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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.

Last week, we published The Art of Referrals (Part 1). If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, click here.

Now, we’re going to delve even further into this important selling skill.

How to Ask for a Referral

Knowing what to say is half the battle.  First, qualify for their interest in referring people to you.  Here are some ways to do that.

  • “How do you feel about helping me grow my business?”
  • “How do you feel about helping me tell my story to people who might have an interest in what I do?”
  • “I want to build my business through referrals.  I have a goal for the quarter to secure ten new clients through referrals.  If I can help you so it takes very little time and you are confident that I will represent you well, would you be willing to help me?”

 Asking “who do you know…?” (an open-ended question) as opposed to “do you know anyone …” (closed-end question) is a far more effective way to get referrals. 

Here are a few options.

  • “Who do you know who would benefit from my product or service?”
  • “Who do you know that has plans for the future that require what I do?”
  • “Who do you know that is facing the same kinds of challenges that you are?”

Your Ideal Client Profile

Salespeople will experience more success if they can be specific when asking people for referrals.  After all, it’s easier for the referring source if you can take the guesswork out of referrals.  If you can clearly describe the title of the Key Player or company you are looking for, your referring source will find it easier to focus on someone that fits your ideal profile.  This will result in better quality referrals, and more of them.

Finally, Give More to Get More

Referring should not be a one-sided activity.  The more referrals you give, the more you will get.  There should always be something in it for your referring source. 

Try to provide them with referrals in return.  Make a point of asking your clients whom they would like to be introduced to and see if you can help them.

You might provide a reward such as lunch or small token of appreciation.

Mastering the art of the referral is a proven way to effectively build your sales pipeline without having to rely on cold calls. Do you have referral techniques that have helped you build your business? If so, we’d love to hear about them. Send emails to john@drive-revenue.com.

What does it mean to giver buyers permission to buy? Dictionary.com defines permission as “authorization granted to do something; formal consent.”

As a salesperson, you might not think you need to give buyers permission to buy. They are free to do what they want: buy or not buy, buy from you or buy from your competitor. Where does the concept of permission come in?

It’s not actually permission from you. It’s you as the salesperson helping the buyer to give themselves permission to make the purchase.

Buyers are often more sophisticated than sellers give them credit for. They are also more risk adverse and they will second guess their decisions. Simply stated, buyers are not going to buy until they are comfortable that they have all the information they need to make a good decision.

You as the salesperson can help them get to that point. Here are five ways you can help the buyer give themselves permission to buy from you by ensuring they believe they have all the information they need:

  1. Understand their needs. As you get to know the buyer, ask targeted questions that will help you really understand their needs and the problem they are trying to solve. Use active listening skills and repeat back to the buyer what you think they are saying so they know they are heard.
  1. Build trust. Buyers won’t buy from a salesperson they don’t trust. If a buyer senses the seller is genuinely interested in helping them address a need, he or she is much more receptive to sharing information when asked questions, as well as more likely to trust the salesperson. When a seller appears to be pressuring the buyer to make a decision, the buyer becomes wary of the seller’s intentions and may defer the decision or say no.
  1. Help buyer discover the solution themselves. By building trust and asking the right questions, you will be able to paint an accurate picture of how the buyer will use your product to solve their problem. They need to get to the “aha” moment when they can actually picture who will use the product and how.
  1. Establish value to overcome barriers. Buyers will have barriers based on value. They will do research online on their own to overcome enough of these barriers to be willing to engage in a conversation with a seller—and this conversation is critical. According to an article at com, “Forrester research indicates that the conversation with sales reps is still a strong source of buyer influence.” Once in the conversation, the seller must understand what the buyer perceives as value of the product and build more value on that basis to overcome additional barriers.
  1. The cost of NOT doing business today. There was a time when sellers were encouraged to close early and often. In today’s tight market place, this approach no longer works. Buyers are increasingly risk adverse and decision making has expanded to include a larger group of people. When a salesperson can help the buyer calculate how much waiting will cost them in a week’s time, a month’s time or a year’s time, that dollar value will help underscore the need to close quickly.

