If there was a better and faster way to achieve sales results, you would want to know about it, wouldn’t you?
So, you’ve invested more money in sales training recently and still only see marginal improvement, or maybe even no discernable changes whatsoever. New sales hires come through the onboarding program, but somehow the majority wash out or turnover within the first six months. This has always been a very dangerous and expensive game to play.
There has to be a better way.
Within the past 18 months, your strategy might have been to refocus the training initiatives around remote or virtual selling. As outside sellers became inside sellers, the transition should have been easy enough. I mean really, all we had to do was give them some quick lessons on how to engage, and follow the sales process during a virtual sales call, not unlike what they did when they were visiting customers and meeting new prospects in person. Simple stuff, right?
There must be a more productive approach.
Well, if our new hire onboarding program isn’t accelerating sales success, and our approach to retraining our existing sales force the nuances of selling virtually hasn’t yielded the results we are looking for yet, surely the answer can be found in technology. Let’s evaluate our tech stack, invest in the newest, latest, and greatest apps and tools that will help us transform maybe even automate the way we sell while taking some pressure of the sales organization.
There has to be an app for this.
Not sure if this idea will work for you or your team, but if you will give this blog just a little bit longer of a read, this may just be something that you can tap into to achieve the results you have been striving for. Even if you are already exceeding your numbers, you may want to consider the following recommendation to ensure future success as well.
If there was a better and faster way to achieve sales results, you would want to know about it, wouldn’t you? The answer is yes, I’ll help you with the tough ones.
We build better businesses when we build better people. We build better sales organizations by building better salespeople. So instead of taking an extremely bright college graduate and destroying what otherwise would have been a bright and stellar sales career by introducing them to a sales process that won’t make much sense immediately, make the investment in the person first to make sure they are prepared for adversity, rejection, objections, change, and pressure of working towards quota attainment. Instead of trying to teach even your most seasoned and successful salespeople how to sell remotely or virtually, try equipping them mentally and emotionally with ways to handle the changing sales landscape.
They have the relationships. They know the products, services, and solutions better than anyone. But a change has happened, being tech-savvy and data-driven are now vital to sales success. If this is new to them, shoving it down their throat is not the answer. And I am not talking about coddling them either. What I am recommending is finding the best personal and professional development program that you can that will prepare the new hire, the seasoned professional, and everyone in between work in the most productive mindset possible.
This is your game changer that the competition will miss as they continue cycling through sales process training first.
Now you may be thinking that no one ever did this for you. No, you had to learn the hard way. You cold-called your way through your early career and have the bloody noses, worn out soles on your shoes, and the bumps and bruises that came with going through the sales school of hard knocks. If you could do it, today’s salespeople can and should do it too.
“What got you here won’t get you there.”– Marshall Goldsmith
If a performance development change is needed in your sales organization, you can try researching sales training providers, or maybe call one of them that you had worked with in the past to deliver some sales process training. Or, you could take the time to write a lengthy RFP, invite training providers to participate, assemble a committee to review the responses, invite three or four companies to present their content and facilitators, short list that down to two companies, invite your team back together to select the winner, negotiate and execute the agreement, and then after several months have passed, and the team that needed the most training has turned over again, you can deliver a program that is no longer relevant, if it was ever even really relevant at all.
Or… you could choose the best sales development program that is not really classified as a “sales training” program at all. You could choose to work with a partner to implement a program that has the potential to develop everyone in your organization, and I mean everyone from leadership on down the line. It should be a program that focuses on the people, the most important asset within your company. The content should focus on:
- Building a Healthy Self Image
- Developing and Maintaining a Positive Attitude
- How to Build Winning Relationships at Home and at Work
- Goal Setting and Achievement (Perhaps you can call this Quota Setting and Achievement)
- Creating an Atmosphere and Culture of Hope
Hope? Did he just say hope? Hope is not a strategy. You almost had me, right up until that last bullet point. I mean hope, really?
