Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Do You Have Sales Growth Problems?  Solution #1: Coach the team you have.

Tags: Sales Growth, Sales Manager, coaching salespeople, effective sales management

In a remarkable show of grit, the University of Alabama clawed back from a 20-point deficit against the University of Minnesota, though they eventually lost by 5. Most of you are probably thinking 1 of 2 things:

  1. I don’t care about Alabama basketball – that's just something that happens between football season and spring football practice.
  2. They still lost so why is this relevant?

It’s relevant because of a detail you wouldn’t know about unless you watch college basketball or follow sports shows regularly. For those totally out of the loop, in basketball each team has on the court at any one time 5 players. Due to an injury, a player fouling out and several players being ejected from the game Alabama played the last 10+ minutes of the game with just three players on the court!

Avery Johnson, the head basketball coach for Alabama, was asked to explain how he believed his three guys managed to pull off the most amazing loss in NCAA history. His response was that they practice a lot of defensive 5 on 3 basketball. There is no reason to go into the details of that here other than these two important things:

  1. Understanding the situations you know you are going to be in at some point during the game is imperative.
  2. Coaching your players on how to react and what to do in those situations is crucial for your success.

How is that any different than sales? The short answer is that it is not. So why doesn’t it – coaching the team that you have - happen?

  • Hiring managers believe they are hiring people with the appropriate skills and know how.
  • Most managers don’t believe that their salespeople need practice of basic fundamental sales skills – if they did, more sales training and 1-on-1 coaching would be taking place and more people on the sales team would be hitting their goals.
  • More time is spent on crafting the ‘deal’ then on practicing what to do when:
    1. The decision maker doesn't’ show up for the presentation
    2. The company hasn’t committed to leaving their current supplier, relationship, banker, insurance broker
    3. The prospect wants you to ‘sharpen your pencil’
    4. The prospect wants to ‘think it over’
  • Most sales managers – yes this might include you – haven’t been trained on effective coaching, don’t schedule time for coaching opportunities, don’t demand role-playing in sales meetings and confuse performance management with coaching.

Our assessment and research of dozens of companies with dozens of sales managers tell us that less than 10% of sales managers have the appropriate coaching skill set.  As you can see from this Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis snapshot of this sales organization the sales managers who are employed there have 44% of the required skills and are 59% effective when coaching. 

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In addition to effective coaching (Download Keys to Effective Coaching E-book) a Sales Managed Environment requires performance management, effective recruiting, motivation that works and upgrading the sales team.

Here are a couple of ideas worthy of consideration and implementation:

  1. Carve out time and be a slave to your schedule for 1 on 1 coaching to specifically improve skills and change behaviors
  2. Make sure that in every sales meeting you have a segment on sales skills improvement that includes drill for skill and role-playing
  3. Every week in your schedule you should have time for the ‘situation room’. This is the opportunity to conduct pre–call strategy sessions and post meeting debriefs
  4. Instruct and demand your sales team schedule joint calls with you once a month. 
  5. Make documentation of ALL activity in your CRM a requirement to get reimbursed for business expenses. 

In a 1,000 word blog we cannot solve all the sales problems outlined in the beginning but tackling coaching is a great start. For another step in that direction take action NOW. For a free sample of the Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis click the botton below.

Free SEIA Sample

Pipeline Management – Why Monitor If You’re Not Going To Fix It? 5 Steps to fixing instead of just monitoring.

Tags: Pipeline management, setting sales goals, increase pipeline

My wife Linda and I were recently in Columbia Maryland visiting family. While having a mid-afternoon lunch at Clyde’s I happen to see a “LifeLock” commercial on the bar TV. All I caught was the following caption:

“Why Monitor If You're Not Going to Fix It”?

Forbes contribution editor, Will Burns, writes about the absurdity the Lifelock ads point out. He even does us the favor of including the Dentist, Robbery and Pest Control ads in his article.

Many companies, probably including yours, have for many years monitored pipeline opportunities. The idea is to have information about the opportunities being created by the sales team. Companies want to know: 

  • What stage in the sales process is the opportunity
  • What the next steps are to move the opportunity through the pipeline
  • The likelihood of winning the business based on a probability % either calculated or assumed based on the sales stages
  • The future sales revenue of all the opportunities in the pipeline.

