Redefining Inside Sales: How to Protect Sales Revenue during Social Distancing

By Miller Heiman Group | Customer Experience

iStock-1152767923-576x384Without travel and face-to-face meetings, how can sales organizations maintain—and grow—their sales revenue?

To protect both customer relationships and economic health, sellers need to look at social distancing not as an obstacle but as an opportunity to do things differently and build more successful partnerships with buyers. Sales organizations must take a critical first step in crisis management and help sellers figure out how to shrink the gap between themselves and buyers.

Connecting to Customers when “The Field” Closes

Nearly two-thirds of sales positions are field-based. For sellers who excel in the field, in-person meetings often produce the strongest outcomes, especially when it comes to complex sales. The intangibles of in-person meetings form lasting relationships that yield results: building trust through eye contact, scoring an extra meeting with a buying influence because they’re in the office at the right time and building rapport with decision-makers. None of these are possible when you’re not physically with your buyers.

With the rise of the corona-virus, field sellers must learn to sell in a different way. Their inability to sell in person creates another layer of complexity on top of the existing emotional gap between buyers and sellers. Buyers haven’t seen sellers as relevant for some time: 77% of buyers say they’re less connected to sellers than the used to be. They call them less, have briefer interactions and engage them later and later in the sales process. In part, that’s because most buyers—68%—don’t see a lot of difference between sellers.

The good news for sellers is that buyers are more willing to engage earlier when the situation is risky or highly complex—that’s the world we live in now. So, sellers have a choice to make: will they allow the gap between themselves and their buyers to get bigger, or will they use this as an opportunity to close the gap by changing their approach?

Adapting Sellers’ Approach to Sales

In this environment, the challenge for sellers is not just to help customers—it’s to help them thrive. While the fundamentals of selling don’t change in a crisis, sellers must adapt, learn and continue to serve customers despite volatile circumstances. The COVID-19 crisis puts sales organizations on the same footing with the same challenges: organizations that adapt most quickly, with strategies like the three that follow, are the ones that will emerge unscathed.

1. Maintain Selling Activity—with Perspective

With social distancing, only the type of activity must change—not the amount. Sellers must find ways to connect with their buyers differently, whether it’s by email, phone, web conference or social media. It’s a time to hunker down personally but be more proactive professionally.

But all selling activity isn’t good activity. Good sales activity encompasses two approaches. First, it offers perspective: the insights and unique expertise that educate buyers and informs their viewpoint. Make sure every interaction offers a benefit to your customers, whether that’s helping them solve their problem or achieve their goals. Second, it needs to efficiently spur a high level of activity, despite the distraction in the market. For example, if you spend all day on a piece of thought leadership, will you get the same return on investment as you would on other activities you could accomplish in less time?

2. Rethink the Sales Process

Today, sellers spend less time selling—only 32% of their time each week—than in the past. But they also allocated 10% of their time to travel. That’s time they can now invest in value-added virtual selling activities that improve results rather than administrative tasks, like forecasting and reporting.

To guide sellers, sales leaders and managers should start by re-imagining their sales process and offering sellers clear guidance. Sales leaders need to provide frameworks and tools as part of a formal sales process designed to help sellers rethink their approach to account, opportunity and call management.

3. Maximize Your Tech Stack

The average sales organization employs 10 sales tech tools—but under-utilize most of them. This is the perfect time to consider how these tools can amplify your selling efforts, whether it’s a customer success platform, social selling tool, engagement platform or some other technology with untapped potential.

Train sellers in how to use these tools and their advanced features to make sure they create experiences that engage buyers. Ensure that they understand the advanced features of these tools and use them to create interactive and engaging buyer experiences. For example, when sellers record their video sales calls, some platforms send them a transcript to use for reference—a transcript that sales managers can also use for coaching.

Posted in Social Sales, Social Selling, Virtual

The Sales Actions to be Remembered are the One’s Brought

Gitomer

 by Jeffrey Gitomer

Screenshot_2020-04-01 The Sales Actions to be Remembered are the One's Brought - Jeffrey GitomerOften what makes people buy are the little things. Little memorable things. Little memorable things repeated over time that build enough good will, value, confidence, and trust to effect a sale.

How memorable are you? How memorable are your actions? How many surprises do you create? How much magic do you make? If you’re not sure of the answer, ask yourself these (fighting) questions:

  • Am I beaten by competition regularly?
  • Am I arguing and fighting price constantly?
  • Am I fighting to get my calls returned?
  • Am I fighting for sales?

Yes to any of these means on the “memorable scale” your rating is in the “not very” category.

