Sales Best Practice: Skilled at dealing with adversity and failure

Posted by Commence on April 9, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

A best practice for sales people by Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

By Dave Kahle

3d Imagen Changing The Word Impossible To Possible by David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every now and then, I run across an idea which makes a significant impact on me. One such was the idea (I wish I could remember who first said it) that the surest indicator of success was the ability to deal effectively with adversity.

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the power and truth in that idea. The world is full of talented and intelligent people who never really succeed. But the surest indicator of success is not latent talent, natural abilities or native intelligence. It is, instead, the ability to get knocked down by life, and get up and go at it again.

This is particularly true for sales people. We typically fail more times than we succeed. It’s the rare sales person, for example, who sells more than 50 percent of the prospects. So failure is a regular part of our jobs. As is rejection and adversity of all kinds. Every “No” is a rejection. Every voice mail message is an obstacle.

Our days, weeks, years and careers are spilling over with failure, rejection and adversity.

The lesser sales people become burdened and lethargic with the weight of it, while the stars shrug it off and rise to try again.

It’s not that the sales superstars have less failure and adversity to deal with (although they may), it is that they recognize they need to manage themselves in light of the inevitable failure with which they must contend. They recognize the issue, and deal with it head-on.

Hopeless Man Looking At Loss by digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.netIn his great book, Learned Optimism, Dr. Martin Seligman describes the mechanics at work. When faced with adversity, some people give up and retreat into an attitude of “helplessness and hopelessness.” Others take control of their minds, and choose to think optimistic thoughts. As a result, they create more energy and more motivation. That energy and motivation channel themselves into more positive behavior, and that positive behavior brings better results.

Notice that this process starts with their thoughts. I have long thought that the ultimate playing field for the professional sales person (or any person, for that matter) resides within – inside the mind where one’s thoughts, emotions and beliefs are generated. Because it is those things that stimulate and influence behavior, and positive behavior produces positive results.

The best sales people have an understanding of this, recognize that their primary obstacles are internal, and develop disciplines and practices to overcome negative thoughts that emerge from adversity and replace them with positive thoughts.

Some of the techniques that superstars employ to help them overcome adversity include visualization, the use of positive affirmations, prayer, and learned optimism.

To learn more about this best practice,

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

For Sales Managers…

Use this rating scale to assess the extent to which each of your sales people evidence this best practice.

Use this rating scale to assess the extent to which each of your sales people evidence this best practice.

Comments: ____________________________________________________________

To help a sales person build this practice into a habit,

a. Share your assessment with them.

b. Talk about how that impacts their performance.

c. Refer them to one or more of the resources listed above.

d. Ask them to commit to a couple of specific changes.

e. Monitor their progress at a future, pre-determined date.

At a sales meeting, ask people to share one time in their lives when they overcame some adversity. It could be something small, like a bad experience at an account that they were able to turn around, or something much deeper, like overcoming a serious illness. If you ask them to prepare this beforehand, you’ll see much better responses. Use the stories as a means to build into people the concept of achieving success by overcoming adversity.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

Image “Changing The Word Impossible To Possible” courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Hopeless Man Looking At Loss” courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Practice of Sales

Posted by Commence on April 1, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

By Dave Kahle

“Every profession expects the serious practitioner of that profession to continually seek out the best practices of that profession, and then to roll them into his/her routine with discipline.”

That statement comes out of my mouth in almost every seminar or key-note that I present. Sometimes I follow it up with the ironic observation that there is, apparently, one exception to that rule – and that is the profession of sales, where we don’t expect anyone to improve.

That is, of course, nonsense. The truth is that better sales people produce better results. The best sales people produce the best results. And better sales people continually imbed best practices into their habits. That’s how they become better. They practice.

I just got off the phone with one of my clients. We were discussing the miserable state of the market in his industry – down about 35 percent from two years ago. Yet, he observed that four of his 12 sales people where having record years.

“It’s easy to do well when the market is growing,” he observed. “Most sales people don’t know what they did to gain business when the market was growing, and they don’t know what to do when the market is shrinking. The good sales people, though, know how to sell. And that brings them results.”

Good sales people sell more than mediocre sales people. That is such a blatantly obvious truth, that I’m embarrassed to even mention it. And the way that sales people get to be good is just like every other professional becomes good – they practice!

Good doctors practice their craft and continually improve. Ditto for ministers, nurses, airline pilots, chefs and executives. The list goes on and on. No reasonably mature person thinks that after a year on the job they know it all. On the contrary, they expect to learn, grow and improve for the balance of their careers.

According to the Encarta Dictionary, the word practice means:

1. repetition in order to improve.

