As humans, we tend to want to swoop in and fix things, often starting with the things that are most broken and most in need of repair. As sales managers, we pride ourselves on being fixers and judge ourselves on our ability to effectively coach our teams and give them the resources they need to be successful.  

But, just as not all salespeople are created equal (see Bottom Third Sales Coaching) nor are the opportunities they put in the pipeline. In both cases, though our tendency may be to start with the team members and opportunities that are most in need, this impulse is often detrimental to our overall success. Just as with the bottom third of our sales reps, the bottom third of our opportunities will rarely move the needle regardless of how much time or energy we put into them. Often these are opportunities that have not been well qualified and are not well suited to our product or service capabilities. Additionally, despite equal or greater time investment, they may not have the revenue potential that some of the other opportunities have. 

So, what’s the answer? As difficult as it can be, the answer is to put less time into your bottom third. Instead, focus your time on B and C opportunities. Why not your A opportunities? Because your top 10% of opportunities are so well qualified and such a good fit, that they’ll likely close with little to no involvement from you. So, spend your time on the B and C opportunities, helping your reps understand how your product or service will help their prospects increase revenue, decrease costs or mitigate risks. Spend time thoroughly qualifying these ones up front so they have a higher likelihood to close.  

Neglecting the bottom third of your opportunities is not shirking your sales managerial responsibilities; in fact, reallocating your time to focus on the 60% of your core B and C opportunities will be the best way to support your sales reps going forward by helping them move the needle. 

Most of you will be hosting or attending your Sales Kickoff meeting virtually in early 2021. How can you get the most out of the experience without the eyeball-to-eyeball interaction you’re used to at these events? Whether you are putting the event on, or going as an attendee, what you do before, during, and after the event is critical to call it a success.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Before: make the “audience” part of the show:  the late, great David Bowie said the thing he liked about concerts in the electronic or “rave” category is that that the attendees were a part of the concert itself. Adopt that idea and put ownership of portions of the meeting in the hands of attendees. If the sessions planned are for a Product Launch, new IT tool introduction, or market segment expansion, have the attendees deliver parts of the presentation with relevance to the topic. For instance, how will the product launch help a customer to grow, resolve an internal operational issue with the new IT tool, or close the communication between teams to grow new markets. Be specific!
  • During: drive the participation rates: have team members hold one another accountable for participation. Put them in pairs or small groups and ask them to alternate taking notes and providing feedback. Prep the individuals and teams for what comes next, which is how they will determine the follow-up step for each of the presentations attended.
  • After: don’t wait for follow up: most presentations at face-to-face or virtual conferences wrap up with the presenter saying “contact me with any questions.” Well, that rarely works after you’ve heard three or four speakers. The follow-up should start there and then, with the spokesperson from the smaller teams setting dates and times for specific items to discuss on the Product Launch, new IT initiative, or market development plans.

Putting this mechanism in place before the virtual meetings will take some additional time. The good news is your management team and event coordinators will save a ton of time on the back end not having to chase for follow-up or next steps when attendees disperse. Put the time in now, and the results will follow.

To say the last year has been odd is a gross understatement. There are so many things happening domestically and globally that we haven’t seen before; we will spare you the exercise of naming them all. For us, the most relevant and pressing issue for our customers and prospects is the radical shift in buying that the Work from Home (WFH) environment has created.

So, what have you done about it? As a sales or commercial leader, you’re doing your best to keep your team focused while they can’t (for the most part) jump on an airplane to see customers or prospects face-to-face. As sellers and other front-line employees in customer facing roles (CFRs) (which include sales, marketing, technical specialists, product development, customer service, project managers, etc.) you are working to get the attention of prospects and keep momentum for deals that used to move through reasonably quickly.

The new buying behavior can be fragmented and frustrating for both buyers and sellers. And the conduit to it all is virtual which relies on your ability to navigate relevant technology platforms like Zoom, TEAMS, GoTo Meeting, Google Hangouts, etc. The word we have received from buyers and sellers is that it’s a mixed bag of good and bad on how well the technology is being understood and used. The meetings that you’re conducting with your internal teams are often the same—some attendees are plugged in and ready, while others need to ramp up their participation and stop multitasking during calls.

