Sales Q & A – Creating Change

Stimulate the change you want

By Dave Kahle

Question:

My new sales manager is having a difficult time creating change — getting our experienced sales force to execute a number of the changes we have implemented in the past year. Any suggestions?

Answer:

Change is always difficult. Particularly with an experienced sales force. I’m reminded of a quote I sometimes use in my seminars:

“In times of rapid change, experience can be your worst enemy.” J. Paul Getty

It seems that when it comes to change, the more experienced you are in a certain job or position, the more difficult it is for you to change.

However, while it may be difficult, that in no way excuses the need to change. Lots of things in life are hard, and lots of things in your job are hard. So what? Your salespeople need to get with the program.

So, let’s rule out any negotiating, any exceptions, any backing down from your position.

Let’s not tolerate any whining, complaining, undermining or excuses. Let’s accept that you have mandated some changes, and a good percentage of the sales people are not making them. Time to take some action.

I’ve always found it helpful to think in specific terms as opposed to general statements. So, “the sales force isn’t executing the changes” is too vague a proposition to offer any clear solutions. Let’s get specific. Step one, let’s go from the “sales force” to specific sales people. One by one, who is not executing which changes, specifically.

Let’s get methodical. Create a spreadsheet with each sales person’s name down the first column, and each specific change you expected him/her to make in each column to the right.

Now, think specifically about each sales person. If that person has successfully implemented that change, put an X in the box under that column. Proceed this way, thinking specifically about each person and each change.

This little exercise may be enough to uncover the obvious solution. For example, if you find that no sales person is implementing a specific change, that leads you to a certain course of action. If you find that most sales people are implementing most changes, but that only one is not implementing any, that then leads you to a different course of action.

Going from the general to the specific is a great way to uncover the details of a problem, and often points out a very obvious solution. (By the way, this is one of the techniques I use in my consulting practice to uncover the root causes of sales problems.)

But let’s say that the solution isn’t obvious, but this exercise has given you a clearer picture of the problem. Now what?

Think of two general kinds of solutions, and realize that the ultimate is probably going to be some combination of the two.

One kind of solution is to work on the structure of the change.

This would be indicated when you find that most, or all of the sales people, are not implementing some specific change. The problem may be with the change, not the people. So, look at what you are asking them to do. Is it beyond their capabilities? If so, reduce the complexity. Has it been thoroughly communicated? If not, hold a remedial training session. Does it conflict with what you are paying them to do? For example, you may be paying them 100% commission, and then asking them to bring in new accounts. That’s a conflict. If that’s the case, change the compensation plan.

Each of these solutions has to do with you changing some aspect of the structure in order to stimulate the change that you want.

The other kind of solution has to do with the people.

Are some people resisting the change and others not? If so, the problem isn’t with the structure, it’s with the people.

Identify the individuals who are guilty. Then, one by one, articulate your best insight into why this person is not coming on board. I like to make this real simple. Is it a “can do” issue? In other words, they just don’t have the ability? Or is it a “will do” issue? They can, they just won’t.

The answer’s obvious if they don’t have the ability. You have the wrong person in the job. Change that.

If they won’t, then you have to make the pain of not changing more intense than the pain of changing. Individually, one-on-one, make it clear to the sales person what the consequences of not changing will be. Then stick to it.

Work one-on-one with each offending sales person, as opposed to working with a group of them. It’s too easy for them to gather negative energy from one another.

One more thought. If you are going to have heart-to-heart conversations with a group of sales people, you may be better off picking your battles, and winning one before you start the other. Start with the most likely person for you to win the battle with, and execute your strategy with him/her. When that person is in line, move on to another one.

I have a number of resources you may want to review to shed additional light on this. My book, Transforming Your Sales Force for the 21st Century articulates this issue of “structure” and “people.”

A couple of articles on my website will also help. Read “Taking your sales performance up a notch,” and “How to deal with the salesperson who has plateaued.”

Originally published on DaveKahle.com

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.

5 CRM Buying Tips for Serious Shoppers

5 CRM Buying Tips for Serious Shoppers

By Larry Caretsky

If you are a small to mid-size business looking for a CRM solution I have a few tips that will help you stay focused on making a good decision.

