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Sales and Communications – Empathy vs Ego

Working Resources is an Executive Coaching San Francisco Bay Area Firm Helping  Companies Assess, Select, Coach and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Strategic Talent Management; Leadership Development; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; and Leadership & Team Building Retreats

Sales and Communications – Empathy vs Ego

I recently spoke with the Human Resources Director of a company regarding providing executive coaching for the company president. The HR Director asked some very pertinent questions to determine fit. She specifically wanted to know how I worked with different personality styles, and my methods for initiating behavior change.

The HR Director and I spoke about my approach to coaching, and my belief that possessing a psychological understanding of human behavior and business acumen are important competencies for coaching executives. We also spoke of the need for her organization to create a sales culture where emotionally intelligent sales people throughout the organization flourish. Sales would be part of everyone’s job.

The Human Resource Director is interested in partnering with me in helping the president to create an emotionally intelligent sales culture and workforce. We further discussed how company executives could benefit by working with a seasoned executive coach to drive this initiative.

Empathy vs Ego

Empathy allows us to understand others’ feelings, thoughts and experiences. Customers must sense that you care about their needs.

The intrinsic need to persuade and convince someone else – along with the resilience of ego to take the battering of rejection – has long been established as a cornerstone trait of successful salespeople. A powerful ego comes up as a strong driver of what it takes to make it in sales.

Yet ego alone is also what is failing people in sales. To get from where you are today to where you need to be in the future, you’ll need to develop a conscious maintenance of empathy. The right balance of ego and empathy facilitates communication and boosts sales effectiveness.

Follow-Up Works

While there’s no doubt that training equips today’s work force with better communication and customer-relationship skills, lasting change also requires coaching and follow-up. Professionals who received training, coaching and follow-up experienced 20 times more growth than those who received training alone.

The high-tech, low-touch approach to customer contact is failing miserably. Customers may prefer a brand, but they are loyal to people. Computerized customer-service systems may be convenient and cost-effective, but their inability to solve real-life problems is coming back to haunt many businesses.

Mastery of your job’s functional arena allows you to enter the game, but your effectiveness in the human arena helps you stay on the field — and win.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to grow emotionally intelligent leaders? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders to improve sales and communications? Enlightened leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a successful business.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Do I display the right balance of ego and empathy to facilitate communication and boost sales effectiveness?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their leadership development and sales training programs.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help improve your sales and communications. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252.

Subscribe to Working Resources Newsletter: http://www.workingresources.com
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Sales and Communications - Connecting Through Empathy

Working Resources is an Executive Coaching San Francisco Bay Area Firm Helping  Companies Assess, Select, Coach and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Talent Management; Leadership Development; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; and Leadership & Team Building Retreats

Connecting Through Empathy

Empathy allows us to understand others’ feelings, thoughts and experiences. Customers must sense that you care about their needs.

Studies show, however, that our sense of empathy is eroding. The Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan has collected data for more than 30 years, and researchers have found that young adults are 40 percent less empathetic than their counterparts in 1979. The ability to empathize dropped steeply in 2000, and narcissism rates have skyrocketed.

Many experts speculate that these trends can be attributed to increases in Internet usage, texting, and cell-phone and computer ubiquity. Regardless of the cause, the solution lies in regaining empathy.

Work with a trusted peer, mentor or coach to help you regain empathy. Personal change rarely happens when we work in isolation. If it does occur, it’s usually harder to sustain. Studies show that sharing plans and following up with another person lead to long-term behavioral changes.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to grow emotionally intelligent leaders? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders to improve sales and communications? Enlightened leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Do I connect through empathy with customers to understand others’ feelings, thoughts and experiences?” Emotionally intelligent and sociallyintelligent organizations provide executive coaching as part of their peak performance leadership development and sales training programs.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help improve your sales and communications. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders. Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252.

