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To Close More Deals Follow the Roadmap

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Navigating big deals through to closure is complex.  Multiple decision makers, influencers, and big dollars can make these anxious waters.  It’s easy to get lost.  To help you find your way follow the Sales Roadmap.

The Sales Roadmap is an inventory of sales actions and corresponding buyer commitments that move a sale forward step-by-step to closure.  This roadmap isn’t something you buy at a store, it’s something you build. 

Building your Sales Roadmap provides instant clarity into where your sales process is healthy, and where it’s weak.  It gives you insight into why you’ve achieved the level of sales success you have, and precisely where to focus to improve those results. 

How do you start to build your Sales Roadmap? First you need to be aware that generally there are four classic phases which any sale passes through on its way to being secured:

Suspect:  You suspect this company has a need for your products or services.

Prospect: You have met with this company, confirmed they have needs you can satisfy, and confirmed that they would actually spend money to resolve those needs.

Target:  The company has your pricing in hand, and at least 75% of the issues that stand between you and closure have been successfully dealt with.

Closed:  Pricing is agreed to and implementation dates are set.

With this groundwork laid, you are now set to begin building your Sales Roadmap


Step One:  Capture Your Baseline Sales Roadmap

Gather your sales people together.  Ask them to plot and document the sales activities and corresponding buyer commitments that must occur to move a typical large deal through each phase, from ‘Suspect’ through to ‘Closed’. 

For instance, to move a deal through the Suspect phase, sales must first reach the right buying contact and request a meeting [sales activity], and the buyer must say ‘yes’ to that meeting [buyer commitment]. Follow this thought process through for each of the four phases.  Capture all sales activities and buyer commitments within each.  When this task is complete, you will have your Sales Roadmap in hand.


Step Two:  Optimize Your Sales Roadmap

Optimizing your Sales Roadmap brings you great value.  Not only does it increase top line revenue and eliminate waste in the sales process, it also improves sales velocity, simplifies the closing of complex deals, and makes the company healthy for the long term.

To optimize your Sales Roadmap look at the sales activities in each phase and ask:

  1. Is this the right activity to be doing at this time in the sale to get it closed? 
  2. Have the right things been done previous to this sales activity to set the stage for its success? 

If your answer to either of these questions is ‘No’, look at your Sales Roadmap and begin optimizing it.  Here’s how:   

  • Move your sales activities to their optimal place in the Roadmap.  An insurance provider found they were issuing price quotes too early in their sale, before all the buyer’s needs had been identified.  This explained their poor ratio of closes to quotes issued.  By doing a more vigorous needs assessment up front and quoting later, they were able to close more deals.
  • Insert sales activities early in the Roadmap that will make closing the deal later a little smoother.  A transportation company discovered large closes were being stalled by last minute objections from the buyer’s warehouse staff. By engaging those buying influences earlier in the sales process they eliminated late stage glitches.   
  • Delete Roadmap activities that bog down your sales process.  A biotech company identified having Sales hand off system demonstrations to the Field Service Technicians team was slowing down sales velocity.  With some training the sales team was able to perform demonstrations on their own, and Field Service was able to focus on their customer care duties.

Documenting and optimizing your Sales Roadmap is a straightforward way to improve your team’s effectiveness and efficiency in closing large deals.

When Sales Leadership Abdicates Their Duties

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

As an executive level sales manager you can find your focus being pulled away from important ‘on’ the business issues to burning and urgent ‘in’ the business issues.  Marketing wants feedback now, R&D wants input tomorrow, and Finance wants help with A/R issues yesterday.  By the way, there is that big deal that needs closing.  Succumbing to the allure of burning issues and neglecting leadership duties is called the absentee leader trap.  Here is why you don’t want to be stuck there, and how you can prevent it from happening.

How to know if you are being drawn off course?  Statements like “That one on one session with my rep –   I’ll have to cancel that.  That conference call with my Eastern team – that will have to wait until after this fire is out” are the first signs you are falling prey to the absentee leader trap.  Allowing this to happen is a mistake that can have serious consequences for your sales team.