Yes, hope, I said it for real. Every single person in your organization has hope for something, good family relations, friends, a good social life, to earn a solid income, to be reasonably prosperous, a healthy and happy retirement, happy and healthy children and grandchildren, to go on vacation, to become debt free, etc., you get the point. And yes, everything here requires a strategy too, but when hope is born, potential becomes limitless, dreams can become realities, and sales quotas are crushed.
“Hope is the foundational quality of all change, and encouragement is the fuel which keeps hope alive.”– Zig Ziglar
Hope fuels passion, passion drives purpose, purpose ignites performance, and inspired performance leads to results. We all have hope, and we all want results. It’s really that simple. If you want to build a better team, a better business, a better school, a better community, a better home, work on building the people and watch as the results you achieve are far greater than you have ever imagined possible.
Salespeople who understand how to manage the game clock for maximum effectiveness will outsell their competition every time. I had two fantastic experiences this week with sales professionals who displayed excellent management of the game clock, or for our purposes, the sales clock.
Most weeks I have one or two virtual meetings with a salesperson who has a solution that I believe might be of benefit to our company, our partners, or our clients. I love to meet with salespeople, first to see if there is a product or service that can be of benefit, but also to see how people are selling these days.
Things I look for:
- Did they do their homework?
- Are they rushed, moving from one call to the next?
- Are they following a specific sales process or methodology?
- Have they taken the time to dress for success even when working from home?
- Are they in ‘tell’ mode or ‘sell’ mode?
- How are they managing the game clock?
The last one is so very important, at least for me. As someone who is also back-to-back with calls, virtual meetings, writing, and client projects, managing my time is always of critical importance. So, when someone respects my time, they earn my respect in return.
This week I had two virtual sales calls with potential technology providers for our business. Both displayed excellent clock management skills, knowing exactly where we were and when it was time to move the conversation along. They did it with finesse and ease. Not only were they professional in the entire discussion, but both also gave me back 5 minutes in my day.
Although the extra 10 minutes is always helpful, they both did something else that I picked up on. Keep in mind these were two different salespeople representing two different companies. They did give me back 5 minutes, but they had a reason for doing it that wasn’t just a gift for me. They used that 5 minutes to send me the follow up email we had agreed on, which of course included a thank you, as well as the information I had requested.
Yes, managing the sales game clock is something top performers have learned to do a long time ago. However, when I realized that two salespeople in separate conversations executed this move flawlessly, my curiosity was piqued enough for me to call them both back to see if I could confirm my suspicions. And I am happy to report that these two sales professionals were well trained and had developed this sales best practice over time.
They used the five minutes after our call and before their next call to send a follow up email, complete with the information I requested, and they updated their notes and the opportunity in their CRM. Much of this was automated through enabling technologies and the way that their CRM was configured, but they wanted to capture any of the notes and important details about the call and make sure it was accurate. Can we imagine the impact if all of our salespeople diligently followed this best practice?
Final Thoughts: There are many aspects and nuances of managing a sales game clock, just as there are in sports. And like most sports, in addition to the game clock, there is often a play clock that has to be taken into consideration. It is no different in selling. If we allow ourselves to get drawn into irrelevant conversations and rabbit holes, before we know it, we are penalized for delay of game, or the game clock expires with the score in the prospect’s favor. Whether it is a 15-minute introductory call, a sales call scheduled for only 30 minutes, or a longer 60-90 minute call, top-performing salespeople know exactly how to manage each one for maximum productivity for both themselves and their prospects.
“Time kills deals!” I still remember the first time a sales manager said that to me. It was early in my selling career and my manager had just asked me about an opportunity that continued to push. First, it was a one-month push, then two months, and then it was over, and I had lost the sale.
As a young and naïve salesperson, I lacked the sales savvy that would have helped me to see that there was never going to be a true opportunity to win the business. It wasn’t that I had just lost the sale to a ‘no decision’ or lack of budget, I had lost the deal to a competitor.