Opportunities to surprise and create positive memorable actions are everywhere. Before, during and after the sale. Your job is to identify them and take action. Here are 16.5 surprise elements (broken down by sections of the sales cycle) that can make or break the sale: 

Building value first…

  1. Get them leads or business. Stop by for fun. Deliver a name of someone interested in doing business with them. The next time you call, they won’t know whether you’re buying or selling. WOW. Help them build their business so you can earn yours.
  2. Have new information and answers. Use the fax and mail to get your prospect surprise information. Information to make them think. Information that lets them know you’re thinking about them. Fax something funny to make them smile and think of you in a positive way.
  3. Leave half of a message. Pretend you got cut off right at the good part (be sure to leave your name and number first).

Set the sales stage…

  1. Have a personal welcome. A big banner, not one of those dinky signs with the letters that look like a menu board in a cheap restaurant.
  2. Give a gift. Something that the prospect can relate to. Something that matches his or her personal interests. Something that will make her smile.
  3. Show unbelievable enthusiasm. Enthusiasm breeds smiles and confidence. People like to be around upbeat happy people. Not many people are happy. Those who are happy, stand out. Do you?
  4. Have a contagious attitude. Attitude is the root of enthusiasm. You become what you think about. The self confidence and self belief you display are the basis for your credibility your belief system is driven by your attitude. A great attitude is rare. Be rare.

During the presentation…

  1. Sit in his chair. Pure guts and fun. Get the prospect to leave his or her chair then sit in it. Wait till you see their look.
  2. Ask a drop dead question. A question that makes them stop and think. A question they never heard before. A question that earns their respect.
  3. State it in terms of them (not you). No one cares what you do, unless it helps them. Say how you help, not what you do.
  4. Know something personal something about/for them. Show them you know. Show them you took the time to find out.
  5. Serve great food. Everything you say, do, give and serve is a reflection of you and your image. You make an impression with every action. Serve the best to be perceived as the best. It only costs about 20 bucks to create a lasting conversation-piece. Associate you, your company and your product with the word BEST.

Off business experiences…

  1. Memorable meals. Surprise them by arriving at their favorite restaurant. Have their favorite food delivered to your office and work through lunch..
  2. Tickets. Ball games and theater are wonderful memory builders. The secret is GO WITH THEM. Giving two tickets to a prospect defeats the process and ruins your chance to establish a personal information advantage. Another great place to go is your area planetarium (surround screen theaters). Take the prospect and his family on a weekend you’ll have a memory and an order.
  3. Mini Events. Meet the prospect at the (golf) driving range. Hit a bucket of balls and eat a fast lunch. Great way to play golf and make a deal without killing the whole day.
  4. Three way a lunch with a prospect for them. Can’t get the prospect to meet with you. Get a prospect or connection that can help your prospect to eat with you, and watch the decision change in about 2 seconds.

And the secret glue…

16.5. The link – use it if found. When you find out what you have in common with the prospect, you have a distinct competitive advantage. Maybe the advantage that swings the sale. Golf, college, children in the same activity, vacation spot, hometown anything you both like or do.

One last note: When it’s over, say “thank you” in a memorable way. Everyone says thank you. Your job is to say it, and be remembered for saying it. A gift, a personal note, a referral.

Creating magic moments is critical to the repeat business and referred business you get. The easiest way to identify your magic is List your magic. If your list is short, make some.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer. KING OF SALES, The author of thirteen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude.

Posted in Branding, Personal Improvement

Tips on How to Build Virtual Relationships

by Tracey Wik & Blythe Kazmierczak

video-thumbnail-tips-how-build-virtual-relationships1-768x377This is the first in a series of blogs on how to keep your business moving during this time of uncertainty.

Tracey Wik and Blythe Kazmierczak provide you with tips on how to build virtual relationships.

 

Tracey Wik: Hi, Tracey Wik here from GrowthPlay with Blythe Kazmierczak. She’s a longtime collaborator of mine, but she’s on our advisory board. Hi, Blythe.

Blythe Kazmierczak: Hi.

Tracey Wik: So we’re here, we are committed that people stay focused, people stay calm, and continue to make good choices and take actions that are going to forward their business. So one of the things that we are talking about today is what happened. This happened for everybody this week, because I have gotten emails and I’ve also talked to a lot of people. Everyone’s meetings are pushing or canceling. So you could have this false sense that you’re being productive if you move your meeting, which I have done, from a Tuesday to a Friday, except, is it really productive? So what are some other things that you could be doing now that will forward your business and to keep things moving such that commerce doesn’t come to a screeching halt? So, Blythe, you had some good thoughts. What are you seeing?

Blythe Kazmierczak: Yeah, I started with rescheduling at the beginning of this week too, optimistic that we just needed a couple of days to get organized and then we’d be back in the saddle. And now I’m realizing that was very optimistic on my part. And I’m now thinking I need to start thinking of a follow-up schedule that gives people a week to two weeks to just not only reset their week but really process what’s going on with COVID in their personal lives and their work lives. And so essentially for two weeks, no one’s going to sign a deal or make a sales meeting or kind of make something priority that was project related. And so what is awesome about that is I have the gift of two weeks to do work that I’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t been able to. This podcast I wanted to listen to or writing a piece of content that I meant to or really thinking about something more long term that I just didn’t have time to get to. And reaching out to people and instead of scheduling a meeting just being related and listening to where they’re at.

