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Social Selling Using LinkedIn

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Social selling has become an integral part of the sales and business development landscape. It presents an opportunity for you to eliminate cold calling – the most soul sucking activity in sales – from your business development function. How are you at social selling?

To my mind, LinkedIn is the strongest social selling tool currently out there for business-to-business sales people. This is because business people join LinkedIn for the purpose of being connected to other ethical and like-minded business people like you.

The big challenge with cold calling is that a huge trust gap exists. People you cold call don't know you, and therefore don't trust that investing time with you is worthwhile. Thus, they don't take your call.

With LinkedIn, rather than cold calling a prospect you can ask to be connected to them by someone you mutually know and trust. If that person in the middle says you are worth connecting with, then the trust gap is bridged and the prospect has a higher likelihood of saying yes to your request to connect.

In order for prospecting via LinkedIn to be effective you need to have as many first-degree connections as possible. This in turn increases the number of second-degree connections you have - which increases the likelihood that someone you are connected to currently knows someone who you would like to connect with for business development purposes. [In my experience, third-degree connections are very weak and are hard to convert into introductions/first-degree connections.]

Increasing your connection base is not hard. It is astounding how many people you interact with over the years. A few years ago I followed a system to increase the amount of quality first-degree connections [people I know on a first name basis]. I have tripled the number of those connections over the span of a few months.

The positive business result of doing this is that I found I now have over 500 second-degree connections to business owners and CEOs at companies of the type that fit my ideal customer profile. This is a great pool of prospects for me.

Here is the process to follow to beef up the number of quality connections you have on LinkedIn…

Start by scheduling an appointment with yourself to spend 10 minutes each day to focus on building your LinkedIn network. During this 10 minute block of time…

  1. Look back at the previous work day. Are you connected on LinkedIn with everyone with whom you interacted? If not, send them a connection request. 
  2. Look at your current customer base. Are you connected on LinkedIn with everyone within that account that you interact with or have interacted with? If not, send those people a connection request.
  3. Look at your current suppliers. Are you connected on LinkedIn with everyone there that you interact with or have interacted with? If not, send those people a connection request. 
  4. Look at your current friends and family. Are you connected on LinkedIn with everyone there that you interact with? If not, send those people a connection request.
  5. Look back at your previous job roles and other companies you have worked for. Are you connected on LinkedIn with everyone there that you interacted with regularly? If not, send those people a connection request. 
  6. Look back at your post-secondary education. Are you connected on LinkedIn with everyone there that you interacted with on a regular basis? If not, send those people a connection request. 
  7. Look back at your high school days. Are you connected on LinkedIn with everyone there that you interacted with on a regular basis? If not, send those people a connection request.

I suggest 10 minutes a day on this activity so you can tackle it in small chunks. If you simply want to spend one hour a week – you can do that too.

If you have not previously taken the approach outlined above, my guess is that you can increase your number of quality first-degree connections [people you know on a first name basis] by 30% easily.

Start building your LinkedIn network immediately. Track your progress week to week to see if you're getting traction.

In a follow-up blog post I'll talk about how to ask your first-degree connections to introduce you to prospects you would like to get connected with.

Measure These Things Now

Monday, September 26, 2016

With the ubiquity of CRM sales has become like baseball — you can measure your stats six ways to Sunday. The trouble is, some people do! Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. There are but a few things you need to measure to predict your sales future.

Sales is an efficiency and effectiveness game. How much of something do you need to do, and how well do you need to do it to reach your sales quota? Let’s start with the efficiency, or ‘how much’ part.

Measure the number of sales interactions [conversations, the primary focus of which is to move a deal forward. Customer service calls don’t count] executed by your team daily and weekly. Sales interactions are the number one thing for most businesses that cause sales to happen. They are a leading indicator to future revenue generation results.

A quick word about salespeople who don't want their activities measured. Any resistance you get to weekly sales activity reporting that smells like “that’s a waste of my time” is grounds for a serious conversation. Would your production department balk at measuring their inputs? Of course not, that would be ludicrous. Sales people are in production, they produce sales. You need to know the typical inputs required in your market and industry and geographic location to generate a sale. This is the only way you can embark down the sales process/results improvement road.

Okay, so back to measuring… In only a few weeks you’ll quickly see trends around who is having how many meetings, and can then connect that to the revenue those efforts produce. Use the data to discover what the magic activity levels need to be on a per rep basis and set these as your benchmark. Manage to these benchmarks.

