SELLING IS NOT ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS . . .

Sales Person 2Ask any sales leader how selling has changed in the past decade, and you’ll hear a lot of answers but only one recurring theme: It’s a lot harder. Yet even in these difficult times, every sales organization has a few stellar performers. Who are these people? How can we bottle their magic?

To understand what sets apart this special group of sales reps, the Sales Executive Council launched a global study of sales rep productivity three years ago involving more than 6,000 reps across nearly 100 companies in multiple industries.

What they found is that every sales professional falls into one of five distinct profiles:

1-   Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the customer organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet customers’ every need, and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.

2-   Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team.

3-   Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the sales force who do things their way or not at all.

4-   Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the customers’ standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly.

5-   Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — with both their customers and bosses.

What it is documented is that Challengers dramatically out-perform the other profiles, particularly Relationship Builders.  When we look at average reps, we find a fairly even distribution across all five of these profiles. But while there may be five ways to be average, there’s only one way to be a star. They found that Challenger reps dominate the high-performer population, making up close to 40% of all-star reps.

What makes the Challenger approach different?

– Challengers teach their customers. They focus the sales conversation not on features and benefits but on insight, bringing a unique perspective on the customer’s business. They come to the table with new ideas for their customers that can make money or save money — often opportunities the customer hadn’t realized even existed.

– Challengers tailor their sales message to the customer They have a finely tuned sense of individual customer objectives and value drivers and use this knowledge to effectively position their sales pitch to different types of customer stakeholders within the organization.

– Challengers take control of the sale. While not aggressive, they are certainly assertive. They are comfortable with tension and are unlikely to acquiesce to every customer demand. When necessary, they can press customers a bit — not just in terms of their thinking but around things like price.

– In the end, Challengers win the sale, but it’s almost more eye-opening who loses. Relationship Builders come in dead last, accounting for only 7% of all high performers.

Why are Relationship Builders dead last? What can be concluded is the nature of the relationships is what matters. Challengers win by pushing customers to think differently, using insight to create constructive tension in the sale. Relationship Builders, on the other hand, focus on relieving tension by giving in to the customer’s every demand. Where Challengers push customers outside their comfort zone, Relationship Builders are focused on being accepted into it. They focus on building strong personal relationships across the customer organization, being likable and generous with their time. The Relationship Builder adopts a service mentality. While the Challenger is focused on customer value, the Relationship Builder is more concerned with convenience.

Conclusion:

The bottom line — Challengers win and Relationship Builders lose — is one that sales leaders often find deeply troubling, because their organizations have placed by far their biggest bet on recruiting, developing, and rewarding Relationship Builders, the profile least likely to win.

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525,600 . . . THE SAME AS BILL GATES

Dali ClocksYou have the same number of minutes in a year as Bill Gates– 525,600. But the difference is how you leverage and utilize these precious minutes.

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” -Harvey MacKay

Not too long ago I had a client ask me if we had a program for eliminating procrastination. I responded that if I had a patented solution I could make millions with a book on it! The problem is that procrastination is more of a symptom than a problem, and while it’s a good thing to overcome, it doesn’t strike at the heart of poor time and self-management.

A quick Google search for “overcoming procrastination” returned about 93,000 results. I tried again with “effective time management” and got back 24,000,000 results– how interesting! While this is certainly not a scientific approach, it supports the idea that managing time (and self) effectively is a challenge and a struggle for most business owners and professionals. In fact, an entire industry exists solely to providing plans, methods and tools to help others establish effective time management practices.

We recognize that an essential and fundamental aspect of being an effective business leader is the ability to effectively manage their own time. In fact, one of the top three frustrations we hear voiced by our clients is the seeming “lack of time” experienced by harried and overworked business owners. The struggle to effectively manage ourselves and use our time is common to almost all of us.

Time Waits for No One

Michael Gerber (author of the E-Myth) said that, “Time is just another word for life.” You can think of life as a bank account with a limited balance of time that is relentlessly being withdrawn moment by moment, day by day, year by year—until the account is empty. In this account there is no overdraft protection nor are any deposits being made. Consider this: the time that it took you to read this far, is time that is was expended and cannot be replenished.

So, if you continued reading this, you still have some time available to you. In fact, you have 24 hours every day, day in and day out, just like everyone else. The real question we need to ask then is not “How much time do I have?”, but “How will I spend the time I have?” While it’s true that we cannot dictate how we spend every moment of every working day, it’s equally true that how we spend the time is still a matter of choice: we can choose to be disorganized, reactive and ineffective—or we can choose to be organized, discriminating and productive.

