Category Archives: Lance Cooper

Five Steps for “Off the Grid” Sales Success

By Lance Cooper

Lance Cooper

Many entrepreneurs and high-activity salespeople get stuck insurvival mode. They don’t organize activities to establish a better, more stable way of living. They end up doing sales activities to provide for survival needs, such as mortgage payments, food and minimum debt payments. This earns them a high-tension, on-the-edge financial existence. Salespeople automatically default to activity levels that keep them eating, sleeping, communicating and traveling. As a result, they make subsistence, not ambitious lifestyle goals, their organizing focus. Today’s matrix, or on-the-grid norm, then turns into selling to survive and not to prosper.

Other high-activity sales reps focus on the goals set by their sales managers. Sales quotas and resulting incomes typically reflect the company’s minimum requirements, and not each rep’s present or future needs. Reps do their duty, and though this is a commendable character trait in many settings, it obscures the future reality of their own sales and income goals and causes a lack of fiscal stewardship. Many sales reps get a high-five for their faithful service only to borrow money to pay for a new roof.

Even those with higher aspirations may work without aligning income, sales, activity levels and lifestyle requirements. In some cases, top salespeople pay little attention to where their money goes, and they don’t work on a plan for a better lifestyle or future. They chase more money, more recognition, or faster advancement without anticipating what lies around the bend of the next accomplishment. Their list of achievements grows, but their quality of life suffers with more debt, higher credit card payments, wasteful expenditures and no safety net of savings. The stress and financial problems soon begin to burden these high achievers and their families.

Here are five steps that break this cycle and lead reps and their sales managers to greater productivity and prosperity.

1) Answer lifestyle questions. Imagine one year into your future; your life has improved because of the income you make and its uses at home. You’re receiving the sales recognition you need. You’re making an income that provides for more than your survival needs. Ask yourself what you did with your excess income. For example, did you reduce your debt? If so, by how much? Did your savings increase? Were there improvements with your home? How does life feel now? Why? What changed in the past year, specifically? Answering these and other similar planning questions prepares you to envision the future you want and to do the next steps.

2) Find out what it takes for you to survive. Calculate your default survival income and write down the monthly payments you must make just to keep from going backward. Add these up and arrive at your “Survival Number.” This monthly total will include: housing, utilities, fuel, credit card and loan payments, IRS and state taxes.

3) By answering the lifestyle planning questions in the first step, discover your “Better Lifestyle Number.” For example, if you want to reduce your debt by $12,000 in 12 months, then you will need $1000 additional per month above your Survival Number. If you want $6,000 more in savings by the next year, you will need to make $500 per month for that purpose. Continue doing this with other dreams and the monthly requirements for them. Add them up and arrive at your “Better Lifestyle Number.”

4) You can now design a “Monthly Income Goal” that motivates you (yes, you, not your company, not your sales manager, but you). How do you do this? Add your Survival Number to your Better Lifestyle Number. When you do this, you will know what monthly income it will take to achieve your dreams. From this planning, you will receive a committed and directive energy that 90% of reps today do not have.

5) Take your monthly income goal and turn it into a monthly sales goal and its related sales activity levels. (If you need help, ask your sales manager) Determine how many sales you must make each month to achieve your monthly income goal. Using a conservative closing ratio, calculate how many quotes, presentations or proposals you will make. Next, know how many first appointments you will set and hold to get out the right amount of quotes, and the number of leads it will take each month to attain your appointment levels.

If competition and recognition drive you at this stage of your life, there is one additional step you must take. Find out what the top achievers are doing. If, after doing the five steps shown above, you find that your monthly sales goal needs to be adjusted higher to enter the top rankings, then adjust it up and plan how you will use the extra money for your future lifestyle.

These five steps prepare you for Off-the-Grid sales success. They focus you on your commitments, passions, needs and the activity levels it takes to achieve them. Rather than survival numbers, frenetic achievement or boring duty, your sales goal will now relate to your current and future fiscal needs.

You will sell beyond survival. You will achieve lifestyle goals or greatness and make them your daily focus. You will align your income, sales, activity levels and lifestyle requirements. Your passion will not depend on the goals of your company or your sales manager. As you grow in your achievements, your quality of life and financial condition will improve. You will replace misguided stresses as you provide for your family and those who need help around you. You will be a high-activity sales professional.

Lance Cooper is a keynote speaker and author of Selling BEYOND Survival: The Essential System for High-Activity Sales Professionals. Lance is president of SalesManage Solutions, a company that teaches sales leaders how to recruit sales superstars and coach teams to greatness. For more information or to learn how Selling BEYOND Survival can help you achieve Off the Grid Success, please visit www.lancecooper.com or email him at lcooper@salesmanage.com

Save

This Season, Coach Your Sales Team from Good to GREAT!

