Tag Archives: Sales professionals

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?

Sharper Buyers, Sharper Sellers

Buyer diceI was chatting to a senior procurement manager recently. When he asked me what I did for a living and I said that I helped business owners and sales managers sort out their sales challenges, he laughed and said that he hoped that my work didn’t include ‘hard-sell’ sales training. Intrigued, I asked him to elaborate.

He said that he can sum up a salesperson from the minute they walk into his office. Some take ”the look to see what I can make small talk about” approach whilst others immediately whip out their laptops and presentation folders to start their “show and tell”.  He said if he picked up that they hadn’t done their research ahead of the meeting, he’d politely end the meeting within 10 minutes.

I smiled wryly because it just reinforced my thinking that many procurement folks have wised up to the ‘same old, same old’ style of selling. If you’ve been reading the SalesBrief for a while, you might recall that I’ve mentioned a training course for procurement people that specifically addresses how to outsell and negotiate with the average salesperson. That was 8 years ago. Imagine how many more South African buyers have attended that programme since.

So ditch the 15 alternative closes, drop the contrived approach and just be authentic. Sure, you have to ask for the order at the right time. Sure, there is a sales process that should be followed but not in such a way that you look and sound like a Sales 101 robot. Nowadays, the chances of getting five yeses in a row as a way to close a deal are getting slimmer and slimmer. Why? Because the person on the other side of the desk could be well aware that this is a staged and/or manipulative sales approach. As a result, you could personally be viewed in a negative light.

In 2015, selling is about the customer, their needs, their challenges and the way they buy. That’s the part of the ‘sales approach’ that needs your focus.

Integrity, authenticity and collaboration rules. Buyers are sharp.

The Role of Trust in Sales

As Sales Managers, we are entrusted with a team of individuals who have faith in use and depend on us to lead, manage and guide them to success in their sales careers. People mostly rise to the expectations we have of them. In what ways do you instil confidence, trust and belief in your team to deliver results.

And by the same token, as salespeople, what ways do we instil confidence, trust and belief in our sales manager that we will deliver results?

4 Questions Sales Achievers Must Ask When Interviewed

Naturally you’ve done your homework before your interview and you have a bunch of questions ready about the products or service you’ll be required to sell. But don’t forget to ask the following four questions too – it shows you are serious about your sales career. Remember – when you are a seriously talented sales professional (that includes sales managers too), you’re interviewing your next employer at the same time they’re interviewing you. No need for any arrogance of course, but do look after your interests.

Question #1 How many of your reps regularly make their target?
Ask this one because you want to get an idea of how successful others are in the team – the answer could lead to further questions regarding sales targets and team benchmarks in general.

Question #2 What support structure is in place for me?
The answer will tell you whether you will have someone assisting you with sales admin, lead-generation and other general sales tasks that take you away from being out there in front of customers, as well as if there is a company driver available to collect cheques and make deliveries – these are all activities that will prevent you from doing your “real” job.

Question #3 Will the sales manager be conducting in-field sales coaching?
Of course you’ll want to meet your manager and if possible get an idea of his or her management style too from others on the team – you need to suss out the overall sales culture. Sales coaching is essential, even for top achievers – the level of coaching will be far higher than that for a junior rep but is coaching nonetheless.

Question #4 What sales onboarding process is in place?
Given that lack of a quality sales onboarding process is one of the main reasons salespeople leave within the first 6 months, it’s worth asking just how much help you’ll be getting to ramp up in the shortest possible time. If you’re expected to hit your target within the third month it’s a bit of a big ask if your manager only confirms your customer base the month before, or if you still haven’t been able to tie down the technical chaps for that in-depth product training you need.

Then once you get to when it’s looking like there will be an offer on the table,  it’s also a good idea to confirm your understanding of the commission structure as well as to ask for a full copy of the standard contract of employment to review BEFORE accepting the offer. I can’t tell you the number of folks I’ve spoken to that only find out about these vital issues after they’ve resigned from their current position or have already started their new job. Realising at the end of your first month that the commission structure is not what you “thought” it was, is a bit too late.

It’s your sales career move – make sure it’s the right one.



You Can’t Ride Two Horses …

One of my business mentors – a highly-respected Irishman, academic and entrepreneurial guru – once gave me a valuable piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten.  He said “Suzanne, you can’t ride two horses with one arse” (Please excuse the terminology guys but I’m keeping it real).

It was a comment he made after listening to me explain how I was struggling to manage two major projects at the same time. The fact that I was splitting my time and efforts was affecting the success of the projects. I was not making any headway. He was right, I was no Zorro. I took his advice, chose the one project I knew would be a winner and dropped the other. It was the best move I’ve ever made.

The same advice applies to sales. We need to focus on the ONE thing we were employed to do:  Bring in the business.

Don’t lose your sales focus because someone else is seeking your assistance with their problems. The moment you start regularly spending loads of your time helping to re-configure the CRM system, assisting the export department with their paperwork or getting sidetracked with sorting out production issues, it shows up in your sales results.

At the very least if you can’t get off “the other horse”, you have to ensure that management knows exactly how your precious selling time is affected by being expected to do additional tasks.

Stand firm on this. Otherwise you’ll pay the price in your performance review.

Speed On The Bases

In his book “Baseline Selling” Dave Kurlan uses a term called “Speed On The Bases” in relation to sales.

To explain: in the game of baseball, if you want to advance your team’s score you can steal a base, you’d better be quick – you’ve gotta get your foot on the next base before the pitcher can throw to first base and run you out. And boy, do you get the pitcher’s full attention.

In professional selling, the same principle applies. You need to be quick on the bases AND quick off the base so to speak.

Whether it’s a lead from your website, an inmail from Linked In, returning a telephonic enquiry, a quote or some or other document, be very quick and you’ll get your prospect’s undivided attention. Even if you can’t help them, it still leaves a professional impression.

Such a simple principle but sadly overlooked by so many people in sales. I do try my absolute best to respond immediately to each and every request I get and if I somehow miss one, I’m the first to apologise. The reason I’m sharing this with you is because it works exceptionally well for me and it will work for you too.

Don’t take a day to return a call, don’t put off responding to an email from a prospect. Your speed on the bases is a winning strategy. It sets you apart from your competition. Try it.