When you stop leading many things happen, none of them good.  Here are a few...

  • Sales professionals with an absentee leader are forced to make decisions in isolation and are more likely to entertain buyer discounts and other concessions to close deals.  Both of these are profit killers.
  • As the customer’s conduit to the company, your salespeople are often the first to field ‘out of the box’ requests.  When faced with such requests and an absentee leader, a salesperson may take the “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” approach to deal making.  Customer expectations are set and everyone is left scrambling to make it happen.  Worse yet, the customer may have to be told after the fact it can’t happen.
  • Productivity drops.  New hires and junior staff need guidance and direction from their leader to become productive.  The faster they become productive, the faster the return on the investment in hiring them, and the better they feel about their decision to join your team. 
  • In an absentee leader environment good manager-employee relationships wane and weak ones worsen.  Morale slides and your best people start looking for work elsewhere. 

Here are three ways to avoid the absentee leader trap...

  1. Establish Regular ‘Stand Up’ Meetings – These are simple and effective in keeping you connected to your team no matter where you or they are.  Hold them in person or via web conference.  Have a regular start time, a defined duration [think 10 -15 minutes max], and a concise agenda.  Focus on relaying information that will help them to do their jobs effectively.   Provide praise and recognition to those who earned it.  Show the team you appreciate their hard work.  Fill their bucket.  Note:  attendance must be mandatory. An environment of “it’s OK to miss this meeting” will render it ineffective in achieving team cohesion.
  2. Give 24-hour Response To Messages From Your People – This goes without saying, right?  Many leaders don’t do this.  They are too busy with ‘higher’ things and apologize for not getting back.  Nothing alienates a salesperson more than being ignored by their boss.  There is plenty of delayed response and rejection inherent in the sales role.  Facing it internally builds resentment, big time.
  3. Be A Conduit To The Big Picture At Corporate – An engaged employee knows how their  day to day achievements contribute to the big picture at work.  Keep your sales team current on how their contribution is affecting the enterprise as a whole.  An engaged sales team is a productive sales team.

Channel Your Team's Inner Wisdom

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Want your sales organization to up its game?  Ask your best players to mentor a teammate.  Why ask your top performers take on a mentoring role?  Because mentoring makes everyone better. 

 Through the act of mentoring, the mentor improves.  Want to get better at something?  Get prepared to teach it to someone else.  Knowledge gaps get filled and processes are distilled to their essence.  Seemingly unconnected acts performed innately are unified through explaining what is, what was, and what shall be.   

 Those being mentored improve too of course.  Their knowledge base broadens and deepens.  The magic of translating knowledge into skill is learned.  Causal links between ‘I do this and that happens’ are identified and learning occurs.  Results improve measurably.

 The company wins too.  They get an empowered team of employees who have been sent the very clear message that the organization cares about them. That their contribution to the big picture matters.  That they are being given every chance to succeed in their role.  When this happens, employee engagement rises.  Top performers tend to stick around.

 Here is how to integrate mentoring into your culture...

 Teach your mentors how to mentor.  This obvious first step is often neglected.  The presumption that skill competence or mastery translates into the ability to teach is incorrect.  Make ‘The Elements of Mentoring’ by W. Brad Johnson and Charles R Ridley required reading.  Additionally, send them to a basic coaching skills course [as the core skills to mentor effectively are similar to those used in coaching]