Skip the Free Trial

Free trials are almost worthless because it takes too much time to dig into each system and fully test the functionality, how the administration works, what level of customization the product offers and how strong the reporting capabilities are.  Of course, if you are a very small business looking to simply manage contacts, keep notes and generate a sales forecast there are several free offerings that will meet your requirements and you can get immediate access.  You will find that they are all the same so just pick the one you like the best.  

What if your business requirements are a bit more robust, and you need a solution to:

+ manage the sales cycle from introduction to closure;

+ produce detailed sales reports with KPI’s such as how many calls or appointments were made;

+ generate marketing campaigns based on where new opportunities are in the selling cycle;

+ track service tickets and customer inquiries;

+ manage projects, time slips and billing;

+ integrate the CRM software with an internal system already in use.

It does not matter how many free trials you get, because it would take weeks to evaluate each one and, in most instances, you will need to engage the solution provider to clarify what the product does and doesn’t do.

Tip #1: Get the guided tour

Make sure you have a clear understanding of the functionality your company needs, then select three or four solution providers. Have them walk you through how the product would address your specific requirements.  If the vendor suggests they will only offer you a free trial, walk away because it is clear they do not want to invest the time to ensure their product will meet your needs. After the walk through, if you are still not comfortable then ask for a one to two-week trial so that you can revisit the product’s functionality and workflow.

Don’t Make the Evaluation Process a Beauty Contest

Everyone wants a CRM solution that is cosmetically appealing and easy to use. Vendors know this, so they often fill their home page with images that attract the novice buyer or evaluator. But this is not a beauty contest.  I have heard people say they like the cosmetic appeal of a specific product over the others, but what I did not hear them say is that the product best meets the functionality requirements of our business. If the product does not meet the business requirements it does not matter how pretty it is to look at.

Tip #2: Put functionality over ‘look and feel’

Stay focused on how effectively the CRM system can meet your specific requirements. If the product you select is also cosmetically appealing that’s a plus.

Where is my Data?

The security and protection of your company’s data should be a major component in the decision process.  Despite this, I have not had a single prospect ever ask me where my firm stores their data, or how can they access it in case of an emergency. “It’s in the cloud” seems to be a good enough response, but it’s not.  Where your data is stored and managed can be a significant differentiator between vendors and should be an important part of your decision criteria.

Tip #3: Make data security a top priority for vendor selection

Ask the solution provider where your data is being stored and managed, how often is it backed up and what process is in place that will enable you to access your data in case of an emergency.

Support Services

The implementation and utilization of CRM software requires planning and can be resource intensive.  Despite what some people think, CRM is not like an appliance that you plug-in the wall and “Voila!” it magically works.  The CRM system does nothing unless there are dedicated people behind it.  Most smaller businesses are resource constrained and do not have highly experienced sales, marketing and customer service professionals on board to manage the implementation, customization, proper training and utilization of the system; so, it is vitally important that you select a solution provider that can provide this level of service to your business.  Many of the CRM solution providers that service the small business community are small businesses themselves and like you, they do not have these resources either.

Tip #4: Get the support you need to succeed

Make sure you select a CRM solution provider that doesn’t just sell you their product and reply to questions via e-mail. Make sure they are part of the complete installation process (including training, customization, and data migration) and can provide the professional expertise you need to ensure that your company will realize the maximum value from their product.

Price

Price always plays an important role in the decision process, but it should not be the sole driver for selecting a CRM solution. Unfortunately for many small businesses it is, and this has led to false expectations and a very high failure rate for the implementation and use of CRM software.  So, let me help set your expectations.

You are not going to get a vendor to do a demonstration for a free product or one that is just a few dollars per user per month.

You are not going to find a low-cost solution provider that uses a top tier data hosting facility for your data.

Customer service will be limited to e-mail only and the solution provider will not have experienced resources to assist you before, during and after the installation.

If you do not require this then there is no need for concern, but if you do then you need to appreciate that you are going to get exactly what you pay for.

Tip #5: Shop for the features you need at a price you can afford

There is nothing wrong with evaluating solutions based on your budget if you have realistic expectations and the good news is that there are CRM systems for every budget.  Keep in mind that low-end solutions don’t offer much functionality or customizability so if you require this, look for mid-market solutions that do.  There are several good ones that are affordably priced.

