A lot of time and money invested in the development of sales professionals, but often the result and the returns fall short of expectations. The easy thing is to fault the sales people, the training program, or both. But what can organizations do differently to achieve better outcomes. That is the focus of this month’s segment with Michele Price and BREAKTHROUGH radio. Take a listen and let me know how you’heat you summer sales.
Sales people have an interesting relationship with their pipelines, definitely emotional, sometime rational, and often, regardless of how they protest, predictable. The key is that how they manage their pipeline very much reflects how well they execute their sale, and how successful they may be.
First let’s look at the notion of pipeline and how it unfolds in sales. For the most part it is built around the concept of “Flow”. If you look at pharma, it looks at the flow of product from concept to being brought to market. There are several stages along the way, some products make it all the way, and some will die along the way for any number of reasons. In the oil patch, again flow, carrying the product from Alberta to points south (well it would if politics didn’t get in the way). But it’s all about flow, anything impeding or adversely affecting the flow, including speeding it up too much, creates an imbalance, a lack of efficiencies and desired results. In sales, that is clearly a lack of clients and revenue.
In sales there are two common pipeline conditions that result in insufficient sales. The first we will not deal with in this piece, specifically a lack of new things coming into the pipeline, no prospecting, leading to an empty pipeline. The second is an overly full pipeline. Some may not see this as an issue, but it is. The first problem is that sales people have their emotions driven by the state of their pipeline, when it is full, they have less propensity to prospect, “look man, I have so much sh#t in my pipeline, let me go close it.”
This leads to the second problem, the fact that there is so much in their pipeline, specifically a lot of sh#t. These people think of their pipeline as something to fill, not about flow, having it full is their goal, not moving it through from lead to client in a consistent and repeatable fashion. This usually results from either their unwillingness to take things out of the pipeline, constrained; or inability to close prospects they have in their pipe, constipation.
Constrained – we have seen these sellers, partly optimistic, partly naïve, partly lazy, and mostly squandering time and their success. Nothing ever dies, every opportunity is sacred, just like a scene from a Monty Python movie. These sales people feel they are more successful as they have a bigger and bigger pipeline, I have some tell me that as long as they can bring more opportunities, the more are like to close. These where the downside of relationship selling shows itself. “If I can engage and have relationships with more and more buyers, deals will close themselves.” No they won’t. If they cleared out the trash from their pipeline they would not only see this, but would feel the urgency to act more decisively. Often these sellers have skills, they just don’t apply them, their optimism and naiveté constrain their ability to deal with more of the right prospects and close more deals.
Constipated – these are sales people who have difficulty closing. To their credit, they prospect, and prospect well, they continue to bring opportunities. What they lack is the skills to qualify, or more accurately, disqualify, leading them to grow their pile of prospects. They also can’t engage well enough to conduct a proper discovery with prospects, and as a result can’t close the sale. Often if you can hold your nose, and pick through, you’ll find prospects who have long bought elsewhere. They are good at the front end, but blocked at the back end, constipated.
Once in a while you can flush these out, but unless you change the pattern, it gets blocked again. The answer to both is having a clearly defined process and active management. The process with stages, actions, objectives, tools, and evaluation to determine if the opportunity has merit, ready to go to the next stage, or needs to be dispatched to the recycling bin. Notice not garbage bin, but recycling, yes, leads are recyclable, you can always come back when the timing is better. This will help create balance and help opportunities “flow” through to results.
Active management is important to help both type of clogs to be cleared. And to be fair to sellers, it is often their managers that contribute to the problem. An active manager can help both sellers be better sellers, or as we like to say around here Sell Better! Active management focus them on the right activities at each stage of the opportunity, and allow them to get rid of things that don’t belong. This may lead to a thin pipeline, then active management needs to turn to better prospecting. But in both cases management needs to have an active role beyond highlighting the problem.
So go ahead, give your pipeline a flush, and then focus on flow not volume.
How much of a premium would you pay to bet on a sporting event where the odds favoured your team over the other by 6000 to 100? A no-brainer right, in fact too good to be real, right? Let’s look at it a bit differently, how would you like to be up against a professional opponent favoured by similar odds, an opponent who practices every day, honing their skills and techniques, improving their game day in and day out, while you only occasionally dabble in the sport?
I am guessing most of you are saying no to those odds, and would probably pass on getting in the ring with that level of mismatch. But I see sales people do this very thing on a regular basis, but instead of a five dollar bet, what is on the line is their income.
Sales people get into to the ring every day, unprepared and underestimating their opponent’s skills, abilities and level of preparedness. What I am talking about specifically is prospecting, especially for buyers in the deep sea of Status Quo. We are not talking about buyers who are actively looking, visiting your website, or buyers who were referred to you because they called their friend in a hurry looking for the exact thing you sell. No the buyers I am talking about did not expect your call or e-mail, these buyers would swear up and down that they don’t Need whatever value you are proposing. This is not to say that they would not derive value from what you offer, but left to their own devices, when you phone, what you are selling, or what you are proposing, is not on their radar.