  • Clarify the mentors’ role.  Mentoring is closely aligned to coaching, but is different.  Mentoring is “I have been down the road on which you are travelling.  Let me teach you how to best navigate it”.  Coaching is “I [may] have not been down the road you travel, but let’s figure out how to navigate it”.  A mentor provides task specific advice, guidance, direction, and teaching.  
  • Explain ‘why mentoring – why now’ to the team. Explain the rationale behind the investment in time and money being made.  Show the positive correlation between mentoring and results improvement for individuals and teams.
  • Create a roadmap for the mentoring relationships.  Outline suggested frequency and duration of sessions. 
  • Strive for transparency.  Discuss disclosure and confidentiality openly.  Be crystal clear about what will be disclosed to managers etc [business issues], and what will not [personal views or anything deemed confidential by the mentor and protégé]. 
  • Thoughtfully match mentors to protégés.  Assess the needs of the protégés and match a mentor to them that best meets those needs.
  • Set goals for mentoring outcomes.  Mentoring without a specific end in mind may feel good but will not produce a sufficient ROI.  Define what should be taught, and the desired learning outcomes sought from mentoring engagements. 
  • Measure results.  Check in frequently to ensure that the mentoring is helping both parties grow.  If improvement is not happening, lift the hood on that mentoring relationship and look to fix it, or reassign the parties.
  • Create a feedback loop between mentors, protégés, and managers.  A quick ‘Recap of our session today’ email from the mentor to the protégé cc’ing the manager works well.  The primary issues covered that day [save any deemed confidential] keeps everyone tracking forward.

 In skill development group and on-line learning have their place, but mentoring is uniquely powerful.  It improves the performance of all involved while forging special relationships that often become cherished. Channel the inner wisdom that exists within your team by making mentoring part of your culture.



Managing the Sprint to the Finish

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Even with solid sales planning, sometimes hitting your company’s quarterly sales quota can be a sprint to the finish. Navigate through these urgent times in a way that not only brings in revenue today, but paves a smoother road for the future, too.

Every sales leader has had a conversation with senior management that goes something like this:

“Of course I have a plan to bring in the last 10% of revenue. Show it to you? Ah, sure! Can I have a few minutes to get prepared?”

“Get prepared” here tends to mean “pull a plan together.” Scrambling and panic ensue, and not-so-well-thought-out plans are produced.

Bottom line results rule in sales, but the subtext honored by the wise is that the journey is as important as the destination.

A sprint to the finish taxes the entire organization in unhealthy ways. Sales’ demands of accounting and admin spike as they hurry to push orders through the system. Procurement, production, and shipping are stressed to max capacity to fulfill those orders, and customer service braces for the aftermath.

Some classic ­— and bad — strategies to deal with a sales sprint to the finish are…

-          Discounting to incent immediate purchase. This kills margin and puts your business at risk. Business won on price will ultimately be lost on price

-          Asking good customers to accept “beefed-up” orders. This results in excess inventory to be managed, and credits follow. Not good.

-          Asking good customers to place regular orders early as a “favor.” See the previous item to learn why this is risky. Also, aren’t we the ones who should be doling out favors, not our buyers?

Managing the sprint to the finish requires forethought. Healthy ways to handle the sprint to the finish are…

-          Take the pressure off your team to produce rosy 30-day sales forecasts. Allow them to get real. Get a true picture of your funnel by asking to see only business with a 90%+ chance of closing within the month. This one action will identify much of what is working or not in your sales process overall.

-          Measure sales results against quota as frequently as is prudent. Track transactional sales results daily. Track key account sales weekly. Compare actual results to the 30-day forecast. Linking these will make both better.

-          Share the results. Let everyone know how they and their colleagues are doing. Done appropriately this builds a culture of achievement. It also promotes observance of trends, which will supplant waiting for alarms to sound.

-          Act early. Create strategies to address projected shortfalls by increasing sales velocity where it can be done. Implement immediately.

-          Meet often to check on tactical implementation. How is the sales situation unfolding? Poor implementation of good sales plans is a classic pitfall that can easily be avoided.

-          Set your marketing calendar appropriately. Marketing pushes at quarter end promote a sprint to the finish. Customers also get trained to curtail purchasing until the end of the quarter since that is when the deals hit.


Even with great planning and execution you may still be in a sprint to the finish. A good place to look for stray revenue is in your reps’ pending order files. Are there orders there waiting to get entered? Get them processed.

