Author Archive

You Can’t Manage Time!

October 13th, 2010

By Ken Edmundson

So much has been written in various sales training blogs about time management that you hardly have the time to read about it. There are numerous time management programs, processes and tools, and even with all this help, you still can’t manage time no matter how hard you try.

There are 24 hours in a day, 86,400 seconds ticking away second by second as you read this. You can’t save these seconds or store them up; when they are gone, they are gone! Never to be recovered. Never to be recycled and reused, and although you can’t manage time, you can manage your activities-what you do in the time that you have-and that will be your most effective tool for getting the most out of your time. To be a really good time manager, you simply need a process to successfully manage your activities and to manage your activities, you only need to know two things:

  • What to do first.
  • What to do next.

Step 1: To identify what to do, take a piece of paper and create a three column daily or weekly to do list. Label one column “Must Do,” the next column “Should Do,” and the third column “Stop Do.”

Step 2: In the “Must Do” column, list all of the things that are imperative to accomplish, things that must be completed, things that are directly tied to your goals and responsibilities.

Step 3: Review the “Must Do” list; prioritize the items in terms of importance and difficulty. It is imperative to do the most difficult first.

Step 4: Next, plan carefully and assign each item an amount of time for completion.

Step 5: In the “Should Do” column, list all of the things that you would like to do because they are important, although not essential.

Step 6: In the “Stop Do” column, list those items which tend to use/kill time that are not productive. The “Stop Do” list is a daily and weekly reminder of things you should stop doing that are getting in your way. There should always be items on the “Stop Do” list.

So start with the “Must Do” list and begin with the highest priority and most difficult item, or the item you least like to do, and do it NOW! Today, without exception. When the time for that activity is up, STOP! And move on to the next activity. If you continue to work beyond the predetermined time limit, you are stealing valuable time away from the next important “Must Do” task. If that project suffers because of insufficient time, you will soon be in debt to countless hours of time that will never come. When you complete the “Must Do” items, you can move on to the “Should Do” items, but not until the “Must Do” items are complete.

As time goes on, some of the things on past “Should Do” lists will transfer to the “Must Do” list, but you will evaluate them and move them, not chance or pressure or unorganized time.

Most people have trouble getting the most out of their time because not only do they not prioritize their “Must Do” and “Should Do” lists, but they actually have too many things on their list to begin with that are neither “should do” or ‘must do”… maybe the Stop Do will be as important for you as the Must Do!

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Finish each day and be done with it-tomorrow is a new day!”

Ken Edmundson is the CEO of the Edmundson Northstar Institute, a Sandler Training franchise based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Illustration by Rob Green

Why Is Everyone Mad at Our Salespeople?

September 16th, 2010

By Ken Edmundson

The change in the economic climate in the last two years has affected everyone, and one of the more dramatic effects is the cultural impact it’s had on organizations. Employees no longer feel safe, and they don’t like it. They are feeling left out, they are angry to see their friends laid off and their pay cut, and all they hear as a reason is that sales have dropped 30, 40 or 50% – and they now demand to know more! They want to know why the results are so poor. They want to know what the leadership is doing to strengthen the company, and the unified voice of many of the employees in companies we work with sounds like this, “We’re working harder than ever and we’re picking up the slack for our fallen comrades, so what is the sales department doing to save us?!”

In years past, the sales department has been the secret domain for a select few in the executive suite, andfrequently the salespeople were considered the untouchables in an organization. I have said many times thatthe reason team members in administration, finance, production and customer service so often dislike the sales team is because sales teams are the only group in the organization who largely remain unaccountable for their actions and results. That’s changing now! The economy has forced far more accountability by the entire sales team as well as the sales manager and CEO.

I do a lot of teamwork with companies. I’ve written a book on teamwork. We do assessments on teamwork, and one of the most noticeable changes I’ve seen in teamwork recently has been the demand by production, finance and administration teams to hold the sales team more accountable for their work. Many times people feel they are losing their jobs because the sales team is not doing their job! They want to know that the sales team is doing everything they can to keep the company safe.

