Author Archive

Goals Without Plans: Just Well-Intentioned Daydreams

December 13th, 2011

I am a “serial goal setter”! I have used goals all my life to chart my path and measure my progress. Perhaps it’s my need to be in control that has driven me to do this or my desire to anticipate what may be looming over the next horizon. Be that as it may, I do know that far too many sales people allow others to chart their course. They blindly accept yearly quotas as their goals for the New Year, never imagining they could enhance their results by layering personal “quality of life goals” on top of them. (more…)

The Sales Success Code: Turning Desire Into Ability

September 20th, 2011

I am fascinated by the way clients, prospects and salespeople, in general, define success. It is usually very personaland intimate, and reflects their perspective on their own life. Some define it in terms of income as in “he who dieswith the most money” is deemed successful. Others use the importance of their job to determinewhetheror not theyare successful. A third group speaks of balance, though it is rarely achieved.

We all learn to define success, and to a certain degree failure, at a very early age.It happens when we receive our first report card in grade school. Whether we were educated in a pass-fail system or an A – F system, the marks all of us dreaded were the words “fail” or the letters “D” and “F”. (more…)

Sales is a Game

August 9th, 2011

Do you “sell to live” or “live to sell”? I have been training sales people for over 16 years and have found a common trait in the highest performers: they “live to sell”. They love prospecting for new business opportunities. They love being in the role of “closer”. Their sales quota is a benchmark that they regularly exceed because just hitting quota makes them “average”. They don’t hide from the fact that they sell by putting words like “account manager” or “territory manager” on their business cards. They have turned the buyer-seller relationship into a game-A game with rules that they create!

All games have rules. Here are the rules to which the upper echelon of sales people are committed:

  1. You have to be a hunter to survive. Hunting means spending 60% of your month finding new prospects. By the way, most sales people fail because they approach selling like farming; they plant seeds they hope and pray will grow into their existing customer base.
  2. You cannot manage time. You can and must identify and execute behaviors that enable you to master it. Winning sales people know that the phrase “time is money” is a misnomer. They know they can always make more money, but they cannot recover time that has been squandered. They identify income-producing activities and focus on them in a laser-like fashion during their “pay-time” hours. (more…)

Sense of Entitlement Triggers Low Work Performance

April 4th, 2011

I didn’t begin my business life with a burning desire to become a career salesman. As shocking as it is now, I actually thought that I might become a dentist until it registered that I would really have to put my hands in some other person’s mouth. (more…)

Have You Earned the Right to Close?

February 25th, 2011

There are a lot of great movies that have been written about selling. In fact, Amazon lists the topten sales movies when you search the site, and, unfortunately, none of them present the sales profession is a very favorable light. Movies like Boiler Room, Used Cars, Tommy Boy, Wall Street, Tin Men and even The Godfather come to my mind when I do a quick scan. Yes, The Godfather! Who can forget the memorable sales pitch from the movie, “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

I still love sales movies, even though they stereotype my profession in an almost cartoonish way. There is one that really captures my vocation like no other and I have watched it so many times I can immediately quote many of the lines.

Once a year, I sit with a large bowl of popcorn and watch the movie version of the Broadway play, Glengarry Glen Ross. It is full of rich sales dialogue sprinkled with numerous expletives deleted and immortal sales phrases like, “Coffee is for closers, only,” and “A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.” As an aside, if you are a business owner or sales manager and conduct regular sales meetings, pay close attention to the sales meeting that Alec Baldwin’s character conducts at about the midpoint of the movie.

Speaking of closing, we are a single-minded army of salespeople with the following thought on our mind: Close the prospect! It’s our mantra and our driving directive. We pursue it doggedly and judge all our successes by our ability in this key area.

There have been thousands of books written about the tactics we should use to accomplish this. In the 60′s, a well-known training company coined the phrase, “If I could show you a way….” That was followed by the impending event close, “If you buy before Friday, I’ll throw in a free toaster.” And who can forget the famous insurance industry close as they slide the contract toward you, “Press hard there are 3 copies underneath.”

