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?

Categories
Planning Sales

4 Factors of Sales

Plan your work & work your plan

I’ve been thinking about different factors in sales lately. Most salespeople focus on two or three of the four elements.

  • Time Management
  • Territory Management
  • Prospect Management
  • Sales Cycle Management

Most salespeople concentrate their effort on the first two and are ambivalent about the last two until the end of the month, and sales are short. The last two are just as important as the first two because of two things, chasing bad prospects and weak sales projections.

Time Management

Time management is the classic definition of the quote at the top of the article. If you do not make a plan and carry it out, you will waste time. Period.

Example: I remember one of my first days as a salesman with no experience. I headed out to “make calls” without a plan. I spent the first part of the day, driving around “looking” for a business that appeared “good” to call on. By noon, I have made one or two cold calls with poor results. That afternoon I knew I wasted a day and needed to figure out a better way. A long conversation with my sales manager helped put it in perspective. I got better by planning.

No plan results in wasted time.

Territory Management

Territory management is crucial to sales success. Some territories are small, and some cover multiple states. 

Example: If you covered Texas, Lousiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas, you wouldn’t think of making one call in Dallas, then drive to Oklahoma City for your second call then back to Houston for the next one.

A few years ago, I worked with a sales rep in San Antonio. After leaving the office, we made a call in Southwest San Antonio. Then, to my surprise, we headed north on the highway ending up West of town about ten miles. Our next stop was back inside the 410 Loop South of our last call and finally headed Northeast to call on a customer outside of the outer loop about five miles. Mapping this comes to 74 miles and over 1-½ hours of travel time. 

In discussing the day, I discovered this was a typical day for them. We quickly went to work on her territory management skills. Think about your territory and put together a management plan that gives more prospect time and less windshield time.

No plan results in wasted time.

Prospect Management

Prospect Management goes back to the proper qualifying of prospects. To manage your business, you must spend your time with the best opportunities in your territory. If you waste time with people or companies that are not a good fit for your company, you will make unreal sales projections and frustrate your sales manager to no end. 

Example: A salesperson working for me projected the same sale to close for the third month in a row. In my office, the salesperson insisted the deal was good for the month. I said, “Fine. Let’s go see them and get this done.” They were not a prospect, and they were not closing that month. After that, we spent some quality time on qualifying an opportunity.

No plan results in wasted time.

Sales Cycle Management

Sales Cycle Management is a combination of time, territory, and prospect management. From my experience, sales cycles can get out of control if a salesperson doesn’t focus on the first three factors. 

Sales cycles vary with industry, products, and sales experience. An inexperienced sales rep can stretch a 15-day sales cycle to more than a month without coaching. A six-month sales cycle may never close because it falls through the proverbial cracks.

Some industries are one or two call sales. Though they require a plan, it doesn’t have to be as extensive as a long close cycle.

The longer the sales cycle, the more management it requires. If you work in a long cycle sale, what is the plan to keep it on track and moving forward? 

  • Do you owe the prospect answers to questions? 
  • Do you owe the prospect additional specs?
  • Are they waiting for your proposal?
  • Are they waiting for the results of your walkthrough?
  • Do you owe the prospect a summary document of your meeting with key personnel?
  • Are they waiting for your financial analysis of their problem?
  • Have you scheduled your company expert for his input?
  • Did you schedule the next meeting? What is the purpose?

You get the idea. If a salesperson does not manage the sale, it will die.

If you don’t continue to manage the sales cycle, a sale can stretch beyond normal limits or, worse, be lost.

No plan results in wasted time.

Responsibility

The above sales factors should be a part of the onboarding training with every new hire. Just because a salesperson had years of experience doesn’t mean they are efficient. A sales manager needs to feel comfortable that the salesperson understands time, territory, prospect, and sales cycle management. 

Time for some self-reflection. How do you measure yourself at the four sales factors that influence your sales? I only managed to get better after realizing I didn’t understand the basics and needed guidance.

Books, tapes, and CDs make learning easy in “automobile university,” as Zig Ziglar said. Make use of the windshield time and hone your craft. 

Thoughts?

Categories
Business Planning Sales

3 ways to increase your sales

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.

Categories
Business Life Lessons Sales

How Do I Define Selling

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.

Categories
Information Life Lessons Sales

How To Calculate Your Monthly Sales Projection

How do you calculate your monthly sales projection?

 

On the first of every month, sales managers gather all the salespeople into a room to get their sales projections. What number will you hit this month? Traditionally, salespeople have no real idea, and most are not taught how to calculate their monthly sales numbers before the month begins.

How do most salespeople calculate a sales projection?

I find that most salespeople take a look at their funnel and then make up a number out of thin air.

Example: They look at the funnel and see a total number at the bottom of $100,000. The thinking goes that the salesperson will add a few more into that number during the month, so they project $125,000. Thin air!

Real-life shows us that the above projection is a fantasy.

Allowing this fantasy to continue will frustrate a salesperson because they rarely hit that number. There has to be a formula that helps salespeople be better at this monthly process.

There is.

Experience helps

Early in my sales career, I kept meticulous notes. I tracked leads, meetings, proposals, and sales. After a while, patterns begin to emerge.

