Are Great Questions a Skill You Want?

Red letters with Questions with a blue question mark

“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.’

Continue reading “Are Great Questions a Skill You Want?”

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

Continue reading “How Important is Sales Training to Your Company’s Success?”

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.

8 Ways of Selling

Sell with Rising chart

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? Continue reading “8 Ways of Selling”

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?

4 Factors of Sales

Plan your work

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?