Further, they are trained professionals at shutting down people who call them in the middle of their work day and ramble on about something that does not align with their perceived priorities.
I ask sales teams I work with: “how many unsolicited sales calls do you think your average target gets on a daily basis? Stop and ask yourself that; think of what you sell, think of all the things that individual buys that you don’t sell, how many calls do they get?” I get a wide range of answers, from five a day to 20 per day. Let’s take the lower end, five unsolicited sales call per day; 25 per week; assuming they work 48 weeks a year, that’s 1,200 calls per year. Now let’s bring some more reality to the scenario, say they have been on the job for five years, that’s 6,000 calls! Take that in a minute.
That’s a lot of practice in tuning out the beige and bland! How many times in those 6,000 calls do you figure they have heard empty words like:
- Customer centric
- Improved work-flow
- Blah Blah Blah
After a time it all sounds like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoon, wha whawha, whawha wha wha.
How practiced are they in blowing you off and getting back to work? Infinitely more than the average seller. They have it down, so down they can do it without thinking or “being in the call”. When they give their initial objection, they don’t even think about what they are saying, they just deliver the fatal blow:
Seller: Increase productivity blah blah, work-flow.
Buyer: Thanks, but we’re all set
Seller: Well perhaps I can send you information in case you ever need a back-up, I can call you back in a few months (putz).
Buyer: Sure you do that, thanks! (back to work)
This why sales people hate telephone prospecting, high rate of rejection, low rate of success.
Does it have to be that way? Absolutely not!
Why is it that way? Because sales reps are nowhere nearly as prepared as the person at the other end of the phone.
Yet one of the hardest things is to get sales to practice and prepare. Rather than practicing, developing skills and a proper game plan, working on avoiding sounding like all the other voices, they do the same thing over and over again. What was it Einstein said about this type of behaviour?
Attracting Status Quo buyers is not that difficult, you just need to change a few small things, and practice. And I don’t mean on unsuspecting buyers, but before you pick up the phone or fire off that e-mail.
Start by changing the your goal for the call, your goal is not to impress them, not to have a conversation and develop rapport or trust; your goal is to get engagement in the form of an appointment, live, web or telephone, where the buyer has agreed to engage in a business conversation. Singular measure of success, engagement!
Change the narrative from needs or you and your company, not what you do, and how you do it, frankly no one cares, no really. Tell them what they will get out of it, speak to specific impacts and outcomes others in similar situations realized; not in feature benefit speak, they’re hip to that, but in business terms they speak every day. What will they tell their boss changed after you? This takes focus and practice, if you are going to wing it like most of the 6000 have done, if you are going to spew you value prop hoping it will impress them, forget it, you’ll just be 8001, they’ll go back to work, and you?
If you follow me, you likely have come across Kelley Robertson, avid blogger, sales trainer, father and husband. Kelley like many of us deals with day to day challenges, and then helps others to succeed in overcoming theirs. Well now Kelley is facing a real tough challenge, one he needs help in overcoming. His wife Louise, is facing a battle with cancer, one that requires treatment overseas.
Cancer has struck my family a number of times, and I am sure you all know someone impacted by this dreadful foe. You can read Kelly and Louise’s story here directly from Kelley.
I will get to the point, we need to raise money to get Louise the treatment she needs. While it will take a lot, it will also take little from each individual.
If each of you can donate $100, you can literally save a life. Need I say more?
Remember it’s the giving that makes you what you are!
Over the last few years there have been numerous articles and commentaries suggesting that the sales population will dramatically dwindle over the next few years. I don’t think there will be less real sellers than now, but the roles will be more clearly and accurately defined.
The reality is that many of those calling themselves sales people, or were hired to fill a role with a job description of sales person are not sales people at all. Many who pretended to be hunters to get the job were not; and many who were hired to manage and grow accounts, were in fact willing or capable of doing either. So if you redefined those to what they really were, rather than what you were hoping or pretending they were, you’d have a thinning of the ranks. In reality there are not as many sales people now as many would pretend.
Further to this point, last week I participated in an event hosted by SMB Acuity, a premier supplier of actionable business insights, where they presented the results of a survey of Small and Medium business in the USA and Canada specifically companies with 100 or less employees, those driving the economy. One interesting result they shared was that a large majority of upsells and cross sells were in fact initiated by the businesses themselves, not the sellers (by title anyway). The numbers were 57.8% of respondents in Canada, and 68.3 in the States. Confirming that many who say they are in sales, are in fact order takers.
