Monday, April 17, 2017

The Essential Sales Bookshelf

As a sales process consultant, I'm often asked to recommend books to help clients navigate their way through one issue or another. Over time I've realized that I keep referring people to the same books over and over. I've come to think of them as the Essential Sales Bookshelf. If you're in sales and you don't own them, go shopping!

Insight Selling: Sell Value & Differentiate Your Product With Insight Scenarios by Michael Harris (2014, Hardcover)  The definitive book on building the sales story that will best help your customers understand how your product is uniquely situated to solve their need. Selling on value and history is the name of the game, and selling on price is unnecessary.

The Challenger Sale : Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson (2011, Hardcover)  If you’re in sales at all, rep, manager, VP, or Director, this book is vital to selling in the internet age. Because we have access to so much information, most buyers have quite a few pre-conceived notions that will keep them making the same mistakes, and the same purchases, over and over again. This book revolutionized sales by demonstrating that the most successful reps challenge the thinking and habits of their prospects, making room for a new conversation.

The Challenger Customer : Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results by Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, Nick Toman and Brent Adamson (2015, Hardcover)  Taking into account that almost all purchases are made by teams (the team behind the Decision Maker) this book identifies who those other players are, and demonstrates how many other decision makers they influence. Instead of strictly selling to the “DM” The Challenger Customer challenges us to sell to the people with the most influence as well.

Drive : The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink (2009, Hardcover)  Recognizing the core components of what motivates humans to act and feel in particular ways is key in a successful sales process. By understanding the motivational factors in play, a sales pro can much more effectively navigate some of the seemingly unreasonable objections and requests we receive from so many sales prospects.

To Sell Is Human : The Surprising Truth about Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink (2012, Hardcover) Mr. Pink takes us through the psychology of basic social behaviors, and demonstrates that many of our core interactions with others are fundamentally selling them on our idea, desire, or offering. Sales is primarily based in persuasion, and secondarily in filling a need or solving a problem. So, as it turns out, is most human interaction. Recognizing the similarities helps sales pros develop natural, agile relationships with their prospects.
Fanatical Prospecting : How to Open Doors, Engage Prospects, and Make One Last Call by Jeb Blount (2015, Hardcover) As I tell my sales reps, “You’ll never close what you didn’t open.” Fanatical Prospecting is a step by step guide about opening a sales relationship with prospects, instead of just “networking.” Activity is not a result in itself, and often too much time is spent collecting business cards and phone numbers. What counts is making the contacts that are the beginning of a sales relationship. With this book, it just became much easier.

The Art of Closing the Sale : The Key to Making More Money Faster in the World of Professional Selling by Brian Tracy (2007, Hardcover)  Of course with all that opening of sales conversations, you’ll want to make sure you’re closing as many deals as possible. From Brian Tracy, we learn that many of the old closing techniques no longer work at all because of the colossal number of ads and transactions people perform every day. We’ve become immune. What works now?  A more natural, transparent approach that challenges expectations.
SNAP Selling : Speed up Sales and Win More Business with Today's Frazzled Customers by Jill Konrath (2010, Hardcover) Jill Konrath has been helping sales professionals assess the sales climate for decades, and her work resonates over time.  In this book from 2010, she helps us identify the overwhelmed buyer. With so many options and so much information available for each purchasing decision, sometimes what is needed is to break the sale down into a few simple, but key, steps. A must-read for highly competitive industries.

Agile Selling : Get up to Speed Quickly in Today's Ever-Changing Sales World by Jill Konrath (2014, Hardcover) Finally, a book about onboarding sales pros in a way that they can start selling within the first few weeks! Onboarding as a new sales rep in an unfamiliar industry often takes months to over a year to become fully competent in your role. Agile Selling addresses the issue head on, inviting sales reps to approach learning their new industry and market differently, making consistent, useful progress from Day 1. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why Lead Scoring Will Make You Money

