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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.


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:

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

Are you capitalising on your Prime Selling Time?

September 25, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Prospecting, Sales Skills

If you watch successful sales people go about their daily business activities you will notice that they lead a very disciplined life – they know what they need to do each day and when they need to do these key activities. They make sure they make time for the important stuff and they hardly ever miss a beat.

They know there is no excuse for not making prospecting calls or forgetting to do research.  There is no excuse for not getting proposals in on time or not scheduling client meetings in an organized fashion or forgetting to follow up when you said you would.

Successful sales people operate like a well oiled machine. They are consistent and competent and they know how to capitalise on prime selling time.

So what is Prime Selling Time?

prime-time-selling-fully-engaged-with-customersPrime Selling Time is when you are engaging directly with a prospect or client whether that be making a prospecting call or in the full throws of a client meeting where you are exploring their priorities and needs and are engaged in selling. Nothing else matters.  You are fully focused on prospecting, working through your well researched prospecting lists, making one phone call after another or you are meeting clients and engaged in selling one meeting after another.  There are no distractions.

Whether the salesperson is working in field face2face selling or selling over the phone they understand when it is best to make contact with prospect and clients and sell.  They know when it is Prime Selling Time.

For instance, if a salesperson is working in Business to Consumer (B2C) or Business to Business (B2B) telephone sales or if they are a B2B field salesperson they will need to understand when they are best able to connect and engage with their target market – their Prime Selling Time.

For most people in B2B selling this usually happens during in regular business hours. For B2C sales people this could happen at various times during the day or evening depending on your target market.

Whatever your Prime Selling Time is you need to make sure that all of your support work such as researching your prospects, emails, CRM management, proposal writing, administration, etc. does not interfere with your Prime Selling Time.

Jens Hartmann, Barrett’s Head of Learning and Development, shared an interesting sales coaching story about a young man he was observing in his ‘Prime Selling Time’ when prospecting for new business opportunities.  Unfortunately, the session was a disaster. Instead of working through his list of well researched prospects, making one call after the other, the young man would pick a name from his list, spend quite a bit of time looking up the prospect on the internet, researching the company, etc. then would make the call with every chance the prospect would not be there. If he got no response, he did not leave a purposeful Valid Business Reason (VBR) for calling, he would just simply hang up and move to the next name on the list. In 2 hours, this young man managed to make 5 calls and only connected with 2 people.  A successful well organised salesperson would have likely made 20 calls in that time and made more connections. Even if no one was there they would have left purposeful VBR messages that would increase the likelihood of prospects and clients calling them back.

Spend most of your time in Q2, delegate Q3 as this is an Illusion, omit 1 by planning in Q2 but never use Q4

Spend most of your time in Q2, delegate Q3 as this is an Illusion, omit 1 by planning properly in Q2 but never be in Q4

One of the key things you will notice about successful sales people is that they make time for Prime Selling Time Activities i.e. Prospecting and Selling. They ensure that their non selling activities are scheduled at times in the day when they will not be needed in a client facing roles.  And most importantly they do their activities in blocks of time. For instance:

  • They schedule 3 or 4 x 2 hour blocks of time for prospecting calls: they usually spread these 2 hour blocks across the week, when they know they are likely to get to speak to people.
  • They block client meetings together  in the same location to minimise travel time: if they are going to be in a location they see if they can arrange to meet a few or several clients in the same location thus minimising travel time
  • They prepare prospect lists and do their client research in blocks of time: usually outside of Prime Selling Time hours using LinkedIn, Social Networks, CRM and other resources.
  • They prepare proposals or quotes in blocks of time: usually outside of Prime Selling Time hours.
  • They keep a Daily To Do list (virtual or paper) making sure that they keep track of their core activities and duties.  Often you will see a successful salesperson will review and revise their Daily To Do List at the end of each day in readiness for the next day.
  • They have an up-to-date Sales Plan and Go-to-market action plan they us to plan their activities over each month, the quarter and across the year.

So how are you capitalizing on your Prime Selling Time?

