Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Chicken Little and The Impact of Dol (pt.1)

Tags: managing sales teams, DoL regulations, managing advisors

chickens.jpgAs the story goes, Chicken Little gets hit on the head and declares the sky is falling.

Last spring, the Department of Labor passed new fiduciary regulations on the financial advisory business, and since then, there have been an untold number of articles written about the impact on advisors, the industry and consumers.  Several of these have stated that:

  • Trillions of dollars will saved in investor commissions because advisors will soon be held to a much stricter fiduciary standard that affects transactional incentives.
  • Advisors will lose ½ of their revenue because what was a solid investment recommendation and seen as ‘suitable’ will soon be considered conflicted advice because it paid them commission.
  • The industry is in turmoil as it attempts to figure out how to meet DoL regs, hold on to high-performing advisors and effectively make-up the assumed lost revenue.

The sky is falling?!?

I read Bank Investment Consultant at least 3 times a week.  The publication and its editors/authors do a great job of keeping people connected to the industry in the loop on the latest changes, trends and thought leadership.  Lee Conrad, Editor of Bank Investment Consultant, recently wrote an article titled:  Bank Advisers:  Prepare to Cut Your Book by Half

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:

The fiduciary rule will require most bank advisors to trim their books of business to a much more manageable level. How much is really a guessing game at this point. But, for many advisors, especially those who have focused on transactional business, it will be significant.

This was just one of the discussions from our last Industry Leadership Forum in Denver. We hold these meetings in conjunction with Stathis Partners as small, invitation-only gatherings for industry execs to discuss the top issues on their radar screens.

So, how many clients can an advisor reasonably manage when they are acting in a fiduciary capacity? The numbers bandied about in our meeting were in the low hundreds: about 200 give or take.

***

REALITY CHECK
How many clients do advisors really have? Consider some research we did earlier this year for our annual Top Program Managers ranking. In addition to asking each nominee how many advisors they had on their teams, we also asked how many households their teams served. We've never used those results until now, but the average was 750 client households per advisor. The median was a bit lower--about 550--but many of the individual programs had well over 1,000 clients per advisor.

***

TEE-UP THE CROSS SELL
Here's one more assumption, on my part, that I feel pretty good about: Advisors don't want to lose too much of their pay. If they generated, say $200,000 in annual production in 2016 and next year they find themselves with a book of business that's been cut by half, the natural move for them will be to get more profit from each client. (Just how to segment a book was another discussion at our forum, which we'll write about in a future installment.)

So, here is the first thing you should keep in mind about Dol and its impact:

It’s easy to get caught in the DoL quicksand.  Two friends of mine who also happen to be well -respected people in the industry, Michael Graham from Midwest Securities Trading Company and Kevin Mummau from CUSO, are not panicking.  Actually, we all seem to agree that this is a great opportunity for advisors:

  • The money hasn’t gone anywhere.
  • Advisors that aren’t very good at really advising clients and struggle with “fiduciary” standards will leave the business.
  • The solutions to the “problems of revenue loss” already exist: financial planning and risk management products.

So, is the sky really falling? We will answer that question in our next post!

Did Your Salespeople Grow Up on the Farm?

Tags: record collection, nature vs nurture, product of your backgroun, Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis, SEIA, core values and beliefs

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You and your salespeople are a product of mom and dad, the people met, the experiences had and the education/knowledge acquired:

  • Nature and Nurture
  • Heredity and Environment

Recently, I read a Jack Reacher novel.  Jack is a fictional character in many of Lee Child’s novels.  Jack is a former military police officer and states to himself, “You can leave the army, but the army doesn’t leave you.”  I stopped and thought about that comment and related it to my own life and realized, “You can leave the farm but the farm doesn’t leave you.”

Those that know me and have heard me speak or train know that I reference my youth and growing up on the farm in Hammonton, New Jersey.  Hammonton is the blueberry capital of the world, home of the Hammonton Hawks, the Hammonton Blue Devils and Bruni’s Pizzeria.