I hear this from clients all the time: "Why do I have to make sales even MORE complicated? I don't need to add lead scoring." Well, you don't need to make sales more complicated, and you DO need to add lead scoring. Here's why.
Lead scoring is a simple system to make your pipeline value visible to the rest of the sales team. I'm a fan of writing 3 or 4 simple scoring lines like When Is The Lead Planning to Make a Purchase (the sooner, the higher the number,) What Is The Budget For The Purchase (the higher the better,) What Is The Interest Level of the Lead (are they contacting you or are you reaching out,) and the like. Ideally, each of these lines will score 1-3 points. The higher the score, the better.
Now, how were those high-scoring leads sourced? Who on the team has the most high scores? Does that correlate to their closing ratio? Should more of the team start sourcing leads in the ways the high-scoring leads are sourced? The answers to these questions will streamline your lead generation, saving time and money, while increasing your closing ratio.
Channeling the Ginsu Knives commercials, I have to say, "And that's not all!" Are your best closers assigned to the high-scoring leads? Or are they your best closers because they close everybody, no matter the score? Why would you give your worst closer your best leads? You can learn a lot about your sales rep's strengths and weaknesses by ranking their leads and seeing if they close. Now you know where to direct your coaching with those individual reps.
"But wait! There's more!" If the scores and the pipeline are public, you have more choices in how to manage your time. Is a rep out sick, and they have a high-score appointment on the board? Does a poor closer have time for a ride along or two with a strong closer? Is Joe a weak closer because he only sources low-scoring leads? You can allocate the team's time in ways that will ensure the high-scoring leads are never left hanging, and can be used as teaching opportunities. And you can learn more about each rep's lead gen process.
And lastly, have your reps defend their scoring. If it isn't challenged, they may just tell you what you want to hear. And when the whole team can see how many high-scoring leads are generated by others, they will compete for that number, too. Nobody likes to see themselves at the bottom of any ranking more than occasionally, so that problem is now solving itself, without much management intervention.
Rome wasn't built in a day, and this won't be either. Add one scoring metric a week until you have the metrics in place that make sense for your business. Don't ask your reps to track too many factors, or it will become a burden. Aim for 3-5, and hold them accountable. And watch your bottom line change!
Elisabeth Marino is an sales process adviser working in Buffalo, NY, and a frequent contributor to LinkedIn. She has worked in sales development and evaluation for 17 years, and helped dozens of organizations improve their sales numbers. Connect with and follow her here, visit her website:, on Facebook as Sales Dynamo Consulting, and follow her on Twitter @SalesDynamoNY.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

In With a Plan, Out With a Sale

I'd like to say this once and for all - Luck is not a business plan! "Talent" is not a business plan! Whew! I needed to get that off my chest.
I work with small to medium sized businesses, and sometimes really large ones, and I'm amazed at the number of times I hear that there is no skills review or specific process for the sales team to follow. Entrepreneurs hiring sales reps tell me, "they should know what they're doing." Um, yeah, but so should you. Luck is not reliable and repeatable, and without a reliable revenue stream, you're out of business.
Most people who start a business are not sales experts, just like I'm not an automotive expert. But your sales reps should be. They should be going into every sales call with a plan that helps them qualify the customer, and present that customer with the right product to fill their needs. If your reps don't do that, every sale they make is based on luck, intuition, or personality. Not good.
Every sales call should have the same purpose: lead to a sale. The sales cycle for each business is different; selling cars is different from selling medical equipment. Each one will have a different call plan. What are the necessary steps for a prospect to go from zero to sold? All of them are part of your sales process. What needs to happen in person? Those are the parts of a sales call plan. Every sales rep should be using every part of the sales process. If they aren't, they're not doing their job. They should be able to discuss it with you, and they should be able to fine-tune and improve it over time. That way, they can share best practices between them, and all improve steadily.
While we're at it, let's stop selling like it's 1995. There is nothing your customer can't learn or find on the internet. They can probably buy it cheaper, too. That means you need to be there, where your customer is doing their homework. Have some solid online support for your business and your reps. Have a great website, and include a FAQ page. Do some inbound marketing, with social media (anything retail), white papers (business and professional services, technology), a blog (food, fitness, arts, in-home services) or newsletters, all linked directly to your website. People don't buy from businesses. People buy from people. Create a web presence that helps your customer learn your business's personality, and help them know, like and trust what your business will provide.
So, to recap: have solid web presence to help your clients learn about, know, like and trust your business. Sales reps should have a specific set of skills and a plan to learn to "right size" the solution they offer your client. Your company should have a clear, repeatable sales process that evolves over time based on the successes of your sales pros. And you can't rely on talent or luck to provide a steady revenue stream. You need a plan.
Elisabeth Marino is an sales process adviser working in Buffalo, NY, and a frequent contributor to LinkedIn. She has worked in sales development and evaluation for 17 years, and helped dozens of organizations improve their sales numbers. Connect with and follow her here, on Facebook as Sales Dynamo Consulting, and follow her on Twitter @SalesDynamoNY.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Jump on the Hidden Fast Track

