Playing Nice in the Sand Box

Haven’t we all heard from a very early age that you have to play nice with others? Parents, teachers, sibs, bosses, even your own kids make it pretty plain that being nice to others is the way to go. But aren’t there some times when you’d like to take that little bit of wisdom and chuck it? Oh my, wouldn’t it be awesome to tell the boss that he/she is about the dumbest excuse for a leader since the Ayatollah? But in business doing that can be and probably will be hazardous to your future. Burning bridges and all that kind of stuff.

However, there does come a time when I question whether playing nice does much good. Here is one example with others to follow over the next few posts.

Take the owner of a small plastic molding company. They put out quality product but the place was filthy-walls needed painting, floors were caked with grease, old parts and past molds were laying in dirt three inches thick. I’ll never forget two potential customers who visited the facility. They peaked in my office, looked out my window on the manufacturing floor and shook their heads in unison. It was over before it began. They were kind enough to carry through with the discussion but I never heard from them again.

I decided that being nice in this situation would do absolutely no good so I let the owner have it and hard. He agreed with my feedback. So, not playing nice paid off-the owner painted the walls himself and did a lousy job. Sometimes it makes no difference how you play, some people just don’t get it.

Here is an obvious bit of advice for company owners. Look at your company the way a prospect or customer would look at it. Better yet, invite your best customer in for an honest appraisal (no holds barred) of how you do business. Then change how you do business.

 

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The Power of Five-Creating Personal Financial Goals

In the world of sales you don’t hear many people talking about or discussing ‘personal financial goals’. Know why? Sales managers don’t cover it, companies don’t understand the importance of those goals and salespeople themselves would rather not because of that pesky word accountability. Personal financial goals is one of the 5 basic elements of sales success. Without PFG’s how do salespeople know how much they need to sell? What their sales activities need to be? I can make a strong case that PFGs are the key to success in sales.

Another way to look at this is to ask yourself this question: “How much does it cost you to wake up every day?” Ah, well let’s see. Exactly. Did I ever do this when I was a sales cub? No! My financial goals were usually dictated by the ‘sales targets’ the company set for me. If the target was a million dollars in sales and my commission was 6% on all sales then my income was $60,000 for that year. (That was some decent lettuce in the 70’s folks!) Depending on my tax bracket I knew the approximate net and that was what I had to spend on the basics to keep the family from food stamps.

In a naïve way I guess this makes sense. From a logical, long-term, financially secure perspective this makes no sense. Personal financial goals consist of two ingredients. One is the monthly costs to live. Two is what it costs to bring your dreams to life. Dreams do not include a Lamborghini parked in the driveway. OK, they could include it but it would be way down the list of common sense dreams. Translate dreams to: short-term (5 years) financial goals and long-term financial security. This is the easy part.

Translating these to daily sales activities and then into dollars requires intimate knowledge of planning, your market place, the products you sell, competition, prospecting methods, sales metrics, average revenue per sale, and a sales process. Several of these will appear in later posts over the next several weeks.

Between the ages of 22 and 30 very little of this registers on the conscious mind of a salesperson. Some of it begins to trickle in during the 30’s and that is a mistake. Here’s why. Around a salesperson’s mid thirties is when many salespeople begin to make some serious money. (I don’t see a distinction on gender here. I could probably make a case that women get there faster than men.) That will continue into the 40’s until around age 45. Call it a ten-year window of high earning potential. Does it end after that? No, but other things occur concurrently. Child raising, schools, sports, short-term goals (requiring money) and thoughts about funding college or part of it. Pesky thoughts of mortality may even enter into the mental mix. What people do with their money in this time frame is extremely important. Might as well say critical!

Creating personal financial goals therefore becomes a path to success both in the short-term as well as the long-term. This is not just a ten minute conversation with yourself in the shower. “Let’s see, for 2014 I need to earn around $90K give or take.” That WILL NOT CUT IT! Do yourself a favor and spend a day thinking about this topic. Start to wrap some numbers around your sales activities and goals. When you’re rounding age 60 entering the final glide you will be happy you spent the time pondering.