I am a product of those experiences as well as the numerous people I’ve met, places I’ve been, books I’ve read, speakers I’ve heard and work/fun experiences I have had since I was 18.  But, I am pretty sure much of what I am today - how I think and how I act - are a result of those first 18 years.  The farm and growing up the son of Ray and Geri Cole laid the foundation that is me today.

The core values and beliefs I learned on the farm that still guide me today:

  • When all else fails, hard work works.
  • Get up early and go to work.
  • Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Learn how to hunt and provide for your family.
  • Working piece meal pays you your true value (i.e. working on commission).
  • Don’t try to control what you cannot control (i.e. Weather and the rate at which blueberries ripen for harvest).
  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Someone will always have it better/worse than you.
  • Two things have to happen – death and taxes.
  • God will provide wisdom, strength and courage – you have to do the work.
  • Not everyone gets to play.
  • Winners are rewarded.
  • God provided us with two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you talk.
  • You have to be in great shape to play college football.
  • Thank and love Mom, Dad and God.
  • 4th place didn’t get a medal.
  • If you hoe long enough, blisters will become calluses.
  • Trucks run better with all four tires.
  • Hard work can be fun.
  • Make your handshake mean something.
  • All we have is our integrity.
  • Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be answer, ask and it will be given.
  • The only way to get a pretty girl to go out with you is to ask her out for a date.
  • Your heart will be broken and mend.
  • If you plant trees in good soil, take care of them with food and water and shelter them from harm, they will last a long, long time (See my picture of the sugar maple my dad planted over 60 years ago).
  • Love grows best in little houses.
  • Kids taking care of pets learn about responsibility, life and death.
  • Hugs are free.
  • There’s always room for Jello
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • I’m not a Rockefeller.
  • Practice what you preach.
  • Take care of your equipment and your equipment will take care of you.

Most, if not all, of this list has served me well over the years. There is also a list of things I had to unlearn/undo because it didn't/ doesn't serve me well.

  • Don’t talk to strangers.
  • Life isn’t fair.
  • Rich people are ‘rich bastards’.
  • You want people to like you.
  • Don’t upset the apple cart.
  • Fit in.
  • Play it safe.
  • Don’t trust salespeople.
  • Biases based on gender, religion and color of skin.
  • You can’t be wealthy and happy.

I’m sure I could add more, but I’m also sure that this is getting boring, so I’ll get to the point.  That point is this: you have to do more in your training and development program than just teach tactics and techniques.  There’s lots of stuff in your head -  and in the heads of your people - that influences what you do and won’t do.  To get the most out of any training and development program, you have to understand the “root” cause.

Understanding who your people are is critical in getting them to perform. Understanding who you are will help you help them.

Here is a way to learn more about how your people think when it comes to sales and sales management:  Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis.

Is Your Sales Team HUNTING or Hunting?

Tags: sales competencies, hunting for sales prospects, sales hunting

When I was a youngster, I used to go hunting with my dad and my older brother, Ray.  I never hunted with my younger brother, Michael, until just a few years ago.  But Ray, Dad and I spent many weekday evenings and weekends in the woods. We were doing two things:

  1. Preparing to hunt
  2. Hunting

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PREPARING to hunt included:

  1. Going into the woods to scope out the places where deer frequented or could be convinced to frequent
  2. Building tree stands in close proximity to deer paths or food plots
  3. Going to the sweet potato or squash fields to pick up potatoes and squash left from the previous day harvest. Sometimes we would get apples or peaches
  4. Taking basket after basket after basket of deer food (see number 3) into the woods
  5. Practicing our bow skills by shooting targets at 20 yards. Dad was so good he could hit a moving quart milk jug!
  6. Getting a license to hunt
  7. Getting the right clothes for cold weather
  8. Getting the equipment ready
  9. More practice

HUNTING included:

  1. Sitting in a tree stand freezing your baguettes off waiting for a deer to show up
  2. Not moving for 3 hours even if you had to pee
  3. Shooting at a deer
  4. Retrieving arrows that missed the deer
  5. Tracking, finding and field dressing the deer if the arrow hit its mark
  6. Carrying the deer out of the woods – sometimes up to a mile
  7. Skinning and butchering the deer (Actually, I did none of #6 or 7...)
  8. Eating the venison (I did lots of this!)