In working with small and middle market businesses, I talk with a lot of CEOs and sales managers about these issues, and I’ve found six barriers that create this emotional crisis between the sales department and everyone else in the company:

  • Experience – most organizations have never been through an economy like this, and it’s more problematic because often the CEOs have no background in sales, and they defer to a VP of Sales or Sales Manager to lead and direct the effort. I tell CEOs, “You are the chief sales director of your organization andmust own the results; and until you do, you are at risk. The CEO must take ownership of the sales results – stop blaming the sales team regardless of your experience.
  • Weak Hiring System – don’t let anyone into your sales team that is not going to improve the organization. If you don’t know how to do that, hire a consultant or someone who does.
  • Lack of Accountability – where did salespeople earn the right to be unaccountable? The rest of the organization is held to a high level of accountability, and they expect the sales team to be accountable as well. If your production team, your customer service team and your finance team were not held accountable to their processes and procedures, what kind of company would you be leading? Why should salespeople be any less so?
  • Ego – most sales managers and CEOs simply have a mindset that they should know how to do this without asking for help, relying on tools, or following a process they like and feel more comfortable with; after all, they think they have done it before (badly, if you measure it by the percentage of underachievers they hire – fewer than half of the last ten people hired are likely achieving at an acceptable level). If your sales manager is not asking for help, you need to find out why.
  • Money – every company pays their worst performer far more than it would cost to get the right process, tools and skills in place. Even though every hiring mistake costs as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars, some companies simply don’t view those losses as line items. However, they do see the cost of assessments and consulting as line items, and mistakenly they can’t spend the money.
  • Fear – fear of the unknown, of being wrong, of change, of losing control, of being criticized, and of a learning curve.

In today’s environment, the sales team must be better than it was prior to 2008, and everyone in the company should focus on that success and be held accountable .. including the sales team!

When Wall Street and Main Street Intersect at My Street

September 14th, 2010

By Ken Edmundson

The following summarizes what many salespeople have been saying as I’ve spoken with them this week, “Wow, it was hard to find buyers before all this financial mess and now it’s impossible .. it’s killing me!” I get a sense that fear is strangling a major portion of the sales world.

If you are able to look past all of the market rhetoric and stay clear of the negative forces generated by greedy executives and politicians who have long since lost the definition of “Statesmen,” you might actually find encouragement to discover that the one person who has the greatest potential for solving this financial crisis is you. It’s in your control!

The problems on Wall Street really do have a direct impact on Main Street, but the good news is they now intersect directly onto My Street, and I’m in control on My Street. If you have fallen into a trap of feeling helpless or overwhelmed, then here is a word of caution: you are now one step away from becoming a blamer, victim thinker or procrastinator, and that’s the final step before your sales disappear. We’re living in a global-micro economy; that means all political and economic events have significance to your individual world — if that causes fear for you, then times ahead will likely be difficult. If you approach this new business era as an exciting time with waves of new opportunities and you plan to change to grow with it, then you’ll likely find the future even better than the past.

So, how do you find balance, energy and enthusiasm, and grow your sales in today’s market? Change how you think! The human mind always responds to the questions we ask ourselves; let me offer some thoughts to consider in the days and weeks ahead. Challenge any negative thoughts you have; stop several times a day and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What action can I take today that will positively impact my business and move me forward?
  • How can I find new ways today to be a leader and push against this enormous gravitational pull of negativity?
  • What’s really scaring me about my current situation? What is the probability that my worst fears will fully develop versus something positive occurring?
  • Since behavior always drives feelings, what five behaviors am I doing today to move myself forward?

Just this simple exercise will start you toward a more positive process.

