A friend of mine called me this afternoon, he was applying for a job, and was sent a pre-interview questionnaire, partly multiple choice and part was narrative. One of the narrative questions asked what he would do if it were near the end of the quarter and he was behind target, what action would he take?
We went through various options, avoiding the discounting route, but the reality was that the answer really lay not in what you would do at the end of the quarter but more in what you do every day. Specifically, if you know your conversion ratios, that is how many prospects to proposal, how many proposals to a close, and most importantly how many first engagements to find a real prospect (that is something else you should be able to define). Once you know how many of each you need, and how much time you need to allocate to move them from one phase to the next, you can avoid the type of peril implied in the question. If you need 5 deals a month, and from engagement to close your ratio is 4 to 1, you’re going to need engage with 20 new opportunities a month.
So the answer to the question is simple, prospect regularly, keep your pipe full with real opportunities and you shouldn’t find yourself short at the end of the quarter. But you can’t blame the people who came up with the question; it seems to be the common thing in sales. Slow out of the gate at the start of the quarter, you know needing to rest from the flurry of the activity at the end of the previous quarter. Then get some things going, then the mad dash to the finish line at the end of the quarter, “closing time”, with a little discount thrown in. You hear managers saying it all the time, “what’s it gonna take to close them now?” I remember a VP of sales cancelling a lunch on the 26th of the month at the end of a quarter, “Tibor I can’t make lunch, you know it’s the last week of the quarter and we’re closing”. What do they do the rest of the quarter I thought.
I know it sounds old school in these days of Sales 3.07, but if you take care of the top of the pipe every day, you’ll be in a position to benefit from the output of the pipe every day, not matter what the day.
It’s like the old Sparks song, “Miss the Start, Miss the End”
We want to congratulate Mark for garnering the most votes in our recent So You ThinQ Can Sell contest. Mark received a respectable 52% of the vote. His submission is as follows:
This problem should be confronted making it obvious that the DSS is not considering our offer in an appropriate manner. Yet we have to take care not to upset him in any way that the results are worse. In other words, put the DSS in a position that he has no choice but to agree that our solution is the best and gains the trust of the board and executives.A presentation should be organized, outside of their offices, and it should include as many of the members of the prospect’s board of directors as possible, C-Level executives and the DSS.The presentation provides all the details of our solution, why it is the best solution, and addresses all of the possible objectives. If possible, a high level executive from an existing client should be present to endorse our solution.The objective is to gain the buy in of the executive board, thereby leaving the DSS no choice but to side with the board and executives.We want to tank all the participants for taking the time to share their ideas on how to resolve our team’s challenge, some were more imaginative than others, while some were less ethical than the rest, but all addressed the issue. None however were the resolution chosen and executed by the team in question, there were one or two that may appear to be close but, I think all things being equal the actual solution by the real team in question was the most creative and effective given the circumstance.
Here is what the real team did to overcome their challenge:
When we last left our team they were stuck with a Director of Strategic Sourcing that was dead set against their company, product and solution, and as a result they were at risk to loose the deal, and as a result months of effort and no chance of making quota (full details). Desperate situations call for desperate measures, and our team stepped it up by coming up with something that was brilliant and anything but desperate.
After a full day of strategising, evaluating and re-strategising until they finally decided on a course of ACTION. They considered everything from giving up to homicide, the latter while appealing did not seem practical, and there was the question of legality. They did for a minute consider what one of our participants suggested, that is hiring the DSS; but they saw three problems with that. First the ethics involved, would that eliminate them from the running because of the relationships that would result. Second, would the buying organization be just so put off that they would still relegate the team to not having an opportunity? Third, and perhaps the most important, why hire the problem? Beyond not wanting to look at the guys face anymore than they have to, it was clear that he was not a fair player and willing to put his personal interests and views ahead of the company’s, this was something they did not need or want. So the idea of offering him employment at their company was rejected. But the idea of having him employed elsewhere stayed with them.
After more thinking and rethinking, they decided to engage a recruiter and talked up the DSS, his skills and capabilities, and encouraged the recruiter to consider him for any files he may be working on for senior level procurement professionals. It took about six weeks till the DSS was reviewing an offer from a prospective new employer. In fact he was on a short list for another opening but at the end all agreed that the second one was a better fit, better pay and career advancement.