Everything I just listed (and yes, Ray, I’m sure I missed something…) would be defined as HUNTING.  Even if it appears that sometimes it is waiting and not actually hunting, I assure you it is all hunting.

Then... there is the hunting I’ve done the past week:

  1. I joined a hunting club.
  2. I showed up either early in the morning or early in the afternoon.
  3. Brian, the manager of the club, took me to a tree stand.
  4. Using a buck call, I called for and waited for a deer to show up.
  5. If one showed up, I shot it (I actually got my first dear about a month ago) and sent a text to Brian. If I didn’t see or hit one, I sent a text to Brian and he came to get me.
  6. When I hit a deer, Brian and I tracked the deer.
  7. Brian field dressed the deer.
  8. Brian took the deer to the processor.
  9. I picked up the packaged deer meat.
  10. I prepared venison parmesan.
  11. We ate.

This is hunting in my world today.  Notice the differences?

Yes, I still have to practice.  I still have to get my hunting gear together and make sure my equipment is ready to go.  I still have to get up early and get to the game club.  I still have to sit in the tree quietly and not move.  I still have to have skills to put myself in a position to draw the bow, release the arrow and hit the target.  What I really do not do anymore is sit and shoot… or, rather, just sit.

Now, I want you to think about the similarities in HUNTING for deer and HUNTING for prospects.  And then, I want you to answer some questions:

  • Which hunting is your sales team doing?
  • Which steps are they doing?
  • Which steps are they skipping or failing to do?
  • What impact does this have on their ability to close more business, more quickly, at higher margins?
  • If they are not consistently hunting, then what is the likelihood that they will have consistent sales results?

Brian and I went out last week when the weather was rather warm.  It was too warm to expect a good hunt, really.  I knew that.  He knew that.  But I told him I was going out anyway.  On the way to the stand, we talked about the weather and I made the comment, “It might be too hot, but I certainly won’t even get a chance to shoot a deer unless I go into the woods.”

And… there you have it.  Regardless of how you do it, regardless of the environment, regardless of the difficulties you have to face, the reality is that, in order to get someone to say “yes” to your product or services, you must have salespeople who "go into the woods" and hunt!

deer-hunter.png

Important Resource:

Find out if you have hunters, account managers or farmers – Assess the ability of your current team to grow sales.

Habits of Highly Successful Sales Managers

Tags: sales management, managing sales teams, sales habits, highly successful salespeople

salesmgrhabits.jpg

Successful sales management requires several contributions:

  • Skill
  • Time
  • Systems and processes
    • Coaching
    • Performance management
    • Motivation
    • Recruiting
    • Mentoring
  • Effort
  • Effective Execution

I won’t claim that this is the entire list but, when we conduct our Sales Management Certification Program with our clients, these are the primary contributions to success that we cover.

I just delivered a 3-hour workshop to a wonderful insurance company, Sunstar.  Sunstar is lead by Casey Bowlan from Memphis, Tennessee. I was introduced to Casey three years ago and, over the last three years, I’ve been fortunate and honored to be invited to speak to his group.  Sunstar is growing organically at an awesome rate and, with acquisitions, they have cracked the top 100 privately-held agencies list.  Congrats to Casey and his team.