And what about your customers’ pending order files? Call your online or phone-in orderers to ensure they get the on-time service they, and you, require.

How about your shipping room? Are there any backorders or “on hold” orders that can be unstuck and shipped?

When all these avenues are exhausted take the remaining revenue shortfall and spread it among all your reps. Give each person a small hill to climb rather than having a few folks scale a mountain.

In the short term, leading your team like this will provide a good chance of hitting quota. For the long term, you will identify the root causes of your sprint to the finish cycle and create strategies to avoid it in future.


Telling Isn't Selling

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Knowing your product catalogue verbatim is not enough to make you a top producer. Knowing the buyer pains your products resolve and the gains they facilitate will get you there. This is needs-based selling.

Espousing your products’ features and benefits is educational and sounds impressive, but it is not selling. This approach is severely limited in its ability to get a yes. Brochures, web sites, and catalogues can do the education. The seller’s role is that of Helper.

Buyers need help in two specific areas. First is working through the logical exercise of “shopping” — that is, narrowing down the list of options to the best two or three.

Second, and most importantly, they need assistance navigating the actual purchase. The moment of saying yes to one provider over the others can be a turbulent time. The best sellers hop in the navigator’s seat and help the buyer find their way.

Fear of making a mistake (“Is this the best option?”), loss (“Am I overpaying?”), and impacts (“Will others in the organization like my choice?”) all weigh on your buyer’s mind. A poor decision can cost a small business thousands, a corporate buyer her job.

Needs-based selling is an effective way to help your buyer work through their purchase decision. When it’s done well, the buyer gets what they want — the best purchase decision for them. And, you also get what you want — a long-term relationship with a buyer who most often chooses you.

Needs-based selling differs from traditional sales approaches in several ways.

Let’s use the example of two Chartered Accountants working to make partner. Successful client acquisition shows their worth. Bill is more traditional when it comes to his selling. Anne takes a needs-based approach.

When asked by a prospective client, “Why should we select your firm?”, Bill responds with a deep dive on the 40 years the firm has been in business, its A list of clients, and its track record of great work. He is clearly passionate about the firm.

Anne is passionate, too, but takes a different path. She says, “I’m not sure why you would choose us. Let’s talk about what your needs are around accounting services. What pains are you facing with your current provider? What gains are you looking to realize by switching to a new firm? Once we know that, we can see if we are the best choice for you.”

Anne is inviting a dialogue, the focus of which is the client and their needs. What is causing them pain? What gains are they after? Anne knows that if she can’t relieve their pains and deliver the desired gains, the firm’s number of years in business and A list of clients are meaningless factoids.

When asked about the firm’s client management, Bill gets excited. He has many examples of above-and-beyond service that show how the firm shines.

Anne gets excited, too, but she doesn’t want to risk sidetracking the needs conversation with a solution conversation. It’s too early for that.

Again, she defaults to a question. “We have an excellent approach to client management which I would happy to tell you all about. First, though, tell me what you are looking for. What client management approach would meet your needs?”

And so it goes. Bill cares deeply about his clients and sincerely wants to help. Ironically, because he is spending so much time talking about the firm he is not being as helpful as he could.

Anne’s approach is helpful because she focuses first on diagnosing her buyer’s needs. Then and only then does she present her prescription (the firm and all it has to offer). She clearly connects each buyer need to the firm’s capability to meet it. This clarity helps her buyers make the best decision for them.

Needs-based selling says “diagnose needs first, prescribe solutions second.” Traditional selling reverses this. Why is needs-based selling superior? Because prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.

The 5 O'clock Track Team

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sales is a job with inherent flexibility. Some salespeople exercise their flexibility by working hard all week and cutting out a little early on Fridays—and their sales leaders let such behavior slide. They feel that if a salesperson is above plan they can do whatever they want. But is a short Friday a well-deserved break or a missed sales opportunity?