The recruiter was never aware of the underlying issue, the DSS never suspected there was an invisible hand helping the hand of fate, and most importantly our team was not only back in the game, but taking the lead position as they were accustomed to.
I was sitting with a client recently having a laugh at the expense of a local sales type who this week published (actually republished) another article about how cold calling is dead. Let’s all bow our heads, not for cold calling but the fortunes of those who do not include it as one of the many tools in their prospecting tool box. To be fair to the author in question, he has had to face and defend his views in the past, with various degrees of success or lack there of; in fact this time there was an attempt to redefine cold calling.
His view is that many of his people have benefited from having a plan that prepares them for engaging with customers as a goal. For him it is not about cold calling, or social media, or SEO, it is about starting a dialogue with a potential buyer. This is why apparently he hands a copy to every new rep he brings on. He says it helps sets the tone during their on boarding and how to tackle the challenges facing them in selling in a competitive market.
We both agreed that there was too much discussion these days about finding leads/prospects/customers along the lines of which method is best versus the next, sales 2.0 vs. cold calling, etc. The discussion should really be how to utilize all available resources to engage with prospective customers, fully engage with the ready ones now, nurture and guide ones ready in the future, and abandon those that are not a fit. The key is the fit not the best of them all at the expense of the others.
So what it all leads to (or should) is “An Inconvenient Truce” between the various schools of approach to finding new sources of revenue. Which by the way is the name of a Masterclass I will be delivering for The Top Sales Experts on December the 15th. In closing as we have said before, even in these days of global warming, the inconvenient truth is that cold calling is still a necessary skill and activity to succeed in sales.
Those of you familiar with Renbor know that our Objective Based Selling framework is built on the EDGE process: Engage-Discovery-Gain-Execute. You are also probably aware that we advocate a straight forward approach to front-line sales management. You can review our process and related issues by reading The Yin Yang of Success for Front Line Sales Managers. But as with most things, straight forward does not equate to easy, and success still comes down to execution.
For those that didn’t read the piece referenced above, in a nut shell it comes down to defining and communicating clear expectations, that’s the management part; the helping your team member achieve those expectations, the coaching part. For a number of reasons many sales managers are not good at either, through no fault of their own, tey are often thrust into the role without much preparation, see Management By Osmosis. But usually the part of the process that presents the greatest challenge is the coaching part.
The flow is a mutually agreed on objectives, clear and doable action plan, timeline, measures and review. Working with managers the real difficulty is getting to the “mutually agreed on objectives”, how to get agreement on what the manager see as an area needing improvement without making it personal. One easy way of course is to focus the discussion on aspects of executing the defined sales process (you all have one right?), making the discussion objective rather than subjective.
The question I am often asked is “how do I get the rep to talk about and acknowledge that what I see as an area for improvement will be accepted and taken on by the rep?”. Well let me ask you, how do you get a prospect to open up and discuss issues that will meaningfully move the sale forward in a mutually beneficial way? (Drum roll) Questions!
After all how different is selling from coaching? Done right not that much, in both instances you are trying to get the other party to buy in to your solution. (For the moment let’s accept that the solution makes sense.)
In both instances you need to engage with the other party, deal with the fact that they are, at least on the surface, happy with the status quo, and get them involved in a process of discovery. If you execute the discovery process properly/efficiently, demonstrate impact, you can gain commitment, execute the sales and then work on growing the relationship.
In Coaching as I selling, a critical factor in your success hinges on how well you execute the Discovery stage. You can, and many managers do, come in to the meeting, and tell you rep what he is doing wrong, and there’ll be a lot nodding, a lot of supposed agreement, and little if any noticeable change in their performance. Sort of like when a rep tells that buyer what they need and why, right at the start of the meeting, then spend the rest of the meeting trying to shoehorn the buyer into their solution; at times they really punish the buyer by using a PowerPoint right out of gate.
So to be an effective coach you have to get your rep to buy into the solution that will help him/her better execute your sales process, and in the process sell better. As with a buyer, you need to Engage, then use questions to Discover and uncover the opportunity; Gain mutual agreement on the solution, course of action and timing, and then Execute – EDGE.