Our most recent topic was The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople.  For their session, I started the program a little differently than I normally do.  I asked the participants to first identify and share with the people at their table those habits that they believed contributed to their success.  Below are some of the common habits identified:

  • Developing great relationships
  • Networking
  • Time management
  • Getting to decision makers
  • Being selective in prospecting
  • Providing exceptional customer service

I asked them to arrive at this list so that we could then talk about the flip-side of the list – those habits that inhibited or hurt their ability to close more business, more quickly at higher margins.  Below are some of the habits they identified:

  • Selling on price
  • Inconsistent prospecting
  • Procrastination
  • Presenting to the wrong people
  • Selling to anyone that fogged a mirror
  • Poor prioritization
  • Being too comfortable

It was an interesting discussion and I share this with you to suggest that you do the same thing for your team. 

However, in the meantime…

How about you and your habits?  What are those habits that you can point to that you KNOW have a positive impact on sales results and exceeding goals?  Here are some that I observe and hear about:

  • Coaching: in-the-moment coaching to get a deal closed
  • Reporting sales results
  • Joint calls
  • Setting goals
  • Conducting regular sales meetings
  • Reviewing and reporting pipeline

This is a good list and, with some additions, it can become a great list.  To examine what else you might want to consider, take a look at the following list of elements necessary for successful coaching:

  • Debriefs sales calls
  • Asks questions
  • Controls emotions
  • Allows salespeople to fail
  • Implements and manages the execution of a consistent sales process
  • Motivates when coaching based on individual/personal goals
  • Coaches to improve skill and change behavior
  • Gets sales people to follow through on commitments

Keep in mind this is just the list for coaching effectiveness. There are other elements to consider when we talk about motivation, performance management and recruiting.

What I am suggesting is that it’s not enough to just have the skill.  In order for managers to be successful at having a sales team built for growth, the manager must be in the habit of using those skills.

Let Silence Do the Heavy Lifting in Sales

Tags: sales techniques, Sales Strategies, closing sales, effective communication

A guest post by Mark Trinkle, Chief Sales Officer, Anthony Cole Training Group

Hello, darkness, my old friend.

I’ve come to talk with you again.

Because a vision, softly creeping,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping.

And the vision, that was planted in my brain,

Still remains…

Within the sound of silence.

 

So, that is the answer, courtesy of Simon & Garfunkel…And the question is this: “What song, released by a duo over 50 years ago, can help salespeople today?”

Yes, the unmistakable sound of silence. Wait a minute…does silence make a sound?  If you are a professional salesperson, you would say it absolutely does.  Susan Scott, the author of the wonderful book, “Fierce Conversations”, offers up some great advice when she suggests making your conversations more impact-ful by allow the silence to do the heavy lifting.

I think what Susan could have in mind are the hundreds of thousands of salespeople who treat silence like it is the Zika virus…they instantly run away from it.  But, what if silence was good within the context of having a powerful conversation?  What if silence led you a deeper level in a conversation?

Most salespeople are afraid of silence because they perceive it to be a) awkward or b) a sign that the prospect has checked out on them.  But, remember that you can speak much faster than people can listen…so sometimes they just need to be given time to allow their internal processor to catch up.

Here’s one more thing I have observed with salespeople.  They ask a great question….a killer question… the prospect goes radio silent…and then our salesperson ruins the moment by collapsing like a poorly dug prison tunnel.

Let the silence do the heavy lifting. I know it will be a strange feeling at first, but sometimes strange is actually a good thing.  Give your prospect some space to process the questions you ask them.

Thanks for listening. Now, go do some heavy lifting…actually, let the silence do the heavy lifting for you…and sell like a champion today.

Close More Sales with AWATL

Tags: closing sales, clarifying sales agreements, letters to prospects, prospect communication, AWATL

A guest post by Jack Kasel, Sales Development Expert, Anthony Cole Training Group

“What we have here . . . . is a failure to communicate.” 

You may recognize that line from one of my all-time favorite movies, Cool Hand Luke.  If you get nothing else out of this Sales Brew, do yourself a favor and go rent that movie.  You will be glad you did. 

