Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

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A Sales Manager Hidden Weakness that Lowers Motivation

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 @ 17:09 PM

22578882_s_ManagerHiddenWeakness

For sales managers and sales leaders concerned about motivating their people, there is an often-overlooked hidden weakness that could be in their way: their need for approval from their direct reports. This is analogous to a salesperson and their prospect. When a salesperson's success is hindered by their need for approval from their prospects, they won't ask enough questions and won't ask tough questions for fear of offending their prospect. As a result, they don't gain the respect and trust they need to win the business. Rather than seeing the opportunity to add value (their value) by calling attention to an uncomfortable fact or issue, they play it safe making sure they don't provide any reason for the prospect to think less of them. 

The same is true for sales managers and their direct reports. A manager's need for approval from their own people gets in the way of accountability and coaching, which then leads to decreased motivation. The irony is that the reason these managers want their people to like them is often to provide a motivating environment. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect.  “If I can get them fired up and performing," one might say, "I won’t have to have a hard conversation with them for not performing.” The fear of not being liked by your people thus leads to backing off on accountability.  

Is your leadership in fear of the sales team?  Do you or they believe that upsetting salespeople will put the company in jeopardy?  Are there certain sales staff with whom you walk on eggshells?  Are you in control or are they - who's running the show? Click here to learn more about sales management skill sets, DNA, and hidden challenges. What would you do differently if you had no fear of a negative reaction from your sales team? What would you initiate? What would you change? Who would you change? When would now be a good time?

 

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Topics: Hidden Weaknesses, sales leadership, sales motivation, sales force motivation, sales managerment

Avoiding the Top Four Sales Leadership Interview Traps

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 @ 21:08 PM

93605889_s_InterviewTrapHave you noticed a rash of sales leadership recruiting lately? I wondered if it was a trend or a random bunching like highway traffic. Rather than answering that question, however, I'll just add it to the list of things that happen in waves. Since I have had the same conversation with different clients several times in the last two months, I'll use this opportunity to share with you my favorite tips about avoiding the most common traps when interviewing sales leaders. You will find that it applies equally well to sales candidates. There is a unique difficulty in recruiting for leadership positions. Hiring what we like to call "ghosts" can be costly and detrimental, negatively effecting the entire sales organization and corporate profits.

Most Common Sales Leadership Recruiting Challenges

  1. There are fewer capable people available than there are for front-line positions.
  2. Many were promoted from sales positions and lack the managerial skill sets, even if the job descriptions listed on the resume suggest otherwise.
  3. The accomplishment numbers that appear on the resume don't tell the whole story or don't tell the right story.
  4. The hiring managers don't know the right questions to ask and it's easy to get snowballed.

So here are a few tips to help you avoid falling in love, talking yourself into, leading the "witness" - anything to get out of the seemingly-endless task of finding this rare and critically important position that could make the difference between killing it and getting killed. There are several steps to getting this right.

Top 3 Sales Leadership Recruiting Program Must-Haves

  1. A well-executed, strategic, sequentially optimized, success-proven recruiting process.
  2. An accurate, predictive, sales leadership assessment (I recommend OMG)
  3. A set of interview questions specific to the job, integrating the information from the assessment and the resume, and taking into account the sales environment, the corporate environment, and the cognitive capacity level required of the position as it relates to the individuals being managed and to the specific individual to whom one will report.

The interview is where many hiring decisions go sideways. We get so wowed by their intelligence, upbeat personality, researched use of jargon, and brilliant answers to questions during the interview that we don't realize to the candidate, we have set up the practical equivalent of tee-ball.

While developing the right set of questions is a worthy investment for such an important position even if impractical to list here in a generic sense, I hope the following will help you avoid some common traps.

Top Four Must-Avoid Interviewing Traps

  1. Asking the Hypothetical 
    These are questions such as, “So if you run into a problem like this, what would you do?” It's easy to sound authoritative without having done anything. They get to talk about what they think is the right behavior without any evidence that it has happened to them. And most of us don't actually do what we say we would do if X happened anyway - it's aspirational but not historical.
  2. Talking About Tomorrow
    Do not ask questions that require digging for information about things that have never happened. “What do you see yourself doing in three years?” They can make it up. It just has to sound good. There is no way to verify it.
  3. Open-Ended Questions
    “What’s your idea of success?” Most interview "experts" encourage open-ended questions. I don’t.
    It allows them to talk about whatever they want, blathering on and wasting your time.
  4. Asking Leading Questions
    “Do you think coaching makes a difference?” The answer, of course, is given away in the question. The intent in asking the question is valid. You'd like to know the answer. Any hope of truth in the response, however is destroyed by the phrasing of the question.

If you stay out of these traps and focus on specific real experiences that candidates can relate about decisions they made and actions they took, you will dramatically improve your chances of hiring a sales leader, or any other sales position, that stands more than a ghost of a chance of being successful.

 

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Author's note: I urge those interested in developing their interviewing skills to read Tom Foster's excellent book, Hiring Talent, from which some of the ideas above are adapted. Foster based much of his work for this book on the pioneering behavioral research of Elliott Jaques and Samuel Clement, who notably shed light on how the time-span of discretion of an individual relates to her or his cognitive capacity. Getting that part right in hiring is the key to building what Chris Stark calls Lean Hierarchy in your organization. Getting it wrong results in frustration or boredom, states of mind that according to studies, are experienced by up to two thirds of the working population, whose leadership apparently was unaware of this research.

 

Topics: recruiting, sales leadership, recruiting salespeople, sales management practices, interviewing salespeople, interviewing sales leaders

Commitment and the Data Behind Sales Trainability

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 @ 08:08 AM

54991635_s_Commitment_081318It's a startling statistic that 37% of salespeople lack the necessary Commitment to their sales success to make significant improvements in response to training. In an article posted a few weeks ago, I discussed the 7 Sales Training Success Factors and how to avoid sales training failure. If you missed it, you may read that article here. After several thousand views and numerous responses, both from comments in social media and personal notes, it's clear you want even more detail on this very important issue. I'll address one of those factors in more depth today and get to the others in future articles. Factor number 3 of the 7 was A Trainable Sales Force. So what makes a salesperson trainable?

The statistic mentioned above is important to know when setting up a sales training program. It was drawn from the vast trove of data collected by Objective Management Group over the past two decades. This specific finding came from sampling 44,000 recent evaluations of currently-employed salespeople. It's showing that almost 4 out of every 10 salespeople have this issue! It might explain what you are seeing at your own company. How many of your salespeople are making steady improvements in their skills and effectiveness? How many are stagnant?