2. process of carrying out an idea.

3. work of a professional person.

4. usual pattern of action.

All of these accurately describe the behavior that separates the good sales person from the mediocre. Here’s how:

1. repetition in order to improve.

A good sales person studies the best practices of his profession, and repeats them in order to improve. This expresses itself in things like learning to ask a series of good questions. You work at it, repeat it and repeat it until it becomes a habit, and you have improved. Or, you practice a presentation for a key product or service. You repeat it and repeat it until you are confident and competent in it. That’s practice.

Golfer Practicing His Drive by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

It’s just like golf, tennis or any area of human endeavor. If you are going to become good at it, you must practice.

2. process of carrying out an idea.

The good sales person is continually on the lookout for good ideas. He collects them, sorts through them, prioritizes them and then implements them. For example, he may come across the idea of prioritizing his accounts based on the potential for business in those accounts. That’s a different idea than the typical sorting by the amount of business they did in the past. The good sales person takes that idea, works it out, applies it to his territory, and then focuses on the high potential accounts. As a result, his production improves, and he becomes more effective. Then he looks for the next good idea. That’s practice.

This article is available in an expanded version. Click here to review it:

3. work of a professional person.

The best sales people view their work as a profession. They understand that sales is a challenging, demanding job that is critical for the success of every business. They also understand that it typically takes years to become adept at it, and that it is so sophisticated and challenging that they must learn and improve forever. They also understand that their work is crucial for the success of their employer and that at least four or five families are employed as a result of every sales person’s efforts. That’s a profession. And those who are a part of a profession practice it.

4. usual pattern of action.

Sales is an action-based profession. In other words, it is our actions that cause reactions in the customer. They don’t send us a purchase order, and then we go see them. We see them first, and it is what we do that causes them to react. If we act effectively, we gain the business. If we don’t act effectively, we don’t gain the business.

Our success is less about the product and service and company that we represent and more about the actions that we take. And a pattern of action is a sequence of actions that are repeated. That’s it. Good sales people understand, over time, the most effective actions they can take, they put them together into patterns and repeat them until they cause more effective customer reactions.

Back to my example of asking a series of good questions. When a sales person has turned that action into a pattern, and by repetition, turned the pattern into a habit, and then by discipline and thoughtfulness continually exercises that habit, that sales person has become an excellent sales person. It’s what you do that counts. And, good sales people practice doing the right things until they get it right. It’s the practice that does it.

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve 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 Kahle Way® Sales Systems, 800-331-1287, or dave@davekahle.com.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Q&A – Should I keep calling?

Posted by Commence on March 26, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Call Center Woman by Michal Marcol at FreeDigitalPhotos.netQ. My boss recently decided that we must call prospects once every hour, every day, until we get a yes or no, regardless of what they say, or if it’s voicemail. What’s your opinion of this?

A. I really think there are two questions here. The first has to do with this practice – Is it a good idea to do this? The second is more personal and implied – What should you do?

Let’s deal with each of them separately.

Is it a good idea to call prospects every hour, every day, in order to get a definite yes or no?

I don’t think so, with some exceptions. If you are in the business of hard-selling to customers on a one-time only basis then there may be some value in it. If you are selling burial plots for example, your customer is going to buy it or not, and probably not come back for additional units.

In that case, the damage that you do to your reputation and the relationship with the customer may be an acceptable price to pay for those few customers who say yes just to get you off their back.

If, however, you expect to build a relationship with these customers such that you hope that they’ll buy again in the future, then I’d advise against it. It sends the message that you are so focused on your agenda – selling something – that you totally disregard the customer’s agenda, his decision-making process, his schedule, and his desire to work with a professional vendor. It makes you look desperate, which is never a good thing if you are going to engender a relationship that produces more business down the line.

Imagine how you will look if your customer had an afternoon meeting, and then spent the next day with one of his clients. He gets back to the office, listens to his voice mail, and discovers 12 messages from you. If it were me, that would be enough to decide never to do business with you again, and to regret ever giving you my phone number. I’d be thinking something like this: “What was I thinking when I talked with these people?”

Question two: What should you do?

Let’s build on this premise: Sales people are employees and they should be good employees, willing and able to following their employers’ directions. If you accept that, and I do, then it severely limits your options.

You don’t have the option, for example, to just disregard the direction. Nor do you have the option to nod yes, giving verbal ascent, and then not follow on what you said you would do.

This article is available in an expanded version. Click here to review it.

I can think of three viable options.

1. Suck it up, make the calls, suffer the irate responses, and let your boss know what kind of results you are getting from this effort. Consider it a character-building process.