Struther Martin’s character in the movie, Cool Hand Luke, makes that statement when the prisoner’s don’t do what is expected of them.  This same execution problem can occur during the sales process and it can cause problem with moving the sale to a timely close.  It usually manifests itself when something like this occurs . . . . . I think I know what you are going to do and you think you know what I’m going to do, but neither one of us really knows for sure what the other one wants or needs.  Thus, the need for the AWATL.

The AWATL stands for “As We Agreed To Letter”.  It is a brief correspondence that the salesperson should send out to clearly indicate what the expectation is (for both parties) on what is needed and expected.  It can be used early in the process or during the middle and is also extremely effective just before you present your solutions to the prospect.

The AWATL process is pretty simple, but it can be very effective.  It is a bullet-point letter or email which spells out the go-forward expectations for both the salesperson and prospect.  It also contains date-specific deadlines to make sure the process doesn’t get stalled or delayed.  Everything works better with deadlines and that is especially true when closing sales.  As mentioned previously, it can be VERY effective just before your closing presentation. 

The important elements of the AWATL includes:

  • The problems you have uncovered that your prospect NEEDS to fix
  • The budget you need to stay within
  • All the decision makers who will be present
  • Finally, and most important, the agreed-to and anticipated date when a decision will be made.

As sales professionals, we should try to control as many aspects of the sales process as possible.  We believe the AWATL can help you help you accomplish that goal… or at least help eliminate any misunderstandings that may hinder you from closing more business. 

In closing, please remember this, someone needs what you do . . . . make sure you don’t “fail to communicate” with them.

The Best of the Best, Sir!

Tags: managing salespeople, hiring better salespeople, Geoff Smart, Randy Street, recruiting sales talent, 80/20 Principle

In a scene from Men in Black, Will Smith’s character, Agent J, asks, “Why are we here?” (He is in a meeting room with the head of Men in Black, Agent Zed, along with several other recruits all from various branches of the military.)  Agent Zed asks one of the recruits to answer the question.  The young recruit stands and declares, “We are the best of the best, SIR!” (link to watch youtube video)

Isn’t that what you should be looking for when recruiting sales and sales management talent?  Yesterday, I wrote a post about hirebettersalespeople.com.  In the post, I mentioned the book, Who.  In that book, Geoff Smart and Randy Street suggest that you create a scorecard to help in the evaluation process.  The scorecard is supposed to be used to find that someone who has a 90% chance of doing what only the top 10 salespeople can do.  I think that is a stretch and unrealistic.

Now, to be fair to the authors, I believe they do a nice job of explaining that an “A” player for a company in New York is probably different than an “A” player for a different company in Manchester, NH.  In other words, not all “A” players need be the same nor are they created the same.  But, aside from that, I still have an issue.

If you look at many great “A” players in sales, the arts or in sports, they just didn’t show up that way.  Many have been groomed and developed over many years to become that “A” player.  The key is to look for the “A” DNA in someone.  We know what that DNA is.  (Click here to request a sample of the ideal fit candidate analysis)

What I believe makes sense is to look for someone that has a 92% chance of success at helping to contribute to the 96% of your results.  Let me explain.

You may or may not have read other articles I’ve written in the past about the 80/20 of the 80/20 and Perry Marshall’s book – The 80/20 of Sales and Marketing.  If you follow the method I’ve described (based on Marshall’s book), you arrive at the following in Figure 1:

8020-talent-chart.pngFigure 1

If you have revenue of $20,000,000 generated by 50 salespeople and then conduct the 80/20 of the 80/20, you discover that $19,200,00 of the 20,000,000 (96%) is generated by 18 of the 50 salespeople (36%).  Based on this, I believe that your best recruiting strategy is to find people that look like your top 36% or have the same DNA as that top 36% that are generating 96% of your revenue.