Staying in the game or staying in any one deal does require that as salespeople we must keep moving, as long as we are moving in the right direction. And moving in the right direction means that we are continuing to add value to the conversations and helping our prospects make the best possible decision that will help them close a gap or achieve a goal. Even if it means that at this time, our solution is NOT the answer to their problem.
Keeping our balance on a bicycle requires that we keep some type of momentum going. We can coast for a while, but sooner or later, we will have to do some pedaling too. Working hard at the beginning of our ride, and then keeping some positive pressure on the pedaling so that we do not stop. Or at least not stopping until we decide that we want to stop. In selling the same holds true. We have to know when to stay in balance, stay in motion, and keep pressing forward, but we also have to know when it’s time to hit the brakes and stop the ride.
Looking back on my experiences all those years ago, I am grateful for my sales manager who let me know that “Time kills deals.” It changed the way that I have looked at each opportunity ever since. It taught me to apply some level of positive pressure along the way. Not aggressive or manipulative, but the right balance of assertiveness and value-added selling. The goal is to recognize that there is an opportunity to do business or not. Equally as important is to help our prospect to fully understand if our solutions can help fill a gap or achieve their goal.
If we can disqualify the opportunity, meaning a “no” for now, and do so professionally, or they can disqualify us and our solution for now, it is a huge win for both of us. They get to spend time with other providers who can help them, and we get to move on to other prospects where we have a true sales opportunity.
Final Thought: Newer salespeople are impacted by this more than seasoned sales veterans. Top performers know the importance of setting expectations, inspecting those expectations, and level-setting with their prospects to avoid this trap is crucial to sales success. When deals start ‘pushing’ out, and the prospect keeps asking for more information or more time, remember to pump the brakes, stop, get off the bicycle, and have a candid conversation with the prospect about what is happening, why, and reset expectations.
When it comes to building long-term relationships with clients, it’s very similar to building long-term friendships. In school, children are encouraged to make new friends by talking with others, inviting them to play, and being “nice” to them. In many business situations, clients often become more than clients. They become friends…not necessarily the kind you would invite to non-business gatherings, but people you truly care about and who care about you.
There is a feature in a local newspaper where readers are invited to review their favorite restaurant. The articles are wonderful publicity for the restaurants. One of the key elements I see repeated is that patrons know the names of the owners, hosts and/or servers. And, many of the restaurant workers know something about them as well. They know if the guests prefer coffee or tea with breakfast. They may even remember their favorite meal, asking if they want “the usual.”
Put yourself in the seats of those guests for a moment. How would it make you feel to have your favorites automatically placed before you without having to explain your preferences? It would make you feel at home or as if you’re at the home of a good friend…someone who knows you well and wants you to have what you want. That type of response is the ideal when it comes to serving your clients’ needs and it can be created no matter what your product or service is.
You may think you’re in the business of selling automotive services, home remodeling or repairs, printing services, financial services, tutoring or signage, but you’re not. Even if your products are sold only to other businesses, the business doesn’t make the buying decision. A person does. You are in the people business. Learning to make people feel important and cared about will help you make both the initial sale and long-term sales over the course of your career.
Maybe you sell tires, not breakfast. Even so, you should introduce yourself to each client and give your name. Use your clients’ names in conversation during the sales process. Inquire about the use of the vehicle. Does the client have young children or a teenage driver? If so, safety will be an important issue to discuss with them. Do they have a home where some off-road driving is involved? Or, do they travel for business and need highway tires? All of these answers help you lead them to the best choice for them. Keeping a record of their answers will help you build long-term relationships.
No matter what your business is, every client should receive your best care during the sales process and after. During the initial sale, get them talking and take good notes. Enter the information into your client database. My colleague Harvey Mackay has a long list of details he requires his salespeople to gather about clients over time. This includes not just information required to do business, but a few personal details such as birthdays, whether or not they’re married, children’s names, and whether or not they have pets. That information is used to make contacts and to start conversations with clients after the initial sale.