2. Put together a coherent, persuasive case as to why this practice is a bad idea and try to sell your boss on changing his direction to you.

3. Take a couple of personal days off. Hope that while you are gone the other sales people will get beaten to a pulp by irate customers, and that your boss will relent in just a couple of days. At that point, you can resume your job without having to bear the brunt of the customer’s rage and your boss’ frustration.

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 Kahle Way® Sales Systems, 800-331-1287, or info@davekahle.com.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol /FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Best Practice: The science of making good first impressions

Posted by Commence on March 17, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

A best practice for salespeople by Dave Kahle.

Business People Shaking Hands by Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.netIn a recent seminar, one of the sales people asked if I thought that creating relationships with people wasn’t just a natural ability. You either had it, or you didn’t.

I replied that building relationships with prospects and customers was a competency, just like planning and preparing, asking questions, making a presentation, etc. While it helps if you have some natural ability to start with, there are practices that are proven to promote rapport and relationship, and that the dedicated sales person learns these practices and develops them into habits. Anyone can learn to do a better job of building positive business relationships.

That is particularly true in one aspect of building relationships – creating a positive first impression. On many of these issues, there has evolved an understanding of a set of practices that are proven to produce certain results. Not only do we have the wisdom of all those who have gone before us, but we increasingly have research to support some of our observations.

I just read some research that looked at the behaviors of a sales person that, from the customer’s point of view, evoked a feeling of trust in them in their first impression. What were they?

1. The sales person’s appearance.

Your appearance registers first with the prospect. Look professional. Look competent. Look well-groomed. Look successful. Look confident.

2. Smile.

Some of this is not rocket science. Nothing takes the place of the impact that a warm and genuine smile has on the customer. Your mother was right.

3. The pace of your conversation.

Speak quickly, and the customer doesn’t trust you. Speak slowly and articulately, and the pace of your conversation evokes feelings of trust. Have you heard the expression “fast talking sales person?”

It’s not the purpose of this article to list all the proven practices for making a positive first impression. It is, however, the purpose to make the point that there are proven practices that anyone can learn and master. Anyone can learn to use those practices and become adept at creating positive first impressions.

That’s why the best excel at this. They understand the science of making good first impressions, and use specific techniques to get the relationship off to a good start.

To learn more about this best practice:

* Visit Pod#2: Building Positive Business Relationships in The Sales Resource Center ®.

* read How to Excel At Distributor Sales, Chapters 6 & 7.

* read First Steps to Success In Outside Sales, Chapter 6.

* read Take Your Sales Performance Up a Notch, Chapter 6.

* read some of the articles at http://www.davekahle.com/article.html

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

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales People: Position Yourselves with Power

Posted by Commence on March 10, 2014 under Sales Training | Read the First Comment

By Dave Kahle

His eyes were narrow and bloodshot from staying out late and partying too heavily the previous night. A two-day old stubble framed his face. He was wearing a dark colored tee-shirt, which he hadn’t tucked in, a pair of jeans, and scuffed loafers which had probably never seen shoe polish. It was the second day of my Sales Academy seminar, and this participant in the program was complaining to the group that his customers were only interested in low price.

I Had A Major Business Loss by stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I didn’t say this, because I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of the group, but I thought it nonetheless: “Do you think your appearance and demeanor have anything to do with your customers’ reaction? Do you think that you may give them the idea that you are the lowest rung on the pricing scale? Is it possible that you have inadvertently positioned yourself as the Wal-Mart of the industry?”

I remember, as a child, having a sales person call on my family. He had an appointment to discuss a correspondence course for one of us. He drove a big Lincoln, dressed richly, spoke articulately, and carried himself with confidence. It wasn’t a coincidence that we bought his program without quibbling about the price.

These two scenarios illustrate a powerful and frequently overlooked best practice in the world of sales: Whether you intend to or not, you always create a position in the minds of your customers, and that position influences the customer’s attitudes toward you as well as the buying decisions that follow. In other words, if you look like you’re the low price, your customers will expect you to be the low price.

It follows, then, that if we are going to be an effective, professional sales person, we ought to give thoughtful consideration to how we position ourselves in the minds of our customers.

Let’s begin by understanding the idea of positioning a little deeper. Positioning has long been a term bandied about by advertising mavens and marketing gurus. They define it as the place that your brand or product has carved out in the mind of the customer. It’s the pictures that enter the customers’ mind when they think of your product, the feelings that your product evokes, the attitudes they associate with you, and the thoughts they have of you.

Chances are, for example, the words “Volkswagen Beetle” evoke a set of responses from you that are different than “Chevrolet Corvette.” You expect a certain degree of quality, price and service when you enter a Wal-Mart that is not the same as your expectations upon stepping inside a Saks Fifth Avenue store.