Tracey Wik: Yes.

Blythe Kazmierczak: So there’s opportunity to call people and not need anything and just say, “I was just thinking about you. This is a tough week. How are you doing?”

Tracey Wik: Yes. So the thing about sales is that, I mean, I actually think maybe I’m being optimistic falsely, but I actually think I am still signing deals, because I have a couple of people where they’re hot off the press, I mean, they’re hiring because their business is mostly virtual, so I’m optimistic. But even if that was the case where people were still contemplating, I think the thing that’s really important is, in sales, relationship building always is happening. And I think that the opportunity now is for people to think different about relationship building. So one of the things is about the COVID communication itself, COVID-19. Let’s don’t get any more emails about COVID-19 updates, okay?

Blythe Kazmierczak: I’m up to date.

Tracey Wik: I’m up to date from my people in culture where we’re compliant. I’m following John Hopkins. So I think that’s really important to stay current, but what is that going to do for my business? So what you and I have been talking about is our way of talking to your point, touch base with your clients, find out how they’re doing, and then we can offer a lot of information about working virtually that they may not know because you and I have been doing it for a long time. And so how could we help them use Zoom differently? You have all kinds of tools with your client base that are virtual tools that are cutting edge that people could be using right now. And I think there’s a huge opportunity to relationship build to really help people problem solve around deployment of either their product or their service out to the market.

Blythe Kazmierczak: Yeah, I mean, if I think about the folks that we work with are in a sales or leadership role and in that role they’re looking for people that are going to help them forward their agenda. And right now, their agenda is figuring out how to convert their business virtual.

Tracey Wik: Yep.

Blythe Kazmierczak: Right? And so how do you provide help in that and the problem that’s on their desk? How do you support that problem? Because that’s what everybody’s got on their desk right now. And even if they were a virtual business before, I know my husband works in a professional services and he works from home, so you’d say, “Oh, we were virtual.” Well, there was a bunch of folks in his organization that were not virtual.

Tracey Wik: Yep.

Blythe Kazmierczak: And the change management of that population going through the process of figuring all this out has meant the entire organization is not as productive as normal.

Tracey Wik: You’re right.

Blythe Kazmierczak: And so there’s things. It still impacted his work life and habits and what he was expecting. And so the reality is there’s very few organizations that were 100% virtual, so everyone is dealing with this to some degree.

Tracey Wik:  Absolutely, absolutely. And I just think that the more that you can stay calm, understand that there are tools out there. And there is a learning curve. I mean, even for me, I work virtually too but there’s just things I’m having to face now that I didn’t face two weeks ago. I think just be, again, good to yourself and just reach out because there are lots. Your point, everybody is dealing with this at the same time and it’s overwhelming. There’s just no two cents about it. I mean, it really is.

Posted in Customer Relationships, Relationship, Virtual

How One Fintech Firm Used Customer Experience Strategy to Grow Revenue by 4X

By Miller Heiman Group | Customer Experience

iStock-664584874-576x384A triple-digit increase in sales opportunities identified—and 4X revenue growth based on those opportunities.

The ability to maintain steady customer satisfaction and customer support scores despite a delayed product release.

Do these results and customer experience metrics sound unrealistic? Think again.

They represent the gains that become possible when a firm implements Miller Heiman Group’s Bridging Service Into Sales training to improve its customer experience strategy.

FinTech Firm Engages Miller Heiman Group—Twice—for Guidance on Customer Experience Best Practices

Miller Heiman Group partnered with a growing fintech firm, targeting its customer experience strategy. Offering technology-based, end-to-end regulatory solutions to clients around the globe, including 50% of the Fortune 500, the firm prides itself as much on its comprehensive, well-designed software as for its exceptional customer service.

But when the firm first engaged Miller Heiman Group, its service delivery lacked consistency. Customer support reps had varying levels of product knowledge and service skills, so no two customer support experiences were alike. Customers developed preferences for working with certain service reps because they believed those reps were the only ones who could handle their needs. When a different resource had to address customer concerns, they complained about their inconsistent service experiences.

With the help of Miller Heiman Group, the firm developed customer experience best practices and shored up its customer support skills. Post-training customer surveys showed that the support team’s communication and follow-up skills improved markedly across the board.

The firm was so pleased that it turned to Miller Heiman Group for support again, developing a strategy encouraging customer support reps to capture additional sales opportunities.