In all markets, and especially in the unique one we face today, it’s not the products, the price, the process or the programs that will get you through; it’s your ability to think more effectively. I’m reminded of the quote by Marcus Aurelius that “Fear can be a debilitating force for most salespeople. If you’re fearful of anything external, the emotion is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it, and this you can revoke at any moment.” Determine if you have lost touch with your intuition, creativity and energy; if you haven’t had any new ideas lately or learned anything exciting, that’s a sure indication that fear has taken over as your guiding force.

Fear is defined as a psychological condition created as a result of a conversation you are having with yourself in the moment about something that has transpired in your past, either real or perceived, which you now believe will occur again in the future, but perhaps even worse. The result of fear is to prevent you from processing your most clear and accurate thoughts at anywhere near maximum efficiency; in short, fear simply shuts down your ability to think. Take control of your thoughts, and you will take control of your fear.

Behavior always overcomes a fearful attitude .. doing the behavior that has gotten you results in the past and trying new things and staying consistent in your efforts will get rid of a lot of the negativity. Act as if the next call will change your life. Sell as though the next sale will be the biggest. Don’t stop the behavior that leads to positive results. Ask yourself better questions, and remember the three “M’s” of selling:

  • FOCUS ON YOUR MARKET – have an ultra clear and precise idea of where your best prospects are located and who are your best targets.
  • FOCUS ON YOUR MESSAGE – it must be quantifiable, objective and define your dominant competitive advantages.
  • FOCUS ON YOUR METHOD – if you’ve got the right market and the right message, make certain you have the best method to deliver your message. Know the five, six, seven, eight, nine ways that you get your message to your market and become an expert at managing those methods.

By the way, these three steps are what define “Marketing.”

There is an old saying in real estate that the three most important things which determine value are location, location, location. So what better place could we be if Wall Street and Main Street intersect at My Street? That’s valuable real estate and since I own it, I should control it.

Ken Edmundson is the CEO of the Edmundson Northstar Institute, a Sandler Training franchise based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Illustration by Rob Green

Get Over It: Stop Fearing Rejection, Stop Seeking Approval, Start Prospecting

September 10th, 2010

Fear of RejectionBy Ken Edmundson

That’s a headline straight out of sales training boot camp, but it’s true.

There is a question most people want answered when they go to a sales training program or read one of the many sales how-to books; that question sounds like this, “Is there really one secret weapon or magic formula to make me better and increase my sales?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find one … so would winning the lottery, but not many do it.

Here’s a question for salespeople that I suggest is far more profitable for them to answer: “Am I doing everything necessary to ensure that my attitude, behavior and technique are sufficiently trained and adequately reinforced so I am able to identify a truly qualified prospect and close them in the most efficient and effective manner?” Yes, that’s quite a long question. But what you’ll realize is that it gets you to focus on what you, as the salesperson, can control. Yet there is still an issue: we’re all human, and as much preparation as you can go through, you’ll still have to battle your own emotions.

The biggest challenge I see with salespeople not giving themselves a real chance to be more successful lies in my comments below … and, yes, there is something that the top 25% of salespeople do that is not widely shared or discussed, but drastically affects their results!

Take a quick test; which of the following do you think is more challenging for a salesperson?

  • Developing consistent work ethics.
  • Personality skills that allow for building rapport with all types of prospects.
  • Emotional strength to withstand rejection.
  • Understanding how to qualify prospects and set effective meetings.
  • Learning the real reason a prospect is buying from you.
  • Dealing with the budget and money issues in a sale.
  • Getting to decision makers and understanding the decision making process from the prospect’s point of view.

If you chose #3, you’re right. While all seven are critical skills and strengths to learn, #3 is overwhelmingly the single biggest challenge for salespeople if they are to be the best. Fear of rejection in a salesperson is caused by a “high need for approval,” and it keeps salespeople from meeting or exceeding their capability more often than anything else. It almost single handedly eliminates an important but risky move such as prospecting – a behavior critical to a salesperson’s success, not to mention all the other things a high need for approval will impact. When fixed, it will improve a salesperson’s effectiveness and consistency as much as 50%.