About the author:

Larry Caretsky is an executive at Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software for small to mid-size businesses. He has written numerous articles on CRM and is considered an expert in the sector. His articles can be viewed at http://www.commence.com/blog/

Sales managers most common mistakes, #3 of 3

 

The best sales managers invest in the regular and continuous development of their sales force. DaveKahle.com

By Dave Kahle

In most organizations, sales managers are the essential bridge between the company’s sales goals and the realization of those goals.  The gritty day-to-day interactions between the sales people and their customers are frequently filtered through the perspective of the sales manager on their way up the ladder.  The aspirations and strategies of the company’s management must be imprinted by the realism of the sales manager as they come down from above.  Sales managers are the conductors who carefully orchestrate the tentative entanglement of the sales people with their management.

It’s an incredibly important and difficult job.  Unfortunately, it is often the most under-trained job in the entire organization.  Instead of providing information on the best practices and processes of the job, most companies hope their sales managers will have learned enough during their days as a field sales person to provide some roadmap as to how to do this job well.

Alas, only a small percentage of untrained sales managers ever really figure it out, arriving by trial and error and after hours of study at the best practices of an effective sales manager.  The overwhelming majority find themselves caught up in the urgencies of the moment, the tempting details of all the transactions, and the continuing onslaught of crises, and are never able to set in place a systematic blueprint for their success.

The net result?  Few sales people are effectively managed.  All parties, executive management, sales manager and sales people, bounce from one frustration to another.  Company objectives are met frequently by happenstance, sales people are not developed to their fullest potential and sales managers lurch from one crisis to another.

Certain common mistakes often arise out of this unhealthy situation.  As a long time consultant and educator of sales people and sales managers, I frequently see these three most common maladies suffered by sales managers.

Lack of an organized training and development system.

No profession in the world expects the serious practitioners of that profession to figure it out by themselves.  Quite the contrary.  Every profession has determined some minimal acceptable course of study, and typically has some event which signals the entry into that profession.  It is for this reason that teachers, emergency medical technicians, and ministers are licensed; and why attorneys must pass the bar exam, accountants must pass their certification exam, etc.

Unfortunately, that is rarely true of sales people.  In only the leading companies is there some required course of study for entry level sales people, and some event which signifies the successful completion of that study and their entry into the profession.

To even think this way is so outside of the reality of most sales managers that I can almost hear half of the readers of this article snickering over their coffee.  “Some standard for allowing people into the job?”  Incredible thought.  But if you don’t insist on it, you’ll continue to labor with a hit-or-miss sales force where every hire is ultimately a shot in the dark.

No profession in the world expects that, once someone has become qualified to enter the profession, they then no longer need to invest in their own development.  And every profession has expectations of the practitioners’ regular need to systematically improve himself or herself.  Can you imagine a teacher who never attends an in-service training?  A nurse who never invests in continuing development?  A minister who never goes back to school?  A doctor who never attends a conference?

Even if such lackadaisical professionals could keep their jobs, you would not want them to have anything to do with your family.  You would never put your health in the hands of a doctor who hadn’t updated himself since med school.  You would not want your children taught by the teacher who hadn’t learned anything since graduation.  You would never put your lawsuit in the hands of an attorney who had never bothered to keep current.

The examples can go on and on.  But you get the idea.  The professional who doesn’t regularly invest in his own continuous development is relegated to the dregs of the market.

So, why is it that the overwhelming majority of sales managers do not require regular and systematic involvement in continuous development events for their charges?  It may be that they don’t see their sales people (or themselves) as professionals.  Or, it may be that they have never thought about it that way.

Regardless of the reason, the reality of this malady is that the quality of the sales force is not nearly what it could be, if only the sales managers required some minimum standard for their entry level people, and then regular and continuous development of those who were on the inside.  The wise sales manager will assemble a system for the education and development of his sales people.

While there are as many other management miscues as there are sales managers, these three mistakes are the most common.  Address them, and you’ll be well on your way to outstanding success in sales management.

Read mistake number one here.

Read mistake number two here.

*********************************************************************

Self Assessment

Directions:  Respond to each statement, and then reply by putting a number in the space which corresponds to each of the following replies:

You’re kidding. What’s that?  = -2

We’re thinking about it.  = 0

We’ve looked at it. No action yet. = 2

Yes, we’re in good shape. = 6

Total your score, and compare the total to the standard described below.

Total number               Your situation

-20 to 0                        See, I told you these were common.  You’re in trouble.  Set aside serious time to rectify this situation. Top priority!

