Are you the person responsible for sales training?

Are you responsible

When I started in outside sales, the Sales Manager handed me a 3-ring binder and walked over to a map on the wall. He raised his arm and, with an extended finger, pointed at the map, drawing a lazy circle around an area an hour from the office. He said, “We don’t have customers in this area, so you can call on anybody you like.” It was virgin territory with no list of customers or prospects. That was my training!

Time Passes

Decades later, I became the manager of a wholesale/retail business. In the beginning, I watched the operations to see how things ran. Quickly, I began to notice inefficiencies. 

Continue reading “Are you the person responsible for sales training?”

How Important is Sales Training to Your Company’s Success?

picture blocks spelling sales training

” I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

Muhammad Ali

Do salespeople need training?

Every new sales job I’ve started required some type of training. Whether it was for a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software or product knowledge, training is an essential part of onboarding a new hire. So why do companies fear training new sales reps?

Consider other professions

-marketing
-psychology
-meteorology


Can we agree that sales training is essential? Most occupations require some kind of training. Applicants either need degrees or various levels of experience, either in time or education. Why would we think the profession of sales would be any different?


My experience is that many companies just expect someone they hire as a salesperson, having a sales background, should just know how to sell their product or service. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

My experience may be different than others, but here is what I’ve witnessed over the years.

A manager hires a new salesperson, and they bring them into their office the first day. They have them spend most of the day filling out HR forms that include documents for a non-compete, the pay plan, a 401K, health insurance, and a laptop promissory to care and feed with love.

Day two arrives, and the sales manager introduces the new hire to the rest of the team and assigns the territory. Going over the sales plan, the sales manager explains the new hire needs to be at goal by the end of month three. He will schedule a few days with them in the field, but something always comes up to cut that time short. And the new hire is left to many of his own devices to fail or succeed on their own.

Not all companies are like this

Fortunately, all companies are not like this. They understand the cost associated with a new salesperson. If you hire them, you are responsible for their success. Period. All of the top-performing companies know this and budget accordingly. They invest in training for all new hires, whether they are in sales or payroll. All new hires need training in the company, no matter the role they are hired to fill.

Why are some hesitant to train?

Let’s look at what might be required to train a new salesperson. A company would;
– Need to develop a standardized training program
– Need to hire/train the teachers to train
– Need training literature/folders/information
– Need a place to teach/a training room
– Need the time to train new personnel thoroughly
– Need to budget for all the above for success

What training is necessary?

hammer hitting nail

The requirements might be different for each company, but in thinking about the basics, I’ve come up with this list.
– CRM training
– Company sales philosophy
– Product knowledge
– Prospect Approach
– Prospects background
– Competitor knowledge
– Time management
– Territory management
– Appointment setting
– Prospect meetings/How to handle
– Implementation/Delivery
– Repeated questions/objections from prospects
– Anything specific to the industry/might include non-disclosures or privacy issues

Each of these has many moving parts that need covering with a new hire.

Let’s look at some basics for each of these.

Consider CRM training

A company’s CRM program is its lifeblood. It is where all their customer and prospect data stays. It is a living database filled with potential money. It is critical for the success of the individual and the company.

With that in mind, there are things that a new employee needs to understand. All databases need rules and parameters for data entry. If everyone enters information differently, it is difficult for the database to serve its primary function.

A DATABASE IF FOR MINING INFORMATION, NOT STORING IT!

I can’t tell you how many salespeople I’ve trained that didn’t know this. They never received this most significant fact in any training they ever received. If they understand the importance of this and how it affects their success, they are more likely to comply with the database rules and conditions set forth by management.

Consider Company sales philosophy

” There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or >you can inspire it.”

Simon Sinek, Start with Why

All new salespeople deserve to know why you are in business? Why you do what you do? It can’t all be about money and beating the competition.
It can even include your unique selling proposition, although this would typically go under your product knowledge training.

Consider Product Knowledge

Whether the company sells one product or many, there are questions someone new needs to know.
-What problem does it solve?
-How is it implemented?
-What are the time frames for implementation?
-Why your company?
Even the basics are helpful to someone that isn’t familiar with your company or its products.

Consider Competitor Knowledge

I don’t fret over or talk about competitors, but I like to know who they are. I like to be aware of their product line with enough knowledge to position mine in the right way.

This knowledge can be important with a prospect mentions they are also looking at XYZ Corporation. If I’m familiar, I can frame my product or services in a way to put it in a way the prospect will appreciate.

It also might let you find out where they are in the buying process. Have they just started, or are they about to make a decision? Knowing where they are in the process lets me know my chances. Whether to proceed or thank them and move on.