There are normally at least three problems with the use of CRMs and pipeline management:

  1. Validity - The true accuracy (validity) of the predictive nature of the CRM is dependent upon making sure that a milestone centric sales process has been mapped and made to be part of the CRM being used.
  2. Credibility – Even if you have the right sales process mapped and documented there is still the element of GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. If your sales team is entering opportunities into the pipeline to keep management off of their back and assuming that the opportunities have met the criteria for each step in the sales process then you still have a predictive problem with your pipeline.
  3. Lack of helpful business intelligence – It’s one thing to enter data and get raw numbers of what has happened and what we think will happen. It’s another thing to build your CRM so that you get reporting that tells you how sales people are performing against the sales success formula developed for each individual. Without comparative data then truly all a company or manager is doing is monitoring activity without identifying if in fact there are any problems.

What a company should be looking for, so that it’s in a position to ‘fix it’, are critical numbers and ratios so that a sales manager can clearly and more accurately identify choke points in the sales process for each individual.  Additionally the data can and should tell the manager and the organization if training and coaching is required or if the current training and coaching is having the intended impact: Improving the effectiveness and results of the sales team. 

Let’s assume the following sales effort and effectiveness performance model: 

Action Plan.png

  •  The sales person that is failing to hit sales targets is supposed to:
    • Create 10 new leads a month
    • Convert 50% of those into opportunities
    • Convert 50% of those into presentations
    • And get 50% of those presentations to turn into sold business
    • Additionally the average size sales is supposed to be $10,000.00 
  • Lets assume the following actual sales effort and effectiveness:
    • 9 new leads are being created but we don’t know why 9 instead of 10?
    • 50% of leads are being converted to opportunities
    • 50% of those opportunities are leading to presentations (but keep in mind over time there will only be 90% of the planned for opportunities because of failure to hit the lead goal)
    • 45% of the presentations turn into sold business instead of 50%
    • And, the average size sale is $9,000.00 instead of $10,000.00

If this is monitored and NOT ADDRESSED/FIXED then this sales person will be short of their goal in access of 25%. This will be a gradual event because unless the CRM is built to provide this information pro-actively no one will notice. No one will notice because the numbers are either: Not being monitored. Not being addressed because they are ‘close enough’ (9 instead of 10. Management sees this as being 1 off of target rather than 10% off target). Or, the coaching to fix the problem falls into the category of ‘do more’ instead of let’s coach you on how to do ‘better’.

Does any of this look or sound familiar? It may not especially if you have enough of the right people (about 33% of your sales group) doing enough of the right things. With 33% of the team carrying the load you will still end up with about 90% of your goal and all you need is a few of the remaining 67% of the team to contribute something to the production number. You will be close enough.

“Fixing” it has to be part of the investment when investing in sales enablement tools, systems and technology. Fixing the problem requires the following 5 steps:

  1. Building a milestone centric sales process that is part of the CRM
  2. Creating sales success formulas for each sales person based on their historical actual performance and agreed to sales goals
  3. Timely monitoring and updating of sales effort and sales execution data so that you can ‘catch them early’ in real time when their performance is a negative variance from the plan
  4. Using the data to develop intentional coaching strategies to help your sales people deal with the specific challenges they are having in either effort or execution. No more ‘run faster’ coaching
  5. Use metrics to determine your success:
    • % of sales people hitting effort target increases to 100%
    • % of people hitting conversion ratios improves
    • Production from each of the sales team segments (1/5s) improves year over year
    • The 80/20 rule starts to shift to a 70/30 > 60/40 rule
    • Validity and credibility in your pipeline prediction improves
    • Adaption of your CRM is at 100%

Call To Action: 

Request a 30 minute live Emergency Pipeline Analysis Session to evaluate current opportunities in your pipeline. What you will get/learn.

  • Complete instruction on how to more effectively evaluate the validity and credibility of your pipeline opportunities
  • How to more effectively identify choke points in the sales process
  • A method of intentional coaching to improve the probability of closing current opportunities.

Email:  tony@anthonycoletraining.com

Subject Line: EPAS Demo

 

Fishing for Prospects

Tags: Prospecting, Qualifying leads, coaching salespeople, create & convert leads

I’m sure majority of people have heard the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This, of course, means it’s more worthwhile to teach someone to do something (for themselves) than to do it for them (on an ongoing basis).

Well, I’ve created a new proverb. A sales proverb, if you will:

“Give a salesperson a prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for a day. Teach a salesperson to prospect, and you strengthen their pipeline for their career.”

