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B2B Field sales force to halve

June 28, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Communication, Customer Service, Education in Sales, Sales Culture, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Pioneer, Sales Tips, Sales Training

What will sales teams look like over the next 5-10 years? How will we sell to and service our clients? Will our businesses actually require field sales representatives as all?

With ‘Field Sales Force Numbers To Halve’ voted the sixth most important sales trend for 2012 from The 12 Sales Trends of 2012 by our readers, these are critical questions business and sales leaders need to ask themselves if they want to have an effective sales effort.

WHY? With access to so much information available and a plethora of Me2 products to choose from, buyers have grown more sophisticated and better informed as consumers, especially in the B2B (business to business) space. The savvy business person knows that many of those commodity purchases they have traditionally made face-to-face with a sales representative can now be made online or via a telephone sales service centres thus saving them valuable time and money.

mayor transition ...

mayor transition ...

With the growth in client sophistication and the commoditisation of products themselves we are seeing the beginning of a massive restructure of sales forces as clients go online, and ditch the ‘order taker’ who adds no value. Smart sales leaders know this sacred cow is not long for this world. Seeing no real return in transactional field sales teams, many companies are now looking at either a major restructuring of their sales effort or major re-education of their sales teams.

Some companies have already begun planning for a major transition into the blended world of online and personal selling. Looking at their offerings, their clients’ buying preferences and the total cost of sale, these sales leaders are having to make strategic business decisions about whether they:

  1. choose to be in transactional, low margin business where products act as commodities and clients can be serviced via online and call centres with no or some minimal field representation at major account level


  2. choose to be in complex offering and invest in field sales forces that add real value to clients beyond the product itself and work in partnership educating clients on how to run a better business and achieve better results as the value moves from product to the value of intellectual property and ideas.

If businesses choose field force representation, the changes required in field sales force capability are monumental as we now require sales people to evolve into business people who can sell. Field sales forces will only remain relevant by working in the complex, unique solution space where their business acumen combined with a range of professional capabilities such teacher & facilitator, consultant, problem solver & preventer, financial manager, diplomat, and so on

transactional sales

transactional sales

will be of real value to their clients. Clients / buyers will only want to see and work with people who are willing to work in a collaborative manner with clear mandates and transparent practices. Trust will feature highly in these relationships as will continuous education and learning enabled by these more enriching and evolving relationships. This is where real relationships will be forged, based on substance and integrity and where a fair exchange of real value can flourish.

Those businesses who choose the transactional model need to make sure that they are easy to do business with; that purchases are uncomplicated; and when clients ask questions they should get answers easily – no run-around, no fuss, streamline and efficient.

As we transition into a more complex world the decisions we make about the business of our business will affect, positively or negatively, our future relevance and success. Choose wisely because the middle ground is fast disappearing.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.
Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

We have some very exciting news coming soon! In the mean time, it would be great if you could help us by completing this 5 minutes survey. Should sales be studied at degree level at University? Thank you!

Would You Listen to You?

June 14, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Business Acumen, Call Reluctance, Communication, Education in Sales, Sales Culture, Sales Results, Sales Skills, Sales Tips

Many sales people, especially those new to sales, often take it personally when a prospect says ‘NO’ and fail to persist with their prospecting efforts while others turn prospecting into stalking not knowing how to engage a prospect effectively. Either way, these people are failing to favourably and persistently position themselves with prospects thus limiting their sales opportunities even further.
In sales there is a fine line between persistence and stalking a prospect. Did you know:

  • Over 50% of sales people give up at 1st contact if they get a ‘NO’ from the prospect, never to go back to that prospect again.
  • At the 5th contact 7% of sales people are left to speak with the prospect to see if they can do business together.
  • At the 8th contact there is only one sales person left to work with the prospect. Hopefully it is you.

So why do these figures persist? What were the successful sales people doing that the others are not? How do you capture the attention of your prospects and determine whether or not they want to engage with you and how often should you be making contact?

Assuming you are making contact with prospects, the first thing you have to ask yourself is: if you prospected yourself would you be worth listening to? If you get a ‘NO’, you cannot blame your prospects for not being interested either.


.... ready to buy now???????

The second thing is to assess where your prospect is at on the ‘ready to buy now’ scale and how you are going to maintain contact with them if they are not ready to buy now. Because, folks, not everyone is a viable prospect all the time. Sales people have to come to realise that not every prospect is ready to work with you straight away, however this does not mean they will not be viable in the near future. Our job in this instance, is to work out where our prospect is at and find out when they are likely to see what we do as relevant to their situation. If they are not ready now does not mean they will never be ready. Our challenge as sales people is to know how to remain in contact with and be relevant to potential prospects while not putting them off or having them want to take out an AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) on us.

The brutal facts: at best, sales people tend to check in on their prospects on a random basis, leaving their prospecting efforts to chance. They also tell us that they are worried about what to say to prospects when they follow up and do not know where to start or how to capture peoples’ attention. They think prospects will not be interested in speaking with them and then they shoot themselves in the foot by not calling the prospect at all or messing up the prospecting call by not engaging with the prospect and finding out if we can talk now or in the future.

Like every aspect of selling, following up on prospects in your pipeline should be part of a planned routine. In our experience, with the exception of prospects already in the sales cycle, that line is usually drawn at about one direct contact every 5 weeks.

Rather than get caught up worrying will the prospect pay attention to you or not, let’s look at the many ways you can to stay in meaningful touch with prospects and not be considered a stalker.

