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

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

Ask and Ye Shall Receive!

Filed Under (OP Sales Training) by Don on 30-07-2010

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I am still amazed that one of the biggest issues with sales reps is the fact they still don’t ask for the prospects usage/favorites/top 10 or 20 items list when prospecting.  I asked a rep one day why she hasn’t been able to quote a prospect on any products after calling on them multiple times.  The answer I got was “I’ve given them our flyer and catalogs”.  I asked, “Did you ask for their favorites list?” obviously the answer was no.  I would wager that the flyer or catalog she left the prospect went straight to the circular file without a second thought.  One of my loyal customers tells me that when my competition calls they always ask for a favorites list or a usage report.  ALWAYS! 

You will never get to first base if you don’t step up to the plate.  Asking for a list is just as important as asking who the decision maker is.  Why waste time handing out expensive catalogs when you don’t know what your customer is buying!?  It isn’t rocket science but you have to at least make an effort.  The next step in the “Asking” process is to ASK for the order.  You’ve gotten past the introduction, you have their list and given them your quote.  Do you really think they are going to order from you if you don’t have the guts to ask for the order?  I remember a call I made many years ago and the price I quoted for the product was higher than what the prospect was paying.  He told me up front that my price was higher than his current supplier.  This prospect had inferred earlier that his current supplier was slow to deliver.  I didn’t have anything to lose at this point so I told him that  it was worth a few dollars more to know that he would always get his order the next day, even if I had to deliver it myself.  So, could I have his business and the order?  After a long look from him he said yes.  Some time later in our business relationship he told me that the only reason I got his business that first time was because I wasn’t afraid to admit my price was higher and still ask for the business.

Point is folks, you will not get the information you need and you certainly won’t get the business if you don’t ask!  Conversation is a two-way street and you have to engage people in conversation.  You do that by asking open-ended questions.  In case you don’t know what that is, an open-ended question is one that requires a reply other than a yes or no answer.  Engage your customer in conversation and ask for their list.  This is a critical part of your selling process.  Without it, you fail.  Never give up and never give in, the business is out there if you will simply ask for it!  Good luck!

The last word: “There are no mistakes or failures, only lessons.” -Denis Waitley

Buying Decisions: What Happens Behind-the-Scenes

Filed Under (OP Sales Training, Suggested Reading) by Don on 06-10-2009

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I spent some time on the phone today with writer, blogger and professional sales trainer & coach Sharon Drew Morgen.  Her new book, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what to do about it hits the stores October 15th.  Sharon Drew breaks the mold on how we should be selling by thinking about the process from the buyers perspective.  She was gracious to offer us the following guest post for the blog.  I’d like to thank Sharon Drew for her time and I encourage you to purchase her new book early.  Read on and enjoy!

SDMorgan

For some reason, it’s very difficult for sales people to think beyond ‘need’ and ’solution:’  We tend to think that because the buyer’s need matches our solution, and because we’re professionals who ‘care,’  the only thing buyers need to do is choose our solution.

But if it were that easy, buying decisions would get made more often in our favor. We certainly would not lose as many sales as we do. The problem is that the buying decision is so, so much more complex than we can imagine as we stand on the outside looking in.

Sales mysteriously treats an Identified Problem (my word for ‘need’) as if it were an isolated event. But it’s not. There are ramifications to any change, and the ramifications are ones only buyers can see from the inside and we will never be privy to.

WHEN DO BUYERS START FIGURING OUT STUFF?

Buyers don’t start figuring out their behind-the-scenes issues until after we’ve met them, except in cases when buyers call us and buy… in which case they’ve made all of the behind-the-scenes buying decisions before they contacted us and we are just lucky.

We come in at the wrong time, pitching a solution to a small portion of the ultimate Buying Decision Team, and have no tools to help buyers do what they must do first: manage all of the off-line buying decisions that need to happen for them to get buy-in for change.

I have said this over and over: the time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle. Before they can buy anything they first look into their current teams, partners groups, rules, historic decisions for a simple resolution to a business problem. They come to us by default, and even then end up going back inside (to their old vendors, or the other department heads, or the tech team) to do an internal check on resources before placing an order.

WHAT IS BEHIND THE SCENES?

I’ve fully described the actual steps that happen behind-the-scenes in my new book coming out soon (Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what to do about it). To think about this, let’s start with this question: How did a buyer’s ‘need’ get there? It didn’t arise overnight, and people and policies inside agreed to allow it to happen. So the ‘need’ got created behind-the-scenes.

Not only that, the system and rules and people and policies have allowed it to remain as it is – or they would have changed it already.

Before a buyer will buy or choose any solution at all, they must first figure out and manage the very idiosyncratic and mysterious ramifications of change. What will a solution change internally? How will the people and policies interact differently if/when they decide to resolve an Identified Problem and bring in something… something different that isn’t already there? Obviously, the sales model doesn’t equip us with the tools to help buyers manage these issues, and we cannot do it for them.

And no solution will be purchased if there is any possibility that the client can resolve their problem on their own.

As we think about sales, and wonder how to close more sales, quicker, we must realize that by merely focusing on the solution-placement area, and we do our ’understanding’ – understanding need, understanding the decision making, understanding the requirements, helping buyers understand our the judiciousness of our offering - we are not helping the buyer do the behind-the-scenes work they must accomplish before making a buying decision. That work is private, idiosyncratic, personal, unique, and not open to outsiders. And, unfortunately, buyers don’t know how to do this work easily because it’s new to them. But we can help – with a different set of skills.

 
We can help them by being true servant leaders, true trusted advisors and relationship managers, and guide them through their systemic, off-line, buying decision issues. But it’s not sales. In this time of economic uncertainty, add Buying Facilitation® and differentiate from your competition – and truly help your buyer buy. And, stop selling.
sd

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