In the context of training, let's take a wider look at the characteristics that play an important role in yielding the most successful outcomes. First, what does it mean to say that someone lacks the "necessary commitment?" Commitment can be defined as the level of discomfort one is willing to endure to achieve what she or he desires. In short, desire is what we want; commitment is what we are willing to do to get it.

Often, managers use a few rules-of-thumb to determine if a salesperson is going to "make it." I usually hear things like, "they gotta love selling,"  or, "they gotta be hungry," or "they gotta know our industry." While these can be useful, the reason some of us use them, and others like them, is because they are relatively easy to determine about a person, without a comprehensive assessment. When we short-cut the selection process like this, we are guilty of what psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls the Availability HeuristicWe are prone to favor readily available information and we have a tendency to over-weigh the implications of a finding we can easily determine. 

Commitment is just one of the 21 sales core competencies that we look at when evaluating salespeople for training or, for that matter, when making a prediction about how successful a sales candidate would be at your company selling your products and services to your customers in your market against your competition. When we connect all of the dots, the picture of the salesperson emerges and that complete picture makes it much easier to predict if they'll be successful. Any one data point is just a dot. Love selling?; dot. Hungry?; dot. Committed?; also a dot. Before I recommend hiring a salesperson, I might look at those first two dots, for example, to help me make a decision but they are not one of the 21 sales core competencies. They are not as important as Commitment - a more important dot.

It turns out, Commitment is one of the most difficult findings to tease out of a candidate. If you ask someone during an interview if they're committed to their success, they'll say "yes." That doesn't help you because who is going to say, "no." Rather, we need to understand that level of discomfort they will endure to be successful in selling (or in their sales managerial role) as they define that success. An evaluation is the simplest, most objective way to find out. A lack of commitment usually leads to the following set of outcomes:

  • Won't do it the right way or won't do it the way you want them to
  • Won't make improvements in their ability to perform in the role
  • Will tend to give in, or give up when the going gets tough

When hiring a candidate or moving someone into a role in which they lack commitment, it eventually leads to regret. If they lack other critical skills required for the role, then the lack of commitment usually results to failure in less than six months. If they have most of the skills they need for the role, a common scenario that understandably presents the greatest challenge for hiring managers who convince themselves that the low-commitment finding is an aberration, what generally happens is the performance over time is lackluster relative to their skills. In this scenario, regret sets in at between 12 and 18 months at the realization that you've lost a year and a half and have to start over.

And what if their Desire for sales success isn't very high? That's another dot that is also very important in the picture that emerges from all those dots as it relates to their trainability. In that same data sample, 13% of sales "current-employees" lacked enough desire for success in sales to justify making the necessary effort to improve, or roughly one in eight. It's an interesting statistic if not quite as alarming as the two out of every five who lack Commitment.

What other factors play a role in determining the trainability of your people? I would want to know if they are sufficiently Motivated. 21% are not. I would want to know if they have a positive Outlook. 36% do not. And I would want to know if they make a lot of Excuses for any lack of results. 60% do that! I would rank them as follows:

Top Five Factors for Salesperson Trainability

  1. Desire for success in sales (without this, one should look for other work)
  2. Commitment to do what it takes to achieve what you desire 
  3. Motivation to put on your game face and make it happen every day
  4. Positive Outlook, unencumbered by circumstances, and "free" to dig into the work
  5. Takes responsibility for outcomes - no excuses

While the percentages of those who don't have each of these characteristics, or necessary grit for selling, is higher than you might expect, remember that each of these factors is a dot. Taken together, generally about 75% of the team is trainable. The impact on revenue from the improvements that those 75% can make in a year usually far outweighs the lack of results that will come from those who are less willing to improve. And when you know who is who, sales leaders can choose to make improvements by looking at three groups that emerge:

  1. The trainable
  2. The less easily trained performers
  3. The less easily trained, or even untrainable non-performers.

For maximum improvement to performance, leaders can train group 1 and choose to replace group 3 with people who are stronger than those in group 1. The group 2 people present a potential dilemma. Generally, it's best to look at both the level of their performance, and the growth requirements and ask yourself if you can afford to let them continue to beat quota quarter after quarter without a year-over-year growth.  

A team with 75% trainable salespeople are commonly able to produce between a 25% and 75% growth on their improvement alone, without even replacing group 3. For sales training to be successful, it helps when the sales force is trainable. Last fall, I evaluated a team that came up short, resulting in a rare recommendation not to spend money training the group. It wasn't going to work. We took a completely different approach that I'll share with you over the phone if you're interested and/or concerned about your team.

For the individual salesperson, commitment is at the heart of their trainability and willingness to make the changes required for their own improvement so they can achieve the success they desire. How committed are you to ensuring your team makes the improvements it needs to meet or exceeds the outputs that you desire for them?

 

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Photo Credit - Copyright : Dmitriy Shironosov   (123RF) 

Topics: sales culture, sales training, effective sales training, commitment, excuse making, commitment to sales success, grit

Most Overlooked Reason for Sales Training Failure

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 @ 08:07 AM

70287211_s_OverlookedFactorIt's a common exchange but a recent conversation with a new client about sales training sounded like this, "Look, people here have a bad taste about sales training," he said. "It doesn't stick," he continued. "I know it could make a big difference, but we need a program that fits our business and that the sales team will embrace." Then he asked, "How do we get past flavor-of-the-month and get our people to want to improve so we can grow our business intentionally?"

Setting aside, for a moment, all of the details of the prescribed action plan for them, there are seven key factors to a successful sales training outcome that I shared with my client and I'll share with you now. It's in rough sequence to how you might think about rolling it out. Then I'll tell you which single factor gets overlooked the most but plays an outsized role in the success or failure of the program. Amazingly, it gets missed most of the time.

For sales training to be super effective, failure to account for these Top Seven Sales Training Factors will make success more elusive. Addressing them properly, by contrast, will guarantee success! 

Top 7 Sales Training Success Factors

  1. Pre-evaluate the sales team, systems, and processes
  2. Formal, staged, milestone-centric sales process
  3. Trainable sales team
  4. Trainable and coachable sales managers
  5. Training the managers before training salespeople
  6. Salesperson training with sufficient time scale
  7. Sales leadership accountability

Here's a short explanation of why each of these factors matters:

1. Pre-evaluate the Sales Team, Systems, and Processes
In a well-received and timely white paper on Sales Force Excellence, Dave Kurlan's research showed that of the companies that saw "significant sales increases" due to the adoption of a formal sales process, 73% of them had evaluated their teams. A sales force evaluation should answer these four fundamental questions:

  • Can we be better?
  • How much better can we be?
  • What will it take to be better?
  • How long will it take?

