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How to keep your sales wheels turning

April 11, 2014 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Education in Sales, Sales Research, Sales Training, Self Development

Maintaining momentum in a sales career requires a proactive, disciplined approach. There are many things to consider and put together to achieve an effective selling week and sales year. The onus is on us, the salesperson, to make the most of what we have. However, many sales people unfortunately adopt the approach that it is their company’s responsibility to train and educate them, to provide everything they need before they can truly be effective as sales people.

By contrast, enlightened, highly effective sales people recognise that they need to invest in themselves, invest in their own learning and continuous development, make the most of what they have and create opportunities whatever their resources. A five year longitudinal study[1] of more than 1,000 B2B sales people, from 40 industries looked at what separates top performing sales people from average ones and revealed, amongst other things, that these top  performers took a proactive approach to their ongoing development; they took responsibility for their part in helping their company and customers be successful; and they continuously looked at ways they could attain mastery in their sales careers – despite management and resources, and always without prompting.

So what can we learn from these top sales performers? What do we have to do now to keep our sales wheels turning? How do we create our own perpetual learning environment (PLE) to help us be successful?

 

1) Adopt a learning mindset

open-to-learningThe first thing is that you need to be open to learning. We don’t mean this in the formal classroom sense though; it is about a mindset of being open to seeing every opportunity – good and bad – as a learning opportunity. Thus it is about self reflection, recognising your part in the processes you are involved in. The top sales performers from the study engage in self-appraisal and continuous learning.

They:

  • Ask for feedback on their performance and the degree to which they met clients’ expectations,
  • Collaborate with colleagues and do not allow competitiveness to get in the way,
  • Recognise and act on the need for continuous learning and development,
  • Evaluate their performance and competencies and initiate development activities without prompting.

 

2) Collaborate with others to get the job done

CollaborativeWorkingSelling is often portrayed as a solitary role – sales people out on the road running their own territories, the lone wolf, and so on. Top sales performers are not the lone wolf type, they know the importance and power of collaboration both within their own organisation and out with their clients and networks.

They:

  • Invest time building collaborative, customer-focused relationships inside their organization,
  • Keep current on developments that affect customers’ business strategies including emerging trends and customers’ competitors,
  • Look for ways to contribute to customers’ profitability and that of their own companies,
  • Creatively draw on the full resources of their organisation,
  • Excel at aligning customer/ supplier strategic objectives,
  • Use internal resources in ways that are appropriate to the potential profitability of serving individual customers,
  • Introduce customers to other suppliers and potentially valuable support resources.

 

3) Develop a Mastery Mindset

mastery-mindsetNow some of you are already doing these things and this is merely an acknowledgement and validation of your life skill practices. However, if we expect our organisations to provide us with all the support we need to be effective sales professionals, we might remain waiting. What we all need to do is step up to the plate, take the initiative and invest in ourselves. Top sales performers see their relationship with their organisation as a partnership – one where they work together in concert to make the most of the opportunities available to them. Developing effective sales capabilities is more than a one or two day training event on sales theory and skills. If you want to emulate top performing sales people and become one yourself then you need to take a holistic approach by integrating both formal and informal elements into your daily practices. The most effective way to learn and develop a skill, behaviour or mindset is to apply it and practice it on the job and in real life situations. Paying conscious attention to the core elements of your sales role you will begin to internalise, own and apply what you learn.  In that way what you learn becomes habit and part of your way of being. We cannot expect to become masters in our chosen field overnight. Expecting quick fixes is delusional. Attaining Mastery in anything is always a challenge. As Daniel Pink cites in his best-selling book “Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us”, ‘Mastery abides by three peculiar rules:

  • Mastery is mindset: it requires the capacity to see your abilities not as finite, but as infinitely improvable.
  • Mastery is pain: It demands effort, grit, and deliberate practice.
  • Mastery is an asymptote: It’s impossible to fully realise, which makes it simultaneously frustrating and alluring.’

 

4) Create your own Perpetual Learning Environment

InfinityThere is a lot to think about to keep the sales wheels turning. That is why top sales performers create a schedule which incorporates a range of activities to keep them on track to the rhythm of their continuous development.

To create your own perpetual learning environment it is most useful to map out how you are going to be continuously learning, what to reflect upon, which insights will keep you fresh and on your toes.