Transforming a Competitive Customer Support Culture

To encourage customer support to bring more deals to the sales team, and to discourage the competitive culture between the sales and support teams, the firm introduced a reward program to incentivize the support team to do three things:

  1. Increase their product knowledge and grow their value to the firm
  2. Improve their client interactions with all clients and
  3. Identify more deals for the sales team to close

By implementing the rewards program, the firm created a customer-focused, service-forward mindset to attain two goals: solving customers’ problems while looking for opportunities to increase the firm’s revenue retention rate.

But not all customer support reps embraced this change. While early adopters generated more incentive revenue than anyone else on the team, others balked because they felt that this program turned the customer support team into salespeople with quotas.

The disconnect threatened the program’s success. But with the Service Ready Bridging Service Into Sales professional development program, the firm paved a way to connect their teams and align everyone to support these new goals. And the results—nearly 5X increase in opportunities identified and almost 4X increase in revenue—can’t be beat.

How Bridging Service Into Sales Transformed the Firm’s Customer Service Team

Bridging Service Into Sales helps customer success professionals learn the behaviors that enable them to connect with customers and initiate dialogue to explore sales opportunities. Specifically, this course teaches customer service reps how to:

  • Improve customer satisfaction by acting on opportunities and proposing the next step during customer interactions
  • Develop skills and techniques for expanding relationships during interactions to improve customer satisfaction and increase profitability
  • Listen for and look at opportunities and then explore those opportunities by explaining appropriate solutions to customers in a way that best matches their needs

This new approach enhanced the customer service team’s problem-solving skills and, in turn, strengthened the firm’s relationships with its customers. Support professionals identified and closed 475% more opportunities and increased revenue by 381% in the first six months.

Posted in Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Customer Success

Where do Great Salespeople Come From?

Gitomer

 by Jeffrey Gitomer

Screenshot_2020-03-17 Where do Great Salespeople Come From - Jeffrey GitomerWhich came first, the salesperson or the egg? This is the enigma (or should I say the eneggma) of the evolution of the right salesperson.

The mystery of finding, interviewing, hiring, growing, and retaining great sales people is critical to your success. Where do they come from? How do you hire the best one? How do you get them to grow to be great?

At a recent seminar on the subject, I began by asking five questions, so I could understand the audience’s needs better. To my surprise, the questions actually provided the solutions they were looking for. It gave the group an introspective look at their own salespeople and sales process — and at the same time gave them solutions.

I’m going to repeat that seminar introduction for you right now. If you want to find out the secret behind attracting and growing great salespeople in your organization, go get a flip chart or a blank computer screen and take this self-analysis.

Ask yourself these five questions. These five will lead to more questions and actions. The answers to these action items and questions will define the sales person and the sales process at your company. Those answers will lead you to the beginning of your search for the perfect salesperson, and will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your existing team. All secrets will be revealed if you just take a hard look at yourself. WOW.

Here goes:

  1. What constitutes a great salesperson?

Someone with characteristics like: Has a positive attitude. Is hungry. Can communicate well. Is self-motivated. Takes criticism well. Has a good track record. Is solution-oriented. Looks professional. Is persistent. Can take rejection.

Here are the action items and questions:

  • List every characteristic you need in a great salesperson.
  • Do your salespeople possess these characteristics?
  • What are you doing to help them acquire them?
  • Will you hire someone without them?
  1. Where did you (do you) find your great salespeople?

Salespeople don’t just appear — and they usually don’t respond to newspaper ads.

Here are the action items and questions:

  • List the places you’re most likely to find a good person (competitor’s parking lots are not a place).
  • Where are you looking for yours?
  • Where did you find your present team?
  • Did advertising work?
  • Where should you network to find good people?
  • What is your gameplan to find the right person?
  1. Why did your present team join you?

What made your present staff say yes to the offer you made them? What are the biggest benefits of working for you?

Here are the action items and questions:

  • List the benefits and the lures of working for your company.
  • Did you have to do a sales-job to get salespeople to join you?
  • Are you attractive enough to get salespeople to call you?
  • What do you need to add or change to attract the right salesperson?
  1. Why did you fire them?

It was all their fault — or was it? You’re the one who hired them. At one time you thought they were great.

What happened? Here are the action items and questions:

  • List the reasons they were fired.
  • What happened between the interview and the job performance?
  • What could you have done differently?
  • What do you need to add or change so that more don’t get the axe?
  1. Why did they leave (fire) you?

This is the toughest reality — and the biggest area of denial. They left for a reason — and it’s critical you find the truth and deal with it. You create the legacy for the destiny of your sales force, not them.

Here are the action items and questions:

  • List the reasons you were fired (they left).
  • What could you have done to prevent it?
  • Will they continue to leave?
  • Are you investing in your salespeople (to make them better)?
  • What do you need to add or change so that more don’t leave?

5.5 Take positive action.

Salespeople are your most valuable resource. Invest time in writing the definitions; creating and cultivating the environment necessary to attract them; identifying who’s right for your company’s culture; and making a proactive, positive plan to keep them. (Keep in mind the reality that unless someone sells something, there’s no reason for anyone else to come to work.)

