Taking Your Sales Performance Up-a-Notch

Taking Your Sales Performance Up-a-Notch (S-17) by Dave Kahle

By Dave Kahle

“Selling is more difficult now that it was just a couple of years ago.” Most of the participants in my sales seminars nod solemnly when I make that statement. And then they begin to fidget in their seats when I follow that up with this: “And it will be more difficult next year than it is today.” They become really uncomfortable when I extend that idea: “And it will be increasingly more difficult every year thereafter.”

That’s a sobering truth that we don’t like to face. Yet, just a little bit of reflection will convince us of the likelihood of that statement holding true. Aren’t the products and services you sell growing more complex and sophisticated all the time? Aren’t the demands of your customers growing more complex also? Aren’t the processes that you use to do your job effectively growing more intricate every year? Isn’t competition growing more challenging every year? Isn’t your company changing rapidly, and expecting you to be a part of those changes?

Now, ask yourself one more question. What’s the likelihood that one day in the near future all of these trends will stop on a dime and everything will become simpler?

You know the answer. The job of the field sales person will continue to grow more complex, more challenging and more difficult for the foreseeable future.

So what does that mean to you? It means that you will need to continually change and adapt constantly. It means that you will need to become proficient at learning new things and improving yourself. It means that, from this point on, you will have two jobs:

1. Doing your job
2. Constantly changing and improving yourself.

At first this seems unfair. There was a time, not so long ago, that a field sales person could pay his/her dues, put in a strenuous few years, and then begin to coast as you leveraged the relationships you created and the product knowledge you gained. Those days are gone. In their place is the time compressed, stress laden, constantly changing atmosphere we currently inhabit.

It may seem unfair. You may have been born a few years too late. But, really, it’s not so different than other components of our economy. Aren’t manufacturers expected to constantly improve their products, and every now and then bring out a breakthrough new technology? Isn’t your company continually improving its processes? Aren’t your suppliers constantly bringing you ideas and services? Don’t your customers strive to continually improve their businesses and their processes?

So why should field sales people be any different? They’re not. Welcome to the 21st Century. Welcome to the world of two jobs.

What does all this mean to you? It means that you have to work as diligently at improving yourself as you do at selling and serving your customers. It means that you have to invest time and money in your other job. It means you need to become serious about taking your performance up a notch — to the next level.

Where to start?

I like to compare this job of continually improving yourself as being like golf. Everyone can golf. I know that, because I have done it a couple of times. Eventually I put the ball in that hole. So, I, like millions of other people, can golf. But I can’t golf very well. That takes some effort.

If someone were to say to me that, by this time next year, I must be able to make my living golfing, I’d suddenly become very serious about it. I’d find the best golf coach I could find and arrange a whole series of lessons. I’d invest money in the best clubs I could get. I’d spend hours every day practicing. I’d invest major amounts of time and money in improving my golf skills.

Continuous improvement in selling is like that. For the rest of your working life, you’re going to make your living, at least in part, by continually improving yourself. And, while everyone can do it, not everyone can do it well. Those people who learn to improve themselves well to grow faster and better than their colleagues, will be those sales people who will enjoy increasing income, more fulfillment, opportunities for greater challenge, and a satisfying personal life. It’s like golf. If you want to become better at it, you’ll invest time and money in improving your game. Here are some ideas to help you along.

Start with a commitment of time and money.

Begin by accepting the idea that constant improvement is now part of your job, and make a decision to take it seriously, to invest time and money every week in the process. Remember, it’s like golf. To get good at golf, you’d invest time and money. To become proficient at continuous improvement, you need to invest time and money also.

Focus on best practices.

I recently received a phone call from VP of Sales who said he was looking for the latest, new state-of-the-art selling techniques. I replied that he wasn’t going to find much of that. Almost all the behaviors of highly successful sales people are the same as they were a hundred years ago. The applications are more sophisticated, but the core behaviors are the same. Sales is still about creating relationships, understanding the customer, matching your product/service to the customer’s needs, negotiating next steps, leveraging satisfaction, planning and preparing properly.

There is no magic to selling, and there are no secrets. Those are just enticing words designed to sell the latest sales book. Instead of magic and secrets, there are best practices and core competencies.

Every profession in the world has evolved a body of knowledge about how to effectively practice in that professional. That body of knowledge is generally available to all the practitioners of that profession, and becomes the standard by which professionals in that field are judged.

Every time I get on an airplane, I’m comfortable in the knowledge that my pilot has learned the best way to fly this plane, and it doesn’t much matter who the pilot is, everyone of them has been trained in the best practices.