Here’s an example of how it affects salespeople. Research has shown it takes an average of 12 touches for a new prospect to become a client or customer. That is not 12 irritating voicemail messages; that is on average 12 strategic and tactical touches with the prospect. Sometimes it is less, sometimes it is more, but on average it is 12, and great salespeople have strategies and tactics to make each and every one of those 12 touches meaningful. A salesperson with high need for approval will rarely ever make it to five touches and never to 12 or more.

80% of salespeople bail out by the third or fourth call, yet research shows that 80% of all business is done with new clients by the salespeople who are able to effectively manage past that fourth, fifth or sixth call to a prospect. Why is it that salespeople cannot typically get past that third, four or fifth attempt?

Well, back to “need for approval”; it weakens a salesperson’s ego, pride and bravery and causes them to retreat from the very activities needed to be more effective. Need for approval is fed by a salesperson’s own belief system that sounds like this, “If I had not returned a salesperson’s phone call or made an effort to respond to someone after three or four attempts, it would be my signal that I am not interested and that’s the signal I am getting from my prospect so I’ll not call any more, and besides this is beginning to feel like rejection and I want more approval than I do a sale” … do you see this vicious cycle? A prospect’s failure to respond to your efforts just simply means that you have not run the necessary route yet, your strategy and tactics are not right, and you need to keep trying.

It is the secret of the best salespeople in the world when it comes to not allowing ego and pride to create a high need for approval: they treat every phone call, every single contact and every single touch, regardless of how many came before, as if it is the very first one.

If you listen to a top professional salesperson, they will never make a prospect feel they’ve been difficult to get a hold of or they have been in pursuit of them for a long time and are finally glad to have run them down. This type of comment immediately breaks rapport with a prospect when, after repeated attempts to reach them, you’re finally successful and the first thing you say to them is “Wow, you are hard to get a hold of!”

The mindset of the top professional salesperson is that every contact, every touch is treated emotionally the same as the first one. In their mind, there is never a call back or a repeat phone call or a second, third or fourth attempt; they make 12 or 14 first calls, and every attempt has the same enthusiasm, the same excitement, and the same motivation as the very first one.

If you want to improve your performance, begin treating every contact, even if it is the 12th or 14th, as your first one! Your need for approval will go down, and your results will go up.

Ken Edmundson is the CEO of the Edmundson Northstar Institute, a Sandler Training franchise based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Illustration by Rob Green

Salespeople Who Decide Are Salespeople Who Survive

August 26th, 2010

By Ken Edmundson

The late, great Arthur Ashe, for whom the Stadium Court at Flushing Meadows Tennis Complex in New York City is named, was not only a great pioneer in the sport, but was also known for his intellect and ability to teach in both words and examples.

I attended a tennis clinic one time where he was a guest speaker and remember him saying, “The single most important difference between the professional money players and the really good amateur players is “speed to execution”-the professionals are one critical second faster in their decision-making than the best amateurs. The best amateur players are one second faster than the averageplayers and so on and so forth. A mere one second in decision-making makes all the differencebetween a world-class player and a good club player. He gave example after example of this in teaching how to set up strategy for hitting baseline shots, volleys or overheads. When you think about this “speed to execution,” it seems to apply in other places as well.

I was driving down the street recently on a beautiful clear, cool day and observed all the squirrels jumping from tree limb to tree limb; many were scampering across the street and up into trees. Occasionally I noticed along the road an indecisive, uncommitted, slow squirrel, which can be best described as a “Flat Squirrel!” What could have happened had that squirrel been faster in its speed to execution, a little quicker in reaction time or more committed to its plan? There is a good chance he would not be flat.

