Presidential Elections and Sales Leadership - What is Our Best?

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Jan 17, 2012 @ 11:01 AM

Ballot BoxIt’s campaign season and the candidates are jockeying for position and advantage. Imagine getting up every day, I mean seven days a week, and putting in sixteen-hour days. Can you see yourself doing this for six, nine, twelve or eighteen months without stopping? Assuming you win, you must then maintain this same level of commitment for one or maybe two terms.

In addition, every word you say is ripped apart by the press looking for a headline that will grab attention and sell “the” story. Things you did twenty or thirty years ago become the most important events of your life and your family is scrutinized to the point of nakedness.

It’s really quite an amazing feat. Witness the visible aging process presidents go through. The expectation is that this is what it takes regardless of whether it’s fair, reasonable or appropriate.

What drives people to do this? Ego is one compelling reason.  The desire to serve, a sense of incredible urgency and passion for the USA are others.

In a documentary about the USA Women’s Soccer team, who first won the world cup long before women’s soccer became mainstream, the team said that while competitive drive was a big reason for their success, the real motivation was to “legitimize soccer for young girls”. When I heard this my reaction was, "Wow!"

Giving your best is both relative and varied. One person's best is another person's worst. Some salespeople maintain extremely high levels of commitment for very long periods of time while others act more like sprinters.

As a sales leader, it’s your responsibility to help your salespeople identify the “compelling reasons” which will result in “their best”. Proactive motivation on your part is required. There is an absolutely terrific scene, which you must watch and have your sales force watch in “Facing the Giants”. In it the coach demands and gets “the best” from one of his players. What is really cool is his strategy for doing this.

By the way, what is your "best" and how do you leverage this yourself?

Topics: sales, sales performance, Motivation, elections, your best, urgency

Argumentative Teens...Make Great Salespeople?

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Jan 05, 2012 @ 14:01 PM

A recent study by researchers at the University of Virginia published in the Journal of Child Development shows that teens that argue with their parents deal with peer pressure in more healthy ways. Take a look at this article from the NPR health Blog. Specifically the study finds that teens that argued in appropriate ways were far less susceptible to substance use.

The research Dave Kurlan has done evaluation salespeople over the last twenty-five years shows the top 5% of salespeople possess several consistent weaknesses. Dave’s article titled Ultimate Comparison of Top Salespeople vs. Those Who Fail discusses this.

Take a look at the percentages for the top 5% of salespeople for the following findings. They are all very high.

  • Doesn’t Need Approval from Prospects
  • Doesn’t Get Emotional
  • Rejection Proof

The research done by Joseph P. Allen and his colleagues state and I’m paraphrasing that teens who learn to argue (push back) against their parents in healthy (non-emotional ways) model this behavior same when they are amongst their peers.

My opinion is that great salespeople were likely teens who demonstrated this same behavior. I believe it’s quite likely that teenagers who are willing and able to push against their parents and peer group don’t have as much Need for Approval, are less vulnerable to getting Emotionally Involved and Recover from Rejection more quickly.

When a salesperson has these as weaknesses vs. strengths you can expect the following challenges.

  • Not Being Able to Control the Selling Process
  • Assumes Too Much
  • Calls On Purchasing Agents Before End User or Decision-Maker
  • Gatekeepers Keeping Him / Her From Getting Through
  • Takes Too Many Put Offs
  • Wasting Time With Unqualified Prospects

On a personal note my lesson is to help and encourage my children to argue (pushback) in healthy ways and be willing to stand up for their positions. On the sales development front I see the following as critical.

Topics: sales, sales weaknesses, teens, argumentative

Prepare for Sales Calls and Coaching by Planning the Conversation

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, Dec 09, 2011 @ 13:12 PM

phone callThere are hundreds of books and articles on planning for a sales call.

They principally focus on decision makers, the decision-making process, money, delivering a value proposition, risk and positioning from a competitive standpoint.

What doesn’t get addressed to the extent it should be is planning for the conversation and what the dialogue will be

I was working with aclient who needed a sales manager to change the way they delivered critique. The problem was they tended to sound as if “nothing was ever good enough”.

On a side note, most sales leaders struggle with this. It’s frequently not the message it’s the delivery. Impatience, pressure, urgency and other factors drive this.