Billions of dollars are spent every year on carefully crafted impressions by businesses anxious to carve out a valuable position in the minds of their customers.

Alas, if only the same thing could be said of many sales people.

Just like the carefully designed impressions by advertising mediums inexorably chisel a spot into our psyches, so do the repeated visits by a sales person embed a set of expectations, pictures and emotions into the minds of our customers. The position you, as a sales person, occupy is a complex intertwining of the perception of your company, your solutions, and yourself. The most effective sales people and sales organizations understand that, and consciously work to create a positive position in the minds of their customers.

Creating your position

Let’s begin at the end. A good starting point is to think deeply and with some detail about what sort of position you want to create. What, exactly, do you want your customers to think of you? Let me suggest two possibilities: the minimum acceptable position, and the ideal position.

At a minimum, I believe your customer should view you as a competent, trustworthy person who brings value to the customer. They believe that you generally know your products and their strengths and weaknesses, that you generally know the customer’s issues, and that you can be reliably counted on to do what you say you will do. That’s the least acceptable position to which you should work towards. If your customers don’t think of you at least in this way, you probably should not be in sales.

At the other end of the spectrum is the ideal position. This builds on the minimum, but adds a specific understanding on the part of the customer of your unique combination of strengths and attributes. It evolves as you have history with the customer until you occupy a position that is totally and uniquely yours and that carries with it the expectation that your strengths in some specific and unique way add value to the time the customer spends with you. The ultimate test of the power of your position is the customer’s willingness to see you and the resulting preference for doing business with you.

Here’s an illustration. If you were shopping for an automobile, a low-mileage late model Taurus would probably provide you with competent, reliable transportation. So, when you think of that specific automobile, it would evoke a set of ideas in your mind all revolving around competent and reliable transportation. Now, think of a brand new Lamborghini and you would understand it to be transportation, but with a unique flair – something above and beyond just reliable transportation. That flair would be a result of the unique strengths of that particular automobile conveyed in a graphic way to your mind.

Woman Using Laptop And Mobile Phone by Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So it is with sales people. You want to position yourself in your customer’s mind the equivalent of the Taurus. But if you really want to carve out a unique, memorable position in your customer’s mind, you’d want them to think of you as a Lamborghini.

This article is available in an expanded version, including four steps to position yourself with power, here.

The question then is, how do you want your customers to think of you? Once you articulate a specific picture, you can then start to build that position.

Your position in the minds of the customer is a powerful and subtle component of an effective sales person’s approach. Consistently working at building a positive position will pay dividends for years.

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 Kahle Way® Sales Systems, 800-331-1287, or info@davekahle.com.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image “I Had A Major Business Loss” courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Woman using laptop and mobile phone” courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Q&A #31 – Customer doing business with several vendors

Posted by Commence on February 25, 2014 under Sales Training | Read the First Comment

Q. What do we do when a customer wants to spread the business between several vendors, even though I know we can provide better service?

A. If you are looking for a short, easy solution, there isn’t any. The solution to this, like so many sales problems, is a matter of a long term, consistent approach on your part. There is probably nothing you can say or do, in the short term that would impact this.

Competition Strategy With Team

Clearly, spreading the business around between several vendors is the customer’s philosophical approach to purchasing. He/she probably has arrived at this approach through some combination of personal experience and/or executive direction.

Here’s a pretty effective rule for sales strategy: When your customer voices a firmly held position, do not attack that position. You’ll just harden their positions and make life difficult for yourself. Instead, go around that position.

In other words, retreat a bit, change the subject and look for an opportunity on the specific, rather than the general, level. Leave the philosophical approach unaddressed. Instead, show him why, in one specific opportunity after another, you are the best choice. Do that over and over again, and, hopefully, he’ll discover himself buying more from you than your competitors. He’ll never have to publicly change his position; he’ll just find himself acting differently.

That’s the most effective approach. But, that isn’t the only strategy. You may, for example, take a bit of a round-about approach to the issue. Realize that you have to influence the customer to change his opinion, to change his beliefs, and instead to believe that doing more of his purchasing from one vendor (you) is a better idea. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you were him, what would convince you to change your beliefs?

This article is available in an expanded and more detailed version. Click here.

Start by digging into the customer’s head. What is more important to him when it comes to making a decision: price, quality, service, ease of doing business, etc.?

Once you uncover your customer’s priorities, then you can work to fulfill his expectations in that regard. Over time, show him by your company’s performance and your attention, that your company gives him everything that he wants.

At some point, a number of years down the road, when you have been successful on the item by item basis, it may be helpful to have a discussion about doing more business with you.

