Sales Management: Week 16 – 21 Disciplines

Disciplines: 16 of 21 – Rules rule.

Nothing helps keep the peace better in a sales team than sales rules.  These are sales rules that are followed regardless of the outcome.  I don’t care if your rule states that if you don’t call a customer in 30 days you lose it and that account belongs to your top rep.  Follow the rules for everyone.  That’s what fair.  Aside from keeping the peace, and after everyone loses an account they thought was theirs, they will stay on top of the business without any coaching from you.  Plus, when you do stick to the letter of the law, your sales reps will always consider you to be fair and you will have their respect.

It only takes one time.  If you show any favoritism or bias toward one rep over another just once, as it relates to sales rules, you will probably never get that part of trust back from all your sales reps.  Trust, just as with a customer, is earned over time but can be lost in an instant.  If your sales reps believe you live by the rules you put in place, they will focus more on their job of selling rather than worrying about being cheated.

Here’s a tip:  I usually suggest praising in public and punishing in private.  This is an exception.  Enforce or interpret the rules in front of the whole team.  Let everyone know your group sells and lives by the rules.

part-time sales management

Part-Time Sales Management

 

Sales Management: Week 15 – 21 Disciplines

Disciplines: 15 of 21 – Teach them to draw…the lines.

Business is a two-way street.  You obviously want to sell as much of your product as possible.  When your customer purchases your product they are, hopefully, purchasing it to fill a need within their company.  At that point they probably need you as much as you need them.  Everybody wins.  That does not, however stop some customers from bullying and trying to take advantage of the situation; especially, with junior sales people.

Many customers will ask for as much as they can get.  They want better pricing, more time to evaluate your product, better terms.  The list goes on.  Your reps need to be coached where to “draw the line.”  Several considerations can go into customer concessions and ultimately you will settle on reasonable terms.  However, your reps need to know when they are being taken advantage of and when they need to say “no.”  And you need to stand behind them.  If your reps believe they will “for sure lose the deal” if they don’t acquiesce, engage them in a one-on-one coaching session on confidence.

When you feel your sales reps are being taken advantage of, or you cannot get the prospect communicate or cooperate, it’s time to draw that line.  Many times either I or my sales reps, when we reach that line have told the prospect, “I just don’t think we are the right company for you.”  A lot of people will see this sentence a tactic or trick (or maybe stupid).  It is not.  If you reach your line in the sand, say it and mean it.  It will get to the heart of the matter very quickly.  Like any good negotiation, you need to be able to walk away.  But if I had a count of every time I used this approach in my career, I would say the deal got worked out at least 75% of the time.  Don’t forget, they need you too.  This will uncover how much.

part-time sales management

Part-Time Sales Management

 

Sales Management: Week 14 – 21 Disciplines

Disciplines: 14 of 21 – Make them see themselves as equals.

My first sales job out of college was an IT recruiter.  I was very envious of the people I was recruiting because they were getting good job offers and being courted every day by people like me.  I put them on an imaginary pedestal.  So, I actually left my recruiting job for a position (at half the pay) to be a programmer.  While the position ultimately gave me good background for my future B2B sales jobs and running my company, I realized there was nothing special about the people I was recruiting.  Indeed, when I learned about the pressures of their job (and the day in and day out mundane tasks), I realized sales would be a much better, and rewarding career for me.

Too many salespeople see themselves as less-than-equal compared to the decision maker to whom they are trying to sell.  It can be for any number of reasons, but that attitude needs to be eliminated.  Your sales reps need to convey to the buyer that they too are professionals and that their time is valuable.  This attitude will transmit confidence which will translate into buyers’ confidence toward your sales reps.

It starts with you.  Let your reps listen in on your calls to prospects and customers.  Let them see that a sales professional demands as much respect and courtesy as anyone else, regardless of whether or not the salesperson is trying to sell something.  If indeed they are a well-qualified prospect, then it is your sales rep that should a little put off from a “more important” person as you are there trying to help them in a deficient area within their company.

Getting this attitude under their belts will solve issues in other areas as well.  Gone will be the “am I bugging them?”, “they make a lot more money than me so who am I to tell them what to do?” attitude.  Your reps will start to approach your prospects with confidence that comes from understanding that business is a two-way street.  No one side can accomplish the task without the other.  One hand washes the other and together they get clean.

part-time sales management

Part-Time Sales Management

 

Sales Management: Week 13 – 21 Disciplines

Disciplines: 13 of 21 – Make sure they know your product cold.
(And how it warms up to the competition!)

Product and competitive knowledge just get you in the door.  If your salespeople cannot explain and demonstrate the benefits of your product and why it is superior to the competition, do not put them in front of a prospect.  This is not to say they have to be perfect right out of the gate.  Nobody is.  But they do need to be able to get through the fundamentals of a demo and completely deliver a benefit-oriented presentation.

