Is Your Growth Pigeonholed?

Filed Under (OP News & Views, OP Sales Training) by Don on 07-02-2013

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In case you’re wondering what pigeonholing is, it has to do with missing opportunities due to carelessness or many times laziness.  In my continuing review of sales rep performances I continue to find that many reps get into a comfort zone selling only one kind of product group.  This could mean his/her devotes most, if not all, of their time selling office products, or toners or maybe it’s furniture.  Typically the excuses I hear are:

  • We’re not competitive
  • I can’t make any money on it
  • I don’t like it therefore my customer won’t like it
  • I don’t know/understand the product (i.e.: I don’t want to)

Obviously product knowledge is easily remedied; the other objections are simply excuses.  Thinking about my previous experiences in sales I can understand how easy it is to become comfortable selling a certain product.  Many years ago I was comfortable selling roll thermal paper for fax machines and avoided most everything else.  I was making money on it and I was comfortable.  The plain paper fax machines starting eating into my commissions but I was behind and my stubbornness cost me sales.  A good business friend of mine quickly gave me some good advice.  He told me over lunch one day that nothing in an office environment should ever be out of bounds for me to sell, and if I didn’t sell it find someone that I could trust to sell it to my client/customer.  I took that to heart and the following week I sold 10 microfilm machines that I sourced from a trusted supplier and made a big commission.  My source installed and serviced the equipment and I sold the supplies.  When the customer renewed their service agreement my source spiffed me because I maintained the relationship with the client.

It was a new day and I then knew I would never be pigeonholed into one category of product again.  I know someone even now that refuses to sell furniture.  Other reps are getting $100K furniture jobs and this rep continues to sell supplies at low margins.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much product training I offer the rep refuses to sell the product because it is out of their comfort zone.  Same thing applies to the janitorial market as it becomes more open to independent dealers.  You need to understand towels, cleaners, soaps, dispensers, etc.  A lot to learn I know but it further enhances your relationship with your customer as a resource and business partner, not just the lowly sales rep.  This is just my personal opinion but if a rep isn’t willing to grow with the products available to sell and refuses to utilize the relationship with the customer they are doing a disservice to the company and should no longer be employed.  It’s all about personal growth and responsibility.  This is an on-going process that needs to be continually evaluated by the rep and their management.

 

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”– Henri Bergson

Five Tips to Grow Your Business

Filed Under (OP News & Views, OP Sales Training) by Don on 03-05-2012

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Here are five tips to help you grow your business.  You should already be doing most of these but I hope the suggestions will help you find a new avenue or idea.  Feel free to share any suggestions you have!

  1. Communicate – Use every means at your disposal to reach out and touch your customer. E-Mail, text, statement stuffers, box stuffers, e-newsletters, weekly email blasts, social media.  Be diligent and deliberate and most of all be consistent!  Offer your value message and your brand in everything you do.
  2. Account Penetration – On average you only get about 30% of the total spend in your customers office.  Are you asking about janitorial and breakroom products?  How about stamps, printing, furniture and technology products?  From the reception room to the warehouse you have products to meet their needs.  Take off your blinders and see what you are missing!
  3. Befriend everyone – Be personal and take the time to meet and greet every one possible in your customers office.  From the janitor to the CEO and everyone in between.  You will be surprised the little tidbits of information you glean or the account you might save from your ‘friends’ in the office.
  4. Business Reviews – While this should be a staple in your sales strategies I’m constantly surprised by the reps who never do this with their accounts.  It offers up a treasure trove of information and opportunity and builds upon the relationship with the customer.  Do this twice a year with most accounts.  Accounts with more than 100 employees may require a quarterly review.  Make a big deal out of it and invite the senior managers, order placers, buyers and anyone else you can to the meeting.  Provide lunch and show them how much money you have saved them and share any ideas you have on how to save them even more money.  Bring your manager and if possible your customer service rep in on the meeting and make a positive impression on the value your bring to their business.  Bring a good PowerPoint too, it is absolutely necessary for success with the “C” level managers.
  5. Margin Management – The big boxes do a fantastic job in this arena and have proven success in increasing their margins.  Most reps set up pricing and don’t think about it until contract renewals come around again.  The big boxes manage margins monthly and in some cases weekly.  Changing your product mix and adjusting margins effectively will grow your profit margin and potentially increase your business.  Utilizing the many price matrices available can be a big asset here too.

