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Retail Selling, the Role of the Salesperson, and Missed Opportunities

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Nov 17, 2013 @ 09:11 AM

LuxuryStore Mall 250pxJust yesterday, I was walking through the Time Warner building at Columbus Circle in New York with my son. After getting our free chocolate truffle from the Godiva store, we stumbled into a famous luxury goods store while we enjoyed our little confections. I should note that if you like chocolate, the Godiva membership is one of the few that gives away something for nothing. One need only wait until the calendar changes to the next month to get your yummy treat. You don’t need points; you don’t need to buy ten to get one; you don’t need to spend a nickel – ever. You just show up and get your free truffle. 

This isn’t a marketing blog but there’s something there worth noting. I know Godiva fully expects that I’ll buy stuff along the way. But that’s beside the point. While other companies work to build “relationships” with their customers with all kinds of strings, caveats, and quid pro quos, Godiva is acting more like a friend. “Here, have one. I ask for nothing from you.” Seth Godin writes copiously about this kind of behavior toward customers becoming increasingly important in a noisy, information-rich world of companies desperate for your narrowing spans of attention. And Frank Belzer, whose new book Sales Shift is in the running for Top Sales World "Top Sales & Marketing Book" of the year. Vote here.

But I want to talk about the luxury good store experience because we can learn something about selling. We walked in, turned right (just like the research showed we would), and started looking at stuff in the glass cases. Art deco lighters, fancy cigar holders, and thousand-dollar pens were among the items so you get the idea of the type of store we were visiting. The young salesperson walked toward us and asked, “Can I help you find something?” I replied, “No.” He said, “Okay,” and backed away. That was it. Poor “ol’ sport,” I thought, having just seen Gatsby and having not yet completely purged that phrase from my head.

How do you spend a fortune renting retail space at Time Warner on the ground floor, with carefully-designed layout (the result, no doubt, of all the latest in psychological testing), and the best in customer acquisition strategy, and still manage to neglect the part about actually getting the sale? If inbound marketing gets you 70% of the way to making the sale (their figure), in this modern era, the upscale retail shop is designed to go even further. It has to, after all, given the expense of all the bricks and mortar they took the time to assemble. If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t keep building them. Humans, occasionally, like to get up from their computers and move around. We get cabin fever, eventually, and continue our voracious shopping habits in person.

The mentality that led to such poor salespersonship at “Luxury Store” reminds me of the approach that car dealers take, where the role of sales is misunderstood and misdirected. (More on that in another article.) The corporate executives undervalue the role of sales, rely on imagecraft, market positioning, aesthetics, and prestige, etc. and for the most part, it works. People walk into the Honda dealership because they already like Hondas, not because they have no idea what they want and lucky for them, the nice salesperson is there to help them figure it out. Gazillions are spent on advertising to help minimize the role of the salesperson, whose job is to get the person to stay long enough to experience the paper-shuffling, manager-approving Jedi tricks and sign on the bottom line.

The good ones don’t lose the sale. The lousy ones make people furious. Really, haven’t you had that experience, or know someone who has? Don’t you know people who will never buy a car from so and so till the fiery underworld remodels itself as an arctic getaway? But what about real salespeople? Can’t they make a sale where there wasn’t one? Of course they can.

Let’s replay that conversation with Ol’ Sport using a simple conversational technique I learned from TopSalesWorld Hall-of-Famer, Dave Kurlan. “Hi! Should I say welcome, or welcome back?” Me: “I haven’t walked in here before.” OS: “Then welcome. What made you walk in here today?” Me: “You were across from Godiva and I was too busy enjoying my chocolate to notice which store I was wandering into.” OS: “Perfect! If there were a reason to wander in here, what would it be?” Me: “I like cool pens.” OS: “Do you have a pen collection?” And so on, which might include questions like, What’s your favorite pen? Why? Is it sentimental or design or quality? Etc. “You know,” I might think to myself, “I wasn’t expecting to have a real conversation.”