Companies must find out why pipelines aren't full, why sales cycles are too long, and why closing ratios are low. What skills are they missing? What are the hidden weaknesses preventing salespeople from executing those skills that they do have? And how is management impacting their success?

An evaluation is interesting by itself, and is most useful when combined with the actions taken based on the findings. If you want to explore this idea for your team, click here.

2. Formal, Staged, Milestone-Centric Sales Process
It's an interesting statistic that 68% of the companies surveyed claimed to have a formal sales process. Yet, when tested, only 9% of salespeople actually follow a sales process. Further, and this data is available in the same white paper mentioned earlier, 75% of companies reported an increase in sales as a result of adoption of a formal sales process. The sales process becomes both the basis of training and the backbone of ongoing coaching.

3. Trainable Sales Team
To be trainable, there must be a sufficient number of factors that support training. Often, people use the word "grit" to describe someone who has what it takes to succeed, but regardless of what you call it, these factors must be related to sales as distinct from other roles or social contexts. These would include desire, commitment, outlook, motivation, and a willingness to toss aside any excuses for their outcomes. There is a range of trainability, as you might imagine. The more trainable the person, the less time it will take to ramp them up to a high achiever. Here's a fun and informative tool that lets you explore the 21 sales core competencies and provides a way for you to compare industry averages with your team.

4. Trainable and Coachable Sales Managers
Many sales managers are former successful salespeople who were promoted precisely for their selling skills. The assumption is that they will have no trouble explaining to others how to be successful, just like them. And while that's helpful, it doesn't correlate to their ability to recruit and ensure they are hiring the right people, to coach their team, to motivate them, or to hold them accountable. These abilities require different skill sets than selling. For managers to improve, therefore, they also must be trainable as described above so that they will learn the skills that the best managers use to create the most successful teams.

In addition, if they are not already "killing it," then they must also be coachable. If you happen to have (or are one yourself) a super-genius who needs no help from anyone, ever, and has a high-performing team who exceed their numbers every quarter, then don't worry about whether your manager is coachable. If not, then this could be a reason why training fails. Beware the manager who knows-it-all already, and even more so, beware the manager who is in the role for herself or himself, as they will be unable to foster an environment of constant improvement. Assuming the other factors are in place, managers who relish the improvements of others will help your sales training program succeed.

5. Training the Managers Before Training Salespeople
Before training the salespeople, and this is critical, it is important to train the managers first. When the salespeople start scratching their head, we don't want them to turn toward their manager and find them looking just as perplexed. It doesn't instill confidence and leads to a "Here we go again," mantra. For sales training to be successful, everywhere the salesperson turns within the company, they should find supportive language and attitudes related to the training. When asked, "why are we doing this?," the sales manager should not say, "I don't know. Let's see where this goes." Rather, they should say, "I've looked at this and I believe we're all going to get a lot out of it. I'd liked to see all of us get even better and hopefully watch our incomes improve."

6. Salesperson Training with Sufficient Time Scale
Everyone has heard of, or experienced the one-and-done training course, long on entertainment and short on staying power. "We laughed, we cried, no one remembers a thing." While day-long kickoffs are often required to introduce the material, the most important factor in retention is the amount of time spent reinforcing the material and allowing for practice, correction, and follow-up. For sales training to be successful, the concepts should be simple and easy to follow, and doled out in bite-sized steps that people can go try in the field and experience their own success with it. The steps should build on each other so the logic is obvious as the sales process unfolds and becomes ingrained in our everyday sales conversations.

7. Sales Leadership Accountability
Though the titles given to the role are wide ranging, there is usually of head of sales at the company. It's commonly understood that this person with their "head of sales" title is in charge of the entire sales organization. But that would be wrong. The chief executive of the company is in charge of sales. If you own a company, or are a shareholder in the company, are you going to listen to a CEO who blames the lack of sales results on the Sales VP? It turns out, that CEO (or equivalent) has the most important role to play in a successful sales training outcome. It doesn't have to be a time-consuming role, though it is necessarily the most important. 

The primary role of the CEO in the context of the sales organization is that she or he holds the sales leader accountable for the output of the entire team and for maintaining a team of people capable of producing that output. The corporate leader's insistence on sales improvements ensures that sales leadership follows through on initiatives like sales and sales management training and coaching.

My favorite example of how this works is from a client in the broadcast media business. The CEO wanted to position the company both for growth and for eventual ownership exit. It was clear that the entire team had to improve, quickly. The path forward included embracing a common sales process across the organization and training the managers how to coach to it. And it included training the general managers on how to read the reports and advise the sales managers.

To be successful throughout an organization spread across the entire country, the general managers had to be unified in their approach and ensure that sales managers developed enough coaching skills to make real improvements. I asked the CEO, "Are you ready to roll up your sleeves, read the reports yourself, and insist on consistency through the sales organization." He said, "yes," and he meant it. For an entire year, he read the reports and commented back to the general managers. His comments often got back to managers and even individual reps. Everyone knew he was reading the reports, so no sales manager could get away with taking a half-hearted approach. It worked. In an age of declining "old media," within a year, the company grew and was successfully sold.

Sales Leadership Accountability may be the last item on the list of the Top 7 Factors to avoid sales training failure and ensure success. Yet it is by far the most overlooked factor due to a common failure to see the role of the executive team and indeed the role of the chief executive as crucial roles within the sales organization. Getting this right almost guarantees success, however. When the entire organization knows that the exits are blocked when it comes to the sales training program, they embrace it. Once leadership proves it's for real and here to stay, the team has no choice but to make it work. What are you willing to do to provide that much clarity to your team so your investment in training pays off for everyone?

 

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Photo Credit - Copyright:  Aleksandr Khakimullin  (123RF) 

 

 

Topics: accountability, Sales Accountability, sales leader, Patrick Lencioni, sales and sales management tips, 21 sales core competencies, grit, sales data, coaching culture

How the Dreaded Sales Script Can Help Improve Your Team

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Jul 09, 2018 @ 17:07 PM

98862376_s_CoachingToScriptImagine using a script for all of your sales calls and meetings. Get on the phone: use a script. Have a meeting: use a script. Get hung up on an objection: use a script. Now imagine managing your people. "Here's your script. Don't stray." And imagine what your ad for salespeople would look like? "Wanted: Anyone who can read."