This is one of the most difficult sales situations for the sales person, because the customer’s deeply held values prevent you, at least in the short term, from increasing the business. Before you decide to spend the time and effort to try to change the situation, make a cold-hearted, rational decision about the likelihood of you being successful in this account. It may be that your time is better spent in other accounts.

The decision as to which accounts to invest your time in is a critical part of every salesperson’s success. Learn a systematic way to make that decision in Chapter Six of Eleven Secrets of Time Management for Sales People. Learn more.

One of the greatest aspects of the sales profession is that there is always another challenge out there. You don’t sell them all. If you did, it would get boring, and the job would be done by someone with half of your ability. This is one of those challenges that may frustrate you for years. Take the long term approach, and determine to eventually succeed.

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 Kahle Way® Sales Systems, 800-331-1287, or info@davekahle.com.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Best Practice #16 – Has cultivated a unique personal presence

Posted by Commence on February 18, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

A best practice for salespeople by Dave Kahle.

Stand Out From The Crowd by Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is something about a superstar sales person. They radiate confidence and make an impression that you notice and remember.

That’s because they understand, and implement, this best practice. They intentionally and thoughtfully cultivate a unique personal presence. They understand that they will be more effective if their customers remember them positively, and so they work to stand out in the customer’s mind.

What makes this best practice so interesting is that it arises out of the unique combination of strengths and experiences of each individual sales person. It requires that each sales person look at himself/herself with an objective eye and to identify those portions of himself that can be accentuated to build a powerful personal presence.

For example, I inherited my mother’s DNA as it related to the color of my hair. It turned pure white a number of years ago. So, I decided to build on that, and wear it longer than may be fashionable. It’s OK, it is part of my personal image. Here’s another piece. Because I travel so much, I make packing a personal challenge. I can easily pack couple of week’s worth of clothes into a carry on. Wearing silk T-shirts instead of starched dress shirts and ties saves a lot of room in your suitcase. Since I discovered that a few years ago, I’ve gone to wearing nothing but them. Now, it’s part of my unique personal presence.

While this example speaks to your physical appearance, there are other elements to your unique personal presence. For example, some sales people make it a point to bring an article that may impact the customer to every sales call. Others always have a set of well thought-out questions to lead and direct the conversation. Those who have the gift of being able to regularly and predictably make people laugh have cultivated that skill.

That’s the kind of thing we’re talking about here. Using your unique combination of attributes and experiences to forge a personal presence that is positive and memorable – that makes you stand out in the customer’s mind.

That’s what the best do. That’s why it’s a practice of the best.

To learn more about of this best practice, review Pod #14: Differentiating Yourself from the Competition in The Sales Resource Center®.

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

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Performance Tips – Astute Planner

Posted by Commence on February 11, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

(Excerpted from Chapter Four from Take Your Sales Performance Up-a-Notch)

 By Dave Kahle

Here’s one of the foundational principles for sales success: You’ll always be more effective if you think about what you do before you do it.

Can you imagine a football team not creating a game plan or not practicing before the big game?  Can you imagine a musician not preparing a piece of music before the recital?  Can you imagine a politician not practicing the big speech?  Or a doctor not reviewing the x-rays and the procedure prior to a major surgery?  Or a lawyer barging into a case without having planned it?  The answer to all these questions is, “Of course not.”  In every event of any importance at all, professional, effective human beings plan and prepare beforehand.  It’s an essential step toward success.
Business Plan concept by bplanet / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The same is true for sales people.  If we think about what we do before we do it, providing we think about it in the right way, we’ll significantly improve our performance.  Unfortunately, many sales people are often guilty of the same mindset that provided this speaker an excuse for his lack of concern and preparation.  Our intuition and incredible spur-of-the-moment, ad-lib skills will get us by.  WRONG!

You have a great treasury of wisdom and insight that you’ve acquired through a rich set of life experiences.  Much of that wisdom and insight can be directly applied to your sales job, if you will only tap into it and use it.  Of course you’ll be able to tap into some of that accumulated expertise on the spur of the moment, but you’ll be far more effective if you take the time to tap into it before you get into the situation.

If you’re going to be effective with this hat, you’ll think about what you do before you do it – you’ll think about every telephone call, every sales call, every customer, every presentation, every interaction with your customers and prospects.  Yet it’s not enough to think about what you do before you do it, you must also think about things in the right way.

Good planning is a matter of asking yourself the right questions, and then answering them with detail and precision.