By Lance CooperLance Cooper

Most of us remember Alabama’s famous football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Someone once said, “The Bear could beat your team on one Saturday, and then take your team and turn around and beat his team the next Saturday!” He knew how to coach players, knew their strengths and weaknesses and how to get their best effort. He knew how to win.

How can you coach your sales team like Bear Bryant: from good to great? How can you do this with different personalities and age groups? How do you get salespeople engaged with their best efforts and able to handle rejection with dogged persistence until they achieve their goals?

In every field of endeavor, a coaching philosophy, or set of values and beliefs, drives the performance system. This philosophy affects the hearts of its listeners. As we accept certain values and beliefs, attitudes emerge about coaching or leading people. The resulting behaviors turn into habits, which then produce consistent results. For example, one group of sales coaches believes that people cannot be trusted and so they micromanage people and their outputs like machines. Others do not believe in the coaching role at all and believe that people will succeed or fail despite their intervention – so they tell them what’s expected and then stay away. Some sales managers believe that people do better when they are afraid. As a result, they brow beat their salespeople and work to create an atmosphere of fear and control.

The cultural effects are obvious: some sales teams operate out of a fearful spirit while others are courageous. Some are honest and some are not. Some believe in serving others – some do not. Some are creative and innovative while others wait for orders from the manager. Salespeople make confident and winning moves in the heat of the moment or we see them quit early and leave in defeat.

What are the most important values and beliefs that define great coaching in sports or in sales?

Great sales coaches care about their people. They demonstrate this by paying attention to each salesperson’s motivational needs plans and progress. To understand their needs, they ask questions like, “What do you want?” “What are the three things that motivate you the most?” “What goals do you have in those areas?” From these questions, they discover the motivating center for each of their sales reps: competition, recognition or possibly a specific need to make a certain amount of money. Then, they help the rep put together a personalized sales plan to reach their objectives and get their payoff. They also demonstrate concern when they notice progress, praise effort and show appreciation for a person’s performance. Finally, they individualize their approach by understanding the rep’s temperament – their need to socialize, get tasks accomplished, or think through each step.

Great sales coaches believe that their people have what it takes to achieve their goals. They demonstrate this faith by how they communicate when an individual or a team falls behind the pace necessary for goal achievement or misses hitting an objective. They teach sales teams the steps and skills within the sales process that lead to results by focusing on coaching 1-2 skills at a time until they become habits. They talk about specific points of progress. With various words and actions, great coaches help their team get better and reach personal objectives. They may even say, “I believe you can get this done, accomplish this task, or master this skill.’ They go with them on calls, listen to their concerns, watch their behaviors and habits, and remove sales process hindrances within their control. Great coaches sacrifice personal time for the improvement, encouragement, and correction of a person’s performance. Then, they do this for as long as they have confidence in a rep’s ability to achieve minimum performance or higher.

Great sales coaches expect their people to improve and get better. And, those expectancies are specific and communicated. Specific plans, processes and skills, lead to specific habits and objectives. Sales leaders help their reps develop personalized sales plans and development objectives. They help reps find better ways to prospect or to set appointments, how to ask questions and identify a prospect’s needs, or to weave needs and recommended products into a solution that helps a new customer or turns into a profitable sale.

Coaching a team to greatness begins with a belief that greatness is possible. As Paul Bear Bryant or as a sales manager, the values and beliefs remain the same. Never accept mediocre effort. Care about the reps. Let them know you believe they have what it takes. Expect them to get better.

People live into and up to the expectations of the culture around them and leaders define the culture. Make it a challenging, fun, and purposeful experience for those you coach and they will rise to your expectations.

Lance Cooper is a keynote speaker and author of “Selling BEYOND Survival: The Essential System for High-Activity Sales Professionals.” Lance is president of SalesManage Solutions, a company that teaches sales leaders how to recruit sales superstars and coach teams to greatness. For more information, please visit www.lancecooper.com or email him at lcooper@salesmanage.com

Seven Ways to Keep Young Sales Reps from Crashing and Burning

By Lance CooperLance Cooper

Millennials enter the nation’s sales teams as the most parented generation in history. Yet, they do not have the goals or plans to achieve compelling ambitions. Today, 20 million young men delay maturing until their late 20s and are without solid commitments and responsibilities guiding their lives. This leads to “helicopter parented” boys and girls often crash-landing when they try to take on the demanding responsibilities of monthly sales production.

