Simple Sales Tracking Blog

What makes the best salespeople? aka the myth of the “gift of the gab” salesperson

It’s an age old adage that never seems to be shaken off. The idea of the ‘gift of the gab’ salesperson. It conjures up images of the sleazy car salesman with a polyester suit, and slick back hair who applies pressure and coercion in order to get his next commission cheque.

Fortunately for us in these days this is pretty much just a myth. The truth of the matter is that the dynamics of sales have changed greatly in the past 20 years with the advent of needs based selling. In his book “To Sell is Human”, Daniel Pink tells us that “the correlation between extroversion and sales performance, which is how many times you make the cash register ring, is almost zero”.

So, if sales is not just about being the big extroverted gift of the gab personality, what factors make the best salespeople in 2015?

– Adaptability

When you are meeting with a client, consider what type of personality they may have, are they extroverted and want to talk a lot or are they introverted and more interested in the finer points of what you have to offer. If you can adjust your personality style to the situation you will have a much better chance of closing the sale. In Pink’s book he notes that the average wage for an adaptable salesperson is $208 per hour – almost double that of the average introvert or extrovert personality.

– Always add value

Whether it is a client or a colleague, always aim to help. If you are constantly adding value to those around you, you will be more satisfied in your role for one, but you may find that it will come back to you in spades. Even if that buyer doesn’t say yes to you straight away, you have at least enlightened them to a problem they may be having and they were previously unaware of. Share a referral with a colleague or give them some timely advice and this will only be to your advantage.

– Have a process

Do you know why Toyota is the most successful car manufacturer in the world? Process. The Japanese have a very process driven culture and this is what allowed them to overcome Ford
and GM in the race to the top. It is the same in sales, when you have a process, or a blueprint to follow, you are taking out a percentage of the risk that comes from being unprepared for an
interview. What if you missed that crucial question that would have got you over the line? Have a process that works for you and stick to it.

– Sell yourself

And by that I don’t mean your physical body! Whatever you are selling, you must always sell yourself first. How many times have you heard of that great salesperson that works for an unreliable company and takes all their best clients with them when they leave? It has to be about selling yourself first, build that trust, then comes your product/service and finally price. People buy the value you deliver, the peace of mind they get from dealing with a reliable salesperson who will look after them through the whole process.

“You can have everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want”
Zig Ziglar

Article by Hayden Burgess – Sales Trainer – Sales Impact Group

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , ,

The Cost of Delaying Training

Many businesses delay sales training as other systems and budgeting demands take priority.

These delays come at a cost as sales are the only function in any business, with the exception of not for profit type businesses that bring in income.

You can have the best products in the world but unless somebody actually makes a sale – nobody in the business will be paid.

The majority, if not all, of the businesses that fail ultimately do so because of the lack of sales.

The lack of a sales process leads to salespeople missing many sales opportunities.

If we look at McDonalds they didn’t achieve consistency by waiting to hire the very best trained people. Rather they created a system through the use of checklists, processes and repetition and then trained people to use it. This approach applies to any business that is striving for consistency in the results they achieve.

The very best salespeople are systematic in their approach to selling while ordinary salespeople are haphazard and tend to “wing it”

How would you be feeling if just before your routine surgery you overheard your surgeon telling the nurse he hadn’t done any prep and was going to wing it this time? Sounds ludicrous however many salespeople know the fundamentals of selling however have no set process they follow.

I like to use the analogy of baking a cake when talking about sales processes.

My wife follows the programme “Chelsea Home Baker” and I happened to watch the finals with her. One thing I noticed was that the contestants all spent time writing out detailed plans and checklists for their baking even down to estimated timelines for each element of the bake.

Most of us have a rudimentary understanding of baking and could probably follow a recipe to produce something edible. If we were to continue practicing eventually we would become very good bakers.

The problem occurs when we’ve been using the same recipe and we become over-confident and eventually stop following the process relying on memory and experience to produce results.

This often leads to ingredients being left out which in turn leads to some pretty inedible results.

The same occurs with many salespeople.