That’s my five quick tips for growth.  I’m certain you can think of many more.

The last word: “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” -Peter Drucker

The Sales Report. Really? Do I have to?

Filed Under (OP Sales Training) by Don on 10-04-2012

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The sales report, we love it and we hate it.  Does it really have a purpose or is it just a waste of precious time?  The answer is actually both to some degree.  While the general purpose of a sales report is to inform the sales manager/management of your activities regarding the capture of business it is often abused and overused.  If used correctly, and with a clear explanation of its purpose to the sales team, the sales report is a valuable tool in the sales managers arsenal.  Otherwise it is simply a time waster on the part of the rep that involves time spent and lies told, and the manager for reading and not discerning the support or help needed, if any, to land the sale.

For this discussion, I’m referring to a sales team that is locally based, not a national team that covers many different regions and/or states.  A sales report is basically a log of the reps daily activities.  So why not rename it to an Activities Report? That’s really what we want to know isn’t it?  As a sales manager my job is to support, train, coach, hire, dismiss, prospect (yes, prospect), build rapport with customers and prospects, help increase margins and drive acquisition and penetration, identify new business potential and be a cheerleader for the sales team and be accountable for the teams successes and failures. Accountability is something many sales managers pass the buck on.  A sales report/activity report tells me about the productivity of a previous period of time.  I prefer a daily report but weekly is okay.  Why?  Because it is easier on a daily basis than trying to absorb a weeks worth at a time.  I want the information while is is still warm so I can see if there is additional support or advice needed to help get the business.  Many times my experience contains important information that the rep may not know or perhaps some history of the buyer or company.  If the rep has targeted a law firm then what are they trying to sell them or do I know of a promotion or new product that could benefit the potential acquisition.  It’s nice to see if the rep is practicing wise time management skills. Are they selling or just taking orders?  If they are just being an order taker then we need to have a discussion about the purpose of online ordering and our paid customer service staff.

I spend a lot of time riding with my reps while they make their calls.  I want to see how they interact, their selling skills, how they build their relationships, introduce new products and ask questions.  I want the customer or prospect to know that as part of the management team we appreciate their business and let them know that I am also a resource if they need help.  You see, I also am building a relationship so if my rep is out on vacation or perhaps a family emergency I am familiar enough with the account to know their needs and habits.  If the rep leaves our employ then it is much easier for me to introduce a new rep and bring them up to speed on the accounts history.  When I ride with the reps I make certain that they understand my role in the sales call.  It’s their call and I’m not there to bail them out except on rare occasion.  We discuss the call before and after in detail.

Do I use sales reports?  Yes, and no.  I use  a report for the first 12-18 months after a rep comes on board.  I schedule my ride-a-longs often and read my internal sales/customer reports daily to get the information I need.  Programs such as Sales-i is a tremendous asset for managers and sales teams.  I know/learn  the customer list, the rep and the customer.  I talk to my reps almost every day so I ask lots of questions.  I have enough other information at my disposal to have a clear picture of what my rep is doing.  I am more interested in their prospecting activities at this stage so a Prospecting Activity Report is more valuable.  But that is another discussion.  A good sales manager is highly involved in the activities of their reps.  They lead and manage by their activity, certainly not by their desk in the office every day.  Your report should tell you specifically what the purpose of the sales call was and what was the outcome.  If your rep can not tell you why they are in the customers office that day, or any other day then you have a problem.  Every call has a specific purpose and an outcome and you can’t have one without the other.

While this topic could fill a book and many authors have done so, I suggest you examine what you want to accomplish with your report.  Make it easy to complete such as online submission and make it have value for the time spent for the rep completing it and for your time digesting and evaluating it.  Now it’s up to you to make it a valuable resource or a dreaded task.