I often wonder if anyone ever asked a prospect how they feel when salespeople try to trap them into buying with a cluster of canned approaches. Do they feel violated and recognize that they are a footnote in a sales success journal? I have a developed a theory that each prospect knows how he or she should be closed. When a pushy sales type tries to close without understanding their buying process, the prospect is smart enough to make the “close” contingent on the lowest price. Salespeople need to earn the right to close a prospect. We earn this right when the prospect has a high degree of confidence in the salesperson, is aware of their current situation and has enough knowledge to make an intelligent buying decision.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you begin your closing “dance”:

  • Do I thoroughly understand this prospect’s problem?
  • Does the prospect understand the consequences of not fixing this problem?
  • Did the prospect get the sense that I understood their business?
  • Does the prospect see me as an expert in my field?
  • Is the prospect totally comfortable with me?
  • Does the prospect have confidence in me?
  • Does the prospect really need what I sell?
  • Does the prospect understand the ways my product or service will help them?
  • Can the prospect afford what I sell?
  • Do I understand how the prospect will make will make a decision?
  • Does the prospect know enough to make a buying decision?
  • Is the prospect willing and able to invest in my product or service?

By asking these 12 questions after each sales call, a salesperson can predict with some degree of confidence, whether they stand a chance to close this sale or not. I personally use these 12 questions as a strategic roadmap to prepare for each sales call, recognizing that I must be confident in each answer while I’m involved in the sales call.

Too many times either the buyer or seller tries to dominate a selling situation, creating an imbalance that can only be solved with price concessions. Both the buyer and seller play equally important roles in the closing of any sale. They need to work as a team, gathering critical information necessary for a successful decision.

Illustration by Rob Green

Is Your Sales Force Holding Your Future Hostage?

January 20th, 2011

I love small businesses and their owners. I spend much of my day marveling at the great accomplishments of this hearty bunch of entrepreneurs who pursue their dream and formulate the backbone of our business society. They are the lifeblood of this country. there is a soft spot in my heart for the struggles they endure as well as the challenges they must overcome to succeed.

Unfortunately, some small business owners fuel problems that don’t have to exist by focusing more on their product or service than their sales force. Having quality products and services is only half the goal; the other half is the development a high performing sales staff to present them in the marketplace.

I had an enlightening conversation with a small business owner recently about the current downward state of his business and the options he was exploring to reverse the trend.

I asked, “How many of your company problems would disappear if your sales staff would sell more of your products?”

His response startled me.

“All of them,” he said, “but there’s nothing I can do about that right now. My sales force is telling me that we have to ride it out and hope we can survive.”

My first thought was, “Do you realize that your sales force is doing a better job selling you this idea than they are selling your prospects on a reason to do business with you?”

Unfortunately, this dialogue happens all too frequently due to the complexity of our new business environment and the complacency of some salespeople.

The disturbing fact was that the business owner felt helpless to do anything to remedy the situation and was willing to accept what the salespeople were telling him as gospel. Low and mediocre performing sales teams are conspiring to keep their jobs by convincing their bosses that it’s not them, rather like Clinton said to Bush during the 1992 election, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

In reality, there is a shared commitment for success that both business owner and salesperson must accept. Here are some specific actions that the can be taken to guide sales teams to greater success:

  1. Set realistic sales goals and create daily action plans to achieve them: Stretch your salespeople to take action, but be realistic about what can be accomplished.
  2. Develop behavior models that insure high performance and uncovers mediocrity: Understand that the right behavior combined with the right hire will yield success.
  3. Brief and debrief all key sales calls: Take the time to meet with salespeople to review the strategy for key sales calls and then, after the call, review what actually happened.
  4. Use team selling to model success: Make joint calls to model the proper behavior and coach the strategy and tactics that need to be modified.
  5. Make prospecting for new business the number one priority for the sales force: Direct your salespeople to get in front of more new prospects each week. This is the lifeblood of your future growth.
  6. Better penetrate your existing customers: If you sell multiple products or services, set a goal to make sure each customer is presented the opportunity to purchase your full line.
  7. Eliminate the time wasters that sap the time of high performers and give the low performers excuses for poor results: Analyze meetings, processes, outdated systems, etc. to determine those that are preventing your sales team from more field time.. and get rid of the roadblocks.
  8. Make sure the outside sales staff is not stuck performing the duties of the inside service staff: All internal departments must step up and be more effective in order to eliminate the consistent need to follow up by the sales team.
  9. Look for unproductive activities and excuse making: Formally address the busy work and whining syndrome that many low performers exhibit. This behavior is not only annoying but also creates a negative environment that pulls the entire company attitude down.
  10. Terminate low performing sales people as a sign of respect to those who are committed to the success of the company: Send a message that high performance is rewarded and low performance is punished! You owe it to the company to get rid of those who are not contributing to its success.