When planning for the conversation you need to put yourself in the prospects shoes, or in this case the managers. What do we know about the situation that can help with this?

  • It’s potentially a sensitive issue; people’s feelings are involved
  • Feedback is encouraged in the organization
  • The manager was trying to do the right thing
  • The manager needs to empathize with how the salesperson is feeling
  • This empathy needs to conveyed to the salesperson

One of the most helpful tools for conveying a message is the use of stories and analogies. Because they are third party and hypothetical the message can be conveyed, received and understood without an emotional reaction.

Remember we are working with people who bring emotions, defenses, experiences, judgment and vulnerabilities to the conversation.

So how can we bring this topic up in a productive way? Here is an example.

“I was hoping we could take advantage of our agreement to openly discuss areas for improvement. Do you mind if I share something with you?”

“I know we have been under a lot of pressure lately. My experience is when I react to the pressure I lose sight of the big picture. This can make me less aware of how others perceive me even when I’m trying to do the right thing.”

How does this opening help?

  • It reminds both parties of what has been agreed too
  • The person receiving the feedback has agreed to the conversation
  • The dialogue sounds and feels more mutual
  • The issue is put on the table without sounding like an accusation

Since you don’t know what the response will be and it can vary widely practice and role-play are needed to properly prepare. By rehearsing various scenarios in advance you will acclimate yourself to possible responses. Dialogue without some practice can get off track. Imagine what would happen if actors didn’t know their lines. Selling should be a conversation and planning for that conversation deserves more attention.

Topics: sales, coaching, sales management, practice

Sales Traction: A Key Indicator [New KPI]

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 @ 15:10 PM

Getting in front of prospects is hard. Once you get there, making the meeting stick has an exponential impact on the size and quality of the pipeline.  Today we are going to discuss Traction. Traction is the percentage of first meetings that progress from Suspect to Prospect. It's an important KPI for Sales Leaders to track because it demonstrates an individual’s ability to capitalize on a first conversation. Without the ability to catch the attention of their suspects the salesperson will continue to struggle to fill their pipeline with quality opportunities

So what’s the big deal? The power of Traction is illustrated in the chart below.

 

Scenario (1)

Less Traction

Scenario (2)

More Traction

Conversations

26

26

Appointments

5

10

Second Base

2.5

5

% Conv. / 2nd

9.6%

19.2%

 

The salesperson in the second scenario doubled their return on investment (time) because they were able to generate traction and make the meeting “stick.”

What strengths drive a person’s ability to get traction? It starts with desire and commitment, namely the passion to succeed, win and make more money and the unconditional commitment to do whatever it takes. Too many salespeople have strong desire but conditional commitment. There are probably some of them on your team. How often does their best call of the day come at the end or early in the morning?traction

Traction is generated when you push back and challenge prospects. High levels of bravery and a positive outlook are required. To succeed in an environment where prospects want to find a reason to stop talking you must be prepared. The words need to come out without thinking. This requires lots of role-play, mastery of positioning statements and practice.

Sales Posturing plays a big role, specifically controlling emotions and developing relationships early. Salespeople are reactive by nature. This tendency to respond to events (questions and objections) from prospects causes them to step out of the investigation process into presentation. They need to be both willing to ask forthright questions (Sales Assertiveness) and be capable of having patience and allowing prospects to talk about the problems (sales empathy).

Their self-limiting beliefs frequently prevent salespeople from gaining traction; for example a salesperson who thinks a prospect that sounds happy with their current vendor won’t buy from them will not ask questions about what can be improved.

Imagine how the following statements can affect how a salesperson executes the sales process and the outcomes they achieve.

• It’s OK if they think it over

• I must educate the prospect

• I have to call on purchasing agents before end users or decision-makers

• Prospects are honest

• It's not OK to confront a prospect

• I should tell my prospects why they should buy from me

It’s almost as if the meeting outcomes are pre-determined based on what the salesperson thinks.

As a sales leader you must find ways to hire people that have a verifiable track record of developing traction. As a coach and mentor focusing your efforts on developing people’s ability to create traction will have a direct effect on the results.

