Facts Tell, Stories Sell June 12, 2013Posted by Tom Schaber in 1.
Tags: Closing, Fun, Selling, Stories, Story Telling
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I remember my first selling position at a pharmaceutical company in 1973. They were data crazy! We spent two weeks at their corporate offices learning every detail of the products. By the end of the two weeks I was having nightmares about ways to treat vaginal infections and obesity. So, what do you think they wanted us to do when we got in front of a doctor? Yep, give data and more data and more data. Pile it on baby! Facts about the product were what they wanted the physicians to believe so they would write prescriptions for their products. On the surface of it I guess it made sense. If someone heard the word Vanobid enough times they would think of it when prescribing. No wonder I got fired after 18 months!
No one ever taught me that stories “sell” until I got into a higher stakes sales position and later a sales management position. A person (prospect) making a seven-figure income does not want to listen to a yokel talk about the dimensions of a product or how it’s made. Okay, sure they want to know that stuff but they want that information romanced. Like this maybe. Years ago I was talking with a surgeon and he said, “I gotta tell ya, your product is no different from the other guy’s product.” (Wrong scalpel breath!) I responded with, “If I had a buck for every time I heard that I’d be driving your car. I know why you said that. It looks the same, feels the same, and probably smells the same. We found out something really interesting though when a couple of our engineer nerds starting testing the material for strength. Imagine two guys sitting at the bench munching on some awful looking health food trying to pull the material apart using every tool available. Can you picture that? Well, the material resisted every attempt to rip it apart. That started the marketing nerds thinking about how that characteristic could help you during surgery…..”
That sale closed! The surgeon was intrigued by the story. He also loved the reference to “nerds” because he was one going through med school, a fact that he had previously mentioned to me. What if I had responded with, “well doctor, our product really is different and here’s why….” Guess what? Every other nimrod trying to sell similar products is saying the same thing! That approach does not get the job done-consistently. The facts approach does not create spark. It leaves people yawning and looking at their watch, wondering when the march of factoids will be over.
I gave a talk not long ago to a group of people struggling with alcoholism, a disease I am very familiar with. I did not go down the factoid highway although Lord knows there are enough of those to wile away the hours. I told several stories of other ex-sots including my own, a tale which is particularly unhinged. Am I the second coming of Dr. Bob? Not remotely close. But the people in the room were nodding because the stories were similar to theirs plus they could identify with them. They were not alone. If some other guy could beat alcohol they could too.
Become story tellers! Communication is more interesting and people remember stories.
Liquor’s Trail of Mayhem June 4, 2013Posted by Tom Schaber in 1.
Tags: AA, Addiction, Alcohol Treatment, Alcoholism
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You’ve seen the insurance ad with the guy who acts as “mayhem” re-enacting the effects of poor insurance coverage. There is another kind of mayhem that results from liquor addiction or what results from poor discipline coverage.
For 32 months I have been dry, living without my favorite liquid-Beefeater’s gin. I also participate in an AA group every Wednesday night with 20 some guys who battle the same addiction. We have men who have been sober for 40 years and others who are one month into the sober trail. I doubt whether even one of them arrives at the meeting without the medallion signifying the length of their sobriety.
The stories I hear are no different than the ones other people hear at other meetings. They all have one thing in common-addiction to and the abuse of liquor leaving a horrendous trail of mayhem where families are ripped apart, lives are ruined or lost, jobs are lost, and the list could literally go on for pages. One of our very best friend’s son is currently leaving his own trail of suspended licenses, accidents, failed treatments etc. His addiction, mine, and I suspect most people’s addictions have one thing in common-arrogance. It is the one word that surfaces most often during AA meetings.
Arrogance and the false sense of control people “think” they have over their lives are the first steps leading to whatever the “tragedy of the day” is for the alcoholic. Those are usually followed by lies, which alcoholics do better than any other human being on the planet. The solution is both simple and complex-if that’s possible. Admitting that you have a problem, being honest about your inability to control the addiction, and asking a Higher Power for help open the doors to a much better life, one that is completely free of liquor mayhem.
I do not claim to have all the answers to sobriety. In fact it’s laughable to even remark about that. I consider myself in the midst of recovery that will last the rest of my life and as AA members state-one day at a time. It’s stupid to think about Wednesday when I’m still in the middle of Tuesday.
Alcoholism is one nasty disease. If you think that you might be on the fringe of addiction take action rather than get involved in a life changing event that could wreck the rest of your life.
Memorial Day May 28, 2013Posted by Tom Schaber in 1.
