Tag Archives: sales management

How Not to Treat Employees

By Peter DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

After spending the prior summer relegated to working a smattering of part-time odd jobs, Dan desired a different outcome for his summer break from college. He learned it was important to start his search early to beat out the competition.

Through networking, he developed a list of prime prospects. Four opportunities emerged, each with an inside contact to guide the process, offer advice, and provide feedback. Dan’s summer employment prospects seemed bright.

During spring break, he met with each company, submitting resumes, completing applications, and going through interviews. Each opportunity looked promising. Soon he begin to analyze their respective merits and desirability as his ideal summer job, ranking them in order of preference and suitability. With all these encouraging opportunities, it was hard for him to pursue new leads or less desirable options.

Dan maintained contact with them throughout the remainder of the school year and made plans to meet as soon as school was out. During those follow-up meetings, things began to unravel. Due to unforeseen events, two prospects backed away during that first week. Two weeks later, a third bowed out and eventually the fourth fell through. Now Dan was a month out of school and had to restart his job search. Fortunately, the area high schools were still in session, so at least he could get a jump on their impending onslaught on the job market.

In the midst of desperation, or perhaps inspiration, he did an Internet job search. The job site allowed him to conduct his search for businesses within a specified radius of home. He put in five miles and – although in a rural area – he got a match.

What follows is a sad saga of how not to recruit, manage, and treat staff. Within it are lessons on how to churn employees.

Hide Key Information: The help wanted ad lacked tangible detail. The specific type of work wasn’t given, providing only vague generalities. The verbiage was along the lines of exciting and rewarding position, working with other professionals at an established and successful company.

It was hard not to get excited and draw the conclusion he stumbled onto the most wonderful career opportunity available. As it turned out, this was not the case.

Misrepresent the Facts: Dan responded to the ad and had a phone interview. An in-person meeting was the next step. It was in another city, over thirty miles away. Given the high price of gas and his limited funds, this was a discouraging development for a job represented to be within five miles of home.

Believing that only this initial meeting would be at a distant location, he proceeded. After three hours of a preliminary group interview and subsequent one-on-one conversation, he was offered a job. He would be selling knives! Then he received more disconcerting news. Three days of training would be held – at that distant location.

After training, twice-a-week sales meetings were mandated. Not surprisingly, they were also in the faraway city. Twice-a-day long distance phone calls to his manager, BJ, were also required. It was adding up to be quite expensive for this “local” job. On top of that, he had to buy his demo knives at a cost of over $100.

Have Purposeless Meetings: Not deterred, Dan proceeded. He made a sale as soon as his training was complete and headed off to his first sales meeting. So as not to interfere with selling, it was scheduled for nine in the evening, too late to make appointments. The meeting was not what Dan expected. BJ seemingly did not have a definite plan for the meeting and meandered through it. There was no apparent objective or purpose – other than perhaps to see how many staff would comply with his attendance mandate.

Generally the meetings would start late; often they had little substance. Other times BJ would not be able to locate his materials or handouts would not be ready. More than once Dan and his cohorts waited while BJ made copies, talked on the phone, or left the room. Once he got mad at the people not present – and chewed out those who were.

Waste Time: During these meetings, BJ put off questions for afterwards. If Dan waited around to have his questions answered, he might not get home until after midnight. More often than not, he was frustrated with the response to his inquiries, receiving a cocky retort or another delay.

The twice-a-day phone calls were also frustrating. Dan would alter his schedule to make these calls at the prescribed time. Although these calls were required, BJ sometimes wasn’t available or he might respond with irritation at the interruption. During these calls, sometimes Dan was encouraged; other times, chastised for not doing more, with his questions dismissed.

Undervalue Staff: Another problem was BJ’s focus on hiring more sales staff. He gave priority to recruitment and had little left to give his existing charges. From Dan’s original group, the attrition rate was at 90 percent after two weeks. It seemed BJ viewed staffing as a numbers game. It was quantity over quality; people were expendable and he needed to hire many in order for a few to stick.

Make Unreasonable Demands: The twice-a-week sales meetings and twice-a-day phone calls struck Dan as unreasonable, especially since he could see little reason for them and experienced no benefit. Perhaps most telling, however, was BJ’s insistence that they work seven days a week – for a job advertised as part-time. More infuriating was BJ bragging that when he was in the field, he would only sell a few days a week.

Give Bad and Inappropriate Advice: When the sales staff would complain about the cost of driving to sales meetings and long distance calls, BJ would dismissingly respond that it was all tax deductible. He claimed to be aggressive in filling out his tax forms and boasted that he generally paid no taxes. He implied that his staff should follow his example.