Consider Mike and Marie. Mike is a top performer. He’s well respected and consistently hits his sales quota. Marie is a top performer too, and also well respected. Unlike Mike, though, she consistently beats her sales quota. What’s the difference between the two? Call either of them on any given Friday at 4:30 p.m. and you’ll figure it out.

Mike cuts out early on Fridays. Marie does not. She looks forward to Friday afternoons, but for a different reason than he does.

Marie knows that her most senior buyers, the ones who make the decisions on her largest deals, work a full Friday. They like the latter part of the week. It’s productive time for them. As the office clears out they can hunker down and get some work done. Their spirits are high as they wrap up the current week and plan for the upcoming one.

Marie sees this as a great time to make connections with these hard-to-reach folks. She has a good chance of reaching and influencing them, as no other salespeople are calling them. She knows they are in a positive frame of mind and more open to considering good ideas. Her ideas. This coupled with a “let’s wrap up this week and plan for the next one” mindset is a good scenario for a sales conversation.  

Marie has a distinct selling advantage on Fridays. The sales-signal-to-noise ratio is high. All she needs to do is make a connection with her buyer after her competition has packed it in for the week.

On Friday afternoons Marie also has easy access to the admin and operational folks within her own company.  She has them all to herself. She uses this time to deepen relationships with them. They are vital to her sales success. They find focusing on her needs much easier during this time, when there are no line-ups at their doors.

Marie enjoys the relative quiet in the sales office too. She wraps up her week and prepares for the upcoming one. She crafts strategies to close her deals and gets ready to show them to her sales manager on Monday. Thus, she starts her next week one step ahead, rather than behind the eight ball.

Marie’s sales success is the result of good sales habits. She reaches out to her contacts when others do not. She works hard while others take slack time.

Shaping the behaviour of the sales team is a core duty of any sales leader. One way to do this is to give team members role models to emulate. Healthy sales behaviors exist within your team already. Make it an obsession to catch your people doing something right. Point out their great sales habits. Celebrate them. Explain to your team why those behaviors are great and how they connect to success. Encourage others to follow suit.

Taking advantage of the relative quiet at the end of any work day can help lead to sales success, but there seems to be some magic to the Friday element. . Being a member of the Friday afternoon track team generally precludes one from being a member of the company’s President’s Club sales team. Make this common knowledge within your team.

Selling With One Hand Tied Behind Your Back

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The Internet era has revolutionized our communication. It has revolutionized the way many people sell, too, and not for the better. When you sell using email and the like, you are selling with one hand tied behind your back. This is not the position you want to be in for any competitive situation.

The statistics related to communication effectiveness are well known. Ten percent or so of our message is conveyed by the words we use. The remainder is relayed by our tone and body language. Email limits our communication and thus sales effectiveness proportionately.

Email can be a nice solution to large geographic territories, the expectation of instantaneous response, and the navigation of time zones. It can be a handy way to convey data and facts (e.g., “To confirm, we are set to meet next Tuesday morning at nine.”) Beyond that, it has profound limitations, the most dangerous being that it is an unemotional one-way medium.

When an email is sent (e.g., “Attached is our proposal; please let me know what you think”), there is no way to tell how the receiver truly feels about its contents at the moment it is received. This is dangerous because although your customers shop logically, they buy emotionally. Selling by email helps your buyer to shop, but not to buy (your products or services, that is).

When you sell by email you can’t help your buyers in their moments of need. This will result in fewer closes as they  go with the company that takes the time to talk to them.

Your job is to make a human connection with buyers and help them navigate the yes/no decision regarding their deal. Selling by email says to the buyer, “You are on your own,” regardless of the actual verbiage contained within the message.

When put in this position, most buyers will commoditize your offering and simply rank it by price and features versus the other “bids.” They may assess the value your offering brings, but they will use their own yardstick, not yours. If they have any misunderstandings, misinformation, or knowledge gaps, those will remain unaddressed.