Instead, OS stood back, afraid to say anything more, and eliminated the risk that he would lose a sale that he thinks might otherwise automatically happen. Why is this allowed? It happens because the leadership of Luxury Store, the manager, the marketing department, the board of directors, the finance team, and the sales staff are all on the same page. They undervalue the role of sales. Sales is increased, in their thinking, by the clever product creation, history, story, reputation, design, store layout, inbound strategy and marketing. The sales associate is there to open the glass cabinet, make light conversation, and ring up the purchase, right?

This is a missed opportunity because it’s possible to dramatically increase sales.

  • How many of your sales people are falling into this trap?
  • Is your company fostering the problem?
  • How much pressure do salespeople have to not blow the sale?
  • Do your sales people have the necessary selling skills?
  • Do they have the DNA to overcome their own weaknesses?
  • Can they listen?
  • Can they react in the moment?
  • Do they have the presence to be the added value themselves?

Maybe it’s time to evaluate your sales organization? Maybe it’s time to look at what you might be missing from your sales team. What are their current capabilities? How much better could they be? What would it take to make them better? And how long would it take?

Someday, I’ll buy a super nice pen because I like pens. When that happens, there was nothing about my experience at Luxury Store that puts them on the short list. But there could have been. It was a missed opportunity to make a sale much more than it was a careful execution to not lose one.

 

 

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, Dennis Connelly, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales management best practices, recruiting sales people, sales hiring, Baseline Selling, Sales Coaching, retail sales, retail, adapting to changing sales environments, roleplay, role play, alignment of sales and marketing, alienate the prospect, CEO, changes that sales people need to make, change sales behavior, developing better sales teams, gimmicks in sales, getting your foot in the door, dysfunction, improve sales, hard selling, losing the attention of the prospect, losing the business, sales competency, losing the sale, sales mistakes, sales management training, sales leadership training, sales strengths, SOB Quality, selling process, what gets in the way of selling, amazon, sales shift, frank belzer, David Kurlan, Kurlan & Associates, Living Sales Excellence, sales excellence

Hiring Salespeople from Failed Competitor Carries Risk

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Fri, Nov 08, 2013 @ 13:11 PM

RatOnLineI was speaking with a ­­sales leader recently, discussing his experience of receiving lots of resumes from a recently defunct large competitor. His story reminded me of a related hiring practice that also almost never works.  His experience was a twist on the now proven idea that when you’re an industry small player, don’t try to hire away the folks from the big players. It simply doesn't work.  His experience was a little different.  He said that when one of those big players folds and every third resume that lands on your desk is from that company, don’t hire them either.

On the surface, this isn’t obvious.  But typically, when you hire the sales person from the big player, you tend to get the ones who don’t cut it.  If they had been truly successful there, why would they come and work for you?  Even if they had been reasonably successful at the big, well-known company, there must be a reason they're jumping ship.

Often, their success came from other less obvious factors which we call “intangibles.”  If IBM calls for an appointment, you’re likely to accept it.  And there’s an IBM in every industry, so maybe their success had something to do with this kind of “red carpet” effect.  Maybe they had a lot of support, or a team that helped to close sales.  At your company, they might have to do much more on their own, without a big team helping them, and they might struggle with that. Maybe they are used to selling a lower-priced product.

The big guy might chop prices to buy business or have greater economies of scale or some other reason why their prices tend to be lower.  If your candidate can’t build the kind of value that takes price off the table, he or she will not succeed.  In short, when the company is the primary differentiator, then without a highly-evolved, sales-specific assessment, it’s hard to tell who can make the switch to becoming the key differentiator themselves.

This sales leader was telling me that the large numbers of candidates from the recently failed, big player were not good candidates either.  Why is that?  Having previously worked for that same big player himself, he knew who the good players were and what made them different from the people whose resumes were decorating his desk.  The good ones had moved already to other companies well before the business failed.  They were smart, savvy and had many of the attributes which made them good at selling and understanding when it was time to leave. Those who didn’t get it beforehand, all need a job now.

How will you know the truly good salespeople from those whose intangibles are the driving factor?  The resume, and even the interview, almost never expose the hidden weaknesses which can be frustrating and costly after they are already working at your company.