So You Want To Be A Top 5% Player In The Game Of Sales?
At 1:00 pm Eastern, Jonathan Farrington, Chairman of the Executive Board over at Top Sales Experts is presenting my first solo Top Sales Experts Masterclass of 2009, and you can be there, with my compliments.
“So You Want To Be A Top 5% Player In The Game Of Sales?”
Recent exhaustive surveys suggest that only 5% of professional salespeople reach and remain at the highest level, which we call Level 3. A further 15% attain Level 2 status, but the majority, i.e. a massive 80% remain at Level 1 in terms of potential achievement.
For more details, registration and a FREE offer click here.
Well the period for submissions for our current sales contest has now closed, and we are pleased to present all the potential solutions suggested. Those of you who read the contest rules, know that we will now open the voting for a week, voting will close midnight Eastern time on Saturday October 24, 2009. We invite everyone to vote, and you know we are not dogmatic or particular about democracy, if you want to vote more than once for yourself or someone you like, or owe money to, hey go for it.
Those participants with entries, now is the time to spread the word and GET YOUR friends, families, Rabbis, Ministers, everyone TO VOTE FOR YOUR SUBMISSION BELOW. You and your posse can vote in the poll box below.
Remember to also submit your solution as a comment below as well as on your blog, or Facebook, or Twitter, web site, LinkedIn update, or other social type outlets, including this link back to www.soyouthinqcansell.com. Again the winner that is the submission with greatest number of votes will win a free Pipeline Audit, a key component of the Sales Process Audit offered by Renbor Sales Solutions and Compass North Inc.
No one actually hit on the actual solution the team used, we will reveal that after the winner has been announced, but some came close, so we may yet award a second prize.
Let the voting begin, may the best solution gat the most votes.
I claim an honorary prize based only on the title of my latest book:
“Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll – Leadership Lessons from the Academy of Rock”
Acclaimed by Tom Peters:
“Sex, Leadership and Rock ‘n’ Roll is a marvellous book, which closes the door on the tidy, hierarchical, know-your-place ‘Orchestral Age’ and ushers in a new, creative era of challenge and change. Hooray!”
Get your sponsors and the DSS in one room and for a final ppt. Make sure that you feed the DSS that he can make the difference and blow you out of the water at that meeting by faking weaknesses. Then he will show up for sure.
At the meeting start up the round table discussion and get the DSS to answer last (table settings). Your supporters from within the company get to answer first and speak their mind. The DSS will have to go up to his own co workers based on none arguments and he will have to give in to not loose face. This will take him out of the DMU he will not want that. Make sure your meeting is on neutral ground and that dinner is after the meeting. So they can sit on it for a while. Nobody wants to loose face before his coworkers and you can be neutral cause it were not your arguments in the discussion but his own companies. This way you can still work with him after.
I think the team should involve some executives from their company and get them to reach out to their counterparts on the buyer’s side. This may open up a dialogue at higher levels that would allow others to see the benefits of the teams offering. The DSS may back off if he saw the CEO of his own company get involved.
If on the other hand this tactic does not work, the team has plausible deniability if the DSS finds out, and let’s face it he is not the biggest fan right now as it is.
My suggestion is go high and change the stakes for everyone.
Get to the source of the problem.
The problem is the understanding, knowledge, or perception of the DSS.
Have the sales team leader confront the issue face to face with the DSS privately, and honestly, make a persoanl and emotional connection wiht the DSS, to ascertain the root cause of his perception and (mis) understanding.
Address these matters- and you may be surprised at the result. It you get blown out – then screw it- at least you know honestly why you were blown out. And if it was unethical make their CEO/Board aware of it after the fact.
You’re smarter, learn from it, and live to fight another day. And go support their competitor with the best pricing and service you can deliver.
Your team has nothing to lose by being more aggressive.
I would recommend a high level executive at our team’s company contact the CEO at the prospect company for a one-on-one meeting.
I would have our high level executive discuss the issue at hand and the key reasons we should be considered to compete.
I would then have our high level executive request advice on how our team should proceed.
Approach the DSS with an offer of employment as a consultant at your company. Make it an offer he can not refuse. His first job is to get the contract with his former company.