The trouble with leaving major ingredients out of our sales process is missed opportunities leading to inconsistent results.

So what does a sales process consist of?

  1. Sales Plan – Targets, Time Lines
    2. Prospect Plan – Prospect Profiles. Suspect Lists
    3. Prospect Research Process – Key Information
    4. Sales Interview Process – Questioning Process, Closing Process
    5. Follow-up and Contact process – 90 days Maximum

With this in mind, consider your current selling process and answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions to see how your processes stack up –

1 Do you have a system for optimising referrals?
2 Do you have a system for calculating the cost of your prospect’s problem?
3 Do you have a list of the key questions you should ask each time to uncover the prospects needs?
4 Do you have a presentation process?
5 Do you have a follow-up process?
6 Do you have a prospecting system?
7 Do you have a pre-interview planning process?

How did you score?

If there were a number of “No’s” then these are the areas you will need to focus on.

Many see training as a cost to the business where in fact it is an investment.

The key question I always ask companies I am meeting with is – “How many extra sales would each salesperson need to make to recover the investment?”

The answer more often than not is – “one new client”

Quote:

From Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Company, who once was asked by a wholesaler why
he invested so much in training his people, when ultimately they might leave.

His reply was “What if I didn’t train them and they stayed?”

 

Hayden Burgess

Hayden Burgess  is a Programme Developer and Facilitator for Sales Impact Group.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , ,

How many sales are you losing through poor sales process?

“To train or not to train?” – that is the question

Many businesses spend thousands of dollars on marketing and advertising to generate inquiries and yet spend nothing on training their salespeople to convert these same inquiries into sales.

A common misconception is that if the salesperson has great product knowledge they can make the sale. These types of salespeople rely on what we term “show and tell” selling which leads to price focused buyers rather than needs based selling.

Many sales are lost as a result of poor or even non-existent sales processes. The analogy I often use is when baking a cake you follow a recipe and if you do you get the same result each time. When you decide to change the recipe and say use less baking powder you may still get something that is edible but not the best result.

Well it is the same with many salespeople who have never had any formal sales training – they may have a recipe/process they are following but some of the key ingredients may be missing, resulting in missed sales which invariably leads to increased cost of sales not to mention lost sales revenue.

When you consider the cost of making a sales call can be from $90 to $500 depending on type of call and then take into account the lost opportunity costs it often comes down to leaving sales to chance.

I meet many businesses who would gain immediate sales from sales systems but will delay sometimes up to 12 months before starting.

The great thing about sales training is that it is entirely measurable and the return on investment can be seen almost immediately.

The cost of missed sales can be huge even for small businesses. An example might be a business where an average client may spend $200 per month over 12 months – this adds up to $2400 p.a. If the average client stays loyal to this business for 5 years then the average lifetime value is $12,000.

Now if our untrained salesperson is fumbling one sale per week over 46 weeks this amounts to $552,000 in lost business and over 5 years this could come to $2,760,000 and remember this is per salesperson.

Quote:

From Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Company, who once was asked by a wholesaler why he invested so much in training his people, when ultimately they might leave.

His reply was “what if I didn’t train them, and they stayed?”

Action Steps:

Review your sales processes – do you have systems for:

• Asking for referrals
• Managing new leads
• Identifying potential prospects
• Making appointments using the telephone
• Conducting sales interviews
• Quantifying your prospect’s problem in dollar terms

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , ,

How to track your sales pipeline and why it’s important

sales pipeline funnel exampleYour sales pipeline (or sales funnel) is an important part of your sales process, and when used will lead to closing more sales.

In its simplest form, a sales pipeline can be represented in 3 major stages, starting with Leads, then following on to Opportunities and finally to Accounts. For most of you reading this, you’ll already be familiar with the concept and likely be employing it in your selling activities.  For a more detailed explanation of each of the stages, take a look at a post we wrote a while back where we explain how the 3 step pipeline fits into Simple Sales Tracking.