Topics: sales, kpis, moneyball for the sales force, traction

Applying Moneyball to Sales Leadership

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Oct 11, 2011 @ 10:10 AM

Dave Kurlan’s recent post on the movie Moneyball re-defined some sales Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). 

His definitions are:

NFM - The percentage of first meetings that are new (new customers, new opportunities with existing customers, or a new group or division of an existing customer)

Traction - The percentage of first meetings that progress from Suspect to Prospect

Quality - The percentage of opportunities that progress from Prospect to Qualified

Effectiveness - The percentage of opportunities that progress from Qualified to Closable

Run Efficiency - The percentage of First Meetings (Suspects) that end up as Wins - Closed Deals from New Opportunities

DAIM - Deals Closed at Ideal Margin or Better

Since a sales leader's job is to develop his or her people, their success should be reviewed in the context of the sales core competencies measured by OMG's assessment. These competencies are:  

1. Sales Process

2. Desire

3. Commitment

4. Outlook

5. Responsibility

6. No Need for Approval

7. Controls Emotions

8. Supportive Record Collection

9. Supportive Buy Cycle 

10. Supportive Money Concepts

11. Goal Oriented 

12. Consultative Selling Skills

13. Develops Strong Relationships

14. Rejection Proof

15. Qualifier Skills

16. Hunter Skills

17. Closing Skills

18. Overcomes Resistance

19. Not Self Centered

20. Presentation Skills

21. Sales 2.0 Skills 

We are going to discuss the application of these KPI's in a series of articles starting with:

NFM - The percentage of first meetings that are new (new customers, new opportunities with existing customers, or a new group or division of an existing customer)

Looking at the core competencies involved in New First Meetings we find both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. So, what influences this metric is partially what the salesperson brings to the table and partially the influence of the environment sales leadership provides.  

A salesperson that has some Need for Approval, trouble recovering from Rejection and Incomplete Goals will likely have a lower NFM. They may lack the motivation to consistently make calls and hunt for referrals because they are not compelled by their goals. If they have goals, the Difficulty Recovering from Rejection will cause them to stop and start. To increase the NFM percentage their sales leader needs to step in, reinforce the goals and help them understand that they (the individual) are not being personally rejected. This will be an ongoing process because overcoming rejection takes time.

Skill gaps in the Consultative Selling skill set will also drive down NFM. A salesperson’s ability to find and develop problems is based on their ability to ask questions in response to what prospects say.  Here’s a sample dialogue to illustrate the point:

Prospect: Things are going pretty well.

Salesperson: When you say pretty well what does that mean?

Prospect: We are getting the job done.

Salesperson: Are you under pressure from management to improve?

Prospect: Yes

Salesperson: Is getting the job done enough or do things need to be better?

Prospect: Better is always good.

Salesperson: What would you like to improve?

All of the questions must be in response to what the prospect says. One irony is that salespeople continually say, "I didn’t know what to say or do next." When you actively listen you will never run out of questions. You simply need to hear what a prospect says and ask a question about what you heard.

Salespeople rarely close. Interview some salespeople and observe how many actually ask about next steps or more importantly, how well they did. A commitment requires clarity; specifically, what happens next, when will this happen, what will be discussed and what outcomes will occur?  A salesperson who doesn’t consistently ask questions may be capable of identifying problems but may fail to leverage them because they missed the commitment part.

Why do salespeople struggle with Getting Commitments?
  • They don’t want to be pushy
  • They are afraid if they ask the prospect will say no
  • They don’t like it when people ask them for a commitment
  • It’s not something they are disciplined to do

As a sales leader you may be thinking, "My people don’t have these challenges, this stuff is basic, I hire people who are better than this." Go ahead, leave it to chance and hope this isn’t the case. The real reason you may be thinking this is it changes the nature of your job and forces you to be much more hands on. Yes you want to hire better people but if you want to drive NFM the responsibility comes back to you.

Stay tuned!  

Topics: sales, kpis, Moneyball, Moneyball for the Salesforce

Are Your Salespeople Losing Their Edge?

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 @ 15:09 PM

Most people see sales as less than a profession. It’s for people who have the gift of gab, are good at building relationships and effective presenters.

