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5 Reasons Blog

Be a Top Performer

Tuesday, November 07, 2017
Top performers want to know how their sales progress is measuring up to their sales goals, and how it compares to that of their colleagues. Poor performers want to hide under a rock. Don’t wait for your boss to tell you how you are doing this month. Be a top performer.

 

Top performers exercise great initiative to learn exactly where their sales results lie. They regularly perform a few simple analyses that serve as their sales success barometer. In doing so, they position themselves to have more powerful sales coaching conversations with their managers than their teammates. Why is this so?

 

They don’t burn valuable sales coaching time trying to figure out where their sales results lie. They arrive with the analytical heavy lifting — their “homework” — done, which allows them and their Sales Coach to get right down to business, creating sales strategies and plans to close deals. This is both effective and efficient. Time with your sales sage is golden and hard to come by. This approach makes the most of each available minute.

 

Sales progress measurement for most salespeople consists of knowing their percent to sales plan and year over year sales. Up your game by performing a few uncommon assessments before your next sales coaching session: 

 

  • Born-On Date: Use the date you first touched each sales lead to calculate the length of time you have been working on closing it. Express this in days, displayed prominently within your sales tracker. Start your coaching conversation with “this lead is X days old as of today.” Looking at the start date for a lead is common. Expressing it in days and focusing on it acutely is uncommon. It develops a healthy sense of urgency to do something immediately to move it forward to closure.

 

  • Buyer Commitments To Date: Sales activities do not move deals to closure. Sales activities plus buyer commitments do. Listing what your buyer has committed to so far in a sale — e.g., sharing sensitive data, bringing in other key buying influences and senior executives, etc. — gives you a gauge of their current level of commitment to considering your deal. Low commitment = low likelihood of closure. Recognizing this early allows for strategy creation now, rather than later when the deal is stale or flat-lining.

 

  • Why This Buyer Might Say No: Confront the brutal reality by listing objections your buyer may be harbouring that will sabotage your deal. Wrack your brains and make this list exhaustive. Then, create strategies to minimize or eliminate each one. Doing this before objections are raised prepares you for any eventuality, and increases your effectiveness in managing them should they arise.

 

Great sales strategies are best created with more than one mind tackling the challenge. A sales coaching session is an opportune chance to create such synergies. A few minutes of focused planning prior to your sales coaching session will contribute to solid sales results, and inclusion in your company’s ranks of top performers.

 

Push Softer

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Being a revenue-generating sales machine is tough work. After running in high gear for the first 11 months of the year, why not take the last one and enjoy the ride? I know it is year end, every sale counts, and it’s time to push a little harder, right? In fact, when deadlines loom and it’s down to the wire, the strongest finishers push softer.  They push softer by getting more strategic.


In the month of December, many businesses slow considerably. Some even shut down completely. Skeleton staffing is the norm. Take cues from your customers. If you have not booked off yourself, take time to create business development plans for the new year by doing what Mike Desjardins of ViRTUS Inc. calls “Mindstorming.” (To read Mike’s full article on this topic, go to http://mikedesjardins.com/)

 

Mindstorming is like brain storming with one distinct difference — you do it on your own. Call it reflecting, ruminating, or good, old-fashioned daydreaming. With work-a-day static and interference eliminated, tune into the needs of your existing customers. They represent the biggest revenue opportunity in your portfolio for next year.

 

Revenue from existing customers is great! It is the easiest to acquire. They know you and love you already. Your contact base is strong there. You are halfway to a close before you even start selling!

 

Here are a few thoughts to chase towards identifying where that “10% growth from existing customers” your boss wants will come from:

 

  • Which departments within your customer’s company are you not selling to that you should be? The key here is to think laterally. For instance, if you are selling transportation services, why might you spend time talking to customer service? Faster transit times and better package tracking lead to fewer inbound customer service calls, that’s why. Each of these calls costs money to handle. Customer service cares about your story and may help you secure more business within that account. Plan to call them.

 

  • What problems does your buyer face that your products or services do not currently resolve, but would with some tweaking? Be innovative. Think out of the box. Then, talk to your engineering department. You just might create a whole new revenue stream in the process.

 

  • With which senior-level folks within your client’s organization is your current relationship merely arm’s length? Create a plan to cozy up to them. Senior executives exist to create the vision for the company’s improved future. Help make that future a reality by learning their needs and finding ways to contribute.

 

  • Find out which division of your customer’s company is below their performance plan this year. Noodle through how you can help them turn this around for next year. In business, anything short of achieving the plan is negative, and your contacts will be highly motivated — read “willing to spend money” to rectify the situation.