Consider Prospect Approach

My sales career began with little much direction. I had difficulty in the initial approach of a prospect. I wasn’t shy or bashful but didn’t have any idea how to approach and engage. I learned over time from tapes and books, but it would have sped my success with the first company.
-Do you encourage demos of the products?
-Is it a short or long sales cycle?
-Who is the right person/title to call on?
-How do you get ahead of the sales process?
-How does the company respond to RFPs? (Request for Proposal)
-What are extra services {if any} extended for new buyers?
-How can a new salesperson leverage superiors in your company when needed?

Red clock showing 7:32

Consider Time Management

Time management begins with company goals for their salespeople.

  • Are there prospecting goals?
  • Are there meeting goals?
  • What metrics are they measured by?
  • What activity is required?

Closed sales are a large part of the measure, but a new hire needs guidance to begin their journey.

Consider Territory Management

So much depends on the correct information with this one.
-How big is the territory?
-If large, how do they cover it efficiently?
-Are there current customers/prospects?
-What are the expectations for covering the territory?
-Can it be divided in a manner to drive fewer miles?
-If a walking territory, how do you proceed?
One company I worked for in Houston, Texas, divided the sales territory by Zip Codes. Based on business density, some areas contained one Zip Code, while others had many. It was a reasonable way to accomplish the division.

Walking size territories included Downtown Greenway Plaza. Others, even though only one Zip Code, required a lot of driving to cover. And then there was Beaumont, Texas, which was over an hour away. Planning and appointments were crucial for the salesperson in that territory.

Consider Prospect Backgrounds

Once a prospect is identified, what tools does the company have to assist the salesperson in background research? Are they on their own with LinkedIn and Google searches? That’s all right as long as you set parameters for the time spent.

I’ve witnessed salespeople spend hours researching. Is that necessary? I say it depends. Probably not. I like to know a couple of items about a company for appointment setting. Company structure. Potentially the name of a contact in the right position in the company. Sometimes that is the Purchasing Agent, a Director over the department you serve, or the COO/CEO.

There are many tools available for purchase by companies, so part of the training should cover these and how to use them properly.

Here are some items that might be beneficial throughout the selling process. I like the Who, What, When, How, Where method.
-Who started the company, and are they still there?
-Who currently runs the company?
-Who decides on the purchases of your products?
-Who gives final approval? An individual or a committee?
-Who is their current vendor?
-Who are they looking at besides you?
-What does the company do?
-What training will they need if they implement your product/service?
-What is the typical ramp up time for their employee training?
-When do they need the product/service?
-When is the budget available?
-How do they buy/make decisions on their purchases?
-How do they compare the products they are looking to purchase?
-Where are they in the decision process?
-Where is the location of the implementation?
Some answers present themselves as the process unfolds, but some are good to know going in. Research is good to the degree needed at each stage of the selling process.

Consider Appointment Setting

When I started, telephones and cold calls were the only way to get appointments. We didn’t even have cellular phones back then. Once cell phones arrived, it revolutionized the sales industry.

How does your company want prospecting to take place?

Today along with those two still being viable, there is Social Media, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and others. A salesperson can make contacts in a targeted manner with these tools, as well.

Some salespeople are starting blogs and showing their expertise through writing online. Prospects might not stumble across these, but in the prospecting phase, links to an article written that address their industry or unique situation can make a difference in getting that in-person meeting.

Consider Handling Prospect Meetings

Why are you there? Does your company have a basic agenda to keep initial meetings on track? How about talking points or questions needed to determine the viability of the prospect.

What issues are they having? Is the company a good fit for you and your company? If they are in the market, do they have the budget? If not, when will the new budget be approved? What is their implementation time requirements?

Don’t turn it into the inquisition, but you need to know if they are a prospect or not. Not every meeting reveals an opportunity you can help.

What criteria do you have to meet to place this prospect as real in the CRM? Sales Projections are one of the hardest lessons for a new hire to learn. Help them with this process until they understand that not everyone is a prospective customer.

What is your experience?

Does your company have a training process for positions in the company?
Did you receive training when you started?
If yes, was it helpful? Did they include product training? Did it include basic sales training?
If no, do you think it would have helped if they had a formal training program?
Let me know what you think. I would be interested to know if my experience was unique or typical.

Is Persistence the Key to Success

“Patience, persistence, and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” – Napoleon Hill

Persistence is touted as one of the most desired traits for a salesperson. Do you believe it is true? Even Napoleon Hill said it was unbeatable for success.

That got me to thinking about the word persistence. What does it actually mean?

The definition of persistence shows the following:

persistence (noun)
firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or >opposition.