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Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A lot of the companies we partner with supply their new, or tenured, salespeople with leads consistently. In theory, this sounds great but it can cause problems long term. If you are feeding leads to your salespeople on a regular basis we encourage you to continue to do so. However, your salespeople can’t and shouldn’t rely on them as their main resource for potential business. They should be capable of replicating the process and generating their own opportunities. If they produce solely off of inbound marketing leads, the salesperson will just survive and not thrive within your organization. If they don’t know how to effectively create, cultivate and generate leads they will only do what is required of them to sell and close the leads they’re given, won’t try and uncover other opportunities and in the end, you, the sales manager, and the salesperson, will be disappointed with their performance.

And it’s not just a matter of teaching them how to prospect but how to prospect effectively. Anyone can go out and get a list of names but how they contact those names, what they say, what questions they ask- all play a role in effectively “fishing” for leads.

So how can you help your salespeople?

Start by setting a new lead expectation. Making it mandatory to produce fresh opportunities on a weekly basis will force your salespeople to go out and make the dials. Next, identify your “Zebra” or ideal prospect persona. For a better understanding of the concept and best practices on identifying “Zebras” watch this short Sales Guy Unplugged video. Don’t let your salespeople call on anyone other than those that fit the personas identifies. After, research the best ways to reach your ideal prospect. Is it via email or phone call? Is LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter their preferred social media platform? Knowing how and where to reach your target persona will positively impact your salespeople’s’ ability to hunt, qualify and discover potential new business.

A salespersons job, though difficult to do, is not difficult to understand. There are 3 major components: go out in the marketplace and uncover opportunities, qualify those opportunities and close for the business. Don’t let your salespeople get by on just your internal leads- fishing for prospects is 33% of their job.

Need more help? Download our free E-Book “Why is Qualifying a Prospect so #%&@ Hard”. This book is packed with practical information that you can put into practice today to immediately increase your sales. Also, listen to the recorded live broadcast of Anthony Cole Training Group’s President and Chief Sales Officer, Mark Trinkle, covering “How to Create, Cultivate and Convert Sales Leads".

Listen to the Recording Here!

How to Attract New Leads with an Effective Marketing Message

Tags: unique selling approach, increase sales leads,

In today’s world of marketing and sales, a significant key to unlimited leads is a company’s ability to get potential buyers to find them.  There is an entire industry dedicated to inbound marketing and one of the leaders in the industry is HubSpot. 

If you go to their site you will find an endless number of ‘free’ products and services to use to help you drive potential buyers to your site, your blog, and the variety of social networks you might be using.  My good friend Pete Caputo also has a company, Databox, that provides a dashboard to help you make sense of all your data.  All of this is important but the systems and processes don’t stand-alone when it comes to having impact on internet traffic to your company.

What is still needed is powerful messaging.  Messaging that captures the attention of the market.  Messaging that helps the market become aware of one of two things:

  • A problem or potential problem they where unaware of
  • A growth opportunity or positive outcome that is available

Mark Roberge, in his book The Sales Acceleration Formula, describes this first step in the prospects buying process as the ‘awareness stage’.  Effective marketing helps create that awareness.  But there are multiple stimuli that could cause someone to buy, change behavior or take action:

  1. A neighbor raves about a new movie – you go see the movie
  2. A friend suffers severe water damage in their 25-year-old home, hires a company to repair the damage and relates the story to you– you call the company to inspect your basement to head off potential problems.
  3. A co-worker talks about completing a financial plan that will help them secure their future – you want to know who they are working with and you call that advisor to set up an appointment.

These leads for the movie, the basement sealant company and the financial advisor take place as a result of great reviews by current clients.  This informal introction has been, is today and probably will always be the best way to get GREAT leads.  But what else should you be doing, must you be doing to generate leads that don’t come from introductions and referrals?

You must have your own message that stands alone; a message that when read, heard or seen causes the awareness that takes a buyer from passive to active. The question becomes – “What must that message say to procure this transition?”

Let me start with something that George Emmons, former president at Key Community Bank, described as a ‘blinding glimpse of the obvious’.

There isn’t a single marketing message that will tell a prospective new buyer:

  • The company’s products are very expensive,
  • Should you need support after purchasing, the support will be poor,
  • Should the product fail to perform or should it break, there is no guarantee,
  • The people you will be talking to are not competent, are biased in the approach and do not have experience

When I have this discussion in my keynotes and training programs everyone starts to chuckle and at least smile because they all know it to be true.

No one communicates to the market place the negative aspects of their products. Everyone has:

  • Top of the line products,
  • Great pricing,
  • Un-paralleled service,
  • Guaranteed or your money back,
  • A professional and courteous sales associates who cares only about you and your family

With that as the back drop the question can become “What is the one thing I can do to get the market’s attention?” 