When I review the financial statements my accountant has prepared, I’m confident that those statements reflect her disciplined use of best accounting practices, and that every other accountant would recognize them.

When I go in to see my doctor for my annual physical exam, I’m confident that he is using the best practices of his profession. That if I went to another doctor, because there is a recognized way to do this, the process and the results will be very similar.

And so it is for every profession. It’s the way the world progresses. We build on the wisdom and experience of those who have gone before us. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it has already been around for generations.

Why is it, then, that we think that every sales person has his own way of selling and that is OK? Why is it, then, that we think sales people should learn by trial and error, on the job? Would you expect your pilot, doctor, or accountant to figure it out for themselves? Are there any self-taught professional golfers out there?

There are best practices for the job of field sales person. If you are going to continually improve, you need to study those practices.

It’s what you do, not what you know.

Occasionally I come across a sales person who says something to the effect of this: “I knew all that.” Too bad, he/she missed the point.

The point is, continuous improvement is all about what you do, not just what you know. In other words, once you understand the best practices, you need to incorporate them into your routines. It is not enough just to know, you must do. Life is not about academics, and we don’t get paid for what we know. We get paid for the results we bring as a result of the actions we take.

If you are going to grow, you need to be constantly prodded to put into action those things that you already know. Most human beings, left to themselves, would rather watch TV and goof off than do the hard work of continually improving themselves.

Back to our golf analogy. I know how to grip the golf club, I know how to set up the shot, and I know how to swing correctly. But I very rarely do it! My problem isn’t what I know; it’s what I do.

So it is with sales people. Ultimately, continuous improvement is about what you do. It’s one thing to know something, it’s another to consistently put that knowledge into action.

I recall Isaiah Thomas, the superstar guard for the Detroit Pistons during their Bad Boy days. Isaiah had a new home built with an enclosed mini-basketball court. Why? So he could practice foul shots in his off time. Isaiah knew how to shoot. He had practiced that shot tens of thousands of times. But he was not as good at it as he could be, so he continued to practice.

How about you? Do you know it all? Or are you, like Isaiah, dedicated to continuously improving what you do?

About the Author

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.

Finally a Comprehensive CRM Solution for Midsize Firms

If you are a large corporation looking for a robust CRM solution, your search will be a quick one as the Enterprise CRM sector is dominated by the three well known corporations listed in the chart above.

If you are a small business looking for the basics to manage your accounts, contacts and a sales forecast there are a myriad of low cost solutions available to you.

Strangely enough for midsize businesses (these are mid-market companies that need more than the basic solutions offer, but not the cost and complexity of an enterprise level system) there is a gap.

Commence Corporation, manufacturers of Commence CRM, has targeted this mid-market CRM segment with a robust product offering that rivals enterprise level products costing much more. In addition to managing accounts, contacts, activities, leads, sales and reporting, Commence CRM offers a fully integrated Marketing application, a Help Desk Ticketing solution and a Project Management application with an interactive Gantt Chart. Commence CRM’s functionality and price points place it firmly in the mid-market segment for those who need advanced functionality at an affordable cost.

Visit commence.com to learn more or to get a Free Product Trial.

Good Sales People Are Problem Solvers

THIS IS THE SIGN YOU'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR

By Dave Kahle

“Good sales people are problem solvers.” Or, so the illusion goes. That belief ranks high on my all time list of the beliefs that most limit a sales person’s performance. This one is especially insidious because it is so commonly held, without reservation, by such a large percentage of sales managers and sales people. And it sounds so reasonable.

The world is full of sales managers who gravely proclaim that good sales people are good problem solvers. Sales people who use that belief to give direction to their jobs are to be found in every sales force.

The problem with this self-limiting belief, as in many such ideas, is that there is a grain of truth in it. Yes, good sales people are good problem solvers. However, they are so much more than just problem solvers. And, when a sales person or manager focuses on just that small piece of a sales person’s job, it eclipses all the other more pertinent ideas and limits the sales person’s effectiveness.

It’s just human nature to live up to the visions we carry about ourselves. We allow our beliefs to dictate our actions. And when our beliefs are out of touch with reality, our actions are not nearly as effective as they could be. We see what we look for and we don’t see nearly as much of what we don’t look for.

Sales people, then, who see themselves as “good problem solvers” naturally look around for problems to solve. In so doing, they miss huge opportunities to assist their customers in ways other than problem solving. In fact, many of the best sales people don’t look for problems to solve, they create discontent in their customers by showing them better ways to do things.

Here’s a real-life example of a “problem-solving” sales person.