This is straight from an online dictionary. I’m not sure I like the word obstinate. Does persistence have to be obstinate?

obstinate (adjective)
stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action, >despite attempts to persuade one to do so.

I don’t believe obstinate is a desired trait in a successful salesperson. This definition conjures up images of badgering, manipulating, and pushy salesman in my mind.

I like the word “firm” in the definition. When I see that word, I think about someone not giving up too soon. Not backing away needlessly. Having the ability to back up your case and truthfully answer their objections.

What are your thoughts? Maybe I’m off track here. Let me know.

Current Sales Pay Plans

What is Your Current Sales Pay Plans?

My first outside sales pay plan was commission only. No base, no draw, just commission. If I sold, I made money. If not, …. It was a great learning experience. It proved the Tom Hopkins quote, “In sales, there is no ceiling for how much you can earn. Of course, there is no floor either.”

Learn How to Sell

Sales was not a new endeavor for me, but this was my first time where it determined whether I made money. The first few months were tough, but I grew to enjoy the pay plan over time.

I learned to sell using Zig Ziglar’s “Automobile University.” The library was full of cassette tapes at the time, and my first was Tom Hopkin’s “How to Master the Art of Selling.” It was the beginning of my Master’s Degree in self-learned selling.

Next up was Brian Tracy’s “Psychology of Selling.” Then Michael Pink’s “Selling among Wolves.” I was beginning to love the art of selling. And my numbers showed it.

My next sales job was a draw against commission. The draw had a three-month free run, after which you should be earning more than the draw. IF NOT, you went into the hole with the company until you did. I never got into the hole with that incentive.

Then the same company changed the pay plan to be a base salary + commission. The base was small, but the commission was generous. Life was good.

More Pay Plans

As time passed, I noticed that pay plans continued to change. Here is what I can currently identify in pay plans.

  1. Salary Only
  2. Base Salary + Commission
  3. Base Salary + Bonuses
  4. Commission Only
  5. Commission + Bonuses
  6. Draw + Commission

Are there others currently in use by sales companies? I’m curious about that and have set up a survey to see where companies land on this issue.

Please take a second to respond to the survey.

It is only one question from the above choices.

More on this later.

A Time for Leadership

leadership

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

“Leadership is an action, not a position.” Donald McGannon

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor but without folly.” Jim Rohn

A Time for Leadership?

Have diligence on the jobthat is the beginning of leadership.

Become a mentor, provide direction and encouragement to others...that is the beginning of leadership.

Have a willingness to pass on your knowledge, wisdom, and passion, to those that are want to learn, without reservation or hesitation...that is the beginning of leadership.

Willingly wanting to help someone learn a new job or boost someone’s spirits when they are down...that is the beginning of leadership.

Is it really the money?

Money Closeup

Is it the money? Many companies think the only motivating factor for salespeople is money. I think we all know that is not true, but companies still insist on perpetuating that myth.

Is money important? Of course. Is more money a good thing? Of course. Is it the only factor motivating you to get out of bed every morning and go get dozens of “No” answers from suspects? Of course not.

What Motivates You?

I like money a lot. I need it to support my family, to buy electronic gadgets, and to run and play when needed. However, it hasn’t been my primary motivator for a long time. I still need money to survive, but it has slid a few rungs on my list.

What Motivates Me?

  • Family
  • Personal Goals
  • Pride
  • Praise
  • Ego
  • Teaching
  • Training
  • Success
  • Prizes
  • Money

In May 2007, I wrote about motivation on Motivation on the Run. Here is an excerpt from that article.

From my experience in sales, the incentives were always the same. Oh, the prize would change, or the trip location would move, but trips and awards were the top two for long term motivation. Contests would run anywhere from one to three months with some criteria to judge the winner.

The money came into the picture for the short term. It usually happened when the boss noticed the numbers lagging for the month. He would walk into the bullpen and raise a one hundred dollar bill and shout, “Who wants a hundred bucks?” The responses better be loud and in the affirmative.

He would then lay a few ground rules for determining who would win the cash at the end of the day. First call with a sale, most significant sale of the day, most appointments set to take him on, etc. You get the picture.

In thinking about the different incentives I have been involved with, I put this list together.

1. Money

2. Prizes (DVD player, tv, etc.)

3. Personal goals

4. Trips

5. Encouragement (pat on the back)

You can tell the article is old from the mention of a DVD player as a prize.

I don’t think anything has changed in the last thirteen years. Most companies lead with money, then prizes, including trips.

Another article from Motivation on the Run in 2007 gives a humous look at the reason money is NOT the best motivation.

