Archive for the ‘Overcoming Obstacles’ Category

How To Overcome Ambiguity, Anxiety and Fear in Your Sales Calls

March 25th, 2014

If you are unaware of the relationship between ambiguity, anxiety and fear, then you are probably lengthening your sales cycle and reducing your close rate.

When you sit across from a prospect, no matter how long or personal your relationship, you are still a salesperson who your prospect fears will sell them something instead of allowing them to buy.

Your prospect’s fear of salespeople isn’t enough to dramatically affect a sales call; after all your prospect agreed to meet with you and will buy from someone. Your prospect’s biggest issue with you, and potentially every other salesperson they meet, is they have no idea what you will ask them to do at the end of this meeting.

Traditionally trained salespeople don’t share their sales process with their prospects, partly because they rarely have a sales process written down, but also because they think prospects “don’t need to know what’s next.”

Ambiguity turns to anxiety the longer ambiguity exists. If you have a 60-minute appointment with your prospect they will start to get anxious as soon as they sense you wrapping up your presentation or long list of “consultative” questions.

When a prospect gets anxious and fears the unknown, a salesperson usually hears “this looks good, how about you put together a proposal and we’ll get back to you.”

To erase ambiguity from your sales calls, reduce your prospect’s anxiety and eliminate their fear, share your sales process with them at the beginning of your first call. Be different than every other salesperson, right off the bat. Be disarmingly honest and they’ll realize you’re there to solve their pain.

Take it one step further and publish your sales process on your website for all to see. You’ll make potential clients feel more at ease about working with you, which should shorten your sales cycle and increase your close rate.

Hamish Knox is a Sandler Trainer in Calgary, Alberta.

Don’t Get Trapped in the Procrastination Triangle

February 20th, 2014

So when did you start saying, “I’ll get to that tomorrow” when it comes to your goals for 2014? January 2? January 10? Did you make it all the way to the Super Bowl before giving up?

If you’ve fallen short of a goal already or are on pace to fall short before the end of the year, you’re trapped in the procrastination triangle.

What is the procrastination triangle?

Draw an equal sided triangle. Label the top “no goals,” the bottom left “no plan” and the bottom right “no discipline.”

procrastination triangle

Give yourself a score of 1-10 on each; in this case a lower score is better. For example, a one for “no goals” means, “I have goals written down for my business and personal life,” while a 10 means, “I’ve heard that people have goals.”

A one for “no plan” means, “I have a clear plan written down to achieve each of my goals” and a 10 means, “I rely on hope and luck to reach my goals.”

A one for “no discipline” means, “I do what’s on my plan every week,” while a 10 means, “meh, I’ll get to it eventually.”

Next, total up your scores and use the key below to find out how likely you are to procrastinate your way out of success in 2014.

3-9 – You occasionally fall victim to task avoidance, but generally you stick to your plan and hit your goals.
10-21 – You probably have a problem with discipline, which is being compounded by a lack of clear goals or a specific plan to achieve them. Find an accountability partner and commit to a plan that will lower your score.
22-30 – Buff up your LinkedIn profile because unless you set goals, create a plan and get some discipline, you’ll be looking for a new job (and possibly a new place to live).

Without clear goals (business and personal), a specific plan to achieve each of your goals (broken down to weekly activities) and the discipline to complete your plan every week you won’t be successful.

Hamish Knox is a Sandler Training centre in Calgary, Alberta.

No guts, no gain

December 20th, 2013

I want to take you back about 10,000 years ago to the savannah in Africa. There are only about 1,500 human beings on the planet, and life is a scary existence. As far as predators go, we don’t stand much of a chance. We don’t have claws, or razor sharp teeth with fangs. We aren’t very strong or fast, and we don’t have any cool defense mechanisms like shells, venom, stingers, or even camouflage. Needless to say, it paid to be fearful on the savannah. Fear, vigilance, and worry kept us alive. Luckily for us, we got smart fast. We made weapons, formed teams, and used communication to pass along knowledge and defend ourselves. Five coordinated humans with spears stand a much better chance against a lion than one man in hand to hand combat.

