The Sales Expeditor

Selling Value When Your Prospect is a Price Shopper

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Oct 01, 2015 @ 10:10 AM

Have you ever been in a scenario where you had to sell value, but your prospect was interested in nothing other than how low you could go? That might be an exciting proposition if you were trying to win a Limbo contest, but if you are trying to win the business and protect margin, you may have quite the challenge on your hands. In order to sell value to price shoppers, salespeople must be very highly skilled along with having supportive sales DNA and beliefs. Additionally, it will take lots of practice. Salespeople who tend to become emotional could lose objectivity and if they identify with buying based on price, they won't push back. If salespeople aren't comfortable having a financial discussion, they won't be effective at discussing the very issues that create value.

In this short video, I explore this challenge and sales management's response.

Is it important for you and your team to be more effective at handing price shoppers? Are you losing too many deals and wasting too much time? Get some quick feedback on your sales force and the other things that might be causing this.

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Topics: Sales Coaching, chris mott, selling value, price shoppers, improve win rates

Getting Pushback on Your CRM Adoption?

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 @ 13:01 PM

crm, sales coaching, sales pipeline, sales management best practices, sales lessons, sales funnel, recruiting sales people, sales training, sales competencies

This is the 11th article in a January series on the Architecture of the Sales Force.  Here are the others:

In a recent conversation with a CEO, we discussed his use of CRM.  While his intention was to increase focus and visibility into new business development, the primary usage had become tracking client and delivery activities on large, existing projects.  Little attention was paid to tracking the flow and evolution of new opportunities.

In his case, significant non-sales events had diverted his attention.  Because his business was driven by large long-term projects, profitability and cash flow had stayed positive.

Last week, during a Sales Recruiting program, we discussed reasons why the recruiting and startup process failed to work.  I asked the management team whether their CRM system tracks the internal milestones needed to do business with someone, or a sales process that leads to a prospect wanting to buy from them.  After some silence, they acknowledged that it was the former.

These scenarios illustrate ways in which CRM is misused and underused.  While sales technology tools have grown significantly in the last several years and companies are investing in them, it is important to look at adoption, usage, and most importantly, outcomes.

What are some of the desired outcomes of using a CRM platform?

  • Better data on the status of opportunities,
  • Greater accuracy of forecasting,
  • Retaining institutional knowledge on clients and prospects,
  • More accurate metrics and KPI’s,
  • Insight into the sales process,
  • Sales Coaching,
  • Increased productivity, and
  • Earlier adjustments to strategy.

Most salespeople won’t optimize their efforts without proactive debriefing and strategy development.  In virtually all cases, this requires the sales leader.  Well-planned, adopted and utilized CRM is necessary for this.

I reached out to our partners at Membrain, a world-class CRM tool, for their thoughts. Recently, they were named Best Sales CRM in the 2013 Top Sales Awards.

Leadership adoption is critical.  This doesn’t mean just talking about the virtues and critical reasons for using CRM.  In the movie “We Were Soldiers”, Mel Gibson tells his troops that the paratroopers have a rule: the officer is always the first one out of the plane.  If sales leadership uses the tool daily, the team will be more inclined and encouraged to do so.  If the CEO uses it and makes this known, people will pay attention.  However, if leadership fails to do this, the initiative will very likely fail.

Many salespeople don’t make the connection between using CRM and it’s value.  They see it as an unnecessary burden.  Much of this derives from their often unstructured and non-detailed styles.  Leadership has to work tirelessly to close this gap and show the salespeople that it’s not just a reporting tool.  All efforts should go toward ensuring that it helps the sales team execute the sales strategy, follow their process, get better coaching and win more profitable and satisfied clients.

It must be incredibly easy to use.  When used properly, it will impact their workday tremendously.  It cannot be an obstacle for the sales people.

It can't be seen as stand-alone software, it needs to tie into and support the overall sales strategy, reinforce the training programs and encourage best-practice behavior.