Plan to use a combination of direct contacts (via the phone) with indirect contacts (email, social media, etc.) to stay in touch with prospects.

Tip: using the phone exclusively is generally not the best way to stay in touch with prospects. Instead we suggest you mix phone calls with email and social media which can be both individualised and general interest (to the prospect), rather than generalised corporate brochures.


weekly checklist

An effective prospect contact program could include…

Week 1: a follow up telephone call with action items noted for the next direct contact

Week 3: send a company email newsletter, announcement or article. It doesn’t matter what you send as long as it is content-rich and not an advertisement for your products or services.

Week 4: Another indirect contact via email or social media such as something specific to the prospect i.e. a news article, something about their industry that is relevant to them, their company etc. This contact is designed to strengthen your personal relationship and build rapport. But please note: it must be sincere and genuine or your efforts will be seen as sycophantic and grasping.

Week 5: Another follow up telephone call – this must be structured by defining a Valid Business Reason (VBR) for your call to your prospect – a VBR is something of interest or relevant to your prospect not you.

What about Week 2? After you initial dazzling VBR in Week 1 give your prospect time to digest where you are coming from. If they are not ready to see you yet what you say can start planting seeds in their mind so that the next time you contact them you are building a strong case for them to want to see you down the track.

Important point: When making a follow up telephone prospecting call, make sure that you are not still thinking about what to say as the phone rings. Even if you an experienced sales person you need to work out our intentions and what you are going to say before dialling the number. Establishing your VBR by jotting down a few key points about what you want to convey to your prospect and having a fallback position handy just in case the initial VBR does not work is the sign of a good sales person. Even practice saying out loud what you want to say in that first 10-15 seconds is very helpful. If it doesn’t sound right to you then it isn’t going to sound right to your prospect – you can bet on that. So ‘would you listen to you?’

Remember: Prospecting is the oxygen that fuels the sales fire and without effective prospecting we cannot sell.

If you are curious about being effective at prospecting then here are some useful articles that will add to your sales knowledge bank.

We want more than a script

Getting prospects to talk to you

Exceptional prospectors

Persistence and the honourable retreat

Getting past the gatekeeper

Peak performance in prospecting

The huge cost of hesitation


Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

Recognition or Praise?

June 7, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Communication, Education in Sales, Emotional Intelligence, Sales Leadership, Sales Management, Sales Motivation & Rewards, Sales Relationships, Sales Results, Sales Talent, Sales Tips

Sales managers are being told to do more with less, to work smarter to get peak performance from their sales teams, despite increasingly limited resources. As tough as it is, there is one tool in the sales manager’s portfolio that is never in short supply – Praise!

Yet for some reason, many sales managers find it challenging to show their appreciation for their sales people’s efforts, reluctantly doling out praise as if it was in short supply. The reason is not because managers are unappreciative of their team’s efforts, it’s just that too many do not realise that sales people need to hear that they are doing well and are on track.


Self driven and self motivated

about 20% are self driven

Around 5% to 20% of sales people have the rare characteristics of being internally driven or self (intrinsically) motivated; they have a growth mindset and understand they can control many aspect of their destiny. Whilst these sales people can enjoy receiving praise or recognition, they do not often seek it out or need it to keep them going. However many sales people do not think or feel this way. The sales people who are extrinsically motivated need frequent external praise, recognition, validation and encouragement to keep going. So what? Typically many sales managers come from the ranks of the self (intrinsically) motivated sales people pool. This means that they tend to view others through their own lens of self determination assuming that all sales people must be motivated like them. It often comes as a complete shock to them when they discover that the majority of sales people in their teams are extrinsically motivated and are in need of praise, recognition, encouragement and validation.

This can be very draining for the intrinsically motivated sales manager and very disheartening for the extrinsically motivated sales person when respective needs are not met. How do we make this work so that everyone benefits and sales results are achieved?

For the sales manager it is important to distinguish between Praise and Recognition:

  • Recognition is when a sales manager holds a sales person up in front of their peers and acknowledges exceptional performance.
  • Praise on the other hand is individual, applied with mindfulness, discipline and forethought to develop and encourage effective behaviour and mindset in sales people.

The use of praise is ‘best practice’ in sales management. It is used to reward behaviour that sales managers want to encourage and see repeated. To be of real merit the praise needs to be specific and relevant. Here are a few tips on giving praise…



  1. Never praise and criticise (at the same time) – praise is a reward. The real value of that reward is diminished when sales managers start of by saying ‘nice things’ and the focus in on the areas that need improvement. As a result, is only given when the performance or behaviour is totally positive and when the sales manager’s intent is to encourage the sales person to repeat it.
  2. Be specific – saying something like “Hey, good work there” is a meaningless statement. What was good? Why was it good? How was it good? are important to state when giving praise. So when a sales manager decides to give praise they should be able to say explicitly WHAT, WHY or HOW the person did something well and WHY it is valued by the sales manager and why it should be value by the sales person. By being specific the sales person can see why they are doing well and hopefully repeat this later on when needed.
  3. Personalise Praise – indentify the aspects unique to that person that made their performance notable when they applied that specific skill or behaviour. Telling the person what special characteristics he or she has, not only personalises the praise, it also helps the salesperson identify what capabilities they have that the sales manager values. This is what makes praise so important to the person and interestingly, begins to open up those people who have been more extrinsically motivated to start to look inwardly and find what intrinsically makes them effective.

So before you think of implementing a costly sales incentives program, try praise first. Effectively praising sales people doesn’t cost a cent but can return an enormous profit in improved sales performance.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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

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