What does that have to do with business and our lives today? Well, as we got smarter and more advanced, fear became less and less useful to us. Think about it; when was the last time you heard someone say, “I need to work on my fear. I just don’t think I am very good at being afraid,”?

Fear was valuable when failure was fatal, but in today’s business world, it doesn’t have much value. Today, we are concerned about happiness, success and living a life of purpose. We have evolved up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from survival up to self-esteem and self-actualization. The problem is that fear gets in the way of those things. Fear will hold you back from growing, stretching your comfort zones, and taking risks that can bring the rewards of success and self-esteem. Fear and failure is universal; it’s part of the human experience. Only by risking failure can we accomplish anything great. No guts, no gain. So I would like to challenge you with a decision-making model that might help you increase your risk tolerance and develop some guts to go after all your wildest dreams.

First, ask yourself if the risk fatal. If the worst case scenario is fatal to yourself or your organization, your fear is justified and you should not take that risk. Second, ask yourself if the best case scenario is desirable. If you believe the best case scenario is something good for you or your company, then take the risk. Now obviously there are options of some pretty severe levels discomfort before you get to fatal, some rewards will be minor and other great, and there are odds on each outcome but this basic model works. Let’s try it.

Say you are thinking about going skydiving. The worst case scenario, while not likely, could be fatal. The best case scenario is you have a great time, a once in lifetime experience, and great story to tell. The best case scenario is desirable, but the worst case scenario could be fatal. Under this model, I would say not to go skydiving. There are other ways to have a great time and good story than to risk your life.

Now let’s try one about business. You are thinking about calling that dream client, the elephant that could make your career. The worst case scenario is they say no and they still not your client, but you live to fight another day. The best case scenario is they had been meaning to call you or didn’t know your service existed, and they make your year or career with one call. Obviously, that scenario would be desirable, and the worst case scenario is a little disappointment, but basically where you are right now anyway. You have nothing to lose! They can’t get any more NOT your client than they already are..take that risk! Not risking in this scenario is the surest way of losing. No Guts, No Gain!

A life without risk is a life without growth. We have a Sandler Rule for this: You can’t get to second with one foot on first. In life and business there is no status quo! You are either growing or regressing. Success in 2014 and beyond sometimes depends more on the will to jump than on being concerned about what will happen if you fall. So, in the new year, I challenge you to get gutsy and pursue your dreams. Remember, No Guts, No Gain!

Managers Your People Need a MAP

June 11th, 2013

Here’s a quick acid test of your hiring-to-turnover ratio. How often are one of these phrases heard in your company?
- I’m not a micro-manager.
- I hired them to…
- They know what they’re supposed to do…

If our business world was homogenous then those phrases would be correct because every sales job would be exactly like every other sales job. Every expense filing procedure would be exactly the same at every company and every role would have exactly the same weekly behavior expectations.

What those phrases do in our real world is throw your new hire into the deep end of your pool with ankle weights on and expect them to keep their head above water with little direction or support from their manager.

Even if your company doesn’t have an onboarding plan, like the one described in this article, you can give your new hire a better chance at swimming if you start them off with a MAP.

A MAP, Minimum Acceptable Performance, is the 1-3 behaviors that you expect your new hire to do every week during their initial weeks with your company.

When creating your MAP, keep Sandler’s rule in mind “ never manage your numbers, manage your behavior.”

That means for a sales person, your MAP won’t include “closed sales” but it might include “number of cold
calls,” “number of first appointments with prospects” or “number of networking events.”

For a MAP to be successful, the behavior(s) must be observable. “Knowing our product” isn’t an observable behavior. “Number of presentations” made is, but making presentations isn’t the focus of professional sales.

The MAPs you create will be slightly different depending on your expectations for a specific role and the skills a new hire brings to that role.