The answer? “Deliver a message that doesn’t look, act or sound like everyone else’s message.  Communicate in such a way so that people instantly think ‘This is different’.”

  • The elevator pitch
  • The value proposition
  • The 30-second commercial
  • The unique sales approach
  • The brand promise

The message has many names, but it should communicate, in a brief, appealing and effective manner, how the company and product will work for the end user.

Apple – “We make great computers. They are beautifully designed and easy to use.”

The Late John Savage (Insurance professional) – “I deliver buckets of money when people need it the most”.

Geico – “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on your car insurance.”

Anthony Cole Training Group – “We provide answers to the most common business question – How do we grow sales?”

Your compelling message should elicit one of the three following responses.

“Tell me more.”

“How do you do that?”

“That’s me (us). How can I fix it?”

The best way to create a powerful message is to listen to your message as a prospective buyer.  When you deliver your message to you, do you look, act or sound like everyone else?   If so –change the message.  You want it to cause people to react—“Tell me more.” “How do you do that?” “That’s our problem. How can I fix it?”

If your message is not having this effect, change it. 

If you’d like more information, send me a text or call at 513-226-3913 – Provide your name and refer to USA (Unique Selling Approach). I’ll be happy to help.

Sign up for How to  Create, Cultivate & Convert Sales Leads  Live Broadcast!

Sales and Super Mario

Tags: Prospecting, Qualifying leads, coaching salespeople, create & convert leads

Last week, my fiancé and I were gifted a new Super Nintendo Classic with all the originals preloaded- Donkey Kong Country, Street Fighter, Zelda and of course, Super Mario World. Now I realize only a certain group reading this will know the exact system I am referring to but my theory still applies to Atari lovers, Gameboy enthusiasts and even those of you who know nothing about gaming and gaming consoles.

The first night we picked up the retro remotes we discovered something—these games are hard! Particularly Super Mario World. Being someone who grew up with this technology, I thought getting back into it would be simple. I was wrong. I was so excited to be playing again I found myself running the course, taking risky jumps, trying to collect all the coins I could and would end up falling to my virtual death or getting hit in the head by a turtle shell. I realized that I had an opportunity to make it through to the next level but I wasn’t doing what was necessary to convert that opportunity into a win. I rushed through. I took risks that weren’t worth it but I made them anyway because it was the only play I had. And then I had an epiphany- the same thing happens in sales.mario2.jpg

One of the problems we hear our clients talk most about is their ability to grow sales and its direct correlation to their salespeople’s ability to create and convert opportunities. Lead generation and conversion requires two things: effort and effective execution. Majority of the time, we find that the effort is there but the execution could use work. If you were to ask your salespeople to show you their pipeline for the next 30 or 60 days, what would it look like? There are probably enough opportunities but are they properly vetted? Does the lead or prospect qualify to do business with your organization? Does your company qualify to do business with them? Or are they just in there to make it look like your sales person has a full dance card for the next month? Weak, unqualified pipelines make cowards of us all- we don’t want to throw the unqualified ones out because if we did, what would we have left?

Salespeople tend to rush through the sales process after hearing the littlest pain indicator or buying signal. They feel the quicker they move, the more likely the prospect is to say “yes” at time of close. However, that’s rarely how it works out. Usually when we rush, we are left with “think it over”, stalls and objections or the prospect decides not to answer calls or emails at all. So, what can your salespeople do TODAY to help fix the problem?

  1. Slow down! Don’t rush the sales process. When we rush, we get inconsistent results and are likely to face more problems on the back end.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions. The #1 reasons salespeople struggle with creating and converting leads is because they think they need to be liked in order to get the business. This will keep them from asking great, robust questions that allow them to properly qualify for the opportunity. It will also help your salespeople stand apart from their competitors.
  3. Use our free tool “Qualify Your Prospects” to help your salespeople better qualify and then have them remove prospects from their pipeline as soon as they realize there isn’t anywhere to go. They don’t need to continue wasting their time with another “discovery call” or follow-up email. Put them in your tickler system and move on to the next lead.

There are many other techniques to help your salespeople keep from getting hit in the head with “think it over” turtle shells. Sign up for our free live broadcast, “Learn How to Create, Cultivate and Convert Qualified Leads for Great Sales Growth” for more tips and tools! Your salespeople will learn proven methods to find and connect with real buyers in this new world of selling.

Sign up for How to  Create, Cultivate & Convert Sales Leads  Live Broadcast!