An amazing thing happens when you ask yourself questions – you think of the answers!  What sounds so elementary is really a powerful key to unlocking your success.  When you ask yourself a good question you stimulate your thinking.   For example, you could ask yourself, “What are the three most effective things I could do to improve my sales performance?”  That question would prompt you to analyze your performance, develop some possible changes in your behavior, and then select three that appear to be the highest priority.  That’s a very worthwhile set of thoughts.  And they were prompted by the question you asked yourself.

While this is just one example, the principle is incredibly powerful.  Learn to ask yourself good questions, and you’ll think more effectively.

It follows, then, that if you want to think well, you need to ask yourself the best questions.  For example, you could ask yourself the question, “What are all the things that the customer will not like about me in this upcoming sales call?”  Ask that question, and your mind will dredge up all the flaws and faults you’ve filed away in your memory.  That’s probably not the most effective way to prepare for a sales call.  After thinking about that question, you’re liable to be depressed and discouraged.  Rather, you could ask yourself the question, “What are two or three things I could find out about the customer that would uncover things we have in common?”  Think about the answer to that question, and your mind will dwell on your customer, not yourself, and focus on finding common ground in order to build a relationship.  Which of those two questions will be the better one for you to ask yourself prior to a sales call?

The answer is obvious.  But the point is this – if you’re going to adequately prepare and plan for your sales interchanges, you need to ask yourself the right questions.  When you ask yourself the right questions, you think in the most effective way.

In order to implement this principle, you’ll need to master two basic processes.  Each of these processes is really a series of questions, asked in a certain sequence.  Master these two processes, and you’ll master the first hat, Astute Planner.  You’ll gain a competency that will serve you well the rest of your working life.

The Processes

To implement this principle and acquire the power of the first hat, you’ll need to master two processes: The prioritization process, and the planning process.

The prioritization process is used to help you make good decisions about where to spend your time, about what to plan.  There is just not enough time in the day for you to plan everything.  So, you must first prioritize those things that are important enough to plan.  You then follow that up with the planning processes.  You’ll find that you use the two together.

Few sales people have been taught exactly how to plan for their sales success. We can help.  Review our selection of on-line courses dedicated to helping you plan more effectively.  Here.

Reach the expanded version of this article for an explanation of the prioritization process.

This article is available in an expanded version.  Click here.

The Planning Process

The planning process is a matter of asking a set of seven questions of yourself, asking them in the right sequence, and then answering them in writing.  The resulting written answers become your plan.  You can use this process to plan anything worth planning – your territory, your approach to key accounts, each sales call, your month, your week, etc.

Here is each step and the seven questions to ask.

Step One.  Start with a goal.  Ask, “What’s the objective?”

Always, the first step in the creation of a plan is the identification of the purpose of the plan.  If there is no purpose, why have a plan?  The purpose of the plan is your objective.  Regardless of what aspect of your business you’re working on – planning a sales call, developing a strategy for a key account, organizing your territory, creating a plan for a new product line – you must begin with an answer to this question.

In order to illustrate each of the steps of this process, we’ll identify a situation and then work through it step by step.  Let’s begin by setting a personal, financial goal.  While sales is a fulfilling, challenging career, most of us wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t get paid.  To some extent, our sales success is a means to an end, not an end in itself.  And that end is our financial rewards.  So, let’s focus on your personal financial goals.  Let’s say you’re going to select an objective with which to begin the planning process, and that objective is, “To make $75,000 in the next calendar year.”

Step Two.  Assess the situation.  Ask, “What’s the situation?”

This step requires you to describe, as accurately as possible, the current situation as it relates to the area about which you’re thinking.

Let’s consider our objective from above.  You’ve decided you want to make $75,000 next year.  So, you describe the salient aspects of your current financial situation like this:

You have a salary of $50,000.  You’re paid a commission of ten percent of all sales above your quota.  Last year you had a quota of $750,000 and just made it.  This year your quota is $850,000.  To achieve your goal, you’ll need to do considerably better than last year.

You’ve just described your situation.

Step Three.  Identify the obstacles.  Ask, “What will hinder me from achieving the goal?

Identifying obstacles is a powerful step in the planning process.  This step alone will give you incredible confidence and positive power to achieve your goal.  As always, you just think the question in as much detail and precision as possible.  The resulting answers to the question form the next step in the planning process.

In the example, let’s say that you have identified these obstacles:

  • Only three of your current accounts are growing.
  • Two new competitors are active in your territory.
  • There are a lot of changes going on in your market.

Step Four.  Identify your strengths and your resources.  Ask “What do I have available to me that I can use to accomplish my goal?”

Soberly consider your strengths and your resources.  What do you have on your side?  Do you have some personal skills that you can apply?  Has your company provided you some helpful tools, strategies, or competitive advantages?  Is there something working in your favor?