Shifting now to the sales funnel… When it comes to sales funnel measures, most managers and reps work from the end of the sales funnel backwards. They measure the number of closes this week, how many proposals went out the door, etc. The most successful teams I’ve worked with do the opposite. They measure from the very front end of the sales funnel forward. Interesting.

Early stage sales funnel work [finding leads, contacting them, trying like crazy to secure meetings] is the grunt work of selling that most sales people do willingly only when pressed. Sure, they will lilly dip along the way but they’ll only apply nose to sales grindstone when their sales funnel is dry. These folks experience sales peaks [Hurray!!] and dreaded sales valleys [Booo!!] for this reason. Those in the know track their early stage selling activity daily-weekly. They never, ever lose sight of the fact that sales seeds they plant today can take awhile to take root so they sow every day.

Start with measuring Net New Sales Lead Acquisition. How many raw names have been added to the master list this week of sales leads to reach out to? The optimal number is of course based on your product, industry and sales cycle. Generally, the shorter the sales cycle and simpler the sale the more raw leads you need weekly.

Next, measure the number of Sales Leads Researched per week. This is the number of raw sales leads for whom their website, Linkedin and other social media have been scraped to determine if they might be a fit for your products and services. Note – I consider new leads acquired and then researched as being above the sales funnel. They are so raw you simply can’t assign any probability around the amount of revenue they might generate.

Following the research stage is Sales Leads Activated per week. Now we are into the sales funnel. Activation means you have reached out directly [voice or email] in an attempt to book a meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to conduct a diagnosis to determine if your products and services can be of help to them. Bear in mind that it might take several attempts to reach a potential customer. So, each week you’ll need to activate new opportunities as well as reach out to those from last week [and the weeks before] that have not responded.

To stay on top of this, track the Number Of Connection Attempts Per Activated Sales Lead. Now you are going to start measuring sales effectiveness. These days everyone gets either their email, voice mail, or both, regularly. If they are not responding there’s usually a good reason for it. The rule of thumb is if after 3 connection attempts there has been no response you should either try a new tactic or jettison that lead and move on.

Successful lead activations lead to Diagnosis Meetings. These are golden. Measure them actively. Then measure how many convert into viable sales Prospects. The higher the conversion rate, the better. A low conversion rate might mean you are selecting the wrong leads to call on in the first place.

Look at all of the above measures and assess the following: 

a) are the results good or bad?

b) if good, why are they good and what can you replicate to get better?

c) if bad, why are they bad and what’s the fix?

d) decide how you’ll implement fixes and optimizations and stick to it going forward.

Getting to great at early funnel stage work is the road to having more revenue pop out the other end reliably and predictably. Measure, optimize, do, repeat. That’s the magic.

Like what you’ve read here? Totally disagree? I’d love to hear from you either way at rob@robmalec.com

The Heart of Motivation

Monday, September 12, 2016

Selling is a funny job. It seems to require an unusual amount of motivation for one to perform consistently at a high level.

I’m not sure why this is. Does accounting require a high level of motivation to do it well? How about Human Resources? I don’t know – I’ve not done either of those jobs. I do know I can name many motivational sales speakers, but no accounting motivational speakers come to mind [if you know of any, please let me know!].

Maybe it’s the self-starting nature sales. Many of us work from home offices or are on the road flying solo, tasked with bringing home the bacon. One needs to be organized and active, efficient and effective and at the end of the month reach your sales quota.

With little [or more often no] supervision, sales people must find opportunities, sift out the bad ones and then close the good ones.

In most job roles the work is brought to you. In sales you have to go find it. Anyone who has opened a new territory or struck out on their own know this challenge well.

At any rate, I get asked so often how to motivate sales people I thought I’d address it here. Over 14 years and across 22 different industries here is what I have learned...

First, hire motivated sales people [duh, right!?]. It sounds obvious but many fail to do this. In doing some digging I’ve found that questions like “what motivates you to work hard to beat your sales quota” and “what jazzes you up about selling day in and day out” are not in the top 10 questions hiring managers ask. I’d take a highly motivated unproven salesperson over a non-motivated seasoned vet any day of the week. Start asking these questions early in the hiring process if you haven’t done so already.

Once hired, train your salespeople weekly – yes, weekly! Think coaching, sales skill practice, sales book of the month club discussions and the like. Motivated people eat training for breakfast, they love it! They want to consistently improve because that’s just the way they are wired. Plus, it helps them to earn bigger commissions. Ignore training at your peril, it is a primary motivator.