I was asked by one of my clients to work with his sales force. The sales people were having trouble closing the sale. Here’s what happened in one sales call I made with one of their sales people.

We were selling HVAC equipment, and the sales person had an appointment with the prospect. We met the prospect, and he explained that the building had been added onto several years before, but that nothing had been done to expand the capacity of the air conditioning unit. The company now wanted to do something about that.

The sales person asked to see the area in question. He measured the square footage of the room, taking detailed notes on a form attached to his clipboard. Then he asked to see the existing equipment. We went up into the attic where it was located, and the sales person studied the existing unit, estimating the distance from the equipment to the addition.

He ended his information-collecting by saying to the prospect, “I’ll fax you a proposal in a couple days. Will that be OK?” The prospect said yes.
At this point, the sales person, who saw himself as a problem solver, had done an adequate job of understanding the technical specifications of the problem, but hadn’t even begun to probe into some of the other aspects of the sale. So, I intervened and asked the following questions.

“If you like our proposal, what’s the possibility that you’ll buy it within the next few weeks?”

Here’s what he said: “Oh, none at all. I’m just collecting information for budgeting purposes. We won’t actually buy anything until after the new fiscal year in January.”

My sales person didn’t know that because he never asked. Instead, he focused on the problem to solve.

Next I asked about the “situation.” I said, “When we met, you said that the addition had been completed a few years ago, but that nothing had been done to upgrade the air conditioning. Tell me, what’s changed about your situation? Why is this an issue now?”

He said, “Well, we added space to this building several years ago. It’s always been stuffy in the new addition, but we got along OK. At least until last week, when we had a heat wave. The air conditioning had to work so hard that it froze up. So we unplugged it to let the ice thaw. As the ice thawed, it dripped through the acoustical ceiling directly onto the president’s desk. So, that’s why we’ve decided to do something about it now!”

Then I said, “What are you looking for in a proposal?”

He said, “Just a ballpark figure we can use for budgeting purposes.”

I turned to my sales person and asked, “What’s a rough estimate of what it’ll take?”

He responded, “About $3500.”

Then I said, “What can we do to make you look good in this process?”

He said, “I just want to get this off my desk. It’s an extra project I don’t need right now.”

I said, “If we get you a ballpark figure, and a set of literature you can show to the boss today, will that help?”

“That would be great,” he said.

Finally, I asked, “How will a decision be made?”

“Around here, the president makes all of those kinds of decisions. So, I’ll collect the information and give it to him, and he’ll decide what to do from there.”

“Could we see him?” I asked.

The prospect replied, “Would you?”

“We’d be happy to,” I said. At that point, he set an appointment for us to talk to the president.

Let’s analyze this experience.

Notice that the sales person, who thought of himself as a “problem solver,” focused on the details of the technical problem. After all, what else would you expect him to do?

Unfortunately, in so doing, he missed what the customer wanted entirely. He would have vainly spent hours preparing and faxing the quote, and then wondering why he didn’t close the sale. He was well equipped to respond to the technical specifications of the problem, but didn’t have the faintest understanding of what the customer really wanted, and therefore, little chance of closing the sale.

To overcome the limitations and boundaries of this belief, you’ll need to think of yourself differently –you are not just a problem solver, you are a ‘customer-understander.’

When we begin to focus on the customer in a larger and deeper sense than just the immediate problem, we open up the possibility of uncovering larger and more significant opportunities within our customers.

For example, when we take the time to understand the customer at deeper levels, we’ll discover the customer’s business goals and his deeply-held values. We may discover that he wants to grow his business by 20% next year, for example.

Armed with that information, we can couch our proposals in terms that relate to his deeper, business goals. Or, we can create a unique proposal that speaks specifically to that issue.

It’s in that area – bigger proposals for deeper needs – where the serious professional sales people distinguish themselves from the pack.

The best way to change our beliefs, is to experience something which conflicts with them, and causes us to re-think those beliefs. In this issue, the best way to see yourself as larger and more capable than just a problem-solver is to focus on understanding your customers better by asking a set of well-constructed, prepared questions, and listening constructively to the answers.

As you begin to gain success in understanding the customer better, you’ll change your view of yourself, and open up a world of greater opportunities. Great sales people are not just problem solvers. They are customer understanders.

And when we get that belief, we rid ourselves of the bonds wrapped around our performance, and unleash our capabilities for greater return.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.

Small Businesses Struggling to Adopt CRM Software

Big Business Goals with Small Business Resources? You're Not Dreaming. Commence CRM

Small businesses want to take advantage of the same technology and software solutions that larger firms are using to become more efficient with how they market, sell and provide service to their customers. This can be a significant challenge for smaller organizations however, because they typically do not have experienced sales, marketing or customer service professionals on board that can manage the implementation, utilization and support of the CRM solution.