Our Virtual Selling Effectiveness (VSE) workshop is designed to help improve the use of technology to connect in the scenarios described above, as well as others.  There are several things that hosts and attendees can do before, during, and after the meetings to increase the overall effectiveness. How well you and your teams are able to manage this new (ab)normal is a large factor in your overall success.

No one knows when we will return to “normal” (I both love that phrase and also have NO idea what it really means). But the ability to embrace and utilize virtual communication is here to stay, regardless of when we are back in our offices huddling around water coolers again. Now’s your opportunity to take the time to make sure you and your team get this right.

Join John and three other experts on Thursday, April 30th at 4PM EST/1PM PST who will cut to the chase to provide contrarian insights on how to navigate in this new environment. You will get perspectives from Strategic, Financial, Sales and Growth capacities that can be applied straight away to make a difference.

Forget the rest, join the best! See you on Thursday.

John will be discussing how to sell value when everyone else is selling themselves. There will also be 3 other expert speakers. Click on this Zoom Meeting link to register .

Many of us have attended sales training classes or retreats that weren’t very valuable or impactful.  Why is this?  There are several key attributes that sales trainings must incorporate in order to be successful.

They are:

  • Learning relies on self-discovery. Many sales leaders do a good job talking to their sales teams, but not necessarily training them. In order to really learn, sales teams need to come to key concepts on their own. The art of good training lies in fostering that discovery.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Training is about teaching a new skill or behavior, and in order to master that, sales associates need a safe environment to practice what they’ve learned and receive timely, constructive feedback.
  • Training shouldn’t be theoretical. Training should be specific and applicable – sales associates should be able to use what they’d learned right away to achieve better results.
  • Training without process is pointless.  Once trained, sales teams need process to incorporate their new skills into a regular operating cadence. This tactical execution is critical if training is to lead to sustainable, repeatable sales growth.

Sales leaders tend to be great sales performers, as well as great people developers. The best leaders are able to effectively recruit, coach, and inspire. But, most sales leaders do not have the expertise to facilitate great training. And considering the cost of putting on a training event (travel, facilities, curriculum development, lost sales time), this is one area that companies can’t afford to get wrong.

Although training alone does not equate to sales results, a great training platform coupled with excellent recruiting, a well-defined process, and effective leadership is critical to sales success. You can’t produce repeatable revenue without effectively training your sales team.

If you’re investing in sales training, make sure your time and money are well spent. Plenty of service providers promise to take your team to the next level and hey, they’re in sales so they’re convincing. But you don’t have time to waste. So use the criteria below when choosing a service provider, to make sure you’ll get training that’s comprehensive, actionable and long-lasting. 

  1. Instruction: Look for sales training that includes stages, tools, skills, and how the sales process is reflected in the CRM. Try to avoid sales training that relies on an instructor doing all the talking and instead look for training that is interactive. Training that includes role playing and a participative format will help attendees learn, practice and share with one another before deployment in the field.   
  2. Accountability: For success, there needs to be clear direction from the managers to the reps on what’s expected, what’s to be accomplished, and the metrics that will be the window into achievement. If this is lacking in your organization, look for a service provider that can provide training in accountability.  
  3. Measurement/Metrics: What are the reportable pieces of data that will help in the new commercial strategy to get the most qualified customers into the pipeline? Training should also teach that the metrics must be clearly defined and realistic to achieving goals—as well as how to make that happen.  
  4. Reinforce and Reassess Through Coaching: Rather than send your sales team through training and leave it at that, look for a service provider that offers follow-up coaching to make sure lessons stick and to answer any questions that come up later when the sales team is implementing the new process and training. 
  5.  Online Learning Platform (OLP): Repetition is the key to success in learning new skills and modifying sales behavior. An OLP gives your team the opportunity to revisit lessons as needed after the training is over. 
  6. Sales Managers’ Development and Accountability: Sales managers should also receive training to prepare them to act as coaches for the sales team members.  

