Another Worthless Appointment?

Problem: Johan was sitting in traffic. Again. His mind drifted back to his last meeting which had ended rather abruptly. The client hadn’t even looked interested in his presentation or his brochures, in fact the meeting took only 10 minutes and it had taken him an hour to get there. He could tell it had been a waste of time and blamed it on the new telesales lady who had set up the appointment for him. Another dud. Oh well … he’d just pop in to see one of his regular clients for a cup of coffee on the way back so that it wasn’t a totally wasted trip.

Advice: Time to face the facts Johan: Your sales time is worth money. Your money to be precise. Why on earth are you even contemplating going on a face-to-face appointment without first knowing if it is worth your time and your effort?

Don’t blame the telesales lady – if you’re fortunate enough to have someone making calls for you, then write up a list of qualifying questions for the person to ask the lead. Make them specific to the market sector. The answers will determine if a first appointment is worth your time. If the telesales lady doesn’t have the technical skill to ask the type of questions you need answered, then make the call yourself before you confirm an appointment.

The same principal applies to just “popping in” to see clients. Again, what a waste of your time when that person is out of the office, in a meeting or busy! It’s also unprofessional. The only time you may be welcomed is if that client is also at the level where they are generally happy to waste time chatting with unexpected visitors just to pass the time of day. It’s generally not appreciated at decision-maker level. At the very least, phone ahead to ask if they can see you and have a definite objective in mind for the visit.

Result: After taking this advice, Johan now only makes quality, properly qualified face-to-face sales appointments, he closes more sales, makes more commission and is a much happier guy. He’s moved up the rankings in the sales team.

Request our free Weekly SalesBrief here – a concise read and motivational boost on a Monday morning! Also great material for a discussion point in your sales meetings.

Poor Sales: Useless Sales Reps? Useless Sales Manager or what? Time for root cause analysis!

As many companies are battling on the sales front, there’s always a tendency to immediately blame lack of sales on salespeople. “They can’t sell”, “They don’t close”, “They’re chasing unqualified opportunities”, “They aren’t seeing enough customers” are just some of the comments I hear from sales managers and business owners in general.

Yes, most definitely there may be those on your sales team who need further skills training or an attitude ‘klap’ as we say in SA. However many sales issues stem from other root causes.

Here are the three most common that I’ve come across:

1. Ineffective sales management: If the leader of the sales team doesn’t know how to recruit the right salespeople in the first place, doesn’t inspire or motivate the team, isn’t coaching the team on their areas of improvement, isn’t tracking the pipeline effectively, doesn’t hold individuals responsible for sales results, etc. etc.  this could be the start of your sales problems.

In my experience it often boils down to incompetence – there are so many sales managers out there (with no formal management qualifications, let alone formal sales management qualifications) who end up doing nothing more than put out fires all day, or sit in their offices running reports and doing admin instead of getting out there with each rep and seeing what’s happening at the coal face with their customers.

Apart from lack of sales management know-how, another issue is the management style of the team leader. I’ve previously mentioned my firsthand experience of a sales manager who,  with a hangover, boast about starting a Monday sales meeting with a snarl that he was “in the mood to fire someone today”. Then wondered why he had a constant turnover of sales staff – many of whom had stellar sales track records at other companies and were indeed the right people who should have taken their sales to new heights. He put the high turnover of sales staff down to “slim pickings” or to their inability to sell, not even his lack of ability to recruit the right sales performers. They were all to scared to confront this volatile character. Time after time within months, each person mentally disengaged and focused on finding a new job. The general consensus from those leaving was that he was umm …..  ‘a self-centered, egotistical moron’ (to put it very politely). Sadly, five years later he is still there and the cannon fodder/revolving door approach to sales recruitment continues unabated. The company still putters along, thanks to a few low-profile long-term sales stalwarts who can tolerate the abuse and negativity as they benefit financially from being able to take over the accounts of all those who come and go.

2. Poor product or service quality
Could you confidently sell a product or service with serious flaws to a customer? One that didn’t deliver on the value promise? One that could burst into flames and seriously hurt someone?  One that you already knew wouldn’t do the job? Sadly, products and services like this are sold all over the world but does that make the people selling them sales stars because they made money for themselves and for their companies at the expense of the buyer’s interests? If it does, then no wonder the business world in general has a poor image of the sales profession. No wonder there is such a trust deficit between buyer and seller these days.