This is one example of the kind of problems companies regularly face when hiring new salespeople.  They should also be concerned with the following:

1)      Can they and will they hunt for new business?

2)      Can they sell consultatively?

3)      Do they know why inbound leads are different?

4)      Are they good closers?

5)      Can they qualify properly?

6)      Are they trainable?

7)      Are they coachable?

8)      How much does their life get in their way?

9)      Can they make the jump to an entirely different selling environment?

10)    Do they make excuses?


If you want to learn more about the Science of Sales Force Selection click here. If you think your current sales team could be better, click here to learn about Sales Force Evaluations.

Topics: sales competencies, sales assessment, Consultative Selling, sales management best practices, recruiting sales people, sales hiring

Sales Process and Skyscrapers

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 @ 08:01 AM

sales process,sales model,Dave Kurlan, Dennis Connelly,sales methodology,sales assessment, sales blogThere was a discussion in our recent sales meeting about the lack of excellent sales processes at most companies.  We ought to know.  Led by Dave Kurlan, we've written over a thousand articles combined to help companies better understand their sales force.  While many of these articles are about process, he noted in a recent article that there has not been a significant shift in this area by most companies.

The structure behind a sales force's activities is the process which they follow to bring a potential customer from lead to suspect to prospect to qualified to closed.  Your CRM tool, in part, should be designed to help with process.  Following it carefully and in the right sequence, can make an enormous difference on the outcome.  It ensures that every good lead has the best chance of a successful close.

I was recently in lower Manhattan and noticed the progress which was being made on the Freedom Tower.  It occured to me that the sales process is similar to building a skyscraper.  To an outside observer, it looks like a magic trick.  How do they get the crane to go continuously higher as the building gets taller?  Don’t you need something higher than the building to lift it up?  How do you attach enormously heavy windows and cladding to the outside of the building which is a thousand feet up?  How do you accomplish seemingly simple things like getting water to come out of a sink on the top floor?  It seems impossibly complicated and daunting.

How they build it is beyond me, but it's clear that they have a process.  They do things in order.  The order makes sense.  They are experts in their field.  All of the contractors and suppliers work together so that each piece fits on the next one in the proper order and at the proper time.  They are aligned in their purpose.  Without this process, the building can’t be built.  If they do it out of order, they have to tear part of it down and redo it in the proper order.

A sales process works the same way.  For sales to be effective, there must be a structure and a process.  It must be executed in the proper order.  If it’s out of order, it gets stuck.  Think about the specifics of your sales process for a moment and ask yourself some questions:

  1. Do we have a process?
  2. Do our people use it?
  3. Does management insist that it be followed, in the right order?
  4. Is the sales organization aligned with my view that the process is important?
  5. Is our CRM tool a good fit for our business?
  6. Am I concerned about pushing my people too hard?
  7. Am I fearful of the consequences of change?

For even more sales process issues, read Frank Belzer’s recent article.  While you’re at it, download his new E-Book on having a great 2013.  Your team must be experts at selling your products to your market.  Are they working together with management in alignment with your corporate mission and standards?  Are they helping to build an edifice of effectiveness where strong growth is standard and where your business stands out above the competition like a skyscraper?

Take a few minutes to grade your sales process.  It’s free.  Whether you take it any further or not, it could be valuable and useful information.  Increasingly, companies are asking us to rebuild their sales process.  They're looking for greater accountability, better metrics, clear action items, measurable progress and outstanding results.  If you're interested in having a conversation like this, let me know.

Topics: sales blog, sales assessment, Dennis Connelly, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales model, sales methodology

Consultative Selling - Lesson from a King's Trusted Advisor

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Wed, Jan 02, 2013 @ 16:01 PM

Geoffrey Rush playing Lionel Logue resized 600

Take a quick look at your sales organization and count the number who are consistently selling consultatively.  If it's less than 100%, then count the salespeople who at least know what the term means.  Of that group, who could tell you with clarity and passion, how it differs from other forms of selling?  For bonus points, who could tell you why consultative selling is a more desirable approach in 2013?  If your company didn’t score high on this test, it might be time to question why some of your sales people consistently miss your targets.

