really should be rolling up their sleeves and using those 'good times breathing spaces' as opportunities to focus on managing their teams for maximum performance.

These are the times to make the top contributors even better, to up the skills of the team members who are struggling, and develop the people who are scraping by with [only just] on-target performances.

And, just so we are all speaking the same language, when I refer to 'performance management' I am not only referring to managing negative performance.

Where do you start?  Well, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. First, you need to know if your people want to improve their performances (Are they willing?) and if they have the skills to do so (Are they able?).

Once you know this, you can plan your performance management approach: Have you got motivation issues with some people? Are there training needs or do you need to coach and mentor people?  You will probably have a combination of all three, so here is a quick way to assess what you have to get to grips with: the "Skill:Will Matrix"

The matrix is self-explanatory, but here's an example just in case: You have a highly-skilled sales person who is not willing to perform. Your first step is a heart-to-heart, including a verbal kick in the ass. Then, you should do some motivating. If that fails, you most likely have a disciplinary situation on your hands.

A high performer (skill and will) rarely needs training. They need someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to empower them further. Your actions will be to mentor and collaborate with these people.

Do-today Tip #6: Put together a quick chart and write up where your people are in the Skill-Will Matrix.  Create a plan to get the biggest impact in the shortest time with your team.

Getting good people is not a given, and neither is keeping them. The tips in this blog series will help you to find, hire, keep, and develop a high-performing team.

Read more:
How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives
Building the Right Team
Where are you on the Sales Management Continuum?
Motivating your Team
Gauging experience as you hire your Team

Are you good at choosing the right tools for the job? Perhaps you're looking for some answers? Our online community can't wait to read your comments and reply to your questions.

Tagged as management skills, people development, recruiting, sales leadership, sales management, sales team, skill will matrix.

Sales Management Challenges: 5 of 6 - Gauging experience as you hire your Team

The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as having said, "The years teach much which the days never know."

In general, I agree. HOWEVER, it depends what kind of education is happening during those years.

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 #5: How to measure the experience of your team

10 years experience or 1 year's experience used 10 times?

When I learned to sell, you went to boot camp for two weeks, then another two weeks--and that was just for the basics.

You started off as a rookie trainee sales person, then worked your way through to being a sales manager (usually via new business sales, account management, senior sales, major account sales, and national account management).

ONLY THEN, as an accomplished sales and sales management professional, might you get a promotion to dealer / channel sales.

Often nowadays, many rookie sales folk start in dealer / channel sales with barely any training, except product features and functions (which they are misguidedly told are benefits). They don't really have the experience that the job they have been doing demands but in a buoyant market, with an 'in demand' product or service, they have gotten away with it.

So what am I driving at here?  Well, if you are not careful, it's very easy to hire people who look good on paper but, in reality, don't actually have the experience you are looking for to expertly fill the positions.

Then you are in the trap of what seems to be one of the biggest headaches in recruitment these days--candidates interview well and fail in their roles.

When recruiting or promoting, check on your candidate's or team's real skills and experience:

  • Have they really got 10 years of sales experience, or have they got one year's experience they have used 10 times?

  • Did they really do that big deal on their own or were they "on the team that did the deal"?

The current buoyant employment market means that good people get snapped up quickly. Our need to find employees encourages us to hire quickly, without doing a thorough background check on our candidates. This is compounded by recruiters pushing us to rush into a decision so we don't "miss out on this great salesperson".

Challenging as it may be, we need to find more time to interview / check out our candidates. We need to take references and actually contact them. We can also capitalize on social media--usually, you know someone who knows someone who knows your candidate.

The interview is one of the best opportunities to really get to know the person sitting before you. Make your interview process a rigorous one. For example, build a practical exercise into the process such as a recap of their 1st 90 days as a salesperson or a presentation on your major competitor. If you want an info paper that will give you more tips on how to do that effectively, email or call me.

Keep your #1 goal in mind: you are trying to gauge whether your candidate has 10 years experience or 1 year's experience used 10 times. In other words, you are looking for evidence of their REAL "individual contributor" experience.

Do-today Tip #5: work with HR to develop a rigorous interview process.

Next time, we'll take a look at how to choose the appropriate skill set when you are hiring / building the team.

Read more:
How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives
How to Build the Right Team
Where are you on the Sales Management Continuum?
Motivating your Team

What measuring tools are you using to assess the experience of your team members? Looking for more info about this issue? Leave me a comment or a question for a personal answer.