A lot depends on the effectiveness of your sales team. Make sure the training they get is effective too by using these criteria when choosing a service provider.  

Guest article by Melissa Clemens, experienced Sales Leader and Writer.

As the Senior Director for a large, distributed sales team (20+ regional managers and nearly 300 sales associates), one of my most important jobs was training. Within my organization, I’d become known for my ability to bring in and develop top performers, and, as a result, I’d been put in charge of all sales training events – both new hire training as well as ongoing regional trainings. 

I had always prided myself on my ability to deliver great training programs. I spent weeks developing the agenda and curriculum, planning breakout sessions, and bringing in key executives. Having been with our company since its inception, I understood our sales processes and systems better than anyone, so who better to lead our training?  

At least that’s what I thought until I was invited to attend a sales training workshop led by Flannery Sales Systems (FSS). My “aha” moment came within the first 15 minutes. As I watched FSS “do their thing,” I realized that not only had not been delivering great training as I’d previously thought, I had actually been letting our team down. 

Here’s what I learned by watching the John and the FSS team: 

  • Training is not talking.  I may have been doing a good job talking at” our sales teams, but I was certainly not training them. Training must be much more interactive. 
  • Learning relies on self-discovery. In order to really learn, my team needed to come to key concepts on their own. The art of good training lies in fostering that discovery. 
  • Practice, practice, practice. Training is about teaching a new skill or behavior, and in order to master that, my sales associates needed a safe environment to practice and receive feedback on what they’d learned. 
  • Training shouldn’t be theoretical. Training should be specific and applicable – my sales associates had to be able to use what they’d learned right away to achieve better results. 
  • Training without process is pointless. FSS works with companies to better define and implement their sales processes.  Once trained, these skills and processes are then incorporated into the management team’s regular operating cadence. This tactical execution is critical if training is to lead to sustainable, repeatable sales growth. 

Sales leaders tend to be great sales performers, as well as great people developers. But what I learned from just one day in an FSS workshop is that most sales leaders, myself included, do not have the expertise to facilitate great training. And considering the cost of putting on a training event (travel, facilities, curriculum development, lost sales time), this is one area that companies can’t afford to get wrong. 

Although training alone does not equate to sales results, a great training platform coupled with excellent recruiting, a well-defined process, and effective leadership is critical to sales success. So, I’m grateful for my “aha” moment. I now have a new understanding of what it means to provide great sales training, and I can’t wait to bring that back to the companies for whom I now consult. I’m confident the results will follow. 

On return from a recent trip, I was making an international connection in an airport and passing through security for the second time. The security guard asked me the same standard questions, but the last question she asked me I found to be most curious. She said, “Should I trust you?”  I paused and then answered in the affirmative, but it got me thinking.

When meeting with a prospect for the first time, how do you establish trust?  This is not the same type of trust that you have with a family member or loved one, but the trust that allows someone to have a candid conversation about their business issues.

There is plenty written about how not to do it, such as being pushy, talking too much or just falling into stereotypical selling behavior. But in that critical window of time (some say as short as a minute) how do you make a connection that allows the prospect to feel comfortable sharing information with you.

In his recent book “The Speed of Trust”, Stephen M.R. Covey identifies trust as the one thing that changes everything. He defines trust as confidence, confidence that the words that come out of a salesperson’s mouth show genuine interest in understanding the situation before a “spray and pray” feature dump.

Here are a few simple steps to follow to make sure that you can earn initial trust:

1-    Be prepared with questions geared towards the prospect’s organization and needs, not statements or brochures around your product, service or organization.

2-    Allow the prospect to set the pace for the meeting, and only offer suggestions for items to review after they have expressed their priorities.  Help the prospect discover needs by listening to what they say.  A few well -constructed questions will help the prospect come to their own conclusion.

3-    Be sincere.  Being sincere means doing what you say you are going to do. The first way to establish sincerity is a prompt, written follow up after an initial meeting that captures the important components for the prospect and their organization.

Some think trust takes years to cultivate and develop.  The security guard in an airport thought it could take one second, a reaction to a question.  One thing is certain; establishing trust is a central component to all healthy relationships.

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