What’s worse, is that these numbers clearly indicate that both types of sales people dropped the ball. Account managers should have been involved enough with the accounts to be in tune with potential demand, completely missed the opportunity. Leading to the question of how involved were they really, were they managing them in the real world, in their CRM, on a list, or as I suspect not at all. The other question is where was management? Why did they not have a process and the metrics in place to ensure coverage and get ahead of the opportunity?
One thing is sure, when the buyer initiated the conversation that lead to the upsell with you, they likely did so with your competitors as well. Given the scenario, I bet you don’t even know if and when they decided to buy more or another product, you don’t even know if they bought it from you or your competitor.
And where were the hunters, how did they miss this waiting opportunities?
It is almost an insult to real sellers to call these transactions “upsells” or “cross sells”, when it was buyer initiated. This is why they call people in department stores clerks, not sales people.
So yes, over the years as we fine tune the role, you will find less people classified as sellers, not because there will be less sellers than now, but because there will be a separation of sellers and clerks.
The Pipeline Guest Post – Megan Totka
The warm temperatures and fun outdoor activities make the summer months one of the best times of the year for our personal lives, but not always for business. Kids are on break from school, and families are taking trips, and this means the world of commerce becomes unpredictable. If you are looking for some marketing tips and tools to grow your business, take a look at these five hot ideas to warm up your sales.
Be wherever your customers are.
Summertime is the season of Little League games, festivals, community events and so much more. Set up a booth, sponsor the event, have a banner, pass out pamphlets – do anything and everything you can to have a presence and humanize your business. By getting representatives of your business to places where your customers are, you can do less marketing and make more money. Check the newspaper in advance to see where and when events will be held in your area and make sure it is cleared for you to come and spread the word about your business.
Capitalize on special days.
Think of ideas that you can use to excite people and encourage them to purchase your services or products around holidays or other special summer days. Incorporate the 4th of July and other holidays into your sales techniques and offer free shipping or a gift with purchase to your valued and new customers.
Host a local event.
Even if you don’t have a brick and mortar location, a local event hosted by you can bring new people and position your business as a leader in the community. Since it’s summer, don’t think about an event with speakers, but focus on hosting a fun and relaxing event that gets you in front of prospective customers. Host an event people actually want to attend and give them downtown in a way that makes your business stand apart from others. If you can give back to the community – that’s even better. This is a way to be put on a pedestal in a memorable way and can lead to new business and referrals – use your business differentiators to increase your sales.
Do a giveaway.
Yes, this is making the list again. Giveaways are the bread and butter of marketing techniques. When done in the right way, they can give a significant boost to your sales. If you sell a product that goes with a summery themed giveaway, then one of your products is the perfect item. If your product isn’t appropriate to give away during the warmer months, get creative and capitalize on the benefits of giveaways. Take advantage of the fact that your potential customers are vacationing and give away leisure items to anyone who enters your brick and mortar store on a predetermined day. Consider items such as coolers, water bottles, or fans that your customers will use on hot summer days – and make sure they have your name website and contact information on them.
If your business is in an area where tourists will visit during summer months, use it to your advantage. Promotional outreach can get you far, so hopefully you allocated some dollars to market to those visiting your town. Consider incentives such as a free appetizer or free dessert with the purchase of an entrée to get vacationers in the door.
Local summer events such as festivals and fairs can generate revenue, help you build your brand and introduce your business to prospective customers. Use outdoor summer promotions to your advantage and heat up your summer sales. Get the word out about your summertime offerings to local magazines and newspapers so potential customers know how and where to find you.
How do you boost your summertime sales?
About Megan Totka
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at email@example.com.
One of the realities of today’s economy, and always on work environments, is that we end up having to squeeze 16 hours in to a 10 hour day; and that’s on a good day, others can be worse, and weekends for many are just a chance to slow down, not disengage. People turn to different things to help them cope or keep up, is “multi-tasking”! A cute concept, with so much promise and appeal, yet rarely functional or practical, leaving most behind as a result. In fact it could get so bad, that many don’t even realise how far behind they because they are too busy rolling into the next task. Busy yes, productive, rarely. Which is why you should consider a new alternative, Single Tasking!
Let’s get past whether multi-tasking works or not, it does not. Don’t believe me, check these:Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest
The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking
12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now!
There is no productivity gain, there is just the opportunity to not get all the things you’re doing done right.
To avoid this trap you need to step back and see why you find yourself needing to multi-task to begin with. In most cases it is because we have not planned or assigned sufficient time to high-value activities. Based on what you are selling this will vary, not only in terms of what those high-value activities are, but what percentage of your time need to be allocated to each.
One of the things that stresses people out and causes them to multi-task is that their planning is not aligned with their sales cycle. Not all high-value activities need to be done every day. But they do have to be done at different times throughout the cycle. But at some points in the cycle you may need to spend more time prospecting, others, selling, and at times managing accounts. By looking at things based on the cycle, you will give yourself the right not to do something one day, as long as you have allotted for that activity later in the cycle.