If you make your own chart of:

  • what characteristics you want,
  • where to search,
  • why they’ll join,
  • how you’ll interview them,
  • why you will fire them and how to prevent it,
  • why they fire you and how to prevent it —

Your answers will be apparent — and the puzzle of getting great salespeople will be solved. Almost.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer, KING OF SALES, The author of thirteen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude.

Posted in Sales Leadership

Secrets of Successful Sales Managers

by Wendy Mack

Blog_Secrets-Successful-Sales-ManagersAll too often, new sales managers land in a leadership role based on their ability to sell. They were a fantastic salesperson who constantly hit goals and quickly rose to the top. Because of this, many don’t know the first thing about sales talent management. One of the quickest ways to ramp up new sales managers is to help them become aware of and avoid the mistakes that are commonly made by less successful sales managers.

 

Mistake 1. Failing to Establish a Repeatable Sales Processes

Many sales managers look to hire “self-motivated” individuals and let them loose to sell however they deem appropriate. Managers may rely too heavily on the natural talent of the sales reps to develop and close business.

Most sales managers want salespeople to be happy and independent. They don’t want to be seen as micromanagers and believe that salespeople should be able practice their “art” without undue management interference.

However, while the intention is good, the lack of a sales process means that every salesperson in the group (including the sales stars) must “re-invent the wheel” because there’s no way to share what’s worked in the past.

Successful sales managers create and document a realistic and workable sales processes. These processes describe the various stages that the buyer typically goes through and document how salespeople can move the buyer through the next stage of the sales process.

Ideally, sales managers hold monthly or quarterly meetings to share what worked and what didn’t, and fold those observations into the process, when appropriate.

Mistake 2. Hiring the Wrong People

Sales managers often hire job candidates who have no natural sales talent. Admittedly, it can be very difficult to find talented salespeople. Candidates who have worked inside other companies often have bad habits. Candidates without prior sales experience are can be something of a crapshoot. The only practical way around this pitfall is to make certain that candidates are properly assessed to confirm that they have the basic talent and characteristics to be able to sell in that environment.

Mistake 3. Depending on Salespeople’s Natural Talent

Even salespeople who are lucky enough to possess extraordinary natural talent can benefit from coaching by a sales manager, if only because such coaching provides an additional perspective as to what’s working (and what’s not) in given sales situations.

In addition, most sales jobs today require specialized knowledge such as specific information about how businesses in the target industries operate and how the firm’s products help customers within those industries. Such knowledge is not innate.

Successful sales managers therefore provide a menu of coaching options and work with each individual salesperson to determine how to overcome intrinsic weaknesses while simultaneously taking advantage of natural strengths.

Mistake 4. Trying to Motivate Salespeople

While sales is often compared to professional sports, the analogy breaks down when managers attempt to give salespeople “pep talks” rather than provide real coaching. Psychologists have repeatedly proven that one person, however enthusiastic, cannot motivate other people. All motivation is internal in the sense that individuals take action (or don’t) based upon their own reasons.

Successful sales managers realize that, when it comes to motivation, the most they can do is set up the conditions under which employees can find their own motivation as well as the hope of seeing that motivation result in achievement. Ideally, managers adopt a variety of tools to create those conditions. For example, some salespeople may be motivated by public rewards while others might be motivated by having flextime to spend time with their families.

Mistake 5. Leaving Bad Hires in Place

Managers sometimes keep failing salespeople on board, hoping that they’ll somehow acquire the necessary talent to at least become average performers. This is usually the result of the manager feeling sorry for the non-performer. In environments without assessments, this tendency can be compounded by an inability of the manager to admit that he or she is not a good judge of sales talent.

Keeping non-performers on board damages the ability of the rest of the team to perform to their potential. It creates a lower standard of performance for everyone while simultaneously lowering the group averages. Worst case, the rest of the team is forced to do extra work so that the team can make quota.

Successful sales managers continually monitor the newly hired salespeople to ensure that there’s not a problem with basic selling skills. Sales managers provide coaching on skills that appear to be lacking, but if that doesn’t work, they cut their losses. This is ultimately kinder to the non-performer, who can now find a more compatible position elsewhere.

Mistake 6. Focusing Primarily on Sales Stars

Having one or more “sales stars” on a team can be a good thing, provided the sales force manager doesn’t favor the stars over the average performers. If the manager is not careful, he or she can end up giving the stars all the hot leads and recognition while overlooking the contributions of the rest of the team.

While this often results in the stars closing business that otherwise might not be closed, it alienates everybody else on the sales team and makes it seem impossible for average performers to ever fulfill their individual potential.

Successful sales managers keep the playing field level. They hand out leads equally among the sales staff and strive to develop the potential of everyone on the team through ongoing training and coaching.