People like to do business with people who are like them, who demonstrate that they care about them beyond making the sale, and who keep them in mind when something new that might be of interest to them comes along. That type of treatment makes clients feel important. They come to rely on businesses and salespeople they know they can trust to have their needs and interests at heart.
Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.
Why Sales Training Programs Fail
Does it always make sense to train everyone on the sales team the same program or content? There are some companies who believe that they must include everyone as they plan for sales training. The goal might be to develop a common sales language, process, and methodology. It’s easier for managers to manage one consistent process and speak a common sales language when working with their teams.
Even though we design these great plans and do so with solid intentions to have a universal program that will somehow meet everyone’s needs, oftentimes we miss the desired outcome because there are people on our team that will not benefit from the content or program. Another possibility is that maybe they aren’t ready for the program and content yet, they may be too new in their role. And the other side of that is that maybe they are already crushing their number and anything we try and teach them may actually end up slowing them down.
Here’s the deal:
- Our top performers are doing just fine, they are killing it. They are making money, and sometimes our very best of intentions just gets in their way. Do they want the newest, latest and greatest tips and techniques? Maybe, probably, but then again, maybe not. What they want is whatever will give them the best advantage to maintain their position on the leaderboard and increase their income and work/life balance.
- Our unproven and under-performing salespeople may be another population who can wait on further training or tools and technologies. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest mistakes I have seen played out time and time again is implementing a sales training program or content that is advanced beyond the team’s or person’s capability or tenure in the business. What this group wants is something that is going to help them demonstrate success to themselves and to the company in the shortest amount of time.
- That leaves us with the moveable middle. And the situation here is that the moveable middle is never dead center, not everyone falls in a vertical line in the middle of the bell curve, do they? They are all scattered somewhere along the continuum of the moveable middle. And the reality is, all we need to do is help move each person slightly to the right of where they are now in the bell curve to have a massive impact on our business and revenue.
The idea here is to stay within the investment zone of the bell curve. And that zone or window will be different for each of you in this room based on the structure and nuances of your organization. And having done this for as long as I have been doing this, If I had to help people find, create, ask for, and justify a budget, I help them to FOCUS and identify what to invest in, who to invest in, and when to invest in the project or people.
Some of the greatest salespeople we have known or worked with demonstrated strength and highly developed skills in:
- Building a healthy self-image
- Developing and maintaining a positive attitude
- Building winning relationships at home and at work
- Using “Hope” as a tactic and activator
- Setting and achieving goals
This is an example from a Zig Ziglar program, Strategies for Success, that has been updated and modified to meet today’s learner. And it is the type of content and concepts that provide the confidence to seek and achieve selling success. For people who are new to sales, an argument can be made that this type of program should be what they go through first, before entering a professional sales training program. Just imagine how we could accelerate success and reduce turnover if we had our new or new-to-sales folks achieving greater success earlier in their career.
Best Practice #1: There are many levels of success within your organization, sometimes when we try and train the masses, we can also compromise the learning. Really try and isolate where the biggest gaps are, and the opportunity for the greatest growth, and start there first instead of trying to train everyone.
Best Practice#2: Go through the exercise of discovery and identify the gaps across the organization based on performance, tenure with the company, and how long they have been in professional selling. Look for the best opportunities to move the needle. Once this exercise has been completed, look for content and training programs that can close the gaps and move the company forward.
Best Practice #3: When not trying to train the masses companies can maintain tighter control on the cohorts, manage the number of people in the classroom, and invest their budgets in the areas that will yield the greatest results.
Remember, managing sales teams by plotting them on a bell curve can give us greater visibility into where the biggest gaps and challenges are amongst the team. This then allows us to determine where we can apply the training that will have the biggest impact. And if finding or getting a budget has been a challenge or if it will be a challenge, getting much clearer on who is going to be trained and why the more likely the training budget will be approved.