First thing is to list those activities, prospecting, training, internal meetings, account management, selling; some will need to add other things like implementing if that is part of your job, for me, I have to set time aside to deliver the training I sell.
Then figure out which of these activities have to be done entirely in “Selling Time”, that 8:30 to 5:00 when prospects and clients are most likely to see you. Other activities can be executed during “Discretionary Time”. This does not mean that the activity is discretionary, but when you do them is. A proposal can be written at 5:00, probably in a less rushed way.
Then allocate what percentage of your Selling Time needs to be allocated to each high-value activity, then do the same for Discretionary Selling time. And remember this is over the course of you average cycle, not day in day out, no need to bring unnecessary pressure.
Develop the discipline to manage your activities to be focused only on the activity you allocated time to, and you will not be behind the eight ball when the deadline looms. We multi-task because that deadline, drop dead time, is coming and we have to get a whole bunch of things done. You may get them done, but will they be done to the best of your ability or just done?
There are a lot of misconceptions about selling in the summer, but don’t be fooled, there is selling in the summer. That is the focus of this month’s segment with Michele Price and BREAKTHROUGH radio. Take a listen and let me know how you’heat you summer sales.
Prospecting continues to be the most sought after skill when companies hire and promote sales professionals. The better you are at identifying and engaging with the right prospects, the more success you will have in your sales career. But to achieve success in prospecting, you will need to master two key elements
1. Sourcing the right leads and crucial information needed to reach that prospect
2. Connecting and engaging with those leads and converting them to pipeline opportunities
Join me and Clinton Rozario, as we present you the methodologies and tools that will help you master the two elements above, and keep you pipeline full and healthy.
By attending this 60 minute expert talk, you will learn how to become more efficient at both lead generation and prospecting and following up, thereby allowing you to spend less time in gaining more prospects and freeing up time to sell more to new and existing clients.
By attending this webinar, sales professionals can learn about
• Leveraging Social Platforms for Micro Targeting
• Reaching C-Level Decision Makers on Social Networks
• Proven method for successful B2B Prospecting
• How to sustain a continuous flow of opportunities
• Lead Gen and Prospecting Tools that will make you more efficient and successful
Clinton Rozario is an expert in B2B lead generation and prospecting on social networks. He has been the chief architect of several such patented products at eGrabber. He offers his expert advice about B2B sales lead generation at various forums and has written numerous articles on the same.
Some may remember one of Reagan’s more famous statement in 1987, while he was addressing folks gathered at a nuclear treaty signing, Trust but Verify, could also be part of every keynote at your everyday B2B sales Kick-off.
I use this expression not to suggest or imply a lack of trust between sellers and their potential buyers, but to ensure that sales people make the most out of their most precious resource – Time. The better you do things the first time, the more time you have to execute other important parts of the sales day, instead of having to repeat things you thought you had completed last week. Some ways to bring this to your selling will insular, specific to things you do, and some will face externally, and ensure that others are also part of your sales success.
One great place to apply this mantra is your pipeline. We often find that we have a lot of opportunities in our pipelines, and it feels good, but if we were verify the quality, or reality of those prospects, we may not have as many as we thought. Verifying is easy if you want to do it. Does it meet your minimum thresholds, i.e. is the prospect a good fit for you, or are they just a placeholders because your manager has a silly rule of having a pipeline three times the size of your quota. Are they really engaged, one easy way to validate is to not only get next steps, but give they homework that will verify that they are. For example, I always like to ask for the opportunity to interview a sample number of their reps after my initial meeting and going any further. If they do, it is a clear indicator that they are willing to invest in the process.
Another area where sellers benefit from a Trust but Verify approach is during the process of prospecting and qualifying. It is easy to sprinkle things with a little sugar, go on appointments we know are not likely qualified but are available. A little scepticism goes a long way, and while it may result in less appointments, they will all be of a better quality. When qualifying a prospect, that crucial phase between hand shake to proposal, how well you choose to verify will dictate whether it will be a solid proposal that will lead to a close, or a not so solid one leaving you to having to resell and negotiate your way to the finish line, or an “oh so close death”. It is easy to have a positive outlook, take everything a prospect says with a sprinkling of hope. It is more practical to verify and deal with the best opportunities, not any old opportunity.
It’s nice to have a full pipeline, but it also creates a false sense of confidence, one that releases strange endorphins in a seller’s mind, endorphins that prevent sales people from prospecting for new prospects. It is true that the fuller a rep believes their pipeline to be full, the greater the likelihood that they will not prospect for new opportunities. Verify the pipeline, and a more honest view will dictate their emotions and resulting activities.