Poor self (time) management is largely a matter of habit and a lack of focused attention and intention. But effective time management is also a matter of habit and focused attention and intention. And having some sound, tried-and-true tools and techniques doesn’t hurt!

It’s Time for a Change

One of the key processes we have our clients work through is effective time and self- management. While this is not “rocket science” it is absolutely vital to the client’s success as an entrepreneur and business owner. The way you manage your time corresponds with the way you manage your business operates—if your time management is reactive and unfocused, the general state of your business is likely to be reactive and unfocused.

There are a multitudes of plans, programs, and prescriptions for effectively organizing and managing your time. Experts have weighed in for decades on this topic, books have been written and training programs launched—the problem really isn’t a lack of information, it is too much information. The first challenge is simply implementation. So, here is a compilation from the best ‘minds’ on the subject:

1-    Make it a habit to plan your work day.  Set aside a specific time every day to plan tomorrow, next week, and next month. Don’t listen to those voices that say it doesn’t help or it won’t matter anyway. Plan and prioritize your work! Make a list a list of only the top five or six tasks or items you must do that day.

2-    Assign a time frame for completing each of those priority tasks. Be realistic, but also be discriminating. Make certain there is enough time in the day for the tasks you want to complete.

3-    Plan a time within your day for each of these tasks. Make sure you allow time within your day for unplanned tasks, interruptions, business challenges (don’t say the word problem) and unavoidable changes. You probably know these are inevitable so allow space in your day to accommodate them.

4-    Work your plan! Don’t allow yourself to be distracted or diverted—don’t give in to the temptation to blow off some tasks that now seems unpleasant. Go through your list, complete your priority tasks, and check them off your list. The positive benefits that comes from this exercise is addictive and has even been found to increase productivity!

5-    Be diligent, determined, and deadly serious about your time. No one else will respect your time if you don’t. Be clear and consistent when saying “No” to requests for your time that take you outside of your plan. If you include Step 3 you will be able to make room for others when needed.

6-    Determine the Value of Your Time.  Determine the exact cost of your hourly time.  If your business has annual revenues of $1 million, then your time is worth $500 per hour (based upon 2,000 hours per year).  So, what is the ultimate cost if you keep doing $10 per hour jobs, when you should be doing $500 per hour jobs (Answer: a cost of $490 per hour or $980,000 per year).

More Time Is Really More Life

The bottom line comes down to your willingness and commitment to make the necessary changes and establish productive and profitable habits that will give you more control over both the expected and the unexpected things that happen every day. The good news is that learning to manage your time is, in part, like any other skill. All it takes is practice and more practice, and the willingness to make the necessary changes and create new habits.

Just remember, if time is life, then isn’t self (time) management a way to—literally—get more life? How else could you find a better payoff for your efforts?

MY 16 RULES FOR SUCCESS IN BUSINESS

Steve jobs1. Get and stay out of your comfort zone.

I believe that not much happens of any significance when we’re in our comfort zone.  I hear people say, “But I’m concerned about security.”  My response to that is simple: “Security is for cadavers.”

2. Never give up.

Almost nothing works the first time it’s attempted.  Just because what you’re doing does not seem to be working, doesn’t mean it won’t work.  It just means that it might not work the way you’re doing it.  If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn’t have an opportunity.

3. When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think.

There’s an old Chinese saying that I just love, and I believe it is so true.  It goes like this: “The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.”

4. With regard to whatever worries you, not only accept the worst thing that could happen, but make it a point to quantify what the worst thing could be.

Very seldom will the worst consequence be anywhere near as bad as a cloud of “undefined consequences.”  My father would tell me early on, when I was struggling, “If it doesn’t work, they can’t eat you.”

5. Focus on what you want to have happen.

Remember that old saying, “As you think, so shall you be.”

6. Be quick to decide.

Remember what General George S. Patton said: “A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”

7. Always be moving forward.

Never stop investing.  Never stop improving.  Never stop doing something new.  The moment you stop improving your organization, it starts to die.  Make it your goal to be better each and every day, in some small way.  Remember the Japanese concept of Kaizen.  Small daily improvements eventually result in huge advantages.

8 Take things a day at a time.

No matter how difficult your situation is, you can get through it if you don’t look too far into the future, and focus on the present moment.  You can get through anything one day at a time.

9. Measure everything of significance.

I swear this is true.  Anything that is measured and watched, improves.

10. Anything that is not managed will deteriorate.

If you want to uncover problems you don’t know about, take a few moments and look closely at the areas you haven’t examined for a while.  I guarantee you problems will be there.

11. Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you’re doing.