 

Make your new business development plans for the coming year when things are quiet in the holiday season. Go ahead, push softer. Happy Holidays!

 

 

The Holiday Contagion

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

From a November point of view, many salespeople anticipate December as a tough sales month, what with the impending holidays. Why is it, then, that some salespeople are able to make it a great month while these salespeople flounder? Those who succeed know that December is an opportune time to get a “yes” to their deals. They know the secret of contagious Holiday emotions.

 

In his seminal book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman talks about the contagious nature of emotions. For the full month of December, your buyer is awash in a Petri dish of positive emotions. Holiday advertising, party planning, and in-office decorations are all around. Astute salespeople use this naturally-occurring phenomenon to help set the stage for a great January. They employ this simple strategy to move their deals forward:

 

  • Be diligent in mailing out personalized holiday cards (non-denominational ones are best) early, so they land on buyers’ desks for December 1st. Most salespeople send out holiday cards anyway, but doing it early gets you pleasantly top of mind with your buyers.
  • Next, consider the buyer[s] you want to meet with and ask yourself, “Would this person prefer an off-site ‘eggnog’ meeting or holiday lunch, or is December a busy time for them, in which case a 15-minute ‘to-the-point’ meeting would be best?”
  • Then call in the first few days of the month to request a December meeting with each buyer.
  • Position the meeting based on each buyer’s anticipated preference. This sounds like “December is a nice time to get out of the office for an eggnog latte,” or “I know you are swamped in December; I think we can accomplish what we need to in 15 minutes or so.”
  • During the meeting, focus only on securing a “yes” to moving the deal forward to the next logical place in the sales process, and no further.
  • To maintain momentum, book a next meeting for January (for many buyers this is back-to-business time) to iron out the more intricate details around implementing or moving the deal forward.
  • If time allows, settle in and use the rest of the meeting to build your personal relationship with that buyer.

 

Buyers hesitate to meet, and buy, in December because it is a bad month to implement anything new. Wise salespeople address this hesitation by proposing a limited agenda when requesting buyer meetings. In fact, they break the sale into two parts.

 

They say, “I know December is a tough time to implement new things. Can we talk about what moving forward might look like in general terms? We can set a follow-up meeting in January to discuss the fine-detail stuff.”

 

In other words, they suggest dealing with the easy part (the decision to buy) now, and the harder part (implementation details) later. And, they make this request when their buyers are in the splash zone of contagious holiday emotions.

 

December is a fun time to maintain sales momentum. Remember, a great December sales month looks like a fully booked January!

Practicing Good Sales Hygiene

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

To improve your sales performance, practice good Sales Hygiene.  Sales Hygiene refers to the cleanliness of your selling process and account data management.  Clean selling and account data management processes are the foundation for continuously improving your sales results.

Sales results get better when you identify causal links within your selling process.  A causal link is ‘I do this, and that happens’. For instance, ‘I make ten extra cold calls per week, and at month’s end I have more viable Prospects than the previous month’.  

Without an awareness of the causal links in your selling process your results will be left to chance, happenstance, and luck.  When it comes to achieving great sales results, luck is not a strategy I endorse.

Putting strategic thought to refining your selling process is made difficult by the volume of issues dealt with day in and day out.  Many are not even sales related – think customer service, billing issues, and the like.  Precious little time is left.  When that time opens up, trying to remember the fine details of every deal in the funnel is tough. 

Practicing good sales hygiene frees up time for strategic planning.  Good sales strategies [coupled with great execution] lead to improved sales results every time.

Here are some Sales Hygiene do’s and don’ts that will help you stay in the money:


Do...

Write [type] it down – Trying to identify why Acme account is down 10% YTD when your last interaction with them was 12 weeks ago is next to impossible.  Keep bullet point notes of your interactions with your accounts.  These turn into gold when it comes time to find ways to increase revenue within your accounts.

Don’t...

Choke yourself with data entry – The idea is bullet point notes about the important goings on within an account, not irrelevant minutia.  Learn to know the difference.  You don’t want to be caught with your nose in your laptop while sales opportunities pass you by.

Do...

Pick a CRM [Customer Relationship Management] software to use and stick with it.  Simpler is better.  If you are part of a sales team, try to get the whole team using the same tool.  This makes strategy creation sessions smooth and productive.

Don’t...

Use Outlook as your CRM.  There are about 15 reasons why not to, number one being that you can’t get the 'snapshot' view of your sales pipeline you need to manage it effectively.