Subscribe to Working Resources Newsletter: http://www.workingresources.com
Visit Maynard's Blog: http://www.workingresourcesblog.com  

Connect with me on these Social Media sites.
http://twitter.com/drbrusman
http://www.facebook.com/maynardbrusman

http://www.linkedin.com/in/maynardbrusman

http://www.youtube.com/user/maynardbrusman

 

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The Power of Referrals

At a recent conference, I was presenting at a session with sales managers and business owners, and the topic of referrals came up. The sales leaders in the room expressed frustration that their team wasn’t asking for referrals, despite the fact that everyone on the team knew that the quality of a referred lead is far superior to that of a cold lead.

Let’s look at the facts:

  1. A cold lead, or an inbound lead from a random source, has a closing rate of around 25% to 30%.
  2. In contrast, you double your success with a referred lead, which traditionally has a closing rate of 50%. In this case, you’re not taking any additional time with the sales process and probably less time to prospect, with results that are leaps and bounds better. Accordingly, by simply switching to a referral-based sales process, your team will see a dramatic increase in their sales numbers.

With numbers like these, sales leaders often wonder why sales reps don’t ask for more referrals. These questions are supported by the fact that in general, satisfied customers are more than happy to provide referrals to their solutions providers. Interesting to note that a  study from Bain & Company a few years ago showed that while 87% of satisfied customers are happy to pass leads to sales reps, only 7% of sales reps actually ask.

Why aren’t salespeople more willing to pursue referrals with all the statistics stacking up in their favor? Understanding sales reps’ hesitancy in asking for referrals will go a long way in helping them overcome objections and develop a robust referral-based selling program that will in turn boost sales for the team.

In my experience, two issues keep sales reps from asking for referrals: fear and ego. Sales reps face rejection on an almost daily basis, so it may come as a surprise that fear of rejection would play a role in salespeople’s reluctance to ask for referral. It’s ironic, but in fact, that last thing most reps need is another avenue in which they could be rejected. Asking a customer for a referral opens up potential negative feedback or “no’s,” and as a result, salespeople avoid it in order to keep their relationship with the prospect positive and avoid any sort of rejection in what they may see as an unnecessary step in the sales process.

Salespeople also typically have big, healthy egos. We’re trained to believe that we can sell in the face of adversity—in fact, we have to in order to be successful sales reps. We believe that our method is the best, and we can sell on our own without anyone’s help. The concept of sales reps as lone hunters means that we’re reluctant to ask for a referral, because a referral is asking for help—a potential sign of weakness.

I know this issue well, because as a junior sales rep, I myself fell into the ego trap. I didn’t want to ask for referrals, because I didn’t want customers to think I was desperate for new business. The reality was, I was desperate for new business. It’s a funny catch-22, and it’s important to get past hurdles like these with your sales team in order to get them into the habit of referral selling.

Remember! Selling to referred leads will allow your teams  to dramatically increase the number of sales without adding a single minute to your (or their) workday.

In order to help your team get past their fear and ego, I suggest focusing on referrals as a sales strategy. Have a referral blitz, a referral campaign or a referral contest. Motivate your team to get referrals through healthy competition, prizes and financial incentives, or just accolades for having the most referrals in the business. Make referrals an important piece of your sales plan and incentivize and reward your team to get them by ensuring that you’re rewarding them accordingly. 

 

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Colleen has studied the habits of the top sales performers to complement conventional sales wisdom with proven strategies that get results in today’s tough economy.

Get engaged and get results today with Colleen’s Sales Flash newsletter and her FREE 7 day intensive sales video eCourse: www.EngageNewsletter.com.

©2012, Engage Selling Solutions, Inc. You have permission to use the above article in your newsletter, publication or email as long as you do not edit the content and you leave the links and resource box intact.

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Stepping into the Sales Trap: Colleen Francis on the Sales Mistakes that Cause Serious Pipeline Havoc

An interview with Josh Zywien

Sales expert and entrepreneur Colleen Francis hates to be a Debbie Downer, but she has a warning for expansion-stage companies whose sales organizations killed it last quarter: Next quarter might suck. In fact, if you’re not careful, it could be a total failure.