Visibility and awareness are crucial.  Salespeople need to know the rules and have a clear, accurate picture of where they stand.  Combining this with healthy competition helps.  Spend time discussing with your team (group and individually) what the conversion ratios are, what the optimum sales cycle is, who is getting traction quickly and who’s moving opportunities through the process more consistently.  Send out daily updates, based on your observations of the data.

For those of you who may be interested in learning more about being an effective sales leader, our expert team at Kurlan & Associates is presenting an upcoming, complimentary webinar on February 5:  "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11:00AM Eastern Time.  Please do consider registering.

 

Topics: sales competencies, sales management best practices, recruiting sales people, sales training, Sales Coaching, sales pipeline, sales lessons, crm, sales funnel

Top Five Sales Enablement Steps for Sales VP’s

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 @ 09:01 AM

describe the image

This is the 7th article in a January series on the Architecture of the Sales Force.  Here are the others:

Operationally, sales forces have become more complex.  Pipeline management tools, CRM, proposal generation, scheduling software, and inbound and network marketing have all exploded.  It's commonplace for companies to sell directly, through distribution, via representative firms and through partnerships.  Value propositions across product lines are different, sales cycles vary greatly, and the compensation and skill levels across most sales organizations are distinctly different.

Following the economic downturn of 2008, large numbers of salespeople left the industry and both the financial services and building construction verticals saw significant declines in their sales population.  Today, there are fewer skilled salespeople available.  Making this worse, large companies, which for decades hired and trained new salespeople, have cut back significantly in this area.  Today, virtually every established company with whom I speak have a large number of salespeople nearing retirement.

On the customer side, prospects have more information, feel more empowered and often have greater autonomy.  The productivity gains of the last five years have also forced employees to be responsible for a wider range of topics, creating less expertise in any one specific area.  In many situations, salespeople must first unsell a prospect before they can begin the process of selling to them.

To succeed in today’s environment, VP’s of sales and sales enablement need to rethink and execute.

Factors to Consider

  1. Development should begin prior to hiring.  Adopting or expanding a behavior-based interviewing approach is essential.  Salespeople know how to present themselves in a favorable light.  They offer facts and examples of success that often go largely untested in an interview.  The real story about their role, responsibility and context for success requires investigation, which can go 3-4 levels deep.  Finding the underlying limitations (or sales DNA), by using a sales-specific assessment early in the sales recruiting process, helps to identify priorities for development.  Discussing and gaining agreement and commitment to address issues and challenges should be part of the selection process.
  2. Most sales managers want to hire people whom they believe don’t need to be managed.  Objective Management Group has evaluated 700K salespeople since the 1990.  Only 18% of sales managers are having a real impact on their sales forces.  One factor is a manager's lack of desire to truly manage people.  If your goal is to develop people to their maximum potential, this approach is fundamentally flawed.  New hires are commonly given too much latitude in their first 90 days.  This empowers a belief that “I will figure it out on my own” and makes it much more difficult for managers to hold people accountable and emphasize their development.
  3. Many CRM systems track a sales process which measures whether the required steps have been completed for the company to close a prospect.  These systems do not measure whether or not the salesperson has developed a high-value relationship, identified and thoroughly discussed the business drivers of a purchase, and if the salesperson has identified a compelling reason for the decision-makers to do business with them.  All too frequently, management is relying on a forecast derived from the wrong data.
  4.  Process and control systems are great, but only when the managers on the ground use them consistently.  Major account management, overseeing channel relationships, selling internally, planning, and strategy development occupy a growing percentage of a sales manager's and VP’s time.  Situational coaching, focused on how a salesperson reached a call outcome and how a different outcome could have been achieved, are the mechanism for competency and performance changes.  How many weekly, one-on-one, development-focused coaching sessions does sales leadership conduct?  If you know the answer, what was talked about, what changed and what is the mechanism through which others in the organization learn from this?
  5. Listening is an art and a science.  On balance, human beings are really bad at listening.  The desire to say something intelligent, make our point, hear ourselves speak and plan what we will say can be all-encompassing.  When we are invested in the outcome, things can become even worse.  We all know that our salespeople need to ask better questions.  You do need to verify that your salespeople can articulate key business issues on demand without thinking, but the real skill is listening.  Management puts too much emphasis on whether their salespeople can articulate a value proposition and not nearly enough on whether they are actually hearing what prospects and clients say.  Developing this skill only comes from practice - something that most salespeople and sales managers rarely, if ever, do.