Sales managers frequently ask me how to use a script for certain selling situations and how to use them for coaching their people. You might be thinking that one shouldn't have or need a script, or that sounding scripted is unnatural and not something real salespeople need, or that scripts are only for rude telemarketers. And you'd be right. And they also serve a more helpful purpose. The sales manager on top of their game understands both the useful purpose of a script and the need to toss it aside just before you might actually be tempted to use it. Let's explore this misunderstood but important area of sales coaching and find out how to use a script to help your people improve while perhaps not sounding scripted at all. Ready?

First, where do we find scripts. Here are some examples:

  1. Cold call opening
  2. Response to an inbound lead
  3. Handling an objection
  4. Asking for a referral
  5. When your prospect says they are all set
  6. At tradeshows
  7. At Closing

It might sound something like this: 

"Good morning, Bill. Do you purchase industrial phenolic wheels? Good. May I take fifteen minutes to tell you why mine are the best? Thank you. We have a vast array of kingpinless phenolic wheels at any load capacity you need...blah blah."

Or:

"Thanks for telling me that, Jill. I often hear people say they are all set. Can I take a few moments to let you know what you might be missing? We have a vast array..."

Or:

"Thank you for stopping by the booth. What interested you? Who are you buying from now? May I show you this short video showing the vast array of..."

And so on.

I chose these somewhat comical scripts because they are close to the kind of language I often hear from clients at the beginning of our engagement. And it doesn't matter if it's industrial wheels, software as a service, TV advertising, or professional services. The concepts are the same. 

On the flip side, some will say, "I don't want to script anything. I'll just wing it." Then I'll ask them, "So what's your strategy for when a prospect says they are all set?" And I usually hear some hesitation followed by several reasons why they should consider buying from them. "If I can just show you our vast array of wheel options, I think you'll be impressed. We are second to none in service. We ship to this area three times per week. We keep every accessory and part in stock locally... etc..."

The Purpose of the Script

The above examples demonstrate where scripts can be helpful. Here's why. Absent a formal sales process, most salespeople will result to the kind of language patterns shown above, and will follow a default process that is some variation of trying to get in front of the right person, present all their great stuff, and ask for an order. The resulting coaching session might sound like this:

Typical Coaching Session
Manager: How did it go?
Salesperson: Great!
Manager: Where does it stand?
Salesperson: They're going to get back to me in two weeks.
Manager: What went well?
Salesperson: They liked the product and we know a lot of the same people in the industry.
Manager: What could be improved?
Salesperson: Since they are talking with someone else, too, I need to do a better job explaining why we're different.
Manager: Great. Let's work on that.

On the other hand, if there were a formal sales process in place (grade yours here), the manager might have poked a few holes in that description and analysis. "When you asked them why it was so important to make a switch at this time, what did they say?" And then, "It sounds like your presentation was a bit premature."

"Okay," your rep might say, "What should I have said?"

And this is where you might write a script together that will start the conversation off the right way. What might that sound like?

Example of a Script

"It's nice to meet you, Bill. I find that the people who do what you do, and who ultimately want my help usually tell me either that they are frustrated by slowdowns caused by bad wheels on their industrial carts, or that they are concerned by the high variability in service life of their wheels making it hard to plan ahead. Are either of those true for you?"

From the prospect's answer, a conversation can ensue. Wouldn't it be nice to work out in advance how this initial question should sound so that it sparks a discussion about your prospect and their issues, concerns, and difficulties, rather than making it about you? Your rep will normally resort to doing it the way they are used to doing it and the way that makes them comfortable. The point of the script, in this case, is to practice a new conversation starter to the point when which it becomes comfortable.

When coaching your people, role play this scenario enough times so that it rolls off the tongue and so they are truly comfortable with it. Then...and here's the good part; never say it the way you wrote it. In other words, write the script, and then don't use it. The point isn't to have a script. It's to get comfortable with a new approach to a conversation. When you are in the moment of a real sales call, be yourself, speaking to your prospect the way you might speak to a friend that you believe you can help. Your salespeople will be relieved that they don't have a recite a script. If they aren't, you might have other problems with your team and you can do some quick math here on what a non-performing person can cost you.

The script is for thinking through a change in the sales conversation. Coaching is an opportunity for a manager and a salesperson to work, one-on-one to make an improvement in the salesperson's skills. Now imagine your people using a script as a tool to make improvements over how they've been doing it for perhaps years and years. Someone smarter than me once told me that no one is in sales for 20 years; they are in sales for 5 years and repeat the fifth year fifteen more times. Now you can add script writing to your available tools to help your people make improvements regardless of how long they have been selling.

 

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Photo Credit - Copyright :  dmitrimaruta (123RF) 

Topics: Sales Coaching, Top 10 Sales Tips, sales management role, coaching culture

The Single Most Important Metric to Turn Existing Accounts into Growing Accounts

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Tue, May 29, 2018 @ 08:05 AM

52558345_s_puregoldLast week, at our Sales Leadership Intensive we hosted for a packed house of CEOs, Executives, Sales VPs, and Front-Line Sales Managers here at our Training Center at Kurlan & Associates, a question came up about metrics and holding account managers accountable for activities and proactive behaviors related to growth. "How can I create metrics for my people related to growing existing customers that we've had for years -- especially those golden accounts we'd never want to lose?," an attendee asked, adding, "I can see how monitoring these metrics would be great for business development folks seeking new business, but it's not as simple for account managers. What metrics can I use for them?" By the way, this is the kind of fun question that gets a room full of sales leaders charged up like a bunch of astronomers debating whether Pluto is a really a planet. Real geeky sales stuff that I love.

It's interesting that this question was asked. We so often think of pursuing the "new account" as easier to quantify than nurturing existing accounts. But if we think about growing an existing account as simply seeking "net new business," it ceases to look a whole lot different. So I asked the participant, "You probably don't need any of those accounts to grow, right?" He answered, "Haha, you bet we do." And I followed that with, "Well that makes sense, but you probably don't have any attrition with these accounts and they all come back every year without fail." He said, "You're dreaming! That's the whole problem. I don't think my people are on top of this and we're often surprised when we lose an account." Hmm. "So we can get several metrics right from there, can't we?" Now it makes sense. How often are you meeting with your existing accounts to have a meeting about how many other ways you can help them? 