In our example, let’s say that you may have a hot new product line, a commitment on the part of your credit department to loosen the rules a bit and speed up the credit-approval process, and you have your boss’s verbal assurances that she’ll do everything in her power to help you penetrate those large accounts.

The quickest way to improved sales performance is to become more effective at planning and time management.  Dave’s classic book, Eleven Secrets of Time Management for Sales People, teaches you exactly how to master this incredible skill.

Step Five. Create an overall plan. Ask, “How am I going to accomplish my objective?”

          This is the heart of the process.  Now, you must consider the best way to reach your goal, taking into consideration the current state of affairs, the obstacles you must face, and your strengths and assets.

In our example, let’s say you write the following plan.

1.   Focus my time on high-potential accounts, expanding the business in “A” accounts by 50%.

a.   Get the boss to negotiate with the corporate office for some favorable terms and concessions.

b.   Push the new product line aggressively.

2.   Acquire five new accounts.

a.   Use the new product line as a door opener.

b.   Get the credit department to approve some of the formerly marginal customers who may be having a difficult time buying from my competitor.

Step Six. Identify the materials and tools you’ll need. Ask, “What will I need?”

In this step, identify all the tools and materials you’ll need.  In our example, for instance, you might say that you need:

1.  Some forms to help identify the highest potential accounts.

2.  A list of high-potential prospects.

3.  All the usual sales aids.

4.  A bunch of new credit apps

5.  Some literature and samples of the new line.

Step Seven.  Create a detailed action plan.  Ask “Specifically, what steps should I take?”

This requires you to think very specifically, and to create a to-do list that precisely identifies each of the steps you’ll need to follow, to put them in sequence, and to assign a deadline completion date to each.

In our example, we’ve arrived at a skeleton plan for the first half of our overall plan.  Although the final plan would be more detailed than this, the example below is designed to simply illustrate the process:

1.       Focus my time on high-potential accounts, expanding the business in “A” accounts by 50%

a.    Identify who those are.

1)  Collect some good information using an account profile form.  Jan.15

2)  Discuss the results with the boss.  Feb. 3. 

3)  Agree on the top 20%  Feb. 1

b. Get the boss to negotiate with corporate for some favorable terms and concessions.   Feb 15

c. Push the new product line aggressively.

1)  Make appointments to collect info in each of them.  Feb 15

2)  Have initial presentations made in each.   March 15

3)  Push forward on demonstrations /evaluations as appropriate.

When you’ve finished this simple seven-step planning process, you will have created the best plan you’re capable of developing.  You now have in place a specific strategy for accomplishing your goal, along with a checklist of tasks and dates by which to measure your progress.  You created that plan by following the seven-step planning process, asking yourself the questions and answering them in writing.  The planning process will work for any aspect of your job.  Discipline yourself to use this process, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master of this powerful skill.

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

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image courtesy of bplanet / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Q&A #30 – Getting an appointment

Posted by Commence on January 29, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

Q. Dave, I’ve tried for months to see a prospect account, but can’t get them to return my calls. When is it best to just give up?

A. There is a question we have all asked at one time or another. As usual, there is no simple answer. Let’s explore this.

First, let’s decide whether or not the potential of the account is worth some extraordinary measures and additional investment of your time. Is the potential dollar volume substantial? Is it just an ordinary account? Is it smaller than most?

If it is a small account, I’d say give up and move on right now. It probably is not worth your effort. If, however, the potential is substantial, then that impacts your strategy. So, determine that first.

Now, let’s assume that you have researched the account and decided that the potential is definitely worth some extraordinary efforts from you. Before you give up, try some of these proven tactics. Here are a series of possibilities. Use any or all that appeal to you.

1. Make the appointment.

On your next voice mail, say something like this: “I’ll be in your area next Thursday and would like to see you for about 15 minutes around 4 PM. Unless I hear otherwise, I’ll see you then.” I know that’s a little gutsy, but I have known sales people who claim it consistently works for them.

2. Examine your voice mail message and revise it to make it more appealing.

I just had a sales person tell me he says, “I’d like to talk to you about my company and my product.” That’s probably the worst voice mail message I have ever heard. To be effective, your voice mail should contain these elements:

a. a reference to other companies very similar to his (and maybe known by him) with which you have worked.

b. a couple points of pain (problems) that his company may have that you can help resolve.

c. a request for a specific period of time (15 minutes) to discuss it.

Need help with Prospecting? Dave’s new Ebook is available from Career Press. Only $2.99. Learn more here.