Don’t Pay What You Promise: BJ promised Dan a minimum guaranteed amount on every appointment, regardless of the results. Never once did this happen, with no reason revealed. It could be that there were many loopholes and exceptions in the policy, allowing ample wiggle room to avoid paying the minimum reimbursement; possibly BJ exercised discretion over this facet and abused his power; or perhaps it was merely a false promise.

Arbitrarily Refuse Training: Dan’s initial training covered product knowledge and how to do a demonstration. He was instructed to ask for referrals after every presentation, regardless if he made a sale. Dan was accumulating leads but awaited training on how to follow through with them.

He asked BJ what to do. BJ’s response was that he’d cover it at the sales meetings. Except he didn’t. Dan had pretty much given up on the sales meetings and asked BJ directly for assistance. BJ’s unexpected rejoinder was, “Since you’re not coming to the meetings anymore, I’m not going to tell you!”

Despite this, Dan did well selling knives. He enjoyed making presentations and doing demos. This resulted in a high closing ratio, and he quickly earned a boost in his commission rate. Soon after Dan embarked on his knife-selling adventure, another job opportunity availed itself. It was part-time – mowing lawns and doing landscaping – and only expected to last for three weeks.

Wanting to keep his options open, Dan balanced both jobs. He soon realized that not all bosses were like BJ. His landscaping boss was easygoing and flexible. He and Dan quickly established a rapport and worked well together. Although the job was never more than part-time, it continued for the rest of the summer.

Dan continued as a knife salesman, though it became so part-time as to be negligible. If only he received the additional training he needed and been treated with a bit of respect, the outcome would have been quite different.

[Epilogue: BJ later notified Dan that the office would be “temporarily shut down” and the sales reps reassigned to other offices; BJ would go back to being a field rep.]

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD is a commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services and does ghostwriting.

The 9 Skills to Coaching Success

By Tony ColeTony Cole

If you are in charge of managing a sales team to reach sales goals, you must ask yourself this critical question: “How effective am I in this role?”

A sales coach helps his people mentally by arming them with the skills, knowledge and strategies to help them be successful. A good coach also motivates sales people by coaching to their individual hopes and dreams by holding them accountable, by helping them recover from the no’s and by helping them reset after a lost sale. The following are the 9 Skills to Coaching Success. These nine skills will help you bring out the best in your people.

#1 Sales Coaching Skill: Effectively Debriefs Sales Calls: An effective and proactive coach is in a constant state of debriefing sales people. Whether they are engaged in a phone campaign, returning from an initial appointment with a new client, presenting a solution to a committee or renewing a current relationship, a coach must constantly have real time knowledge about how the sales people are performing.

As an effective sale coach, you should schedule regular debriefing times into each week. You might have debriefing time slots every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 pm. From week to week, you may not know exactly what you will be debriefing, but you will have the time scheduled, in advance, to do this activity, thus making it routine and easy to accommodate your sales staff.

The essence of the debriefing process should not focus on the numbers. Instead, the debrief should focus on performance— how the sales call and process were executed. During these sessions, you must ask great questions so that you find out how the call went— what happened, how things happened and why they happened. This process of asking questions creates dialogue between you and the sales person, maintaining focus on the most critical aspects of selling. Questions about the prospect’s compelling reasons to take action, their budget and willingness to invest, their ability to make a change from a current provider and their particular decision-making process are all subjects that you should ask about.

Based on the salesperson’s responses and your notes taken during these regular debriefs, you will begin to develop insight as to where the individual’s “choke points” are. For instance, if a sales person fails to get commitment for investment of time, money or resources, he or she may have a money weakness and this pattern will repeat itself. Look for insights about those items that interfere with the sales person’s ability to move the sales process forward. Correct the identified choke points and develop him/her for future success.

During the debrief, listen and digest what you are hearing. Pause and reflect before providing feedback. Be nurturing and preface comments with something like: “Now maybe I didn’t get the entire picture, but based on what I thought I heard, there seems to be a choke point here. Let me ask you a couple of questions so that we can figure out what happened and what we need to do to fix this.”

Stay clinically detached during these sessions. Be patient and “other” focused. Do not get frustrated or act in a disapproving-parent mode. If you are perceived as “attacking”, the sales person will shut down and will not be open to future coaching discussions. Wrong way— “Why do you continue to…?” Right way—“Help me understand what it is that seems to keep you from asking your prospect for this information.”