Finally, de-hire non-motivated salespeople now! Move them to a different role in your organization where they can soar with their strengths, or exit them from the company. If they are non-motivated keeping them in their current role is unfair for all parties. I will share with you that this is the one piece of advice my clients are slowest to take, but after they do their response is universally consistent, “why did I not do this sooner?”

Once you have your team of champions in place, here are some ways you can inject some additional motivational mojo over the course of the sales year...

Sales contests

You know the drill on this one. The new spin? Have the team select the prize they want. Some want cash, some want gift cards, others want time off. Create a menu of prize options and let each team member decide what they want to run hard for. Winning a big screen tv might pump up one rep, but leave others totally flat.

Trophies

I had a client with an all-female sales team, selling into the spa industry. They jokingly had a sales tiara that sat on the desk of the previous month’s top seller. The competition for the tiara was friendly, but surprisingly fierce. Another client had a sales gong in the office that those who closed a deal could drop the hammer on as soon as they hung up the phone. Interestingly, I find the more quirky the trophy, the more people like it. What would your team’s equivalent to the sales tiara be?

Added Responsibilities

What?? Don’t people want less work, not more? I’m not saying pile more work on your successful sellers, I’m saying add some cool new wrinkles into their role that stoke their internal motivators for personal and professional growth / role enrichment. Give them Key Account selling responsibilities. Entrust them with mentoring your newest and brightest. Bring them to the table for new product development meetings. Include them in marketing meetings and solicit their input on next year’s campaign.

Underneath it all, the true heart of motivating your people is getting to know them outside of their job role. It is proven that one of the top motivators around job role performance is an employee’s relationship with their direct superior. What have you done lately to fan those motivating flames?

The Best Way to Handle a Price Objection

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The absolute best way to handle a price objection is to structure your sale so you don’t get one. Price objections arise because buyers are unaware of the price range they are looking at for their purchase, or don’t see enough value in your offer to pay your price. Take a value-based approach to your selling and you can short circuit both of these.

In business to business selling there are many ways to handle the price conversation. The worst is to address it late in the game, with trepidation. This generally causes sticker shock in the buyer’s mind – an irreversible condition. Once afflicted they – and you - can never get past it. Your deal digresses into a haggling session you’d rather not have.

The best way is to address price early in the sale, in a comfortable and candid way. Dip your toe in the water and check the temperature. If things look good, carry on with the sales conversation. Address price thoroughly after your buyer’s Pain-Gain-Value needs have been diagnosed [for more on value-based selling click here. When a price or fee is put beside a buyer’s expressed needs it makes much more sense to them. They can most clearly see what they are getting for what they are paying.

Here are some sales approach specifics you might find helpful...

Your first sales conversation with a buyer should consist of a hearty diagnosis of their Pain points, a clear statement of what they are trying to achieve by fixing them [Gains], and a list of the Value they are looking to get by doing so. Once all of this is on the table it’s a good idea to say something like “Thanks for sharing that with me. If I’ve heard you right where you are at is [repeat what they told you].”

Wade into the price conversation with “Given what you want to fix, what you want to accomplish and the value you are looking to get, the price range you are looking at is approximately $XX/between $XX and $YY. How does that sound to you conceptually at this point? I’m not looking to nail anything down just yet. I just want to see if we’re on the same page regarding the spend.” This approach will get you into the price conversation early on, and help you determine if your buyer is operating in reality or if they want a Cadillac at Ford Fiesta prices.

If you and the buyer are miles off on price range, you’ll need to have the “I think what you want to accomplish and what you want to spend aren’t in line right now” conversation. This will end with your buyer adjusting their purchase objectives, you adjusting the scope of your solution or you referring them to a lower cost provider.

If you are both aligned on the price range carry on with your sales conversation. Learn the specifics of their needs to the point you can build your solution. When it’s been built and the time comes to present your final price/fees do it this way... “The major Pain points you outlined to me were [insert Pain point here]. What you are trying to achieve by fixing them is [insert Gain here]. Underneath it all, the Value you want to get by doing so is [insert Value here]. Am I correct with my summary?”

This question will help confirm if your assessment of their situation is accurate, and sets up your presentation of the price.

If your assessment is in fact correct, carry on to say “Given all of that, the feature[s] of our solution that will deliver on that are [outline your solution features here].” Then ask “does that make sense to you so far?” If it doesn’t, take the time to review things with them until you get aligned. Once you get aligned then say, “here is the price for this solution [state price here].”