I began discussing my findings with other people and found theirs were similar. Mind you; we were all in the same industry selling to the same type of prospects. I wondered if it held for other sectors.

Then I left that industry and changed companies. I went from monthly route sales to one-off sales of equipment. The change was both harder and easier than I thought, but success came rather quickly.

Why? I knew how to figure a monthly sales projection, and I don’t remember a time I didn’t make my number. I wasn’t low-balling the forecast either. It didn’t take long for my manager to use my number when giving his team number to the Regional Vice President.

He would doctor most other numbers, but learned mine was as close as one could get in the type sales we did.

How do you get to the number?

Historical data is the secret sauce. I noticed a pattern that seems to hold for most industries (I’ve used it in four different industries) and is easy to use.

Referring to the earlier example of the salesperson with the $100,000 funnel. Real-life shows us that 1/3 will close, 1/3 will push, and 1/3 are lost. The correct projection for this person is $30,000. Yes, I know that is only 99%, and that $30,000 is not quite a third, but I like round numbers.

Using this formula is also an excellent way to increase your sales. There is magic in the numbers.

How do you increase your sales using the funnel?

How can a funnel increase your sales? Working the rule of thirds means if you improve the number of correct prospects and close the same ration of 1/3, you will increase your sales. Need to sell 100,000 per month? Increase your funnel to $300,000.

Increasing your sales funnel is the easiest way to increase your monthly sales. It’s not easy, but it is the easiest. 

Make that extra call on the way back to the office. 

Make another dial before breaking for lunch. 

Do the work for more sales.

Will some months exceed the number? Yes. Will some fall below? Yes again.

Just a rule of thumb

We all know sales is a hard business. Monthly projections are only our best guesses of what number we can confidently hit for the month. Trust me, your sales manager might grimace when you give a smaller amount, but after a few months of close, accurate numbers, they will begin to appreciate the new you.

Use the rule of thirds for yourself for a few months and see how close it gets to your actual number.

I’m betting it will be on target.

Let me know your results. I am always collecting data for sales projections accuracy.

Later we’ll discuss the other two ways I know to increase your sales.

Categories
Information Life

How’s Your Attitude?

How’s your attitude? Is it good, bad, or somewhere in between? Do you have a “Can-do attitude?”

I wonder about things like this.

What percentage of “success” does a positive attitude bring? What is the relationship of your attitude to successfulness? Does a positive attitude mean I’m happy and cheerful? Or is it a measure of meeting my own goals. Must you always be upbeat, friendly, and bubbly to become successful?

How important to success is a great attitude?

The experts say a good, positive mental attitude is essential to a person’s success. However, we all know a lot of grumpy people that appear successful from the outside looking in.

Then that brings up the question, what is success? How do we measure attitudes and success?

We are told success is defined individually. Each person defines their own flavor of what is success.

What is your definition of success? I’m interested.

Categories
Business Life Lessons Sales

Are You a Fair Weather Salesperson?

Are you a fair-weather salesperson?

Do you know what that means? I admit to being a fair-weather golfer. I like warm, sunny days to really enjoy my trip around the course. Rain and snow are not my favorite times to head to the golf course.

A fair-weather salesperson is something kin to that. They make excuses for why they can’t do their job. The weather is too bad. All the prospects are on spring break. My wife is busy and I have to cook breakfast. And on and on it goes.

Not Completely True

How many times have you heard that you can’t see anyone between Christmas and New Years? Or maybe even between Thanksgiving and the new year. Maybe the snow is blowing so no one is out there calling on customers.

I am so tired of hearing these excuses from salespeople. They are just excuses. Excuses as to why they can’t make their numbers.

Are some prospects on vacation? Sure. Is it really cold with the blowing snow? Yes. However, the true professional is not looking for excuses to slack off, they are looking for sales. They are looking for an advantage over fair-weather salespeople.

Here’s the good news?

The week between Christmas and New Years can be fruitful. Do you know who else is taking vacations during the holidays? The regular gatekeeper. The one no one ever gets past. She is taking two weeks off and the temporary replacement doesn’t have her skills of rejecting you. Now you stand a chance to get past the front desk.

Deep SnowThe same goes for spring break and the blinding snowstorm.

Now’s your chance to make the appointment or get in to see that prospect.

Don’t be a fair-weather salesperson. Make the extra effort to excel.

Categories
Business Life Sales

That’s Not Fair

That’s Not Fair!

Fair. What is fair? Is there a requirement for fairness in the workplace? Does it exist in the world?

The definition of “Fair” is not very informative.

in accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate.
“the group has achieved fair and equal representation for all its members”

In accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate.  What does that mean?

And the synonyms are nothing if not interesting—just, equitable, fair-minded, open-minded, upright, honest, honorable, trustworthy.

Let me ask you this, what rules or standards? Who makes the rules? Who defines the standards? And then there is “legitimate” thrown in. How exactly does that fit with the definition?

If I set a standard height requirement of 6’0″ for entrance, is that fair? It is the standard I have set for admitance, so it must be fair.

Why Do I Ask the Question?

It seems the rally cry of the last few years is that “things” aren’t fair. Jobs, education, and finally life is not fair to expectations.

Is Fairness the Goal?

From my viewpoint, fairness is not the ultimate goal. They want special treatment, extra privileges,

Am I off base or right on?