You can access the remaining 8 Keys to Coaching Success on my website or on my blog. Make 2013 your year to become an even more effective sales coach!

Learn more about Tony Cole at his blog and website. Enjoy Tony’s e-Book 9 Keys to Sales Coaching Success.

Does Your Team Have the Sales DNA?

By Tony ColeTony Cole

DNA is a molecule called deoxyribonucleic acid, which contains the biological instructions that make each species unique. So what makes up the very unique and coveted sales DNA? Is there a genetic code for successful sales people, and if so, wouldn’t every organization like to crack that code?

There are three absolute must haves for high performing sales people. The Sales DNA components are:

  • Hunter
  • Qualifier
  • Closer

Using an OMG sales person evaluation, let’s further explore each one of these DNA strands. Here are the hunter characteristics:

Uses Sales 2.0 Tools: The successful hunter uses technology to aid and assist in the traditional methods of prospecting: pre-approach mail, direct mail, social networking, and prospect facing networking opportunities. The key here is to understand that a hunter does not rely solely on social networking and technology to build their pipeline. They do not sit and play catch hoping that someone responds to a connection request on LinkedIn. They use current technology applications to supplement and enhance their current prospecting efforts.

Attends Networking Events: A true hunter not only understands the importance of getting face time with many people in a single block of time, but also has a consistent strategy and execution plan to attend events and turn events into prospects.

Prospects via Phone and/or Walk-ins: A skilled hunter knows that the phone call starts the process. It is one thing to get an introduction, to attend a networking event or to get a response to an email invitation, but all of that effort is for naught until they pick up the phone and attempt to reach the prospect. Regardless of tenure in selling, the phone is still the key to starting the sales cycle and the buying/selling relationship.

Gets Introductions from Customers and Network: Getting introductions doesn’t sound like hunting, but it is a by-product of the hunting activity. They do more than simply suggest “thinking of them” once in a while when their clients meet someone that needs the hunter’s product or service. No, they pro-actively ask and expect introductions.

Schedules Appointments: The effort of networking, social networking, and asking for introductions turns into appointments. A sales person that puts forth the great effort of picking up the phone has one of the necessary characteristics to be a successful hunter, but unless they actually schedule the appointments, then they will continue to struggle to fill their pipelines and meet personal income objectives.

Reaches Decision Makers: Just like in real hunting, the hunter has to eventually get face-to-face with the “game” they have intended to hunt. It’s one thing to be in the woods; it’s another to actually come face-to-face with your intended game. Hunters get prospect decision makers “in their sights.”

Will Prospect: This is the sales person that, when held accountable to prospecting activity, will prospect, no matter what!

Prospects Consistently: This is the sales person that, based on their own internal desire and personal commitment to success in sales, and their sense of responsibility for results, will prospect without direct supervision and will take accountability for their own prospecting activity.

Has NO Need for Approval: This individual gets past gatekeepers and has a very powerful message to deliver to the prospect. They are not likely to be thrown off by the gatekeepers blocking techniques or the objections of the prospect. They realize that they have a job to do – get the appointment. They do not hesitate to tactfully challenge the gatekeeper and work to overcome objections.

Recovers from Rejection: Like all sales people, the hunter faces rejection on a regular basis. The difference between this person and an account manager or ambassador is that they also understand the formula of SW3N – Some Will, Some Won’t, So What? – Next.

Maintains a Full Pipeline: Finally, this is the one metric that helps you quantify the strength and skill of your hunter. Do they have a full pipeline that turns into business?

Your next step is to look at your current sales team and identify who is and who isn’t a hunter.

Learn more about Tony Cole at his blog and website. Enjoy Tony’s e-Book 9 Keys to Sales Coaching Success.

Make Your Sales Team an Elite Sales Force

By Victor ArochoVictor Arocho

In every sales team, there are usually a handful of top performers…and then there’s everyone else. Imagine how much more successful your organization could be if every salesperson was an elite top performer. Think that’s not possible? Think again.

In other areas, we see groups of elite people who band together for a common goal or purpose: Super Bowl teams, Navy SEALs, top-rated college marching bands, etc. In any of these groups, you don’t see one or two people doing all the work, outperforming their peers, or being the lone superstars. Rather, everyone on the team is an elite member. The group as a whole shines because each member contributes greatly, plays an integral part, and gives 110% at all times. If it’s possible with these groups of people, then it’s possible for your sales department as well.

But creating an elite group of salespeople involves much more than placing a help wanted ad on a job board. It requires a specific hiring process that attracts only the best of the best. Here are the steps to do that.