I’m sure the authors of Who would question the wisdom of this.  “Why…”, they might ask, “would you settle for salespeople that are less qualified than those that are at least as good as your very best?”

It’s not a matter of settling.  It’s a matter of understanding the today’s marketplace and understanding that talent has to be developed

First… the market place:

There has not been a single prospect or client that I’ve talked to in the last 5 years that has not shared with me the challenge of finding, recruiting, hiring and successfully on-boarding new talent - with the biggest challenge being the “finding.”  There are a couple of reasons for that huge challenge:

  • Most companies don’t work at it consistently and so they suck at it when it comes time to recruit.
  • There isn’t a process/system in place that utilizes filtering processes to attract the right candidates.
  • The pool of available candidates is smaller today than it was with the boomer generation.
  • Those available in the candidate pool today have a tendency to find jobs other than sales.
  • The un-steady economy has kept experienced salespeople from seeking other opportunities for fear of “last in, first out”.

Next… talent development.

As stated above, talent just doesn’t fall off of trees and, unfortunately, everyone in your market is vying for the same “A” talent.  If you cannot offer the same compensation as some of your competitors to attract and hire “the best of the best”, then you have to make great selections from the talent that is currently available.  In order to do this, you should have a very good understanding of what your talent looks like. Specifically, you should start looking at the 36% of your current talent that is generating 94% of your results and stop looking for and hiring people that look like your bottom 64%.

  • Identify the results being generated by the top 36%.
  • Identify the activities and behaviors of this top group.
  • Identify the following:
    • Will to sell
    • Sales DNA
    • Figure-it-out factor
    • Trainability and coachability
  • Determine if you have the talent in the management role to:
    • Coach
    • Motivate
    • Manage performance
    • Mentor, grow and develop people

I grew up on a farm where we primarily grew peaches and blueberries.  I just visited the old homestead and, though many things have changed, one thing has not changed.  In the farm acreage, there are various plots of blueberry plants.  Some plots contain plants that are mature enough to be harvested while others have plants that are still being developed and grown to produce.  In the nursery plots, there are plants with solid DNA that are being cultivated, fed and cared for so that, at the right time, they can be productive.  The same should be done with the talent in your organization.

For further assistance, call us at 513.791.3458 and ask for Alex – our expert at hiringbettersalespeople.com. 

HireBetterSalespeople.com

Tags: hiring salespeople, hiring better salespeople, Top Grading, Who, #1 sales assessment

This is a blatant blog post boasting about our hiring deliverable - Hirebettersalespeople.com.  I normally don’t do this in this forum in such an obvious fashion, but I cannot help it today.  Allow me to explain…why this…why now.

I have a book on my shelf, Who, written by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.  Those two are famous in the world of hiring better talent.  Their first book, Top Grading, made the best seller list and is now in its third edition printing.  As I started to read Who, much of what I was reading was familiar and I assumed it was because I had read other materials written by the authors. Turns out that it was familiar because I had started reading that book years ago!

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Here is the premise of the book in a nutshell:  The “what” in your business is the easy part of business.  The “who” is what costs you time, money, freedom and maybe, eventually, your business if you don’t get the right “who”.  The “who” is what separates your business from every other business in your space. It’s the difference maker in your peace of mind and making the “what” actually happen.  In short:

Nothing else matters nearly as much as the “Who”.

In January of this year, 2016, we launched Hirebettersalespeople.com.  Actually, 3 years ago, I managed to capture the domain name and just kind of sat on it.  Over that time period, it seemed that every one of our clients who hired us for sales and sales management development complained about their difficulty in finding talent that would actually perform as expected when they were selected.

Sound familiar?

Based on these discussions with various associations and the on-going noise about the same issue I heard at every conference and workshop I went to, I decided to put our offering together and market it to our clients and prospects.