A primary reason for tracking your sales pipeline is for projections, which include future/prospective:

– Cash flow / Earnings

– Demand for products and services

– Customer growth

– Scalability

If you consistently convert the same percentage of Leads into Opportunities, then into Accounts, over time you’ll be able to more accurately trend your projections and uncover your closing rates individually and for your group or company.

With you increased insight, you can begin to measure and test various approaches to your sales activities, rather than ‘taking shots in the dark’, you’ll begin to carefully measure the effect of each one.

Importantly, you’ll also begin to see where your customers are falling through the cracks and learn where more follow ups are needed and when.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , , , , ,

What Are Your Key Prospecting Activities?

This is a question I always ask when meeting salespeople and sales managers.
The answer I often hear is “cold calling or managing referrals from existing clients.”

The next question I ask is “what processes do you have in place to maximise these opportunities?”

The answer is usually “none”!

Which leads me to the subject of this article which is “Prospecting Activities” or
more specifically  – “Planning your Prospecting”.

The first place to start in developing your plan is to work out your numbers.   The key numbers for us in sales are:

• Total sales for the year expressed in dollars
• Conversion ratios – leads to appointments – appointments lead to sales
• Number of sales we can expect from existing clients
• Number of new sales to new clients
• Average client value based on sales over 12 months e.g. an average customer spends $600/week every week, over 12 months they spend $31,200.  This is the real dollar average sale

By working through your numbers you will arrive at the estimated number of referrals you need to generate on a weekly basis to achieve your sales targets.

This will help you to focus on the prospecting activities that will yield the highest return for the time invested.

In my experience there is a hierarchy of prospecting activities salespeople participate in.

I have ranked these as to what I believe is the value of their effectiveness in generating qualified referrals which give the highest chance of converting to sales.

1. Referrals from centres of influence
2. Referrals from advocate clients
3. Self referrals from marketing and advertising
4. Referrals from business referral groups
5. Attending networking events
6. .
7. .
8. .
55.   Cold-Calling

 

For many salespeople the biggest challenge is managing their prospecting time
effectively, therefore focusing on the right prospecting activities can pay huge dividends if managed properly.

No 1 on this list is referrals from centres of influence.  This is the most valuable prospecting activity if managed correctly.

The key is selecting the right centres of influence.

The criteria we use is:

1. The very best at what they do
2. Have the same type of clients that you do but don’t compete
3. They are active in sales and business development
4. You may only have one in each field

Once we have selected our centre of influence (C.O.I.) the next step is managing the relationship.  This is where most salespeople drop the ball – they sell the concept of swopping referrals to the potential C.O.I. then neglect to follow up.

The key to managing these people is regular contact.  I recommend monthly face to face as this leads to a more solid relationship which in turn leads to more referrals therefore more sales.

We will look into this in more depth in my next article.

Sales Action Step –

Make a list of at least 10 professions who have the same type of clients that you have but don’t compete.     These will form the nucleus of your centre of influence group.

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , ,

Which Type of Salesperson Are You?

There is an old quote which we can adapt that goes –

“There are three kinds of salespeople – those who make things happen, those that watch things happen and those who are wondering what happened.”

It’s an oldie but a goodie.

In fact there are generally two types of salespeople I come across in my business.  The first are what I would characterize as “improvisers” – they seldom do any preparation and rely on intuition and instinct to carry them through.   They approach every sales interview as an adventure and while they still make sales they tend to be very inconsistent.

The second type are the “systemisers” – these are the professionals and they have a sales plan which includes activity targets and strategies to insure consistency and more importantly predictability in their results.

The systemisers are characterized by pre-sales planning and follow through during and after the sale.  This of course leads to repeat sales to existing clients and referrals to new prospects.   Typically they have lists of the most common objections/conditions they strike with prospects along with the answers.  They also have prepared questions that help the prospect to uncover potential needs if they exist and they have strategies to advance the sale.

So we have two types of salespeople who achieve different results.  Each one follows a pattern, one unstructured and one structured.

Where do you see yourself?

Most systemisers have developed their skills through training and practice – there is
no such thing as a “natural born salespeople”.