Create a schedule that includes weekly, monthly and quarterly activities

 

Underlying principles of a Perpetual Learning Environment (PLE):

The core idea of perpetual learning is that learning becomes part of your daily routines. Thus ‘routine’ is not a state where you are driven by what you know and are skilled to do without much reflection or effort. Routine in a Perpetual Learning Environment is engaging yourself, your brain, in learning on a daily basis. If after a long working day you can’t answer the question “what have I learned today?” then learning is not yet part of your routine. To get to this state you have to make yourself aware – continuously – of what is happening with you, around you, and reflect upon it – if only for a few minutes – to see if there is anything, even the smallest thing, that you would want to do differently the next time. It is the acknowledgment that in an ever changing environment learning never ends. It is key to keep our sales wheels turning.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

 


[1] Research by Rosen Rosenbaum. Business Horizons, Jan 2001/Feb 2001, Vol 44, Issue 1. Seven Emerging Sales Competencies Rosenbaum, B. Industrial Psychologist

Prioritising Your Prospective Buyers

March 13, 2014 in Education in Sales, Prospecting, Sales Planning, Sales Tips, Uncategorized

Every salesperson has a territory.  Whether that “territory” is defined by geography or demography, horizontally or vertically in terms of market segmentation, or by product, sales people need to be able to prioritise their prospects and their prospecting activities and efforts.

We only have a finite time everyday to find and make sales.  If we are clear about what we offer, how it is of value to our clients and know where and how we find these prospective buyers, selling and buying is much easier.

profiling-buyersAn important skill for all salespeople is to learn to identify different buyer profiles. This knowledge helps sales people fast-track their position with key decision makers and influencers.

Categorising decision-makers and buying influencers enables sales people to put the right emphasis on the value offered and as a consequence they optimise the use of time. This ensures that sales people don’t ignore (and potentially alienate) important client decision makers and buying influencers.

When we look at a ‘sales territory’ we need to look at key criteria about our market first:

  • Impact on the Buyer (personally or across the value chain) – what is the impact of our offering on the buyer? It will range from high impact to low impact.
  • Number of alternative Solution Providers (competitors): how many competitors are competing for your buyer’s attention? Many or few?

As illustrated by the diagram here we plot the ‘Impact on the Buyer’ and Number of Alternative Solution Providers’ on a graph.

prospect-segmatation-mappingNow we can prioritise and map the different types of buyers we may encounter in our ‘Sales Territory’.  Within your given sales territory there are generally four types of prospective buyers:

  1. Rented Customers: To these prospects the purchase is “nice to have” but not necessarily essential – because the impact on the buyer is low. In addition, they have many alternatives to pick from so they are likely to want lower prices, quick delivery and uncomplicated solutions.
  2. Value Add Seeker: These prospects have the upper hand in negotiating because of the amount of alternatives they have available to them for the purchase decision they want to make. The advantage you have is that they really need your solutions.
  3. Risk Manager: These prospects are concerned about the reputation and reliability of the supplier they choose. Because the purchase has low impact on them they can afford to take time and shop around until they find the kind of solution they want, at a price they are comfortable with. They may even go without a solution.
  4. Real Partners: The importance of the purchase to the buyer and the fact that there are not too many options open to them are some of the reasons why these buyers look for preferred suppliers with whom they want to form long-term relationships.

Determining the different types of prospective buyers helps sales people work smarter because it allows us to focus more effectively on how we need to work with buyers, how best to position what we have to offer and how to prioritise our time and activities.  In sales, being able to prioritise who you are going to work with and how you are going to work with them is very important.

Selling requires constant prioritising.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

Sales Trend 1: Sales Management will look to drive costs out of sales

February 13, 2014 in Education in Sales, Sales Management, Sales Trends

Since 2009 we have been publishing our Annual 12 Sales Trends reports. It has been very interesting to see the speed at which these trends are taking hold and becoming the new normal in business.  For instance, when reviewing the 12 Sales Trends for 2013 you can see hard evidence of these trends in mainstream practice. So let’s see what is in store for us in 2014. Here is the first Sales Trend for 2014 – Sales Management will look to drive costs out of sales.

In 2014 sales management are going to come under increasing pressure to drive down costs of sales. Whilst being effective and generating more business will continue as the main thrust for selling, reducing the cost of sale, and selling at better margins, are going to be the two primary challenges facing management, as they look to squeeze profits in a market that is somewhat stagnant.

escalating costs of salesOver the past few years the cost of sale has been escalating. Salespeople are demanding higher salaries and commissions; customers are pushing suppliers for lower prices; and all of this in a market place that is not growing quickly enough to sustain the growth demands of shareholders. If that were not enough, competition – particularly from off shore players – is on the increase as they too look for additional markets and sustained growth for themselves. And many of these off shore competitors have an advantage over Australian companies where labour costs contribute to a high end product selling price.

