Friday, November 23, 2012

Listen More to Sell More: 3 Tips

These simple steps will help you refine your sales pitches and win over potential clients.

Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz once said, "I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions." It may sound obvious, but all too often, entrepreneurs get so wrapped up in what they can offer that they forget to listen to what their prospective customers need. I've seen many sales calls backfire because the sales rep was so involved with his presentation that he didn't learn enough about the prospect.

Instead, every meeting, every introduction, and every opportunity with a new prospect should be centered on their needs, what they do, whom they sell to, and any personal or business goals they are currently focused on. Most of the time, if you help them get what they want, you can get what you want. Particularly during your first encounters with new prospects, you need to listen more to sell more. Here are three simple ways to do so:

Take the focus off yourself and turn it back on the prospect.
Always turn the conversation back to prospects when they ask you about your business or background. Answer them, but be brief. When you're asking questions and listening, you maintain control and start to build trust.

Talk to a variety of staffers at a prospective client's company.
There are many levels of knowledge that can be learned about an account. I've gotten into the habit of asking people in different positions at a company how they think their business grows and succeeds, what their challenges and obstacles are, and what they would do differently. It can be an eye opener, especially from an employee who's been with the company for 20-plus years, whether he's in reception or the C-suite.

Connect prospects to new opportunities.
Once you understand a prospect’s business goals and challenges, you can start bringing them together with other businesses in your Rolodex. These introductions might not have anything to do with your products or services, but can help establish you as someone looking out for their best interests.

One big upside to this approach? Once you discover everything about a prospect, you might decide the ROI is not great enough and walk away to work on more promising leads. If you continue pursuing the prospect, however, you'll have a much easier time presenting them with solutions that meet their needs.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Moneyball: Sales Performance by the Numbers


Actually, this article isn’t about your standard numbers. We won’t touch on revenue, percentage of quota, customer retention, etc. This article is about your ICP – that is to say, your Ideal Competency Profile numbers.

At the end of the day and the end of the year, you know what you’re evaluated on. But it’s your ICP numbers that will help to increase your close rate and put money in your pocket.

How are you going to improve your ICP?  Two simple strategies:
  1. Increase your access to coaching
  2. Sabermetrics = Moneyballing:  Tracking your numbers statistically instead of theoretically
66% of Sales Reps believe that increasing the time invested by sales managers would help to increase their sales.
Proper coaching is paramount if you truly want to increase your own competencies en route to becoming a Hall of Famer for your squad. Are you among this 66%?

Improve Your Player Averages – Push for Coaching
Sales Coaching

Don’t wait for your manager to come to you. Go to your manger and get the training / coaching that you need and deserve. Now is the time to leverage this option. You’re at a point in the year where you are discussing 2013. Your manager obviously wants you to succeed and hit these numbers.

How do you achieve this?

Give him the squeeze - In baseball terms, you may have your manager in a pickle between 1st and 2nd base. Employ the old Give-Get strategy to negotiate more coaching, training and metric-based analytics. Now is the perfect time to approach the subject when you’re in discussions regarding quota, compensation and 2013 goals.  After all, sales management is responsible for Sales Performance Management.
Build those skills by utilizing the tools around you. Your manager is one of those tools. Your HR department may be another. Oftentimes HR is familiar with which competencies to evaluate, and you may be able to use this to improve your performance. If HR doesn’t have this knowledge, they can contact SBI to establish the right benchmarking criteria.

Moneyballing: Improving Sales Competencies
If you want to succeed, your 2013 strategy can’t simply be “Sell more,” or “Sell better.” That’s like a baseball team missing the playoffs saying, “Well, next year we’ll just win more games.” It doesn’t work that way.

Sabermetrics is a form of analysis made famous by the movie “Moneyball.” It basically defied conventional baseball logic when determining skills levels of individual players. (For example: Batting average was no longer the most important factor. Instead, the greater focus was on how frequently a player got on base.) It took a more mathematical, micro approach to winning baseball games. Don’t just “score more runs.” Get more guys on base to increase your chances of scoring. In sales terms, it’s not just improving your close rate, you’re improving everything that leads to more referrals, increased sales and reduced sales cycle length.
The same Moneyballing logic can be applied to your own sales performance. In order to improve your selling skills, you need to improve your competencies piece by piece. The thought process isn’t to just “make more sales.” It’s to “get better at discovering prospect needs” – which in turn leads to more sales.