One of the ways in which salespeople grow business is by having productive, eye-opening business conversations with prospects that no one else is having. But to have that conversation, they have to first set up a meeting. Here's where there's confusion for account managers. If I get a lead, I can contact that person and set up a meeting. It might take one, two, or 22 attempts, but the conversation gets awful one-sided when the prospect isn't there, so I need to schedule an actual meeting. Seems obvious enough. And when I have it, I can learn what I need to learn by asking questions and discovering compelling reasons for my prospect to make a change from doing what they are doing to doing business with me. On the other hand, for an account manager, I am usually well past that first conversation and we already have a relationship. But, as the sales leader said, these accounts are pure gold. They already know you, trust you, want to do business with you, and they even call you. So how do we leverage that golden relationship for growth?

Introducing the Reset Meeting

When you already have an account, but need to grow it, and further, when you already have many accounts and want to keep them, the best method is to use a Reset Meeting. The purpose of a Reset Meeting is to shift from the normal, habitual conversation and move toward a business discussion that can lead to more sales. The problem is that it might seem like an abrupt change to the prospect to suddenly be talking about growing the account, and more importantly (and problematically) it might also expose a weakness in the salesperson who might not be used to "selling," and is more comfortable in the role of simply keeping the customer happy.

Setting up a Reset Meeting might sound something like this: "Ya know Bob, we've been doing business for several years now and we've had a lot of conversations, haven't we. Along the way, I've always been ready to serve you and your business and I've taken care of your needs whenever called upon. If you're willing, I'd like to set up a meeting with you just to gain an even better understanding of your business so I can understand how to help you even more, going forward. I think we'll need about an hour and a half. Would you be willing to talk about that?"

When this meeting is on the calendar, it is analogous to the first "needs analysis" type meeting one would set up for a new account. And as managers, we can quantify how many of these Reset Meetings our people have set up, giving us a solid metric. It's important to note that this meeting cannot be ad hoc. The customer cannot say, "Yeah, we'll talk about that the next time you come in." It's vital to the effectiveness of the meeting that there is a commitment on the part of the customer to set the time aside to have exactly that conversation.

As with a new account, the existence of a real date and time on the calendar is the first step toward gaining buy-in. Your odds of converting, or in this case, gaining more business, is significantly higher when the customer/prospect commits to having the conversation as defined. "Yeah, sure, whenever..." and "Call me next week to set something up..." doesn't cut it. Those are put-off responses that say nothing about whether this is important to them, or even if they were paying attention to what you were asking.

If we can't get commitment to have the meeting, it's our first red flag regarding either the account's intent or our salesperson's skills. Sometimes, a salesperson is good at account management, but not as good at what we would call "farming" the account or growing the business within an account. Their skill sets and selling "DNA" support account management but farming requires other skills. With farming, we need closing skills and closing urgency which isn't required for account management. We have to stay in the moment. We can't get emotionally involved. We have to be able to listen and ask questions with ease. We can't have too much "Need for Approval" from our prospects/customers, and we have to be rejection proof. How many of the salespeople whom we expect to grow their existing accounts have the requisite skills and DNA to support farming?

For an aggregate view of these traits on your team relative to other sales teams, at no charge, click here. Or if you have a specific salesperson in mind and wonder if they have what it takes to set up and execute a proper Reset Meeting, click here for a free trial of an assessment tool most useful for selecting sales candidates who will be able to perform and succeed in the role, right from the beginning.

The Reset Meeting gives sales managers a good tool for framing the discussion around growing existing accounts while providing the basis for measuring and monitoring activities that will lead to customer growth and retention. Good luck with this tool and let me know how it works for you.

 

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Photo Credit - Copyright : Dario Hayashi  (123RF)

 

 

 

Topics: Sales DNA, effective sales coaching, Sales Accountability, account management, sales metrics, selling skills, sales farming, Reset Meeting

The Top 7 Most Common Excuses for Delayed Sales Process Adoption

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, May 14, 2018 @ 23:05 PM

48275588_s_ProcessAdoptionDelays-chalkboardLearning an effective sales process is easy. It usually fits on one sheet of paper, takes about an hour to memorize, and, having just come off of two weeks of travel to four different clients for intensive day-long training sessions, I can confidently share with you that salespeople and managers understand the simplicity and effectiveness of a fundamental sales process right away. There's a collective "a-ha" that occurs in every session at the moment when something that seemed so complicated at first is suddenly understood at its foundation. So why does it take months to impact sales results? I'm glad you asked. Read on to find out.

Think of the complexity of your product offering and how, while there are differences in ability on your team, most of your people can talk about the products and services in great detail. There could be hundreds of items or dozens of service combinations and options, but most seasoned salespeople can rattle them off like they are discussing backyard barbecue tips at a Little League game. With little investigation, one can see that most of your product offerings exceed the complexity of an effective sales process, often by an order of magnitude. So why does it take the team so long to adopt the sales process, use it on every call, and reap the rewards of regularly outselling their competition?

1638064_s_ProcessAdoptionDelaysThere are reasons of course, or if you prefer to use the language of elite salespeople (those possessing selling skill scores in the top 7% of all salespeople), then let's just call them excuses. Here's my list of the 7 excuses I hear the most related to the lack of adoption of sales process:

Top 7 Most Common Excuses for Delayed Sales Process Adoption

  1. Management doesn't insist they use it.
  2. They don't practice it enough to be comfortable using it on an actual call.
  3. They aren't coached specifically to sales process.
  4. They have too many hidden psychological barriers.
  5. Managers can't identify their people's personal obstacles.
  6. Their beliefs don't support acting on key steps in the process.
  7. They don't have the right sales process.

1. Management
If management isn't insisting that salespeople follow sales process, then is it a corporate adoption and buy-in problem, or is it an accountability problem? Accountability runs all the way through the organization. Sometimes there's an expectation that because managers are tasked with achieving the overall outcome of their people, that they will do what it takes, ethically, to accomplish their goals and we don't need to tell them what to do.

This kind of thinking lets leadership off the hook. That would be like managers telling their salespeople to go out and sell "so I'll just leave you alone so you can get on with it." Who will motivate them, who will coach them, and who will hold them accountable to performing the activities that lead to hitting the goals? Sales management isn't the top of the chain of sales hierarchy. The top of the sales food chain is occupied by the party or parties responsible for the outcome of the business: Owner, CEO, Board of Directors. Insistence on something as fundamental as sales process starts there.

When it's important to find out how you are getting the results you are getting and why, it might be time to evaluate the sales organization as a whole. Click here to see if a Sales Force Evaluation makes sense for your team.