This approach takes your buyer through a very distinct journey prior to getting to the price destination. They get refreshed on where their Pains lie, what good looks like when the Pain goes away and the Value they’ll get by proceeding with their purchase. They are totally clear on what they are getting for what they are paying as they consider the final price.

This sales approach significantly lowers price objections. First, you have weeded out buyers up front whose budget is below what you’ll charge. Second, for those that make it through the sales process you’ve clearly connected value to price paid.

Of course, there will still be buyers who will balk at whatever you charge. If haggling is an accepted part of your sale then have your strategies ready to deal with that. Otherwise, stick to the value-based road. It’s a much smoother ride.

How to Eliminate Sales Peaks and Valleys

Monday, July 18, 2016

“OMG, my sales funnel is bone dry!!” 

Panic sets in.  You sell like crazy, get some sales traction and start nursing your new found opportunities to closure.  You focus on nothing else for weeks.  A few of them close.  Champagne corks pop and commissions are calculated.  Finally, you pause for breath and look at your CRM. 

“OMG, my sales funnel is bone dry... again!”

The sales rollercoaster is the number one selling Pain chosen in a recent survey of my blog readers.  The peaks of the ride are a blast, but the valleys totally suck.  There is, however, a way to tame this 5 ticket ride and carve a path to steady, reliable and predictable revenue.

Here’s the thing – every sales person knows about the rollercoaster.  Strangely, they seem to readily allow themselves to climb on board.  They know if they get so busy closing business [or implementing new deals] and stop prospecting for net new customers their sales funnel will run dry, yet they repeatedly make this fundamental mistake.  How come?

I think it’s the dopamine effect.  Dopamine is the chemical in your body behind the feel good rush [pleasure] you get doing whatever your favorite thing is.  For sales people, the mere thought of closing business feels good. Closing sales feels even better – hello dopamine! 

Contrast this with the grunt work behind finding brand new clients.  Cold calling [lots of rejection], endless web research [boring!] and completing CRM fields [mind numbing] is super low on the dopamine producing scale.  It’s no wonder many sellers gravitate away from Prospecting.

To keep the dopamine flowing and get off the roller coaster, try some of these road tested and proven methods to minimize the valleys of the ride...

Hire someone else to do the heavy lifting prospecting work for you:  This one is road tested by me personally.  There is a market of highly qualified virtual assistants today that did not exist even 5 years ago.  Select one and pay them to do the part[s] of the prospecting process you don’t enjoy, are too busy to do or are just no good at.  Have this work done while you are busy closing your current sales opportunities.  When you are done with them, there will be fresh opportunities to close.  This investment will put money in their pocket, hours back into your day, and new prospects into your sales funnel.  It’s a win – win!

Set and keep a 45-minute appointment with yourself every day:  For most sellers 45 minutes a day focused on acquiring net new sales opportunities, will more than meet their sales productivity needs.  Imagine, 240 [or so] focused prospecting sessions a year!  The secret[s]?  First, find the 45 minutes.  Even if you are quite time efficient my bet is you can tighten up here and there and create this golden chunk of time.  Second, be focused [no personal phoning, texting, Facebook, inbound email alerts, etc] when prospecting.  Third, use CRM to record your work religiously.  This will allow you to get productive the first few minutes of your session and not burn time getting organized. 

Set and measure your prospecting productivity goals:  Something like “Each week I will generate a total of ‘X’ number of net new prospects” will do.  Next, tell someone else about your goal.  Sharing goals has a way of cementing them in our minds, and firming our resolve to meet them. 

Refine your prospecting methods:  Cold calling is dead.  If you are still performing this soul sucking task you need to stop... Now!  Search your favorite book store and select a book that will teach you how to get your prospecting into this millennium.  There are many more effective, efficient and enjoyable ways to find your next big client than cold calling.  Hint...it’s called social media.

With just a little discipline and stick-to-it ‘ness you can get off the sales rollercoaster.  If you adopt any of the above strategies my prediction is you will flatten the peaks and valleys, make more money, and have a great time doing so.  Have fun!

Five Ways to Boost Sales Productivity

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Even sales people who don’t have a service or project management component to their role wrestle daily with boosting sales productivity. The magic to maximizing sales productivity lies in being ruthless with your time. Here are five ways you can sharpen your focus and get a strong ROI on your sales time and effort.

