Mistakes Salespeople Make — Part III

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Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of salespeople. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that salespeople make — keep surfacing. Here’s numbers four and five, not necessarily in order of priority. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them.

#4 Mistake: Poor Questioning

This is a variation of the third mistake, contentment with the superficial. I am absolutely astonished at the lack of thoughtfulness that I often see on the part of salespeople. Some use questions like sledgehammers, splintering the relationship and bruising the sensibility of … Read the rest

Mistakes Salespeople Make — Part II

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Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of salespeople. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that salespeople make — keep surfacing. Here’s numbers two and three, not necessarily in order of priority. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them.

#2 Mistake: Lack of Planning

The typical field salesperson has, as a necessary and integral part of his or her personality, an inclination toward action. We like to be busy — driving here and there, talking on our cell phones, putting deals together, solving customers’ problems — … Read the rest

#1 Mistake Salespeople Make — Strategy Instead of Tactics

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Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of salespeople. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that salespeople make — keep surfacing. Here’s number one of my top five, not necessarily in order of priority. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of it.

Overconcern With Strategy Instead of Tactics

Gather a group of salespeople together around a coffee maker and listen to the conversation. After the obligatory complaints about all types of things, the conversation inevitably drifts to questions of strategy.

How do I accomplish this in that … Read the rest

Is “On-the-Job” Training the Best Way to Develop Salespeople?

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In our surveys, CEOs indicate “on-the‑job” training as the predominant method of developing salespeople. If everyone is doing it, it must be OK, right?

I don’t think so. See if this sounds familiar. You are ready to expand your sales force, so you hire a nice guy who has some experience in the industry. You start him with a few days in the warehouse, have him sit in customer service for a week, and meet with whichever manufacturers’ rep happens to stroll in. You send him out with a senior salesperson for a week or so. Then, he’s deemed ready … Read the rest

The Ultimate Sales Improvement Skill

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These are incredibly difficult times for salespeople. Competition in almost every industry continues to intensify. At the same time, customers seem to expect more and more service and demand lower margins. Most markets are rapidly changing, and it’s hard to keep up with the changes in technology and products. Covid has produced an unprecedented change in just the last 12 months.

Rapid Change

As a consultant, I work with executives and salespeople in a variety of industries. And almost invariably, during my first interview with a new client, I hear words something like this, “You need to understand that things … Read the rest

Sales Are Down: Do Nothing or Change?

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Q. Every one of my customers is buying less this year than last year. My sales are down. What can I do?

A. You really have a choice here. The first, which, unfortunately, is the solution that most companies and salespeople currently choose is this: Do nothing differently, complain a lot, and hope that things change. Maybe the government will fix everything.

The second, which is my recommendation, is this: Move outside of your comfort zones, become a whole lot more strategic, thoughtful, and better at what you do, and do some things differently.

Analysis and Data Collection

Begin by … Read the rest

Beliefs That Hinder Salespeople — I Must Believe in a Product in Order to Sell It

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As a sales trainer, I often confront a difficult obstacle that stands in the way of developing more effective salespeople.

Too often salespeople are hindered by limiting beliefs that prevent them from implementing the best practices, principles and processes that can multiply their results. They remain bound by internal barriers of their own conception.

Here’s an example. A customer service representative wants to move to outside sales. He was good at his job of reacting to whomever was on the other end of the phone line and responding effectively to the requests of all the customers. As a result, he … Read the rest

Customer Communication — Everything Through Me

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As a veteran sales trainer, I’ve often wrestled with this question: Why is it that some salespeople do so much better in the long run than others of equal skill and competency?

I’ve identified a number of reasons for that. Probably the most powerful and pervasive reason has to do with their unique set of beliefs. I’m not talking about political or religious beliefs here; I’m referring to a more commonplace set of beliefs that rule their jobs and their vision of themselves on the job.

Beliefs That Hinder

They entertain ideas and beliefs that seem comfortable and right to … Read the rest

B2B Sales Myths: Great Relationships

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The world is full of B2B salespeople who claim, quite proudly, to have great relationships with their customers. If that were true, it really would be great.

But unfortunately, “great relationships” is too often a veil that salespeople hide behind to keep from exposing the weakness in their sales skills.

Here’s How It Works

An experienced B2B salesperson believes that he or she has developed great relationships with customers. Therefore, he spends his time visiting these great customers and focusing on maintaining the relationship. He can’t really dig deeper into the motivations and needs of the customer because he’s never … Read the rest

Ten Commandments of an Ethical Salesperson

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Here are 10 commandments that sales professionals should follow to ensure they follow ethical sales practices.