Zig Ziglar – Author and Sales Trainer extraordinaire in his best selling book “Zig Ziglars Secrets” says he’s travelled the world and seen that women have given birth to boys and given birth to girls but had never seen that a woman had given birth to a salesman.  He goes on to state that he had seen salesmen die so draws the conclusion if they are not born but die, then obviously between birth and death – by choice and by training – they become what they decide to become, namely trained professional salesmen.

Key Message –   You can become whatever you decide to become as long as you are willing to put the time and effort into the training required and follow the disciplines learned.
Action Steps –

1. Make  list of all the problems that your solutions and products overcome for your prospects
2. Make a list of all the issues associated with each of these problems
3. Develop questions around each of these problems and issues that will help the buyer to focus their thinking
4. Once this list is developed put each of these questions in order of logical sequence

Quote:
Failure is nothing more than a few errors in judgment repeated every day
Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , ,

Are There Natural Born Salespeople?

A question I am often asked is “Are there natural born salespeople that we should be looking for?”

My answer to this is there is no such thing as a natural born salesperson. There are salespeople with the “gift of the gab” who make good sales but they tend to lack consistency in their results.

Contrary to popular belief, the best salespeople aren’t the best talkers, they are the best listeners.

The best salespeople, the consistent high performers, are those who have been trained in the best sales practices and then supported through management.

A vast amount of “sales training” is focused on product or technical training rather than specific sales skills development.

This tends to produce product focused salespeople who use the classic show and tell sales presentation. Typically the presentation goes something like this –

The salesperson looks around the prospects office and finds some item of interest and begins a discussion on this, much to the annoyance of the prospect who has had the same discussion with a hundred other salespeople and hasn’t got time to waste with the usual so called rapport building techniques. They then ask a few self serving questions to uncover a potential need, then launch into a product/technical solution based presentation.

A study of over 500 buyers from the fortune 1000 companies showed that salespeople jump in with a

solution before the real problem has been uncovered. This happens in 63% of sales interviews.

Sales like any other business activity is a process and needs to be systemized to ensure consistency in the results.

Exceptional salespeople have a planned approach to selling not canned and follow a process.

McDonalds doesn’t hire staff and then challenge them to figure out how best to do the job. Instead they work on the basis there is a best way to take an order, greet a customer and put a burger together.

In sales there is a best practice too.

Like assembling a cheeseburger, sales has a process. Firstly to identify your prospects, next to get a referral to them, then establish trust, uncover their need, if they have one, present a solution, and ask for the business.

Selling is very simple but not easy!

Imagine sitting on a plane at HB Airport waiting to take off and the captain comes on and says – “this is my first flight in one of these really big planes – I’m going to try and figure out the best way to fly this thing”.

Many companies send their salespeople out into the field with great product training and very little if any sales training to “fly by the seat of their pants”.

It is a fact the greatest asset in our businesses is our staff.

It costs businesses just as much money in salary, travel and costs for a poor sales performer as it does for a great sales performer. Therefore we need to lift the performance of all our salespeople to ensure consistency in sales results. The way to achieve this is through using best sales practices and measurement for accountability.

A question I sometimes hear is “What happens if we train them and they leave?” I ask “What happens if we don’t train them and they stay?”

Coming back to what makes great salespeople, Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his famous book “Outliers” – “success in any field comes from opportunity and practice”.

Many companies give their salespeople the opportunity to undertake sales training – what makes the difference between good salespeople and the great is the great salespeople continue to learn and practice the skills they have learnt. They say “practice makes perfect” – this is only partly true – perfect practice makes perfect. Therefore sales come down to using best practices.

The first of these is developing a goals programme around what your sales targets are, the obstacles of achieving these, the solutions to overcome these obstacles, a detailed plan of sales activities mapped out over the next 12 months.

We can’t control sales – we can control sales activities.

We will look at this in my next article.

Action Steps –

1. Review your sales targets

2. Break down into monthly and weekly targets

3. Review your Prospecting Plan

4. List 3 actions you could implement this week to move forward e.g. Ask your key clients for specific referrals

Quote –
“Until we learn the formula (process) for success we can’t repeat it”
Brian Tracey

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , , , ,

How Many Sales Interviews Are Your Team Doing?