Live in Your CRM – I routinely see sales people that, despite having a CRM tool provided to them, don’t use it. To me that’s like building a house and saying “thanks for the compressed air nail gun, but I’ll just stick to my trusty old hammer.” Sure, you can still build that house but it will be a much slower [and painful] process. CRM is the first software top sales producers open in the morning and it’s the last one they close at night. They update it real-time as they work on their deals. Doing so allows them to shorten the time it takes to pick up the thread on each deal, create a well thought out strategy around how to progress it, plan for a productive sales meeting and then hold it.

Score Your Sales Opportunities – Time spent working on low probability deals is time you can’t invest in high probability ones. I’ve created a simple yet highly effective scoring method that my clients use to score their deals. The score tells them what information they have about each deal, which information they don’t and what to do about it. Create a deal scoring process to apply to your sales opportunities. Use what it tells you to determine which deals have the highest probability of becoming closes and invest your selling time accordingly.

Activate One New Sales Opportunity Daily – All sellers know an empty sales funnel is a dismal sight. Filling it is the heavy lifting of sales work and can be a slow process. If left to run dry, filling it becomes an urgent activity that eats a ton of time and causes your schedule to back up. Activate [reach out in an attempt to book a meeting with] at least one net new sales opportunity every day. That’s 5 per week, 20 per month…you get the math. Taking this approach will spread out the time this task takes over days and weeks, and keeps your revenue production evergreen.

Honor Prime Selling Time – When their buyers are available is when great sellers sell. Sounds obvious, right? Outside sales people who “take five minutes” to pop into the store, or Inside sellers who “take five minutes” to find a good roofer on the web during the work day erode their sales productivity [BTW, we know these seemingly small activities rarely take five minutes]. Discipline is not easy. Sell when it’s time to sell, and slot the other stuff into non-prime selling time hours. Within one week an appreciable increase in productivity will be seen.

Don’t Do Trade Shows – I know I’ll get lots of pushback on this one. Trade shows are huge time – and money – eaters. Unless the show is one where the express purpose is to book orders, don’t go. Pay the attendee walk-in fee and get the attendee list instead. You can gain far more meaningful traction toward reaching your sales goals from your desk [using the trade show attendees’ list] than you can from walking the show. This is not my opinion – this is what my clients have told me. If you just need some time out of the office, take a few vacation days instead.

Think you or your team could be more productive but feel stuck as to how to get there? I’d be happy to help with ideas and suggestions [at no charge, just to help out…]. Feel free to contact me at rob@robmalec.com.

Accountability And Sales Success

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sales is the ultimate accountability sport. Win or lose, the scoreboard is visible for everyone in the company to see. The accountable sales team owns their results and continually strives to improve them. Getting to accountability is not always easy though. I have found a tool that makes that road a whole lot smoother. Let me share it with you.

The Oz Principle is a book by Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman. In it, they describe a highly effective method any organization can follow to increase accountability towards performance improvement.

In the book the authors identify a line in business that separates success from failure. This line applies to every employee in every department – from sales to operations to management. Below the line is the blame game. It’s where people come up with excuses for why sales targets weren’t met or projects weren’t completed on time. Above the Line® is where people take ownership. These people look for solutions. They are the action takers; the ones who are committed to success.

It is perfectly normal to slip below the line once in a while. Sometimes it feels very legitimate to blame someone or something else for a current situation, especially when we feel helpless to change our circumstances. But what is discussed in The Oz Principle®, with comparisons to L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, is that it’s only through accountability that we find the best solutions & achieve greater success. 

We can tell we are below the line if we are ignoring or denying a problem, claiming it’s not our job, pointing our fingers at someone else, wanting someone to tell us what to do, spending our time covering our tails, or deciding to wait and see if the problem will go away on its own.

When this happens, it helps to keep The Oz Principle’s definition of accountability in mind:

A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results — to See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It.

This definition includes the 4 steps to achieving accountability: "See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It," which this book gets into in great detail.  When applied, this simple process works magic when it comes to getting a team to be more accountable for its situation and results.

The power of this book lies in its language. It provides a nonjudgmental, safe and respectful way to talk to your team about accountability, or lack thereof. To say “what I’m hearing from you sounds like Below the Line language” is far more respectful and productive than saying “quit your whining and get this thing figured out!”

I highly recommend this book to anyone in business. Over the years I have referred my clients to it innumerable times. Applying The Oz Principle changes the way your sales team looks at down markets and poor sales performance. It gives them a way to see their sales situation differently, take ownership of the elements that are theirs and create solid solutions that get revenue flowing again.


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