Frank Belzer’s post, Organic Sales Growth and Its Impact on Sales Architecture, discusses how sales managers must invest their time to have significant impact on their sales organizations.

I invite you to join me and a panel of sales experts for an impacting, one-hour webinar discussing sales architecture and more on February 5:  "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11:00AM Eastern Time.

Topics: sales recruiting, Sales Coaching, sales enablement, trust

College Professors and Sales Leaders Have it Backward

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, May 03, 2013 @ 14:05 PM

Bored PeopleI was listening to a public radio program recently on how online learning will continue to alter radically the traditional notion of college learning.  They were talking about the Khan Academy which is a pioneer in the “almost free” space.  Ironically, a quick search of their website yields nothing under “sales”.

One of the guests asked a fabulous question about college.  Why do we listen to lectures in class and do homework at home?  Shouldn’t we do homework in class and listen to lectures at home?  Putting aside the student for a moment, the most important person in the room is the teacher or professor.  They are the subject matter expert and skilled at explaining the content, but more importantly, making it come alive and helping people who struggle to learn the material.

I suspect that like sales head trash, “you can’t ask a direct question without offending a prospect”.  College head trash such as “I’m not smart enough to understand these concepts” is a significant obstacle to successful learning.  The teacher or professor should be, and likely is many times, the best-equipped person to help someone through these challenges.  We can argue over how well-prepared the average professor is and what changes are needed to make this work, but the idea of leverging a professor's core skills is valid.

In a typical sales meeting (weekly, monthly or annual), much time is spent on delivering information.  This includes product knowledge and application, marketing efforts and strategy, and positioning.  How much time is spent on “homework”?  I define homework here as practice, role-play, live demo’s and presentations, objection management, mock cold-calling, etc.  Most of us would probable agree that the answer is not enough.  Companies do bring in motivational speakers to talk about limiting beliefs, commitment, tenacity, being open-minded and singularly purposed.  These are all good, but when the master (teacher, sales leader or trainer) is in the house, we should take advantage of this opportunity to leverage their expertise.  Adults learn by watching others.  In sales, without a live demonstration of how to make cold calls, handle a thorny objection or find the issue behind the symptom, it’s academic.  The more that we role-play, the greater the value to our team.

What percentage of your sales meetings is spent on practice and role-play?  How much telling versus asking do you do?  How effective are your sales managers at debriefing a sales call?  Is it safe in your organization for someone to screw up and learn from their mistakes?

Take a few minutes to take our Sales Force Grader.  It will help you better understand where your opportunities for improvement are.

 

To learn more about selling effectively, please consider 2 of Kurlan & Associates' upcoming events for C-Levels, VP's and Managers:    

  1. Annual Boston Area Executive Luncheon on May 21st.  Contact me and I'll work on getting you a discount code for free registration.
     
  2. Annual Sales Leadership Intensive also in Boston, MA on May 14-15.  Contact me if you have questions about getting registered.  

Topics: sales management best practices, sales training, sales force development, Sales Coaching, business development, booking appointments, sales lessons, alignment, better salespeople, cold calling

Sales - People, Process, Alignment and Strategy

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 @ 13:04 PM

describe the imageCompanies have spent significant amounts of money, time, effort and human capital on implementing processes to align their organizations on strategy.  This includes lean manufacturing, ISO certification, just in time inventory, optimization of delivery systems, and financial operations.  For a variety of reasons, this attention has not been consistently applied to the sales force.