Is your sales force holding your future hostage? Many business owners choose to avoid this question because it’s a difficult one to ask, but the answer is the key to true entrepreneurial success.

Stay Committed and Avoid the Holiday Slide

December 20th, 2010

I was sitting in a coffee shop reading a book in early November when I overheard two salespeople talking about the current state of their business. One was explaining to the other that he looked forward to this time of year because all his customers were out of money and all of his prospects were going to wait until next year to purchase.

He went on to say that his boss fully understood that, “no one buys this time of year so he should just visit his customers and thank them for their business.” He concluded with the exclamation that he could “kick back” and enjoy the holidays like everyone else. I couldn’t help think that this salesperson was pioneering the ten month sales year.

I, too, experienced the same phenomenon during the first two months that I was in business in 1994. I began making my sales calls in November and December and heard the same stories about waiting until next year. With no prior experiences to draw from, the voices in my head said “makes sense to me” so I prepared for the onslaught of business in the coming January.

I attended a conference in January of 1995 where I spent time with fellow Sandler trainers. When they were asked about the state of my newly formed business, I exclaimed that I started my business at the wrong time of year since no one buys training in November and December.

My peers proclaimed that they had record sales in the same two months that I sold nothing. What was the difference? Further examination showed that the difference was my belief that the prospects were telling me the truth and my peers continued to ask questions that developed what we at Sandler call PAIN. I never made that grave mistake again and have had record sales each November and December in the 14 years since.

What a wonderful time of year! In this jolly stretch, when joy is in the air, we sense peace all around us. We greet each other warmly with happy tones in our voices that are saved for “the holidays.” Festive trees are being decorated, music is in the air, houses are lighted and everyone is settling into their holiday routines.

The stores are filled with shoppers, most with elevated anxiety, who are busily trying to buy gifts for the ones they love or the ones they must in order to fulfill a holiday obligation. As Christmas approaches, the calm, peaceful, joy-filled air turns to the frenetic, “let’s just get this done so we can get to the New Year.”

This not-so-subtle change in feelings creates a difficult quandary for the high performing sales person who is trying to fulfill a business mission by meeting with prospects to sell products and services.

You see, prospects do enter into a psychological state I like to call the “holiday slide” where they try to delay all purchases until the New Year because budgets have disappeared or the just want to enjoy the holidays without dealing with annoying salespeople! The problem is, all salespeople have quotas to meet, and the November 1st to December 31st timeframe is a prime time to finish the year strong.

Let me give you a few suggestions on the things you can do to avoid the holiday slide:

  • Check your belief system. If you believe that no one buys in this timeframe than you’re the problem, not your prospects.
  • Revisit your commitment to success. If you have conditional commitment to success then you will buy in to the excuses that prospects tell you.
  • Stop using features and benefits to convince your prospects. Prospects never buy features and benefits unless they fit their PAIN, or compelling reason to buy. Stop selling intellectually and connect with your prospects emotionally.
  • Set goals for the November and December timeframe. If your only goal is to get through this period of time then you will achieve it. Set specific sales goals and raise the number of face-to-faces you have each week.
  • Find an accountability partner. If you have a weak belief system you should partner with someone who has a stronger one. Stop commiserating with losers.
  • Check your spine. If your spine is weaker than it should be, your prospects will always win. Stiffen your spine and realize that someone is getting rich in this timeframe-why not you?!

I want to close with a holiday wish for each of you who have read this column and sent me emails with your successes. I wish you health, happiness and good fortune in the New Year