Do...

Stare at your account records – Each time you interact with an account, quickly review your notes from previous interactions.  This is the magic step where causal links are identified. 

Trends will emerge.  Connections between ‘I did this with this buyer, and they reacted that way’ will surface.  Opportunities will reveal themselves when you see ‘hey, this account seems to have some needs I have not helped them with yet.  I’m going to set up a meeting with them to do some probing [read – ‘selling’]. 

Don’t

Not stare at your account records – You will miss account development opportunities.  Your account connections will stagnate.  Your new sales to existing accounts will dwindle.  Simple as that.


Five out of five Sales Managers agree, good Sales Hygiene promotes great sales results.  Here’s to keeping it clean!

Winging-It is Fun! [But it makes for terrible paydays]

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

                                  

Disturbingly often I meet with sales people who say “you know, when it comes to my sales calls I usually just wing it.”  They have a twinkle in their eye and a look of mischief that implies “and it’s fun!”  I bet it is fun. Poor paycheques however, are not so entertaining.

 

Winging it leads to unpredictable sales results and having to navigate sales with no compass or roadmap.  It causes long closing cycles, things falling through the cracks, and a severe case of “oh, if I could only do that one again!”  Don’t set yourself up for this grief.  Become a Sales Strategist.

 

To be a Sales Strategist is to begin each sale with the end in mind. It is to have the plans for the beautiful house you want to build [a closed sales deal] well imagined up front and sketched out. As you proceed with building it [navigating your sale] you refer to your plans often to ensure that no detail is missed and that the end result matches your vision. 

 

Becoming a Sales Strategist sounds daunting.  It really isn’t.  Here are a few easy things you can do to become a Sales Strategist...

 

  • Read “The New Strategic Selling” by Stephen Heiman and Dianne Sanchez.  This book provides a way to make sense of the labyrinth that is the decision making process within your buyer’s organization.  You will never look at a sales deal the same again.  Buy and read it now.

 

  • Ask yourself the following questions about any sales deal you are working on today: 

 

    • Out of whose budget in my buyer’s organization will the money come to pay for my products or services [hint: it may not be your buyer’s]?  Have I met with this person?  How can I make that meeting happen?

 

    • Who in my buyers organization could influence whether or not I get a yes to my deal?  Are they on my side?

 

    • Who are the people in the organization that will use my product or service day in and day out [often the person doing the purchasing is buying on behalf of those who will in fact use it]?  Have I connected with them?  How do they feel about using my products or services?

 

    • Am I selling to the right level in the organization?  There is nothing more frustrating than having to take a ‘No’ from someone not authorized to give you a ‘Yes’.

 

  • Do a written plan before each sales interaction.  Prepare the questions you will ask to learn more about your buyer’s needs, hidden buying influences, and the existence of factors that are helping or hindering your sale.

 

Fifty percent of sales success is directly tied the quality of strategic sales planning done by the seller.  The other half comes from great execution.  Become a Sales Strategist and you will close deals more effectively and efficiently.

                                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Sales Tempo

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Summer time is traditionally perceived as a slack business time by many.  For the banks however, it is not.  They are as busy pulling mortgage payments out of your account in July as they are in October.  So, use your summer work time wisely.  Do those ‘working on the business’ things now that you have a hard time getting to during the busy times. 

Catching your breath during summer down time is a great thing to do.  Falling asleep in the hammock for 2 months however is not.  Don’t allow your sales velocity to grind to halt.  When not on your well deserved vacation time keep a lively tempo to your sales and business development activities.

 

Here are a few high return investments in time and effort you can make in summer that will set you up for a great Fall selling season...

  1. Narrow Your Current Target List:  Focus your energies on connecting with and closing the sales opportunities for which summer is a slow time, and who have mind share to give you.
  2. Book Appointments With Key Decision Makers.  Even if they are 4- 6 weeks out due to vacations, call and get them booked now.  Your competitors are on vacation and aren’t calling them, so your decision makers probably have schedule room.
  3. Create And Vet Your Sales Target List For The Fall. Create your Sales Target List, identify who to call at which company, and web research those companies.  Do that leg work now so when you are back in September you hit the ground running with your prospecting.
  4. Reach Out to Your Referral Network ‘I’.  Once you have your Sales Target list, leverage your contact base and generate warm referrals into those opportunities.  Get those referrals flowing now so that after Labour Day you can be booking appointments for the month of September, rather than later in the Fall.
  5. Reach Out to Your Referral Network ‘II’.  A summer latte on a patio with your referral sources today will do great things for your business development activities in September.
  6. Do Your Strategic Planning.  Taking time to think strategically is very tough to do in your busy season.  Take that time now.  Develop new products, plan for opening new markets, and strategize how you will bring more value to existing customers.  Do this now so you can begin tactical execution immediately in the Fall
  7. Do Your IT Upgrades.  Any task related to upgrading your current systems or purchasing and installing new software always takes more time and mind share than you expect.  These upgrades do however often result in improved sales productivity and simplification of work flows.  Do your research and purchasing now.  There are plenty of sales people around with few customers to talk to so you will have easy access to help.

