Monday, November 17, 2014

Alignment: A Foundation for Lasting Revenue Growth

Your ability to win or lose more business is about alignment - configuring and calibrating key aspects of marketing and sales execution to optimize revenue growth. What this asserts is that the extent to which the organization consistently meets revenue targets is directly proportional to the degree of alignment between the organization's parts and its strategic priorities.Sustaining top-line revenue growth is an ongoing challenge for most companies. It's no secret that one of the most critical challenges facing every 21st century organization is consistently delivering against the #1 driver of long-term company success-top-line revenue growth. Over the past decade of working with CEOs to design and deliver better long term revenue performance, I've seen and see, that those unable to sustain success routinely lack much of a coherent or comprehensive plan. Moreover, their teams have little understanding of how it all comes together and what their roles are, and/or the sequencing of events in achieving future plans.When it comes to alignment, perception and reality often differ. That said, most executives think their companies are aligned. Over the past few months, they've put plans in place to align the organization and focus their resources to achieve maximum growth. They've organized a series of group and one-on-one meetings throughout the organization to communicate key initiatives, priorities, and growth expectations and get everyone on the same proverbial page. They sincerely believe that they are leading well-aligned companies, with all members of the management team and every employee clear on the rationale behind the strategic plan and their own priorities and accountabilities to support the plan, with specific time frames articulated.But the facts tell a different story.• 85% of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy. (Norton)• 54% of executives say that company's capabilities do not reinforce one another (Booz@Co.)• Two-thirds of support units are not aware of corporate strategy or aligned with their own business unit's strategy. (Norton)• 60% of organizations don't link budgets to company strategy.(Norton)• 95% of employees claim they are not aware of company strategy.(Norton)It's clear that organizations may not have their resources as well aligned as they think. Managers would do well to ask themselves and their teams the following questions:• Are we all synchronized and systematically working towards the same objective-driving healthy revenue growth.• Do we know the big picture and where we individually and collectively fit into that process?• Are we clear on the critical factors that drive growth, there dependencies and that we've providing proper context for daily decisions being made in support of those objectives?• Will the cumulative decisions we make individually and collectively support us in reaching our revenue objectives?What exactly is alignment? Alignment means we're all on the same page, pulling in the same direction. All levels of the organization understand the strategic plan, the critical initiatives that will help to accomplish the objectives, and their individual and/or departmental role in achieving them. In my experience the most successful organizations have implemented a consistent framework for translating their strategy into well-defined initiatives across the company, in the form of objectives, incentives, time frames, and accountabilities for each department, team, and individual.

Without alignment, it's difficult-if not impossible-for workers in an organization to have context for the decisions they're making. Alignment and context allow an organization to move confidently beyond its current state to its future desired state.Alignment is such a simple concept; why is it so difficult to achieve? The importance of aligning the team is hard to dispute, and it seems logical and obvious. But when you consider that strategy is set by very few, maybe once or twice a year, yet the real work is done over a long stretch by many who weren't in those strategy meetings, you start to see the issue. The workers who ultimately carry out the mission have little understanding about how that strategy was reached, and they had no input on whether they think the strategy is plausible given the reality of resources, budgets, and competition they see out in the field. The result is that most do not have proper context for making good decisions in their daily work.When you think of all the possible decisions that are made daily, one or two bad calls might appear to have little impact in the overall scheme of things. Most leaders may never be aware of these tactical decisions, or only find out about them when review meetings take place after the fact. But collectively, over time, decisions made outside the context of the organization's overall direction will drive inconsistency and have significantly negative impact, with little opportunity to recover. This can result in confusion and unnecessary chaos, ultimately reducing the odds for success while driving down productivity and draining morale.Alignment can be the difference between business success and failure. CEOs struggle each day with new challenges and increased complexity both within their companies and in the external environment. The percentage of companies that have consistently achieved even a modest rate of growth of over 5% for 10 years or more has continued to drop, and the business environment isn't getting any easier.Why do some companies succeed where others fail? When you think about it, all companies have the same basic ingredients: unique products or services, value propositions, a marketing budget, managers, leaders, people, buildings, metrics, etc. But, within each organization, the system can't perform to its highest levels unless its constituent parts are aligned.Think of professional sports teams. They all have the same ingredients: players, managers, owners, equipment, stadiums, playbooks, the best athletes, etc. Each is a system that is trying to become more successful than its competitors. What brings success? Alignment of the constituent parts. This rule applies equally to championship sports teams, Ferraris, and corporations. For the latter, it means developing and implementing a strategic framework that is translated into specific objectives and measurable initiatives. This framework galvanizes, links, and governs the entire organization, bringing more consistent and repeatable high performance.Hitting your revenue growth expectations is proportional to your team's degree of alignment. What becomes paramount is how well the organization can become aligned in order to move faster, make better decisions, and ultimately win more than the competition. This will allow leaders to more successfully align and optimize the collective resources to achieve key initiatives. This is a critical step in becoming more consistent in winning more than your competitors and, as such, should be a managed and formalized process that executives focus on for the long haul.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Building or Breaching Trust: It Is The Responsibility Of Leadership To Communicate and Build

A coaching client of mine in a start up software company told me an interesting story the other day. He was looking for a sanity check on an opportunity that he was working on - one which truly needed to have value sold to the customer in order to overcome a large price variation between themselves and the competition.After months of working on a solution (in a sales leadership vacuum), he managed to rally both the internal and external stakeholders. With a solid, value laden solution in hand he went forward to the customer with his colleagues and management. In such a situation we would expect the leadership to have been engaged throughout the process and be up to speed on the issues and competitive threats within the account.We certainly would expect the leadership to clarify any barriers to closing the sale and to be prepared to support the sales team in removing these so that a deal is possible. However, that is not what occurred.The salesperson returned from the client meeting absolutely 'pumped' by the opportunity to win and to provide the customer with what they needed both today and into the future. As the Team worked through the items (the sales people, engineers, programmers and account representatives were all aligned on the 'ask' from the customer) they completed the re-write in record time. The Sales Leadership Team was not available to review the content as they were working on other deals (as often happens in a start up environment). Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the salesperson used initiative to acquire sign off on the language. Problem solved, right? Wrong.The Team was working with a partner company that owned submission of the bid to the final client - a health services/quasi governmental agency. With the sign off in hand they put forward a deal that was still more expensive than the competition but could be sold on value and positioned as a win for both the client and his organization. Part of this offer was to hold the pricing for new services (expansion of services) at the same negotiated price for the three years of the agreement. Since the software that is being sold is becoming a commodity that has downward pressure on the pricing it seemed like a win for all parties. Sales Leadership re-engaged and stated that they never intended to offer the client additional services (for which a follow on order is likely in the next 3 months) at the same price. Yet all parties (except the Leadership - which as you recall was sporadically engaged) remembered that the discounts offered would be extended to like products and services - especially since it was known that there were follow on licenses coming.

Instead of supporting the efforts of the Team, acknowledging her part in the confusion (due to lack of engagement and understanding the complete competitive environment), and using the opportunity to secure a win while also having a coachable moment whereby she could take the time to explain how she likes to be involved and why the deal might have been worded differently - thereby increasing morale and strengthening the relationship with the sales team - she forced the salesperson to retract the offer. Recall this was an offer signed off by the organization.Not only does this represent bad business (the customer will surely go elsewhere - or at a minimum place the smallest possible order), but the way in which it was handled with the sales person can only create a morale hit. Furthermore as salespeople discuss what happened (as salespeople do), the company (and that Manager in particular) will have real difficulty overcoming the perceived breach in trust.Perhaps there was a reason why the Sales Manager reversed her decision. Perhaps there were economic variables that the sales team was not aware of. Regardless the critical conversation between the sales person and the sales manager could have been handled much differently. It could have been the basis for a relationship of trust and respect and understanding.Unfortunately conversations and situations like this are all too common. Real or imagined misunderstandings hurt more of our opportunities and morale than anything else. It has been said (I'll give the credit to IBM Leadership Development since I remember the saying from my Executive training there) that people join companies and quit managers. While this sounds simplistic it is true.Be sure that you are attracting talent - not repelling it - as you interact with your Teams. The reality is that people will form, change, reform opinions of you and your company based upon the perceptions created by your interactions with your staff. It is the responsibility of the Leader to communicate and build trust. After all, a Sales Manager is only as good as her Team.---

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Top Ten Things Pre-Sales and Experts Do That Kills Deals

Pre-sales, gurus, solution architects, subject matter experts, wizards or whatever you call them in your organization, they are critical to winning complex deals.Many a holiday house has been purchased by a sales person off the back of a guru who wowed the client with their consummate mind-boggling expertise.If you have one, anoint their feet with ylang ylang oil and buy them the complete series of 'Breaking Bad' just to show you care.However, there are other pre-sales experts who, despite best intentions cause more pain for clients and in fact actually lead the client to say 'Nope... too hard, I'm going with someone else'.Here are my top ten things pre-sales and experts do that can kill the deal.1. 'Telling clients everything you've ever learned since you finished University''We know you have more letters after your name than a fake Nigerian Prince with an inheritance to share, but the client doesn't need to hear every teensy weensy detail on the origin of the technology, financial instrument or manufacturing process.You may think it demonstrates expertise. It doesn't. It demonstrates you're as boring as listening to their Uncle Bert's incessant medical complaints.Filter the content and only discuss the stuff that is highly relevant to them2. 'It's not a Debating Club'You may not agree with the client's views but it's not an opportunity to stand there proudly rebutting the finer points because you may be technically correct to three decimal places on software revision 3.0115.If the thing won't actually work, then you can succinctly guide the client to that fact but nit picking, pedantic points and correcting small errors on behalf of the client just pisses them off.3.' No, Nyet, Nup. Forget it. Can't be done'Really? The client seems keen on exploring a few options on how they might solve a problem only to be met with multiple forms of No.
You might think that there's only one best way to do things because you've tested it in the lab or for another client but there are nearly always more ways to address issues than you first thought.'I'm not sure yet, let's look into it a little further is much more likely to keep the client engaged than a flat 'No, that can't be done'4. 'Let me tell you everything that could possibly go wrong'We know you have to cover your butt and set expectations but telling the client you can't guarantee the solution if the wind's blowing the wrong way on a Wednesday or if they miss a deadline by a minute or they don't complete their side of things in time or if there's a nuclear explosion within 200 kilometres, subject to Wireless working which it often isn't, plus all their people need to be trained and accredited blah, blah.I feel like self harming just writing this.It's not helping the client. It's scaring the hell out of them.

