Categories
Planning Sales Tech

If the Customer is Bored, It’s Your Fault

The sales rep I was working with that day had started his PowerPoint presentation, plowing through the thirty-five slides with maniacal fervor.
I was watching the customer; she was beginning to roll her eyes. She looked at me as if to plead for relief. I bumped the sales rep’s foot to get his attention, but his focus was intense.
Then I reached into the sales rep’s computer bag and brought out a sales agreement. That finally diverted his attention from the computer screen.

If the customer is bored

Simply put, it is your fault. Imagine an auditorium full of people; the entertainer’s job is to read the room and perform his best material for the pleasure of the audience. Sales reps need to do the same. Be prepared with your material and a plan of execution.
However, you need to take cues from the customer. You made this elaborate PowerPoint presentation. You included beautiful pictures and the perfect font with just a shade of color. Just know—it means nothing to the customer if it doesn’t fit the need.
You’re not there to entertain, but you must engage.

How does this happen?

This is a bad situation. In working with new sales reps in the field, I’ve witnessed more ways to bore a prospect or customer.
Here are a few:

  • You ARE boring
  • Your presentation is boring
  • You haven’t engaged the customer
  • They feel you are wasting their time
  • You haven’t shown any value

You ARE boring
What if you are boring? Why? Are you speaking in a monotone, trance-like manner lulling the customer to sleep? Maybe you didn’t sleep well and are just tired. Or a tiff with your spouse causes a foul mood.
Whatever the reason, you have to put the customer first and be vibrant and attentive.
Your presentation is boring
The last thing most customers want is a thirty-minute lesson on the history of your company. I promise you this will bore them to tears. Also, if you have more than five slides, you are bordering on too many. If your slides have more than a dozen words each, pare them down. If they include dozens of facts and figures from some study from a decade ago, it has to go.
Think about what you include on your slides. They aren’t a crutch for a lack of knowledge.
You haven’t engaged the customer
If you are doing all the talking, you are failing as a salesperson. The customer has more critical items on their list than to listen to you drone on about your issues.
Your call plan should have the right questions to engage the customer and get them talking about their company and their problems. How will you fix what you don’t know is broken?
The Customer thinks you are wasting time
Wasting their time is similar to the above. If the customer perceives you as a waste of their time, you will get nowhere with them. You have to be considerate of the time they carved out of their busy schedule to speak with you. If you have fifteen minutes, use it wisely so they don’t feel like they should be working on something else.
You haven’t shown any value
Why are you wasting their time if you have nothing to add to their company. Why are you there? What help are you? Is it budget-friendly?
What is the value you are bringing to them?
You are not paying attention to the customer
The worst problem of all is if you are not paying attention to them. The sales rep I was working with was so focused on HIS preparation, HIS PowerPoint, HIS sales plan, HIS problems, HIS time, he forgot why he was there: to help this customer solve a problem.
Think about how that looks to the customer.

How do you resolve the issue?

First, don’t be boring. Prepare well and have a meeting plan but remember to read the customer. You may have to “wing it” once the meeting starts, and it moves over to a tangent. Just because you think you know their problems, you might be off base.
Pay attention to the customer—their feedback—to stay on track. It will pay off in the end.
If they begin talking about a problem they have, stop thinking about your reply and pay attention to what they are saying. You might learn something.
And if you are listening to them speak, you cannot be boring.
Think about it!

What was My Salesrep’s mistake?

He wasn’t paying attention to the customer and was talking past the sale. She was ready to buy, but he needed to finish “selling” her. She was prepared to buy after the forth slide, but he was power pointing ahead. He spent so much time building those thirty-five slides he didn’t want them wasted.

Driving to the next appointment allowed a discussion about a customer first approach.

Categories
Business Sales

Are you the person responsible for sales training?

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. 

Customers would come in, and all the counter people were busy, so a manager would have to stop what they were doing and wait on a customer. I wondered what the counter people were doing that was taking so much time. 

It involved two things: pulling their orders and calling around to suppliers to find specialty items, then creating purchase orders and sending when they found items. 

It was Bad

Both issues needed addressing, but it got worse. 

The next discovery was that they were calculating the selling price for each item on their own. I began looking at the invoices and tracking back to the purchase orders and discovered in many cases, they were selling items at a loss. When questioned, they explained they were taught to “get the cost and multiply by 2.5.” That was supposed to be a reasonable price. 

The problem? The freight cost was not considered, so it was absorbed by the company and not charged to the customer for their special orders.

Real Example:

A customer ordered five each of an item. Our cost from the supplier was $2.00 each. With the 2.5 multiplier, the counter person sold them to the customer for $5.00 each. Five times $5.00 is $25.00. It looks like a decent profit until I tell you the UPS charge for bringing the items to us was $15.00.

Adding the cost of the items, $10 plus the UPS charge, $15, you get the picture. Just the items and freight were the same as the selling price, $25.00 Not counting time spent, and all the personnel that had to touch the PO and the order at Corporate. How much did we lose? Probably twice the cost of the items.

Why do I bring this up?