3. Systemic issues at the company affecting sales performance
A top new business developer with a stellar track record came to me for guidance on how to get her manager to see that the pure volume of administrative load she was carrying was preventing her from getting out there to make enough sales to hit target. The whole sales team was battling under a mountain of contractual paperwork that kicked in once the sale had been agreed. This was a systemic or structural issue within the sales department – once we put in enough sales support and took the admin burden off their shoulders, sales went through the roof.

Ditto for when we’ve sorted out issues like effective opportunity management, put in sales processes and streamlined CRM input requirements. Sales go through the roof

My message is simple – don’t simply jump to the conclusion that it’s the sales person’s “fault” that he or she can’t hit their target and replace with another warm body. The red flag here for management is the rate of sales staff turnover. The higher it is, the longer it continues, the more likely the root cause of poor or drastically reducing sales revenue lies somewhere else.

Take a step back, apply serious root cause analysis thinking before you go after your ‘non-performers’.

By Suzanne Burgess – please sign up for my free weekly SalesBrief here – quick read on a Monday, filled with tips, ideas and sales insights. In the market for a senior sales or sales management position in Gauteng? Is your company looking for sales achievers? – then get in touch with me too!

On the move?

Here’s how to find the best sales jobs in SA

via The 4 best places to look for sales jobs in South Africa — SalesJobsinSouthAfrica

Get On With It

copy-of-goal-1Whilst I’m a great believer in end-of-year goal-setting, chances are that most of us have only just managed to fit in a holiday whilst we were off for a few weeks, much less sit down and write a thesis on our goals and personal sales strategy for 2017.

There’s no time or need to feel guilty about not getting around to it. Let’s just get down to business right now and plan and prepare do everything we meant to do before the end of last year. Many customers are still on holiday so now is the time to get those personal sales action plans sorted out this week. Of course it’s much easier to just tootle back into the same old, same old routine from last year but is that really what we want to do? Isn’t there some new and exciting sales challenges that we all want to work on? We all know that effective B2B selling should be based on a sound personal sales strategy, backed up with an actionable plan. Yet so many of us still ‘wing it’.  

If we want to help more customers ultimately make (and earn) more money than last year and in the process, earn more moola than last year ourselves, we need to think more strategically for sure. It’s time to stop procrastinating, beating ourselves up for what we didn’t do last year and just get on with it. At the very least, right now make a one-pager with key points and some revenue figures alongside and stick it up on the wall. It’s a start.

Forward motion is motivation in itself.



It’s Strategy Time …

istock_000000442151smallIn my recent SalesBrief newsletters (hope you’ve subscribed) I have been waxing lyrical about sales strategy.

Tony Manning defines strategy as

“the process of thinking through what today’s business is and what tomorrow’s business should be and then getting there.”

It’s still one of my biggest beefs with sales managers i.e. most don’t have a sales strategy  – and it’s a huge problem. It’s their job to create a sales roadmap, to plan, strategize and guide their team in the right direction whilst making continuous improvements along the way. It’s the documented “who what, why and where” that is the foundation of the “how” we are going to hit or exceed our sales targets as a consequence of delivering value to our customers.

It’s a sales leader’s job to ask questions like:

Where is our growth going to come from?
Which market segments are expanding?
Which markets are declining?
Who are our customers?
What do they need?
Who are our key customers?
Who are tomorrow’s key customers?
What triggers their buying decisions?
What value do we deliver?
What value that we think we are delivering do our customers actually value?
How did we do this year?
Where do we want to be this time next year?
What are our values?
What customer service offering will we commit to?
What do we do better than our competitors?
What do they do better than us?

… and so the list goes on. Strategic sales planning is not a ‘nice to have’ or a luxury. It’s a must have. Even for a sales team of 2 or 3.

Get going on your strategy – the new sales year is just around the corner and you need to hit the ground running. At the very least, work out your personal sales strategy.


