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.

The Power of Five

I was asked to give a talk on sales not long ago. There are so many topics relative to sales that it is difficult to choose one that will appeal to everyone. Out of nowhere came The Power of Five. The five topics I covered were:

  1. Define Markets
  2. Create Personal Financial Goals
  3. Build a Prospecting Plan
  4. Own a Sales Process
  5. Get a Coach

I maintain that these 5 are the foundation of sales success. Are there others? I’m sure they are out there but for October 21st these will do.

Market definition, who buys from you, who you should prospect for, what does a perfect client look like are all pretty much the same thing at least in a general way. I started with this one because it helps to know who you need to sell to before you put together a prospecting plan. When I work with clients whether they are individuals or companies I ask that they profile existing accounts to determine if there are common characteristics among them. Again, not rocket science.

Here are a few characteristics:

  1. Industry
  2. Products they buy from you
  3. Company size
  4. Why the customer buys from you
  5. How did you get them as customers
  6. How often so they buy
  7. Do they buy an assortment of products or services

The other important question to ask is: What are You Good at? This has tremendous implications on market definition. What you are good at doing and who you sell to are flip sides of the same coin. Through trial and error (probably more errors than are necessary) I discovered that I am at my best when I work in a small company environment. That has played out over the last 10 years as I morphed from pure sales training to helping smaller companies grow their business. What I am good at also relates to what I like to do. Very large on my list of ‘likes’ is seeing people grow their talents. Nothing makes me happier than to see a salesperson or a company moves past obstacles that previously held them in check. And frankly, it is not about me! Providing the knowledge and experience and showing someone why that knowledge can propel them past their current level of mediocrity is more than enough for me.

Also, be wary of trying to be all things to all people! It is tempting to say “I can do that” when a prospect asks if you can provide specific expertise in an area you are not particularly familiar with. Dollar signs trump experience! My advice is don’t do it. Broadening your markets may mean that you are diluting your efforts and losing opportunities in your main market. And if you don’t succeed in a new market what does that do for your reputation and confidence?

Here’s the last question worth asking yourself: What are the Characteristics of What You do That Appeal to Potential Clients? It really comes down to the more you know about yourself, what you do and who your best clients/customers are.

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 Number 5: Adopt a Sales Process or Live in Mediocrity!

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!