Hirebettersalespeople.com combines 1) our experience/expertise/knowledge about what it takes to be successful in sales and sales management, 2) Objective Management Groups #1 in the world pre-hire assessment tool and 3) Dave Kurlan’s Sales Talent Acquisition Routine. (STAR).  To learn even more about it, CLICK HERE to view our slidedoc on Hire Better Salespeople.

According to the research documented in the book, a bad hire of $100,000 can cost a firm 15x that amount in salary, training and development, lost opportunities and poor performance by others that this hire was supposed to be managing/leading.  How big is that number for you?

Stop the bleeding. Get the right people on board. Stop spending so much time on the “what” until you get the right “who” in place.  Nothing else you do in 2017 will have as much impact on finding, hiring, and coaching the right people to grow your revenue and company!

How Do You Sell to a Millennial B2B Decision-Maker?

Tags: How to Sell, selling to millennials, how to sell to millennials, B2B marketing

A Guest Post by Salesloft.com

How do you sell to a millennial B2B decision-maker? Be aware of what’s important to that individual – just as you would with any client.

You’ve heard the jesting description: Millennials are narcissists, attention-seeking, spoiled clingers still living in their parents’ house, buried under a ton of student debt. They studiously avoid the business of adulting and all that it entails. They don’t stick in jobs, believing a year is plenty of service to a company. They work, gain some experience and move on.

This could lead you to believe, if you’re selling your product or service to a millennial decision-maker, that a little flattery and consistent attention combined with some numbers and a few benefit statements will make the sale for you. And if you’re not successful with the first millennial buyer, another one will be along within a year.

Those aren’t good assumptions and that’s not a good plan. Millennials are flooding the workforce.

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials have surpassed Generation Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force with 54 million individuals. In fact, this year, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers. The Department of Labor predicts that by 2025, the workforce will grow to include 74 million millennials. As their career trajectories lengthen, they’ll move into more powerful decision-making roles and you need to be ready.

According to research done by the B2B marketing agency Sacunas, 53 percent of millennials are already involved in B2B buying decisions at their companies. Ignoring the unique priorities of millennial decision-makers is not good business.

So how do you sell to the millennial decision-maker? What prompts a millennial to make a B2B buying decision.

IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING CONNECTED

Millennials are connected. They’re the first generation to be completely wired and they’re more likely to turn to technology to do research when they are making a buying decision for their company. And they research diligently.

According to the Sacunas research, they use Facebook and YouTube to connect with humans who have engaged the services of a vendor. They look at the vendor’s social media feeds to assess customer service. They visit Glassdoor to examine company reviews to determine if the vendor is someone they want to do business with.

They ask friends and colleagues, via social media, if they would recommend a company’s product or services. They value the opinions of other people.

This makes it imperative that your company monitor its reputation on social media, swiftly address concerns and provide outstanding customer service.

VIDEO IS KING

Millennials like video content. They particularly like it if it provides relevant, informative content, such as product demos, training and news about the company or marketplace. Practical information that they see as readily applicable to their specific buying need resonates with millennial buyers. They’re gathering data for the group of decision-makers; if it’s good, they look good. If it’s video, they’re even happier.

Make it visual and valuable and you’re capturing the attention of a millennial buyer.

THEY NEED PROOF

Depending on where they are on their career trajectory, accurate data is important to the millennial buyer. They’re gathering research for a decision-making group – it’s rare for one person to be the decision-maker on a corporate buy today – so the better the data, the happier they are. It solidifies their reputation with the team as someone who does the homework necessary to make a smart decision.

If they’re buying automated revenue analysis software from you, how effective and accurate has it been in similar industries? Do you have numbers? If they’re buying an email tracking program, what kinds of data does it collect and how do they apply it to their business? If they’re looking at your customer relationship management service in the cloud, what kinds of reporting can it generate to help them identify growth channels and leads?

If you can provide that information, you’re arming the millennial buyer with the powerful tools he needs to make the recommendation you want.

