Thursday, September 24, 2009

Facts and Fallacies About Selling: Fallacy #3

Fallacy: Salespeople can learn to sell simply by reading books, watching videos, taking on-line courses, listening to experts, or aping (benchmarking - copying) high-producers.

Reality: Few salespeople put into action what they see, read, or hear. They cannot hit aggressive targets by simply modelling top producers. At best, they gain a few “tips” to incorporate into their current (ineffective) approaches. Lectures and videos about how selling “should be” are sometimes impressive, but ineffective in creating blockbuster sales increases. Trying to live up to a perfect model is an impossible dream. The implication is that there is a “right” way to sell. A search for the elusive right way undermines an individual’s capacity to think for themselves.

There is no “one size fits all recipe for success.”

Rookie golfers and athletes spend thousands on videos somehow hoping professionalism will rub off on them. Many don’t even remove the shrink-wrap on the DVD or simply watch it once. Those that do, rarely watch the whole program. If you doubt this, visit a used book store or yard sale and notice how many self- help books, videos, and CD’s are in pristine condition. Incidentally, those rare individuals who actually put these tools to work would not let their dog-eared books or worn out videos out of their personal library. Only by thinking through their own selling issues and applying sound principles as a yardstick, do salespeople (and athletes) dramatically improve their performance. This process requires high-level teaching and coaching skills – a rarity in today’s quick-fix environment.

There are those who call themselves “coaches”, but a simple reality check tells a different story. Few of them can resist the temptation of turning an elegantly designed coaching process into a "perfect model" comparison. Most educational, and knowledge-based seminars follow this "success formula" model. That’s why common feedback about conventional training is, “Great stuff, but it’s hard to implement and even harder to sustain.”

Click here to find me on LinkedIn

Click here to email me

Monday, September 21, 2009

Facts And Fallacies About Selling

Fallacy 2: Years of selling experience,a good selling record, or professional “designation”, qualifies a salesperson to be recognized as a professional.

Reality: Most salespeople end their careers without becoming true professionals. Hanging in for a few years, taking a couple of courses, or applying for a professional “designation,” does not guarantee entering the ranks of true professionals.

By default, salespeople typically become professional visitors, product peddlers, or simply hard working order-takers. They rarely achieve their true potential. Less than twenty five percent of today’s sales population produces between seventy-five and, in some industries, as high as ninety percent of sales volumes. This remains unchanged in spite of giant leaps in technology. Incidentally, most organizations accept this as the norm, a mistake that costs them millions. 

Product knowledge or industry expertise is no longer a strong competitive advantage. Executing core competencies sets today’s professional apart from average or medium producers.

Clients are impatient when salespeople are little more than talking brochures. Today's customers demand interacting with salespeople with high-level listening skills. Salespeople need to feed-back to the prospect a clear summary of what they heard, what is the fit between their offering and this prospect's needs/wants, and be able to secure a commitment based on that fit rather than the old "ABC of selling" - Always Be Closing. Good luck with using the ABC's, prospects are on to your tactics and they don't like it!

Click here to find me on LinkedIn

Click here to email me

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Reality of the Marginal Salesperson

Vice Presidents of Sales and/or Sales manager’s success rests on salespeople’s success, so let’s take a closer look at today’s typical sales force.

Many organizations equip salespeople with basic sales aids, and CRM software supported by marketing and/or advertising campaigns.

More often than not, we discover that a company's typical sales education includes these vague concepts:

• Know our product(s) well
• Work hard, make lots of calls to earn incentives
• Get the order, but use a “consultative” approach
• Open new accounts

Marginal salespeople say: “You get me in front of a good customer and I’ll make the sale every time.” In reality, they consistently miss their organization’s sales targets. Their response is, “These targets are unrealistic” or “these sales leads are no good.”

Based on our five levels of sales competency model, sixty to eighty percent of the salespeople we’ve observed are at the marginal level of competence.

[Request our short profile to determine the level of your organization’s competencies]

Most of the time, when marginal salespeople speak with a qualified buyer; they do not make a sale. To them, it’s a matter of luck or persistence. Within minutes, they are in a price conversation.