Posted in Sales, Sales Effectiveness, Sales Leader, Sales Performance Measurement

Why Sales Managers Struggle with Effective Hiring

miller heiman group logo

By Miller Heiman Group | Future of Sales Success

iStock-1142425798-576x384Sales organizations face a paradox: although many continue to increase hiring, attrition is on the rise, according to our 2018-2019 Sales Performance Report, creating a major pain point.

What’s the problem? Though sales organizations hire more sellers than ever to grow their business and compensate for losing salespeople, studies show that they may not be following hiring best practices: 84% of sales leaders say they lack the sales talent they need to succeed in the future.

Our latest study, 2020 Trends in Sales Management, confirms these findings: more than three-quarters of sales managers (78%) struggle to consistently hire sellers who succeed, making hiring the most glaring weakness of today’s sales managers.

How Hiring Affects the Bottom Line

Poor hiring practices prove costly to sales organizations in many ways. It takes roughly four months to hire a salesperson and another nine months to get them up to speed. Missing more than a year of productive seller time hurts current performance—and it’s a weakness that produces compounding results in the future as well.

If a sales position remains vacant for 13 months, a competitor may fill the gap, further undercutting the organization’s performance. Sub-optimal, much less bad, hires sap sales manager productivity, as managers then have to spend more time working with struggling sellers. As a result, the sales team becomes less efficient and potentially even resentful of new sellers who aren’t meeting their goals.

Meanwhile, a sales organization without the data necessary to proactively manage its sales-force allows stagnating sellers to remain in roles for far too long. By the time they recognize that their poor performers lack the skills or capacity to improve, they’ve lost even more revenue. The longer it takes to exit poor performers, the longer it takes for the organization to reach full productivity again.

How Sales Organizations Can Improve Hiring Decisions

Sales organizations need to follow three key sales management strategies when it comes to hiring.

  1. Develop a Data-driven Candidate Profile.

Only a few organizations use a current candidate profile to find new talent. Instead, many sales leaders rely on gut instincts when hiring: they look for candidates with industry expertise and characteristics such as assertiveness or emotional intelligence. Others try to find candidates who look like their top performers, but this is challenging for the overwhelming majority of sales organizations that don’t assess why their top performers are successful.

Instead, organizations should take a data-driven approach using a variety of KPIs. World-class sales organizations use a combination of leading and lagging indicators to identify the optimal candidates to replicate. They avoid evaluating sellers solely on performance KPIs, such as quota attainment; they recognize that some top sellers may benefit from a mature sales territory or market trends. Instead, they focus on differentiators such as learning agility. Many also invest in a sales talent assessment to learn the true qualities driving their sellers’ success.

  1. Use an Objective Selection Approach to Evaluate Candidates.

After creating a hiring profile, sales leaders and managers should look for candidates with the competencies highlighted in their profile and make the most of tools they have to support hiring. Fewer than one-third of sales organizations regularly use their hiring tools, and nearly 25% have tools but aren’t using them consistently. Our research found that organizations without any hiring tools outperform those who have hiring tools but use them inconsistently.

  1. Make Hiring a Component of a Holistic Talent Strategy.

Closing the talent gap requires organizations to connect the four key elements of their talent strategy: recruiting, hiring, development and transition. Organizations that align all four elements under an overarching talent strategy that the CRO manages and measures find more success than those with disconnected practices. When sales organizations complement a data-driven hiring process with a comprehensive on-boarding program and a culture of continuous development, seller attrition drops—and sales results improve.

More Hiring Is Not Better Hiring

When it comes to hiring, more is not always better. As sales organizations start to transform their sales management strategies, they should focus on improving their hiring process.

Posted in Future Selling

Always Be Closing … With the Right Sales Competencies

by Wendy Mack

Blog_Always-be-ClosingThere has been a great deal of research and discussion in the field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology on the topic of broad versus narrow traits in predicting outcomes. At GrowthPlay, our research has concluded that broad traits measured by instruments such as Big-5 personality, the 16PF or Myers Briggs can be useful for general self-awareness, team-building activities, and leader development. But broad characteristics like Extroversion and Ambition tell us surprisingly little about whether the person will excel in the sales competencies required to perform his or her job. It is more specific facets of behaviors that predict the outcomes that are truly important in employee selection and development efforts.

We have all run into the stereotypical salesperson who talks incessantly and refuses to take “no” for an answer – the image of a larger-than-life man smoking a cigar and slapping someone on the back while closing a deal comes to my mind. But in reality, this over-the-top behavior only results in closing deals in television and movies. And simply being an extrovert and talking ignores the one thing that makes most salespeople effective – listening to their customer instead of talking to them.

In the 1992 movie Glengarry Glenn Ross, Alec Baldwin’s character (Blake) professes to others the ABCs of sales “A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing.  Always be closing!” What is closing? It is the art of sealing a deal. And, much like the myth that the best salesperson is the best sales manager, a good salesperson who sells auto-parts cannot necessarily be a good systems salesperson in a territory. Thus, the types of sales competencies necessary to close differ considerably.