Make joining your sales team difficult: You cannot create an elite team if becoming a member is easy. Would a Super Bowl team be spectacular if they let anyone with a helmet on the field? Of course not. In order for any team be considered elite, there must be a stringent process to join the team.

So while you should definitely advertise open sales positions, realize that conducting one interview prior to bringing someone on board is not enough. Rather, you’ll want to conduct multiple interviews, with the candidate speaking to the sales manager and other executive level people. The key is to look for people who believe in a team spirit, have a positive attitude, and display a keen sales demeanor. Whatever you do, don’t have your HR department be responsible for hiring salespeople. HR’s only role in hiring salespeople should be to process the paperwork.

And finally (and perhaps most important), make sure anyone you decide to bring on board realizes that getting past the initial hiring process is the easy part. Now they must prove that they have what it takes to be an elite player. How? By completing step number two…

Create a six-week intense new hire training program where no more than 60% pass: For every three people who make it past your initial hiring process, only one of those should actually become a salesperson for your organization. While this may initially sound like a waste of time and money, it’s really an investment in making your sales team the best it can be.

Realize that the only time you really waste time and money is when you allow low producing salespeople (typically people who are not a fit for sales, people who don’t like your company, or people who have the wrong attitude) to be a part of your organization. The best way to avoid that scenario is to make sure the people who are in the sales role have been thoroughly trained and are the people who really want to be there.

Having an intense training period is the same approach used by colleges and the military. For example, for every 100 men who start Navy SEAL training, only 17-20 succeed. That’s a success rate of only 17% to 20%! But think about it…who do you want carrying out the country’s most dangerous and most critical military missions? Only the best of the best, right? Well, who do you want being the face of your company, representing your products or services, and interacting daily with your clients? Again, only the best of the best will do.

Your intense training program should cover the following key things:

  • Product knowledge – Go over your products or services thoroughly to ensure the prospective salesperson comprehends them inside and out.

  • Role-playing – Go over typical sales scenarios as well as the most challenging sales situations you can think of. See how the person responds when things go wrong.

  • Sales skills – Even if the person has prior sales experience, you want to give them all the skills and training they’d need to be successful, and then make sure they know how to implement the skills.

  • Company structure – Teach them all the parts of the business. Train them on every department so they know the intricacies of the business and understand what happens both before and after the sale is made.

  • Research – Put them through the tedious information gathering work. Make them research the market, demographics, competition, etc. If they’re not willing to do the details, then they’re not a fit your company.

This intense process will weed out the people who don’t have what it takes to be part of an elite team. In fact, about 20% of the people will drop out by week four. For the ones remaining at the four-week mark, offer them a choice to stay or go, as in: “I’ll give you $1,000 right now for you to leave the training and the company, or you can elect not to take the money and stay.” Those who take the money aren’t the type of people you want on your elite team. It’s better to pay a small price now to find that out than waste a lot of money down the road with a bad hire.

By the six-week mark, only 60% of those who started should still be standing strong with you. These are your elite sales team members. (And if you have more than 60% of the people making it through the training, then your training is too easy. Anything that’s too easy has no value.)

Have consistent, ongoing (monthly) training: While the intense training period is a one-time thing, all salespeople should attend regular (less intense) monthly training sessions. During these sessions, do role-playing, train on specific sales skills, and find out any specific challenges your team is facing.

It’s also a good idea to use these ongoing training sessions to create bonding experiences for the sales team. Have them help each other solve problems, offer suggestions, and share best practices. Why? Because the goal is to continually develop a team, not an individual. As Tecumseh, the Shawnee Indian Chief, said, “A single twig breaks easily, but a bundle of twigs is strong.” By bringing your salespeople together monthly, you’re creating a strong and elite sales force that can’t be broken.

To Be the Best, Recruit the Best: Sales isn’t an easy profession. So joining an elite sales team shouldn’t be easy either. That’s why you need to shift your focus from filling a sales position to building an elite sales force. After all, your sales team really is the face of the company. Shouldn’t only the best of the best be representing your brand? The sooner you take this approach to building your sales department, the sooner your company’s sales (and profits) will grow.

Victor Arocho is an executive coach, speaker and managing partner with Potential Sales & Consulting group.  He specializes in exponentially growing sales by bringing accountability to the sales process and crafting a sales culture of success. His numerous career highlights include tripling a publicly traded organization’s profits within 24 months. With his passionate and strategic style of sales, Victor has assisted others in growing their business and achieving their revenue potential. To learn more about Victor, please visit victorarocho.com.

Is Your Company Delivering on Its Sales Promises?