Each time they book $50,000 worth of business, you’ve invisibly lost at least another $50,000 in obtainable sales. This analysis comes from projects where we coach salespeople from the ranks of order-takers to becoming excellent product-peddlers, then becoming collaborative problem-solvers. Typically, they increase their sales by twenty to two hundred percent.

The remaining twenty to forty percent of medium to high producers produce the bulk of a company’s sales volume.

Their reasons for leaving business on the table include:

• New accounts are scarce and hard to develop
(They contend they are too busy with established accounts)
• They are secure and satisfied with their current sales record
• They don’t recognize the need for developing their sales competency
(They believe the problem is their company or the market)
• New ideas and selling methods are too much work and are not worth the effort

Medium producers tell us: “Give me a qualified buyer or a big, juicy problem to solve, and I’ll close the sale – every time. What we need around here is lower, more competitive pricing, better advertising, more qualified leads, and a better web site.”

The cost to their organizations is as high as twice their current sales volumes. Typically, they increase their performance between fifty to one hundred percent by moving from a friendly visitor, problem-solver, or technical advisor relationship with customers to one of genuine collaboration and, ultimately, becoming a sustaining resource. This peer-to-peer relationship to high level prospects makes it almost impossible for competitors to penetrate their accounts, even with slick marketing.

If talking to a salesperson has no value other than repeating product information and/or generic “solutions” or they simply re-hash general features and benefits, they bring no value to prospective clients.

Find me on LinkedIn

Email Me:

Friday, September 4, 2009

Facts And Fallacies About Selling - Falacy One

Are these fallacies alive and well in your organization and how much money are they costing you in lost sales and burned resources?

Fallacy 1: Salespeople are obsolete.

Reality: Products and services where customers need genuine assistance require highly-trained, skilled sales professionals. Marketing and sales tools can only propose the sale – professional salespeople secure the business.

There are not enough high-performing, professional salespeople to meet today’s increasing demand. Most top performers have lucrative careers and are not easily lured away. Today’s companies need salespeople capable of persuading prospects to switch from a current supplier.

Average producers and hard-working order-takers are poorly equipped to find and secure these new accounts. Today’s sophisticated prospects reject back-slapping, talking brochures or slick, disingenuous, manipulative sales techniques. They do, however, invite professional salespeople into a mutually beneficial collaboration.

Firms with salespeople at this level of selling competence command margins between ten to fifteen percent higher than industry averages.

Find me on LinkedIn

Email Me Directly

What does a Moose look like?

 We regularly ask prospective clients, “Who is your target prospect? What do they look like?” Some executives take up to two weeks to give us a straight answer. If you’re hunting moose (even with your new digital camera) it seems obvious to know what one looks like. Today’s salespeople waste time “pitching” unqualified prospects and regularly fail to create and nurture potentially profitable relationships. To maximize the value of your selling time, we recommend this multi-pronged approach.
  • Strategically guide your sales efforts towards a genuine specific market

  • Carefully scrutinize your complete sales process (adjust it where needed)

  • Ensure that you engage your prospects with a specific and tailored approach

  • Provide value-creating contact with your key customers
In other words, have something to say, say it often, say it effectively to the right people securing their business in such a way that you keep your competitors out.

After scrutinizing hundreds of strategic sales plans, we’ve discovered that most of them are articulated intentions, rather than clear strategies. They lose momentum in the all-important execution stage.

Find me on LinkedIn

Email Me Directly

More sales competencies

• Organizing time, territory, and sales presentation

• Discipline to engage in pre-call planning and practice

• Accessing a prospective buyer and quickly qualifying them

• Using technology as a tool to increase sales

• Converting mildly interested prospects into paying customers

• Distinguishing your product/service from the competition

• Communicating peer-to-peer with high-level prospects

• Gaining the trust of skeptical prospective buyers

• Uncovering genuine needs and offering a customized solution

• Penetrating existing accounts

• Effectively presenting to small or large groups

• Boardroom presence - comfortable in a corporate conversation

Everyone has their pet theories, but we’ve found that most of today's conventional wisdom is more convention than wisdom.