How Great Salespeople Continue to Learn and Earn

Tags: sales attitude, desire for sales success, achieving sales success, sales motivation

When I Googled ‘Keys to Great Sales Success’ here are some of the links I found interesting:

Each of these are good articles with great suggestions and there is nothing written or stated that a reasonable person would argue about.  There is no shortage of information about how to become a great sales person. But if was that easy then why do so many, apparently talented sales professionals seem to stagnate or completely struggle with improvement? With that question in mind I want to share with you what I’ve Learned when it comes to being successful in any profession, not just sales.

Yearning and Learning Leads to Earning.

As a boy watching TV with his dad, I became enamored with football.  At the age of nine, I asked my dad if it would be okay to go out for football.  He said “sure”.  He gave me the phone number for Matt Gazzara – coach for the local Pop Warner football team – The Hammonton Hawks – and told me if I wanted to play I needed to call Coach Gazzara and ask if I could come to a practice.  I called, went to practice and fell in love with the game.  I finished the first practice and announced to my dad that I would one day go to college to play football.

I didn't say I would like to go to college to play football. I said I would go to college to play football.  For the next eight years I did everything I had to do to put myself in a position to accomplish this goal.  My senior year I signed a full scholarship commitment letter to play football at the University of Connecticut.

The unseen aspect of this story is what I had to do in the classroom.  I played ball with other talented, faster, larger football players but they didn’t hit the books the same way, get the same grades to qualify for college.   When college coaches came knocking on Head Football Coach Joe Cacia’s door, not only did I look the part of a college football player on film, but my grades allowed me to qualify for the academics.

What I didn’t think about at the time but now realize, is that the yearning and Learning led to my Earning that scholarship. The Earning didn’t stop there.  I Earned a college degree at little cost to my parents and me.  The yearning earned me an opportunity to work as a coach at UConn, at the University of Cincinnati and at Iowa State University.  This Yearning Earned me the opportunity to meet Ralph Grieser who helped me land a great job with Nautilus Exercise Equipment that paid me my first real income of $47,000 as a sales person.  This was good money in 1983.

This story goes on but I want to cut the story short so I don’t lose you.  The shortened version is this:  I went into the insurance business in 1987 after relocating. I didn’t know anyone and selling insurance is all about who you know.  I Yearned to have a better life for my family and so I hired a coach and paid him with a credit card because I didn’t have the cash and didn’t want my wife to worry.  That decision – to Learn more about the art and science of sales - lead to Anthony Cole Training Group and where I am today.

Sign up for 1-Hour Sales Management Coaching Session

Linda and I own Anthony Cole Training Group. We employ eight people and we serve clients across the country.  Over our 25 - year history we’ve developed long- lasting relationships with our clients, product providers and business advisors.  Our family has been well taken care of.  We contribute to our community. We love the people we work with and the clients we serve.

So how about you and your team? Do you and your people continue to Yearn, Learn and Grow? If so, what do they have in common?  What is it that they Yearn for that keeps the fire burning and drives them to do the right things more consistently then those who don’t?

Think about your best people and their willingness and ability to Learn and adapt to ever changing circumstances.  You will probably find that they don’t make excuses. My guess is that they take the time to Learn and assimilate new information, adopt new thinking and strategies and implement tools and systems to keep themselves in-the-game and top of your stack-ranking reports.

And what about their Earnings?  Not just the money but also the client relationships they’ve Earned and retained over the years; The respect they have in your company and in the industry; the satisfaction of knowing they’ve done a good job; the recognition of their peers as leaders and top performers.

Finally think about the talent you have and the gap between those who are succeeding and those who are not performing at the level you anticipated when you hired them. What is missing? The Yearning or the Learning? Think about any new candidates you are looking to hire. What do they Yearn for?  Are they coachable (have desire to Learn)?

 Compare Your Salespeople on 21 Core Competencies

How to Eliminate the Rollercoaster and Anemic Pipeline Syndrome – 5 Sales Management Best Practices

Tags: Pipeline management, Effective Coaching, sales management, Sales Coaching

Why are rollercoasters and anemic pipeline syndromes important?  They aren’t important if:

  • You have validity and complete confidence in the credibility of your pipeline report.
  • Your CFO never asks you about solid sales forecasts.
  • You are ok with the unpredictable ups and downs in your team’s production.
  • Your top performers don’t mind carrying the load for the other 66% of the team--who typically generate 10% or less of new business sales. (Get more out of your non-performers)

The rollercoaster/anemic pipeline discussion is important if you need to know the answers to these important business questions:

  • How many new leads are we really generating?
  • How many of those new leads are converting to new opportunities AND what is that conversion rate?
  • What is our real average size account?
  • What is our closing ratio from new opportunities to closed /won accounts?
  • What is the dollar volume or number of new opportunities on a rolling 90 day time frame throughout the year?