Tags: Freedom, Memorial Day, Military, Soldiers, war
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Memories of horrendous events rarely fade. Example. The day that I stopped participating in the Vietnam war was the day I saw a Vietnamese Captain walk up to his counterpart in the North Vietnamese regular army and hand that person $5,000 in U.S. currency. I happen to be present (100 yards to the rear) for that exchange. I asked the Captain what just went down. He said, “me want to protect people from war.” Translated this meant that he paid off the NV person to not carry the war forward into his district.
Things changed for me that day. I was planning to make a career of the Army. I liked the discipline, the camaraderie, the tactics, the technology, even the danger of the military. Talk about viewing life through rose-colored glasses! Of course in those days I also saw a reason for the U.S. to be in Vietnam and I thought we were ultimately helping to keep a “people” free. Very noble of me don’t you think? What happened that day was one of those life-lessons you get free of charge. The money exchange was how the war operated, at least in the town of BoDuc on the Cambodian border.
The memory came back to me when I read several emails from men I trained with in 1969. We graduated from OCS as second lieutenants; we were naive and thought none of us would ever die or be wounded. Then I read the names of those who did die during combat, one of whom my wife and I introduced to her best friend in late 1969. They fell in love. One wonders how that might have worked out.
I was proud to serve in the Army from 1968 to 1971 in spite of the fact that I was sent there by politicians who were FUBARed. Brother were they ever! I came home physically unscathed and mentally about 80% OK. The bad dreams lasted a while but thanks to the nearness of my wife they went away. To all the men who served in that god forsaken hell hole of a country-thanks for your commitment. To the families of all those who died the memory of your fathers, sons, and spouses lives on with all of us. They won’t be forgotten.
To all soldiers in all the wars who have served and returned and to those who never returned-thank you for your service. Your commitment has kept the United States strong.
Think About Your Bad Habits-Now! February 25, 2013Posted by Tom Schaber in 1.
Tags: Clots, EMT, ER, Life and Death, Stroke, Stroke Treatment, tPA
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On February 13, 2013 my wife and I were given the scare of our lives. We were sitting across from each other at our kitchen table. My spouse was addressing Valentine Day cards to our grandchildren. Cath seemed confused. She kept saying that she only had three envelopes and needed four. She finally got that sorted out (she always had four) when she asked me how to spell one of our grandkids’ names. My antennae went up. I told her and then watched as she tried to write the name. It was a mess!
She put down her pen, looked at me and slurred, “I can’t do this”. Eight minutes passed from the time she was shuffling envelopes. I got up and said we’re going to the hospital to which my wife said, “I need my socks”. (Only a woman would say that!) I thought about it and said, “no, I’m going to call 911. Sit down and do not move.” The ambulance arrived seven minutes later. I knew what the problem was but the EMT confirmed it-my wife was having a stroke. She is 67 years old.
The first thing I thought of was that 67-year-old people do not have strokes. If my wife was thinking clearly I’m pretty sure she would have thought the same thing. The ambulance arrived at the ER within 30 minutes of when the first symptoms appeared. At 50 minutes the neuro physician asked my wife and I if we were familiar with tPA-Tissue Plasminogen Activator. I was because of my years in the medical sales world. Bottom line is that the drug (tPA) was in my wife’s blood stream within 60 minutes of her first symptoms. In order for the drug to work effectively it has to be in the stoke victim’s bloodstream with three plus hours. Basically the sooner the better.
I won’t bore you with the details of the next 4 days. The good news was that my wife walked out of the hospital on February 17th, 2013 with hardly any sign that she had a stroke. No slurred speech, droopy mouth, limp, weakness. Other than large amounts of fatigue and a slower pace to her activity Cath resumed life. The best quote of the week came from her neuro doc who said, “You are a poster child for tPA”. He also said in a less friendly manner, “you’ll be signing your death certificate if you ever look at another cigarette”!
My wife and I figure that God gave her a death-defying wake up call. He gave her a second chance to spend more time with her family and friends, among several thousand other life events. The message, for sure, was clear-lose the habits that brought you to the brink of the RIP sign. Stop smoking and exercise. Thanks Big Guy, I owe You one.
When Are We Going To Grow!!!!! February 12, 2013Posted by Tom Schaber in Business Owner, Consulting, Firing, Hiring, Leadership, Sales, Sales Issues, Sales Management, Sales Process, Small Business.