The last word: “By mutual confidence and mutual aid – great things are done, and great discoveries made.” -Homer

Challenges, Disappointments, Opportunities

Filed Under (OP News & Views, OP Sales Training) by Don on 09-03-2011

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Such is life in sales.  Although the economy seems to be the biggest disappointment, we as sales people are our own biggest challenge.  With gas approaching four dollars a gallon it is easy to make the excuse “I can’t afford to go out and make sales calls”.  But sitting at home making excuses doesn’t bring in any new business, grow your existing business or continue to build your business relationships.  You need to work smarter, get better organized and remain focused on your goals.

Thinking of working smarter, we rolled out to our group not long ago a data mining program that I am truly impressed with.  If I would have had such a program years ago when I was an outside rep it would have made my life and job so much more productive and easier.  After many months of discussion and consideration we added the Sales-i program to our back-end system.  Sales-i sorts and extracts customer and product information from our system we could never access before.  We always knew this information was there but didn’t have a way to extract it, Sales-i does that and much more.  It is more than a usage report, it categorizes the product categories and tells you how much business potential you are getting or missing in each account.  It shows you your margins on products and you can set up alerts that will email you when your customer hasn’t made a recent purchase, or about anything else you can imagine.  If you have a sales team I highly recommend that you take a look at Sales-i.

I would also like to give two thumbs up to our Salels-i trainer, Jeff Gardner from Maximum Performance Group. I had Jeff come to our office for hands-on training for our team and it made a huge difference.  Jeff is more than a trainer, he is also a sales person at heart and understand the challenges the OP sales rep has.  Jeff was a worthy investment and a fine person to have support your team.

There are many opportunities out there as there are challenges to meet them.  Disappointments, well we all have some.  Customers don’t seem to have loyalties much any more, sales people want all the commissions without doing the work, and I still hate selling copy paper.  However, I’m spending more time coaching and field training our reps which I love to do.  It gets me out of this miserable office (I hate being tied to a desk!) and I love to meet new people and help the reps with prospecting and developing new business within existing accounts. Remember, work smarter not harder and utilize the tools available to help you get new business and remain at the top!

The last word: “You are the only person on earth who can use your ability.”Zig Ziglar

Win or Loose, It’s Your Choice

Filed Under (OP News & Views, OP Sales Training) by Don on 21-04-2009

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I was reading an article in Selling Power Magazine  the other day that reminded me of an important fact.  Your personal success is completely dependent upon your decision to succeed.  That’s right, success is a decision you make and a promise you have to follow through on.  It’s easy to blame the economy for everything but the fact is there are people out there being successful every day! 

no-whining-sign

If you are not prospecting for new business I can assure you that your competition is.  The vultures are out there hunting for every scrap of business they can harvest and your customer(s) is their target.  Now is the time when the strength of your customer relationships will bear fruit.  Right now price is king and you must proactively help your customer cut costs by making product substitution suggestions and by finding creative ways to help their business weather the storm.  If you loose a customer find out why.  Don’t be embarassed or shy about it, just ask!  And for goodness sake don’t walk into your customer’s office and say, “I just stopped by to see how you are doing.”  If you don’t have a purpose to be there don’t go!  Respect your customer/client’s time by demonstrating value everytime you walk through their door.  Stop thinking of yourself as a sales rep and see yourself as a consultant. 

When was the last time you redifined your goals?  You can think big with long term goals but your short term goals have to be realistic or disappointment will ruin your attitude.  Make that extra call every day.  Just one more call every day can mean 1000 new calls a year!  But your success or failure totally depends on you.  Win or loose, it’s your choice.  If you choose to be positive a whole new world of possibilities will open up before you!

 

The last word: “The height of your accomplishments will equal the depth of your convictions.”William Scolavino

Some Not-So-Obvious Reasons Why Some Businesses Fail

Filed Under (OP News & Views) by Don on 01-10-2008

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I was daydreaming today about what it was like when I had my own company and what challenges I would be facing in today’s ‘fubar’ economy. So I began to ask myself some questions and do some retrospective analysis.I’ve got over twenty-five years experience selling, sales management and entrepreneur business owner experience. I no longer own a business and in today’s economic condition that may be a real blessing! It is easy to see some of the obvious reasons why a business fails but what else can spell disaster in a business? Obviously inadequate funding and mismanagement are fairly apparent causes but I’m seeing something else. I have witnessed the failure of some businesses and identified a few things that in my opinion can lead to failure if they are not seen as the potential danger they are.