A new hire being given a MAP provides two benefits:
1. They feel that you care about their success. Multiple surveys showed that the number one reason for employees leaving is they felt their employer/manager didn’t care about them
2. It gives them an opportunity to get quick wins. Quick wins reduce “ramp up time” for salespeople, which means they become a producer faster

For you, the manager, a MAP provides three benefits:
1. Both of you have a clear understanding, up front, of your performance expectations. No more wasted time with “I didn’t know I had to do that” conversations
2. Leading indicators of success or failure. If your new hire fails to stick to their MAP you know within weeks instead of months later when their sales report shows a negative number, allowing you to make faster decisions about termination or additional training
3. More productive one-on-one meetings. As a manager your only asset is your time. Instead of spending 45 minutes going through your new hire’s week you have a 5 minute conversation about their MAP, which can extend if you or they feel additional coaching or training is needed

You’ll probably find after implementing MAPs for all of your new hires that you have an excess of free time. Enjoy.

Hamish Knox is a Sandler Trainer in Calgary, Alberta.

Living Your Best Life

May 30th, 2013

At Sandler Training, we develop professionals in sales, management and customer service. Professionals have a commitment to be the best they can be. They do things a little differently than the average performers.

What do the most successful professionals in any industry have in common? They study. They invest in themselves. They practice. They have systems and processes, and they use them. And finally, they are driven by passion and purpose.

In my studies, I recently read the book “Off Balance” by Matthew Kelly, where he describes living a passion and purpose filled life, and I highly recommend it. He says passion and purpose come from personal clarity about how you live your life.

What is the best way to live? As human beings, we thrive when we seek happiness. Some people mistake this for pleasure or instant gratification. However, what people really desire is satisfaction. Pleasure lasts only as long as the activity producing it. Satisfaction is sustainable health, wealth, and happiness. Learning to make great choices is integral to leading a rich and fulfilling life.

Matthew Kelly describes Three Philosophies of our Age that stop us from achieve sustainable happiness and excellence in our lives and businesses:

1. Individualism – What is in it for me? This fosters greed, selfishness and exploitation.

2. Hedonism – A philosophy that emphasizes pleasure as the ultimate goal of life. The hedonist motto is: “If it feels good, do it.” What if everyone on your team only wanted to do what was enjoyable?

3. Minimalism – What is the least I can do? Minimal effort for maximum reward, Minimalism is the enemy of excellence and the father of mediocrity.

These philosophies are lazy attempts to answer the question: “What is the best way to live?”

A more strategic and fulfilling approach are 3 simple principles:

1. Live to become a better version of yourself, not a 2nd rate version. Be yourself, but a better you. Make good life choices that take you there. You have free will. You get to choose how you live your life.

2. Virtue defines the best way to live. Who would you rather spend time with…generous people or selfish people, courageous people or cowardly people, humble people or prideful people, patient or impatient people. The whole world prefers virtue. Virtue is the essence of excellence in life and business.

3. Self-control and delayed gratification are the keys to living for a better tomorrow, better health, and greater influence.

Individualism, Hedonism and Minimalism lead to decay of personal self-control and the demise of our ability to delay gratification. Leave pleasure seeking activities, and choose a better way to live.

Choosing happiness and satisfaction in life and business lead to an increase in our passion and purpose, and give us more energy. Your energy is directly related to your capacity for life. The more energy you have, the more you can accomplish.

Choose to take your life and your profession seriously. You control your income. You control your time. You decide how you will live your life. In what areas of your life are you seeking pleasure vs. satisfaction? What is the number one thing that would move you to being a better version of yourself?

I challenge you today to decide to study, invest in yourself, practice, and have a system that produces the results you desire. Decide to be the best you can be.

Steve Montague, Sandler Training Kansas City

Sandler’s reinforcement is like rebar: a powerful strengthener

April 23rd, 2013

Always going. Yes, I am. My thoughts spin as fast as my tires when I’m driving to my Sandler Training center every morning. Of course, often these thoughts are on Sandler as I mentally prepare for my Foundations or President’s Club sessions.