Whilst sales effectiveness – selling more, to more buyers – has been the primary focus for the past few years (and will continue in the year ahead) market conditions will force sales management to find ways to cut costs out of selling. As a result of these pressures there are 5 major areas that are likely to be targeted for change:

1.       Sales managers are likely to look for ways that will allow sales teams to sell in smaller geographic territories and to use saturation selling to get more customers in an area, in the process reducing both the time and cost to sell, as well as the cost of delivery, service and support.

 2.       The drive to cut cost out of sales will see sales management looking for new and more efficient ways to service low value customers. More innovative use of the Internet as a store front will see a drop off in call centres and an enhancement in customer interaction using a combination of the Internet and social media.

 3.       Salespeople will find that the organisations they work for are going to introduce packages that link sales results to their remuneration. Sales productivity measures will focus on outputs rather than inputs and salespeople are going to have to work smarter to satisfy the demands of their organisations.

 4.       There is likely to be a shift away from volume as an indicator of sales effectiveness to a combination of volume and value, as companies look for ways to sell more profitable lines at higher margins. In 2014, instead of volume based incentives, salespeople are likely to find margin and profitability high up on the list of their sales performance indicators for success.

 5.       To improve sales productivity sales management are going to invest in technology to shorten the sales cycle and speed up order processing. Salespeople will find themselves being trained to sell more effectively – not only in order to close more business, but to do so faster. And that means that salespeople will learn more about territory planning, management and sales strategies so that they can saturate their designated territories.

shoppers reach for moreThe take out:

Whilst sales effectiveness – selling more, to more buyers – has been the primary focus for the past few years, market conditions will force sales management to find ways to cut costs out of selling.

 

And, how timely this sales trend given the current state of manufacturing in Australia.
Food for thought.

 

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

12 Sales Trends for 2014 – The Thinking Sales Organisation

December 19, 2013 in Education in Sales, Sales Culture, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Research

As 2013 comes to a close we firstly wanted to thank all our loyal readers for their continued support of our work. We also thought you would like to get a sneak peek of our Annual 12 Sales Trends Report for 2014. With the unprecedented changes we are experiencing as a result of the digital revolution and the commoditisation of quality we can no longer manage sales by processes and numbers alone – it’s become a thinking person’s game.   As a result, the Barrett Consulting Group’s annual Sales Trends Report for 2014 has selected the theme: “The Thinking Sales Organisation”.

Barrett-Sales-Trend-Report-2014Sales operations are complex systems that involve many variable outcomes making it almost impossible to predict, with any degree of certainty, what will happen. Nothing in sales has ever been predictable. Now, with rampant change, that unpredictability has increased in pace and impact. That is why this Sales Trends report focuses on a number of important variables that will impact the success or otherwise of sales operations in 2014.
The following is a sneak peek of each of the 12 sales trends. You can purchase and download the detailed 49 page report of the 12 Sales Trends for 2014 at www.salesessentials.co/shop now to see which sales trends will have the greatest impact on your sales operations in 2014.

Sales Trend 1 – Sales Management Will Look to Drive Costs Out of Sales

In 2014, sales managers are going to come under increasing pressure to drive costs out of sales. While being effective and generating more business will continue as the main focus of selling, cutting cost out of sales and selling at better margins are going to be the two primary challenges, as management looks to squeeze profits in a market that is somewhat stagnant. As a result there are likely to be five major focus areas including: sales managers redefining sales territories; looking for new and more efficient ways to service low-value customers; and a shift away from volume as an indicator of sales success to a combination of volume and value.

Sales Trend 2 -  Telesales will have to make dramatic changes

telesales-need-to-rethink-operationsWith the increasing demands of more sophisticated buyers, telesales operators, who have traditionally focused on the uncomplicated sale of easy-to-understand commodities, are going to have to increase their knowledge base and learn to sell solutions to buyers who are more demanding, more knowledgeable and with higher expectations. This shake up means a radical re-think for telesales operations. Smart companies will see their telesales teams as a vital part of their overall sales operation. Some may even bring back in house those telesales teams that were previously outsourced or off shored.

Sales Trend 3 -  Sales Excellence Managers will find their real role

Smart companies are dispensing with their sales excellence operations and incorporating it back into the sales management function.  This sales trend will see sales managers, who are and have always been responsible for sales excellence, face pressure to resume this responsibility and deliver sales excellence. In the process sales excellence managers will either revert to their original role of sales training managers or find themselves being deployed elsewhere in the sales operations chain.