Inadequate training does not constitute training 

I then conducted a training session for the counter people to explain. They were shocked, to say the least, to learn that their training cost the company money, instead of making it money. 

So who was responsible for their training? I was once I found the issue. My question is who should have caught this earlier. The 2.5 times cost was the standard practice in place for many years. I can’t even imagine the money the company lost over the years. And, they had nine locations, all taught the same thing. 

Has This Happened to You?

I’ve noticed a pattern around this type of training. Since it needs to be universal and simple, it is easy to make it too easy and too simple. 

This practice in place at nine locations and used daily and weekly, must have devastated their bottom line.

What is your experience with this type of problem? I am curious if this goes deeper than a few isolated cases.

Categories
Sales

Are Great Questions a Skill You Want?

“After every difficulty, ask yourself two questions: “What did I do right?” and “What would I do differently?” -Brian Tracy

Asking the wrong question over and over again will never result in a good answer. Over the years, I have witnessed ill-prepared salespeople ask the wrong question, ask a bad question, and get frustrated when the prospect shuts them down.

The Importance of Questions

Well thought out questions are a salesperson’s best friend. They help uncover problems the prospect is experiencing. It can help them discover ‘who.’

  • Who you need to meet with
  • Who gathers/collates information
  • Who signs off on the requirements
  • Who makes the purchasing decision
  • Who signs the purchase orders
  • Who oversees the implementation
  • Who signs off on ‘done.’

It can also help a salesperson get to the prospects’ what.’

  • What problems are they having
  • What is the problem costing them
  • What can you do to help
  • What is their schedule for solving the problem

Knowing the Prospect

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of basic research before trying to get an appointment with a new prospect, whether on a cold call or followup call.

You should know what the company does to make their money and how they fit into their market. With only this little information, you can offer a reasonable entry for a meeting. With no information, you are at a significant disadvantage.

Whey you get the meeting, a lot more information is needed. Always formulate the questions before the meeting, so you show yourself as knowledgeable. Good questions are the standard.

Don’t ask ‘bad’ questions.

So, tell me what you do here at XYZ Corp. I’m sure we can help save you money and increase your profits.


Or maybe;

That’s a nice looking bass on the wall. You a fisherman?

First of all, they are busy and don’t have a lot of time for your meandering.

Here are some items to know before a meeting:

  • What the company does
  • How do they deliver value to customer, employees, and stakeholders
  • Who are the officers which lead to who you need to meet
  • Who are their competitors
  • Where are they strong in their field
  • Where are they weakest
  • What segment/industries do they serve

Ask Relevant Questions

Think about relevant questions. Here is the definition.

Closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered; appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances; of contemporary interest.


First, in the first meeting, they probably don’t care about your company’s history or how long you’ve been in business. There is a time for that, but it shouldn’t be the first thing out of your mouth.

Think about your research.

  • Are they the leader in their industry or number two?
  • How does this apply to what you do?
  • How can you be relevant to them?
  • Is there a way to relate your knowledge to their problem?

Ah, their problem. Do you have other customers in their space? Whether you are working verticals or horizontals, you probably know some of the issues they have. Ask appropriate questions to see if it is true. Even if they have different problems, they will be impressed with your knowledge of the field they represent.
Use that to segue into specific issues they have. Always be thinking about how you can help them.
If you can help, they will be open to a discussion about your results with other customers.

Be Smart about Questioning

There are a few rules asking questions in an exploratory meeting. Here are rules that will set you apart.

  • PAY ATTENTION
  • BE FLEXIBLE
  • Be mindful of their time.
  • Do not ‘grill’ the prospect.
  • Formulate good questions before the meeting
  • Listen to the answers
  • Listening allows for great followup question
  • Explore where they are going in their thoughts
  • It’s okay to go off-script when they open a door.
  • Explore from the point of helping


Every product I’ve ever sold had many different ways of helping prospects. It is your job as a salesperson to discover one or more of those ways.

Here is my last thought.

Asking the wrong (or bad) question over and over will never result in a good answer. It might even get you escorted out.

What are some of your favorite questions to get the prospect talking?

Categories
Business Sales

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

” 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.

Categories
Business Sales

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.

Categories
Sales Tech

8 Ways of Selling

Have you ever thought about the different ways to prospect today? When I started selling, we had three ways to sell that I can remember (It’s been a long time)

  • Call on the telephone
  • Walk into offices in person
  • Mail letters or postcards

Now we’ve added digital alternatives:

  • Send an email
  • Send a text
  • Build a personal brand (expert) by creating content (blog, podcast, etc.)
  • Connect using LinkedIn
  • Connect using other social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Are there others I’m missing?

New Salespeople

A salesperson just coming into the sales sphere has more options than past salespeople. New salespeople will know the different platforms but will need more training in using them to prospect rather than social interactions with friends.

Caution

I would caution new salespeople not to discount the old ways entirely. The novelty of a physical cold call might just catch a prospect by surprise and give them a window into your work ethic. They might admire the hustle, especially if they see your determination.

Who knows? You might love the connection.

Categories
Business Life Lessons Sales

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.

Categories
Business Sales

Is it really the money?

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?