Most CEO’s don’t rise through the ranks having come from sales.  They are most often experienced in operations, finance, engineering, technology and science.  The irony is that these disciplines emphasize data, analysis, strategy and process.  Yet close to eighty percent of the sales organizations which we have evaluated lack a clearly-defined, coherent sales process, and worse, there is insufficient inspection and accountability by sales leadership of what little process exists.  Despite widescale implementation of CRM systems, pipeline and forecasting, accuracy is a significant problem.  Look no further than the discounting needed to get deals closed. 

Human capital and its development is a tremendous challenge.  We have aging sales forces, fewer large companies investing in the training of new salespeople, and a seismic shift from account management to more proactive consultative sellers.  Sales managers tend to be untrained individual producers who have little patience for developing salespeople.

If one of your business strategies is to take market share, you need a sales process which aligns with that strategy, salespeople who are skilled at capturing business from incumbents, and sales leaders capable of coaching up presenters and turning them into proactive hunters.  Unfortunately, almost half of all salespeople are either untrainable (they don’t have the incentive to change), highly resistant to coaching or limited by their DNA (often non-supportive beliefs).

Recruiting for talent vs. knowledge is an absolute necessity if sales organizations are to address these challenges.  In addition to identifying talent, Human Resources and sales leadership must understand, be able to recognize, and select salespeople who possess the core sales DNA required for success.  

The most exciting aspect of this is that companies are beginning to recognize that sales must be a strategically-valued part of their business, and as such, requires investment, attention and strong sales leadership.

If you are curious about how well-developed your sales organization is, complete our short Sales Force Grader.

Do you and or your sales leaders need to have greater impact on your sales force? If so, Kurlan & Associates is holding a Sales Leadership Intensive this May in Boston. 

Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, developing salespeople, recruiting better salespeople

Dogs Love The Chase - Do Your Salespeople?

Posted by Chris Mott on Fri, May 11, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

lab ballYesterday, while out getting coffee, I watched a Chocolate Labrador Retriever chase his morning pick-me–up:  a well-chewed tennis ball.  It was cold, gray, raw and pouring rain.  His ball-throwing partner was bundled up in a winter hat and heavy raincoat.  The dog, however, was in heaven!  He bounded across the grass, tongue fully extended, sliding and falling when be reached the florescent green ball only to wait eagerly for the next opportunity for a good ball chase.

I was thinking about the parallel between this and a day in the life of a salesperson.  Metaphorically speaking, the sky can turn gray and raw at any moment.  Spontaneous rain showers and thunderstorms pop up when least expected and your prospects frequently stop playing catch with you.  What’s a salesperson to do? 

Dogs just don’t give up when they are in full ball-chasing mode.  If you throw a ball deep into the woods, they will happily run there and come back for more.  If you throw a curve ball, they will wait for the next one.  If you stop playing catch, they bark and dance until you give in.

Salespeople, on the other hand, get emotionally involved when it rains, feel rejected when the prospect says something unexpected, get frustration when a prospect throws a curve ball and sometimes walk away when the going gets tough.

What’s the difference between the Chocolate Lab and a salesperson?   Dogs are hard-wired for play and ball-chasing.  They are singularly-focused and live completely in the moment.  When there is a ball to chase, it’s all they think about.  Most importantly, they are really good at having fun regardless of the circumstances.  In contrast, salespeople have trouble living in the moment, get distracted, lose sight of the goal and make selling way too serious, removing much of the playfulness.

Professional salespeople need to be smart, savvy, brave, goal-focused, resilient, empirical and process-orientated.  Prospects stretch the truth, hold back crucial information, have trouble trusting salespeople and worry about making a bad buying decision.  What often gets missed is the playfulness and singular focus regardless of whether it’s pouring rain at the moment.  Salespeople need to bring fun and playfulness to the sales process.  They also need to weather the wind, rain and bad weather with a smile on their face.

My challenge to you is to consciously remember the Chocolate Lab doing what he loves most regardless of the environmental conditions.