Many young and seasoned sales managers have not been prepared for this new generation of sales reps. As a result, they often see the following three scenarios:

  • Fast Start Fades: A sales manager hires an engaging young man who seems full of fire and enthusiasm. His early success causes the sales manager to feel good about the hire. And, then it happens: he watches the new recruit’s enthusiasm and production fade.
  • Roller Coaster Rep: A new hire works hard to sell enough to meet assigned budget numbers, and then falls short the next month. Back and forth; up and down. The rep sells just enough to get close to budget and then misses for two months only to rise again, hit budget, and survive being fired.
  • Character Losses: Despite their helicopter parents, many young men and women today enter a sales team without the basic values and character traits necessary to make a positive social impact on new customers. If they do sell at quota, they may do so with poor customer satisfaction and unfulfilled co-worker needs.

New reps with these performance issues foster a poor sales culture with low referral rates and repeat business. This brings inconsistency to monthly sales production, creates high turnover, and may impact the company’s brand or reputation or marketplace.

Building a productive sales team from New Millennial candidates requires paying attention to two important areas: Recruiting, and Coaching. Here are seven ways to keep young sales reps from crashing and burning.

1. Use structured questions and validated profiles designed to identify the character traits, personality traits and sales competencies which would be possessed by a successful sales hire. These traits would include: honest and ethical, hard work ethic, personal responsibility, deadline motivated, a need for independence, asking questions and listening, and presenting solutions. For example, some sample questions could be, “Tell me about some previous successes at school, work, sports, a sales position, or with your hobbies. What was important about ______ to you? What was it about you that led to success?” “What is the minimum amount of money you must earn with us to feel successful?”

When asking questions, make sure you hire someone who has a motivational center, meaning they have a specific reason to excel. Also, hire someone who has to make enough money equal to or above the income earned at your minimum sales standard.

2. Install a 90-day ramp-up process designed to cause the candidate to exclaim, “Wow, this is a better company and sales job than I expected when I was hired!” Ask for feedback from reps on the sales team and create a checklist that includes training, introductions, and celebrating progress points.

3. During the first 90 days, have the sales rep complete a Survival/Lifestyle goal setting sheet which details the amount of money they need to survive and the additional monthly amounts to sell beyond survival and to fulfill a better lifestyle (building saving accounts, paying off debt, saving for new homes, etc.) You will discover some of their motivating influences when you do this; both you and your rep will know what income is important and why.

4. Get to know the rep and customize your coaching approach. Develop a scavenger list of 12 personal and important things to know about each rep. Interestingly, even helicopter-parented reps do not often feel they’ve been listened to by authority figures or that anyone has really tried to get to know them. What you learn will help you tailor your coaching for each rep. What they learn about you when you listen will increase their trust in your coaching.

5. Learn to ask coaching and mentoring questions. Then, begin asking these questions during a foundation interview for the new rep. This foundation interview will contain anchor questions like, “What do you want?” follow by layered questions like, “Why is ____ important to you?” “What difference will not being able to pay for ____ make in your life?” “How are you impacted by goals for which you have a low commitment?”

6. Help each rep develop a sales plan and show them the activity levels necessary to reach their lifestyle goals (see 3 above). Focus your reps on the activity levels (prospects found, first appointments held, presentations done) and the character and personality traits that will maintain these levels: hard work, perseverance, discipline, adapting to personalities, asking questions and listening. As a mentor, teach them how to handle setbacks and challenges. Many Millennial employees have been taught to believe that trophies and results are earned by merely showing up. Therefore, recognize and reward effort, courage, persistence and self-discipline. For example, reward behaviors like meeting prospecting and appointment goals or handling tough customer problems with great service. Do not harangue them for results in the absence of a process.

7. Operate your sales team with standards. Examples of areas in which to set standards are as follows: honest and ethical behavior, activity levels, dress, customer follow-up and minimum sales results. When introducing young reps to these standards, always explain why they exist and how they help people. If standards are not met, make sure you enforce them at once; do not wait to make it clear what is acceptable and what is not. Then, once defined and enforced, make sure the reps know that you believe they have what it takes and they can get better; they can achieve the results for which they strive.

You can develop high-performance cultures with today’s young people. When you do the actions outlined above, you can recruit better reps and then coach them to high performance. You will teach people to sell beyond quota, above survival and at activity levels necessary for the incomes they want. You, and they, can do this.

Lance Cooper is a keynote speaker and author of “Selling BEYOND Survival: The Essential System for High-Activity Sales Professionals.” Lance is president of SalesManage Solutions, a company that teaches sales leaders how to recruit sales superstars and coach teams to greatness. For more information, please visit sellingbeyondsurvival.com or email him at lcooper@salesmanage.com.