Find me on LinkedIn

Email Me Directly

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Levels of sales competence

Many salespeople rely on their relationships to make sales. We’re not against relationships, our founder, Dale Carnegie wrote the book How To Win Friends and Influence People, but in today’s competitive, global marketplace relationships are not enough to hit sales targets. When commercial visitors lean on relationships here’s what they hear, “we like you, we like your company, and we think your products are good … but …”

The next level of selling competency is the salesperson that becomes alert only when the customer says “sign me up – I want it.” But in this market, sales-people are required to take business away from competitors. Prospects are not saying, “Tell me what you’ve got and if I like it, I’ll buy it.” They are comparing your offering with many others. Order takers tend to return from sales calls professing, “We’re not price competitive, we need different features, our customers are looking for. . .” (Specific feature or discount).

There are salespeople genuinely excited about their products and services and enthusiastically give their pitch of generic features and benefits. These product-peddlers deal with plenty of price and specification issues. They ask, “How can I handle this objection ... the customer wants to know about this ... what do we say about that?” These salespeople regularly miss sales forecasts and work too hard for the volumes they book.

Another type of salesperson we’ve observed is the problem-solver. The closer they get to solving the customer’s problem, the desire to work with them goes down not up. They need to engage and connect with their customers in such a way that their value expands rather than shrinks.

The highest level of relationship with clients is a sustaining resource. The end of the “locked-in contract” road is client resentment. We want our clients to choose to do business with us and inoculate them against our competitors’ steady attacks.

[Request our short profile to determine your organization’s sales competence]

Find me on LinkedIn

Click here to go to Dave's Website in which he explains level One

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Get in to see high-level buyers; keep competitors out of your accounts

Today’s conventional salesperson is under attack. Sophisticated customers demand a collaborative or consultative approach. Time with prospects is invaluable, and limited. The prohibitive cost of today’s sales call makes conventional approaches obsolete. Organizations are scrambling to pry loyal customers away from competitors.

We’ve been close to sales managers and salespeople for over 80 years. We know their hopes and fears, their abilities, their frustrations, their problems, their feelings of victory and defeat. We’ve worked side-by-side with salespeople selling every conceivable product or service.

Based on our on-going research and direct contact with sales organizations, we see plenty of inefficiencies getting knowledgeable, well-prepared salespeople face to face or on the telephone with enough qualified prospects to hit ambitious sales targets.

Fundamental Truth's About Selling:
• Old-time salespeople are obsolete (this has been true for years)
• Prospects don’t have time to meet or listen to every salesperson
• It is more difficult than ever to find and connect with qualified prospects
• Technology does not, and cannot, replace a professional salesperson
• Professional selling is not obsolete – it’s just rare

If your customers need genuine help making their decision to buy, they demand highly trained, competent, sales professionals. They have plenty of choice so if you look and sound like competitors, you’re in fundamental trouble.

On the other hand, if you have the technical expertise the customer requires, and technical sales competence on behalf of a killer sales strategy, you might be invincible and probably have an expanding market share, high margins, and a loyal client base willingly giving you a steady revenue stream.

A balance of a strong sales strategy, wise use of technology, and highly professional salespeople consistently out-perform conventional “cold-call” salespeople, order-takers, product-peddlers, and/or technology or marketing driven initiatives. The responsibility for making sales still rests firmly on the shoulders of you, the professional salesperson. Your job is to connect with tough-minded prospective buyers by:

• Accessing a prospective buyer and quickly qualifying them
• Communicating peer-to-peer with high-level buyers
• Quickly and clearly distinguishing your product/service from the competition
• Organizing your time, territory, and sales presentation
• Having the discipline to engage in pre-call planning and rehearsals
• Knowing when to talk and when to shut up
• Listening to the prospect’s wants/needs and clearly connecting your offering to them

However, unless you can get in to see a qualified prospect, everything else is of no real value. Your job is to think like a potential buyer and create value for them in the first minute of your sales conversation.

Here’s a transcript of a salesperson tightening up his attention-getter under the guidance of a Dale Carnegie Sales Advantage Coach.

Coach: What do you specialize in?

Salesperson: A lot of our competitors are service companies whereas we deal specifically in providing solutions not just service.

Coach: Who is the target customer?

Salesperson: Business to business. Multinational. Very capital intensive, lots of equipment. Low margins. Extremely competitive, diminishing market.

Coach: What level do you typically call on?