The reason is simple, Francis explains. While your company’s sales team was spending all of its time over the last few weeks or months closing every deal in its pipeline, it probably wasn’t spending enough time prospecting. In fact, once your company is finished celebrating its big quarter, you might just wake up to a Champaign hangover and a troubling realization: That once overflowing reservoir of leads you had is now a pipeline drier than Death Valley.

It’s a quagmire Francis has seen companies with inexperienced sales teams fall into with surprising frequency. She labels it “the sales trap.”

Francis, a seasoned sales pro and the founder and CEO of Engage Selling Solutions, recently sat down with OpenView to discuss the common mistakes that cause companies to fall into the sales trap in the first place, and reveal what expansion-stage businesses can do to avoid its many perils.

What is the primary reason that companies — especially expansion-stage companies — unknowingly fall into the sales trap?

It has a lot to do with complacency, consistency, and a general dislike for prospecting. Let’s face it, most salespeople don’t enjoy cold calling, asking for referrals, or qualifying opportunities — the grunt work of sales. So when orders and sales start flowing in as a result of good prospecting, a salesperson’s tendency is to think that the fire hose has finally been turned on and he or she will never have to do the boring drudgery of sales prospecting ever again.

What most salespeople forget, however, is all of the hard work that got them to that point. It may have taken them six weeks of hard prospecting to get the pipeline full to the point where they could close sales. Unfortunately, that blissful forgetfulness often causes them to neglect the activities that lead to a full, healthy pipeline. As a result, when the sales are either closed or lost and the quarter is over, they wake up to find that there’s nothing left. They’ve literally drained the pipeline dry, and now, all of a sudden, there’s no one to sell to.

So, salespeople have to start back at square one and they get busy prospecting again. Of course, in the weeks and months that it takes to prospect and refill the pipeline there are no new sales coming in. Ultimately, that’s the definition of the sales trap. It’s a failure to understand that the prospecting you do today is going to yield you profits in the weeks, months, or maybe even years to come. If you don’t prospect on a regular basis, you won’t be able to drive revenue on a regular basis.

Is that sales trap more common in smaller, expansion-stage companies that often lack the experienced sales leadership of a larger corporation?

Inexperience can definitely cause companies to fall into the trap. If your company’s top sales leader is a first-time sales manager, then it’s likely that they’ve never experienced or felt the pain of having to ride a month-to-month pipeline roller coaster. And, unfortunately, it typically takes falling into that trap for them to really understand why it’s somewhere they never want to go again.

The biggest pitfall for inexperienced sales leaders is forgetting how much time it takes to build a healthy pipeline. So, when sales reps have a super successful quarter those leaders can become blinded by that success, and they forget how important it is to continue prospecting while all of their deals are closing.

What are some warning signs that should alert a company that it’s about to fall into the sales trap?

In every business, whether it’s big or small, the sales pipeline should always be stable or growing. If you’re having a great month closing deals, but you notice that your sales pipeline is concurrently shrinking, it should set off alarms. Sales leaders need to constantly look at future business and ensure that the sales pipeline is either stable or growing at the same time that deals are being closed. 

Honestly, it’s as simple as that. And with the technology that’s available to sales leaders today, there’s no excuse not to constantly monitor a sales pipeline’s health.

From an emotional perspective, I’d much rather see my salespeople hit their target every month and have consistent revenue growth than miss their target one month and double it the next. Just thinking about that gives me grey hair.

What tips would you give sales leaders to steer clear of the sales trap, or to pull themselves out of it should they fall in?

The bottom line is that basic sales prospecting doesn’t require 8-hours a day or a 10-person team. I would establish a rule that forces your salespeople to do at least one thing that builds the sales pipeline before they end their day. That could include tasks as simple as sending e-mails to lost deals or prospects or placing calls to inbound leads, but there’s got to be something they do every single day to put deals in the pipeline.

Additionally, I think it’s important for sales leaders to routinely go into their CRMs and take stock of pipeline activity. It might be ugly and they might not like what they see, but it’s a critical task. Doing that is the only way to really determine where a pipeline stands and what needs to be done to repair it. If sales leaders aren’t following through with that, then it’s only a matter of time until they fall into the trap.