Knowing the answers to these questions helps you have better predictability from your pipeline. The answers also helps you develop a more intentional coaching strategy; one that allows you the intelligence to coach your sales people on their specific choke points.

Instead of telling them they need to “See more people”, “Do a better job of closing” or “Increase your average size sale”,  you will have the ability to show the data so that they understand where they are lacking and must increase efforts and/or learn skills. 

Sign up for 1-Hour Sales Management Coaching Session

Here are 5 Sales Management BEST PRACTICES to eradicate the rollercoaster anemic pipeline problem, ALTHOUGH you must have a CRM system that does more than just allow your sales people to enter data about leads.

Your CRM tool must have a milestone centric sales process format that collects information about leads every time they go to your site, read an email, or look at your LinkedIn profile.  Your CRM must produce and display a dashboard with all the pertinent information that answers the questions asked above.  And your CRM must have a library of content you can use to help coach your people.  (Ask about about CRM – email mark@anthonycoletraining.com)

BEST PRACTICES:

  1. You have established for each sales person on your team a “Success Formula”. You can go to this link to download a template.  The individual Success Formulas puts you and your sales people on the same page which outlines effort and effectiveness required to meet and exceed extraordinary goals.
  2. You have a Huddle Process to collect real time information on effort. The entire sales process hinges on one step – effort to generate leads.  It is nothing more than effort.  While skill is required, true effort in the form of necessary behavior is critical .  S.  If you don’t have true “hunters”, recruit and replace.
  3. Read and understand what the data for business intelligence. Sales people know when they are not performing well. What they need help with is the “Why?”  The business intelligence you gain from your CRM will point you in the direction of the answer to the question “What should I be doing differently to improve sales?”
  4. Establish coaching plans for those failing (even just 5% off of target requires coaching).

**Side note:  Failing is failing.  Don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security with comments like, “He is close. He is trending in the right direction. He is one deal away from hitting goal.”

  1. Each coaching session must end with an action step: eg. “Mike, what I want you to do now is to call ABC Company and talk to your contact.  Have the discussion we just role–played and report back to me by the end of business tomorrow.”  Without action steps your sales people will leave these 1-on-1 coaching sessions and promptly forget the discussions. Unfortunately by next week you will be wondering what they did differently, if anything at all.

These 5 Best Practices are not meant to be the all-inclusive list of steps required by sales managers to drive sales productivity.  You must still have steps and strategies to motivate your people, recruit more of the right talent, have great sales meetings, develop teams that work together etc.  But focusing on these 5 Best Practices will help you develop a more credible, valid and consistent pipeline.  This is important to you, your people and the company.

Sign up for 1-Hour Sales Management Coaching Session

Additional resources:

CRM best practices-An article by Izzy Witts at Bablequest.com

9 Keys to Coaching Sales Success  Are you a great coach?

Beware Sales Team!

Tags: hiring sales people, building sales teams, building sales team

Despite how good a high powered team looks on paper, there are always “skeletons in the closet”.

This post was prompted by an article from Bank Investment Consultant: Why Advisors Will Feel Freer To Make Career Moves in 2018 by Mark Elzweig.

It's not that I'm against sales teams leaving one company for another. But over the past 25+ years, I've seen too many of these moves fail-- Fail to work out for the hiring firm and fail to work out for the team.

sales growth team.jpg

Here is what you should be cautious about if your company is considering this tactic:

  • The book of business the team says they control is never really under their control. Just like your company’s business belongs to the company, the revenue the team plans to bring actually belongs to their current employer company.

So ask yourself:  What would you do in this situation? Of course, you would fight your *ss off to keep the clients and the revenue and chances are, you would keep at least some.

You would probably involve lawyers, an expense in time and money. This means delays in the high powered team’s production. In the meantime, clients are being contacted by the employer company and they are being seduced into staying where they are.