5 reasons Money isn’t the best motivation

1. It will just get spent on bills.

2. Your spouse will take it and buy shoes (or a boat).

3. The amount is not enough to make the effort worth it.

4. You’d rather have a raise.

5. Green isn’t your favorite color.

Some of the reasons are silly, but my experience in sales shows a real lack of discernment on the part of companies on what motivates their salespeople. Repeated surveys show money on the list, but well below family time, proper wages (to not need monetary incentives), and excellent benefits (health, life, disability). There seems to be a real disconnect on this one.

What Say You?

What is your motivation? Is it only money or something else entirely?

3 ways to increase your sales

five horses in grass field

There are three ways to increase your sales.

I don’t know a salesperson that doesn’t want to increase their sales. It means more money and greater job security. The problem is that many companies don’t provide the training necessary to accomplish this goal.

My experience might not be typical, but of all the companies I’ve sold for, only one offered a substantial training program that addressed parts of the above. That company didn’t cover the how-to for all three.

Increase your sales funnel

I wrote about this in How To Calculate Your Monthly Sales Projection, but the takeaway is the more abundant your funnel, the more you sell. Sounds easy and is compared to the others.

Increase your close ratio

Increasing your closing ratio is a great way to increase your sales, and I encourage you to learn how. It requires expanding your skillset in a couple of areas.

  • Qualifying
  • Asking better questions

The first step is knowing your products better than anyone. What problems do they solve? How do they incorporate into a company’s workflow? I wrote about product knowledge in this article; Product Knowledge is King. Here is what my experience shows.

Scenario One: A salesperson gets the appointment with the right person, and in that meeting, tells them everything they never wanted to know about your company. Your sure to include that your company has the best customer service. They’ve never heard that before.

Getting back to the office, you enter the prospect into the CRM and give it a 90% chance of closing. Then you project the sale to close the next month. Chances are it never happens.

Scenario Two: The same salesperson gets the appointment with the right person. His quick research gives him enough information to know what the company does and some of the challenges they are facing in the coming year. You discover who they compete with and their target market.

Then in the first meeting, you discuss the needs of the prospect. You find out about their criteria, their buying process, their timeline for implementation, and their budget. You also find out who makes the final decision and when they expect to make it.

Getting this information can easily take several appointments, meeting with different people.

From all this information, you decide if this is a prospect for your company. If so, you know how to enter them into the CRM and mark the percentage.

If not, you can enter them and tag them for followup at a later date. The company may be a prospect later.

If they are not a prospect at the current time, DO NOT WASTE time “checking back” and leaving telephone messages that don’t get returned.

Questions

Qualifying requires better information, and to get it, you need to ask better questions. They go hand-in-hand. Ask a lot of bad questions is worse than not asking any.

So how do you ask good questions? Here is my acronym reminder to stay on track.

Q = qualify
U = understand
E = engage
S = state
T = timing
I = image
O = objections
N = notify
S = send

So what does this mean?

Q = qualify

Do your homework. Determine a good set of questions before you arrive. [See above]

U = understand

You are required to understand their problems. What ideas have they tried? Why didn’t they work? Understand where the person you are meeting fits into the overall situation. Are you meeting with the end-user, an influencer, or the decision-maker? More and more, the decisions get made by committees. Is that the case with this current prospect?

E = engage

Engaging the prospect is vital to the process. If they aren’t engaged, they will not share information. They need to know you want to assist in solveing the issues they are experiencing.

Two things to remember. GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) and the old saying, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” A multitude of bad questions will result in a multitude of bad answers but if they sense you care, they will engage.

S = state

I am fascinated by the number of misunderstandings I witness in meetings. Recently, four of us met with a gentleman, and afterward, during our discussion, it was apparent we attended four different meetings. As you understand and engage the prospect, it is important to ask good followup questions and to restate what they said for confirmation. (Example: “If I understand you correctly, your thingamabob is causing a loss of three hours labor every time it breaks?”) Gaining confirmation assures the prospect said what you think you heard.

T = timing

The timing always refers to the prospect’s timing, not yours. You need to know when they plan to purchase, when the budget is ready, what is the expected timing for delivery and implementation. All this is critical to your sales projections.

I = image

Building a word picture for the prospect helps clarify the problem and your solution. Lost labor and additional repair expenses can seem like intangibles, but with word pictures, they come alive.

O = objections

Initially, I like to answer the prospect’s questions with a question to gain clarity. Is the question a real issue, or are they just curious? Are they hiding something or misleading with the answer? You need to know.