How your buyer perceives the value of your offering is critical to your success. Price is more elastic when the perception of value is high. Profit is thus similarly affected. Small differences in features (e.g., your model does not come in red) are more easily overlooked by buyers when they are clear on how the value you can bring matches their needs.

Helping a buyer see how your offering will meet their needs and deliver value is an iterative process requiring two-way communication. Sellers who rely on email short circuit this process and lose more deals than they win.

Email is hurting your sales effectiveness if you are…

Emailing out your quotes or proposals: This is a sales killer. Your buyer needs help interpreting your quote. Misinterpretation may make the competition’s quote look much better. Help your buyer choose you by presenting your quote person to person (by phone or face to face).

Responding to buyer objections by email: Even if the buyer communicates an objection by email, phone them back to stop this exchange before it ever gets started. Handling objections requires questions and conversation (“I understand your concerns. Can you tell me what’s behind them?”). Conducted over email, such an exchange will suck the life out of your sale.

Negotiating price over email: If you weren’t commoditized by this point, you surely will be afterward. Pick up the phone or hop in the car for this sensitive conversation.

So, analyze your sales process. Pick the sales junctures at which person-to-person selling is a must and endeavor to make those interactions happen. In so doing you will ensure you can engage in hands-on conversational selling, rather hands-off ‘sales by email’.  With both hands freed from behind your back, you will be infinitely more effective.  

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Securing new customers is never easy. The best salespeople increase their revenue by breaking down the self-perpetuated roadblocks and barriers that can make selling tough. In short, they hit their sales plans by getting out of their own way.


Consider these examples of salespeople that are getting in their own way when it comes to increasing sales:


A sales rep at a software company is having a great month. So great, in fact, that finding time to cold call ­— a reality in his business — is tough. Cold calling is no fun, and since he’s busy anyway, he accidentally on purpose forgets to remember to do it. His next month’s sales tank because he let his funnel run dry.


A major account manager at an electrical wholesaler is busy, too. He has five quotes for large orders out in buyers’ hands. He is not a fan of the company’s CRM software, so he doesn’t log them into his dashboard. A few weeks go by and one slips through the cracks — not the largest, but a solid deal from a regular customer. That customer wonders why the account manager did not follow up and places the order with his competitor instead.


In both of these instances, the salespeople got in their own way. They are busy, hardworking and well-meaning folks. But they committed a few easily avoidable sales errors that made their lives unnecessarily difficult.


Getting out of your own way as a salesperson means doing what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it. If you follow this approach, 90% of the challenges related to reaching your sales goals will vanish.


Here are some easy things to do to get out of your own way...


  • Create written plans for sales meetings: Want to hold a sales meeting twice? Don’t do a written agenda for the first go ‘round. You’ll be bound to miss something and have to reconvene. Doubling back like this kills your sales velocity and pushes revenue into the next quarter when you need it in this quarter.


  • Make appointments with yourself to do the tough stuff: Cold calling and the like are tasks that only the heartiest sellers enjoy. Book a meeting in your calendar to do this stuff and keep those meetings. Finding time to do the fun stuff will take care of itself.


  • Stay on top of your administrative duties: What is more depressing than a pile of overdue admin work staring you in the face? Do your expense reports regularly. Hand in your activity reports on time. Doing so saves time and displays your respect for the recipients. 


  • Prepare the big stuff early: You know Last-Minute Larry. He’s the one scrambling around the office, yelling at his computer and cursing the printer. He leaves the prep work for important meetings until the day before. He is stressed. He is not making sales. He is not having fun. Don’t be a Larry.


Sales is a stream that runs downhill. When excess debris piles up, damming and pooling occurs. The flow stops. Getting out of your own way means moving what needs to be moved to allow the flow to be maintained.