Tags: blogging, business, marketing
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I don’t know about you but I believe that the title of this post will be repeated thousands of times this week! I also believe that the size of the company will not make a difference as to whether that line is used. It might sound different, like maybe “our sales are flat” or “we are not consistent, one month we’re up the next month flat…”. Per usual this has a lot to do with sales or the lack thereof.
Sales is kind of funny. You own a company or are the CEO of the company and you make the assumption that the sales organization is in decent shape. The VP of sales or sales manager seems to know what they’re doing. He or she has been in the industry and/or with the company for a number of years and growth has been OK. If the company is smaller then the owner manages the salespeople he or she inherited. Maybe the owner has even hired several sales reps and things have moved along decently. Regardless of the situation the sales are flat lining.
So, what do you do? For sure one thing not to do is panic and jump into drastic changes. Oh brother, that happens a lot. Why? Because whomever has the power needs to look like they are doing something about the problem. Like my battalion commander once said to me after I had royally screwed up during a people problem I witnessed. He delivered his advice loudly enough so brigade headquarters heard it “take action even if it’s not the right action”. Good advice but will the advice work for the leader? Not necessarily if the actions are drastic. The theory that ”for every action there is a reaction” applies. The more drastic the action the more emotional and haphazard the reaction.
K.I.S.S. Do you have the right salesperson or salespeople? Do they really know how to sell? Are they seeing the right people? Do they have a territory plan? Are they doing the right sales behaviors? Do they have a sales process? How are they being managed? Are they mentally and emotionally tough?
There are many questions within those questions that need answers but the answers are available if the owner/CEO/leader pursues the answers in a constructive and organized manner. And each of those questions can be fixed if they are broken.
Hiring Your First Sales Rep February 7, 2013Posted by Tom Schaber in Business Owner, Consulting, Hiring, Leadership, Prospecting, Sales, Sales Issues, Sales Management, Small Business.
Tags: Achievement, Business Owner, Coaching, Humor. Sales Management, Leadership, Sales Process, small business owner
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This is one of those frustrating events that drive small business owners nuts! Picture this. You own a company and you are the main salesperson. Of course you also do the books, clean the bathroom, take orders and anything else that keeps the company moving forward. And you have had it! Your doctor says that another year of this and you’ll be pushing up daisies. Your wife and kids would like to see you more often than Xmas, New Years, and major holidays.
So you decide to take the leap. You’ve never hired a salesperson before so where do you start? Part of this decision depends on the type of industry and product(s) you have. Do you get an order from a customer and hardly ever see them again? Do you get an order and the process demands constant follow-up on that order and future ones? Should the rep have X number of years of sale experience and/or experience in the industry? Is the sale technical? What can you afford? Do you provide a salary and commission or commission only?
As a sales manager I routinely hired people but it was still challenging to find the right people. One of the problems is that owners don’t prepare for the hiring process. It’s like the thought process from I’m overworked to I need a rep to hiring happens over a two-week period. Don’t rush into hiring even though your brain is screaming at you to get someone on board.
I’d look at the these as a to-do list:
- What are the qualities that make you successful as a salesperson?
- What do your customers expect from the person representing your company?
- Research comp plans in your industry.
- Should you hire the highest quality rep for the money or hire one that has experience in your industry?
- Age has a way of fine tuning skill sets. Should you hire someone in their 30′s or 40′s or go after the mid-twenty rep?
- Prepare how you want to interview candidates.
- Document what you will need in order for the rep to be prepared to sell.
One final bit of wisdom. Never just settle for anyone because you’re flat-out tired and bored with the process. If you hire someone because you want to get it done that rep will not last more than 3 months.
CSR 8: Prospects Won’t Buy Unless There is An Emotional Need! October 26, 2011Posted by Tom Schaber in Cold Calling, Prospecting, Sales, Sales Issues, Sales Management, Sales Process.
Tags: Buyer's Needs, Emotions, Needs, Selling Basics
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This no doubt sounds like an over simplification but I’ve witnessed too many sales calls (many of them recently) where salespeople don’t understand this statement. Picture this. You are an avid golfer (defined as someone who plays 2-3 times per week with a handicap of 9) and you have just walked into a store specializing in golf equipment. You say in an excited voice to the salesperson who just walked up to you, “Hi, I need a new driver and I mean I need a new one in the worst way.” The sales dolt says to you, “Come on back with me I have just the driver for you and it’s cheap”.