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

Why addressing Risk is 3 times more important than the benefits

August 28, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Business Acumen, Education in Sales, Neuroscience in Sales, Sales Psychology, Sales Skills

Plenty of time and effort is put into talking up the benefits of our products and services in a selling situation. Sales people often focus on why the benefits are important to our clients and how our client will be better off if they buy from us, etc.  This has been the mainstay of sales for years.

effort-required-brochure-designThink of all the time, effort and money that goes into meetings, brainstorming sessions, designing and creating glossy brochures and marketing materials (hard copy and virtual) to define and promote the benefits of what we do and offer.

Think of all the time and effort that goes into training sales people in being able to memorise and recite these benefits.

The common thinking in business today still focuses on our sales people knowing how to talk about the product’s (or service) benefits to differentiate themselves and supposedly making selling easier. But the client or prospect usually has something else on their mind especially into today’s turbulent markets.

A vital piece missing in the puzzle for sales people when it comes to the client’s decision making in the buying process is RISK. Addressing the Risk factor is critical yet Risk is rarely or poorly addressed by sales people when selling.  Often afraid to raise the matter for fear of upsetting or offending the client, or forgetting to talk about risk altogether, or not knowing how to talk about risk, sales people are at risk (pardon the pun) of losing sales if they do not address this important area.

Why? The human brain is wired to prioritise risk or danger above everything else.  If a prospect or client cannot feel safe with the decision they are making they are likely to avoid making that decision altogether.  Even if you present all the benefits that will  improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your client’s situation, if you do not discuss what will happen if they  don’t go with you, or if the perceived risk to change as too high then they will not move forward with the salesperson or the sale.

Work done by the only behavioural psychologists to be awarded a Nobel Prize for Economics – Tversky and Kahneman, proved that the brain is geared to first assess risk then benefits – in that order. Moreover, they also proved that if the benefit isn’t at least three (3) times greater than the risk, buyers will reject an offer.  In essence, they proved that people are happier when an expected tragedy doesn’t happen, than when an anticipated benefit doesn’t occur.

Which is why Risk is three (3) times more powerful in the client’s decision making process than the benefits.

Sales people need to be able to talk about Risk; the consequences of moving forward or not.  If we are going to address our clients’ priorities with great benefits we need to address the risk of not taking action as well.  Not all risk is real either.  Risk can been an illusion too. That is why it is critical that as sales people we do not shy away from exploring what risk means to our clients and prospects – real or imagined. We need to help them separate fact from fiction.

Risk ManagementThis means we need to be able to ask questions that uncover what our client means by risk. We need to discuss what the consequences are if they do not move forward. If we look at the following three definitions we can see that we need to address all three areas if we are to have an effective discussion with our clients about what they value and what we all need to do to move forward if we want the sale to happen.

  1. Effectiveness – how much better can I do? (from the client’s perspective)
  2. Efficiency – how much more can I do? (from the client’s perspective)
  3. Risk – what will happen if I don’t do it? (from the client’s perspective)

Getting clients or prospects moving, taking action, making decisions is more often than not about addressing the Risk factor.  As sales people we need to learn to not only talk up the benefits but learn how to talk about risk.  That can make all the difference.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrettwww.barrett.com.au

Tips for using email and web leads effectively in sales

August 8, 2013 in Customer Service, Education in Sales, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Skills, Social Sales

Sales can be made in several ways: face-to-face, over the phone, web-based, direct mail or via e-mail.  With the plethora of internet businesses now transacting sales online you’d be forgiven for thinking that you could dispense with sales people all together but in many instances you would be incorrect.  There are very few businesses that can run purely on the internet with no sales people interaction required.  At the very least these online businesses need customer service or ‘live chat’ enquiry centres where customers queries, complaints and comments can be addressed effectively.  How well these business execute this function it critical to their ongoing success.

For other businesses that deal in face-to-face and telephone sales how you deal with web leads and use email is incredibly important to keeping sales opportunities rolling in.  Sometimes sales opportunities come in from different time zones and overseas or some customers may work night-shift and require additional communication options by other means.