Set up times for your sales reps to deliver the presentation to you and their peers.  I cannot think of a better time to use video. Having your reps watch themselves on video will uncover a lot things they are probably not aware of; nervous twitches, saying um a hundred times, etc.  It will also uncover how well they know your product.  Make sure to ask product feature questions and listen to make sure the reps to answer with a benefit-oriented reply.  For example; “Our product does 300 megaflops a second and the reason that’s good for you is…”

When it comes to the competition in the presentation, there are couple things to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure you know the benefits in your presentation are winners compared to the competition. You do not have to say, “… compared to XYZ company”.  If you are in a competitive sale, your prospect will have the list of features for your competitor.  Simply emphasize strongly your position in that area.  It is a subtle way to put yourself ahead of the competition.
  2. Do not directly bad mouth the competition. Even if they ask.  Go over why you are the best choice for a particular feature, and their company as a whole.  If your reps do back mouth the competition you may think it is effective, but your reps will come off as sleazy.

part-time sales management

Part-Time Sales Management

 

Sales Management: Week 12 – 21 Disciplines

Disciplines: 12 of 21 –Elevate reps to become a “Trusted Advisor.”

It takes a lot to earn the status of Trusted Advisor.  You have reached the pinnacle of the sales profession when your customer gives you this title.  It is a status you want all your sales reps working to achieve.  Because this is so crucial, please go back and read the lesson, Day 5 – The Trusted Advisor, and follow the advice given so your sales reps can earn that badge of honor.  Don’t get hung up in the term.  It’s the actions of how your customers treat your sales reps that really matters.

Your attitude toward helping your reps achieve this status should be so ingrained in their heads that when a customer situation comes up they should be thinking, I know what <your name> would want me to do.  I really don’t believe in nagging or babysitting sales reps.  It is a waste of everyone’s time.  However, the Trusted Advisor “concept” is one that needs to be repeated verbally and in writing, over and over again.

Work toward developing the attitude of, customers for life.  They won’t all be customers for life, but if you treat them that way, more of them will be helping you pay your bills year after year.  Once again, this has nothing to do with Trusted Advisor term.  Like everything else in sales, it has everything to do with your attitude and your focus.  Constant repetition and reinforcement will make this a habit.  And one you never want to break.

part-time sales management

Part-Time Sales Management

 

Sales Management: Week 11 – 21 Disciplines

Disciplines: 11 of 21 – Teach them to really listen.

 

Everybody talks about the importance of listening, but few people ever hear anything.  Most sales reps are so anxious to either get their pitch out or want to answer a question before it is finished being asked, that they never really “absorb” the question.  A good rule to follow is for them to wait three seconds before answering, even if they know the answer.  That at least gives the impression they’re listening.  And they actually may think of another, and maybe better, response during the pause!

Listening well is a skill that can be learned.  But for most salespeople, it is very difficult because they have developed a habit of talking and not listening.  Here’s an exercise you can try during one of your training sessions:

Have one of your reps try to sell your product to another rep.  They get one sentence to introduce themselves and the company.  The rest of the sale must be made with questions.  The questions need to be built upon the answers given by the rep playing the part of the prospect.  For it to work your “prospect” has to be interested in your product and not try to sabotage the exercise.  This practice will not only work to strengthen your sales reps’ listening skills, it will also sharpen their questioning skills.

Listening and questioning really go hand-in-hand.  How do you know what to ask if you haven’t heard what the other person is saying?

part-time sales management

Part-Time Sales Management

 

Sales Management: Week 10 – 21 Disciplines

Week  10 – 21 Disciplines

Learn, practice or drill a sales lesson every day.

 

You never see a major league baseball player skip batting practice on game day.  And many of those players make millions of dollars.  Professional golfers hit the practice range with a coach before the start of every tournament round.  Professionals know they can never stop practicing and honing their game.  Top sales professionals know this as well.  That’s why they constantly practice and refine their sales skills so they’re ready to help move any sale along at a moment’s notice.

We hold a sales training session every business day at our company.  We found that noon works best for us.  Lunch is allowed.  Usually no longer than 33 minutes. Monday through Thursday will typically be a lesson from this course and Friday will be something around product or industry training.  We also sign up for other sales trainer’s webinars on different topics.  Nobody knows everything.  Many times we will review and brainstorm a deal one of the sales reps is working on.  This is a really great practice to do for a few reasons:

  • Lots of input gets people thinking in different ways.
  • You can come up with new questions for the prospect.
  • Newer reps learn from the more experienced reps.
  • It can show where there are some areas of deficiency.

Another thing I found effective is having one of the senior reps deliver a sales training lesson on a topic with which they are familiar.  Not only will the lesson have credibility because it is coming from someone who was in their shoes, but it also reinforces the material and concepts for the presenter.