What the hell is wrong with the sales dolt? In short he fails to comprehend the intensity of the need that you have for a new driver. There is pure unadulterated emotion oozing out of your mouth. One could almost see the weight of the emotion and the need! Our positively dull-minded salesperson only sees a potential sale of a driver; he never thinks even for a moment that there might be something really irritating that’s bothering the prospect. On top of that the sales dolt says c’mon I’ll fix you up with a low-budget club!
Do you know how many times this is played out in every industry by thousands and thousands of salespeople? The sales gods are bent over retching their disgust! PROSPECTS BUY FOR EMOTIONAL REASONS. Who knows what those emotional reasons are? Sometimes even the buyer isn’t completely sure of what those reasons are. You can look at practically every product on the market and find some emotional reason why it appeals to specific buyers. Picture this #2. When I buy a yellow lined pad I only want one specific kind. Know why? Because it tears evenly at the top. I hate pads where there are scraps still attached to the top of the pad after the tear. As insane as that is it is an emotional need.
Suffice to say there are many levels of emotional need. The golfer described above has lost 3 strokes off his handicap because he’s begun to slice every tee shot. (Along with being emotional the golfer is dumb because it isn’t the club that’s the problem.) A buyer at a two billion dollar company bought the wrong color of raw materials which threw off production by three weeks. His emotional need? He loses his job if it happens again.
Tip: When you hear a prospect say something like “We’ve been looking for someone to provide packaging for a new product line we’re introducing” don’t glide by that statement with a dumb ass statement like “Well you’re talking to the right person”. Don’t ever assume that you have all the information because nine times out of ten there is a hidden pearl of emotion that is driving the prospect.
Just for the sake of really believing this go back to several people who recently bought whatever you sell. Ask them if there was something else driving them to buy your product, determine if there was something emotional driving the process.
CSR Number 7: The Most Important Job A Sales Manager Does? October 16, 2011Posted by Tom Schaber in Business Owner, Leadership, Prospecting, Sales, Sales Issues, Sales Management, Sales Process.
Tags: Managing Salespeople, Sales Management, Sales Skills, Sales Success, Sales Techniques
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This should probably be on my tombstone so that when people stumble upon it they’ll be forced to ponder the meaning of life and what a sales manager should do with their time. Sales managers can be a dull lot. When promoted from whatever they were doing-assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the president, worst salesperson, best salesperson-they sit in their new office and think wow, this is way cool! And is that an admin assistant I see out there? This is really getting better!!
Poor dumb clutz! Can you imagine how many managers there are that don’t have a clue how to answer the basic question-what is my role? Ah, I’m guessing somewhere in the vicinity of half. Ok, here’s the answer. Job number one for a sales manager is develop the skills of your salespeople. That’s it! If it’s Wednesday in Omaha and you’re traveling with Sam you had better focus on whether this cobber understands the mechanics of selling. And if he doesn’t then your job is to mentor Sam on selling skills.
This is not as easy as it sounds. Where do you start this process? How do you tell ole Sam that maybe he should back off the toothy grin, the break cartilage hand shake, and the latest one-liner about Nebraska football? Let’s face facts, Sam is on the brink of being a sales statistic. He’s getting by only by the thinnest of margins. Moving Sam from social butterfly to skilled sales professional requires base knowledge on specific techniques that apply to specific parts of the sales call. These are repeatable techniques, which means that the sales call on Wednesday in Omaha will be similar to the one made in Lincoln on Thursday. How simple is this? So simple that most managers don’t get it.
This is where I decide whether the post is going to have a 1,500 word count or 550 word count. I’ll stick with the latter. Regardless of whether you’re on day two of your management career or day five hundred you need to dissect the sales process for your company and your product. How do you start the sales call to a new prospect? How do you start the call to a regular customer? How do you probe for needs? How do you discover if there are multiple decision makers? How do you disqualify prospects? How do you cross sell? Wanna make a bet that you can break down the sales process into at least 50 or more components?
Here’s another way to look at this? Hasn’t your VP of manufacturing broken down the manufacturing process into definable steps? I guarantee that he or she has. Your mission as a sales manager is to do the same thing for how your product gets sold. Once that is defined then you can create the techniques to use during each step of the sales process and then make sure your salespeople use these techniques on their sales calls. If all of that sounds like a monumentally difficult task then ask for your sales job back.
CSR Number 6: Know What Your Closing Rate Is! October 6, 2011Posted by Tom Schaber in Leadership, Prospecting, Sales, Sales Issues, Sales Management, Sales Process.