Lack of vision. Vision for the growth and future potential of the business and, most importantly, the sharing of that vision with your employees. This is your dream, make it happen by sharing your dream and vision with those who have a stake in helping you make that happen.

Lack of direction. While vision and direction are intertwined one cannot succeed with the other. Without direction vision has no where to go and without vision you cannot define your direction.

Lack of communication. Another critical element of the above, vision and direction, but so often the business owner thinks that everyone is on board and thinks the same way he/she does. However, your staff are not mind readers regardless of how talented they are. Openly discuss your plans and aspirations for the future of your business and hold your employees accountable to reaching your dreams (goals). So often I have heard, “I didn’t know we could do that,” or “…so when were you going to tell the rest of us about these changes?” If you’re a small company it may be easy for everyone to be “on the same page”. As your company grows don’t forget about the brainstorming sessions you used to have when your new business was struggling for a piece of the market and you needed ideas and input. Include your staff and openly discuss what needs to be accomplished and don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong and especially don’t forget to let your employees know that you appreciate them.

Lack of team spirit (harmony). I don’t mean a RAH-RAH stand up and cheer event or the silly-ass statement “Can’t we all just get along?” I’m referring to an atmosphere where everyone knows the task at hand and everyone works toward the same goal. Great people working harmoniously together to accomplish a shared dream. It is indeed a beautiful thing!

While all these points are necessary to make it happen what else do you think should be included? Think about your personal successes and failures. Be honest with yourself, no one else will hear you.

The last word: “To be a leader, you must make people want to follow you, and nobody wants to follow someone who doesn’t know where he is going.”– Joe Namath

The Purpose Driven Sales Rep

Filed Under (OP Sales Training) by Don on 12-08-2008

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Recently I was participating in an interesting discussion about purpose. The definition of purpose is to be determined, or resolved to accomplish. Purpose involves making a commitment, which is the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action. A sales person in any industry cannot and will not succeed without a clearly defined ‘purpose’. Purpose is the driving force behind your success and will be the foundation of your goals. Purpose is used as the synonym of goal and objective. If you lack any of these in your sales plan then you are doomed to failure.It is easy to say your goal is to ‘make a lot of money’. That, my friend, is a foolish goal. It is foolish because it is empty and without a plan of how you will accomplish that. Sure we all want to make a lot of money but that is only the end result. It does not tell me or you how you will make that happen. One sale won’t get you there and neither will one client. You must clearly define your daily, weekly and monthly goals. Your goals should reach farther than that but for now you should start with your daily and weekly sales activities. But before you get to the goal making part of your sales plan what is your purpose? Is it to provide a service or product to your clients in such a manner as to meet or exceed their expectations? Or is it to provide a comfortable home and a lifestyle that suits your needs and the needs of your family? Perhaps it is a combination of these or something more.

Without purpose you can’t define your goals. Without goals you cannot fulfill your purpose and without commitment you will not meet any of these objectives. So let’s assume you have a purpose and you have written down your goals. You should read your goals every day without fail! In order to meet your goals have you identified your strengths and weaknesses? Do you have sufficient product or technical knowledge to sell your product? Have you defined your prospecting goals as to how many calls it will take to open an adequate amount of new business to keep your sales funnel primed?

I have discussed prospecting several times. Effective prospecting is a blend of selling and marketing. The best prospectors are the best sales people and 60% of the highest sales producers say the phone is ESSENTIAL to their prospecting efforts. Effective prospecting is the life blood of your overall success. Purpose, goals, commitment are all pieces of your sales plan. Your purpose is the glue that binds all these essentials together into a cohesive plan. Plan your work and work your plan and you will achieve success in all your endeavors!

The last word: “For an athlete to function properly, he must be intent. There has to be a definite purpose and goal if you are to progress. If you are not intent about what you are doing, you aren’t able to resist the temptation to do something else that might be more fun at the moment.” — John Wooden