Passion

Angela Ahrendts, the CEO at Burberry, created the following thought.  The message of the quote got to me, so much so that I just kept on reading it over and over. ‘Passionate, positive human energy can provide a counterbalance to the disruptive negative forces of an age of unprecedented change. Through it comes confidence, inspiration and the power to transform things for the better.’

There is so much power in this statement that you wonder where most of the power dwells. Confidence? Inspiration? Transformation? Your head starts to spin when you think of what is the most important component. Let’s face it, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all component that is the base upon which the rest of the statement sits. The beauty of Ahrendt’s comment is that every person can pick out the important factor that means the most to them.

Mine? Passion! I’ve been spending a significant amount of time thinking about how I want to spend the next 5 years of my life and how much money I want to generate within that time. The process seemed almost painful. Ever passed a stone? That painful! Then I read this quote and whacked my forehead with the heel of my hand. Duh! What’s my passion? Easy. Developing people.

How many people are buried in jobs that don’t challenge them, don’t pay crap, and leave them exhausted every night? I’d wager to say that over 60% of today’s workers. How many of that number know what their passion is? I’d say over half. If my math is correct we’re looking at 30% as the number of people sucking in air who know what their passion is.

Does everyone find their passion at the same time? No. A good friend of mine became passionate about “quality” in the workplace in his middle years. Now he practically sleeps with the Malcolm Baldridge award. A one-time client of mine found real estate sales and she routinely brings in over $300K annually. Don’t get her into a discussion on the topic unless you want to spend the day.

What is your passion and how can you bring it front and center in your life? Are you too fearful to even give it life? Have you really thought through what it will take to breathe life into the passion? Do you want to be on your death-bed, look back on your life and regret that you did not give your passion free rein? Don’t let it happen.

Join The 10% Who Do

Jim Rohn was a business philosopher who brought insight to ordinary events, people and principles. According to Mr. Rohn 90% of the people on the planet are not worth following. So, what exactly does that mean? I think Jim and I are on the same page so here is my version of the 90% you do not want to follow. Since I’m weary of looking for the percent sign let’s just say the majority.

The majority of people will say “I should do it” instead of “I’ll make that happen”. No, I am not splitting hairs. Should and will are as different as night is from day. Should implies perhaps I will or it’s on my to-do list or I have to quit procrastinating and get that done; it is by its nature wishy-washy. The word “will” is assertive, it’s can-do, it’s immediate, it’s confident, it’s brimming with “completion”. People who use the word will are people worth following. The will-users sense that time is not on their side, they know that they have priorities in their life, they realize that if they don’t do ______ someone else will get to it first and that will really piss them off! Some people want to excel and they are disappointed when they do not achieve that, for whatever reason.

So, how do you know which person is in a perpetual position of striving and which person is waiting for the moons to align before they make their move? Listen to how they say things. When my daughter and son-in-law had a one pound ten ounce baby boy she turned to her husband and said “we will be Jackson’s advocates”. There was an exclamation point after that statement! Every doctor and nurse in the NICU knew that Jackson’s parents and in particular his mother were to be reckoned with. In other words, do not screw with our kid or there will be hell to pay.

Our son interviewed for a job with a company that he was returning to after an employment misadventure. The CEO asked how badly he wanted to come back. Our son said, “I’ll do anything and if that means cleaning bathrooms I’ll do it”. That is commitment! The point here is not to paint glowing pictures of our kids. The point is these are prime examples of people who you would like to follow, they are the ten percenters who instinctively know what they have to do and say to move toward a goal.

Also watch how people say things. Do they look you in the eye while they talk with conviction? People who look you in the eye while they speak are good people to follow. They are confident but not arrogant, chances are good they want to get a read from your eyes relative to what they are saying, they understand how to communicate and they do not have fear. I’m not going to waffle on these two characteristics. People who have them are the people who lead others, they assume responsibility and in fact they cherish responsibility. They are worth following!

Jim Rohn’s suggestion was to “walk away from the 90% who don’t and join the 10% who do”. There is a lot of room under the don’t umbrella but not much under the do umbrella. Find the “dos”.

When Are We Going To Grow!!!!!

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

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!

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.