The sales world has “flat squirrels,” salespeople who are uncommitted, unwilling to strategize, slow in reacting and indecisive. You may be familiar with some of them; they may work around you in your company. “Flat Squirrel” salespeople show signs of the following:

  • Not willing to commit 65-70% of their time each week to prospecting, presenting, and engaging in sales activities.
  • Spend more time dreaming about their next career, than strategizing on making their current career a success.
  • Blame lack of results on outside influences or luck of their competitors.
  • Self-destruct their own product and income by using price as their selling point instead of creating their real competitive advantages.
  • Tend to wait on others to initiate the motivation for them to achieve, rather than implement a self-initiated and self-administered plan.

Pay close attention to the world around you-avoid the self-limiting habits that lead to the “Flat Squirrel Syndrome” for salespeople. Remember: all the worrying, scripting and planning in the world will be worth absolutely nothing without any decisive action behind it. Be that one-second quicker in making your decisions and taking action, and you’ll find that your competitors will be flattened in your rear-view mirror.

Ken Edmundson is the CEO of the Edmundson Northstar Institute, a Sandler Training franchise based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Illustration by Rob Green

Ouch! That Stings: How Salespeople Got a Bad Rep

July 26th, 2010

By Ken Edmundson

I’ve spent a lot of time considering why the occupation of selling has been given such a low approval rating over the past 40 years. It wasn’t always that way. Here’s a story that got me thinking about this again.

Acowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasturein California when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Bansunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the cowboy, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd,will you give me a calf?”

Bud looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at hispeacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, “Sure, Why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his cell phone, and surfs to a NASApage on the Internet where he calls up a GPS satelliteto get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds toanother NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high resolutionphoto.The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshopand exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany.

Within seconds, he receives an email on his Blackberry that the imagehas been processed and the data stored.He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excelspreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes,receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech,miniaturized LaserJet printer and turns to the cowboy andsays, “You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.”

“That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,” says Bud.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then Bud says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your occupation is, will you give me back my calf?”

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”

“You’re a salesman”, saysBud.

“Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required.” answered the cowboy. “You showed up here like you knew everything; you want to get paid for an answer I alreadyknew, to a questionI never asked. You tried to show me how muchsmarter you are than me; and you don’t know a thing about cows. This is aherd of sheep.”

“Now give me back my dog.”

It’s a funny story, but there is a stinging sense of truth about what Bud the cowboy is saying; this is the image of the modern day salesperson to many people, and it should not be the case. The title, “professional salesperson” should mean something. Selling is an honorable profession done by people who are very skilled and uniquely talented, and only the most focused, organized, driven, conscientious people achieve at the highest level in selling.

One of the mistakes made by many companies in hiring for their sales force is that generally they have low barriers to entry and low accountability for their sales teams. If you make it easy for people to get in and you don’t hold them accountable, you are destined to have a low performing sales organization. In any great organization-whether it’s a club, church, business or your family-the standards for membership must be high and the accountability must be rigid if you want results to be high.

Professional selling is not a game for cowards; it’s a tough business, it’s an honorable business, and if you’re good at it, you have one of the most secure jobs on the planet and probably rank in the top 5% of wage earners in the world. The word “professional” should be a noun, not an adjective. Think of what the word professional implies in every other context. A professional athlete, a business professional, a professional author, a professional painter, a professional photographer, or a professional plumber or electrician implies that they are the best, they are trained, they are skilled at their craft and art and usually they have chosen it because they have special talents or abilities which support their craft. Selling should be no less so.

If you’re a trained professional salesperson, you have a tremendous business advantage.

I get to meet a lot of salespeople. If you’re privileged to be one of the 18 million salespeople in the U.S., are you a professional?

Ken Edmundson is the CEO of the Edmundson Northstar Institute, a Sandler Training franchise based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Illustration by Rob Green

Low Self-Esteem: 100% Fatal for Salespeople

July 19th, 2010

By Ken Edmundson

Q: What’s the one thing a salesperson must avoid if they are to be successful?