It appears that the DSS has no reason to give the business to your sales team other than dislike. He hasn’t appeared to give any reasons why he will not buy from you.
I would begin by extending an invitation for the DSS and other executive members to visit your company/factory to tour your facility, the product, customer service teams.etc…
Let them become comfortable with your business and what you have to offer, then discuss the barriers and seek answers and respond appropriately.
It may be that the DSS has the type of personality that needs to be “wined and dined”
You could bring in a common link to the DSS – a sourcing advisory or a partner firm which has better connects with the DSS. They could work as a mediator or the partner could front end the deal with your firm as sub-contractors.
Probably a joint conference/ meeting as next step including the mediator, sales team & DSS could help sort out any issues & open the iron gate.
Pretty simple really – we face these kinda situations on a daily basis.
Get the guy some carrots – percentage on the sale, full time employment with my firm at double the current paycheck, awesome holiday in the Caribbean, sweet nothings as gifts, a luxurious spa date with some of the hottest women money can hire, etc.
But the carrots are like trump cards for me – i’m going to use them one at a time. And there will obviously be the ‘demarcation line’ from which point onwards the deal becomes a loss for me. I will make sure I tell the DSS this the first time we meet.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Wage war on all fronts. Set the strategy and employ tactics to meet the goal. “Knowledge is Power,” Plato said. Irrespective of the DSS’s reasons, you are in sales. Make it happen!
I would cold call and establish a conversations with the CEO, board members, and probe for insights with colleagues whom may not participate on the board, but can offer insight from a department perspective. * I might start with the little guys whom have no input on the board, but can offer insights that the CEO himself may have interests in knowing… a good captivator on a cold call!
It’s your job as a convincing salesman to win the respect and trust of those you call on.
Probing via cold calling, aka, waging war on all fronts, talk to anyone you can talk to.
“Hey Joe, I know you’re not on the board, I know you hate your current infrastructure and want to improve, tell me what you thinking/feeling?, we don’t have to acknowledge we ever spoke. I’m trying to learn why the DSS, and the board are behaving as they are, what is the perception you have of what’s going on?” This might work, if it doesn’t you move forward until you get your foot in the crack of the door with someone whom offers insight…knowledge….power to enlist the next proper tactic..
Based on how much I can learn cold calling into the account in 1 week, I would engineer a meeting between higher brass on both sides. I would amass as much information learning what the concerns are before going in with a PPT, or tactical strategy, that way you have a plan that addresses the challenge, “no communication from the DSS or his company.
At a committee meeting:
I would ask for input via round table discussion, personal introductions and concerns of each attending member. Create dialouge to uncover the champions within the group whom understand our value proposition and support the alliance with our team. Obtain the internal champions emails. At the same time, uncover alliances with the DSS.
In the end, carrots or consulting positions are far fetched for most companies. Wining and Dining is a social primer to connect on personal levels and a must. TCO/ROI is key. It’s all about communication. Do you understand our value proposition over our competitors? Do you understand whom we have worked with in your associated industry?(Get a champion whom is thier competitor to offer a conversation with the CEO or board).
When will you be issuing the PO? How high is this solution needed on your priority list Mr. CEO, Board Members, and DSS? Do you know your competitors are enlisting our solutions while your considering a change? Check out thier ROI…
It’s all psychology. The DSS could be an egomaniac, or have direction from the CEO to be the gatekeeper. Nevertheless, it’s all about communication, tactics and stratigize. No one can ever have a full proof plan, unless they “know,” the variables involved in the equation.
Wage war on all fronts!
Here’s the bold, creative plan: Give the DSS all the credit for coming up with the awesome proposal you’ve created.
Give him the kudos for forcing you to dig deep to come up with the exhaustive, detailed bid that satisfies every degree of what you’re looking to accomplish. “We don’t normally go to these extremes to create a proposal,” you say. “If it wasn’t for Mr. DSS here, you never would have seen this kind of detail, this kind of scrutiny on ROI, and certainly this kind of aggressive pricing. Our hats off to you, Mr. DSS; you’re an asset to your organization, and you’ve singlehandedly changed the way we’ll be submitting RFP’s in the future.”
And the presentation begins.