1. Ethical salespeople don’t intentionally misrepresent anything.

Never, never, never lie to a customer. About anything. Ever. Period.

2. Fix any important misunderstandings.

It’s possible that your customer will form incorrect ideas about some of the products you represent or the services that come with them. It’s also possible that they will misunderstand things about your competitors, and about the needs and statements of other people who work in their organizations.

It’s very tempting when these misunderstandings work in your favor to ignore them. … Read the rest

Selling Styles: “I Have My Own Style of Selling”

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On a fairly regular basis, I run into a belief that limits a salesperson’s behavior. These often sound reasonable and are embraced without question. Looking a bit closer at them, however, uncovers how they limit a salesperson’s performance.

One of the most common of these negative and limiting beliefs is this: I have my own style of selling. This is one of the most pernicious of them all because it excuses the salesperson from any responsibility to improve. More salespeople have remained plateaued far below their potential because of this limiting belief than any other.

Let me explain.

Like so … Read the rest

Time and Territory Management — The Quickest Way to Impact Sales Performance

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Over the more than 30 years that I have been working with B2B sales forces, I’m often asked this question: “If you could improve a salesperson in just one thing that would bring the quickest and biggest change, what would it be?”

My answer: Time and territory management. Here’s why.

Time and Territory Management Is Easily and Quickly Implemented

Every other sales competency takes time and practice before it begins to show up in the salesperson’s behavior and therefore in the customers’ actions. Take a fundamental sales competency like asking better sales questions. I can train a salesperson to ask … Read the rest

Ways to Influence a Dealer or Distributor Sales Force

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Question: Is there a proactive way to implement a program from manufacturers to encourage distributors to have their sales force sell our product instead of another? My intention is to have the salesperson give quotes for our product more frequently.

And how can we appeal to retail users more? Especially ones that are taking bids from competitors that are not represented by our distributor?

Historically, we’ve shown favor to our distributors and given them discounts. Unfortunately, the benefits seem to end up in their gross profits. They have not been passed along to retail. It then appears that we are … Read the rest

An Introduction to Business Systems

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At its most fundamental level, business is always and only about three things: money, people and systems.

There is a huge body of content revolving around money in business. Lots of books have been written and consultants’ careers advanced in the pursuit of wiser use of money. A whole population of professionals — bookkeepers, accountants and CPAs — have come into practice to deal effectively with money.

When it comes to people as an element in business, there is an equally impressive body of knowledge and infrastructure. Lots of books have been written, YouTube videos created, seminars developed, and consultants’ … Read the rest

Business Strategies: Utilizing the Gift of Slow Times

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Among recommendations I would make for effectively handling changes wrought by the pandemic is to instill a set of practices that would keep you, personally, at the top of your game.

With that in place, the next question has to do with your broader responsibilities. What about your business or organization? Are there some things you should be doing to prepare your business for life on the other side of social distancing?

A Digression

We have been here before. As a nation, as individuals, and every level of society in between, this level of confusion and anxiety is not new. … Read the rest

Steps to Turn Failure Into Growth

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How can failure be good?

Remember John DeLorean? He was the superstar General Motors executive who started the DeLorean Motor Company. When the company began to falter, he was arrested and charged with complicity in a drug deal that some speculated was an attempt to raise money to prop up the company.

All of this was big news in Detroit, where I was living at the time. One particularly insightful article in the Detroit News theorized that he had been supremely successful his whole life, and thus never learned to deal with failure. His development was stunted by a lack … Read the rest

The Other Stuff Expansion

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I just had a conversation with a sales manager at my last seminar. The gist of it is this: he has so many competing responsibilities, it is difficult to spend time with his sales team. Sound familiar? It should.

I have heard that idea expressed countless times by executives, sales managers and salespeople. In one way or another, sales professionals find themselves increasingly occupied by trivial tasks at the expense of the important ones. Effective sales time management is the greatest challenge facing sales professionals in this turbulent economy.

Other Stuff?

It is an epidemic that is raging unabated in … Read the rest

Fundamentals to Key Account Selling

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Almost every professional B2B salesperson comes to grips with one of the challenges of penetrating key accounts. Key accounts are different than the ordinary, and require some more sophisticated skills and strategies. Here are a few fundamentals for effectively penetrating key accounts.