As a kid, I wasn't a fan of homework. I'd slam through it as quickly as I could, and focus on fun. In college, I began to appreciate homework, because it was an opportunity to direct my learning towards the specific end result I wanted. I couldn't believe the professors would let us choose so much of our own direction! Still, I looked forward to ditching the homework, and moving on to living my life.
I wanted to do well in my jobs, and I wanted a comfortable paycheck. How? Kiss butt? Work crazy hours? Meet the right people? I was pleased to learn none of those were the answer. I quickly figured out that my coworkers who moved up the fastest were looking stuff up, reading about it, and practicing outside of work.
Well! I've always been a fan of acquiring marketable skills more quickly, and I sure do love to get a raise. But what to read? How much reading? What to practice? How do I get in on this fast track? I asked the rising stars, and I received several answers, all of which had one thing in common: look at research. Case studies, articles in trade magazines, books by experts, and lectures and focus groups all made the list.
I started reading 30 minutes a day, usually at bedtime. When I came across applicable research (like most sales are closed on the 8th -12th interaction) I made notes, and took them to heart. And I developed skills and got results at work. (There are very few skills you can't strengthen by looking things up on the internet, reading a book, or joining a group.)
I've stopped doing homework a few times in my career, and the same thing always happens. My skills develop more slowly, and I don't get raises or promotions as frequently. And I end up going back to homework.
That extra 30 minutes per day has added up into hundreds of hours. I've read scores of books, trade magazines and studies. And over the years, I've developed expertise and a reputation for excellence. "How did you become such an expert?" people ask. I smile. 30 years in the workforce was a good start. But there was more to it. I gesture to my bookshelf, my Kindle, both of which are in plain sight, and say, "I read."
Elisabeth Marino is an outsourced sales process adviser working in Buffalo, NY, and a frequent contributor to LinkedIn. She has worked in sales development and evaluation for 17 years, and helped dozens of organizations improve their sales numbers. Connect with her here, on Facebook as Sales Dynamo Consulting, and follow her on Twitter @SalesDynamoNY.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why You Need a PRSP

What's a PRSP? As you probably know, it's shorthand for Proven Repeatable Sales Process. Everybody talks about it, and throws around other business terms like Sales 2.0 and Inbound Marketing. Sheesh! Just keeping up with the trendy lingo can be exhausting, let alone figuring out if any of this stuff applies to you. So does it? Well, the PRSP does, and I'll tell you why.
It makes zero sense to repeat what you know doesn't work. How many sales calls have you and your staff been through? Does anybody keep track of the number of sales in relation to the number of sales calls (sales ratio?) Do your sales people write down the objections they hear in each sales call so they can spot trends, and adapt their sales call? Do some reps have sales that get returned, refunded, or reversed more than others? These are just a few of the ways to monitor what doesn't work.
What do all the sales that stay sold have in common? They had a sales process that worked. The 1) right prospect was asked the 2) right questions, needed 3) a solution you offer, provided with the 4) right information, reminded of the 5) urgency to solve his pain point, and provided a solution at a 6) price they thought was fair. There may have been all kinds of window dressing around it, but if the sale was made and stayed sold, these 6 points were there.
Look at each numbered point. Each one is a spot for a natural objection; it's an opportunity for the conversation to end, or to move forward with more confidence. If your prospects are well qualified, your reps can move easily through the process. If you prospect isn't a qualified buyer, the PRSP uncovers that before the conversation gets awkward, and you can visit them at another time when the fit will be better.
What if your sales reps used this 6 point system consistently, and didn't go off track? I'll tell you - fewer of your sales calls will end up in the weeds. You'd make more sales, and the sales would stay sold. But there's more to it than just copying the sales call of your best guy. Each sales rep and client are different, and you need to be able to frame the conversation and the information to fit each individual.
How do you make it happen? Start with those 6 points. Build a sales call worksheet that is as generic as possible that still fits all 6 points the way they work for your industry. Leave a spot on there to fill in objections, and track and count them. As the objections change and evolve, teach your staff to respond to them with information and confidence. You'll have a solid PRSP in no time!
Elisabeth Marino is an outsourced sales process adviser working in Buffalo, NY, and a frequent contributor to LinkedIn. She has worked in sales development and evaluation for 17 years, and helped dozens of organizations improve their sales numbers. Connect with her here, and follow her on Twitter @SalesDynamoNY.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