2. Practice
Try it out in practice sessions first, using role-play, ideally with a manager or between salespeople and an observant manager helping to facilitate or play one of the roles. You wouldn't change your grip in the middle of a golf tournament. You would try it out on the practice green first. Do the same with sales process. Ask yourself what this call should sound like? Look for places it could get derailed and work through each one. Then be prepared for the call to go nothing like what you planned.

3. Coaching
Think of the greatest player you know in a sport you love to follow. That person has a coach, right? And if that person happens to be the best player in the world in that sport, they still have a coach. From this perspective, it means the coach is, by definition, not as good at the sport as the player, or they would be number one. Yet, the star player wouldn't want to lose them as their coach and they would never stop wanting to be coached. That's how they got where they are. In sales, formal scheduled coaching should happen daily. It's the most important role of the manager. You can read several articles on coaching by selecting from the list found by clicking here.

4. Psychological Barriers
What is blocking a salesperson from saying or doing something that they know they should say or do? The answer is often based on certain barriers that lie within their own head? It might not be a lack of ability or understanding; it might instead result from how they stop themselves due to habit, discomfort, or fear. Thanks to the magic of the OMG sales assessment, we now know that among many, there are six major hidden weaknesses that can cause a barrier to success and lead to slow improvement. They include:

  • Non-supportive Buy Cycle
  • Excessive Need for Approval
  • Getting Too Emotionally Involved
  • Discomfort Talking about Money
  • Non-Supportive Beliefs
  • Difficulty Recovering from Rejection

Rather than explain each one of these in detail, I would direct you to our upcoming one-hour live webinar on this very topic scheduled for June 14th at 11:00 am U.S. Eastern Time. It's free of charge and you can register by clicking here.

5. Identifying Issues
Often, even when salespeople have barriers to their success slowing down their progress, it goes unrecognized, either because the manager isn't looking for it, or the manager has the same issue herself and doesn't recognize the weakness in her people. To find out how your people compare with respect to the 21 Sales Core Competencies measured in the OMG assessment tool, against other salespeople, click here.

6. Beliefs
Beliefs are at the heart of all of our outcomes. Our beliefs, especially the ones about which we feel most certain, determine how we view our potential. Our beliefs about our potential determine the actions we take. And our actions produce the results we get. Each time we get a result, it reinforces our beliefs and the process starts again. I first learned of this cycle of success from neuro-strategist, Steve Linder of Strategic Brain, who had learned it from Anthony Robbins over 20 years prior.

When we come to terms with the fact that our beliefs are the driving force of our personal success machine, it can feel quite energizing. When I conduct Belief-System workshops with clients, we cover over 90 self-limiting beliefs that can impact sales outcomes, drawn from the original work of Dave Kurlan along with others such as Nassim Taleb, Robbins, Linder, Napoleon Hill, Milton Erickson, and repeated personal observations from my work with clients.

Of the over 90 self-limiting beliefs addressed in the workshop, here are seven:

  • My prospects usually buy on price.
  • My prospects don't have the time we really need.
  • My territory is the hardest.
  • My lack of result was due to the competition.
  • My prospects are often unreachable.
  • It takes several meetings to build rapport.
  • I need my prospects to like me.

If you are interested in having your own facilitated Self-Limiting Belief Workshop, click here to book me as a speaker.

7. Wrong Sales Process
The sales process should be a customized, optimized, staged set of steps that naturally describes and directs your actions and conversations with a prospect as you move them from lead to close.  If you are using the wrong sales process or if your sales process is inadequate, what should you do? Click here to take our eye-opening Sales Process Grader to find out.

Summary
To re-cap, all that is required to ensure speedy and effective adoption of your sales process is to address and resolve each of the seven most common excuses listed above. I'm willing to bet you could memorize this list in under five minutes. See how easy that was. And here is your perfect success formula if you are willing to accept it. Create a to-do list to address each of the seven excuses for not getting total early buy-in on your world class sales process. Then do the items on the list!

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Photo Credit - Chalkboard: Denis Ismagilov  (123RF)
Photo Credit - Road Barriers Elena Elisseeva (123RF)

 

Topics: sales process, adjusting the sales process, self-limting beliefs, excuse making, sales managerment, managerial leadership

Rugby and the Executive Role in Sales Manager Accountability

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Apr 16, 2018 @ 07:04 AM

When a sales manager says, "This guy isn't cutting it, but I can't let him go," it's an "uh-oh" moment, the "a-ha" moment's evil cousin. When she says, "I have him on an improvement program but it's not working," adding, "Every time I give him something to do, he has an excuse for why it can't be done, shouldn't be done, doesn't work in this market, etc." And then she says, "I think he thinks I don't have the authority to do anything about it. I have no leverage." That's when I say, "uh oh, what's behind this?" Having no leverage is like a rugby scrum. No one has any leverage and the line of scrimmage at the center of it barely moves at all. But there's always a way to get the ball out.

2508552_s_Rugby_041618

What's going on here? Why did she say, "I can't let him go." The answer, it turns out, is that he's been with the company for 22 years and the CEO says  he stays, period. "We're a family," I heard one CEO say recently. The same CEO complained that the numbers weren't improving as expected. I have seen enough close involvement of CEOs with their sales managers lately that it's worth taking a closer look at what can happen with that approach and offering a way through it that's so simple it will surprise you.

I'm not talking about CEOs who directly manage sales managers and who are therefore coaching them. I'm referring to the examples where higher-level executives and/or CEOs specifically limit the authority needed by managers to perform their required responsibilities. Before I get into what I see is at the core of this issue, let's dispense with some of the other possibilities that could be happening independently of any meddling:

  1. The manager might have a need to be liked by her reps. This is an issue for some managers. It could be the reason why she is still getting resistance from this rep. If she's worried about what he thinks of her, she might be holding back a bit. There might be much she could do to make improvements if she weren't worried about the consequences to their relationship. 
  2. It could be an issue of Shaping the Environment of the team. What is her relationship like with this person? Is there mutual trust and respect? Does he ask her for help? Does she offer it? Does she coach him effectively? Does she hold him accountable? Does she know what motivates him? Has she created an environment for him and the other team members that supports constant improvement and learning and does everyone know where they stand with respect to their goals, behaviors, and activities.
  3. It could be that the CEO believes this rep has a lot of desire for success and that the right management style will bring out the best in him. However, "desire" is often confused with "commitment." In this case, the desire might be there, but perhaps commitment is low. Commitment is defined as the level of discomfort one is willing to endure to reach what they desire. Desire is the height of the bar. Commitment is what you are willing to do, ethically, to get over it. The CEO might not see this and might be stepping in for a personal reason and/or a genuine sense that this person wants to be there and wants to be successful. That's why measuring commitment is so important. People tend not to improve without some degree of change and discomfort.