Sales Trend 4 -  Sales Training Methodologies are going to change

Sales training is not going to disappear; however, it will change its shape. As the market becomes more complex and competition more virulent salespeople will need more, not less training. But they will also have less time to be trained. These two forces – increased competition with the need to up skill salespeople and less time for training – will make identifying different training methods key to success.  The trend in 2014 will be for companies to reduce the cost of training whilst still developing their salespeople. Blending e-learning with class room work and in-field coaching is going to become the focal point of training in the new year.

micro-sales-segmentationSales Trend 5 – The move to Micro Sales Segmentation

The complexities of selling in 2014 are going to demand a re-think on the part of sales managers. Relying, as they have in the past, on marketing’s broader brush approach to segmentation is not going to cut it anymore and sales will have to re-assess how it goes about segmenting target markets.  As sales is learning, becoming tighter, almost micro market focused, defining the most attractive segments is the function of strategic sales in 2014. Getting it wrong can end up by costing the organisation too much.

Sales Trend 6 – The low carbon economy sales opportunities

barrett-solar-install-smallDespite many governments lagging behind in terms of creating and endorsing low carbon policies and industries, forward thinking organisations are taking the lead on creating low / no carbon businesses and partnering with each other. And it’s not just big business, there is a growing number of SMEs (small to medium enterprises) driving change too. There are massively big opportunities for innovation and product/service development in a low carbon economy as well as social evolution.

Sales Trend 7 -  The normalizing of Social Media in Sales

This sales trend is seeing businesses really ramping up their use of social media and in much more sophisticated ways. Rather than seeing social media as a tack on to the marketing budget, smart businesses are now creating their own social media departments who are actively working with sales, marketing and other departments, in concert, to create real-time content that is engaging, relevant and interactive.

brain gearsSales Trend 8 -  A radical shift in sales mindset

This sales trend is all about the radical shift in the sales mindset that currently is underway in organisations as prophesised by the Cluetrain Manifesto 15 years ago.  Smart companies are moving from competition to collaboration, from ‘me’ to ‘we’.  They are involving everyone across their business to be meaningfully connected in some way to the customers.

Sales Trend 9 -  Procurement need to be solutions salespeople too

This sales trend highlights how the skills, knowledge and mindset of procurement professionals are being expanded to include the capabilities of highly competent solutions sales professionals.

The latest whitepapers, running commentary threads on Linkedin Procurement Groups across the world, and Procurement Conferences and education bodies are all pointing towards procurement coming of age as a value creator and provider. No longer can procurement rest its case on ‘lowest cost’, ‘cheapest price’ or ‘supply of goods and services’; it must assume responsibility for the creation and delivery of real value beyond a price and general supply.

sales-strategySales Trend 10 – The Legitimisation of Sales Strategy

This sales trend will see Sales Strategy become the hot discipline of business in 2014 and beyond as business leaders work out how to move their sales operations out from under the shadow of Marketing and being a purely tactical function to being a strategic operation that works across the entire business value chain delivering real value and real growth.  Sales Strategy will begin to be studied by those charged with managing a sales team as well as other management disciplines to ensure sales and organisational success.  Along with business and marketing strategies, sales strategy will take a lead position at the C suite.

Sales Trend 11 – Learning to sell in the Asian Century

We are already even more reliant upon China for our prosperity than any comparable economy, at more than one quarter of our exports. We are China’s number one destination for foreign investment and a leading beneficiary of the education aspirations of its growing middle class. Yet many of us remain deeply ambivalent about the world-changing economic transformation of China and underestimate our need to be prepared.  Smart companies are recognising the need to develop deeper engagement with their Chinese counterparts – in universities, industries and governments. More Australian salespeople will need to study China, travel, live, work and speak Chinese.

enlightened-sales-personSales Trend 12 – The Enlightened Sales Person

This sales trend is seeing a new kind of sales person emerging in our midst.  Smart companies are becoming aware that they need a new kind of sales person, especially at the higher levels of business.  Customers, particularly in the Australian market and increasingly worldwide, are looking for a collaborative, more enlightened approach to selling, where they can work with sales professionals who bring their in-depth knowledge an understanding of how solutions can be applied and who work with their customers who also have an in depth knowledge of their own business and challenges.

For the detailed version of the Barrett 12 Sales Trends Report for 2014 please go to www.salesessentials.com/shop to purchase and download your copy there.  You can also get complimentary downloads of the detailed Sales Trends Reports for 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 here.

Finally, on behalf of the team at Barrett we wish you, your families and teams all the very best for the festive season and look forward to reconnecting in the new year.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

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