The reality is creating a relationship on demand is not easy. A more accurate picture shows the need to create significant value, overcome trust problems, manage constant rejection and prospect consistently.

Salespeople must be “on” all the time. They have a very small window to engage someone, get them to open up, uncover the real need and gain their commitment to fix the problem. All of this must happen in a fiercely competitive climate, in a difficult economy with prospects who are overwhelmed, worried about losing their job and expected to accomplish more with less.

If you have ever tried to restart an exercise routine it’s very hard. Moving a stationary rock might be easier. Momentum (forward) is required for long-term sales success and salespeople are constantly battling to maintain momentum.

I’ve overviewed the context and environment salespeople operate in to illustrate what they encounter and identify the challenges sales leaders must contend with. Remember that all of this affect you too. Small shifts in your attitude can have a profound impact on your team whether they are work based or personal.

Here are some symptoms of a salesperson losing their edge.

  • Variations in work schedule
  • Challenges interacting with team members
  • Bursts of energy followed by inaction
  • Visible stress
  • Less visibility in the organization
  • They seem distant
  • Rationalizing or excuse making

Missed deadlines

Losing your sales edge happens. It’s like rejection it’s not whether you are rejected it’s how long it takes to bounce back. Salespeople are prone to getting emotionally involved and lose objectivity. When this happens they become overwhelmed. As the sales leader you must look for the warning signs and take action. Focus on getting them to open up and talk about what’s wrong, be empathetic and allow them to vent. Check in more frequently and simplify everything.

Topics: sales, sales leadership, sales edge, sales motivation

Curiosity, Salespeople and The Cat

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Sep 08, 2011 @ 09:09 AM

Curiosity killed the cat, but it also has nine lives.  So which is it? I think that it's more likely that while its curiosity may get the cat in trouble from time to time, it also makes each of its "lives" much more worthwhile.

curious catRon Insana of CNBC was speaking on the radio the other day. He was recounting a theme from his interviews with successful business leaders. While commitment, passion and optimism were all on his list of crucial traits for success, curiosity was atop the list.

Whether people came from finance, technology, retail or commercial backgrounds, they all demonstrated insatiable curiosity often turning the conversation around off microphone or camera and effectively interviewing Ron. The process occurred naturally without technique or self-interest. They simply wanted to learn more and understand another’s experience.

Salespeople know that asking questions is probably the most important thing they do, but frequently the questions sound canned or self-motivated. They often form opinions rapidly about the meaning of what they heard without verifying that their opinion is accurate.

To me my aunt was an example of the curiosity innate in so many successful people that Inman described. In every conversation I can remember with her she made me feel like what I was thinking really mattered. She had the ability to draw you out and get to the heart of things. I suspect all of you have known or know someone like this. Learn from them.

Curiosity is a genuine human trait that creates stronger relationships. It’s a natural act. Go to a preschool and watch the kids. Their faces are alive with curiosity and excitement for the moment.

So my suggestion is, be a kid again and act on your natural curiosity. The “rub” will likely be your ego and desire to make yourself the center of things, so you may need to practice being curious.


Topics: sales, asking questions, curiosity, sales tips

The "Dad Factor" 's Influence on Winning or Losing the Sale

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Jul 21, 2011 @ 08:07 AM

If you have sold to a family business you have certainly experienced the “Dad” factor. Virtually all designated heir’s to a business either feel obliged or are expected to get their fathers or mothers to sign-off on business decisions. The heir will tell you they can make the decision without this but plan for and expect this to be a required step in the process. Even if Dad doesn’t need to say “yes”, their opinion which may come in the form of a question the heir just doesn’t have answers for may have a great impact.

Relationships

Photo jonboy mitchell

This dynamic equally applies to non-family businesses i.e. stock holders, partners, advisors, colleagues and key members of the executive staff but the emotional weight of a parent's opinion shouldn’t be underestimated.

Consider the dynamics at play.

  • The financial future of senior may be tied to the business
  • The dad may have been dragged kicking and screaming to exit
  • Their spouses feelings about the father-son-daughter relationship are unknown
  • Dad may have ruled with an iron fist or have insisted on “consensus”
  • The compelling reasons for investing may not apply to them (the parents)
  • Previous decisions by the heir may not have worked out well

Think about the relationship with your parents and the process of making an emotionally charged decision. An example might be taking the car keys away or selling the house and moving them to a retirement community. Despite best intentions things will get complicated and emotional.