Three Ways To Increase Your B2B Sales (and Profits)

Tough economy, yet many B2B sales teams are still doing extremely well here in South Africa. What’s their secret?

graph and man

Here are 3 ideas to help you to increase your sales:

Idea #1   Run your sales analytics for the past 5 years

Looking back in order to plan forward is a good starting point. Take a  look at your sales stats in terms of how big your customer pool is in total and what number of customers are active on average every year.  Export your accounting database (which is often a far cry from your CRM database) into Excel and look at it from all angles. Frequency of purchase, average value, size of customer spend etc etc. For example: if you have 1500 customers on your accounts base and only 250 were active in the past 12-18 months, you most likely have a goldmine of neglected, inactive customers that could be a source of new sales.  It requires poring over customer details of those inactive customers line-by-line and separating out the “once-offs” vs. potential repeat orders, but it pays  dividends once you start targeting and reactivating those accounts.


Idea #2   Thorough research your active customer accounts

Figure out what your current ‘share of wallet’ is and if/how there are other products or services to offer each active customer. You’d be surprised how many times that my clients share their frustrations about their sales reps not getting their full ‘breadth and depth’ of offerings into their customer accounts.  This needs intense interrogation of what you are (and what you’re not) selling –  but should be selling – to each and every customer you have.


Idea #3  Prepare and plan like a sales professional 

Set a ‘commitment objective’ for each and every sales interaction with a prospect or customer. One of the weakest skills sales folks have is knowing that they should be advancing a sale but not being able (or having the discipline) to implement this effectively. It’s not enough to have an objective for a meeting – (many reps don’t even get this far), you need to have a crystal clear commitment objective for every interaction with a prospect or customer i.e. What do you want THEM to commit to i.e. a first appointment, organising a meeting with their CEO, a site visit to assess your strengths, etc etc.

If you need some assistance with this, then visit for great tips on advancing the sale. They’ve also got some short YouTube videos that will seriously improve your prep skills. Winging it is not going to increase your sales, if anything you are most likely losing hundreds of thousands of rands in sales because of lack of research and preparation.

Commit to actioning at least ONE of these three ideas in the next few days – it will, without doubt, increase your sales revenue.

For more insights into sales and sales management, be sure to request our weekly SalesBrief newsletter, sent to thousands of sales professionals in South Africa and around the world every Monday.



Relationships First, Sales Tech Second

No matter how sophisticated sales technology gets, it simply won’t work unless you combine it with “real” relationship-building skills and common sense.  Sometimes it’s the gap between well-intentioned marketing staff and uninformed salespeople which can create havoc in companies. And annoy your customers.

It’s all very well having a database, templates and automated emails. However if they are not carefully utilised, they’ll detract from the very thing we want to improve on – the customer’s experience with our company. For instance, I know of a training organisation whose junior telemarketer had made less than complimentary comments in the “notes” field on the database when he was speaking to a client on the phone, who – some months later – just happened to be sitting alongside him when he opened the notes records. Goodbye Mr Happy Customer.  Er.. oops.

Then of course, there’s the ability for anyone to abuse the power of email and tarnish a company’s image for years. I recently received an email blast from a team-building company. Unfortunately, the e-marketing company sending out the newsletter to their client base had duffed up the unsubscribe option – if anyone asked to be unsubscribed, their email was then sent out to everyone on the list, not just to the return address. This resulted in everyone receiving about 20 or 30 emails in a few minutes – including me. Personally, I found it … sadly hilarious reading all the confusion. There was one woman who took major exception to the scores of emails she received and in a rage wrote a rather impolite email back to the company, not realising that many of the other 10 000 people or so were going to receive it too. Seriously bad move on her part. I’ll never forget her name nor the foul language she used.  Eish. Cringeworthy.

Relationships first, sales technology second. Better still, synergise. Get the balance right. All sales technology we use must focus on the value it adds to the client relationship as well as to each of us on a personal level and our sales organisation.

Need a concise burst of sales input every week? Then click here to request our weekly SalesBrief, sent to thousands of sales managers and their teams in South Africa on request.

Sales Targets, Helicopters and Street Views

It’s pretty difficult to distinguish between valid reasons and excuses for not meeting sales targets.

Some may use the prevailing tough economic climate as an excuse for why new sales targets can’t be met.  And yes, there may be valid reasons in some declining business sectors where even hiring ten of the best sales superstars won’t make a significant difference. Another reason might be that those huge new sales targets were thumb sucked out of thin air by a  wishful CEO and/or ‘finance’ instead of through careful and strategic analysis of what existing and prospective customers opportunities could deliver.

Non-delivery on sales could also be blamed on a product/solution being seriously below par in comparison to a competitor’s offering as a reason for their poor sales performance – which may be worth investigating – even when at least one or more of their co-workers is reaching their sales target. Why is that? Better territory? Organic growth in existing accounts? Luck? Perseverance? Sales ability?

