How do I prevent my co-workers from sabotaging my sales?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

They're not me, they don't share my attitude, motivation, abilities... but, we are a TEAM.

Q.  I work with a number of people who have little sense of professional treatment and courtesy for internal customers.  The behavior is now escalating to a higher level to the customers, and is giving our showroom a bad rap.  How do I maintain a professional standard and prevent my co-workers from sabotaging my sales?

A.  Welcome to the world of sales.  Believe me, there may be a sales person out there somewhere who has not shared your same frustrations, but I have yet to run into him.

In other words, you are not alone.  Frustration with co-workers seems to be one of the things that is part of the job of the field sales person, like sitting in waiting rooms for hours, getting slowed down in heavy traffic, and dealing with voice mail – it just comes with the territory. Every sales person has, or will have, a story about a customer lost because of uncaring and unprofessional behavior from a co-worker.

It being so common, however, does not make it acceptable.  Let’s look at some options.

First, examine yourself.  Are you creating standards that are just not attainable, and then judging your colleagues on the basis of those standards? In other words, is the problem you?

For years, I had a problem with this.  Finally, one day I had an inspiration.  They aren’t me!  That sounds so simple, but it signaled a significant change in my attitude.  Prior to that, I judged all my colleagues by my own standards.  I expected them to be as driven as I was, as focused on getting the business as I was, as perfectionistic as I was.  This attitude, of course, caused all kinds of friction and resentment on the part of the people with whom I worked.  When I finally realized that each of them had a set of life experiences, attitudes, motivations and abilities that were different than mine, I began to see each differently.  It made it so much easier to work with them, and them to work with me, when I changed my expectations.

This practice of casting your attitudes and expectations onto others is, I have learned, a particularly common tendency for field sales people.  Changing your attitude may be all that is necessary to change this situation.

But, it may not be.  So, what’s next?  Speak to the offending person, privately and specifically, about the behavior that is the problem.  Don’t talk about generalities  –  “You always do this….”.  That just encourages defensiveness and denial.  Rather, make sure that you have a specific incident to discuss.  Limit your comments to that incident.

Secondly, make sure that incident has something to do with you — one of your customers, one of your projects, etc.  That way, you have a legitimate stake in the outcome, and aren’t just being bossy.

Present the behavior that bothered you, the consequences of it, and then offer a suggestion about how it should have been handled, and the consequences of that revised behavior.

So, something like this:

“When you said to the customer that you’d get to it when you had time, the customer flinched, as if you had personally insulted him.  If you had said, ’I’m sorry, it will just be a moment’, that customer would not have felt like you insulted him.”

Your attitude will go along way.  Don’t be superior or arrogant.  You’ll get resistance if your colleagues see you this way.  Instead, try to be empathetic and humble.

Now, it may be that you have done this a few times, and you still don’t see any change.  It’s time to bring your supervisor into the picture.  Explain what you have done, the consequences of the other person’s behavior on your results, and ask the supervisor to intervene on your behalf.

At this point, you will have done about everything that you can do.  If the situation doesn’t improve over a period of time you have the final option.  You can always look for another position, with a company that has more of a sales culture.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level. You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or dave@davekahle.com

Hard Work Isn’t Digging a Ditch

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Digging the Ditch is not the Hard Work

The STORY:

When I was 28, I was running a landscaping business for someone, overseeing the crews and the like.  Now I’m in sales, but I mention the landscaping for a reason.

It was late in August on the hottest day of the year.  Must have been about two o’clock in the afternoon, not a cloud in the sky and the temperature pushing 101 degrees.  We were re-grading a section of the local golf course.  Not a tree in sight.  About an hour later and 300 feet away, I saw this shovel rising up out of the ground, tossing the dirt, going back down, coming back up.  You could have set your watch to the rhythm.

Two hours later we decided to pack it up.  It had grown even hotter.  I glanced over to where I had seen the shovel earlier and right on schedule, up it came, dirt tossed, back down and back up.

I went over to see just who could keep that up.  Down in this trench was a fellow about five feet tall and about fifty years old.  Sweat was pouring off of him.

“Hard work,” I called down to him.

He looked up, never breaking rhythm, and said with no trace of exertion, ‘Hell, this ain’t hard.  I just make a hole from stake to stake.  What was hard was knowing where to put the stakes in the first place.”

The RESULT:

From the point of view of the fellow in the ditch, the hard work had already been done.  Every shovelful after the first one was getting him one shovelful closer to success.  From my point of view, what he was doing was extremely hard work.  Now I ask you, whose point of view is the one that really matters?

DISCUSSION:

Many folks, not just salespeople, fervently believe that if you work hard every day, then success will show up at your door at some point in the future.  There is nothing wrong with the right type of “hard work.”

What’s the right type?  You know where to start.  You know where to end.  You know what you have to do to get from the starting point to the ending point.  You are confident that you can do it.  And you set out to do it in a steady and constant manner.

Should you do this type of “hard work,” you will find out something odd.  You will perceive the work as tiring at times, but not hard at all.  Others will look at what you are doing and shake their heads in astonishment.  How can he keep that up, they will think.  It’s so boring.  So mind-numbing.