Salesperson: Technical manager, technical director. They are the ones who get the ball rolling. We’re kind of like a technical consultant because we have decades of experience around the world customers are able to ask our opinions and exploit all the information that we’ve gathered and we have a very extensive R&D and product development group so they’re able to make use of all that.

Coach: What does that do for them?

Salesperson: This builds a comfort level for them. Knowing that they’re dealing with us, they are dealing with a company that has a good track record and has done their own homework and not just selling the latest fad as far as products are concerned.

Coach: How does that impact their business?

Salesperson: It gives them a competitive advantage over their competitors.
Now we help him or her fashion a specific attention-getter that takes the prospect’s mind off what they are thinking before the salesperson called, on to the purpose of the call – in less than 60 seconds. From this attention-getter, the salesperson secures an appointment.

Coach: Let’s try this: “We specialize in working with organizations such as yours to hang on to their valuable customers; to protect margins that are shrinking and under attack; and enter potentially profitable markets at a relatively low risk.”

Salesperson: This is [name] with [company] I know you’re probably busy so I won’t take up a lot of your time. We specialize in providing technical solutions ….

Coach: Don’t tell them about your solutions yet – what do you really do for them?

Salesperson: We specialize in helping companies like yours retain their valuable customers, protect their margins and, possibly assist them in penetrating new market at a relatively low risk.

At this point the salesperson secures an appointment. Statistically, salespeople increase their call to appointment ratios from 20 to 50% as a result of this structured approach.

Please note, we’re not advocating a canned sales pitch. Instead, the salesperson tailors three blanket benefits to each targeted prospect.

Old: “We are a technical consultant because we have decades of experience around the world, customers are able to ask our opinions and exploit all the information that we’ve gathered and we have a very extensive R&D and product development group so we’re able to make use of all that. This builds a comfort level for you. Knowing that you’re dealing with a company that has a good track record and that has done their own homework and not just selling the latest fad as far as products are concerned.”

New: “This is [name] with [company] I know you’re probably quite busy so I won’t take up a lot of your time."

"We specialize in helping companies like yours retain their valuable customers, protect their margins and, possibly assist them in penetrating new markets at a relatively low risk."

If you were the prospect, which approach would you prefer to hear?

Find me on LinkedIn

"You Talkin' To Me" Part II

The most common mistake we see is a shift from desired outcomes to problem-solving and trying to re-stimulate momentum or keep morale high. Low morale and momentum are symptoms of a poorly designed organizational structure.

The structure gives rise to behaviour.

Let's move on to execution.

Executing clear strategies is the "fun" part for some of us. Employees do not need to be "sold" on a strategy; they want to be connected to it. Hearing their connection to the strategy comes from listening, not presenting. Each individual broadcasts their commitments loud and clear. But, just like radio waves around you, until you tune-in to their frequency, they're invisible to you.

Using this approach to connecting and engagement, we've seen an executive's jaw drop as they experience a surge of energy from their people like never before. Tapping into intrinsic motivation has a much stronger track-record than artificially "pumping people up" or manipulatively "persuading" them of our viewpoint. After all, you cannot motivate another person. [We'll save that discussion for another time.]

Creating a structure in which the path of least resistance serves individuals highest aspirations and deepest values as they create what is truly important to their organization is "magic" to those unaware of the simplicity of its power. There is no magic. Playing the piano is not magic. Writing a powerful essay is not magic. Effective salesmanship is not magic. Designing and executing a strategy is not magic either.

If your strategy does not create a path of least resistance toward doing what moves you forward, then any attempts to get people to do what is required will have a high rate of failure. Scrutinize your strategy. Put it on trial. If your strategy is a sacred cow, you're in fundamental trouble.

Rather than "selling" each other, why not engage, listen, and connect with reality based on a composite view? After all, the real competition is not internal, it's external.

Ask yourself:

• If an outside person reviewed our strategies, are they so clear and logical that they would support them without question?
• Do we often accuse others of not "getting it?"
• Do we shoot the messenger? [Come on now, fess up!]
• Is there a lot of talk around strategy and little action?
• Do our actions move us forward?
• Do we sometimes charge forward, and then slide back?

All the above are symptoms of a weak strategy.

Find me on LinkedIn