  

 

Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, chris mott, kurlan and associates

How the Subconscious Mind Affects Salespeople

Posted by Chris Mott on Thu, May 10, 2012 @ 07:05 AM

subconsciousDuke University research on subliminal advertising shows that we are strongly impacted by what our subconscious mind experiences and it can activate based on what the imagery represents to us.  The study uses the Apple logo and its brand image of creativity to trigger creative behavior in the study group without them knowing it. 

When our subconscious minds believe something is true, whether these thoughts have a positive impact on us or not, the conscious mind will work to assure that contradictory beliefs are eliminated.  This means that what our subconscious believes has an enormous impact on our behavior.

Let's look at sales-specific beliefs that negatively impact sales execution.  When a salesperson subconsciously believes the statements below are true, coaching alone will not be enough to overcome the problem.  Until the subconscious mind agrees with the coaching, the subconscious mind will resist it and our attempts to embrace it.

  • It's OK if they think it over.
  • I have a long sales cycle.
  • I don't like making cold calls.
  • I have to call on procurement before end-users or decision-makers.
  • If they're happy with their present vendor, then I can't help them.
  • Prospects that think it over will eventually buy from me
  • It's not OK to confront a prospect.
  • Any lack of results are due to the economy or marketplace.

In the context of a sales call, when prospects say things that are aligned with our subconscious beliefs, we begin an internal struggle over which belief to act upon.  For example, even though "my experience is that most people who think it over don’t buy from me, it sounds like this person may be the exception.”  This thinking is the result of the conscious and subconscious disagreeing and the subconscious attempting to convince the conscious that it is correct.

The first step is to get your salespeople to understand that what their mind tells them may cause nonsupportive actions.  The salesperson's natural reaction will be to explain why, in this situation, their thinking is correct and they should ignore lessons from prior, similar sales scenarios.  Sales leaders whose thinking is similar to their salespeople may not even recognize the problem, which makes it very difficult for them to help their salespeople overcome these challenges.

Sales leaders often express frustration that their salespeople have a difficult time executing the strategies they develop for them.  They may take it personally or wonder if their salespeople are smart enough to incorporate new ideas.  While these are understandable responses, they miss the mark.  The problem is not whether they know what they should do, but whether they are ready to do battle with their subconscious thinking.

Do you know how your salespeople's subconscious thinking affects their ability to execute your coaching?  A sales force evaluation will quickly get to the heart of these issues.

 

Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, Kurlan & Associates, chris mott, self-limiting sales beliefs

The Universe Provides Opportunities for Great Sales Coaching

Posted by Chris Mott on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 @ 10:01 AM

The everyday experience of a Sales Leader gives you all the coaching scenarios you need. The challenge is to recognize them.

universe picIt’s said that we use 10% of our brain. So what is the other 90% doing? We know it’s there when the idea or strategy we need comes into our consciousness. I call this the passive mind, the one we use for intuition and creativity. It constantly presents ideas, thoughts, observation and insights to us. Unfortunately most of us are not very good at paying attention to it, so great ideas slip away as we work harder to come up with the “killer” strategy.

The rational mind asks questions like:

These are critical and should be part of any sales plan.

 Great coaching thought usually arises from our passive mind as a gift from the universe. For example you might find yourself wondering why a particular salesperson is stuck. Ideas floating through your head could include; I wonder what they are afraid of or they just seem off lately. Now be honest, how frequently do you move these thoughts out of your consciousness into a question? My personal answer is “not enough.” The frustrating part is that these seemingly random ideas are usually exactly what we need to ask or say.

What experiences have you had today which can be used in coaching? Did you notice your coffee barista went out of their way to engage someone this morning or that when the light turns yellow people speed up? The trick is to be aware and curious about what happens around you and then bring this to your coaching. Here are some examples from the observations above.

  • When salespeople go too fast they often disengage on a human level.
  • Strong eye contact strengthens SOB Quality.
  • If you pay attention there is always another question.
  • Outside factors can create urgency.
  • The window of opportunity closes quickly

So have some fun and give the universe more credit. Everything you need is right in front of you. You just have to see it.

Topics: Sales Coaching, the universe, coaching ideas

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