Three Levels Down

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
If you want to sell more, more often, dig deep to unearth your buyer's needs.

Generally stated Buyer needs are the problems your Buyer wants to resolve, and the resulting improved situation they desire. You knew that already, right? Where to from here?

For each sales opportunity there are in fact three levels of buyer needs to drill down into:

Level 1 needs: These are the basic needs your product or service meets by virtue of its features. For example if you sell industrial lighting, then illuminating a poorly lit work space is the Level 1 buyer need you meet.

Level 2 needs: These are the specific problems your buyer is facing as a result of his Level 1 need remaining un-met. In our lighting example your buyer is working in a dark space. His Level 1 need is illumination. His Level 2 need is the Pain(s) associated with the resultant poor quality work done due to the darkness.

Level 3 needs: This is the improved situation your buyer desires by fixing his problem situation. It can also be an overall improved situation he desires that is loosely connected with fixing his problems. In a word, Gains. In our lighting example the buyer’s Level 1 need is illumination, his Level 2 Need is to do good quality work, and his Level 3 Need is to do good quality work on this project and thus maintain his reputation as a quality home renovation contractor.

Navigating your sale down to Level 3 needs helps you sell more, more often, because of an interesting buyer phenomenon. That is that buyers will shop to meet their Level 1 needs, will make that purchase to meet their Level 2 needs, but will spend more money on that purchase if they can see that their Level 3 needs are also being met. This is because Level 3 needs are higher order needs. They represent the value the buyer is looking to realize by meeting his Level 2 needs. Buyers who recognize value are generally willing to pay for it.

If your goal is to merely meet your buyers Level 1 and Level 2 needs you will have satisfied, but not excited, buyers. You will also have buyers who are only willing to spend the minimum to meet those needs.

For our home renovation contractor, illuminating his dark work space is satisfying for him. Having a great reputation, being hired back, referred to others, and making more money? That’s exciting to him.

That’s Level 3 stuff.

Be Part of the 10%

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Funny term, ‘Sales Velocity’. What does it mean, and why is so important to you as a person in business development?

Sales Velocity is the speed at which your deals close. Faster is better [I know, you figured that out already]. The more deals you can close in a week, month, quarter, or year, the more money you make. Increasing your Sales Velocity is crazy simple.

Let’s begin by understanding why Sales Velocity can slow in the first place.
You meet with a buyer. The meeting is awesome! You are engaged, tackle the issues, and generally have a grand old time. As you are driving away basking in the afterglow you realize “Oops, I forgot to ask about [insert the important thing you forgot to ask about here]. I’ll just call them back to get that answer.” You call or email. It takes several days for a reply to arrive. From the response you realize you need more detail. You email them back. They email you back, etc, etc. You get the picture. Your Sales Velocity now has no velocity.

The primary reasons behind a slow Sales Velocity is in fact a list of one. It is...
1. Not doing it right the first time*

*The ‘it’ I refer to is conducting highly productive customer facing sales interactions

Ninety percent of sales people do not do a written plan for the sales calls they conduct [I know this because I always ask salespeople if they do]. Thus they plan to forget to ask that important something that can unlock their sale and get it moving forward. They plan to neglect to cover off a small but vital point that will set the stage for the ‘Yes’ they are looking for.

Here is the most effective thing I have seen the other ten percent of salespeople do to improve their Sales Velocity...

1. They take 3 – 5 minutes to do a written pre-call plan for every sales interaction they conduct. They plan three things...

a. The sales call outcomes they desire. That is, the measureable things they want to accomplish in that call that will meaningfully move their sale forward
b. The questions they will ask of their buyer toward reaching those outcomes
c. The things they will relay to the buyer towards reaching those outcomes

2. After each call – while the car is still stationary – they compare the actual meeting outcomes against their list of desired outcomes and strategize their next steps

This ten percent of sales people generally have a higher Sales Velocity than their peers. They close more deals. They make more money. Crazy simple.