THEY WANT TO SEE YOUR FACE

Relationships are important to millennials. There’s no arguing that texting and emailing are viable forms of communication, but millennials like personal contact, even if it’s a meeting by Skype or Facetime. A direct connection with a real human (which is why they turn to social media for confirmation of their thoughts) is critical at an early stage in the sales cycle.

ARE YOU A GOOD CORPORATE CITIZEN?

The Marketing Scope reports that millennials feel good about working with vendors who demonstrate a commitment to a cause, who are philanthropic, who give back to the community they serve. Millennials connect with companies that have clear environmental policies. Social, environmental and philanthropic values have a direct impact on a millennial’s decision to work with a specific vendor.

BOTTOM LINE

We know you’re going to treat every buyer with respect. Millennials may have specific triggers that are important to them, like the environment and social causes, looking professional to their bosses, demonstrating excellent levels of due diligence, so it’s important to be aware of that. But it’s just good business to do a thoughtful needs analysis and find a true and worthy solution to your buyer’s pain.

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Desire and Performance Variability

Tags: managing sales teams, desire for sales success, managing salespeople, variability in sales performance

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“What you can conceive and believe you can achieve.”  - Napolean Hill

This is so obvious that any meaningful information could probably be expressed simply by stating:

If you have people with various levels of desire for success in sales, you will have variability in performance!

Done. 

Not really, but this isn’t going to take a long time either.

Many years ago, I heard Mark Victor Hansen (author, speaker and all-around good guy) present to the Cincinnati Association of Life Underwriters.  It was at our annual conference and he was our keynote speaker.  His topic was “Visualizing is Realizing.”  During his presentation, he made the comment, “Motivation is an inside-out job.”  I wrote that down in 1990, and I’ve used that phrase over and over again in our 23-year history as a company.

Time and again, sales managers, sales executives and presidents of companies ask me, “Tony, how do I keep my team motivated?”  I tell them that they cannot do that because it’s something their people have to come wired with. That's mostly true. Companies do have to have an environment where it’s possible for people to create reasons for staying motivated.  Compensation, contests, incentives, and recognition all play a part in keeping people motivated.  However, in the end, people have to have a really good answer to the question: “Why do I desire success in selling?”

Success in selling is very specific.  It isn’t just success in a vacuum.  It’s success in a very difficult role with very difficult challenges.  I was once asked why I was in life insurance sales.  I responded that I liked people.  The prospect said, “Bullshit. You’re in sales because you want to make a lot of money.”  I said, “Fair enough; you’re right. I do want to make a lot of money.”

But, money in and of itself is not the root desire.  It’s one of the basics that drive the desire. It’s represented in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Money is just a way to take care of food, shelter, clothing, freedom from harm and security.  Traditionally, people that are very successful in selling have this one thing in common – they have lots of s**t to do that requires money.

Yes, sometimes people have a desire to be recognized as the best.  And they want to have self-satisfaction for a job well-done; but I assure you that none of that matters if there are bills to pay, kids to be fed, a college/mortgage/wedding to pay for or new cars to be driven.

With that as the foundation, let me make this as simple as I can to help answer the question, “So, how do I minimize variability in performance by focusing attention on desire?”

  1. Recognize that it is an inside-out job… so that means you have to recruit people that have huge desire for success in selling.
  2. Traditionally, desire is a result of people establishing goals.
    1. Your manager has to be leader in this. If they are not a goal setter (personal goals), then chances are your salespeople won’t be either.
    2. Your manager also has to set the example of goal achievement.
    3. Your manager has to create an environment/opportunity for personal goal setting.
  3. Your manager has to have the mindset that they must know what motivates their salespeople – why do they desire success in sales?
  4. The sales manager needs to recognize that it is their responsibility to help people raise their self-esteem by recognizing success in all forms when it happens.

As I stated in the beginning, the connection between desire for success and selling and the variability of performance is pretty obvious.  If you want to minimize variability in success, minimize the variability in desire for success.