There’s a reason world-class athletes seek out coaching. You’ve developed a selling style that is uniquely yours, but perhaps it’s time to have your coach make a small adjustment in your delivery or the way you address the ball…or customer. These tweaks could be the difference between a good year and a great year. Now is the time to incorporated talent management in your lineup.

The key with this process is to think about your selling on a practical, instead of theoretical, level. Each step in your selling process is a building block. As you perfect each block, your selling becomes stronger as a whole.

What to Improve – A List of Competencies
SBI has compiled a list of over 50 competencies that we use to assess various roles in the sales department, from the CSO to the Lead Development Rep. You could call it our version of Moneyballing. All subjectivity is removed - at least as much as possible. All that remains is an analysis of performance, and opportunities for growth.

Below is snapshot from a talent assessment, which shows a partial list around the competency of Sales Skills.

Sales Competencies

These competencies have been standardized. We determine the weight and rank of each competency as it applies to your organization. Get the template at this event.

Don’t trash the article just yet. You don’t need to work on 50 competencies. If you’re like most sales folks, you’re probably thinking, “I’d rather have my toenails pulled out one by one while taking a verbal lashing.” If you’re an individual contributor, you should be focused on 12 to 15. If you’re in management or above, you’ll need about 15 to 20. Here are a few examples to help get you thinking:
  • Selling Skills: With 14 attributes such as sales approach, negotiating and active listening
  • Selling Knowledge: 7 attributes including pricing methods, margin analysis and proposal
  • Personal Skills: 9 attributes including analysis, creativity and risk taking
  • Interpersonal Skills: 8 attributes including resourcefulness, adaptability and independence
  • Motivational Skills: 8 attributes including tenacity, ambition and passion
Sales Competencies and Moneyballing: It’s not a shot in the dark. It’s the same logic that is taking the world by storm: using (sometimes unconventional) data to make informed decisions and improve performance.  In hindsight, I’ll bet Mitt Romney wishes he’d had data scientist Nate Silver (sabermetrics guru) in his corner reading the stats. He might have helped with a pre-election adjustment or two.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

8 Worst Lies That Sales Reps Tell the Boss


 If your team is spinning these stories, beware: Your reps either can't or won't do their jobs well.

 Fibbing 2


This post will probably make a lot of salespeople upset or angry. It reveals the "trade secrets" of the sales profession--the lies that salespeople tell their bosses in order to smooth things over.

But since you're the boss, you need to know these. Any time you hear one of these statements, you probably want to investigate a little deeper.

1. 'Budget is not an issue with this customer.'
The source of this lie is wishful thinking, along with the fact that the sales rep has not yet bothered to find out where your offering fits in the customer's priorities. In fact, budget is always an issue--with every customer.

2. 'I have a great memory, so I don't need to write down what I've learned about a customer.'
One of the great realities of the business world is this: If it's not written down, it's not real. Sales reps who rely upon their memory virtually always let important events and commitments fall through the cracks.

3. 'I made 100 cold calls today.'
When pressed about the lack of prospects in their pipeline, many sales reps will exaggerate the number of cold calls they've made, just to show that they're working hard.  In all likelihood, the rep who says this has actually made around 10 cold calls, at most.

4. 'We lost that deal because we didn't have [feature XYZ].'
This popular excuse is trotted out whenever a competitor convinces the customer that a feature (which the competitor has and you lack) is all important.  In fact, the sales rep was simply outsold.

5. 'I'll make quota; my deals will close at end of quarter.'
Sales reps tell this lie when they're not closing business but are afraid to face the reality that the quarter is going to a weak one. They're hoping and praying for a lucky break--when they should be redoubling their efforts to close business more quickly.

6. 'We lost that deal because our price is too high.'
This lie surfaces whenever sales reps fail to sell benefits rather than price.  The rep probably got caught in a price war with a competitor, and failed to make the financial case for purchasing your product. That means the truth, once again, is that your sales rep was outsold.

7. 'I haven't called that customer but I have it scheduled for later today.'
Sales reps tell this lie when managers remind them about a customer situation that slipped through the cracks. Whenever this lie appears, it's a good sign that the sales rep in question isn't on top of things.

8. 'I am working from home today.'
Yeah, right.