CRM by its nature dictates change. You cannot automate and streamline your internal business processes without impacting the policies and procedures that are currently in place. This requires experienced people and management’s commitment to supporting the changes necessary to improve the performance of the business. The high failure rate of CRM implementations among small to mid-size businesses is a clear indication that one or both are missing from the equation. As a result, small businesses are struggling with the adoption of CRM software.

I have been engaged in more than 100 CRM implementations and there is a common denominator that separates the successful ones from those that are unsuccessful. It all comes down to the following:

Strong Inside Management

The management had a clear vision of what they needed the CRM solution to do and how they will measure its success for their business. They were also committed to providing the leadership necessary to ensure their success.

Outside Expertise

The management understood that they would require outside expertise and assistance to successfully execute their plan. They engaged my company’s on-boarding team to help implement a sales structure for managing the sales cycle; create a mix of marketing programs designed to build brand recognition and generate new business opportunities; and incorporate automated programs to improve the customer buying experience.

Mutual Commitment

The management was committed to ensuring that their staff was properly trained on how to use the software and realize the maximum value from the product.

These firms viewed the implementation of CRM as a critical next step to improving their business performance and were willing to make the financial and managerial commitment to its success. This is why they were successful. Too often this is not the case in the SMB community where companies tend to purchase a CRM solution based on its cosmetic appeal or price but are not prepared to make the commitment necessary to ensure the successful implementation and use of the software. You see this across the board regardless of the CRM solution selected.

The simple fact is that the successful implementation of any CRM solution requires a commitment to change management; a commitment to engaging outside resources to fill the experience gap; and a commitment to ensure that the staff is properly trained and supported before, during and after the implementation.

About the Author:

Larry Caretsky is president of Commence Corporation a leading provider of CRM software and best practices for improving marketing and sales execution. Caretsky has written hundreds of articles about CRM and an e-book, “Practices That Pay”. These can be viewed at commence.com/blog.

Best CRM Solutions of 2018 by Company Size, Mid-Year Roundup

Best CRM Software 2018

With a myriad of CRM solutions to choose from, this article rounds up our “Top Two” picks for best CRM solutions of 2018 in each category by business size: large business, mid-size and small business. What differentiates these products from others is the following:

  1. Established company track records: Each of these companies has been in business for a decade or more
  2. Customer approval rating: Each has a large customer base and has earned the trust of their customers
  3. Peer recognition: Each has earned accolades from industry analysts for the quality of their products and the array of value added support services they provide

Best CRM Software for Large Business in 2018

Salesforce

Best suited for larger organizations who can deal with the complexity of implementation and customization of the software.

Pros:  Robust functionality and scalability, strong integration to disparate third-party products, offers an array of support services.  Large installed base. Considered a leader in the sector.

Cons:  Somewhat of a dated user interface and viewed as cumbersome and hard to use. Can get as pricey as a BMW with options.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Also suited for larger organizations with robust functionality requirements.

Pros:  Comprehensive functionality and scalable; also nicely integrated with an array of third party applications. Company reputation is strong. Large installed base.

Cons:  Sold through local third-party resellers which is concerning to some customers that want a direct relationship with the solution provider.

Best CRM Software for Mid-Size Business in 2018

SugarCRM

A mid-market solution with good functionality, a large customer base and quality customer support.

Pros:  Good functionality and can be implemented on-premises or in the cloud.

Cons:  Customers find the solution a bit hard to use, add-on modules can be expensive and has a minimum of 10 users. Support can get costly.

Commence CRM

A comprehensive offering targeted at small to mid-size businesses. Attractively priced and offers an array of professional services. A trusted company in business for more than two decades.

Pros:  Robust functionality that rivals more expensive solutions, easy to implement and use. Customers give high marks for customer service.

Cons:  Integration with third-party products not as strong as others.

Best CRM Software for Small Business in 2018

Zoho

A free offering with a number of add-on modules and features. Some limitations, but a good solution for the small office / home office (SOHO) environment.

Pros:  Just the basics, but does a good job supporting small business needs.  Easy to use and has an upgrade path to more functionality.

Cons:  Some limitations; not enough customizability and support services are limited (primarily e-mail only).

Hubspot

Basic low-cost offering for small businesses with a focus on contact management and marketing.

Pros:  Low-cost, easy to use and offers marketing automation. Free version available.

Cons:  Limited functionality and customization, no growth path outside of what the product currently offers.