What is often overlooked as a root cause for lack of results is the way that hierarchies are structured within the organization. With so much time and effort going into ensuring salespeople are properly trained and that managers are coaching and performing other key duties properly, it's frustrating when the organization structure is the block, not the people, nor their ability.

So let's take a page from a master of organizational leadership drawing from a tremendous body of research done in the 50s by Elliott Jaques (pronounced, "Jacks"). Managers will be relieved to see in such starkly obvious terms what they intuitively know. Executives could use this to free their organizations from the shackles of misalignment and organizational blockage. It's a simple way to get ball quickly out the back of the scrum and off to the fly half to make something happen.

Managerial leaders, Jaques writes, must have three critical accountabilities and four critical authorities as follows:

The Three Critical Accountabilities of a Sales Manager

  1. For the output of their salespeople
  2. For maintaining a team of salespeople capable of producing the outputs required (e.g., meeting quota)
  3. For the leadership of that team so that they collaborate with competence and full commitment with them and with each other in pursuing the goals set.

When you hire a manager, this is what you are expecting, particularly if they are not also acting in a sales role. The sales manager role, by definition, demands that these three responsibilities rest on their shoulders. However, these accountabilities are unattainable without the proper authority. So what does that look like?

The Four Critical Authorities of a Sales Manager

  1. Hiring manager - who's going to be on my team
  2. What do I want them to do? What tasks should be assigned so that we attain the required outputs?
  3. Judging their effectiveness and deciding any merit awards as appropriate. This is not a group activity, nor is it something that a CEO or owner should step in and do. It only would undermine the sales manager's authority.
  4. Initiating removal from the his or her team. Not necessarily firing. The CEO can keep their long-time friend at the company, but the sales manager must decide who is on his or her team.  
I have seen situations where the manager has taken a large hit to their compensation due to the organizational inability to exercise this vital authority. Hire the right person and then get out of their way. If you don't like the job they are doing, fix that - develop their skills are move them to a different role. If you believe they are doing a good job in the role, then get out of their way.
 
Let's take a look at rugby again for another management parallel. In the book, Legacy, which was written in part about the All Blacks rugby team in New Zealand, author James Kerr writes, quoting head coach, Graham Henry, "The manager's first responsibility was to find a captain for their team - to pass the ball to them. And the Captain's first responsibility? To pick a team. And the team's responsibility? To turn up for every game on time." Quoting further, Kerr writes, "The leader sets objectives and parameters, then ‘passes the ball’ to the team, handing over responsibility for implementation and detail. Leading by creating leaders."
 
One can see the empowerment inherent in this approach, but make no mistake. There is tremendous responsibility placed on those captains. As a college rugby player, I witnessed something similar (not similar rugby ability). Our team was a club sport and we played several other colleges in our league with similar club status. We had no official coach, so our back captain and scrum captain were the leaders. They had both a responsibility to the team and the authority to decide who played, in what position, and how often. There was an A team and a B team and they chose those players as well.
 
On the surface, it might appear rather egalitarian. We voted them into those positions. But the managing of the team wasn't a flat organization, and necessarily could not have been. We might have elected our leaders, but once on the job, we expected them to perform. They were accountable for the performance of the team. And they had the authority to decide who was in what position and who sat out.
 
Back to our example with the CEO insisting that a rep cannot be let go. Without vested authority, a sales manager cannot do the job she or he believes is necessary to achieve the required outcome. Thus impeded, a good manager feels held back and eventually finds a new job where they will be allowed to succeed. The CEO might be thinking that his or her feelings that we're all a family are useful and meaningful to the organization. That's the "uh-oh" part. The sentiment is nice, but the effect on the organization can be devastating. By denying the the manager the proper vested authority of the position, they cannot reasonably be held accountable for their outcome. As the CEO, I'd be worried about the manager who stays.
 
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For sales managers who are seeking a major advantage over their competitors, check out our sales statistics tool and see how your team compares against your competition in the 21 Sales Core Competencies.
 
 
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Photo Credit:  Alison Bowden

 

Topics: Sales Accountability, sales managerment, rugby, 21 sales core competencies, all blacks, managerial leadership, liberational hierarchy

Educating Sales Prospects - A Misconception

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 @ 08:03 AM

47338449_s_Educating_031918.jpg, educating, too much information

This week, I'm taking a short break from my series on selling into corporate environments where office politics and isolated resistance swarm and defeat the uninitiated. If you missed the first three articles in the series, you can read them here, here, and here. For this week, since the subject of "educating" prospects has been coming up too often to ignore, I believe you're going to like having this common sales misconception cleared up once and for all.

Interviewing a sales candidate recently for a client, I asked him why people bought from him. His response was, "They trust me and I make sure have all the information they need." And then I said to him, "Walk me through your sales process." And he said, "First I find out what they are using now (hydraulic hoses and valves). Then I educate them! That's what I do. I believe it's the best way. You have to show them you know what you're talking about. By the time I'm done, they know a lot more about valves and usually, one of the things I told them will be just what they need. I want them to see me as the guy with the answers."

When I checked out his resume, I noticed he'd been selling valves for 2 years. Before that, it was phenolic wheels for industrial use - 18 months, truck bodies - one year, cellular phones - 2 years. That's a lot of jumping around. Before I cut him short on one of the answers to a question, I had learned why I might want to use wheels without king pins instead of with them for my industrial applications. He didn't ask me if I had any industrial applications but I got educated anyway. Now I know how his prospects feel.

It was probably the the cell phone experience that "taught" him to "throw up" on his prospective new customers and no one gave him another tool. Apparently, none of his sales managers along the way trained nor coached him on how to use an effective sales process.

A common belief held by many salespeople is “I must educate my prospects.” There has been a misconception brewing about this idea for many years. We're going to clear it up right now. For the past three decades, sales expert and hall-of-famer Dave Kurlan has shown that in one context, educating prospects doesn't work. At the same time, research from consultants, Mike Schultz and John Doerr have shown that in another context, it's the most important part of the sales conversation separating winners from second place finishers. What gives?