Posted in Sales Management. Tagged as fail in role, interviewing, recruiting, sales experience, sales leadership, sales management.

Sales Management Challenges: 4 of 6 - Motivating your Team

Quiz time: How 'engaged' (passionate/enthusiastic about their work) are the members of your sales team?

If they are like today's U.S. workers, then about half of them (51%) are not engaged and almost one fifth (18%) are actively disengaged.

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 #4: Motivating your team

Being in the sales business I have focussed this blog on sales people but actually the information is valid for any team, in any business or role.

Motivation is the skill of getting people to do willingly and well the things that need to be done.

Motivation ceases and de-motivation kicks in when sales people feel compelled to surrender to a request.

Salespeople are not only motivated by money. In fact, there frequently comes a point in many sales careers when money is nowhere near the top of the motivators list.

Never has this been truer than now that "Millennials" are entering the sales profession. We get to hear a lot of negative comments about their attitudes in the working environment.  But have you ever stopped to think: maybe it's not them, it's us?  Typically, we find that most millennials bring bright, vibrant, and creative ideas along to the workplace - if only you can motivate them to do so.  Contrary to what we think, EVEN in sales, it's not always the commission check that provides the incentive. Having your ideas used is very satisfying and thus, a super motivator - being a contributor is certainly high on most millennials' lists of what they want from a job.

So, what do you need to take into consideration when motivating your people?

Successful [sales] management requires the manager to perform a balancing act with her/his time between the team, the individual, and the task (in this case where the task is selling):

  • Focus on the team and the task and the individual gets neglected.

  • Focus on the task and the team and the individual gets neglected.

  • Focus on the individual to the detriment of the team and the task.    

As a manager, you need to make sure you are balancing the needs of the team, the task, and the individuals as well as putting motivators in place (and trying to remove the de-motivators) that will resonate specifically with your people.

You need to get to understand the personal individual motivations of your team (and your manager).  I find that for the sake of expediency, if you distill all the common workplace/industrial motivation theories (Maslow, Herzberg, McGregor, FW Taylor, et al.) you get 5 traits you can work with quite  easily: Achievement, Recognition, Finance, Job Content, Personal Needs.

Do-today Tip #4: Spend some time finding out what motivates your team. Make sure you understand what motivates and de-motivates the individuals on your sales team--ask them!  Undertake formally or informally a motivation audit (click here for a simple example to get you started).

Next time, we'll take a look at how to assess the real experience level of your team.

Read more:
How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives
How to Build the Right Team
How to Choose the Correct Spot on the Sales Management Continuum

What carrots and sticks are you using to motivate your team? Got a question I can help with? Our online community looks forward to reading your comment and helping with your question.

Sales Management Challenges: 3 of 6 - Where are you on the Sales Management Continuum?

It's so important that universities offer courses about it, scholarly publications are written about it, and towns hold meetings about it.

We're talking about management. In particular, the sales management continuum.

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 #3: How to choose the correct spot on the Sales Management Continuum

Managing the sales process is more than just giving direction and forecasting.

Managing, or leading a motivated, high performing sales team is both an art and a science. It requires the leader to adopt the right approach for the right people at the right time--it's a dynamic role.

As I frequently remind many of my clients when something goes wrong - it may not be your fault, but it's your problem, and nothing could be truer than when you are managing a sales team. The challenge is to understand how you should be managing the current challenge (or opportunity) that you are faced with.

We get sales leaders to look at what we call the management continuum. The continuum spans:   

Supervisor < > Manager < > Coach < > Mentor.

Supervisors (usually nicely) tell people what to do, usually in the areas of policy, process and procedure.  Your new team member joins and you tell him how to fill out his expenses and how you use CRM, etc.

Managers plan, direct and support their sales people. They point them in the right direction and keep them on track, focused, and motivated to "do willingly and well the tasks that need to be done" - selling!  

Coaches get the best out of their teams by unlocking each person's potential to maximize his or her own performance. Coaches focus on helping people learn rather than teaching them--you don't coach someone on filling out their expenses or using CRM!

Mentors treat their mentees (carefully if they are, in reality, subordinates) as peers, working collegially to get the job done and improve [an already good] performance.  Mentors and mentees work things out between them.

There is a time and a place for everything. As a sales leader, you need to operate back and forth along the continuum as is appropriate for the situation in which you find yourself.

Do-today Tip #3: Ask yourself--I am managing or leading? Am I using the appropriate style for the sales management issue at hand, in this specific instance, with this specific person?