Almost all businesses are now in a position to provide customers and prospective customers with the chance to engage with them via a web request or email.

How quickly and how well you respond to these requests is becoming increasingly important to attracting and retaining your customer base. Take for instance the retail car sales: many dealerships have their own websites now or places on the car sales sites where prospective customers can request information etc. If the sales people from those car dealerships do not follow up within 1-2 hours the lead goes cold. Gone. Lost.

fast response to web leads

follow up within 1-2 hours or the lead goes cold

The prospective customer has moved on to another dealership.

Respond fast to web leads

If you are not in a purely online business then ideally you would respond to a web sales lead as fast as possible (immediately when possible). If appropriate our first tip would be to call the customer first (assuming they left a phone number).  If they are not there leave a specific message stating why you are calling and your contact number.  Then follow up with an email stating the same and leaving a contact number.

While it is easier to return emails than phoning someone the only time we would suggest emailing in place of phoning first is if the customer is operating in a different time-zone and it is not appropriate to call them in your work hours.  In your email you should see if you can arrange for a mutually suitable time you can both speak.

How to use and not to use email

E-mail is a medium of communication that can be used to overcome some of the challenges in dealing with customers where face to face contact is extremely difficult or as a supplement to your regular sales activities.  However, you should not expect email to become your main selling portal.

Why?  Well how long does it take to write a well crafted, well intentioned, unambiguous email?

Answer:  a very long time.  If you have the chance to speak to the person via phone to progress the sales or initiative contact then pick up the phone.  You will get where you need to go much more quickly than relying on e-mail by itself.

Send emails that the recipient wants to receive.

Send emails that the recipient wants to receive.

Tips for using e-mail.

  • In sales, ideally, you use email to confirm details of meetings times, overview of a discussion, facts, meeting agendas.  Do not try to use emails to convey emotional topics or difficult issues as too many things can be misread or misinterpreted in an email leaving you worse off than you were before.
  • Emails are effective for setting up an agenda prior to a client meeting. (see our article on setting the sale agenda)
  • Write your emails in a way that it makes sense to someone who does not know you. Put things in context, spell out acronyms.
  • Be both friendly and professional via email, even with people you know well.  Have a greeting (‘Hi xxx’ or ‘Hello xxx’ or ‘Dear xxx’ if it is really formal), and a sign off (‘Kind regards’ or ‘Cheers’ or ‘Sincerely’).
  • The subject line needs to be short, clear and specific which helps your receiver make a prioritised decision.
  • Spell-check and proof-read emails before sending.
  • Keep it short.  Long emails don’t get read. Most people don’t realise this and spend a lot of time crafting lengthy emails when a simple, to the point email is better.  It is much harder to say what you have to say in a few sentences but your messages will be much more effective if you can master a shorter email.  All paragraphs should be less than four lines long and use bullet points whenever possible.
  • If you send an attachment, let people how long it will take to read it.
  • Watch for formatting issues. Use simple text that translates well into any email system.  If you are writing an email in MS Outlook, remember that the formatting options available to you are not available to many others who receive emails. So try to write the emails in plain text. Use a “*” rather than a formatted bullet. And watch for funny symbols, different font use, color use, or curly “smart” quotes.
  • Copy in the person who gave you an introduction or referral.  This does two things: It keeps the referral partner in the loop. Since the referral partner will probably be a key circle of influence, you want to ensure that person is aware of what you are doing. It legitimizes you to the customer. You really did get an intro from the referral partner — and you are proving it by the CC.
  • NEVER put anything in an email that you would not say to  someone in person. Never put anything that may incriminate you or anyone else in an email.  It is a legal document and can be used in a court of law.
  • Keep your signature relevant.  Use your signature box to convey your company’s clear message; your contact details, your brand, your social media connections (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc.).  It is all adverting real estate.
  • You can also attach a vCard. vCards are very useful. A vCard is a file format standard for electronic business cards. A vCard (usually a .vcf file) is an attached contact file that is compatible with many contact management systems like MS Outlook: Mail. vCards carry contact information and you can also have them carry a marketing message.

We hope this helps you use email effectively when selling.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

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