You’ve complimented him on the very thing that made it difficult for you in the first place, bolstered his reputation among his peers, and got the deal. Way to go! Cigars all around.
(And you didn’t have to resort to illegal activities, or worse yet, have to HIRE the guy!)
This problem should be confronted making it obvious that the DSS is not considering our offer in an appropriate manner. Yet we have to take care not to upset him in any way that the results are worse. In other words, put the DSS in a position that he has no choice but to agree that our solution is the best and gains the trust of the board and executives.
A presentation should be organized, outside of their offices, and it should include as many of the members of the prospect’s board of directors as possible, C-Level executives and the DSS
The presentation provides all the details of our solution, why it is the best solution, and addresses all of the possible objectives. If possible, a high level executive from an existing client should be present to endorse our solution.
The objective is to gain the buy in of the executive board, thereby leaving the DSS no choice but to side with the board and executives.
The problem with the DSS is his unwarranted dislike for the prospective bidding company and he must be removed from the approval process. At this point in the game the company has nothing to lose therefore should attempt to hire him away from his current position and make an offer he can’t refuse with the bidding company, therefore eliminating him from the approval process. Given the size of the deal, it would be more than affordable to hire him away.
The Yin Yang of Success for Front Line Sales Managers
No we are not going to present “The Book of Ease” or “The Book of Changes” for sales managers, instead we want to look at two key component of success for sales managers. Like the sun and the moon they may seem like opposites, but in the right balance and executed the right way, they could make a difficult challenge a bit easier to achieve.
Creating the right balance between the dark and light energies involved in managing a sales team requires a lot of control, the ability to adopt, evolve, yet stay centered in the constant barrage that is sales management.
To manage effectively, sales managers must embrace two fundamentals:
1. You can only manage successfully if you are managing a clearly defined sales process not the individual sales reps.
2. Understanding the conflicting nature of the Sales Manager role – The “yin” (black) and “yang” (white).
1. Managing the process: The hardest part for many sales managers to do and accept is that their primary role is to manage the sales process. Two reasons for this, first many organization lack a sales process. Even when there is one, it is not always fully and clearly defined or documented. Second, when they were promoted to sales management from front line sales, they had no pre-training or preparation for the role. They were told “you know the drill Steve, and you know the team, just do what made you successful.” In addition, their role model was their manager, who is a product of the same system.
Managing the process makes things an objective exercise rather than subjective exercise. This in turn allows you take the emotion and personality out of things. Especially where there is no process and the manager is relying on his “knowledge” of the people on the team and his “relationship” with them. When they manage the people it’s hard to address certain issues because it becomes personal. “Steve you have to do it this way; Steve you have to stop doing this; Steve you have to do more of that. This is especially true when trying to correct or change something that Steve has not recognized or is willing to deal with yet.
By focusing on the process, you can work with Steve by focusing coaching on the execution of the process. It is easier to get agreement that in order to fully execute the process things need to be done differently. Rather than the issue being Steve’s, Steve can be the one to make suggestions as to what needs to be done to execute the process successfully. So rather than the manager saying “do this, don’t do that”, you both contribute to a course of action that deals with it. Once the course of action is agreed on, you can use the same flow to establish actions, timelines and measures. All of it is done in the context of executing an agreed on sales process, none of it dealing with “Steve’s problem” or issue. Both parties gain, neither is emotionally impacted.
2. Understanding the conflicting nature of the Sales Manager role – The “yin” and “yang” (white): The other advantage to having a sales process and managing that is it allows the sales manager to lead, and more specifically, lead their teams and individual members to success.
The reality is that the sales process is made up of a series of logical steps executed in a more or less sequential fashion. That by nature brings with it rules, and rules require communication and enforcements – the Yin – The Black. Beyond the rules wrapped in the process, organizations have a number of other rules relating to the job, role, and the company. There are also recommendations, which could be optional when it comes to adoption or adherence by individual reps, but rules, process related or other, are not, they are not negotiable. Account coverage, activity levels, CRM updating, pricing discretion, and a whole bunch of things vary greatly from organization to organization.