Well, the other morning as I drove through a construction zone on the interstate it was no different, except this time I happened to really look at the old concrete the work crews were removing. Visible in the broken pieces of the road foundation were rods of rebar; the steel bars that reinforce the concrete to make it even stronger, AND MORE POWERFUL. Sandler’s tagline came to mind, “finding power in reinforcement.” It occurred to me that rebar is a perfect example of the concept.

Concrete is strong to begin with, much like Sandler’s sales training concepts which are strengthened in us through gradual, incremental growth through reinforcement, just like the calculated, repetitive use of rebar throughout a concrete slab. Instead of rebar, our constant practicing takes us from knowing to owning the Sandler Selling System.

That notion of making things that are already strong, for example, techniques like reversing, the dummy curve, and negative reverses, even stronger via ongoing reinforcement is a key factor in the success of Sandler-trained sales professionals. When we add the dimensions of our attitude and behavior to technique, we further strengthen the foundation for our success.

Reinforcement contrasts sharply with the experience of traditionally trained Wally Weakcloser. Wally attends a sales workshop here and another one there, taking copious notes which he then files away for future reference. He gets revved up to perform as “Super Salesperson,” but his enthusiasm quickly fades when the going gets tough. And the pep talks by his sales manager don’t give him enough fuel to travel the long haul. Without a system like Sandler, which constantly reinforces concepts for continuous growth in the sales process, Wally has to run on his own steam. He just doesn’t have the tools or the drive to go the distance for SUCCESS.

I think we can take this Sandler roadway analogy one step further. Once we have laid a solid foundation made even stronger through reinforcement, we have a veritable superhighway to take us efficiently to our planned goal/destination, without stops and starts, potholes and dead ends.

The way to become a better salesperson is to utilize the Sandler Selling System to find POWER through reinforcement, concrete and rebar.

Brian Hart is a Sandler Trainer in St. Cloud, MN.

You can’t earn when you’re in “knowing” mode

March 11th, 2013

Salespeople could significantly increase their earnings if they stopped saying and believing “I know why.”

The reality is that their “knowledge” is a guess created from vague statements from prospects (“we really like your presentation”) and clients (“your service is top notch”) that salespeople leave unexplored because they don’t want to be “pushy”, “rock the boat” or they “know why the client called.”

Keep in mind, the first rule of the prospect’s system is to withhold information (or lie, if you prefer). Prospects and clients are trained to keep the truth from salespeople because they’re mentally and emotionally protecting themselves.
The two primary reasons salespeople choose to “know” instead of exploring vague statements dropped by clients and prospects are: 1) they aren’t mentally and emotionally tough and 2) they aren’t comfortable being vulnerable.

Becoming mentally and emotionally tough doesn’t mean not having emotions or withholding emotions, but it does mean salespeople:

  1. Aren’t attached to the outcome: if their prospect says “no” or their client chooses not to expand their order, they don’tt feel gutted.
  2. Don’t get emotionally involved in their meetings: as David Sandler said, “only the prospect may become emotionally involved in the sales interview.” Getting emotionally involved means a salesperson is focused on getting their needs met instead of helping their prospect resolve their pain.
  3. Separate their role from their identity: failing as a salesperson is just role failure. It doesn’t mean that salesperson is a failure as a person. Unfortunately, most of society equates role success or failure with an individual’s self-worth.

Being vulnerable doesn’t mean begging for business. Salespeople who are vulnerable:

  1. Don’t make assumptions: they take statements like, “it looks really good for you (to get our business)” and they find out what their prospect really means.
  2. Establish credibility: by helping their client design a solution to their problem instead of imposing a solution on them.
  3. Learn more and earn more: being vulnerable triggers a psychological reaction in a prospect to “rescue” the salesperson and share more information, which may lead to a larger problem for the salesperson to solve.

By thinking they know instead of making time to be vulnerable and actually learning the truth behind their client’s vague statements, salespeople leave a lot of money on the table and reduce the length of client relationships.

Get mentally and emotionally tough, get out of “knowledge” mode and put more money in your pocket.

Hamish Knox is a Sandler Trainer in Calgary, Alberta.