Most believe they're selling the best possible way.  “I’m asking lots of questions,” they might say, adding “I have the solution to their problem, have great relationships and they trust me.”  All that sounds right until you consider that almost any seasoned salesperson can say all of that.

What makes one salesperson so much more effective than another?  It’s not about asking questions; it’s about asking the right questions.  It’s about drilling down to uncover issues which weren’t on the table beforehand.  It’s not about having a solution to their problem; it’s about defining the problem in a new way which plays to your strengths.  It’s not about having great relationships; it’s about standing apart from the competition so much so that you command your customer’s attention.  This is what Dave Kurlan calls “Speed On the Bases” or SOB Quality.  You want to be like the great base-stealer who forces the pitcher to pay more attention to you than the batter.  If consultative selling is the lock, then SOB Quality is its key.

There was a movie not long ago which demonstrated SOB Quality (among many other sales lessons) called The King’s Speech.  In it, Lionel Logue, a commoner from Australia, was the service provider.  The prince, the future King George VI, known as Bertie to his family, was the potential client.  The prince had a speech impediment which others hadn’t been able to correct.  Logue came recommended, but couldn’t prove that he could solve his problem anymore than the knighted doctors who'd previously tried.  Here’s an excerpt from their first encounter, before any agreement is made to contract his services:

Logue:  “Please call me Lionel.”
Bertie:  “I prefer Doctor.”
Logue:  “I prefer Lionel. What’ll I call you?”
Bertie:  “Your Royal Highness. Then Sir after that.”
Logue:  “A bit formal for here. What about your name?”
Bertie:  “Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George”
Logue:  “How about Bertie?”
Bertie:  “Only my family uses that.”
Logue:  “Perfect. In here, it’s better if we’re equals.”
Bertie:  “If we were equal, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be home with my wife and no one would give a damn.” Bertie lights a cigarette.  
Logue:  “Don’t do that.”
Bertie:  With astonished look, “I’m sorry?”
Logue:  “Sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.”
Bertie:  “My physicians say it relaxes the throat.”
Logue:  “They’re idiots.”
Bertie:  “They’ve all been knighted.”
Logue:  “Makes it official then. My ‘castle,’ my rules. What was your earliest memory?”
Bertie:  “What on earth do you mean.” Now visibly irritated.
Logue:  “First recollection.”
Bertie:  “I’m not here to discuss personal matters.”
Logue:  “Why are you here, then?”

What Lionel Logue goes on to uncover is that the Prince’s stammering problem, regardless of its original cause, might have been compounded by personal issues such as the unkind treatment he had received by members of his family.  Logue’s probing inquiry eventually uncovers that his self-image is more important than the stammering.  In fact, the breakthrough comes when Logue sits in the king’s cathedral throne before the coronation, angering and challenging the king, until he finally yells at Logue, “I have a voice!”  Logue calmly replies, “Yes, you do.” and gets up out of his throne.  The King never questions his credentials again.  Logue has become a trusted advisor.

That’s how a commoner with no credentials, title, formal training nor guarantee of success took the business away from his high-powered competitors who possessed the inside track.  That’s SOB Quality and it’s at the heart of consultative selling.

Do your salespeople push back and uncover the underlying problems?  Do they challenge the decision-maker and ask questions which could cause discomfort or even irritation?  Do they look past the original inquiry, listen intently and ask follow-up questions until something interesting emerges?  Are they always looking to disqualify (“Why are you here, then?”) and letting the prospect sell themselves?  If the answer to any of these questions is ‘No’, could they be trained? What would a sales force evaluation reveal about your company's potential for change and opportunity for massive growth?  Do you have the right people to help you realize your organization's full potential as you envision it?

January is a terrific time to reflect on questions like these.  Rather than wondering whether you can hit your 2013 goals, perhaps you should be looking further and asking which sales force changes you must make in order to achieve sustained, double-digit, year-over-year growth.

Topics: sales competencies, sales force assessment, sales blog, sales culture, sales assessment, Dennis Connelly, Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, Trusted Advisor



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