As a seller, you’re not the one granting permission to the buyer to buy. But you can help the buyer to give themselves this permission with these five tips.

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Our team was in New York recently meeting with The Board of a prospect organization. Winter has arrived, and we send our holiday greetings from the 60th floor overlooking the Hudson River and Central Park.

As we approach the end of 2019, it’s time to look forward to the year ahead—starting with an assessment of your sales team’s performance over the past year. How did they do? Where do the need to improve?

More importantly, how do you measure their performance so you can answer those questions?

To remove the subjectivity and help you take a quantitative approach in evaluating your team, we’ve developed a list of questions that get at the answers. Use the questions to distinguish the producers from the laggards. And use these questions to determine which skills your salespeople need to improve on in order to meet and exceed goals.

Also see if you can match the question posed with the corresponding sales skill. (You’ll find the answers at the end of this article.)

Questions for quantitatively measuring sales performance:

  1. How many of the qualified opportunities in your current sales pipeline were initiated by the seller?
  2. What title(s) most commonly appears in the field for primary point of contact? Is that a decision maker’s title?
  3. How well matched are your company’s product or service capabilities with the prospect’s business objectives?
  4. What value (outside of product/price) will the prospect’s organization be able to identify while working with your company?
  5. How much research does a prospect do before engaging with a salesperson?
  6. Who on your sales team held the margin line in the negotiations, and who caved to the buyer’s pressure?

In addition to answering these questions, also evaluate your team individually. How well can the individuals on your teams execute each skill? By using the questions above, managers can identify who has which skills and where improvement is needed. This is how your qualitative analysis of skills can be analyzed in relation to the quantitative assessment.

Here’s an example of the kind of insight you can gain: We worked with a company that calculated the cost of every sales call to be $400.00. They discovered that many of the calls were to prospects who would never produce enough revenue to cover the cost of the calls made. The managers were then tasked to analyze how well the reps could execute each step, and then identify where coaching was needed. As a result, the reps’ overall skills improved, the amount of time spent on the wrong prospects was reduced, and revenue results increased with fewer overall calls being made. In essence, the focus is on the quality of the calls versus the quantity of calls conducted. All because they took a quantitative approach using these questions.

And as promised, here are the skills that match each question above: 1) New Business Development 2) Accessing Key Players 3) Qualification and Positioning 4) Establishing Value 5) Opportunity Management/Forecasting 6) Negotiation.

As we approach the end of 2019, it’s time to look forward to the year ahead—starting with an assessment of your sales team’s performance over the past year. How did they do? Where do the need to improve?

More importantly, how do you measure their performance so you can answer those questions?

To remove the subjectivity and help you take a quantitative approach in evaluating your team, we’ve developed a list of questions that get at the answers. Use the questions to distinguish the producers from the laggards. And use these questions to determine which skills your salespeople need to improve on in order to meet and exceed goals.

Also see if you can match the question posed with the corresponding sales skill. (You’ll find the answers at the end of this article.)

Questions for quantitatively measuring sales performance:

  1. How many of the qualified opportunities in your current sales pipeline were initiated by the seller?
  2. What title(s) most commonly appears in the field for primary point of contact? Is that a decision maker’s title?
  3. How well matched are your company’s product or service capabilities with the prospect’s business objectives?
  4. What value (outside of product/price) will the prospect’s organization be able to identify while working with your company?
  5. How much research does a prospect do before engaging with a salesperson?
  6. Who on your sales team held the margin line in the negotiations, and who caved to the buyer’s pressure?

In addition to answering these questions, also evaluate your team individually. How well can the individuals on your teams execute each skill? By using the questions above, managers can identify who has which skills and where improvement is needed. This is how your qualitative analysis of skills can be analyzed in relation to the quantitative assessment.