The confusion lies in the word, 'educate.' The way that most salespeople interpret the idea of educating prospects is based on product knowledge. I want them to know, they might say, all about my product, what it does, how it does it, and why it's better than the other options. The salesperson has spent a huge amount of time learning the products well enough to sound like a seasoned auctioneer. It flows right off the tongue, and there's no way the prospect knows as much as they do, so the thinking goes, and why not sound like THE most qualified expert in the room. The more you showcase your knowledge, the more impressed your prospect will be and the more likely they are to choose the product from the guy or gal that knows the most, right?

Unfortunately, that's not how it usually works out. Spilling your guts about your products or what is most commonly referred to as the "show up and throw up" approach fails for several reasons.

  • It's not targeted. Maybe I need phenolic industrial wheels right now or maybe I don't, but why talk about them if I don't?
  • It's boring and distracts from a more productive sales conversation.
  • The information will be stolen and given to the incumbent to help keep them honest.
  • The information will be stolen and given to the competition to help them bring their service offerings in line with yours.
  • It exposes a lack of inquisitiveness in the salesperson, leading prospects to believe that the salesperson is more interested in a sale than in understanding them.

This approach is masking an underlying inability to listen carefully to prospects. What's important to them? What are they saying they need vs. what do they truly need? Why are they talking to you? Legendary songwriter and guitarist, Eric Clapton, once said, "Well, I think part of my gift, or if I have one, is that I love listening." Listening to his music, one can feel him holding back to deliver exactly what is needed for the song in that moment, never playing to impress, and always impressing.

Following Dave Kurlan's well-honed advice, by taking a more consultative approach and following a sales process that emphasizes listening, asking questions, digging deeper, and uncovering compelling reasons to buy, we educate in a different way. This means holding back on all that knowledge. It means using your listening skills and being curious to ensure that the focus is on the prospect/client/customer, and not the salesperson. It's about knowing when it's the right time to talk about your stuff and having the patience to wait for that time (said Lancelot).

When we're curious and inquisitive and willing to spend the time to listen and learn and direct the conversation toward what our tremendous experience and knowledge tells us will be useful to the prospect, something magical happens. We uncover new possibilities. We serve our prospects by discovering together "new ideas and perspectives." It's in this manner that we educate them. That's what Schultz and Doerr found was the difference. Looking at 42 factors, they found that clients reported this form of education as the #1 factor in their decision to go with the winner. Second place finishers, on the other hand, did this hardly at all, coming in at number 42 out of 42 factors. Dead last!

So we're aligned after all. We could simplify it this way. Educating prospects about your awesome stuff before you understand them: bad. Educating your prospects with new ways of looking at their problem: good. As long as we don't confuse the two, we won't find ourselves pitching industrial wheels to human resource specialists, unless they really need them. 

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Note: Our Sales Leadership Intensive in the Boston area in May is sold out. Click here to get on the waiting list or to be contacted when the next one comes up, most likely this fall.

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Photo Credit:  olegdudko

 

Topics: self-limiting sales beliefs, Mike Schultz, common sales myths, salesales, educating prospects, eric clapton, John Doerr

Selling To a Resitant End-User

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Mar 04, 2018 @ 22:03 PM

36332388_s_ResistantEndUser_030518.jpg

Corporate politics can fluster a good sale, especially in the case where an end user is resistant to your products and services even though the person who contacted you says they really need the help. In my last article, I listed the top 7 most common resistance scenarios when selling into a corporate environment in which there are strong political forces, and I addressed specifically #1 below, the Resistant Purchaser. Click here to read that article. Today, let's look at the case where the end-user herself or himself is where the resistance is coming from. The very person that's going to use the product or service doesn't want it. Now what?!

Here is the list again:

Top Seven Most Common Resistance Scenarios in Sale

  1. The Resistant Purchaser
  2. The Resistant End-User
  3. The Resistant Problem Owner
  4. The Resistant Decision Maker
  5. The Resistant Outsider
  6. The Resistant Insider
  7. The Resistant Faction

The scenario goes something like this. Your good-intentioned contact tells you, "Gosh, we really need your service. It's been tough to get the stuff we need when we need it, before the whole things becomes a you know what." And you say, after much conversation, lots of listening, and asking good questions, "And given all that, do you want my help to make all those problems go away the first time, the right way, right now?" And they say, "I'd get started today, but there's one problem. The department boss, who you would be directly helping, hates getting help. Frankly, I think he believes that it's all on him to fix it, and any help from the outside might look bad for him."

Typically, this scenario manifests in the following way. Your contact mentions it to the department boss who either says 'no' right away, or worse, pretends to think it's a good idea so he appears open-minded, only to find holes in it later after you've spent a lot of time working on it for him. So how do you deal with it?

A common approach is to try to work with the resistant end-user to change their mind. However, one must understand the strength of their fear if you are to move them to change. If it's too strong, you won't get anywhere, particularly if they won't have a genuine open dialogue and are not open to change. 

Another approach is to start with your contact saying something like this, "Mr. Primary Contact, given how passionate you are about this issue and given how much you think the company must solve this problem, I'm curious how many others in the organization care about this issue as much as you do." This will start to give you an idea of where the strength in the organization is to get something done. You might then ask, "Have you ever done something like this before, where you see the solution and others don't?" And then follow up with, "How did you get it done that time? Should we cut through roadblocks the same way this time."

When the product is "sold" to one person at the firm, who isn't the end user, and where the end user has said something that sounds a lot like 'no,' then find out where the political leverage is within the company and put it to work. There could be someone or some group that can move Mr. Obstinate where you couldn't. I know I'm going to get emails about how this is stepping on toes, and no one will ever do business with you again and so on. If this is an ongoing account that needs to be managed for the long-term, then yes, tread lightly and focus more on changing the mind of the end-user (or, if appropriate, stop wasting valuable selling time and move on, or get a referral, etc.). 

If this is not an ongoing account, then to worry about stepping on toes is to lose the sale. There are important selling competencies at work in this example including the Hunter Competency and Sales DNA such as Need for Approval. Read about the 21 sales core competencies here. If you piss someone off because you did that, and you do end up losing the sale, you're in the same place you started. If, on the other hand, by taking a risk and telling it like it is at the right time to the right people, in the genuine desire to help your prospect's firm, you will have built trust and credibility because you demonstrated the bravery to risk jeopardizing the sale to do the right thing and you didn't let your own need for approval get in the way.

In short, when the end-user is resistant, if you can find a way to go around them, then go around them. If you can't get permission for that, you have mine.

 

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Photo Credit : Andrew Grossman

 

Topics: sales management effectiveness, overcoming sales resistance



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