Recently I was questioning a sales manager about the number of new sales interviews each of her sales team did each week.

Her answer was that a week probably wasn’t the right duration – more like a month.

When I asked how many they were doing a month the answer was that they would be lucky to average one a month each.

The explanation for this she said was that they were busy sorting customer problems, building the relationship, doing pricing/proposals, delivery services or installations.

My thoughts were she didn’t have salespeople; she had very expensive mobile customer service reps disguised as salespeople.

This is a problem I see in many businesses I work with – the sales teams getting bogged down in the admin and low payoff areas of the business.

There are two reasons for this –

Firstly the company is under resourced which means the salespeople must be “jacks of all trades”. While I understand not all businesses can afford to add adequate support staff to take on the extra duties that could be delegated by the sales team, the questions I asked the sales manager were –

1. What was an average client spend over 12 months Answer: $6000

2. What was the average conversion ratio of your salespeople? (Most businesses guess around 80%, in fact conversions for most companies run at around 35-45%, say we work on 50%)

3. How many extra appointments with new prospects could your sales team do if we took away one activity, say quoting? Answer: 5 new appointments per week

If they converted half of these that would be 2.5 extra sales per week or $15k if we translate these into dollars or $780k over 12 months
Quite a compelling argument for freeing up your sales teams time!

The second reason is a lack of confidence in the actual salespeople themselves usually due to a lack of sales skills/systems. Interestingly enough I often see this lack of confidence in very experienced salespeople who have fallen into the role of “farmers” over the years.

“Farmers” is the term given to salespeople who spend the majority of their selling time managing existing clients and selling to these clients and slowly get out of the habit of prospecting and selling to new clients.

These “farmers” have become busy looking after the relationships they originally gained through prospecting.

The lack of confidence to go out and prospect for new clients generally stems from a lack of a step by step plan on how to prospect.

The answer most sales managers and business owners offer on how to prospect is “go knock on enough doors and you will get the business”. This is known as “cold calling” which is defined as: “calling on a prospect who may not know you and isn’t expecting a call”.

Some companies believe sending a letter then ringing helps to warm the call up. In my opinion the only advantage of this type of approach is that it may save the salesperson a little time.

Cold calling is a punishment for not having a prospecting plan.

We will look at this in more depth in my next article.

Quote:

There’s no magic to it, and you don’t need a lot of natural talent.
What you need is a disciplined organized approach to selling.
If you have that, you’ll outperform the great salesman
who doesn’t understand the process every time.
Selling can definitely be learned.

Steve Bostic

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , ,

What Is Your Sales Impression?

As has been discussed in earlier articles, sales teams need to have a process to follow when presenting to new prospects to ensure more consistent closing ratios.


In my experience very few companies I have seen have taken the time to identify the most effective process for selling their products or services which brings me to a sales principle which states:


“For every product category and market segment there is a best practice sales process which ensures optimum sales”


The key is to identify what creates sales and what doesn’t and develop the process into a standard operating procedure.  This will only come about through measurement.


Unfortunately without a process salespeople are left to their own resources and do the best they can.  These same salespeople are given sales targets to meet and budgets to achieve without the sales formula/process to follow and spend most of their time “flying by the seat of their pants”.


So if we agree we need to have a formulated approach to our sales the process could look something like this –


-Introductions and pleasantries
-Agenda set
-Discover needs through prepared questions
-Discussing solutions
-Ask for commitment


Let’s look at introductions and pleasantries.  This is the most critical phase of the whole sales process as the decision to buy from you will be made in the first few minutes of meeting you. The fact that we make decisions about people so quickly is just part of human nature.


Research done with 267 Human Resource Managers from the Fortune 500 companies in America showed that on average they decided that a candidate would get the position being applied for within 40 seconds of meeting them.  They then went on to conduct exhaustive tests and interviews to prove they had made the right choice. 