Here’s an example of the kind of insight you can gain: We worked with a company that calculated the cost of every sales call to be $400.00. They discovered that many of the calls were to prospects who would never produce enough revenue to cover the cost of the calls made. The managers were then tasked to analyze how well the reps could execute each step, and then identify where coaching was needed. As a result, the reps’ overall skills improved, the amount of time spent on the wrong prospects was reduced, and revenue results increased with fewer overall calls being made. In essence, the focus is on the quality of the calls versus the quantity of calls conducted. All because they took a quantitative approach using these questions.

And as promised, here are the skills that match each question above: 1) New Business Development 2) Accessing Key Players 3) Qualification and Positioning 4) Establishing Value 5) Opportunity Management/Forecasting 6) Negotiation.

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This article is written by Dennis Hoeft, an experienced Sales & Marketing Executive with 30+ years experience leading, selling, managing and merchandising in highly competitive product and sales environments.  

Attending an industry conference is a costly endeavor: various factors such as transportation, lodging & meals can add up quickly. Add to that your time and effort, and well, that’s quite an investment! If you are planning to attend a conference this year such as PITTCON, it’s important to get the most out of these events in order to maximize the return on your investment. Here are 10 ½ tips to help you do just that:  

1) Plan well in advance; most conferences provide an exhibitor list as well as a list of attendees, so prepare a list of key people you want to meet. 

2) Several weeks prior to the conference, set up meetings with the key people you identified on your list; if you try to approach someone during the conference without an appointment, you might be out of luck if their calendar is already full. 

3) A few days before the conference, confirm the meetings that you have previously scheduled. 

4) Plan to spend some time ‘walking the floor’; attendees should spend this time looking for new and innovative exhibitors. Exhibitors should use this time to stay on top of their industry and find out what the competition is doing. 

5) Network; this is a great opportunity to make new contacts and expand your professional circle. 

6) Sit in on different seminars; try to learn something new about your industry or profession. 

7) Attend the various social events: dinners, cocktail hours, etc . . . meet new people, network, now is not the time to sit back & relax! 

8) Bring plenty of business cards to hand out; and, when you receive someone’s card, write pertinent notes about that individual on the back of their card immediately after you meet them. 

9) At the end of each day, do a quick re-cap to see if you accomplished what you set out to accomplish; adjust the next day’s schedule if you missed something important. 

10) When the conference is over, review your action items to make sure that you have captured & summarized all of them. 

And finally….  

10.5) When you get back to your office, FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP! Address all of your actions items. Connect with new contacts on LinkedIn. Reach out by email and phone to build these relationships. Do what you said you were going to do.

You’ll be glad that you did!

 

We live in a cynical world. Americans trust government and politicians less and less, but it’s not just Washington D.C. that has shaken our confidence. American trust in the media has declined, and even our trust in each other. A study done in 2013 found that almost two-thirds of Americans trusted each other, and we can safely assume our trust levels have declined since then given the political climate of recent years.

The reasons behind that decreasing level of trust in institutions and each other are complicated and sometimes unclear. But the result is the same: People trust less and that makes your job harder, because you need trust to sell.

Sales Requires Trust

Although you didn’t do anything to make the prospect not trust you, it’s still your job to earn that trust. Yes, it seems unfair, but consider this: If you take the time to earn that prospect’s trust and your competitor doesn’t, who will get the sale when that prospect is ready to buy? The person they trust. So be that person.

It’s easier than it sounds because trust is not to be taken lightly. In order for someone to trust you, they must take a risk. And once trust is violated, it’s that much harder to re-establish the trust you’ve lost. You no doubt recognize this to be true in your personal relationships where trust is vital, but it is true in your professional relationships too—especially when you’re in sales.