Next time, we'll take a look at how to motivate your team.

Read more:
How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives
How to Build the Right Team

How good are you at navigating the sales management continuum? Got a tip to share? I'll personally give you a 'thumbs up' if it's a good one. I am also ready to tackle your questions. You know what to do--comment box, type, hit 'post'...

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.

How Power BaseĀ® Sellers have adapted to a changed sales eco system

Having been in the sales business for a long, long time, having trained literally thousands of salespeople, having sold and trained around the world, I am often asked "Has selling changed over the years?".  
Well, if you were to read one of the most famous sales books ever, Dale Carnegie's, "How to Win Friends and Influence People", and you read the first few paragraphs without reading the preface, you'd think, "Hmm... this is quite relevant today." Then, when you do read the preface, you'd see that this book was first published in 1936.

So - has selling changed?  Fundamentally no, its been fine tuned, the techniques have been renamed a few times and some have been dropped.  What has changed is buying.

It used to be that the seller controlled the selling and the buyer controlled the buying.  Then, along came the Internet, the information age and social media.  Selling was turned on its head because now, a much better informed, much better educated prospect can control the buying process and selling process, too.

Let's take a look back.

Up until the early 2000's, a professional, solution salesperson (in simplified terms) identified prospects, motivated them to engage, built rapport, skillfully asked questions, identified needs, presented solutions, handled objections and closed the deal.  Buyers were not particularly savvy about what they were buying.  They wanted information and they wanted choice.  They wanted to buy from someone whom they could trust.  
Solution selling, B2B selling, was about personal relationships - prospects were buying trust first and product / services second.  Sales people were "information providers" practicing "personal selling", gaining trust to make decisions easier for the prospect.

Very early into the new millennium there was a paradigm shift.   
There was increased competition in just about every product, service and market sector you can name (B2B and B2C). There was more choice than ever.  The Internet and increased competition drove prices down (and margins!).  More sophisticated solutions had more impact (negative and positive) across entire organizations.  Now, with more information more readily available, multiple decision makers were becoming more involved in more decisions. Enterprise selling was the order of the day and "the Internet changes everything" rang only too true.

Many salespeople, hitherto successful salespeople who had been using traditional 'tried and trusted' solution-selling skills, found themselves struggling in this new enterprise environment.

Then, in the late 2000's the market place was turned upside down.  
Globally, there was a low growth environment.  There was considerable cost scrutiny applied to just about any purchase for anything.  Organizations were barely buying necessities, let alone niceties.   Simultaneously, social media started gathering real momentum, putting information and tools at the fingertips of buyers.
This meant that buyers did not need to engage with salespeople to get information.  They did not need to build a simple, trusting relationship with a salesperson to make a wise decision.  They merely jumped online and asked their peers what they thought.  When they finally called in the salesperson, the decision was nearly made. The buyer - seller engagement was for the purpose of, literally or figuratively placing the order.

For more complex purchases the customer still wanted a relationship with the salesperson but not simply one where they trusted the salesperson for good information.  They wanted advice and input from the relationship; they wanted a problem solver.  They wanted the salesperson to challenge and contribute, not simply present solutions and offer choices.  The salespeople who emerged and had enjoyed success during the recession and into the second decade of the millennium were professionals who had gained insider status and built symbiotic relationships (the customer and the salesperson can't live without each other).  They were the professionals who created demand for what they sold; they didn't simply service demand.

These professionals, whom we call "Power Base Sellers", not only delivered value but they delivered unexpected value - value that the customer did not realize was attainable.  
They created and executed strategies that ethically, quickly and professionally differentiated their solutions from their competitors' in ways that benefited the customer, enabling those customers to make faster, more beneficial decisions. Basically,  the Power Base salespeople let the competition defeat themselves.   In so doing, these salespeople did not just build relationships, they delivered personal value to their contacts (the decision makers and the decision influencers) that gave those contacts a (positive) political advantage, often advancing personal agendas and careers.

So, has selling changed?  For many people it has not but buying has changed considerably. So, sales folks who have not changed with the times are getting left behind.  How you sell has to change. Your competitive advantage has to come from how you sell, not what you sell.

OK but in plain language, has selling changed?  Yes, it has. Buyers want an advisor who will solve problems, not an information provider who can offer options.   In short, they want 'Power Base Salespeople'.
In my next blog, I will talk more about Power Base Selling and how you can develop your sales technique in this direction.


Tagged as Challenger sale, Power Base Selling, relationship selling, solution selling.

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