Managers need to articulate, manage and enforce the rules, again the Yin – the Black. Many stop at that, and continue to repeat it, and then fail, and scratch their head wondering what went wrong. “I communicated everything, in fact I had Steve sign that he read his comp plan and that he will follow the sales process, so I did my job.” Well only half the job. Once the rules are laid down, that’s the easy part, you now have to take off the “manager” hat, and don your COACHING hat, your second role, the Yang – The White. It is crucial that you coach and lead your team to success, to deliver against the goals and rules.
As a coach you need to be aware of the capabilities of the individuals on your team. Measure the gap between where they are now and where they need to be to succeed. With that in place you then implement an ongoing process of continuous improvement. Working with individual reps to identify areas of improvement (arrived at in an objective not subjective fashion), and then creating action steps to change. These need not be big steps, best to start with something simple and easy for the rep to accept and do; implement time lines, short is good especially if it is a simple thing, review and then celebrate success. These steps should be 4 to 8 weeks in length. Once you have done this a couple of times you will have two things. First you’ll have implemented a culture of continuous coaching and success, reps see their interactions as opportunities to improve, earn and grow, not corrective measures. This can go on as long as the rep works for you, because you will always have challenges, you will always need growth. The other thing is that you will now have some momentum and success under your belts, so you can now get the rep to stretch without fear, and accelerate the challenge and pace without scaring or discouraging the rep.
With the above fundamentals in place you not only have a solid platform for managing and coaching; but more importantly one that scales with the circumstances, challenging or economic boom periods like we had in the late 90’s or mid part of this decade. With the backdrop of a long term strategic plan, the Yin Yang will allows the sales manager lead and shape the success of his/her team.
On Tuesday October 20th – 1:00 pm Eastern, Jonathan Farrington presents his first solo Top Sales Experts Masterclass of 2009, and you can be there, with my compliments.
So You Want To Be A Top 5% Player In The Game Of Sales?
Recent exhaustive surveys suggest that only 5% of professional salespeople reach and remain at the highest level, which we call Level 3. A further 15% attain Level 2 status, but the majority, i.e. a massive 80% remain at Level 1 in terms of potential achievement.
Level One salespeople sell products and depend on having the right technical solution for the customer’s specification. This is probably you.
Level Two salespeople sell solutions, which changes their image from sales rep to business consultant and positions them as a potential strategic resource. Most salesmen and women manage to advance from Level 1 to Level 2 fairly easily but unfortunately; many find breaking through that final glass ceiling extremely difficult i.e. moving from competitive sales professionals to collaborative sales consultants. Or is this you?
Level Three salespeople are able to first identify and then capitalise upon the political component within the buying process. They develop and sustain strong commercial relationships at all levels within their accounts and these relationships endure because they are based on mutual respect and trust. Their clients feel secure, so secure, that they would be fearful of changing supplier.
Level Three salespeople rarely, if ever, lose an order that they really want because they are always in control of the sales cycle. They have identified that in marketplaces where product uniqueness and technical expertise are no longer enough, it is they themselves, that make the difference i.e. their superior skills.
This could be you!
What we can say for certain, is that successful selling has become an exclusive club of highly skilled professionals where, for example, product knowledge, time management skills, objection handling and closing skills are the cost of membership, not leadership.
Attendees will not only receive a FREE copy of Jonathan’s most recent EBook “The Changing Face of Professional Selling” (Value $19.95) but also the chance to take a FREEASP Profile (Value $175)
Jonathan Farrington is Chairman of The Sales Corporation, CEO of Top Sales Associates and Senior Partner at The JF Consultancy based in London and Paris.
He is also the Chairman of the Executive Board over at Top Sales Experts, and heads up the selection panel for AllBusiness’s latest initiative to find the very best sales professionals on the planet.
You can find out more about him and what they are saying about him here
Then you can accept my invitation to claim your FREE place for this significant event and register here – http://bit.ly/4wW1fc
Ah the aged old fright of cold calling, we hate objections, we fear rejection but why?
Don’t you know that if you are in B2B sales, and the buyers are not beating a path to your door, the reality is that even in these days of Global Warming, the Inconvenient Truth is that cold calling is a must, and when done right it works. To get the specifics, click here and Read On!
I recently sat down with York Small Business Television to discuss the importance of a clearly defined and executed sales process for small or large business. Take a look and let us know what you think.