When you look at your competitors, remember that everything looks perfect at a distance. Even the planet Earth, if you get far enough into space, looks like a peaceful place.

12. Never let anybody push you around.

In our society, with our laws and even playing field, you have just as much right to what you’re doing as anyone else, provided that what you’re doing is legal.

13. Never expect life to be fair.

Life isn’t fair.  You make your own breaks.  The only meaningful ‘fair’ to you, is something that you pay when you get on a bus (i.e., fare).

14. Solve your own problems.

You’ll find that by coming up with your own solutions, you’ll develop a competitive edge.  Masura Ibuka, the co-founder of SONY, said it best: “You never succeed in technology, business, or anything by following the others.”  There’s also an old saying that I remind myself of frequently.  It goes like this: “A wise man keeps his own counsel.”

15. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Lighten up.  Often, at least half of what we accomplish is due to luck. None of us are in control as much as we like to think we are.

16. There’s always a reason to smile.

Find it.  After all, you’re really lucky just to be alive.  Life is short.  More and more, I agree with my little brother. He always reminds me: “We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time!”

ARE YOU HIRING THE ‘RIGHT’ SALESPERSON?

Sleazy salesman pointingHiring new employees is always challenging; but recruiting and hiring salespeople is even more challenging. The process is full of rewards and great risks.

In our Mentoring Sessions, we talk about building a systematized, integrated business that includes a hiring process/system. Part of that process/ system includes a clear marketing strategy that positions and differentiations, a quality review and control system, a lead generation system, a sales process, and a flexible CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System. All of these leverage your salespeople to reach their greatest potential. Yes, we know that it is a lot more difficult than just hiring a ‘rainmaker’; but you need all the necessary pieces to support your salespeople.

Next, clearly define the position with all responsibilities and capabilities and then decide on the exact KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) and ROI (Return on Investment) you expect the salesperson to reach. I mentor my clients to, “Stop Managing the Person and Start Managing the Numbers (KPI’s)”.  If you don’t have these fundamentals in place it’s much more difficult for new salespeople to succeed.

We all have some experience in sales and most likely became a salesperson during the course of building your business. This is extremely helpful information when you finally achieve a production level necessary to hire a salesperson.  This is because you know the “how” of creating sales and building excellent client relationships. You can now translate that knowledge into a systematic path so that others can get the same result you have.

First, be aware there are no shortcuts in this process. It takes time to find the right people and the necessary time to learn your culture and to train them into your systems. Sure, you can try to find “Super Stars” that start selling the moment they walk through the door, but this often results in pain later on. The best candidates aren’t necessarily the ones that can deliver the most sales in the shortest amount of time. In fact, top achieving salespeople often think about only one thing: closing sales. “Super Stars” tend to do and say anything to get a customer and in the long run they get you into trouble, by not being adaptable, trainable, controllable or willing to follow a system. We all know the ‘pain’ associated with this kind of salesperson. Therefore, we strive to hire the true sales professionals that can generate long-term relationships with customers, and who can convert and nourish those relationships.

Steps to hiring the ‘right’ salesperson:

1-     The interview for salespeople is crucial. Be careful here for most great sales people are also great interviewers. As this point you determine if they can’t sell themselves, nor do they fit with your company and culture. If they don’t pass the first interview, bring in the next candidate.

2-     When you hire salespeople, you’re not just hiring an employee. You’re also choosing customers, since your salespeople play a major role in determining the types of customers you have and the relationship you have with them. You want to get it right and hire the salespeople that will bring you the kind of customers you desire.

3-     Great salespeople are always in demand. Mediocre salespeople are fantastic sales people only when it comes to selling themselves (or interviewing).  Always dig deep in your questioning process. Find out whether they hit quotas and meet plans (how, what, when, how, where and why). Past results, awards and behaviors are the best indicators of future success. Believe it or not, the sales profession is one of the easier professions to objectively quantifiable results, with commission reports, production records and W-2’s.

4-     The next decision in the hiring process is how you will structure the commission structure. Each type of payment structure attracts a different type of sales person.  For example: pure commission, draw plus commission, base salary plus commission, salary and incentives, or salary alone. But the first question you need to answer is, “Which structure fits YOU (NOT the candidate) best?

5-     Get references from present/ past clients. Talk to the clients they lost. Who do you know that they know?  Get an unbiased testimonial from someone you know.

6-     Put them through a Psychometric Evaluation. (for example DiSC) Develop a real training program, over the next 90 days with materials/tests/manual.

7-     Lastly, have your ‘key’ staff members interview them– others can see issues you cannot.