5. 'Let's show you a 4 Hour demonstration''Come into our office and we'll make you feel like you've just watched 'Titanic' twice back to back including the Celine Dion soundtrack on repeat loop.'If you need hours to demonstrate your widgets, you don't understand the client well enough.Try more discussion, enquiry and research and less actual demonstration. It is possible to show how things work in minutes, not hours.6. Contradicting a colleagueWe know you don't want the client to get the wrong advice but when you blatantly say something like' Bob, I don't think what you've said is quite right' you become the married couple at the dinner table that everyone talks about afterwards taking bets on how long before the divorce lawyers buy new Ferraris.It screams no teamwork, no cohesion, no chemistry and no deal.If Bob is wrong, take him aside in a break or afterwards and let him correct the situation,7.' If I were you, I'd buy Solution X'The problem is you're not them. Clients have different prejudices, politics, budgets, perceptions and agendas.Just because you think it's great doesn't mean it fits the client's way of doing things.If that was the case 99% your clients would have Solution X, but they don't do they? Bigotry is death to many deals.8. Mitigated languageThis is the first cousin of 'Can't be Done'Phrases like 'hopefully', 'possibly', 'perhaps', 'maybe', 'might', 'potentially', 'all things being equal' and 'in the long run' fill the audience with as much comfort as sitting next to the smelly, fat guy on QF 464 to Sydney.Quite simply, will your solution do the things you say and deliver the results you're promoting or not?9. InterruptingKnock, knock
Who's there?
Interrupting cow
Interrupting cow wh... MOOO!Nobody likes to be interrupted... ever... under any circumstances. The client is sharing their story and you get excited about an area that's right in your sweet spot.You've just interrupted them in full swing so they stop telling you all that juicy stuff about their business and for what?You then proudly share your rich knowledge which they might appreciate but you've only learned half the story, assumed the rest and now the momentum is lost. Don't Moo!10. Staying too longThere is always someone at the party who outstays their welcome. You've subtlely put on your dressing gowns, yawned five times, talked about going to bed and they are still sitting in your lounge room drinking your Johnny Walker Blue Label.Clients want you to visit for a while too, share your expertise, explore alternatives and see what you've got and then they have better things to do.Get to the point. Then, get out of there, Windbags aren't invited back.Experts who communicate professionally are always welcome.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Biopreservation Market Estimated to Reach USD 5.69 Billion by 2019: Transparency Market Research

A U.S-based market intelligence firm, a continuous rise in research activities in the field of biomedical sciences, rendered by the rising global demand for new medicines and medicinal therapies, will be one of the major factors leading to the growth of the global biopreservation market. As research activities increase, there would be an added demand for the procurement, preservation, processing and banking of biospecimen. This will lead to added demand for storage facilities that are adequate enough to accommodate the samples as well as to retain their stability. This will lead to additional demand for equipment such as refrigerators, freezers, liquid nitrogen tanks and consumables, along with media and laboratory information management systems (LIMS).Additionally, rise in funding from government and private institutions with an intention to boost the capacity for storage and preservation facilities will also help foster growth in the biopreservation market. Other driving factors for growth in this field are anticipated to be the rising awareness about general health, rising number of individual samples and growing instances of cardiovascular, oncological, autoimmune, orthopedic and infectious diseases throughout the globe.The report suggests that the biopreservation market, by product, will grow at the fastest rate in the segment of consumables. This will be seen as a result of the growing demand for cryo vials, cryo bags, gloves, cryo tubes and other consumables from the existing biopreservation organizations. A further growth will be achieved as a result of increase in the number of bio-banks and individual sample size globally.

The rising need for automation by storage facilities will allow growth in the sector of LIMS. This demand will be seen majorly from developed economies such as US, Japan, Canada, Germany and France. Demand from developing economies such will initially be slow due to the high purchase and installation costs of the systems, but will eventually grow with support for funding from government and private institutions.The biopreservation media market, comprising the two segments: home-brew media and pre-formulated media, earlier saw the dominance of the home-brew media segment. It is, however, estimated that the demand for pre-formulated media will rise rapidly owing to its rising demand and acceptance in the global market.By application, the biopreservation market, is segmented as biobanking, drug discovery and regenerative medicine. In 2012, the biobanking segment of applications ruled the market by capturing its major share. The same segment is also estimated to rule the market in the year 2019, according to the report. This is assumed based on the recent approval of new biobanking projects in developing economies such as India, Korea, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil and many African countries.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Value of Relational Sales Team Building Activities

A new sales person joins the team. She is quiet and had worked in customer service before taking this sales position. Now, she realizes, she must talk to people face to face, demonstrate confidence and present a comfortable, working knowledge of the product. How does she sharpen the skills she needs to land the sale? By participating in relational sales team building activities.Relational sales team building activities allow newer and unseasoned people to become familiar with their co-workers and supervisors in a relaxed atmosphere. This allows them to:1) establish a connection
2) obtain valuable feedback about their sales pitch
3) get to know their coworkers
4) practice getting personal with an acquaintance in order to make the sale
5) pick up valuable relational sales tipsMaking the sale requires building a relationship with the customer. In the context of sales, this has to happen fairly quickly. The sales person understands they must become a trusted advisor at some point during the conversation. Naturally, the elements of trustworthiness, integrity, time efficiency and helpfulness help the salesperson move the relationship from acquaintance to trust advisor. In group settings, relational sales team building activities allow people to quickly practice becoming trusted advisors.

This happens because newer sales professionals are mentored by more seasoned salesmen. As the newbies watch, listen and learn from their colleagues, their confidence grows, they gather valuable information for their own pitch and performance, while relaxing in a non-threatening atmosphere. This sense of feeling cared for is necessary for their professional success because it needs to be demonstrated in the sales environment. Relational sales team building activities embrace the newer sales professionals and groom them for success through the sharing of experiences.In relational sales team building activities, especially with new teams, flowing through the tiers of connection in fun activities will help sales personnel. For some people, the actual sales moment is intimidating and difficult to navigate. Yet, you are sure you saw signs of success when you hired these newbies. If you want to build a strong sales team, invest in their success. Allow them to practice and learn from each other. This way, team members with low confidence can begin to gain personal and professional comfort through interacting with other members of the sales team. They will pick up skills on how to establish strong connections and become trusted advisors in order to make the sale.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Your Salespeople Running Out Of Gas? Supercharge Them With Neuroscience Based Sales Training