Remember the fellow in the ditch.  He was sweating a river but absolutely confident because he knew where he was headed.  While the work was tiring, he did not think it was hard.  His perception of the work was the only one that mattered because he was the one doing the work.  It doesn’t matter at all what you or I think.  What you or I think doesn’t get the ditch dug faster or slower.

APPROACH:

Do this for yourself.  Not for the sales manager.  Not for upper management.  Not for your fellow salespeople.  Only for yourself.

Write down where you want to end up six months from now.  Write down where you are at this moment in relation to six months from now.  Write down all of the things you can do to get to that spot in the future.  Decide, of those things you can do, which ones you are going to do every day for the next six months.  Now start doing them.  Every day.

This is important.  Don’t show anyone what you have written.  Keep it to yourself.  Why?  Because the moment you do, whether you are told something good or bad, you’ll stop doing it.

Sounds easy.  It is.

THOUGHT:

If you don’t know where to start and where you are going to end, then all the work you do is pointless.  Pointless work is always hard work.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

I have great relationships with my customers

Beliefs that limit a sales person’s performance

By Dave Kahle

“I have great relationships with my customers.”  That is one of the most debilitating myths around — one that cripples the performance of the average corporate sales person.  Yet, it is endemic within the population of sales people.  I am not sure that there is a sales person anywhere who doesn’t, to some extent, believe it.

I have often heard senior sales executives, when discussing their sales force with me, allude to someone whom they hired from a competitor because “they had such great relationships with their customers that they were going to bring their business with them.”  And, almost universally, it didn’t quite happen that way.  The sales people, and their prospective employers, thought, erroneously, that the sales person had great relationships with their customers.  They subscribed to the myth.

In recent years, I have come to see the belief that a sales person has “great relationships” as something of a smoke-screen.  It’s used by the sales person to obscure a deeper issue – their lack of sales expertise.  As long as they believe that they have great relationships, then they don’t need to be competent sales people, because after all, their customers like them and will buy from them no matter how poorly executed are their sales competencies.

Here’s another problem.  Sales people who profess to have great relationships with their customers all too often limit the preponderance of their sales calls to those with whom they have these relationships.  In other words, the existence of the perceived relationship dictates their strategic decisions – they go where it is easiest, and spend time with those whom they perceive like them.

Read this article in an expanded version.  Click here.

That, by itself, is OK, as far as it goes.  The performance-hindering aspect comes in when they do that instead of going where it is smart, where there is greater potential.  Thus, they allow their perception of the relationship to influence their strategic decisions.  It ought to work the other way around.  The potential of the customer should dictate where the sales person builds relationships.

The myth that they have great relationships with their customers, then, produces two major obstacles to sales success:  it covers up the sales person’s lack of sales competencies, and it prevents them from working smart.

The best sales people make sound strategic decisions, prioritizing and targeting their accounts based on the potential, and then work at building positive business relationships with those important people.  The best sales people understand that just as important as the quality of the relationship is their ability to uncover the customer’s needs and wants at deeper levels, to position their products and services as perfect matches to the customer’s needs, to manage the project by gaining agreement at every step of the way, and to leverage those positive transactions to identify further opportunities.  In other words, the best sales people are good at selling, whereas the relationship-reliant sales people are only good at getting along with those people who get along with them.

There is a huge qualitative disparity here.  The best sales people also understand that a positive business relationship is, particularly in today’s world of unrelenting change, a necessary piece of the entire sales puzzle.  However, it is only a piece, necessary but not sufficient.   It provides access to the key people, and perhaps the preference of the customer.  It oils the gears of the transaction, and makes every step in the sales process work smoother.  But only rarely does a customer buy solely because of the relationship with the sales person.

A positive business relationship, then, is a necessary but not sufficient means to an end.  When complimented with effective sales competencies and implemented strategically, it can be a powerful asset to the sales person.

However, when sales people use the belief that they have great relationships with their customers to excuse their lack of sales competencies and to derail them from strategically focusing on the highest potential customers, it becomes one of the most debilitating beliefs.

About the Author

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.

You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or dave@davekahle.com

Midnight Oil Doesn’t Exist

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

MYTH: The only way to succeed is to burn the midnight oil.

The STORY:

Steve got back to the office at 3:00pm on Wednesday with every intention of putting together the preliminary proposal for what could be one of the biggest clients he’d have to date.  A two-hour job at most.  He had promised to have a preliminary proposal first thing in the morning.

There, actually covering his desk, were row after row of “While You Were Out” messages.  Running down the first row of 10, Steve decided that they could all be called and dealt with within a half-hour.  Ditto for the second row of 10.  The third row of 10 had two that could be pushed off until the next day.

No problem, he thought, I’ll run right through these.  Take maybe an hour.  Tops.  That will leave me at least two hours to do the preliminary quote.  I’ve got all the time in the world.

As he dialed the first return call, Steve felt good.   If I land this account, it will mean we have a really profitable client who will spend a lot.

“Ah, yes, this is Steve; I’m returning a phone call from…”

And in a very methodical fashion, the “While You Were Out” messages disappeared.