Why your onboarding is contributing to your turnover

February 26th, 2013

It’s estimated that the cost of recruiting, interviewing, hiring and onboarding a new salesperson costs a company between $75,000 and $300,000 per rep. Unfortunately for most companies, their onboarding program contributes directly to those new reps leaving.

Let’s pretend we’re watching a newly hired rep; we’ll call him Greg. Greg was highly successful with his last company where he sold to the same type of prospect as his new employer but to different contacts. Greg’s manager believes that his contacts from his previous company will generate warm leads to his new prospects.

On Greg’s first day he spends part of the morning with HR signing documents and reviewing company policies. The rest of the morning is spent reading product brochures and reviewing presentations before his manager takes Greg and his entire team out for a welcome lunch.

The rest of Greg’g first week is spent learning the features and benefits of the products he will sell, shadowing a couple of colleagues on sales calls (not the top performers, of course, they’re too busy) and role playing with his manager. The role plays are mostly objection handling sessions that leave Greg feeling very uncomfortable about selling to his new prospects and his manager feeling frustrated that Greg doesn’t “get it” even though he has experience in a similar industry.

At the end of his first month Greg has had some success but not as much as he or his manager thinks he should. So far no warm leads materialized from Greg’s old contacts, which bothers his manager, but Greg hasn’t talked to his old contacts yet because he feels he needs to get his feet under him.

At the end of his second month Greg is in a groove. He is making more dials and going on more sales calls than most of his team, although he was embarrassed in a weekly sales meeting when the vice president of sales put him on the spot to do his elevator pitch and criticized him when he stumbled.

That one incident aside, month two has been pretty good so he’s surprised when his manager tells him he needs to step it up in their Friday one-on-one meeting.

Greg’s manager says they are concerned that his closed business for month two is the same as month one and his pipeline report shows few opportunities advancing through the funnel. After a painful discussion, which leaves Greg feeling demotivated, he and his manager agree that his manager will accompany him on sales calls for at least one week.

At the end of his third month Greg’s closed sales are up but he is very frustrated. His manager kept jumping in on their joint sales calls and became angry in front of a prospect when the prospect revealed at the end of their meeting that a key decision maker wasn’t present so they couldn’t move forward as previously agreed.

Two weeks into month four, one of Greg’s contacts from his old world calls him to offer a senior sales role in their company. The base salary isn’t much higher than what Greg’s making with his current company and the benefits are the same, but Greg leaps at the chance to start over. When Greg gives his manager notice that he’s leaving, his manager is shocked and asks why. Greg’s response is “more money.”

Greg’s story is, unfortunately, too common. But by following these steps, you can significantly improve onboarding, which means your new reps sell more, faster.

  1. Make sure everyone is on the same page : One of David Sandler’s rules is “no mutual mystification.” When an employee is brought on board, both parties should understand each other’s expectations not only for company policies, but also when both of you expect to be performing role duties like making prospecting calls and going on meetings without managerial support.
  2. Have an onboarding timeline documented : The onboarding timeline relates directly to their role and role performance. For example, when is the rep expected to deliver a good elevator pitch, when are they expected to be going on meetings by themselves, when is the rep expected to deliver solo presentations and what’s the expectation around closed new business versus closed business from an existing account? Without documentation reps are left in the dark and managers are frustrated that reps are performing.
  3. Set clear expectations for performance : Separate from the onboarding timeline, what behavior is expected of the rep in week one, week two, week six, week 12 (e.g. number of calls, number of meetings, number of networking events, etc.)? These behavior expectations will be captured in the rep’s prospecting plan (aka “cookbook”) and the initial behavior expectations will come from data the manager has on the rest of their sales team (e.g. percent of calls that become meetings that become closed sales).
  4. Role play safely : Gutsy managers will take on the role of salesperson with their new hires because role plays are one of the best opportunities for a manager to model the behavior they expect. This also takes pressure off a new hire to get it right away.

Employees quitting to pursue other opportunities can’t be prevented, but by setting clear expectations up front, you will significantly reduce your turnover.

Hamish Knox is a Sandler trainer based in Calgary, Alberta.