Are there as many valid reasons and excuses for making target as there are for not making target?

I recall a conversation with a sales manager who told me that he’d just let go of a few underperforming reps because they had not made target for the past three months (he claimed that he diligently followed the ‘correct’ performance management processes of course). However he couldn’t tell me why they had not achieved the results, but merely that they were full of excuses. Bottom line – he hadn’t taken the time to find out why the sales weren’t rolling in nor had he questioned his ability and skill to recruit, onboard, train or coach effectively. He only had a ‘helicopter view’ of his team and customer base. He didn’t have a clear ‘street view’ (think Google Earth car here).

If a sales manager has a street view and can tie inactivity to poor performance or unproductive activities to non-performance then yes, by all means reach a conclusion that someone might not be worth their sales salt and must be let go.

Having this in-depth understanding of the activity levels and selling ability of each of their team members enables a sales manager to effect positive change where needed.

The bottom-line is, when it comes to holding someone accountable for meeting their sales targets, a sales manager also needs to be held accountable to be really close to what’s happening in each person’s territory.

A sales manager’s failure to develop a ‘street view’ may just result in the loss of really great salespeople for all the wrong reasons.

91 Years Ago in Sales

One of the sales research books in my library was written in 1925.

That’s 91 years ago. Nine-tee-one years ago! Eek! Almost an antique.

“The Recruitment and Selection of Salesmen’ was based on a detailed university study of hundreds of salesmen at two large organisations. Here’s a few of the findings:

1. The records, report system, and other paperwork constitutes a real burden to the average salesman. The better salesmen do not feel the burden keenly.

2. Salesmen’s territorial reports are not accurate.

3. Supervision of salesmen is irregular, unsystematic, infrequent and not pointed to the main job of developing men.

4. The members of the present sales force, while they do not now measure up to the possibilities of the selling job, have the ability, when developed by proper training and supervision to become really effective salesmen.

5. The weakest point in field service is the very high rate of turnover in the sales force.

6. One important cause of salesman turnover is found in the poor selection of supervisors.

7. The company has failed to develop loyalty and enthusiasm in the sales force.

8. Field supervision is concerned too much with a checking up on the performance of routine duties and too little with training in effective selling.

So … apart from the obvious (that we ladies have now joined what was once a profession reserved for men), what has really changed in sales in the past 91 years?

We can optimise productivity using the latest CRM, Skype and Apple tech gadgets but no matter what – if you ain’t got the sales basics right – You. Will. Fail. Yes, money talks but all yours will say is goodbye.

Time and time again, fixing the basics resulted in my biggest success in sales development and sales turnaround projects for my clients.

After all, what more is successful selling than simply having the right people and processes in place?

The Future of Sales Jobs

Wondering where your sales career is going?

Thinking of upgrading your skills?

Here’s the direction you need:

.. The second [sought after job roles highlighted by the report ] are specialized sales representatives, as practically every industry will need to become skilled in commercializing and explaining their offerings to business or government clients and consumers, either due to the innovative technical nature of the products themselves or due to new client targets with which the company is not yet familiar, or both. A particular need is also seen in industries as varied as Energy and Media, Entertainment and Information for a new type of senior manager who will successfully steer companies through the upcoming change and disruption.

Read the WEF Executive Summary: The Future of Jobs and Skills here:

Clear enough? We all need to focus on becoming sales specialists.  In my consulting and recruiting travels, I see the evidence of this on a daily basis. Those who have specialised in one particular sector are far more likely to be successful in their sales career.

Note: I’m not saying that just because you have a track record of selling in one specific industry you’re “safe” for the next ten years. I’m saying those who specialise i.e. make the additional efffort to become experts in that particular field and can add value to their customers because of their vast knowledge and understanding have a far great chance of a successful sales career in the future – regardless of age.

‘Sales Specialists’ are reading every trade journal, they are visiting every leading website. They know  the thought leaders in their industry. They have a considered opinion.They know every competitor. They are aware of all international developments and advances and are continually upgrading both their technical and selling skills abilities in their sector on a continual basis. They work on gaining a holistic understanding of their business sector AND are able to apply it in the context of the local environment – because without a doubt, context is everything.

Become a specialist.