3. Think about using a “pre-call touch” to condition him to accept your call.

This is a delivery that you make to the prospect that gets through to him, makes a positive impression, and increases the likelihood that he will return your call. I just received a good example. The Fed Ex guy came directly into my office a couple of weeks ago, put a box on my desk and asked me to sign for it. I did. Then, I did what everyone else would do with a Fed Ex package – I opened it. Inside was a hand-written invitation to attend a Webinar, with a bottle of Coke, and a package of micro-wave popcorn. The invitation indicated that my company met their profile for the kind of business they could help the most, and that they would like me to relax, enjoy the coke and popcorn, and watch the Webinar.

Pretty well done. Got through to me, showed me that they had researched my business, invested in me, and got my attention. As it turned out, I had a prior commitment, otherwise, I would have taken them up on their offer.

That’s a good example of a “pre-call touch.” You can do something similar. Spend some time thinking about it. Ask yourself, “What can I have delivered that will get through to the individual, make a positive impression, and condition him to be more receptive to my call?”

4. Try to have someone introduce you.

Scan your customer base. Is there anyone who knows this person? Ask your good customers. If you find one, then plead your case to that customer, and humbly ask for his/her help. Would he call the prospect/write a note/send an e-mail recommending you to the prospect? If so, follow up with an immediate phone call or two, and see if that doesn’t break the ice.

5. Try to meet them outside of the office.

If there is a trade show, or local meeting of an affiliation group of some kind (chamber of commerce, trade association), show up there, and see if the person you want to meet is in attendance. If so, introduce yourself.

Now, if all of these things still don’t work, then back off for a while, give it a few months, and start all over again. You can be sure of this: Somewhere, sometime, something will change. Your job is to be there when it does.

Good luck.

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 Kahle Way® Sales Systems, 800-331-1287, or info@davekahle.com.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Best Practice #10 – Makes good use of tools provided by the company

Posted by Commence on January 17, 2014 under Sales Training | Be the First to Comment

A best practice for salespeople by Dave Kahle.

I just rode with two sales people for one of my clients. One of them went off with only the address of the company in his head. He took nothing into the sales call, and took no notes afterward. The other had looked up each call in the company’s CRM system, and had printed the records to take with him. He approached each sales call with a folder in which he had the printed record and some literature. Immediately after the sales call, he made notes on the document, and would enter it into the computer when he was finished for the day.

Guess which one produces more? You know, of course, that the second sales person produces about twice as much as the first.

I am absolutely befuddled by some sales people. Here is a simple, easy-to-implement best practice. Why aren’t you doing it?

It is as if some sales people strive to be unorganized, slovenly and mediocre. If your company has created tools for you to use, USE THEM!!

The best sales people have briefcases jammed full of the literature and samples that the company has created. Mediocre sales people often go into a sales call with nothing in their hands, or briefcases loaded with next to nothing. In addition to sales literature, “tools” include presentations, forms, and electronic tools like software and computers of every variety.

Superstars view all of this as effective complements to their skills. Their company literature presents their case in a written or electronic format that can complement their verbal presentation. Video and PowerPoint™ presentations portray the product/service in a more compelling way than the sales person can do alone. Forms help organize thoughts and require detailed thinking. Electronic tools like CRM systems, smart phones and tablets help organize the sales call, and provide a way to automate routine tasks.

Mediocre sales people see all these things as encumbrances: More “busy work,” or someone telling them how to do their job, or, worse yet, potential accountability. The real issue underneath these excuses is their fear of, and inability to, change in positive ways and become more effective at their jobs. It is just easier to complain and find fault with the latest software tool that the company wants you to use, than it is to actually take the time to learn it.

Taking the time to learn the new thing, to make use of the latest tool, implies that you may not have been doing this the best way possible in the past. That implies that you can, and should, improve. It’s that implication that motivates most mediocre sales people to reject the company-provided tools. To accept them is to give tacit acceptance to the idea that they can and should improve. They would rather hide under the radar screen of accountability.

That’s why making good use of the company-provided sales tools is a best practice of the best sales people.

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

For Sales Managers…

Use this rating scale to assess the extent to which each of your sales people evidence this best practice.

Use this rating scale to assess the extent to which each of your sales people evidence this best practice.

To help your sales people implement this practice…

a. Make an inventory of all the literature, forms, electronics, software, etc. that your company has available as tools for the sales people.

b. At the next sales meeting, review each tool, indicate how it should be used, and the impact it can have.

c. Require the sales staff to begin using them.

d. As you ride with them, audit the contents of their briefcases and files to determine the extent to which they are using the company’s tools.

e. Recommend specific improvements for those who need them.

f. On the next visit, inspect the degree to which they made the improvements you indicated.

 

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

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved