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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

Sales People In The Deep End (Again)

November 26, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Education in Sales, Sales Coaching, Sales Skills, Sales Training

Last week I received a call from a woman (let’s call her Tracy for the purpose of this article) desperately seeking help on how to sell.  Tracy had been in her role for 5 months and all that time had not received any guidance, advice, coaching or support from her managers on how to sell her products or who to sell them to. She had never been in a sales role before and did not work in the vicinity of the head office.  She was out there on her own with some product samples, a standardised introductory letter and her wits. All Tracy was told to do when she started the job was ‘go out and sell’. That was it. Nothing else. Not even a field visit by management. Zip.

qualities-of-a-good-sales-person-ticked-off

showing a number of good qualities

To her credit, Tracy tried all sorts of things to generate sales – whilst many of her actions did not yield any sales results, she kept trying to no avail.  In desperation, Tracy called the recruitment agency that placed her in the role to find out how she could get more training on how to sell.  She was referred to us. Despite the situation she wanted to succeed. She wanted to make a go of it, to become a successful salesperson. And to me Tracy is worth helping – she showed a number of qualities that if properly guided, trained and coached would make her into a decent salesperson.  But under the current circumstances she is fighting a tough battle.

I won’t go into specifics about her situation; however, I want to highlight that Tracy is not alone. Too many people who enter sales or start new sales roles with different companies have similar tales to tell.  Many are thrown in the deep and set adrift. Why does this happen? The main reason is that people do not understand selling.  They do not know what is required to sell well. In their ignorance they look for people with bright personalities who are ‘good people’ people. Or they look for people with experience in their industry. And they think that is all that is required.

Either way their sales efforts will flounder if not fail outright.

Selling is a very complex role and to do it well you need a number of components working in concert.  If we are to get our salespeople off to a good start we need to give them the following at the very least:

Sales
Planning
Go to market action plan
How we sell
Company Policies& Procedures
  • Sales Planning
    • Our company story
    • The business of our business (what we do for people)
    • Our value proposition (how people benefit from what we do for them)
    • Our target markets and types of clients we sell to
    • Our competitors and our competitive advantage (why us?)
    • Our sales strategy (goals, objectives, nationally, regionally and by salesperson)
  • Go-to-market action plan
    • Prospecting: How we go to market to connect with prospective and existing clients to position ourselves to win business
    • How we generate leads (prospecting calls, social media, advertising, events, etc.)
  • How we sell
    • Our sales approach (solutions selling, consultative selling, etc.)
    • How we position and price our products and services
    • How we  present proposals/quotes
    • Product knowledge
  • Company Policies & Procedures
    • Procedures, policies, etc.
    • Warranties, guarantees, etc.
    • Customer service, ordering and distribution
    • Safety and complaints handling procedures

Even if this information is in a manual format it would be a damn side better than what Tracy has received to date. Shame on this business for not setting her up for success in the first place.  Instead, Tracy has been set up to fail from day one.

strong-people-do-not-put-others-down-they-lift-them-upWe are better than that. We don’t throw people into technical roles and expect them to be master craftsmen, tradespeople, engineers, accountants or doctors, so why do we persist in treating one of the most valuable roles in our business with such disdain?

Selling is everybody’s business and it makes sense to give salespeople a decent start. Without good salespeople we do not have successful businesses. Let’s get our collective acts together and make sure that anyone who is undertaking a sales role can get the best start possible.  It will pay handsomely to those who get it right and your salespeople will thank you for that.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

The University of Selling

July 4, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Education in Sales, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Skills, Sales Training, Self Development

Until now, there has been no officially recognised benchmark for Selling at tertiary level nor salespeople who can claim a university qualification as their own. On the other hand Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Production, Engineering, Business Administration, IT, Research & Design, Human Resources, Logistics, Procurement and even Entrepreneurship all have recognised tertiary qualifications in the business stream with many proud graduates.

image_apprenticeships_programThe nature of the sales role is one that demands practical implementation, so many salespeople have and still do learn and study on the job never being formally educated or recognised for their efforts. Like tradesmen, they serve an ‘apprenticeship’ (formal or otherwise) that takes them through the various stages of development until they can stand alone, un-supervised. So yes, they may not have university degrees and may not have studied for 3 years on a trot to become a ‘qualified sales person, but they are skilful and just as competent as other tertiary qualified business executives.

From a distance, especially to the non sales person, you cannot see the level of detail and knowledge sales people need to learn, develop and apply in order to be effective and successful. Salespeople get trained (formally in some cases but usually informally) over years and learn about their products and services; about their competitors and their products and services, about their markets, customers and their businesses, about marketing and about relationship building; about production, distribution and financial issues. They learn to understand costs and margins – if not the use of models, then certainly the practical application of them. And in the process they learn some 18 different selling skills and capabilities just to be effective. If they don’t do that, their chances of being a success are almost null. And even when they have learned all of these things, there is no guarantee that they will be allowed any more responsibility or be taken seriously by senior management or the business as a whole.

Selling as a career, for too long, has been trivialised, even disrespected by management, academics and even by young adults going into business. Do you ever hear anyone tell you that they are consciously choosing selling as a career?

Times_are_changingWell, times are indeed changing. With product no longer central to the sales process, every self-respecting business person is realising that without an effective sales operation organisations aren’t going to generate the revenue and margins needed to sustain the business, let alone grow it. People of all persuasions are now aware that selling is everybody’s business and you can indeed learn how to be a really effective sales professional now with the added cache of a tertiary qualification.

