Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why You Missed Quota

The sales quota is much-argued situation in most sales organization. How is it set? Do previous successful months offset less successful months? Is it a moving target, growing as you become more successful? Is management doing anything to support achieving quota? Sales pros love quota when they're ahead, and hate it when they're behind. Should a company even use quota anymore?

Sadly, quota isn't going anywhere. It's how most sales organizations predict the cash flow they will generate to support the rest of the company. These predictions need to be pretty accurate, or the dominoes fall fast and hard. So why are they so difficult to hit? It may be a combination of management's fault, and your problem.

Quota isn't always important. If meeting quota isn't a consistent qualification for keeping your job, it may be an excuse to fire reps who haven't fit into the corporate culture, or rubbed management the wrong way. Or it may only be important if cash flow is tight. Inconsistent attention to quota makes it hard to take seriously. If you miss quota occasionally, you're normal. But beware: if no one mentions it to you, and asks if your pipeline is recovering this month, and asks how they can help, management may be using missing your quota as a way to ease you out the door.

You aren't doing the right homework. Sales pros are prone to bouts of burnout - feeling like our work is under-appreciated, over-paper-worked, and too repetitive. It's work to keep it fresh and still be effective. Read at least part of some sales philosophy or sales system book or tweet or blog every day. Every time you tweak your perspective, you stave off burnout. Also, create a strong list of call objectives for each call. If you had one before, shake out the ineffective goals and replace them with new stuff. New conversations will yield new results.

Management doesn't support the team. Does your manager help? Or threaten? Does upper management bring in outside trainers to offer you a fresh perspective? Are you discouraged from taking time off? Is the organization aligned with keeping customers, and serving them well? Some managers are just as burned out as their team, making them ineffective at providing the support, sounding board, and education the team needs. Some customer service staff look at every customer as a list of problems. It's very hard to be a successful solo act if your management has a negative attitude.

You flip out when you have a slump. In simple terms, you're superstitious. You think a bad week means you've "lost your touch." If you could make sales two weeks ago, you can still do it. (It's not a magic trick, it's a skill set!) Do an objective check of whether you've let your side of the equation slide. If you're still doing a thorough and professional job, shake it off. No coin comes up heads every time. Statistics insist that everyone have a slow patch sometimes.

Quota is an unreachable number. If your quota keeps changing, it usually is growing. There is a market potential beyond which higher numbers are impossible. There aren't enough hours in the day, or customers in the market to make the numbers required sometimes. This is a very bad sign. It means management hasn't aligned their outlook with current market conditions. It tends to make the relationship between sales and management adversarial. Particularly in organizations where sales pros are also the primary account managers, the more clients you have, the less likely it is you can keep hitting big numbers based on the sheer volume of time it takes to keep your accounts happy.

Your reputation is, well, tarnished. Remember that in sales, it's all about trust. If the prospect doesn't trust you, they won't trust what you tell them. Have you been professional, thorough, and honest in every interaction? The grapevine will bite you in the end. At one happy hour, one of my managers became very drunk, and very belligerent. (Yes, he was old enough to know much better.) Within two months, the company transferred him out of the area with a stern warning: you've made yourself poisonous to the restaurant community once. Any further trouble, and you're fired.He was lucky. Bad behavior has a way of living on forever. You never know who knows each other, or how long your outburst will live in social media. Clean up your act. You have a very public job. It will make a difference!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The 4 Most Common Shopper Personalities, and How To Sell Them

There are millions of individual personalities out there, but most of us fall into one of 4 categories when we are shopping: The Expert, The Connector, The Prisoner, or The Evaluator. Each one of these shopping styles requires information and service to be presented in a particular way in order to make the shopper feel respected and interested in doing business with you. At first glance, it may seem like patronizing people, but really, you're just addressing your prospect in their own language. If their language was Serbian, you wouldn't speak French, would you?

Here are the 4 most common shopper types, and a few pointers on how to speak their language:

The Expert
This shopper believes they know it all already. Saving face is very important to them. You must respect the knowledge and experience they have, or think they have. Use reinforcement phrases like: I like what you just said. -and-  That’s a great question. Start sentences with: As I’m sure you already know… Question with: I’m curious about your thoughts on…

The Connector
This shopper is always looking for familiar context.  Everything will remind them of a story, person, or movie. They want to trust you, and want things to make sense. Use phrases that emphasize the familiar: Use their own words and phrases whenever possible. Analogies are usually helpful with these shoppers. Start sentences with: You may have thought it would be nice if… and then follow with a feature. Questions should be grounded in recent statements the shopper has made: “How soon are you looking to buy (whatever they just said)?”

The Prisoner
This shopper doesn’t want to be in the market. They want to get it over with. All they need is trust to move forward. Trust that you will take this issue off their hands, and they won’t have to cope with it anymore. Write things down! Never ask them to repeat themselves. De-escalating their emotions is very important, but it needs to be done in a way that is not minimizing the importance of their feelings. Start sentences with: Thanks for bringing that up. -and- This must be a frustrating position for you. Question with: Do you think we should talk about ________?

The Evaluator
This shopper loves the shopping, and always wants more time and material to consider. Helping them to the decision phase may be seen as pushy. They will walk away if they don’t feel educated. They want a lifeline, so they will ask about guarantees and warranties. Comparison shopping is the norm for them, and they may lead you on in hopes of getting a deal to take to your competitors. Start sentences with: “As you may know from your research…”  Question with: “To answer you better, I’d like to ask you a question.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

7 Secrets of Successful Sales Pros

As I travel from client to client, I'm asked one question more than any other: What kind of people make the best salespeople? While there is no one answer, there are some common characteristics I see in most successful sales professionals. A great sales pro may not possess all of them, but they all seem to have at least a couple. These are the characteristics of the most successful sales people based on my surveys and experience:

The best salespeople are those who love people, and love their product. They find a way to enjoy every client contact. Real enthusiasm can't be faked, and the top sales pros bring it to every situation.

They understand that hard work pays off, and no work pays nothing. They don't care about quota. When they're ahead of quota, they work just as hard as when they're behind. It's the best way to keep the pipeline full and the customers happy. They do the "invisible work" of networking and researching so they're always prepared to act.

They are active and attentive listeners. Success in sales comes from being client-centered. The best of the best pay close attention to their prospects and customers, and always ask probing questions to get to the heart of the matter.

Giving up isn’t an option. Sales leaders work when they're sick. They work when they're tired. They work when the outcome looks iffy. If they don't succeed, it isn't because the didn't give their best.

They think on their feet, and make their company look good while meeting the needs of the client. Companies and sales pros succeed and fail together. If a customer loves you, but hates your company, the relationship is doomed to failure. Team spirit isn't just for sports, it's for business, too!

Solving the customer’s problem while achieving the customer’s goals is the most important thing to them, and they do it every time. The only goal a client wants to achieve is their own. They don't care if you hit quota, or if your company is having a milestone anniversary. They want to meet or exceed their goals. The most successful sales pros never forget this.

They believe in long-term planning their sales, so they never waste an opportunity to leave a great impression, even when a prospect isn’t in the market today. What makes a prospect a prospect is that there is a chance they will purchase your product or one that serves the same purpose. The best pros learn the prospect's business goals, and follow up periodically to stay current and relevant. If the prospects aren't in the market today, they will be another day. Generating a positive relationship with non-buying prospects saves a ton of groundwork when they finally are in the market.

All of these skills and characteristics can be developed. If your team is lacking any of them, coach them to add to their skill set, and to your bottom line!