  • These people come from a culture with systems, processes, and procedures that are different than yours, perhaps considerably different. Often this is not an easy fit and in some cases, it is quite difficult. If this team is truly high-powered, these people probably got away with some things that you wouldn’t tolerate. You may not tolerate certain behaviors to which they have become accustomed.
  • At some point in the future, the acquired team inevitably forgets that they said “Yes”. “Yes” to how they would be managed, “Yes” to the goals set, “Yes” to the business processes and “Yes” to the compensation package. They will have selective memory and problems will arise when they remember promises they thought they heard/wanted to hear.
  • You may discover that they really aren't as good as they indicated. Unless you do a deep dive into how they actually generated all the revenue they boasted about, you might find out that some of the revenue was inherited, or that their former company had certain products and services that gave them an unfair advantage which you don't have. Maybe the production came from a couple of major accounts that grew on their own and these individuals were more account managers/ farmers and not the hunters you needed and thought you were getting.
  • If they came from a 'brand' organization and you are a solid, but second tier organization (not a well known brand), you may discover that this team succeeded because of the logo, name and reputation of the brand.
  • If your company is like most, it may oversell the team. Pride in one’s organization is common and is positive, except when hiring. Selling the positives and minimizing the negatives will come back to haunt you when the new talent recognizes they traded one unsatisfactory situation for another.

Recruiting talent, poaching teams, and growing your organization by increasing talent numbers is difficult. Despite the method you choose, there are always risks.

Below are the keys to minimize the risks of bringing in a team from a competitor:

  • Develop your own team to be high performing. Make sure you have a Sales Managed Environment that has a keen focus on performance management, intentional coaching, and recruiting.
  • Recruit the best talent for the specific role. Everyone is competing for "A" players, but you don't need "A" players to grow your business. What you need is...
  • Recruit people who are better than those you have today!
  • Don't be desperate. Have a process to grow sales. Follow the process. Hold people accountable to behaviors and numbers. Be proactive in recruiting.

Should you decide to risk acquiring a high-performance team from a competitor, make sure that they are clear on all aspects to which they are agreeing prior to hiring.

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What Does It Take to Create & Convert Leads (and also Hire Those Who Will)?

Tags: Prospecting, sales leads, generating leads, how to prospect, create & convert leads

What does it take generate and convert leads and hire sales people who can consistently perform this ultimately necessary job?  

Lead Generation Equation:  Effort +Effectiveness = Leads

Hiring the right sales people who can perform this job requires:

  1. Knowing what skills and behaviors to look for in a new candidate
  2. Having a system and process to find these special people
  3. Assessing and interviewing for the critical ‘hunting’ skills

But it’s not that simple.  Every president and sales manager I’ve talked to over the last year, tell me that the biggest challenge their sales people face is creating enough leads, converting those leads to opportunities and then converting the opportunities to revenue.

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If you’ve read my posts in the past you may have stumbled across one that talks about growing up on a blueberry farm in Hammonton, NJ.  Little did I know at the time that my early life would help me better understand the world of selling.  Growing up on a farm is about surviving.  Our family survived season after season, year after year.  We were never rich, never had extra money, were never able to save for a rainy day much less put money away in a retirement account.  Surviving then (and probably now for most of those who work in farming) required three important skills and behaviors and discipline to be successful.

I assure you that none of the following three “lead generation and selling” activities were easy.  These activities required a commitment to succeed, a not-an-option mindset, specific skill sets and a vow to do everything possible to succeed.

  • Hunting – my dad hunted, had to hunt, to put food on the table for six of us.
  • Farming – we grew blueberries, peaches and strawberries. Mom and dad sent hours canning peaches and freezing strawberries and blueberries so mom could make pies in the winter.  They also bartered for tomatoes from neighbors and other local farmers and canned jars and jars of tomato puree.
  • Trapping – Years after I left the farm my dad started trapping muskrat and fox to make money from the pelts and had a garden that supplied their winter supply of canned vegetables. He also had a friend in one of the local rangers who would casually mention when there was fresh deer meat nearby.

 Growing sales requires lead generation.  Today’s lead generation activities are different than those of a few years ago, different because today’s prospects are different.  They are different because technology, the amount of information and the mobile ability to access information, has been a game-changer that favors the buyer

Today’s sales person can no longer rely solely on traditional prospecting skills and behaviors to generate leads.  Today’s successful sales person must have the hunting DNA but must also diversify efforts AND become more effective.

When we assess sales talent within an organization or screen sales candidates, we help our clients minimize the high costs of hiring ‘ghosts' with findings in several important areas that help determine if the sales person or sales candidate has the aptitude and skill to develop new business.

Hunting

As you can see from the exhibit below, very specific skills are needed to be a successful hunter. A hunter must be able to get past “gatekeepers” to reach decision makers, attend networking events and consistently prospect. 