7 Ways to Earn Trust in a Cynical World

So what are you to do when you’re the victim of a societal drop in trust that’s affecting your ability to sell? Takes steps to be a trustworthy person in the eyes of your prospects. Below are seven ways you can easily do so:

  1. Be genuine. Our days are full of fakes, from the staged images on Instagram to the phony posts on Facebook. Although we’re immersed in social media which in theory means we’re connected to all kinds of people, most of what we see is misleading because people are rarely authentic in such a public arena. The last thing your prospect wants to deal with is yet another poser. So be yourself. Authenticity can’t be faked.
  2. Be a person of integrity. Follow the rules. Be polite to strangers. Say please and thank you. Respect your prospect’s time. Don’t bad mouth other people or companies. Be someone above reproach.
  3. Keep your word and do what you say you’ll do…even if it’s a little thing. If you schedule a phone call for 10:00 a.m., don’t call in at 10:03. If you say you’ll email a document by the end of the day, get it sent, even if you have to stay late to keep your promise.
  4. Ask questions. Ask what you can do for the other person. Ask about their jobs and what they struggle with and wish they could do better or differently. Show a genuine interest in the other person as a person, not a potential sale.
  5. Keep people informed. Let’s say they have placed an order and there is some kind of delay. Let them know about the delay, even if you think it won’t really matter in the long run or the delay seems like a minor issue. It will mean a lot to the customer that you kept them in the loop.
  6. Be kind. This world is sadly short on kindness these days. Be kind even if you get nothing in return for it.
  7. Trust first. Trust requires risk and vulnerability. If you trust first and open yourself up in that way, it will be easier for your prospect to trust you in return.

None of these is an overnight solution to your (and our) trust problem. Rather these are seven “ways of being,” if you will, that you must make daily habits so you’re seen as a trustworthy salesperson all the time, not just when it matters most because money is at stake.

But it’s worth the time and effort, because people buy from people they trust. So be that person…and help to make the world a better, less cynical, place at the same time.

If your sales conversations with buyers seem too focused on price, they probably are. Why is that happening? Because the buyer only sees what you’re selling as a commodity, meaning interchangeable goods indistinguishable from the competition’s.

In a buyer-seller relationship, the verb commoditize often applies. It’s what the buyer tries to do to you during a sales cycle, to make you think that your product or service is interchangeable with other brands so they can beat you up on price.

Does that sound familiar? Probably! No matter what you’re selling, at some point in the sales cycle, usually near the end after the deal is forecast to close at “the end of this quarter,” the buyer starts treating your product or service and even YOU as a commodity. You will suddenly hear them say things like, “I can get the same thing elsewhere for a lower price.” They would happily replace you too as well with a different salesperson. That is unless, of course, you’ll admit that they are right by discounting the price.

How Buyers Get the Seller to Only Talk About Price

You know that your products or services aren’t the same as the competition’s, but you probably find yourself in this price-focused situation more often than you would like. And now you’re “buying in” to the idea that yes, it is just a commodity you’re selling. Buyers repeatedly tell you that the criterion for product or service selection in your industry is based on “best price,” so you’ve become convinced that you have to discount in order to win business. And now you too are price-focused.

Here’s what typically happens: You meet with a potential customer, anxious to describe or demonstrate the high-quality, amazing, customer-friendly, popular, easy-to-use, etc. capabilities and benefits of your offering. The customer seems interested and asks you for a price quote. Back at the office, you convince your manager that you could “win this” if she’d just discount a little bit.

What has happened? You let the buyer make it about price and you fell for the idea that you’re only selling a commodity. You were guilty of prescribing your products or services without first diagnosing the unique needs of the person you were talking to. And that’s a form of selling malpractice. You accepted the product or service and even yourself as a “me-too” solution, allowing commoditization to occur.nAt Flannery Sales Systems, we’ve heard stories like these for years, in every industry we have worked in.