How should you approach the Dad factor?

First, don’t fool yourself into believing it doesn’t apply and don’t buy into the re-assurances from the heir that they can make the decision. Second, ask about comparable decisions and what went wrong. Ask whether the compelling reasons are compelling to dad and why. Find out what dads compelling reasons are, for example “it’s very important that my son completely own and execute a critical business initiative and that I empower him to do this”. “I need to tangibly demonstrate to him and the employees I have confidence in his abilities.”

Here are some additional questions to consider.

  • Does dad have real or perceived expertise in the area being addressed?
  • Does dad agree it’s critical there needs to be a change?
  • Has the dad worked with companies like yours?
  • Were these relationships successful?
  • What does the dad need to know to approve moving forward?
  • How strong is the heir and are they willing to push back on their mom or dad?
  • Do mom or dad trust you?

Working with family companies can be a lot of fun and very rewarding but you need to get in the door first. The father-son-daughter dynamics are a critical first hurdle and lay the groundwork for whether you are viewed as an advisor or a salesperson.

Topics: sales, mom, dad, family owned businesses, sales challenges

Why Sales Hiring Managers Write Bad Ads

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 @ 10:07 AM

Recruiting is without doubt a competency most sales leaders are very weak in. They engage in recruiting when someone leaves or they need to fill a position, which puts them in a position of weakness. If they have good skills they are often rusty and the pressure to fill the position causes mistakes, usually costly ones.

Most postings have three sections. First and unfortunately the longest is an advertisement for the company. This is usually followed by a less than succinct and frequently contradictory description of the position,with way too much information.

The third section, usually the best, is a short-listing of activities the salesperson needs to accomplish. By the time a good salesperson gets to it they are confused, disinterested and have little understanding of what the job really is, why they should apply and whether they are a good fit. The result is most anyone can apply. On the flip side the ADis so detailed and limiting that no one meets the criteria.

Sales postings need to be written in simple plain language that quickly describes what they must have already accomplished. Great care needs to be taken with the words used to insure that you are not incorrectly “labeling" the position. The primary goal of a posting is to get good candidates in the door. Don’t overwhelm them with information which you care about but isn’t necessary at this point in the selection process.

Pick a posting, any posting, read it and ask these questions.

  1. Are the really important points lost in the text?
  2. Is it an advertisement for the company or the position?
  3. Can you easy describe what they must do to be successful?
  4. What is the selling environment?
  5. How much money is on the table?

If you have a difficult time answering the questions your posting isn’t well written. If you want an unbiased opinion and a clearer picture of the problem have someone who isn’t involved in the recruiting what they think the posting says.

Topics: sales, recruiting, ads, hiring salespeople

The Sales Pledge – Identify, Explore and RECAP

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Jul 05, 2011 @ 14:07 PM

The GOP’s new mantra is Cut, Cap and Balance. It’s simple, understandable and easy to communicate. Whatever your political persuasion, whether you believe the words or not, it’s a great phrase. Heck it’s only three words!

Salespeople need a mantra. I like Identify, Explore and Recap. Identify an issue the prospect cares about, explore it, (who, what, where, why and how questions) and then RECAP what you heard them say.

Since Monday I’ve had half a dozen conversations where the question of recapping came up. When asked how frequently their salespeople recap the answers were not much, not enough, and I don’t know. Talk about “ouch,” how can this possibly be true?!

Recapping won’t close a deal or cause manna to rain from heaven, but it will clarify your conversation, demonstrate that you are listening and most importantly get them agreeing with you. Prospects generally don’t believe what you tell them, they do however believe what they say. Getting them to agree out loud is critical to establishing “Speed On Bases” (SOB).

Today we begin the second half of the year. Six months remain to achieve your goals and grow your business. What’s your mantra for the balance of 2011? Is your sales force ready and able to meet the challenges ahead? Are you?

Take the sales pledge - Identify, Explore and Recap. It’s good for you and your business!


Topics: sales, sales pledge, identify, explore, recap, speed on bases

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