How "Do-It-Yourself" is Killing Your Business

As technology has exploded over the last decade, business has the opportunity to work with more apps, programs, cloud services, and self-driven media than we could even have imagined. There is little in the business world that you can't do yourself: HR, payroll, marketing, sales management, logistics, accounting, taxes, photography, banking, investing - almost anything you can think of has an app ready to download to your phone. Largely overlooked is the quality of these solutions - they are not right for every business.
There is no question that it's wiser to save money than spend it when you're likely to achieve equal or better results. What causes trouble is the number of businesses who don't realize when to use an app or program, and how to audit the program's success. I can cut my own hair, but I assure you that though it's cheaper, the results are not equal or better! It's wise to start with a professional, and move to an app or program over time as the needs of your business become consistent. Some apps can then support systems on their own, but many systems will need the occasional tweak from a qualified professional to achieve optimum results.
Example: There would be no Turbo Tax without tax professionals, and many of us do just fine using it, or another program to complete our taxes. But how many of us have taken our taxes to a professional to confirm the numbers given to us by our program? Just because we can file through a program doesn't mean we should. These programs don't offer advice on capital spending and improvements, or the allocation of human resources. Tax planning is the art of arranging your business purchases and expenditures in ways that delay or avoid tax liability. Good tax planning keeps you from paying unnecessary expenses, leaving more money invest or spend as is best for your business. The tax professionals who designed popular tax preparation software are well aware of the limitations of the product. Most small- to medium-sized business owners are not, and that's the problem. (Did you notice that you no longer have the option of having your returns reviewed by a certified public accountant within the program?) In order to save a few hundred dollars on professional tax prep now, many companies run their taxes through a computer program, only to discover months or years later how costly a lack of tax planning truly was. Tax software is just one example where a professional probably should be part of your system.
Many small businesses exist due to the need for outsourcing. Attorneys, CPAs, payroll processors and other professionals who serve small business and individual consumers urge us to buy local, and keep local dollars in our communities. What is happening by dependence on apps and programs is "downsourcing." We are self-limiting our resources. Not only are we not getting the insight and advice we need from the professionals in our community, we are limiting our businesses to the actions available to us through a mouse-click. The money spent on the app or program leaves the community. We are making our options fewer, our possibilities weaker, and we're putting ourselves and our neighboring professionals in an ever-declining economic position.
As you move through the next few weeks, take note of the number of parts of your business you run via an app or program. If you don't have a means to audit the success of the program, it's probably time to check in with a professional for a consultation. By pairing your programs with the right advisers and consultants you'll breathe new life into the infrastructure of your business.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Want Better Sales Numbers? Take This Quiz!

This is an abbreviated version of the basic State of the Sales Team Evaluation that I go through with each new Sales Training client, well before any contracted curriculum is developed or taught. Have your Sales Managers (or Sales Pros) take this quiz anonymously, and you'll quickly identify some hidden weaknesses in your sales team. It's much easier to develop an effective solution when you're attacking the real problem!

1.       How many team members are at or above quota? How many on your team total?

2.       What are your team’s strengths? Prospecting, cold calling, follow up, presentation, closing, account management, referral generation?

3.       What is your team’s weakest skill? Prospecting, cold calling, follow up, presentation, closing, account management, referral generation?

4.       How have you addressed this/these weakness(es)?

5.       What are the most frequent objections your team hears? Are they written down for the team?

6.       Have you helped your team develop effective responses to these objections? Are they written down for the team?

7.       What are the weaknesses of your product line?

8.       Do you train your team on how to answer (not deflect) questions about the weaknesses?

9.       Do you study competition offerings?

10.   When is the last time you trained your team on the offerings of the competition?

11.   What do you do regularly to keep your team inspired and motivated? Does it seem to work?

12.   How often do you have team meetings? Never   Daily   Weekly   Monthly    As Needed

13.   How often do you praise team members? Never   Daily or more   Weekly  Monthly   Can't Remember

14.   How often do you correct, scold, or discipline individual team members? Daily or more    Weekly    Monthly  

15.   How often do your team members praise each other?  Daily or more Weekly Monthly  Less than monthly

16.   Do you believe your team members have enough sales materials? If no, what do they need?

17.   Do you believe your department has adequate support in your organization? If no, why not? What do you need?

18.   Once a sale has been made, are there any consistent problems with fulfillment? If yes, what are the problems? What have you done to resolve this?

19.   Does your team use a CRM? Is it within a week of up to date?
20.   What is your management style?

21.   Have you sought other employment within the last year? If yes, why?

22.   If no CRM, how do you keep track of and manage your pipeline?

23.   How current are your client and prospect files?  Up to date   Within a week Within a month   More than 30 days out of date

24.   How many hours per week do you work? 35-45  45-55   55-65   65+

25.   Do you have any selling responsibilities? What percentage of your time is spent selling?

26.   How many hours per week do you spend on paperwork? 5-8 9-12  3-16  17-20  20+

Look at all the answers in context of which teams are the most successful, and which are the least. What answers surprised you? Now you have somewhere to start from...