Tags: Apps, Increased Income, Sales Performance, Statistics
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To me, if you have no idea what your closing rate is how do you know if you’re successful? Am I missing something here? Picture this. I’m your sales manager. You come strolling into my office and tell me that you closed the Larson deal for $125K. You’re excited because not only did you close a deal but you got a nice $5K commission check. Whoopdeedoo! I’m sitting there thinking to myself Big Frigging Deal! So What? Of course being the consummate professional and a manager with a semblance of a heart I don’t want to blow all your enthusiasm out of the water so I say congratulations, well done!
Underneath though I’m wondering about a few things:
- How many sales calls have you been on in X amount of time?
- How many closes do you now have YTD?
- What percentage of your sales calls turn into business?
- How many sales calls does it take on the same prospect before business is closed?
- How near to making target are you in terms of dollars and percentage?
- How many closes do you need for the fiscal year?
Sales is not completely a numbers game but certainly success on a continued basis has a lot to do with repeatable processes. Statistics are part of that. Why does the NFL have a combine in the Spring to evaluate college players? Baseball coaches evaluate potential fielders based on 5 key tools. There are statistics woven into both these sport situations. So why do salespeople blithely wander through their lives hardly ever thinking of a closing rate? Chances are pretty good that no one ever taught them the value of ratios. Nor have salespeople figured out that making significant money depends on performance, which will always tie into how many appointments, presentations, phone calls, connects, closes, average revenue of each close etc. are accomplished. And the coup de grace is how do sales calls relate to closes.
100 Proof Software even figured this out via the app Sales 2 Target. It’s not perfect but future iterations will improve the concept. I’ll make this wager. If you track your sales behaviors and create meaningful relationships between the behaviors (How many sales calls do you need to be on in order to close one sale as an example) you will increase your income by a minimum of 50%.
Have fun out there!
CSR Number 5: Adopt a Sales Process or Live in Mediocrity! September 20, 2011Posted by Tom Schaber in Business Owner, Cold Calling, Leadership, Prospecting, Sales, Sales Issues, Sales Management, Sales Process, Small Business.
Tags: CEO's, Income, Mediocrity, Objections, Sales Techniques
Someone close to me mentioned that my writing style is too in-your-face. It may be that “living in mediocrity” is a tad on the direct side, yet is it really all that bad if you are really driven to achieve and generate a healthy income? I’ve told this story before but it is worth repeating. I was having a networking breakfast several years ago with a gentleman. Since I’m always on the lookout for good salespeople I asked this person what he wanted to earn annually. He said, “oh, I guess, somewhere between forty-five and fifty-five thousand”. Bear in mind this is for a sales position! Sales!
Let me bring this back into the perspective of the title. I strongly believe that salespeople will never generate 6-figure incomes unless they use a sales process during their sales calls. Will my breakfast buddy make more than $55K with a sales process? If he doesn’t want more than fifty-five then I doubt it. Salespeople (everyone for that matter) need to create a goal income. Without it people have a lower sense of what they are worth, they will be satisfied just taking a job, they will have no sense for reaching lofty goals.
Would you hire a lawyer who knew law but didn’t really understand legal proceedings or jurisprudence? How comfortable would you be with a plumber if he or she showed up with a 6 inch thick book on common household plumbing repairs? Every individual attached to a profession has been schooled in the steps, processes, techniques that provide the professional with the knowledge to deliver the service to their client or customer. Then why wouldn’t a salesperson, sales manager, company owner want the same thing for the sales organization? This is a Duh!
I’ve worked with salespeople who make a sales call like they’re shopping for groceries without a list. Strolling down the aisle picking up items that look good, making impulse buys based on nothing more than emotion. Yet companies hire these kinds of salespeople. Don’t ask me why. Maybe they’re cheap, who knows.
Opening a face-to-face sales call, responding to a Request for Quote, handling objections, qualifying a prospect can be orchestrated based on specific principles that apply to those situations. Good salespeople don’t just “wing it” when they are faced with objections. They call to mind a method that deals with how to handle an objection and then implement a technique. When salespeople do this they are using a process!!! If this makes so much sense why don’t salespeople adopt a process? I’d give one month social security for the right answer!
Companies assume that the newly hired salesperson knows how to sell; they are OK with turnover if the first three reps don’t work out; they figure that they can survive with a “cheap” comp plan. CEO’s, company presidents, sales managers do not understand that investing in a sales methodology or process nets more sales. (The caveat here is that whatever training is done needs constant reinforcement. No reinforcement equals waste of money.)
Do you have the feeling that I am passionate about this? Salespeople need to be that passionate! Learn a sales process!