Companies like Dentsply, a leading dental supply company, believe in investing in training, coaching and developing their sales force to the highest standards to ensure their clients and their own people can really prosper and flourish and have done so for many years.  That is why Dentsply along with an industrial supply company, are the first companies to have their entire Australian and New Zealand Sales Force be the very first salespeople to earn a tertiary qualification in Sales via a Diploma of Business with Swinburne University of Technology.

As of July 2013, Australia now has 50 professional salespeople with a tertiary qualification that is solely centred around the profession of Selling working directly in the field with clients; and the results are proving very exciting for these sales professionals, their clients and their companies.

For me, personally, this has been a long held dream. Since 1999 I have wanted to see the Sales Profession have a place on the university curriculum. Many, many phone calls and meetings later we have arrived at a Diploma of Business which as far as I am concerned is just the start.

tertiary-qualifiedNow individuals, businesses and sales leaders everywhere can invest in themselves and/or their salespeople and get tertiary qualified. This will help them reduce the ‘learn to earn’ curve time frame, shorten the sales development cycle and fast-track their return on investment and make more and better sales. And finally salespeople can now stand shoulder to shoulder with their business colleagues having now earned their professional status and place at the university and boardroom tables.

If you want more information about the Sales Essentials Program and how to get a Diploma of Business please contact us on 03 9533 0000.  You or your team may also qualify for government funding.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

Selling Professional Services

June 14, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Business Acumen, Education in Sales, Sales Skills, Sales Training

This article first appeared on June 12, 2013 on BRW

Professional services providers face a challenge that many within the sector are struggling to come to terms with. For centuries the sector – comprising doctors, lawyers, accountants engineers and the like – enjoyed a somewhat exalted position in society.

Ignorance among the general populace, fuelled primarily by the high cost of education, made studying to be a doctor, lawyer or other profession out of the reach of most, and created an impression that being a professional made the individual somewhat special.

However today, wide, relatively easy access to education and the internet has reduced (if not entirely eliminated) the barriers. A wider general knowledge and more practitioners in each of these professions – all competing for a share of business that isn’t growing as fast as institutes are turning them out – is making it an imperative for professionals to find effective ways to generate business.

advertising brochure professional services

advertising brochure for professional services

Only a little more than a decade ago practitioners in these professions viewed advertising and marketing their services as being unprofessional and rather unethical. However time (and economic pressure) has forced their hand. They changed their opinion and started using brochures and advertising to generate new and additional business. Now the novelty of professionals advertising for business seems to have worn off. As advertising alone no longer generates the excitement for professional services that it once did, the more innovative in these professions have migrated to business development – a euphemism for selling.

The challenge for many professions faced with a decision to start more aggressive sales activities in their practices is two-fold. Firstly the image of salespeople is so badly misunderstood by professionals that they tend to shy away from even considering the notion of selling. Secondly, no course for accounts, lawyers, engineers or doctors teaches selling as part of the education of the people. As a result, most of these professionals either avoid selling or learn to “sell” from observation – often getting it totally wrong.

The key issue is how to deal with these two challenges.

Image problems

For starters, the image of salespeople as being opportunists or in some way unethical, even being charlatans who use high-pressure techniques and make any claim, simply to get a sale, refers to only a very few salespeople. As a comparison, not all lawyers are unethical professionals, even though some have been accused of simply chasing money or of less-than-professional behaviour.

The reputation of a few lawyers who have crossed the line refers to just a minority of evidently less-than-professional lawyers, not the entire profession. The same could be said for the medical profession. There have been instances when doctors have been charged with malpractice.

That doesn’t mean that the entire medical profession is unethical. Similarly, when a bridge collapses or a building wall falls over, one doesn’t blame the entire profession of engineering. On the contrary, the vast majority of doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals are hard-working, diligent, caring and capable professionals. And the same applies to salespeople. The few that have given the profession a bad name, are just that – a very few.

With regards to learning how to sell, there are a number of reputable organisations which provide sales training. Some have taken their processes to a higher level. Barrett Consulting, for example, has a sales development programme that is offered through Swinburne University of Technology as a VET-accredited sales program providing a Certificate IV in Business Sales. That course covers all of the essential elements of professional selling.

Professional services selling, on the other hand, is somewhat unique in several key ways.

1. Professional services are generally purchased based more on the personal and professional reputation of the individual partners in a practice, than the services provided by the practice as a whole. Why? Simply because most professions are regulated and as such, the services provided are controlled by law and by the profession’s own statutes and standards authorities. This restricted focus for professionals tends to temper the differences between professional service providers.

2. Most professionals are in a situation where they are expert advisers – often mixing their business development activities with advice that is also governed by statutes and regulations. As such, professionals need to be more sensitive to the accuracy of their claims and sales arguments. And while this may seem an inhibitor, in reality it is an advantage that makes the professional that much more credible.

3. And finally, professionals have to balance the way they generate business without being seen to be too aggressive in promoting the services of their firm or themselves.

askThere are a variety of skills and knowledge that professional services business development managers require, but there are only five guiding principles that underpin all of them …

  • Recognise that professionals can never be passionate about selling until they start searching for clients who they can be passionate about serving. Remember, too, that a great client is one for whom a professional would be prepared to work for free of charge, but who would never ask the professional to do so.
  • The best way to get new clients is to impress old ones. Measure the happiness of existing clients with the same kind of diligence used to measure time. That way professionals will focus on what makes a satisfied client, rather than simply a high-billing one.
  • When meeting a potential client, don’t sell competence – sell compassion. Clients can get competence from any professional. Compassion, however, makes one professional unique and different from another.
  • The single best way to get new clients is to ask current clients how to get more clients like them.
  • The best thing a professional service provider can promise a prospective client is more sleep. Ask what problems keep clients awake at night and build the practice around solving them.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Peter Finkelstein, www.barrett.com.au

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