Returning the last phone message, Steve wondered why no one was answering.  Guess he’s not in, he thought.  Never going to succeed by keeping banker’s hours.

Putting down the phone, he finally looked at his wristwatch.  6:10PM. No, thought Steve, this must be wrong.  The clock on the wall only confirmed the time.  With a loud sigh, Steve spent about 10 seconds wondering if he’d ever get home before 9 or 10 o’clock at night.  He realized he could not remember when he had had dinner at home.

“That’s the price you pay to succeed,” he said aloud to an empty office, “that’s the price.”

The RESULT:

Steve spent another night working at the office.  Perhaps the preliminary quotation would be accurate.  Perhaps, with lack of proper rest, he’d still be able to make a good presentation the following morning, but none of this had to happen.

DISCUSSION:

One of the great, and usually destructive, tales of business handed down from one business owner to another, and from older salespeople to younger salespeople, is the burning of the midnight oil.  “The only way to succeed is to burn the midnight oil.”  “The sooner you start burning the midnight oil, the sooner you will have success.”

This tale, this myth, is so powerful that many burners of the oil truly believe that long hours are really a sign of success.

So it is obvious Steve has pledged allegiance to the miraculous effects of burning that oil.  He will arrange his day to make sure that the oil will be burned.

Which of the following do you think Steve would see as a sign of hard work leading to greater success:

1.  Leave the office at 6:00 pm.

2.  Leave the office at 10:00 pm.

Time’s up.  Make your choice.

If you picked number two, you are a true believer in the curative effects of midnight oil.

APPROACH:

How could Steve have dealt with his phone calls and need to produce a preliminary quotation by 6:00 pm?  It’s as simple as a three-minute egg timer.  Here’s how it works.  Steve had 28 phone calls to return.  Of those, at least half would result in voice mail, an answering machine, or the person would not be in.  That left, at most, 14 contacts.

At the beginning of the conversation, all he had to do was state, “I’ve got three minutes to talk.  Can we take care of your concerns in that time or should we schedule a phone call for tomorrow when I’m not limited?”  Flip the egg timer over.

Steve would have spent, at most an hour on the phone.  That would have brought him to four o’clock instead of six o’clock.

The egg timer solution is not high tech; it’s not fancy; it’s not even expensive.  But it works.  And Steve could have been out of the office by six.

THOUGHT:

Burning the midnight oil produces no light and ho heat.  Why do it?

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

Best Practice – Be prepared to handle most common objections

Prepare... and you'll be equipped to respond to almost anything. Dave Kahle

Best Practice #20: Is always well prepared to handle most common objections.

This is one of those practices that truly distinguish the committed, professional sales people from those who aren’t that interested.

That’s because it takes time and effort to become well prepared at anything, much less objections. Those who are serious and committed put in the time to prepare themselves, while those who aren’t, don’t.

To keep it simple, let’s define an objection this way: You make an offer to a customer or prospect which calls for him to commit to some action, and the customer replies with something other than “yes.”

So, for example, you say something like this to the customer: “Want to get together next Tuesday?” and the customer says, “That’s not going to work.” Or, maybe you say, “Shall we go ahead with the project?” and the customer says, “No.”

Both of these are examples of “something other than yes” – or, in other words, objections.

Being well prepared to handle them means two things: One, you are prepared, behaviorally, to finesse the person, and, two, you are prepared, intellectually, to handle the idea expressed. In my seminars, I like to simplify this to: Finesse the person, and then handle the idea.

Being prepared behaviorally means that you, through your behavior, regularly take the tension out of the situation, empathize with the customer, and probe for a deeper layer of meaning. Our natural response, when we hear an objection is either to become flustered, or to become aggressive and argumentative. Neither one is effective.

Instead, we need to make the customer feel comfortable, and then understand the reason behind the objection. This is a simple to understand, three-step process. I don’t have time to go into it here, but the process is amply described in a number of my other works.

Once we’ve made the customer feel comfortable (finessing the person), then we move on to preparing intellectually or, handling the idea. Some time ago, I came across some research that indicated that if you were prepared to handle the five most common objections you hear, that you will be prepared to handle about 90 percent of your customer’s negative comments. In other words, 90 percent of the objections you hear will invariably sort themselves into five classifications. Prepare for those five, and you’ll be equipped to respond to almost anything.

Preparing for those five objections takes several steps:

1. Identify the objections. Give a title and an example of each of the five, so that you’ll know it when you hear it.

2. Think about, and outline, how you would respond to that idea. What would you say? How would you say it? I recommend a one-page, five or six-line outline. You don’t need to memorize a response, although in some cases that is an effective tactic. You should, however, think specifically about how you would respond, and you should do that thinking when you are not in the heat of the situation.

3. Collect proof. Proof is any example of someone other than yourself or your company saying something which in some way supports your point of view, i.e. articles about your company or product, independent studies, letters of recommendation, etc.

Preparation means that you have collected this proof, and that you have it with you in anticipation of the objection.

When you have created a one-page document with each of these pieces on it for the five most common objections you’ll hear, and you’ve reviewed this work and have it in the top of your mind, ready to refer to when necessary, you are prepared to handle objections.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level. You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or dave@davekahle.com