A: I study salespeople for a living. The majority of them don’t lose because of product inferiority, pricing excesses or poor sales technique. They lose because of low self-esteem! We all start out with perfect self-esteem. Ever met any three-year-olds with self-esteem problems? Didn’t think so.

We do, however, meet a lot of salespeople with a crippling success disease caused by “low self-esteem.” This disease is 100% fatal in destroying a salesperson’s potential and performance.

Signs salespeople exhibit when they suffer from low self-esteem are:
• Lots of excuses
• Quick to become defensive
• Enjoys seeing others struggle
• Nervous and bails out quickly in tough negotiations
• Call reluctance (phone handset weighs 60 pounds)
• Avoids taking risks for fear of failure

Solutions for low self esteem:
• Get them proper training
• Give unconditional strokes
• Eliminate critical coaching
• Facilitate stretch goals
• Don’t just manage results, manage behavior and technique
• Spend 50% of the coaching on self-esteem, the other 50% on technique and product knowledge

When all else fails, avoid hiring these people. An organization whose salespeople have strong self-esteem consistently outperforms others by 40-50%.

Ken Edmundson is the CEO of the Edmundson Northstar Institute, a Sandler Training franchise based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Illustration by Rob Green

How Do You Respond to Your Client’s Budget Objections

July 15th, 2010

By Ken Edmundson

Many salespeople bail out long before they get thrown out. Do you ever wonder why so many salespeople leave a sales opportunity too early?

Salespeople often enter a sales discussion worried about the inevitable money step. What will I say? What will I do? What if they don’t like the price we are charging? What if they can’t afford it? All these questions linger in the mind of the salesperson not only before, but during the sales presentation. It can often be the result of the salesperson’s own mindset about money: “Is my product worth what I’m charging? Could I pay for it if I were in their shoes? Is this too expensive? Do my competitors offer something less expensive? Is my product any better?” These thoughts impact a salesperson in their work with a prospect. This doubt can often diminish the enthusiasm and excitement that a salesperson shows for their product or service. A good prospect can smell the fear and doubt in a salesperson’s mind about their very own self-confidence, or their product, or their price. The salesperson that shows the least amount of doubt will be the most powerful.

The mental part of the sales process is critical, but so is the salesperson’s selling technique – the ability for the salesperson to understand the true pain and problems of their prospect and their understanding of how to uniquely solve those challenges for the prospect. That technique doesn’t come automatically-it’s practice, practice, practice, studying and more studying. It’s understanding your product/service and its power, and also your own skill in managing a sales conversation. When we talk about technique, we are not talking about moves or tricky statements. Technique is the sense of putting the right things in the right place at the right time. Salespeople bail out because their mental focus is weak and their technique is poor.

A professional selling technique reveals that when you talk about money to your prospect before there is a real understanding of what the problems are, money will seem out of place. It will be an uncomfortable feeling; it will be a difficult conversation. It would be no different than sitting down for dinner and asking for the check before you’ve ordered. When things are put in place, when things are orderly, when the salesperson really and truly understands their role and guides the conversation (technique), many of the pricing questions and challenges that occur in a sales conversation are never seen, never experienced, and for the best salespeople in the world, it is truly an engaging and fulfilling opportunity.

Salespeople who understand the problems they solve and the real pain that they eliminate for their prospects move through the budget step in the easiest, most profitable manner.

Recognizing that the mental aspects of a sale and the technique used is critical, I have provided some typical technique responses for you to consider when faced with the five most hated words in sales:

“Your price is too high.”

These responses when used alone are not powerful. They are not tricks or moves. They are simple transition techniques, ways to go from where you are to where you need to be. They are not designed to shock or to challenge or to change the prospect’s mind; they are simple transitions to help you go back to pain if there is a budget challenge or to really, truly understand what the prospect is trying to communicate when they say certain things.

This is where your technique becomes critical. Watch, study, learn, practice, role play, read about your technique and particularly the technique of transitioning from pain to budget. Here are some examples to consider: (more…)