Think of your own attitudes – have you ever had the experience where you have met someone for the first time and taken an instant dislike to them?   The fact is we don’t buy from people we don’t like!


The keys to this phase are to be on time or 5 minutes early, be professionally presented, have professional tools e.g. high quality compendium, a good quality pen, professional looking business cards, rate cards etc.   There is nothing worse than asking someone for their business card and they pull a dog-eared looking card out of their wallet and hand it over!   Your dress and stationary need to be appropriate to the type of clients you are presenting to.     I was meeting with a senior executive recently and suggesting the company invest in some very good quality leather compendiums for their sales team.   He very graciously pointed out that the majority of their clients were intent on preserving nature – we agreed a recyclable/hessian type compendium would be the order of the day!


You look good, you are on time – now what do you say?


The old school sales trainers would suggest you identify something the buyer may be interested in through observation e.g. they may have a marlin mounted on their office wall – most salespeople would begin by commenting on the fish.  I believe there is a factory in China producing these fish to sell to buyers as an accessory to catch newby salespeople who are trying to build rapport!


My recommendation if you are serious about helping the prospect is to thank them for their time, mention your referral source and then get down to business.


Most prospects are short of time and have answered the same fish questions hundreds of times before– respect their time.


We will look at how to set the agenda of your sales meeting in my next article.


Quote of the Week:


Most people think “selling” is the same as “talking”.   But the most effective salespeople
know that listening is the most important part of their job.


                                                                                          Roy Bartell 



Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , ,

Are You An Order Taker or Order Maker?

Today I would like to drive home the importance of having a sales process for maximizing your sales results and increasing sales revenue.

This is the first part, having a process; however the most important step is training the salespeople in this process.

Many companies when looking at their sales teams subscribe to the old syndrome “if it aint broke don’t fix it!”. The sales team are meeting targets, they are maintaining market share – why should we spend money on training?

Well that is a fair question when times are buoyant and customers are spending. The challenge for many salespeople however is they have fallen into the trap of becoming order takers so when things become a bit tighter and the pressure comes on to develop new business there is no process in place for them to follow such as prospecting systems, contacting systems, presentation and follow up systems.

A friend of mind who is what I would consider the consummate sales professional was telling me about a sales manager he once worked for who stated if all he needed from his salespeople was someone to go around the customers and “pick up orders” he would employ Labrador dogs as they were far cheaper and a whole lot cuter!!

Let’s look at contacting systems for a start.

The majority of salespeople suffer from call reluctance because they don’t have a process for getting the appointment.

There are 5 basic objections you will encounter when phoning for a first appointment –

• Too busy
• Already have someone
• Send me some information
• Tell me about it now
• What do you want to see me for

Not knowing what to answer to any of the above prevents salespeople from making the calls and of course they are far too busy calling on existing clients they know and like to follow up new leads anyway.

So the first step in your contacting system is to develop a customized phone script with the answers to the above already worked out.

Next you need to develop a system for gathering the key information about the person/company you are calling. This might include contact details, position, company history, key markets etc.

Next you will need to have a contact management system for managing your appointments. This can be a simple as 3 x 5 cards in a prospect box or as complex as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This will depend on the size of your business and your database.

Then of course you will have a diary system either hard copy or more common now some sort of PDA.

Quote of the Week –

When I prepare for a sales presentation, I try to think like my client and like my competitor. I try to pinpoint every objection that either of them could make to my presentation. I write these objections down, and then I figure out a way to respond to each one in three lines or less. I’ve given these “scripts” to sales reps, who then used them in their presentations. It’s staggering how even the most boring sales rep can become a great salesperson simply by learning to convey a few simple points. If you can move a customer so that he or she can’t argue against your point, then you’ve won.

Mark Jarvis


Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group Limited

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy,

About

Simple Sales Tracking is web-based sales CRM software for the tracking, analysis and forecasting of individual and team sales pipeline and contacts.

Built with simplicity at its core, focus is kept on key sales tasks, while eliminating unnecessary ones, helping to ensure buy-in of the entire sales team.
Go to SimpleSalesTracking.com

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