You set yourself up as a commodity by failing to position the unique capabilities of your offering in order to differentiate your product or service within a competitive environment. Your customers didn’t have the experience to know what separated you from your competitor. It was your job to assist them in making a valuable connection between their needs and your unique selling proposition so they could see that your organization could provide them with something that the competition couldn’t. You missed the opportunity to win.

Differentiation Takes the Conversation Away from Price

Flannery Sales Systems helps organizations develop a process for diagnosing the potential needs and objectives of target customers, and providing those customers with specific objectives that they should be focused on in their industry. In doing so, we can help you position your unique products or services in a way that a potential customer will see your differentiator as a “must have,” avoiding the “It’s all the same to me” scenario. You have the option: position your own goods, or your competition will do it for you, and you’ll end up with the limited options of discount or be dismissed.

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If you ask just about anybody, “What makes a good salesperson?,” you’ll probably get similar answers across the board. People will usually tell you a good salesperson is energetic and driven with good communication skills. But they will rarely mention that how one sells matters too. And it does.

Here’s a story to illustrate our point…

A salesperson was in the lobby with other salespeople from competing companies, waiting for her first meeting with a buyer who represented a very large piece of revenue. This was the biggest “fish” our salesperson had ever tried to catch and her meeting was scheduled for only 30 minutes. Time was short. Nerves were high. You could feel the tension in the room among the salespeople.

Finally, it was our salesperson’s turn to meet with the buyer.

When she got into her 30-miute meeting, she began to ask questions. She didn’t start with a sales pitch. She didn’t start out by pointing out how her company differed from those represented by the other salespeople who were waiting. Instead, she started out by asking questions. She asked business questions and questions about how the buyer operated and ran his business. Her questions engaged the buyer, but they were also strategic: She knew the questions to ask to position her product properly.

However, the buyer was surprised by her approach. After answering the first few questions, he stopped her and said, “Why are you asking me these questions? No salesperson has ever asked me these questions.” Our salesperson was standing out. The way she was selling was differentiating her not just from the other salespeople in the lobby, but also from all the salespeople this buyer was used to.

When she explained why the answers to her questions were important for them to discuss, his whole demeanor towards her changed. He settled into his chair and started taking her questions seriously, giving them thoughtful answers. He spent an hour and 15 minutes with her, going well over the allotted 30 minutes.

When our salesperson walked out at the end of the meeting, some of her competitors who had been waiting were rescheduling their appointments because the buyer had spent so much time with her. And because she had the extra time with the buyer and therefore extra insight, she had a definite competitive edge over her competition.

When it comes to sales, it’s about how you sell too.

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Workers in the developed nations of the world spend anywhere from 35 to 60 hours per week at their jobs. Of the time spent, there are many different components that comprise the total work week. For the companies that we work with, the 4 most important hours in each week are the sacred hours spent developing new customers (four is a minimum; startup companies and new reps will need more).

Many organizations do not have the correct structure, process or tools in place to facilitate new business development efforts. And while almost all companies will commit extensive resources to attract and keep new customers, some fail to get their customer facing representatives to commit to a set standard of time, with procedures and tools, for new business development every week. Call reluctance, or the fear of making contact with prospects is one of the many reasons that some shy away. In reality, that fear can be mitigated with the tools and skills to maximize the time spent.

We have helped hundreds of salespeople to develop and execute new business development campaigns. The key tool that we build with our clients is designed to conduct targeted conversations. This allows the seller to pinpoint goals and relevant business issues of a specific title in a prospect organization through diagnostic questions in a conversational format. The skills needed to execute the tool are also honed in our engagements, and first line managers are given coaching sessions to reinforce and correct selling behavior.

The American Marketing Association stated that “The conversations field salespeople have with prospects and customers may be the last bastion of competitive differentiation in today’s rapidly commoditizing markets.” To get your organization in the right environment to grow requires that customer facing representatives commit to new business development activities, and have a platform to work from that helps them to get into a relevant conversation as quickly as possible.