Recognize That Key Accounts Are Different

First of all, they are larger, but that’s only the beginning. Their decision-making processes will be much more complex, and in some cases, highly structured. A product that may, in a smaller account, only need one person’s approval to purchase can require dozens of people to sign off on it in a … Read the rest

Sales Managers’ Common Mistake #3: Lack of Training and Development

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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 salespeople and their customers are frequently filtered through the perspective of a 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 salespeople with their management.

It’s an incredibly important and difficult job. Unfortunately, it is often the most … Read the rest

Sales Managers’ Common Mistake #2: Lack of Direction

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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 salespeople and their customers are frequently filtered through the perspective of a 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 salespeople with their management.

It’s an incredibly important and difficult job. Unfortunately, it is often the most … Read the rest

Sales Managers’ Common Mistakes

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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 salespeople and their customers are frequently filtered through the perspective of a 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 salespeople with their management.

It’s an incredibly important and difficult job. Unfortunately, it is often the most … Read the rest

Taking Your Sales Performance Up a Notch

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

That’s a sobering truth that we don’t like to face. Yet, just a little bit of reflection will convince us of the likelihood of … Read the rest

Beliefs That Limit a Salesperson’s Performance

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“Good salespeople are problem solvers.” Or, so the illusion goes.

That belief ranks high on my all-time list of the beliefs that most limit a salesperson’s performance. This one is especially insidious because it is so commonly held, without reservation, by such a large percentage of sales managers and salespeople. And it sounds so reasonable.

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

The problem with this self-limiting belief, as in many … Read the rest

Is My Pay Plan Fair?

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Question:

I sell for a living. In our pay plan, we compete with our revenue numbers from the previous year, and approximately six percent is added to the previous year’s revenue number. That becomes your goal for that particular month. We get a salary plus commission and have a stair-step commission that starts at 80 percent of our goal. The problem is there is no motivation between the salespeople due to the fact that we are competing with numbers from the year before. When we have talked to management about it, they say that if we changed the pay plan, … Read the rest

Salespeople: How to Manage Your Emotions

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I’ve been pondering an e-mail I recently received. In it, the young salesperson described his most pressing challenge: The sales roller coaster. When things go well, he’s up, emotionally; and when things don’t go well, he’s down. The swings from up to down were wearing on him. His real question is one every salesperson must confront and successfully resolve: How do I manage myself to keep my emotions up and my energy high?

I’ve often thought that this is one of those fundamental challenges for a salesperson. It’s one thing to focus on closing the sale and presenting to a … Read the rest

Managing Information

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“I’m spending more and more time managing information. It’s squeezing out my selling time.”

Welcome to the information age. You are not unique. This problem of information inundation is a relatively new but almost universal threat to your livelihood. Four or five years ago, salespeople were not too concerned with it. Today, dealing with information is so critical that it is an important part of almost every seminar I present.

Here’s the issue. Technological advances in recent years have multiplied the amount of information that you must handle. The quantity of information landing on your lap has increased from sources … Read the rest

Penetrating the Impenetrable Account

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How do I sell to an account that is firmly in the hands of a competitor?

In one form or another, I hear that question at almost every sales seminar I teach. It’s a great question, reflecting one of the most perplexing and frustrating situations every salesperson faces. If you haven’t yet been faced with this problem, be patient, you will soon be.

Here’s how this usually develops: You’ve called on a high-potential account a number of times but can’t seem to get anywhere. The more time you spend in the account, the more apparent it is that one or … Read the rest

The Practice of Sales

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“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 or her routine with discipline.”

That statement comes out of my mouth in almost every seminar or keynote 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 salespeople produce better results. The best salespeople produce the best … Read the rest

The Question Is the Key

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Focus, focus, focus. That’s the phrase that I find myself repeating constantly in every sales seminar that I present. I believe focus is the greatest challenge for salespeople today, and the greatest single solution to their challenges. There are so many demands on our time, so many tasks calling for our attention, and so many opportunities available to us that we can easily become scattered and dissipated.

And in my 30 plus years of experience in the sales profession, I have identified several places where focus will gain you the greatest results. At the top of the list is focusing … Read the rest

Teaching Your Organization to Learn

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Are things changing rapidly in your business?

Silly question, isn’t it? Of course they are changing. Rapid change is the distinguishing characteristic of the millennium.

Take that rapid change and add to it growing competition, increasing complexity, consolidations at every level, and increasing demands from customers and you have the recipe for a business climate that will turn anyone’s hair gray.

This rapid change whirling around every company puts great pressure on organizations to change themselves. Not only must the organization as a whole change, but the individuals within each organization must themselves change, learn and grow more rapidly than … Read the rest