How Often Have You Heard Yourself Saying: "My Sales Team Has Talent, So Why Aren't They Hitting Their Numbers???"This is a problem that sales managers have been trying to solve since the dawn of business. You can almost imagine a merchant circa 1300 lamenting to a friend, "What stops my traders from calling on the bigger kingdoms and getting higher prices is beyond me!" This exact conversation is going on right now in the offices of sales managers and company presidents all around the globe. The commodity may have changed but the essence of the conversation is the same. What stops my salespeople from attaining the results I know they are capable of?According to David Stein, the CEO of ES research group, an analyst firm focused on the sales training industry, "American businesses spend over $7B a year in sales training and yet the failure rate is over 80%." ES Research's data shows that sales training has a motivational effect that fades with time. Stein explains, "Most salespeople revert back to their original production level within 80 days unless there is some sort of intervention that reinforces the training."There are many approaches to solving this problem, most of which don't work:Reward success: Vacations, money, and public recognition work for some. For others there is little or no motivational value. Beyond that, there is ample research that says rewards start losing their effectiveness the more you use them.Punish failure: This can be a great motivator for certain people, but overall it has a detrimental effect on the morale of the sales organization. And once again its effectiveness tapers off with repeated use.Upgrade selling skills: The sales manager or a hired gun comes in and teaches the sales team sales skills that they usually already know. On occasion something new is delivered that makes a difference. Sales Training does deliver a boost in sales. Unfortunately, sales usually slide back to the normal level all too quickly.Motivation: An impassioned speech from the CEO or a flavor of the month speaker can get the entire sales team fired up and ready to take on the world. Salespeople can usually maintain the fervor for days, sometimes for weeks, but eventually their fantasy collides with the reality. And the motivation fizzles out.External Motivation is Short-lived - Internal Motivation is PermanentOne of the key elements of sales training is its motivational effect. There are two types of motivation; external motivation, which is transitory, and internal motivation, which stays with you no matter what. Unfortunately, sales training delivers external motivation. It's no wonder that the "high" from a great sales trainer often fizzles out quickly. Furthermore, relying on external motivation means businesses constantly have to invest in ongoing sales training just to keep pace.
The key driver that determines sales success
Most sales professionals intrinsically know there has to be something more than traditional sales training. If we knew what the missing element was, we could transform training from just a motivational experience with short-term gains into one that provides a permanent change that delivers improved results.Salespeople as a group are notoriously difficult to study because there is such a wide array of sales methodologies. It's like comparing apples and oranges. Even if a company standardizes on a particular sales methodology, an objective study is still challenging because the individual salespeople feel more comfortable reverting back to their native sales techniques. This creates a mishmash of techniques within a company.Sandler Sales is a great sales training company that has hundreds of franchisees worldwide. These franchisees use the Sandler Sales system to sign-up new students. They also teach the system everyday as part of their job. They literally live and breathe this sales ideology. In fact, their commitment to the Sandler Sales System was so high they purchased a franchise ($60,000+). All of these franchisees are highly driven individuals who selling the same commodity, using the same methodology.A number of highly successful franchisees are very comfortable charging twice as much for the same service. While other franchisees feel uncomfortable asking for a higher price. Keep in mind all of these franchisees would coach their students to sell on value and get the highest price possible while being fair to the customer. This means that the "weaker" franchisees know what to do but fail to take action when it comes to price. This highlights that what's going on inside the salesperson's head (the human element) is more powerful that their sales skill-set level.With an empowering human element, a salesperson can attain results far in excess of what common wisdom would predict given their current skill level and drive. And conversely you can get a highly skilled and driven salesperson that gets less than stellar results because of a disempowering human element.

Sales training teaches new selling skills and provides much needed motivation to get out there and make things happen. Motivation can also temporarily overcome fear or inertia that hinders a salesperson's success. The area where sales training misses the mark is in addressing the human element. This is a clear case of 2 out of 3 is bad. As long as the human element goes unaddressed, the only way to get a lasting performance boost is to engage in a never-ending cycle of sales training.Understanding The Human ElementSalespeople are driven: they want to get better results, but sometimes it seems no matter how hard they try they can't break the bonds of their human element. The human element trumps skill and drive every time. For lasting sales success it's critical that we understand the human element.The first thing you need to know is that humans have several neurological levels. At the deepest level is where we hold our beliefs. We have beliefs about being a man, the government, about selling, money, and self-worth; there is a belief about everything in our awareness. Researchers have discovered we have anywhere from 50,000 to a 100,000 beliefs.Our beliefs shape our values, which sit on the next level. Values give us the rules of engagement that allow us to quickly navigate through our complex lives. These are the invisible lines that we will not easily cross.On the next level we have our capabilities, where we define what is possible for us to do or not do. A good example of this is where others can clearly see person X has the capability to do something (ask for higher price) but they can't even imagine it being possible for them (still cave-in on price). Paradoxically we call this prison the comfort-zone.The final level is what we are most aware of our behaviors and actions. We can see the results our behaviors deliver. If one of the higher neurological levels like beliefs is out of sync with what our sales training dictates we will not do that behavior. If we do attempt it we will quickly revert back to the old comfortable behavior."We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." -Albert EinsteinIf you want to get better results, you have to change your behaviors. Changing behaviors is one of the hardest things on the planet to do, even if you really, really want to change. This is why sales training fails to deliver long-lasting results. In order to effectively change behaviors you have to go to a deeper level. The deeper you go, the faster the change, and the longer it lasts. In order to facilitate permanent change, you have to embrace neuroscience techniques to transform limitions in our higher neurological levels.Change happens in an instant!Change happens in an instant. People live under this illusion that change is hard to do or that change takes a long time. Another popular belief is that change is a painful experience. At one level, all of those statements are true because we try and facilitate change at the behavioral level."I wouldn't give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity; I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity"-Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841 -1935)Simplicity on the far side of complexity is where elegance resides. And elegant solutions are simple to execute and deliver extraordinary results. I know this sounds cryptic, so let me give you an example of what is possible when change takes place.I met Kim at a party where she told me that she was hitting a glass ceiling. No matter how hard she tried, no matter how much more training she received, she seemed unable to earn more than $150K/yr. All of her efforts were focused on changing her behaviors without changing her beliefs. She felt frustrated and stupid because nothing she did worked.It turned out that when she was five years old her father came home one Friday afternoon and discovered he lost his paycheck. That was the only time she saw her father cry. That experience created a belief about having to respect her father around money issues. Her father never made more than $80K/yr and here she was earning $150K/yr "disrespecting" her father. The old belief sabotaged her efforts to succeed.Using neuroscience she was able to transformed the old belief to an empowering one, the more I earn, the more I honor my dad. This new belief shattered her self-imposed glass ceiling that her sales career once again took-off. With the right neuroscience tools sales training becomes highly effective because the human element is addressed head-on. Bottom-line is with the right tools change happens quickly and permanently.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The 5 Worst Business Handshakes - Business Etiquette

Here are handshakes to avoid as they are seen as the most annoying and disliked:1. The Wet FishYou know... that limp, "sloppy dishcloth" type of handshake.What is says: the person is weak in character, cold in nature, insincere, lack of commitment.It can be due to cultural reasons - in Asian and African cultures it demonstrates respect. A firm handshake can be seen as offensive.At all times take the person and situation into account when shaking hands e.g. a young African woman shaking hands with an older traditional African male client - a limp handshake would be appropriate. The same young woman shaking hands with an older white male manager - a firm handshake would be appropriate.2.The "Fingerella" or Finger-Tip GrabNormally a female greeting -where just the fingers are given as a handshake. Women get it from outdated social expectations, when they were expected to shake hands softly.What is says: not interested in you, the situation. I would rather be doing something else-somewhere else. Also conveys weakness, uncertainty, and pretension.3. The Bone-CrusherA client once gave me the bone crusher and broke every nail on my hand!What is says: the person is wanting to take over, dominate the situation. They are insecure and trying to make up for this with a bone crushing handshake.What to do: If it's a colleague and you know them well make them aware of it... say "Ouch..that hurt me,your grip is far too strong."4. The two-handed handshakeEngaging one hand with the other person's hand, then placing the other hand on top, creating a comforting enclosure.

What is says: nurturing, warm friendly, endearing, sympathetic. It can also be seen as the "Politician's" handshake someone not to be trusted. Unless you know the other person understands the meaning of this handshake avoid it in business. Acceptable in the African culture.5. The Gas Pump HandleWhen shaking someone's hand 2/3 pumps is sufficient-avoid "over-pumping". This makes the other person uncomfortable as they don't know when to let go.What to do: Step into the person's personal space area and lower your hand - its almost forces an automatic release.Men to women handshakesMen don't be afraid to give a woman a firm handshake - as long as its not a bone crushing one. Women, shake a man's hand with strength, no dead fishes!The Correct HandshakeAim the web of your hand straight into the web (between your thumb and forefinger) of the other person's hand.Get the two webs contacting one another.Wrap your fingers against the back of the other person's hand. Two to three pumps.This handshake ensures:You get a good grip, sending messages of confidence and strength.
You convey warmth with a "wrap-around" feel.If you have no idea what your handshake is saying right now practice it with your friends and colleagues and get their feedback rather than sending out the incorrect message.Ensure you send out the best possible impressions in the first few seconds of interacting with anyone by giving them the correct handshake. Happy handshaking

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Need for Effective Market Positioning

Our observation of large and small businesses in various industries and countries indicates that most companies waste money because they work from nonexistent or weak marketing foundations.Marketing foundations, or fundamentals, are about differentiation, positioning, and focus on sending a consistent message to the market.The challenge for all companies, products and services is to stand out in crowded and noisy markets. The key to standing out is to be different in an attractive and meaningful way. The choice of one major differentiation factor is the toughest problem most marketers are facing because they all have a tendency to bombard us with endless lists of specifications, features and benefits (including the proverbial kitchen sink). They don't think hard enough about what not to say.Clear differentiation is, in turn, the key to successful positioning. Positioning is the act of imprinting a unique, credible and memorable message in the mind of the customer and to consistently work at defending and reinforcing this position.This takes time. The subtitle of the seminal book on positioning, published in 1981 by Al Ries and Jack Trout is: "THE BATTLE FOR YOUR MIND". The term 'battle' is a tad unfortunate because it suggests the possibility of a quick victory. Positioning is more like a war; it takes years. It's a long-term investment. Scan, in your own mind, the brands that have the strongest positive image. Most of them have been around for years, haven't they?The good news is that it is difficult to dislodge a category leader. Volvo is still the leader for safety, Mercedes for reliability, Rolls Royce for prestige, Ferrari for speed, VW for value, etc. The other good news is that, once the essence of your message is created, you can use it as basis for your entire market communication and quickly earn benefits from this important investment.Last, but not least: positioning is an art. It works better with the objective, external point-of-view of a specialist who looks at your company or products from a different angle and who brings fresh ideas. You need a second opinion like a doctor needs a colleague to perform surgery on himself. You want to avoid throwing good money after bad, don't you?

BASIC RECIPEAn effective positioning message has to be about half-way between your actual position in the market and the vision you have of the future of your company and of its products.To be memorable and effective, your message should be as short as possible, different, attractive, relevant and persuasive. So, it should achieve the right balance between facts and aspirations.Finally, your message has to pass credibility tests including:- Laugh test - if your claim is grossly exaggerated, implausible or unimaginable, it will provoke general laughter and you lose your prospect's confidence.- Yawn test - if your message uses conventional, hollow and boring business speak, you lose the prospect's attention and potential interest.- Blank eyes test - if your statement uses esoteric or fashionable expressions with obscure meaning, you probably irritate your prospect from the beginning.Then, your positioning message can serve as consistent basis for a series of documents such as:- Your marketing plan
- Tag lines and one-sentence statements
- One-page company / product briefs
- One-paragraph to half-page summaries
- Elevator pitches, 60-second speeches,..
- Website content (e.g. "about us" statement)
- Brochures, newsletters, direct mail, advertising
- White papers, manifestos, case studiesIn addition to its Sales Services, Sales Outsourcing | SFE, can help you on marketing matters, creating solid marketing foundations including positioning, and developing important materials and programs... to expand your sales outsourcing into new markets.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Competitive Intelligence for Your Business

Every business has competition and in many case executive leaders ignore competitors. Unless your business has an absolute monopoly on a life-essential product, there will be competitors offering alternative and substitute products and services. That level of competition is revealed in the competitor intelligence report. Competitive intelligence helps your company define and understand your industry and to identify their strengths and weaknesses. This includes the process of data collection, interpretation of the data, objective evaluation and dissemination of the data and defining productive methods for managerial decision making.A competitive intelligence report (CI) is an important requirement in any business plan because it (a) reveals the firm's competitive position in the "marketplace", and (b) assists you to develop strategies to compete. If you ignore or diminish the impact of competition, you will have an unrealistic and slanted approach to designing a strategy for sales perfection. The internet has dramatically accelerated the speed and availability to utilizing data and compiling a CI report. Do not fall into the trap of devoting too much time and effort to tracking this information. I have seen instances where company executive allot to many resources to this process thinking it will harvest a large reward, to the contrary, this exercise is designed to draw objective conclusions about the environment in which you operate. It will not provide you with detailed information on your competitors; only make you more aware of the environment and to avoid surprises by anticipating competitors' moves and decreasing reaction time.The success of your strategy depends on the quality and content of your CI report. This analysis utilizes the SWOT analysis as the initial stages to the process which will help you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. You will need to answer some basic as it relates to your competitors:

Who is Your Competition and identify the range and types of competitors that participate in your industry.

Categorize your competitors as direct, indirect, or emerging. Identify all the elements that create this unique profile list.

Finding your competitors is the easy part, you already know who they are for the most part and for those companies expanding into new product and business categories, there is a wealth of resources available.

Foot soldiers - your sales team, both inside and outside.

Suppliers who your company share in common.

D & B (Dun & Bradstreet) reports with a database of over 30 million companies worldwide.

Hoovers is a subsidiary of D & B which holds considerable information pertaining to public companies.

Patent databases such as Thomson Scientific's patent services or Google patent search.

Search engines, search utilities, etc.

Financial information sources (Company filings / public & private company data).

Legal documents - PACER (public access to court electronic records).

Newspaper and news resources.

Government sources.

Trade & industry sources.

Geographic / Country information & maps, satellite images, etc.

Trade directories.

Marketing research sources.

Legal information sources.

Competitive intelligence database software suppliers.

Other public information sources.

Analyzing your competition with the list of information you have compiled by populating data in a competitor intelligence grid (see below).

Writing up the results of your analysis.

Define Your Competitive Position, identify opportunities that were discovered and resolve any apparent threats uncovered during the process.

When we think about competitive intelligence, naturally, the first thing that comes to mind is social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on. You can derive a lot of information form these sites and you need to assign a member of your sales team (support person) to track your competitors on social media. It will provide you a wealth of information like who they are targeting, how they are interacting, if they are placing paid advertisements, and the frequency of their posts.In contrast, if you are paying attention to their social media presence, and if they are savvy business leaders, they are doing the same to your company. Pay attention to what is posted on your own social media sites and carefully monitor and analyze the content of the posts. The general rule is this, think about what you would say to an anchor person interviewing you on television, obviously you are not going to provide any sensitive or misleading information in this interview and you certainly should maintain the same policy as it relates to social media. More information on social media profiling, demographics and psychographics was discussed in chapter 2 under marketing.Competitive Intelligence has its drawbacks and limitations. First of all, you would most likely not take an automobile trip without a road map or GPS device, but let's assume you did. More than likely you are going to take a few, maybe even many wrong turns and even lost, but eventually will find your way to the destination. However, if you plan the trip in advance and rely upon past experiences, your journey will turn out completely different. The same is true in the process of gathering data on competitors, much of it could turn out to be useless and completely wrong leading you in the wrong path. A skilled executive manager will make decisions to eliminate erroneous information by pointing the team in the right direct and also disseminating the information to relevance and applicability.Conclusion: A thorough evaluation and competitive analysis will help you, your company, and your employees to grasp the intricacies of effectively defeating you're the competition day in and day out.Formulate a strategy to attain organizational uniformity. This is the concept of aligning and balancing the performance standards throughout your company. Organizational uniformity is based upon the assumption that all sales territories, sales and operating regions, and divisions operate in unanimity and consistent.A competitive SWOT analysis will help your company and your sales people operate with confidence.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Independent Manufacturers' Representatives Should Expect From Their Principals

1. Training. Unless the manufacturer produces non-technical products like brushes or socks, training is critical. Even non-technical products do not make a new representative exempt from being training on procedures, operations standards, customers support expectations, etc. In some cases, principals cover part or all of expenses for reps' training tools, courses (if necessary), or travel (if the independent rep is expected to visit the principal's office or manufacturing facilities).Manufacturers often try to alleviate the financial burden of travel for new hires. Depending on what is negotiated, they will either pay for some or most of the cost of travel when training new reps. This gives new reps greater confidence in the manufacturers' ability to support them in the field. And it signals economic strength.Independent sales reps fail when they do not have sufficient product knowledge to confidently and competently promote their manufacturers' products. The bottom line is, If a manufacturer's rep is not comfortable selling a product, they won't. And training should not be limited to just the initial stages of the relationship as products are upgraded or improved. So training must not only be comprehensive, but also ongoing.2. Initial Travel Period. A rep's first few months can be brutal, especially when pioneering a new market or territory. Many news reps need hand-holding. Principals should consider making a corporate employee available to travel with the sales rep to make the initial sales presentations easier. This assistance helps new reps develop a more profound understanding of the product line. It immediately exposes them to common customer questions or troubleshooting issues that they will have to respond to when out from under the proverbial wing of their principal.

3. Sales and Marketing Collateral. Independent reps should be armed with as much sales and marketing collateral as possible. Brochures, catalogs, color charts, pamphlets, fliers, product samples-all very helpful marketing materials. There is no legitimate reason why a principal would withhold this critical material.4. Fast Response. When manufacturers reps submit requests for quotes or troubleshooting feedback, the principal must respond as soon as possible! A rep's ability to successfully support customers is dependent upon their ability to respond to customers' needs in a timely manner. It may seem obvious that principals benefit, too, when responding quickly. Surprisingly, poor response time is one of the most common complaints from independent manufacturers' representatives.5. Sales and Order Tracking. Sales representatives do not have a guaranteed commission. They have to work for every dime they earn. Their ability to do so requires access to critical information that principals should provide, including:- Updated price lists
- (Back) order status
- Invoice copies
- Product literature and other sales collateral
- Shipping notifications
- Commission schedule6. Customer Lists. Principals should provide their reps with lists of existing customers. User lists or installation lists can be leveraged by independent sales reps when marketing to new customers. It helps demonstrate the compelling value proposition of the principals' products. Like most other items on this list, it is in the principal's best interest to provide this information to their reps.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Dead at 27 Club

Can anybody find me somebody to love are brilliant lyrics from Queen that say so much, but alas they may well have been his undoing. Freddie Mercury was out there - he was wild, untamed, in his heyday extremely promiscuous and in the end his partying and all the other antics that were part of his repertoire took him at a very early age. Far too young.This begs the question: did those who died young from partying and living in the fast lane go happy? Would they have changed what they were doing had they known it would bring a premature end to a glorious career and life? There exists the unfortunate " - Janice Joplin, Jim Morrisson, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Henrix and Amy Winehouse, all gone with so much more to give. Were they so disturbed and mentally imbalanced from the drugs and partying that there really was no way they could have come back to the straight and narrow? It could be said that Robbie Williams would have joined that club along with Russell Brand but fortunately both managed to turn the corner before falling into the abyss.You have those that hit the wall at high speed without a care in the world for any consequences to themselves or those around them and go young, or you have those who don't. A great friend of mine Richard Wilkins uses the phrase, "NLE" - Near Life Experience, those who have been alive but have never actually lived. Our challenge, I believe, is to find the level of living that is right for us - after all, hard drugs and rock and roll is not the calling for most of us. Counter that with those who never quite found the reason to try, the burning desire to have a go or were blocked by a wall of fear, doubt or self-belief which prevented them from even trying.

When I eventually go I do not want it to be said that I didn't try, that I sat back and watched, I was a spectator rather than a player, I could have achieved so much more. All of these phrases send shivers down my spine. I personally need to know and believe that I have given everything my best shot, had a go and played full out, and I know there are times when I fail to achieve this. We have all lost family friends, relations, parents and close mates far too early, I believe they all had more to give, help and provide. So if the same is said about you today by those in your life that you have so much more to achieve and deliver, what are you waiting for? You know the phrase "Carpe diem" - "Seize the day" There is nothing wrong with now, stop FAFFing about and get on with it.At any one time there could be 20-40% of staff off on holiday during the main holidays, any more than that and the company would have issues trading. Turn this around and this means that 60-80% of staff are still at work at any one time during the holiday season. How quickly do you need answers? Can they not wait two weeks until the decision-maker comes home from holiday? This doesn't mean you should give up trying to get hold of them; you should continue as normal and follow up as normal. Using seasonality as a reason not to make the effort is simply lazy, get on with business as usual, leave messages on answer phones and emails with assistants and stop FAFFing about avoiding doing business.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Increase Sales This Holiday Season

The holiday season really brings in more sales than any part of the year but you can still leverage more by using some practical tips that can further boost your sales. Sales rep software can also help you maximize the sales potentials by effectively managing and monitoring your sales leads. Here are the ways to increase sales appropriate for any kind of business:1. Promoting one Product/Service at a time. This limits the customer's buying decision to just buying or not buying. This leads to immediate sales, of course. Try to avoid promotions that will require the buyer to make more choices after deciding to buy. They might confuse them and end up not buying at all for the fear of making the wrong choice. If you really like to make promotions, create a promotion for each product or each service separately; or combine products and/or services into one package. The aim is to just get a "yes" or a "no" from the prospect, no more, no less.2. Make your benefit your lead start at all times. Your benefit is your strongest selling point. This is your unique selling point that your prospect must immediately see in your promotional messages. Put the benefit of your product and service in your banners, leaflets, flyers, brochures, sales letters, emails, posters, and other ads. Use it also in your audio and video campaign so that your prospects will continue listening and watching. Sales rep software can help you monitor the leads.3. Make your approach personal. People buy from salesmen who make them feel that their specific and individual needs are addressed. Customize your sales message to each prospect you meet to cater the particular interest of each client in every market group you are targeting. You can also do this online by creating special web pages that meets the needs for each market group then link to your home page.

4. Give specific description of your product and service. Do not just say your product is affordable, or you give quality service, or the printer you are selling is reliable, or you turn in your finished product fast. You have to be more precise with your description. Say how fast, what kind of quality, how reliable, and many more. Do not give dull descriptions like "You will print more with this printer." instead say "Your printing output will increase by 70% more." This stirs curiosity and excitement to the prospects and will take the time to look more into your offer.5. Dramatize feelings. It is found that people buy on impulse and not on logic. Their buying decisions are based on their feelings about the product or service. Aim to make them excited about what you are offering and you will surely increase your sales. Design your promotional ads, sales letters, and web pages with emotional rewards. Use vibrant images that can make your prospect imagine how he would look like while enjoying the benefits of the product or service.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Are You Suited to a Property Career?

As there are a lot of different processes involved in the buying and renting of homes, there are lots of different kinds of jobs available from secretarial roles, to surveyor positions to branch management. This also means that it is possible to work up the career ladder or transfer your skills to other parts of the property industry. Although that sounds like there is a job for everybody, when you search property jobs and read the prerequisites, there are various skills and attributes that are required.Like most jobs, some skills can be learnt and developed over time where as some are more like personality traits, such as attention to detail and negotiation skills.One of the most basic skills required is, like most sectors nowadays, computer literacy. As well as having basic Internet, email and typing skills, it helps to be able to pick up computer programs quickly to learn in-house systems. Another basic skill that can be transferred is customer service. When people are dealing with their potential home or looking to rent out a property that they have put a lot of time and money into, they expect to deal with somebody who goes the extra mile for them. When people are dealing with such a major aspect of their life, it is more reassuring to deal with somebody who proves that they are reliable and dedicated to doing a good job. For some people, this comesnaturally and it is a skill that can be learnt and developed in other industries, but this is not the case for everybody.Negotiation skills also do not come easily to everybody and these are necessary for sales-based jobs in the property industry, such as sales managers and consultants and other negotiator jobs. Not all jobs in the industry are sales-driven and require a different set of skill sets. For example, there are administration-based roles that are more suited to people with excellent computer and customer service skills who can also organise and work well in a team but perhaps don't have the sales or industry experience to work in letting agent jobs for example, or any other roles in the industry.

Other roles in the property industry, such as property surveyors, require industry experience and specific training, so you wouldn't be able to slip into it from a completely unrelated previous job. One thing that all jobs in the property industry have in common is that you need to have the drive and determination to work hard and succeed. Some might argue that this is the most important attribute.As well as skills and experience, there are certain stresses and pressures that come with a career in the property industry. For example, people looking for a new home will often want to view properties at weekends or after their working day, so estate agents and letting agents need to be available outside of normal office hours. There is also the pressure of trying to make sales and negotiate the best deals whilst the country is still suffering financially and dealing with rejection. If you have been recently made redundant, just leaving education or simply feel like a change in career path, it may be worthwhile to search property jobs if you have the drive and determination as well as people skills and the ability to thrive under pressure.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Are You Using Your Sales Data Effectively?

So, you find yourself glancing over last month's sales figures and you're not too impressed. Well, we are in the worst recession since the 1920s; lower sales figures must be reflective of low consumer confidence, right? Wrong. The market may be down, but customers are still buying. What has changed is that they are more sophisticated and demanding in their buying habits than ever before.The range of purchasing options and product information available in this information age will not disappear along with the recession. The former is here to stay. So, lower prices? Sell more of a particular product? No. The key, particularly for smaller businesses, does not lie in attempting to increase quantity or slash prices to bolster sales; it lies in identifying the key drivers of sales. Enter predictive analytics.Predictive analytics, simply put, is a powerful mode of business intelligence that allows businesses to analyse the factors that maximise the probability of future product sales and use this information to make more viable business decisions. Analysing past sales figures is not of much help if one cannot determine how that relates to the future. Predictive analytics has the capability of building statistical models to determine the probability of future events. For instance, a regression model might describe projected monthly sales data in this way:SALES = 5,000 + 50(PRODUCT A*CUSTOMER B) - 20(PRODUCT B*CUSTOMER B)Let's put some real English behind the jargon:• 5,000: Refers to the minimum sales your business can be expected to make per month based on past trends.

• 50(PRODUCT A*CUSTOMER B): Illustrates that when 1 unit of Product A is sold to customer B, revenues rise by €50 each time.• -20(PRODUCT B*CUSTOMER B): However, for every unit of Product B sold to Customer B, revenues drop by €20 each time - showing an overall net loss of revenue in our equation due to the opportunity cost of selling Customer B the product that is in more demand by this segment, in this case Product A.Without the above regression analysis, businesses cannot pinpoint where the loss in revenues lie. Here, a loss in revenues would be due to the fact that we are selling the wrong product to the wrong customer. It is not simply a matter of overall sales. Without knowing the cause behind lower revenues, a manager might decide to increase the sales of Product B to Customer B, without knowing that the opportunity cost of fewer targeted sales in other products is what is actually hurting revenues.Ultimately, it is a mistake to make a blind attempt at increasing overall sales. Business owners must discriminate in the combination of product and customer segments targeted to determine how to maximise overall revenues. For many business owners, persistently lower sales figures means that identifying the root cause is critical in order to remedy the problem. Predictive analytics is the ideal tool to do this, and is one that business managers increasingly cannot avoid.

Friday, October 17, 2014

What to Discuss During a Sales Meeting

You've won the next role in your career! You're now a Sales Manager for first time. Congratulations!As you look at your Team and assess their strengths and weaknesses and plan out how you will work with each of them you are struck by the realization that very soon you will have to hold your first sales meeting. You think and reflect on your own experiences and begin to consider what should be in your Sales meeting.Yes you will look at numbers and talk about quotas and targets, but what else? How should you talk about the numbers?I would suggest that the following are essential items to running a successful sales meeting:1. Communicate: If there are messages from your Leader or Senior Management that need to be passed down to your Team, this is the perfect time to do it. Not only will all your team members be getting the information at the same time, but you will have the opportunity to address any questions or concerns and - at a minimum - take feedback back to your management.2. Review and Assess: This is your opportunity to look at the targets, achievement and forecasting of each salesperson. There are, of course, varying philosophies on how this should be done and what should be shared. Some Managers prefer not to share the individual results, but rather focus on the Team. Personally I believe that salespeople are not only competitive, but also very aware of the perceptions of their peers. As such, I tend to perform a 'stack ranking' of the Team - listing all of the individuals, their quotas, the attainment percentage, the commitment that they made to you on behalf of the organization and very clearly asking each member publicly to declare where they will land and with which clients. While this may seem a little like putting your salespeople on the spot, it also makes it clear that there are no favorites on your Team and that everyone needs to be prepared to declare not only to you - but to their peers. In essence it builds accountability not only to you, but also to the whole Team.

3. Helping each other: Often members of your team will have differing levels of experience with the organization. Opening the floor to seek help does a few things. Firstly if anyone can help or provide information on the items shared in #2, this provides a safe forum to do so. Secondly it makes it clear to the Team that you do not have all the answers. I always like to remind my Teams that if I am the smartest person in the room we have a serious problem because each person will bring unique knowledge and perspectives to challenges at hand and I will not - and should not - have all the answers. Thirdly this approach will enable the Team to truly form as a Team. Sales is unique in most business functions in that there are a group of individuals that are rewarded by their personal performance and not necessarily by a Team target. Using this approach will enable the team members to freely ask their peers for assistance and build their own personal credibility/brand by helping their colleagues.4. Educate and Practice: These two elements will change each meeting based upon what the organization has you working on. Perhaps you will be learning about a new product or promotions in the marketplace. Perhaps you will be looking at the profile of a certain competitor and learning how to handle objections related to that competitor. At other times you may want to use this time to 'sharpen the saw' - practicing sales interactions, working through opportunities, working on scripts that they may use in their day to day sales lives.5. Offer Help and Motivate: Every one of your sales meetings should end with this element. Offer your assistance publicly to everyone. Finish on a motivational note. Tell a story that is relevant to their challenges and how they could overcome that challenge.While there are many other elements that may come up in a Sales Meeting, theses are the Top 5 things that I build into every meeting and are a good start as you begin your sales management career.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Guidance to the New Sales Manager: Opportunity Identification

'Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.' Sun TsuIt's your first day in your new role. You've climbed out of the trenches, past the inside and outside sales roles to the point you wanted to be. Now you're a leader. Contrary to the belief of some organizations (and to the dismay of the newly promoted), being a superstar sales person does not automatically translate into being a superstar manager.Often sales managers are cast into the swift current of sales cycles, targets, client issues at the same time as trying to build personal credibility as a leader. And then it happens. You are expected to do a deal review/sales review/funnel review with members of your team.You know how you have operated in the past, how you have assessed your own opportunities and yet you find yourself in the unfamiliar territory of asking similar questions of your new Team. Herein lies the problem.Unless you picked it up from a sales leader that was particularly strong in sales process you may not be able to articulate to your Team how or why opportunity identification can be performed without appearing either as a micro manager who does not believe in their people or as a inflexible new manager that is 'picking' on members of her staff.Opportunity identification (and by extension opportunity reviews) are a necessary part of our role as sales leaders. Yet how do we approach them in the way that will enable our people to 'win first and then go to war'?Consider the following suggestions that I have used in many of my own transitions and taught to many new managers:1. Pick a methodology that you are comfortable with. In some cases organizations are following a set approach - MEDDIC, TAS, Consultative Selling, SPIN Selling, QBS, Sandler - if this is the case, be sure you are prepared to guide the conversation down the appropriate path. In other organizations the use of the CRM is paramount and the leader is given latitude to choose their own path. Regardless, have a system that you can consistently implement and execute with your Team Members.2. Share the methodology and expectations with your whole Team. Ensure that the Team knows why the opportunity identification process is important to them as well as to you. Make a clear linkage between following a set path and increased wins (and compensation) for the salesperson.3. Begin scheduling one on one reviews. In these reviews, focus on the Opportunity and the Client. Not on the salesperson. Failure to do this could set up a dangerous precedent in how you relate with your Team. You will have time for formal coaching/review meetings but during an opportunity review is not the right time to do this.4. Systematically work your way through the assessment questions you have developed (or inherited). Discuss each and allocate one of three ratings - yes, I know/can prove I know this; it's an unknown for me and I need to spend more time here; no, I do not know/cannot prove that I know. I prefer to allocate a score and deal with these items in absolutes. We'll look at some sample questions you may want to consider shortly.

5. At the end of the discussion/question and answer period you will have a 'score' for an opportunity and also a list of things your salesperson needs to check/find out before the final proposal is submitted. You may also find that you won't have any hope of winning a particular opportunity or that it is an education session for your client. In these cases you can make a recommendation to your leader to engage or not. Remember, if you win first and then go to war you will be victorious. Rushing to war (or the opportunity) without knowing all you can leads to defeat.6. Initially these may be difficult questions for you to ask your staff. You may feel uncomfortable poking into their opportunities and identifying shortcomings. However, it is far better for you and your staff member to do this collaboratively than for the salesperson to include a deal in their call for the month when they do not have all the information and you have not helped them determine what is missing. It is far better for our people to feel foolish with us than to wonder 'what happened' to the deal they were resting their month/quarter on.Now you're ready for the conversation with your sales team member. What do you need to ask to determine what is really going on and how you can help your Team member to close a specific deal? Yes you need to know about BANT - budget, authority, need, and timeline - but what else would be useful in determining if there is really an opportunity for you to win? In the years I've been working with sales people and training sales managers, I have used the following types of questions to determine the status/actions that need to be taken on an opportunity:1. Determine that BANT exists.
2. What is the compelling event that is pushing the client to act now (a deeper dive on Need)
3. Do we have supporters inside the client organization?
4. Is the person we are dealing with really the decision maker? (Deeper dive on authority)
5. Who are we competing against?
6. What is the competition's position in the account?
7. Have we analyzed the competitors vis a vis our solution?
8. Do we know the formal decision criteria?
9. Do we know the informal decision criteria?
10. Who are the influencers on the decision?
11. What is the risk to us of bidding/not bidding? (Is the solution new?)
12. Is this profitable business we want to win?
13. Do I have the internal support I need from my organization to win?These questions will lead you deeper into the opportunity so that you can assist your Team with better opportunity identification. After all, better identification leads to a better use of resources and ultimately winning business that you want to win.-----

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Acknowledge - Explore - Listen: Dealing With Facts And Coaching

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley (1894-1963).Too often we can see the sales leader that is unwilling or unable to face the facts - whether these are the facts on specific deals that salespeople are working on or facts relative to some tough conversations that need to take place with their team members.Just because we review opportunities with our sales people in some cases doing a partial review and often not holding our people accountable for progress on specific deals (really a 'surface scan') does not change the truth behind the conversations. Nor does it change the sales leader's own sense of hope (hope that a deal will land, hope that a salesperson is wrong about the quality of a deal).In fact, our unwillingness to accept the true facts - or worse adopt a position where we shoot the messenger or ignore the facts - does not encourage an environment of trust and acceptance where one can focus on reality and solving problems without dealing with political and emotional trauma that can create a physical manifestation in the Team.Clearly the answer to this is not to ignore the issues and problems - as Huxley states, facts are still there even if ignored. The answer is also not to bring overwhelming political and emotional force down on the salesperson dealing with the facts.Instead, consider this approach.If, when faced with facts that are irrefutable and at the same time damaging to our sales, we approached the salesperson from a position of collaboration what might occur? Is is possible that the salesperson might be open to having someone help with solving a problem?I would submit that in most cases this is true. Salespeople by their nature are competitive and like to win. If we, as leaders, can offer something that will help and enable these professionals to grow isn't it reasonable to assume that they would accept this assistance and willingly change their position/approach with a customer?At the very least the salesperson would enter into an open and honest dialogue with their leader to explain the situation and why an approach may or may not work. And that is the key to moving forward. Acknowledge the facts. Explore alternatives together. Listen to our people as they often can see elements that we cannot.If, after attempting this approach, you still feel like you are not getting the facts then a decision must be made. Either we personally enter the deal with the intent to bring clarity and accelerate a close or we investigate the approach/habits of the sales person.

I can recall one situation where I was coaching a Sales Executive through a deal that would close off several months of his quota. He had committed this deal to his organization yet something didn't seem right. The dates kept sliding and when I offered to assist in visiting the client to accelerate the sale the salesperson blocked at every turn. As we looked closer and closer at the deal, the structure, and most importantly the political alignment and support inside the clients organization, we discovered that this deal that was coming in 'any day' was not likely to come in for months.At this point we are faced with a few decisions. Firstly, do we act as other leaders have acted and ignore the facts and demand that the salesperson deliver the deal (a completely unrealistic expectation and completely ignoring the facts)? Secondly do we attack the individual for not understanding their account (and thereby alienating the salesperson)? Or thirdly do we approach this as a coachable moment and explain to the salesperson the impact of improper forecasting and show them the facts and obtain agreement on the necessary steps that the salesperson is willing to commit to to advance the deal?The inexperienced leader might opt for #1 - trying to show dominance yet not achieving anything except pushing the salesperson away. Or they may try #2 - accept the facts but personally attack the competence of the salesperson with a 'if you can't do it, then I will' approach. The result of this is that the salesperson will continue to rely in the leader in any difficult situation with a fatalistic feeling (no matter what I do or say my boss won't be happy and they will take this deal from me).However with option #3, real coaching, growth and learning can occur. Finally the truth can be acknowledged and the leader and salesperson can work together to further the deal.As Huxley states 'Facts do not cease to exist' regardless of how we and our organizations react to them. Instead of reacting or hiding from these facts, we should embrace them and treat this as a learning opportunity for the sales organization.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Six Steps To Building Your Sales Business Plan

The biggest problem many businesses face when it comes to developing their sales business plan, is that they don't do it. The only time most companies look at building any kind of business plan is when they need to find investment capital or talk to their banker. Building a sales budget is not a plan. It,s a goal. If you want to achieve that goal, you need a plan with the strategies and tactics you will use to achieve it.Building Your Sales Business Plan To Hit The NumberUsually a sales manager is given the number. What they must produce for the year, each quarter, and each month. The goals have been established. Now it's up to the manager to develop a sales business plan to achieve those goals. Here are six steps to help build your sales business plan:1. Establish The Sales Planning TeamThe first step in developing your sales business plan is to establish a team. There are multiple stakeholders in achieving your sales goals, so get them involved. This team could consist of individuals from sales, marketing, accounting, operations, and service. The goal of establishing your sales plan team is to involve people in the process to gain their support. The secondary reason for the team is to spread the workload and gain additional insight.Once the team has been selected, schedule your first sales plan development meeting to outline the task ahead. In that meeting you should be prepared to explain what will be involved in the sales business plan, the task that must be completed and set major and minor miles stones for the project. The last thing that you want to do in this meeting is assign individuals to each of the task.2. Use Historical Data As The Base For Sales Business PlanOne good thing about someone presenting you with a target number, is that you don't have to come up with one. You don't have to worry about establishing goals and target, because they were just handed to you. Your sales business plan is your methodology to achieving those goals.The best indicator to use as a base line for how you will produce the desired results is to look to the past. What did you do last year? As an example, last year your team produced $1.5 million in sales. You sold $800,000.00 of product A, $400,000.00 of product B, and $300,000.00 of Product C. That's the base line. Now you should determine how many sales are required, in each product group to hit your new number. If total number of sales for product A were 450, that tells you the average sale was approximately $1,777.78. You want to do this for each of your product lines. Once thats completed you will need to gather sales information on:
How many leads did it take to make each sale?
How may presentations did it take to make a sale?
You want to ask these questions and more to ensure that you have a good base line of what you did and how you did it through the entire sales process. If the number is the same as last year, and it never is, you now know what it takes to hit the number. If the new number represents a 15% increase, just up everything by 15%.This is an important part of the sales planning process. Knowing your key sales indicators and ratios tells you what you need so you can plan accordingly. If possible key indicators like: lead to appointments, appointments to presentations, presentations to proposals and presentation to close. After that, you should categorize your sales. One way is product, territory, and salesperson. Now that you have a good idea of what you need to do to establish your baseline numbers, who will you assign to this task?

3. Know Who Your Ideal CustomerWe call this customer profiling. If you have a new business, profiling your ideal customer is based on a hunch and market research. You're guessing. If you've been selling for a while, all you need to do in look at your clients and determine what sets them apart from the rest of the world.To develop a solid sales business plan you must make sure you are going after the right targets. Make a list of your top clients and determine:
Where are they located geographically?
What industry are they in?
What is their size by employees or annual sales?
What is their Standard Industrial Classification, (SIC) code?
How was the lead developed?
Who was the decision maker?
What department is the decision maker in?
Once you know what your ideal customer looks like, you can describe it and add it to your sales business plan.4. Make Sure Your Market Will Support Your PlanOnce you know your key indicators. You understand the type of customer you are looking for, It's time to make sure your market will support your needs. How many of your ideal customers are in your market area? On of the best ways to find this out is to go to any list company and ask for a count base on industry and geography. Now you can assign this task to a member of your sales business plan planning team.5. Develop Your Marketing StrategyIn step two, you determined how many prospects you need to hit the number. In step three, you determined who your prospects are. In step four you found out that your market can support the number. So how are you going to get to them? As a rule of thumb you should have five sources for developing new business. As an example her are five that you may want to look at:
Your sales people
The internet
Trade or local shows
Direct mail
A good way to evaluate this is to go back to your customer profile and see where your existing customers came from. One important note that I want to make here, is that if you are not generating business from your web site. You need to rethink your marketing plan.Don't Forget the Importance Of The InternetFor years businesses invested thousands of dollars a year on yellow page and directory adds. Why, because that"s where people went when they wanted to find something. Today, if someone is looking for your services, the first place they will go is to the internet. It's not enough to have a web site. You need an active SEO program that allows you to reach those that can use your services.6. Evaluating Your Sales TeamIs your sales team capable of delivering? This is always a bib question for sales leaders. When you build your sales business plan, look at the skills required for your salespeople to execute that plan. Once you have defined the skills needed and the tactics they will need. Its time to get the team ready.You need to develop a training structure. This is another part of the planning process that gets left behind. How do I make sure that my team is ready to play? You do it by developing an ongoing training program. In your sales business plan, have a section that provides a training schedule for the year. This insures that your team is ready to go.Building a sales business plan is more that just having a goal. It means you have developed the strategies and tactics to achieve that goal.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

3 Critical "I's" of Business

In today's world of sales we speak in and out daily on how to increase sales along with our sales teams and how to increase market shares?One word which syncs all of us... its Distribution for any product to succeed!To make it simpler on Distribution, the key factors involved are as follows while appointing distributors, super-stockists etc.The most important critical factors are 3 "I"s...Investment, Infrastructure & InvolvementInvestment - The first important "I" determines the health of the business, the distributor needs to be financially sound (excellent assets most importantly liquid cash and own funds and not borrowed funds from bank and private investments) and needed to have a long term outlook of the organization to have better yield in reaping benefits, mean (ROI) Return On Investment. They need to be more convinced in not to diversify with different organizations which filters is investment in order to have focused funds to us.Infrastructure - The second most "I" determines proper coordination of all human resources (Staff & Field force) and processes and operations (Warehouse - Proper storage of products & Vehicles - to connect deliveries in time for retailers) necessary to ensure and manage profitable growth. Regardless of the size of the business Infrastructure facilitates our business and services to width & depth of the markets in a way to a positive consumer experience resulting in increased sales. It also drives economies of scale.

Involvement - The third "I" determines the effort and relationship built over the years in business along with retailers etc. The geographical knowledge and the experience of personal involvement play a very vital role informally & formally over competing products to understand in terms of influencing them on reaching products to retailers and also knowing the depth of retailer's relationship with his consumers to tap accordingly.These three are different prospective on the role of Investment, Infrastructure & Involvement and are interdependent in en cashing the business prospective of the assigned territories for the distributor/stockist in expanding in accordance with the organization's priority and thereby expanding larger canvas of operation.The above 3 critical "I's needs to be measured & checked periodically to keep the health of the distributor by the organizations representatives and always keep motivated at all times along with the back-up in the ordnance of failure of any one of them.These checks would ensure to gain better on leadership in distribution expansion of retail outlets leading to gain market shares consistently.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

10 Fool Proof Ways to Murder Sales Performance in Your Company

Are you serious about killing sales performance in your organization? Well, if you've been googling for books and tips on that subject don't bother. I did a search to find out if a sales murder mystery has been written before. You're right - I did not find one. What I did find was countless books written on how to improve sales performance, and really just about everybody knows how to do that. So I decided to get real and do a little sleuthing myself to find the top 10 fool proof methods for killing your sales team's performance. Here's the scoop but keep it to yourself:Killer Tip #1: Don't make the deadly mistake of setting specific measurable sales goals for anyone on your sales teamAnd if you've committed that crime, here's the cover up. Don't communicate it, or get buy in or put it down in writing! If your sales people insist, pull out a number that sounds incredulous and tell them it's a stretch goal, so you can keep them on their toes.Killer Tip #2: Always pretend you have the upper hand and know more than THEMYou don't need to get real and show your team how to do it or strategize or give them tools. That's just "book talk" from the millions of sales gurus out there. Your team will do way better and thank you if you just let them just sweat it out. Set firm deadlines so no one can escape and let them know you're in control.Killer Tip #3: You'll get busted if you get in the trenches with your sales teamThey're grown-ups and can do without your pep talks. They're looking for 3 specific things from you at weekly sales meetings: (a) an excruciating minute by minute account of sales activity (b) the math on their conversion numbers (c) the number of Nos it's going to take for them to master the art of accepting rejection.Killer Tip #4: Get them believing in the power of the human brainThe best scientists in the world have proven that even the fastest computer cannot measure up to the immense potential of the human brain. And to think that we only use 10% of our brain's hard drive. That's plenty of space to keep track of pipelines, prospects, and clients for crying out loud! Why bog your team down with expensive CRMs for that? For those on your team, who just can't deal with instant data retrieval, get them to set up multiple spreadsheets or a paper piling system on their desk.

Killer Tip #5: Keep the sales process a complete mysteryLet your sales people do some figuring out. After all, they have to earn their commission. You want a survivor on your team, someone who can jump through the hoops and stay on task. If the sales process were that simple, everybody would be doing it.Killer Tip # 6: Ignore all that hocus-pocus you've been hearingProduct training, sales training, checklists etc. to increase average dollar sale, seriously? It's simply a trap; a set up to get your team to sell more? Stay away from making that blunder.Killer Tip #7: Free your sales team from the shackles of estimatesLet their creative juices flow. Let them figure out what numbers it will take to get a customer to say yes. Let them go the extra mile: discounting, price wars, fee waiving, 360 day credit terms -whatever it takes!Killer Tip #8: Make sure your team has no clue that you're thankfulIf your sales rep lands a job, be sure to never acknowledge that, especially in a team meeting. Keep it simple; pretend it's no big deal at all. Instead, remind them constantly of that stretch goal. They need to be thinking of the next big prospect; when and what it'll take to land a new account.Killer Tip #9: Play hard to getGet your team on board with the idea of playing hard to get with customers. Discourage them from contacting customers that they haven't talked to in years or thanking them for their business. It's a complete waste of time! You've already got them! Customers know who you are and will come back. Get the sales team in pursuit of brand new hot leads.Killer Tip #10: So what do I do next?Congratulations, if you're already implementing these. If not, then pick 2 that you will apply in the next week. Nothing happens without action.I wish you the very best in your endeavor. And yes, if any of these ways, sounds rusty, doesn't despair and give up because there's always another way. Let me in on your specific situation and we'll custom design one for your team specifically.Au revoir.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Key Elements of Designing a Solid Sales Plan

Strategy is the key to sustainable growth. On your journey toward building a strategy for sales perfection it is essential to understand the process and chart a course for the coming years. You have completed three steps in the process, you have 1) analyzed the current state of affairs in your company, where we are now. You have 2) used this information to formulate the thought process for a clear strategic direction. And you have 3) used this information to develop the framework for you coherent set of strategies or the foundation to building the strategy for sales perfection.The essential elements of the business plan are defined below. The business plan is not a book but a summary and definition of what needs to be completed to meet the company objectives:Executive summary:Your executive summary is a snapshot of your business plan as a whole and touches on your company profile and goals. This section offers tips on what to include and how to keep it brief and succinct.The Mission Statement- This explains what your business is all about. It should be between several sentences and a paragraph.Company Information - Include a short statement that covers when your business was formed, the names of the founders and their roles, your number of employees, and your business location(s).Growth Highlights - Include examples of company growth, such as financial or market highlights (for example, "XYZ Firm increased profit margins and market share year-over-year since its foundation). Graphs and charts can be helpful in this section.

Your Products/Services - Briefly describe the products or services you provide.Financial Information - If you are seeking financing, include any information about your current bank and investors.Summarize Future Plans - Explain where you would like to take your business.Submit a detailed or broad perspective of the market in the business plan. Depending on your audience will determine the level of detail needed. No one is a better authority on your business that you. Communicate that knowledge to insure that your audience will have a high degree of comfort in the existing market and the impact your plan will have on shaping the market as well as the culture of your organization.Define the specific strategy and desired outcome of the sales team. From a high level, explain the business objective and desired result from the sales team. Explanations can be individualized, they can be generic, they can be regionalized, and they can contain product initiatives or a combination of all of these. Remember, the strategy is the definition of what needs to be accomplished, changed, altered and improved upon to meet specific revenue and profit objectives. Illustrate the specific needs of the organization from a manpower standpoint and how you plan to meet these objectives especially if it requires additional staffing and management requirements.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Peek Inside Your Clients Head

A few years ago, I was visiting a potential client. The client wanted to outsource a sales training program that was different from the "Basic Sales Techniques" training used over the years. He wanted something new and different; a training program that the sales organization would find progressive and something that added more creative resources and value for the time spent. I asked how he knew the last training program they used did a good job for them? The client said that after about six months the results began to emerge. He could see it in the increased market penetration and number of sales orders received, yet over the past quarter sales began to slow again. I was curious how many times the sales people had to perform well before he was convinced that the training program was successful. The client stated again that it took about six months of activity to prove the value of the training program. I also asked the client what was important to him about the creative resources and value a new training program would add. He said that the sales organization needed more relationship-oriented principles that were not so technique oriented. Something that built trust and gave the sales people more knowledge about how to establish a strategy around approaching the customer.I now received enough information to know exactly how to close the engagement. You may be asking what specifically did I receive and how did I identify the unconscious processes needed to close the engagement.There are three important behavior patterns identified: 1.) Decision Strategy; 2.) Convincer Strategy and 3.) Motivating Words or Criteria.1. Decision Strategy [This category determines how a person gathers information to make a decision. The person's information gathering process may be to See, Hear, Read, or Do.]I asked, "how he knew the last training program they use ddid a good job for them". The client said thatafter about six months the results began to emerge. He could see it in the increased market penetration and number of sales orders received.The italicized words above reveals the Decision Strategy "formula". You can add any context appropriate as long as the formula is used. Notice that the context is "the last training program they used". The Decision Strategy is bolded and underlined. The clients Decision Strategy was Visual and I will show you how I used this information in a moment.2. Convincer Strategy [People are convinced and moved to action concerning information based on one of the following processes: Number of Examples; Automatic; Consistent and Period of Time.]I was curious how many times the sales people had to perform well before he was convinced that the training program was successful. The client stated again that it took about six months of activity to prove the value of the training program. The Convincer Strategy formula is italicized and again, you may use any context that would be appropriate. In this case, the context was "the training program". The clients' Convincer Strategy is shown in the bolded and underlined words. The client's Convincer Strategy was six months.

3. Motivating Words or Criteria [Provides information about how a person is motivated or could be motivated in a particular context. These words represent a person's core values in a particular context.]I also asked the client what was important to him about the creative resources and the value a new program would add. He said that the sales organization needed more relationship oriented principles that were not so technique oriented, something that built trust and gave the people more knowledge about establishing a strategy around how they approached the customer.The Motivating Words formula is italicized and again, you my use any context that would be appropriate. In this case, the context was "the creative resources and value a new training program would add". The clients' Motivating Words are shown in the bolded and underlined statements. The client's Motivating Words were, needed more relationship oriented principles; not so technique oriented; that built trust and gave the people more knowledge about establishing a strategy around how they approached the customer.Notice how the unconscious processes and Motivating Words are used in the following statement to the client. "Mr. Client, may I show you just how our training programs create more relationship oriented principles for each sales professional without using those technique oriented approaches. When you observe the result of our training programs, it is very easy to see sales organizations building trust and establishing strategies around how they approached the customers. By the completion of the training programs, you may even be pleasantly surprised by the next six months of results. I am curious, Mr. client, at what level would you like to see your sales increase or percent of market penetration change over the next six months?By using your clients internal and unconscious strategies and the actual words and phrases, which cause them to self motivate, you are creating a deeper level of rapport and trust and most importantly giving your client what they want. These alignment processes are a "systems" way of showing total respect to your client. With the knowledge of how to "peek inside your clients head", your ability to serve respectfully becomes a natural business principle.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Hidden Advantages of Sales Management Training

There are several advantages to sales management training. People who undergo this type of training are able to identify and reach their goals much more quickly and efficiently. Individuals who focus on technique as well as mindset are able to focus their energies on making positive progress consistently. Sales management training will help people who take it to become more efficient with managing their time, resources, and increase their team's effectiveness. Having the availability of qualified coaches who know which techniques are most applicable in almost every situation can also be beneficial. Individuals will also be able to communicate better with each other because they understand the art of selling does not stop with just products.People who can maximize their skills properly are able to reach goals effectively. When people are able achieve their goals they are more satisfied and productive. People who have an understanding of their ability to make a difference with their team often find it easier to climb the corporate ladder. Individuals who understand the importance of motivating others while they are climbing the ladder themselves will be beneficial to the business as a whole.Sales leaders who focus on sales productivity as well as mindset are able to expand the profitability of an organization greatly. When profitability is expanded everyone involved in an organization benefits. People on a management team have to understand how to set up a sales process, motivate people, and increase effectiveness as well as their time properly. Passing along the information that every minute matters is essential for continual growth in any corporate setting. When professionals understand the value of their time they will be able to prioritize tasks which need their attention. When people are able to give proper priority to sales and service related tasks, customers have a better overall experience.

Working with a qualified sales coach is another benefit of the sales management training program. When sales leaders understand the value of having a mentor, they are more likely to ask for guidance on how to improve on their own independent skills. When every person is committed to improving their own skills, technique, and effectiveness, the efficiency of a business will be tremendously increased. When a business is running smoothly, it is easier to meet the needs of their customers and have high retention rates.Sales leaders and sales managers who go through sales management training understand how to communicate with their team much more effectively to influence better results. Once people understand how to communicate with each other in an effective manner, they will be able to implement proven sales strategies for better performance. When proper sales strategies are implemented, sales teams are more effective, sales go up, and the company increases revenues. When salespeople are working together under the guidance of a sales manager that has been trained in an effective sales management method, they will be begin to experience new levels of success.There are numerous benefits of sales management training. Every person attending Sandler sales management training will be able to go back into their workplace and maximize their own skills thereby benefiting their employer greatly.