By Victor ArochoVictor Arocho

Any sale—from the smallest consumer item to the largest enterprise-wide solution imaginable—is about much more than simply providing a product or service. A sale is really about delivering a promise to the customer. Unfortunately, many companies have no idea what their sales promise is. Sure, they may have a company vision or a mission statement, but those things usually don’t address the specific processes the company uses to deliver value to its customers.

A true sales promise goes way beyond a tangible deliverable. It’s about the customer’s interaction with your company throughout the sales cycle. It’s a sense that everyone from every department is aligned on customer satisfaction. It’s about the service and interaction with the company after the sale. It’s about making customers feel confident that your company as a whole—not just a single product, service, or salesperson—can deliver the results the customer wants…and exceed expectations.

In essence, it takes every single department to fulfill your company’s sales promise. When you actively define the promise you want to make to your customers, and then make sure everyone in the company knows what that promise is, you can deliver on your promise and exponentially grow your sales.

So, what’s your company’s sales promise? Following are some suggestions for making sure your sales promise is crystal clear.

Define your promise to your customers: In order to deliver on a promise, you first have to know what the promise is. Get the various departments together and ask them, “What do we want our customers to experience as a result of working with us? What do we want our promise to be?” Then listen to the issues or expectations each department brings up.

Having this conversation in a group format with the various departments represented is crucial, because people need to see how the different departments work together to deliver on the promise. Of course the billing department wants to send out accurate invoices and reminders, the engineering department wants to create workable solutions, and the shipping department wants things shipped on time. But if no one sees how their process impacts another department’s process, then the process as a whole will break down…along with the sales promise.

Therefore, after you define the promise in general terms, pay attention to the small details of the promise. Look at everything, including customer callback times, product turnaround times, billing cycles, shipping times, customer service follow-up, etc. Be specific. Simply saying, “We promise to call customers back quickly” is not specific. What is quickly? One hour? Four hours? Two days? Without the details defined, it’s easy to break the sales promise.

Provide ongoing training about the sales promise: Once you have the promise defined, provide ongoing training to each team member on what the sales promise means and how everyone in the company can work together to deliver on the promise. Educate all new hires with the premise and details of the sales promise, and ensure that current employees are always on board with the message.

Also, make sure everyone in every department can clearly communicate what the company’s sales promise is and how they and their department play a role in fulfilling that promise. Make it clear that everyone—accounting, shipping, R&D, customer service, and every area in between—is responsible for fulfilling some part of the sale and impacting some aspect of the customer’s experience.

Finally, as part of the training, ensure that everyone understands it’s their job to hold each other accountable for delivering on the promise, and train them on how to do so. Remove the corporate silos, where departments operate in a vacuum, and train people how to communicate across department lines so they can all work together to ensure that the sales promise gets delivered to every single customer.

Promote the sales promise to customers in a broad and global way: With all the details worked out and everyone in alignment with the company’s sales promise, it’s time to communicate that promise to customers. But customers don’t need or want to know all the detail work you’ve just done. They simply want all those details to flow smoothly as they interact with you.

A good sales promise from a customer’s perspective is something broad and global—something that resonates with people. Perhaps all the detail work you’ve just created gives customers “the easiest shopping experience ever” or “the best casual dining atmosphere” or “the latest technology innovations simplified.” Whatever your promise is, promote it in a way that speaks to what the customer truly wants. With that broad and global sales promise being promoted, employees will then be empowered to use the newly-created processes to go above and beyond to exceed the customers’ expectations.

For example, Southwest Airlines has a sales promise to get you where you need to go on time. To fulfill that promise, they have many internal processes created. Additionally, everyone in the organization knows the promise and their role in fulfilling it. When a plane is at risk of being late, you’ll see everyone—even pilots—pitching in, loading baggage, and doing what they can to get the plane out on time. That’s the power of a unified sales promise.

A Promise for a Profitable Future: When the people within your company focus on the fact that everyone in every department is involved in the sales process, creating and living by a sales promise is much easier. So if you want to grow sales and create a following of raving fans who are eager to do business with you, get started on your sales promise today. Remember, the sale is just the start; the promise is ongoing.

Victor Arocho is an executive coach, speaker and managing partner with Potential Sales & Consulting group.  He specializes in exponentially growing sales by bringing accountability to the sales process and crafting a sales culture of success. His numerous career highlights include tripling a publicly traded organization’s profits within 24 months. With his passionate and strategic style of sales, Victor has assisted others in growing their business and achieving their revenue potential. To learn more about Victor, please visit victorarocho.com.