You Are Your Ideas

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
It’s a simple fact of your life as a sales professional life that your contacts see several of “you” every day—so many, in fact, that one blends into the next. Only rarely does one sales professional rise to the top and stand out above the rest. This individual wins more deals, sells more, and has stronger relationships with their buyers. What have you done lately to separate yourself from the rest of the crowd?


Your brain, and what is in it, is your key differentiator. You are your ideas. They are singularly unique, powerful, and highly desired by your buyers. Engage your creativity and you will be two steps ahead of other sellers.


Astute buyers recognize that you have a deeper expertise regarding the myriad applications of your products and services than they do. Think of the dental implant salesperson who sits chairside, advising the oral surgeon as she places the implant in a patient’s mouth. Despite their years of training, these surgeons still seek out and value the input of an expert on a specific product. 


You may feel you are not the creative type—many salespeople don’t. But creativity is not limited to artistic expression. Analyzing a problem to remedy buyer Pain or attain desired Gains is creativity in action. If you prepare to have idea-generation conversations with your buyers, creativity will happen quite naturally.


Try this approach...


Clear your desk and think through your customer list. Pick one who you uses your products and services already


Ask yourself, “What Pains exist in this buyer’s world that my company can help them with? What Gains might they desire that I can help them realize?” You will likely find a couple of each.


For each Pain and Gain identified, brainstorm a non-obvious/creative application of your products and services that could help them. Wrack your brains on this one. You will definitely generate some great ideas.


Book a meeting with your buyer, saying “I want to meet to ensure that I am doing all I can to help you. I have some ideas I would like to share with you.”


Conduct the meeting, using questions to guide your buyer through your thought process. Your goal is to learn whether they see their situation as you see it, and if pursuing your problem-solving ideas is worthwhile.


Even if none of your ideas fly, you will have advanced your standing by virtue of having held this meeting. While other salespeople are busy trying to sell something, you are trying to help. Your buyer will know the difference. 

The Path to Mastery

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
In his book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell proffers that those who achieve mastery in their endeavour of choice do so by investing at least 10,000 hours honing their craft.  How are you doing on your path to sales mastery?

Gladwell points out that it is not necessarily those most naturally gifted that succeed splendidly.  He argues that the thing that distinguishes top performers is how hard they work.  That’s it.  He states “the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else.  They work much, much harder.”

Here are a few ways from easiest to hardest that you can work smart while working harder to attain mastery in sales;

Easiest:  Before every sales interaction write down [yes, old school pen and paper] what your measurable goals are for that meeting.  Ensure these goals are things that will move your sale forward.  Immediately after the call measure your success.  Did you attain your sales call goal?  If yes, how did you do it.  If not, why not?  This simple action, if done religiously for every sales call, will make you a better sales person. 

Moderate:  Every selling day identify one specific sales skill to focus on and practice.  In every sales interaction that day be mindful of doing that one thing better and better.  For instance, if you want to improve your listening skills make that the focus of the day.  Then in each call bite your tongue, button your lip, or do whatever you have to in order to stay quiet and let the other party do the talking.  Score yourself out of 10 for each sales call to measure your improvement.  This approach to improvement will sharpen your selling skills.

Hardest:  Practice your selling skills with a peer.  Have a big sales meeting coming up?  Sit with a colleague and run your planned approach by them.  Ask them to give you tough love feedback around where your strategy is strong and where it is weak.  Then, role play, [yes, role play!], the call with them.  Sound goofy?  Where would you rather practice, in front of the buyer with a deal at stake or in front of a peer where nothing except your continued improvement is at stake?  Your choice.

Hardest Part II:  Ask a peer or manager you respect to be a sales coach for you.  Meet with them every week to do the above mentioned practice work.  Treat this meeting as sacrosanct.  Make it a point to never miss it.  Tough?  Yes.  Effective?  You bet.

Sales success is predicated on good sales habits.  You don’t develop good sales habits by continually repeating bad ones.  You develop them by identifying your good habits and making them strengths, and identifying bad habits and dumping them.  This takes time and practice, and working smart while working hard.

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