Just as extroversion is too broad a trait to predict sales success, a single sales competency for closing is too general to predict outcomes. GrowthPlay’s Chally Assessment measures aptitude for five different types of closing. Here are two examples:

CLOSES THROUGH EMOTIONAL APPEAL – This sales competency is about building a prospect’s enthusiasm to the point they are fearful of missing the unique benefits if they fail to act.

The example of a car salesman comes to mind here. Recently, I took my car in for service and was approached by one of these guys who told me I should get out of my 10-year old car and into a new one because they had the deal of a lifetime and if I did not take advantage of it then I would be crazy. “We will never offer this again, and you could pay 10% less than dealer inventory!” He almost got me, too. If it hadn’t been for his failure to Qualify Prospects by Assessing Interest Level (another Chally Assessment sales competency) then I might be driving a new ride today.

CLOSES THROUGH INCREMENTAL STEPS – This sales competency involves breaking the sales cycle into increments and gaining commitment to each component leading up to closing the sale.

I was on a sales call some years ago with a fellow who was the master of closing. We had a confirmed appointment with a sizeable pharmaceutical company for a major salesperson selection project, and John was the lead in the sales effort. He went in, asked probing questions, understood their needs, and then began to educate the client, not sell them. John went on to describe the benefits of using our service and made sure that everyone in the room understood how the system was going to solve problems. In hindsight, I understand that he was slowly gaining the client’s commitment to us, the products and services we offered, and how it would fit into their needs. In the end, the client began telling us why they needed to use our system.

 

Posted in Closing, Sales Team, Talent Management

Wanted – One Great Salesperson. Where is She?

Gitomer

 by Jeffrey Gitomer

Screenshot_2020-03-05 Wanted - One Great Salesperson Where is She - Jeffrey GitomerThe question of the century: Where do you find great salespeople? (The key to growing your business.)

Answer: The great salespeople are working. They may not be happy, they may not be satisfied with their situation, they may be looking to change but they’re working.

OK, so how do you let them know you’ve got the opportunity of a lifetime available? What’s the best method to recruit? How will you know where to find the right one?

When you need a great salesperson, you need to look beyond traditional recruitment methods to be successful. The best way to recruit is face-to-face. There are two types of face-to-face recruiting:

  1. Direct solicitation “I want you.”
  2. Indirect solicitation “Do you know someone who might be interested?”

Indirect is always the best (safest) because it does not put anyone in business or career danger, and it allows the other person (the one you may want) to make the first move.

Here are 11 places to look, and one (.5) special thing to do, that will help you find a great salesperson:

  1. Your vendors. A great indirect source because they’re in contact with so many people in your industry. (Note: You must deliver the message to them a few times before they act.)
  2. Present employees. You’d be surprised at the number of people working for you who would love to be in sales if given the opportunity. Employees make great salespeople because their product knowledge is in place, and they are eager to achieve. Bonus: because the employee was previously known to your customers in a non-sales capacity, customers will now see them more as consultants than salespeople.
  3. People who call on you. If they’re trying to sell you, they may buy you or know someone who would.
  4. Customers (DANGER). Taking a salesperson from a customer will result in a lost account, AND that customer will talk about what you did to EVERYONE in your industry and community. Use the indirect method only. Don’t solicit their salespeople. Just don’t.
  5. Competitors. Second best source. (Biggest danger.) Your reputation is at stake. If you steal one, be certain that he or she is NOT to bring anything from his old company. Taking their salesperson is bad enough, taking their business goes way beyond fair/legal play. No customer lists, customers, prospects, training programs no nothing. If you hire a salesperson from a competitor make it a clean, ethical, professional move.
  6. Trade Show. Best source. Everyone from your industry is there. This arena is especially good for finding unhappy salespeople in non-competing companies, but familiar with your customers and your industry. Trade shows are the most fertile and least politically disruptive area to find great sales people.
  7. Networking. Business meetings, chamber of commerce events, and business groups can provide a great connection to the right person.
  8. Word of mouth to the business community through your business friends. Like networking, use your business reputation in the community to get the word out that an opportunity exists in your company.
  9. Your present sales team. Their word of mouth is the most powerful (or the most damning). Are you treating your sales team well enough to get referrals?
  10. Headhunters. A dangerous method, because they may not know your industry and their objective is to collect a fee.
  11. Advertising. Yes, you can advertise but be creative. The local newspaper typically is the most expensive, least effective, and most time consuming because you get lots of unemployed salespeople. The good ones are working. Your local “business weekly” is a better bet, because it reaches the employed, and is read by the assertive. Trade publications (yours and your customers) are also OK. You might also try your own company newsletter. An article about the opportunity might pull just the person you’re looking for.