Emphasize to your reps that being a Professional Salesperson is a lifelong endeavor.  That to get to the top and stay is a continual practice.  A key to mastering any skill is to learn, practice and deliver every day.  Consistency is the cornerstone to building a winning sales team.

“Consistent practice brings mastery.” – George Leonard

part-time sales management

Part-Time Sales Management

 

Sales Management: Week 9 – 21 Disciplines

Week 9 – Poor sales forecasts make for a bad business climate.

Many reps will pad their sales forecast to make it look good to the boss. Obviously, this eventually fails.  On the other side of the coin, which is equally as bad, is the sales rep that will not put a prospect into their sales forecast because they don’t want to commit and then disappoint.  In their mind, if it is in the forecast then they are telling you the deal will happen.

Let your sales reps know it is called a forecast for a reason.  If everything in the forecast was guaranteed to close it would be called something other than a forecast.  It’s called a weather forecast because it’s the meteorologist’s best guess based on all the information they have from their scientific instruments.  It’s the same thing for your sales reps.  Let them know it is okay to make their best estimate of when, and for how much, the business in their pipeline will close based on what the prospect has committed to – the salespersons’ scientific instrument.  This is a key point. If you move to more of a buy cycle versus a sales cycle and base your forecast on actions and commitments the prospect has taken and made, then there is less room for your sales rep to put in an arbitrary number.

It’s really up to the sales manager to make sure the forecast is accurate and realistic; regardless if the news is good or not.  You need to take the time and go through each of your sales reps’ Top 10 list of prospects and/or forecast once per week and distill the real number.  A forecast should not be a surprise.

part-time sales management

Part-Time Sales Management

Sales Management: Week 8 – 21 Disciplines

Week 8 of 21 Disciplines – Focus on getting customers, not deals.

If you’re in a B2B business your growth will come from repeat business or recurring revenue from your existing customer base.  You can make questionable promises to close a single deal but that’s not how you build a business.  (Don’t forget, even if you don’t own the company or you are not the CEO, you need to approach the sales department like it is your business.)  Your sales reps should know in advance how satisfied your customers will be one month, or one year, after their first purchase.  They know this because they know what kind of company you are, how good your products and services are, and how good you are at standing behind everything you say and do.

Make sure your reps aren’t making promises your bank account or support team can’t keep.  It starts with you letting your reps know your company can’t realistically do some things just to get the deal, if you cannot.  And they need to know you are okay with that.  It may mean smaller short-term gains, but it translates into happier, longer-term customers and profits.

In my career I have had several long-term customers come back to me for additional purchases, because they knew what they would get:  The truth and an honest transaction.  Plus, they would often pay more because they Trusted me.  They learned from their first order, that if there was ever a problem with their product or service, or an opportunity for me to offer them a lower price or better terms, that I would work to get what I could for them.  It sometimes meant losing out on a particular deal because of budget constraints.  But I always know, with these particular customers, that if they have a need for something I can sell to them, and they have the money, they will make their purchase with me.   And that is exactly the kind of salesperson and sales team you want to build.

part-time sales management

Part-Time Sales Management

Sales Management: Week 7 – 21 Disciplines

Week 7 of 21 Disciplines –  The highest degree of integrity.

You cannot be one kind of person and another kind of salesperson.  As a Sales Manager, you cannot tolerate (or afford) to have unethical salespeople in your company.  One thing that should get a sales rep fired on the spot is lying to, and/or misleading a customer or prospect.  How your sales reps act with your clients is a reflection on you and your entire company.   This rule should be posted and communicated to every rep (and employee) starting on their first day of employment.

There are really (at least) two sides to Trust in, Like – Trust – Buy.  One side of Trust is your customers trusting you to help them get their orders processed, products installed, etc., in a timely, professional manner.  The other part of Trust is the belief of your customer that you are honest and always tell them the truth.  It’s that simple and straightforward.  As the Sales Manager, or anyone else, you have no control what comes out of someone else’s mouth.  What you do have control over are the consequences your sales reps will face for not telling the truth, stretching the truth, or withholding the truth.  Yes, there is also deceit when there is lying by omission; which is withholding information you know might have negative consequences for you or customer.  This is actually the more common form of sales lying.  Some areas you see this is where a prospect or customer:

  • Shipment gets delayed and is not told or given some other story.
  • Is not made aware of a price decrease that has been announced.
  • Is not told of new features or options in your product that would reduce their overall cost.

Like most business ethics, you need to take a step back and ask yourself, if you were on the other side of the table, would you want to know this information?

All the situations where your sales reps show a lack of integrity will reduce the Trust your prospect or customer has in you and your company.  When there is no Trust, there is usually no Buy.

part-time sales management

Part-Time Sales Management