N = notify

Never skip this step! You must notify your prospect or customer what your next actions are. When will you followup? When can they expect your proposal? This step is critical and can gain a lead over the competition. Your prospect knows precisely what to expect from you.
NOW MAKE SURE AND DO WHAT YOU SAY.

S = send

Always, always, always send a thank-you note after a prospect has spent valuable time with you. It says something about you when you go the extra step.

  • You will give a little more than the competition
  • You will not skip the details
  • You are good at followup
  • You care about their time and appreciate them.

Do you want to move from salesman to Professional Salesman? Start using QUESTIONS today, and the journey begins.

Increase your margins

This third step to increase your sales is for professionals only. It is harder to implement and dangerous if done wrong. However, done correctly, it is a great strategy to increase your sales and your paycheck. We’ll dig into this in a later article.

How Do I Define Selling

Picture of for sale sign on building

How Do I Define Selling?

What is selling? It is a profession. Professional salespeople understand this and rise above the “order takers” that permeate the industry.

Are you a professional? Do you consistently work to improve your skills and abilities? Do you read books on selling and self-improvement? Do you listen to podcasts from salespeople that have shown themselves to be professionals? Do you study the art of selling in the modern world?

A professional salesperson is a person who partners with a customer to make their life better.

What selling is not

Selling is not bullying the customer. It is not pushing the customer. It is not “fast-talking” them into something they don’t need.

I don’t believe selling is spotting the taxidermied fish on the wall and asking about their fishing trip on the initial appointment. It is not asking questions like, “What keeps you up at night?” It is not about telling the customer what you think they want to hear, even if you have to tell a little white lie.

A short time ago, my sixteen-year-old granddaughter made a disparaging remark about selling. “It is crooked and all about lying,” she said. Curious, I asked for details and got the following story.

She and her mother went shopping for cell phones with a new carrier. They looked at the phones and asked a clerk in the store about what she thought about the one they liked. She then steered them to a particular telephone they hadn’t been interested in and began pressuring them to purchase “today” because of some “special” they were running.

They began asking questions and the answers they got were convincing enough that they made the purchase, and switched their phone numbers over to the new carrier.

A week later, they discovered that most of the information was a complete lie. The mother had to go up the chain of command to work at getting the issue resolved. I think they are still working on it after several months.

Because of that interaction, I don’t believe I convinced her what that person did was not indicative of a real salesperson.

Dictionary Definition

The dictionary lists a dozen different ideas defining selling.

Here is the dictionary definition of selling:

verb

gerund or present participle: selling

  1. give or hand over (something) in exchange for money
  2. persuade someone of the merits of
  3. talk someone into

The first one is technically true, but the second and third are the ones that can lead to that “pushy” moniker playing out. Don’t be pushy.

I frequently think about the act of selling, and my favorite game is to define selling in one word.

It’s not easy, but I believe it gets more to the heart of selling than most. A few I have come up with are:

  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Knowledge
  • Solving
  • Sharing
  • But what about Trust?

I’m sure if I spent enough time and energy, I could come up with a catchy acronym for these particular words or synonyms, but that is a job for another day. (Wait for next weeks acronym for “questions”)

Listening

I believe listening is the most critical skill in selling. Allowing the customer to know that you understand them. Listening lets you see what problems they are wrestling with and what their feelings are around the issue.

Empathy

Then comes empathy. This emotion allows you to sit where they are sitting, stand where they are standing and walk a mile in their shoes. (enough of that). If you genuinely empathize with the customer, you will have their best interest at heart. You can feel their frustration.

Knowledge

Without knowledge of their problems or knowledge of the different ways you might help, you are not a salesperson. You must be creative in solving the issue, even if it doesn’t involve you or your product.

I know this is radical, but sometimes the correct solution is not yours. A real professional salesperson will acknowledge this and contribute to finding the right answer. This ups the trust factor, and the customer knows you are a valuable asset.

Solving

People want their problems solved. Period. A person with a broken arm wants a doctor to set the bone and put on a cast. Salespeople have the same responsibility. Knowledge leads to a way to solve their problems. If you can’t solve the issue for them, you are not helping.

Sharing

Convincing and persuading are two words often used in selling. I’m not sure this is the best way. Better to share with the customer your concern, your thoughts, and possible solutions. That is better than the desperation that shows with a lousy salesperson.

Helping

I prefer to help customers any way I can, even if I have to give them someone else’s name and number. They remember and reward your thoughtfulness.

What about Trust?

Trust is huge. However, if following the previous thoughts hasn’t built trust, something else is wrong. Either you weren’t listening or didn’t ask the right questions. Time to rewind and start over. More on this in the coming weeks.

Oh, and practice, practice, practice. It’s the only way.