But look at all the ‘stuff’ that you may not have known are critical to generating enough leads.  Generating leads today includes additional skills and aptitudes, as well as traditional people skills and aptitudes. Examples include: Uses sales 2.0 tools, gets referrals from customers/network, has no need for approval, WILL Prospect! 

Compare Your Salespeople on 21 Core Competencies

Increasing Lead Generation to Opportunity Ratio -  Several Steps Required!

Tags: sales prospects, sales leads, generating leads, how to prospect

We’ve been doing a fair amount of research into lead generation through our primary source, Hubspot.  We’ve had a long business relationship with them because they provide a great platform for all things that are digital marketing and associated data.  One thing we will begin to take better advantage of is their CRM application.  This will allow us to tie our marketing efforts directly to a client management AND pipeline management system.

Why is this important?  Because without a coordinated system that links marketing and sales:

  • Sales and marketing will probably not be in sync
  • There will be duplicates of effort attempting to generate helpful data regarding the impact of marketing efforts
  • The ability to clearly see the conversion of marketing lead generation to sales opportunity is compromised due to user error or lack of participation (not entering data)
  • Failure to coordinate the lead generation with a milestone based sales process makes it difficult for managers to effectively manage performance and conduct intentional coaching. (The manager will find it difficult to determine if the sales person has an effort problem or an execution problem)
  • Predictability of future sales revenue is dependent upon knowing exactly what is going into the pipeline – lead generation – and the conversion of those leads throughout your sales process.

How well aligned is senior management, including those leading the marketing effort, with sales management and the sales force?  Our data, using the Objective Management Group Sales Force Evaluation, tells us that there is usually a significant disconnect between leadership and management when it comes to the following strategies:  Business, Sales and Marketing.  Below see the findings from a bank with three managers.  Their overall alignment with senior leadership is 69%.  A series of questions are asked of the president of the bank and his three market presidents.  The percentages indicate how often the answers from each of the market presidents match with the bank president.

As you can see below the marketing area is where they are least aligned at 53%.  This isn’t the end of the problem.  We also asked all of the relationship managers (16) to write out the bank’s value proposition, brand promise and elevator pitch.

 

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Overall results (not shown) indicate that less than 50% of the relationship managers in the group were able to express the value proposition with any consistency and only 25% responded with the correct brand promise.  On the other hand, there was a 75% consistency in the elevator pitch.

Solutions:

  • Assess your sales management team to identify the variance in strategy alignment and the messaging being communicated by the sales team.
  • Communicate, train and coach sales managers on how to effectively deliver the brand promise, the value proposition and the elevator pitch.
  • Get sales management and marketing to work with the relationship managers to make sure they know the promise of the organization and can effectively communicate it to one another and to the market place. (Training sessions that include drill-for-skill and role-playing are useful.)
  • Have sales managers perform joint calls with relationship managers so that they can observe and critique delivery of the message.
  • Create and embed email templates within your CRM system that RMs may use when communicating to suspects, prospects and clients.
  • Overstate the brand promise in sales meetings.

The First Moment of Truth isn’t what it used to be. I’ve quoted this research before, The Zero Moment of Truth (ebook), because it helps companies understand that the buying process has changed dramatically.  The first moment of truth in the selling/buying process used to be initiated by a sales person.  That is hardly the case anymore because sales people simply cannot get to influencers and decision makers any more.  The buyers are either out or busy! Buyers today begin the buying process when they are stimulated by something they have seen, heard or read via the dozens of access points they have via the digital / technology / internet age.

The first moment of truth for your sales people today may in fact be the first time they’ve had the chance to talk to a suspect but what they don’t know, probably never knew, is if the buyer is an active or inactive buyer and has already begun the process.  This person may already be in the ‘Awareness’ stage of their buying journey and maybe in the middle of their “Assessment Stage’ of their buying journey.  Identifying the stage is more important then finding ‘pain’ in this first moment of truth.

Solutions:

  • Stop thinking about your sales process to improve converting leads to opportunities
  • Identify the buying process of your market place and match your approach to working with them to that buying process
  • Understand that in order to get someone to move your sales people from the assessment stage to the buyers decision stage they have to be more informative. Informative about things that they buyers doesn’t already know.
  • This doesn’t mean ‘pitch’ them on the features and benefits of your products or solutions.
  • This does mean that your people have to be better at providing useful information, becoming a resource for business solutions and guiding prospects through their buying stages

The world of buying has changed.  It’s time to change the world of selling.

How well does your team measure against your industry?  Assess your salespeople on the 21 core selling competencies.

Compare Your Salespeople on 21 Core Competencies