11.5 Be attractive. If you’re great, if you treat your salespeople great, the word gets out about you. Your sales team will be out on the street bragging about how great it is to work for you. People will call you. How do your salespeople talk about their job behind your back?

Finding a great salesperson is challenging, but when you realize how important the right choice is, and how much money that choice can bring you (or cost you), it’s worth investing some quality time.

Here’s a few more success strategies:

  • Approach an individual low key. Make them qualify. Don’t sell the position. Make it attractive enough for them to buy it.
  • Start your conversation with questions about them, not stuff about you.
  • If you interview someone who says, “I’m in sales and I haven’t been able to find a job in 6 months,” DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT HIRING THAT PERSON. If someone has a bunch of hard luck stories you’ll be the next hard luck story if you hire him.

Here’s a point to ponder:
Experiencing high turnover? It’s time to conduct a self-evaluation. Turnover costs ten times more than the few bucks you’re trying to save by under-supporting, under-training, or underpaying your salespeople. You can blame everyone and everything but most high turnover is caused by poor company performance, not poor sales performance.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer, @GITOMER, KING OF SALES, The author of thirteen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude.

Posted in Networking, Sales Talent, Sales Team

How to Build a Culture of Effective Sales Coaching

miller heiman group logo

By Miller Heiman Group | Future of Sales Success

iStock-1139630489-576x384Only about one-quarter of sales leaders believe that their managers effectively coach and develop their sellers. In part, that’s because sales managers spend less time coaching—14%—than they do on selling, forecasting and administrative tasks, according to our latest study, 2020 Trends in Sales Management. But it’s also because most organizations and sales managers operate from a fuzzy definition of what coaching is and lack dynamic processes that reinforce their coaching practices.

To create a stronger coaching culture at your organization, follow these three sales management strategies.

  1. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

Many sales managers believe that they don’t have enough time to coach, especially those who oversee a large salesforce. And it’s generally true that the more sellers a manager supervises, the less coaching time each seller gets. Yet our research shows that it’s not the time spent on coaching that matters; it’s the substance of that coaching.

Sales organizations that describe their sales managers as effective at coaching and developing their sellers saw a significantly higher proportion of their reps meet their sales goals. To be most effective, sales coaching needs to expand to cover all areas of selling, not just how to convert specific leads and opportunities, and follow a perspective-based approach. That way, sales managers model the same selling skills that their sellers use to build strong relationships with buyers.

  1. Define Sales Coaching

Sales organizations often use the word “coaching” to describe any manager-seller interaction. Sometimes they describe coaching as strategizing on an account, such as how to position pricing or better compete with a rival product or service. While account-based discussions can serve as coaching and may help close individual opportunities, the most successful sales organizations consider coaching more broadly.

A better way to define coaching is as a leadership skill that sales managers use to develop each seller’s full potential over the long term. They bring their entire arsenal of experience and talents to bear, including social, communication and questioning skills, to show sellers opportunities for improvement.

Sales managers should engage in five kinds of strategic coaching conversations:

  1. Lead and opportunity coaching: Determining where an opportunity is along the customer’s journey and identifying activities to push the opportunity through the funnel
  2. Skills and behaviors coaching: Developing a values-based approach that focuses on the buyer’s journey, role, business challenges and desired results
  3. Funnel coaching: Identifying the most valuable deals in the funnel and allocating resources and managing risks accordingly
  4. Account coaching: Cultivating and managing buyer relationships and identifying leads
  5. Territory coaching: Focusing salespeople on the right industries, organizations and buyer roles to build markets

Sales leaders should include the full spectrum of these activities in their sales coaching strategies and as they define their approach to sales coaching.

  1. Establish a Consistent Approach to Sales Coaching

Even sales managers fluent in sales coaching skills may flounder if they don’t follow a consistent, formally defined process. Many sales organizations with documented sales management processes still have random sales coaching that’s left up to sales managers; others use informal sales coaching techniques, which have guidelines but no formal processes, measurement or monitoring. Neither approach develops sales managers’ coaching skills.

Our research shows that the more formal the coaching process, the higher sellers’ win rates and the greater the production they see from their sales funnels. According to our Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study, a dynamic coaching process—the most well-developed sales coaching strategy—led to a win rate of 55.2%, 13.4% higher than when coaching processes were left up to sales managers. But only 12.6% of respondents reported such a process.

A formal approach to sales coaching defines areas for coaching, develops a coaching process connected to the buyer’s journey, requires sales managers to improve their sales coaching skills and monitors the impact of sales coaching. A dynamic approach builds on a formal approach and connects coaching to the sales enablement framework to drive adoption of selling skills and reinforce positive seller behaviors. The greater rigor of these approaches yields better sales results for sellers—and their organizations as a whole.

Formalize Your Sales Coaching Strategies

Posted in Sales Coaching

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