0 to 20                         Not bad.  There’s hope.  Fix the issues that are weak and you’ll be in good shape.

20 – 60                        Congratulations!  You’re in good shape.  Do some fine-tuning and watch your sales grow.

  1. We have strategically reviewed the way sales territories are defined.______
  2. We have strategically designed the way markets and customers are targeted. ______
  3. We have strategically designed the way sales people are compensated._____
  4. We have strategically designed the methods the manager uses to  communicate with the sales people.______
  5. We have a specific set of expectations for each sales person.______
  6. We regularly and systematically communicate those expectations with each individual sales person.    ______
  7. We regularly and systematically provide feedback to each individual sales  person on how well they are meeting our expectations.  ______
  8. We have a minimal set of qualifications that an entry-level sales person must meet in order to be allowed to represent our company.______
  9. We have a process to evaluate the entry-level sales person’s skills._____
  10. We regularly inject our sales people into learning events, and expect that they will continually improve themselves. ______

Total:

Originally published on DaveKahle.com

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.

Sales managers most common mistakes, #2 of 3

The best sales managers give direction and feedback | DaveKahle.com

By Dave Kahle

In most organizations, sales managers are the essential bridge between the company’s sales goals and the realization of those goals.  The gritty day-to-day interactions between the sales people and their customers are frequently filtered through the perspective of the sales manager on their way up the ladder.  The aspirations and strategies of the company’s management must be imprinted by the realism of the sales manager as they come down from above.  Sales managers are the conductors who carefully orchestrate the tentative entanglement of the sales people with their management.

It’s an incredibly important and difficult job.  Unfortunately, it is often the most under-trained job in the entire organization.  Instead of providing information on the best practices and processes of the job, most companies hope their sales managers will have learned enough during their days as a field sales person to provide some roadmap as to how to do this job well.

Alas, only a small percentage of untrained sales managers ever really figure it out, arriving by trial and error and after hours of study at the best practices of an effective sales manager.  The overwhelming majority find themselves caught up in the urgencies of the moment, the tempting details of all the transactions, and the continuing onslaught of crises, and are never able to set in place a systematic blueprint for their success.

The net result?  Few sales people are effectively managed.  All parties, executive management, sales manager and sales people, bounce from one frustration to another.  Company objectives are met frequently by happenstance, sales people are not developed to their fullest potential and sales managers lurch from one crisis to another.

Certain common mistakes often arise out of this unhealthy situation.  As a long time consultant and educator of sales people and sales managers, I frequently see these three most common maladies suffered by sales managers.

#2:  Lack of regular and systematic direction and feedback for the sales people.

The relentless attraction of the urgent, and the demanding shouts of the transaction, like the pleading of a toddler, have a tendency to overwhelm the time and attention of most sales managers.

Sales managers often have the best of intentions.  For example, they may need to do a set of performance reviews by the end of the year.  But there is a big presentation in one account to which they need to attend.  Another account wants to complain about some issue to the sales manager.  Yet another needs the manager’s touch to smooth some feathers, etc.  And they really do need to spend some time in the field with the new sales person.  And, and, and….the demands of the urgent once again force regular face-to-face discussions about expectations and results to the bottom of the “to do” list.

As a result, most sales people are left directionless and provided with little feedback on how they are doing.  Of course, we publish sales numbers, but there are lots of reasons why a set of numbers can be up, down or sideways above and beyond the impact of the sales person.

What do you expect of this particular sales person?  And how well is he/she doing?

In most surveys of what sales people really want from their managers, “direction and feedback” are often at the very top of the list.  Its one thing to talk about some account or some deal, it’s quite another to speak to the core issues of “my performance.”

Sales is an isolated job.  It is not unusual for a sales person to spend as much as 70% of the work week by himself.  All that isolation often leads to anxiety and self-doubt which often expresses itself through complaints and finding fault with the company.

All this negative energy can be prevented by providing the sales person with regular direction, specific expectations, and regular feedback.

The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” is too often the operational description of the typical sales manager.  The sales people are out there somewhere, doing their thing, while the tyranny of the urgent often occupies the manager’s time.

As a result, sales people are not nearly as focused as they could be, they default to unhealthy thoughts, and they spend too much time expressing negative energy.

Originally published on DaveKahle.com

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.