Be part of that ten percent.

You Have Everything to Gain

Tuesday, September 12, 2017
We are in the business of helping our buyers fix their problems. We do this by providing great solutions. A great solution is the currency of the realm in business development and an astute seller can artfully describe the richness of their capabilities in this domain. It would seem that those who can solve problems best should win all of the deals, but this is not always the case. How come?

The answer lies in the fact there are two sides to the buying equation, one of which is virtually ignored by most salespeople.

The traditional side of the buying equation is of course the desire of the buyer to fix their problems and relieve the ‘Pains’ those problems represent. The other side is the equally powerful desire to bridge the gap between their current overall situation and the improved overall situation they desire. This is the Gain side of the buying equation, and it is neglected by most salespeople. [How do I know this to be true? When I ask salespeople how they address the Gain side of the buying equation I most often get a blank stare in reply].

Helping a buyer achieve the improved overall situation they desire is an effective way to tip the decision making scales in your favour.

Your competitor is likely not engaging the buyer in ‘Gain’ conversations. They are not having enlightening and revelatory discourse with them in which the buyer is encouraged to talk at length about the improved overall situation they want to create. The buyer is not painting a vivid picture for them of improved state of their business they desire, above and beyond solving their current problems. Thus, the competition does not get the chance to clearly demonstrate their capability to both relieve the buyer’s Pains and make their desired Gains a reality too. Pity the competition.

So how, you ask, does one facilitate a conversation with a buyer about their desired Gains? After discussing your buyer’s problems and Pains do the following....

1. Learn their desired Gains by asking, “Can you please describe the big picture of what you are trying to accomplish within your business unit / Division / Region / Company?”


2. Learn their view of the path to achieving their Gains by asking, “How will fixing your problems contribute to alleviating the Pains directly associated with them, and contribute toward making that big picture a reality?

3. Clearly demonstrate your capability to relieve their Pains and make their desired Gains a reality

This approach to selling is sound and effective and should be a part of your sales process. It is particularly powerful in big ticket sales where senior level decision makers are involved. These individuals are in the business of making an improved future for their organization a reality, and possess the wherewithal and willingness to invest heartily in making it happen.

How effectively do you facilitate the Gain conversation with your buyers? Doing so requires sound preparation, a deft conversational touch, and practice. Much effort to be sure, but well worth the investment. Hey, you’ve got everything to gain.

Stop Selling and Start Helping People Buy

Tuesday, September 05, 2017
There is an old saying in sales that goes, “Your customer is not buying a power drill, they are buying the holes.” If old sayings become old sayings because they contain pithy wisdom, what is the wisdom here? It is that Buyers don’t buy features, they buy the benefits those features deliver. But I think there is more.

Revenue generation increases when a Buyer is given the chance to expand at length on the problems that drilling holes will fix for them, [their Pains], and the related good things that will happen when hole drilling is made possible or better, [their desired Gains]. It is further increased when they are helped to articulate the value to them of relieving those Pains and realizing those Gains. More than drills or holes, Buyers want to realize value.

When advising my clients I suggest they take this message to a level where beyond helping them sell more effectively, will help their Buyers buy more easily.

Understanding why people buy is the first step in helping them do so. They buy whatever it is they buy to satisfy one or a combination of the following Five Reasons. These are to...

Make Money – Generate top line revenue or improve bottom line profits

Save Money – Shrink the expense line

Save Time – Increase available hours to put towards other tasks

Increase Convenience – Make their life easier

Improve Competitive Position – Perform better than they did last year, or versus those chasing them

To improve your revenue generation results, start selling using The Five Reasons to help your Buyers buy. Here is how...

1. Before meeting with a Buyer consider your proposed or anticipated solution and ask yourself “what value does my solution bring for each of The Five Reasons?”

2. Meet your Buyer and ask them well thought out questions to discover their Needs

3. For each Need uncovered ask your Buyer to identify the associated Five Reasons value [M$, S$, ST, IC, ICP] they would like to realize by having that Need met

4. Maintain the dialogue to determine the ranked order of importance of their Needs and associated Five Reasons Value

5. Clearly articulate your capability to meet their Needs and deliver The Five Reasons value they desire [use the pre-call work done in Step 1 to help you here]

There. You have now effectively helped your Buyer get to a place where they can make a good decision around which drill to buy. Here’s hoping it is your drill!

For more detail around how to apply The Five Reasons Sales Method, please click here http://www.robmalec.com/competitive-advantage.htm

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