BIO: Colleen Francis is the founder and CEO of Engage Selling Solutions, and a highly sought after speaker and consultant. Over the last 15 years, Francis has helped organizations of all shapes and sizes — from Fortune 500 companies to small and medium-sized businesses — apply a common-sense process for working with, listening to, and tending to the needs of their customers.

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Recruiting Great Sales People

You say it to your sales team all the time: “ABC. Always be closing.” Well, as a sales leader, I’d recommend that you adopt a slightly different mantra for yourself: ABR: Always be recruiting.

Many sales managers settle into complacency when their team is performing well, or recruiting falls by the wayside when there’s too much else on their plates. But in reality, it’s essential to constantly have recruiting on your to-do list for three important reasons:

  1. People leave. No matter how well you pay your team, or how well they seem to be performing, one thing’s always certain: turnover happens. Whether it’s someone winning the lottery, moving, or getting a better offer somewhere else, some of your employees will inevitably move on from your company. And as their manager, you’ll be last to know, so don’t be caught in a bind when one of your key team members gives notice.
  2. People underperform. Traditionally, sales teams fall into a pattern: 20% hit well above their target, they are your high performers. 60% hit their target fairly consistently, they are your workhorses. And 20% underperform or are too new to measure. You always want the option to replace your bottom 20% with better performers, and you won’t have any options if you’re not actively recruiting.
  3. Your team will grow. Even in the best case scenario—where all of your team members are over performing and you’re hitting it out of the park in your market, then it’s time to start attacking new markets. And at that point, you’ll need new reps to go after those markets.

Recruiting is an important aspect of any sales leader’s job, and there are some techniques that make it a more manageable task. Here are some of the best practices that our sales VP clients use in recruitment:

  1. Use a professional services recruiting company that focuses on sales. We often see companies using recruiters who are more general in nature, and unfortunately they sometimes just don’t “get” salespeople. One of the best  sales recruiting companies in North America is Peak Recruiting.
  2. Develop an internal referral program. A generous referral bonus will encourage your employees to bring in their network. Your employees understand your business best, and are most likely to cultivate loyalty when they bring in one of their own contacts. We suggest an offer of at least $5,000 per employee that is referred, hired and stays beyond six months. It’s less than you’d spend on advertising or recruiting, and likely a better quality candidate.
  3. Ask clients, vendors, partners and your resale channels for referrals. Your new hires are going to be the first point of contact with your clients and partners, so why not ask them whom they’d like to buy from or work with? Some of your best customers might be able to draw from their network or refer you to other sales reps they’ve worked with.
  4. Get varied interview feedback. It’s important that more than one person interview each candidate in order to get well-rounded and objective feedback. I recommend that the interview process incorporate three different people within the company, including someone who reports to you—perhaps another sales rep—and someone outside the department to see how they react to non-sales environments.
  5. Vary your interview locations. You should also consider varying the interview environment beyond just the office conference room. Can they focus in a more distracting environment, like a restaurant or coffee shop? Sales requires getting out of your own office, so you’ll want to see how they do in a variety of situations.
  6. Use social media. Post your openings on Facebook, LinkedIn or your blog in order to attract people from across the country or around the world if required. Also, use social media to check out potential candidates’ profiles before beginning the interview process.
  7. Ask one last question. There are a lot of things you can test about a candidate in an interview, but one tough long-term thing to measure is memory, which is essential for a good sales rep. I use one simple question at the end of the interview to help assess this: I ask the candidate to relay back to me what we discussed in the interview. If he or she can’t do so accurately, it’s a bad sign that their mind was elsewhere during the meeting.

By keeping these seven simple tips in mind, you can make recruiting a constant priority without devoting incredible amounts of time to it. Ensure that you’re never in a bind and treat recruiting like the sales process, where you always have a healthy pipeline of viable prospects.

 

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Colleen has studied the habits of the top sales performers to complement conventional sales wisdom with proven strategies that get results in today’s tough economy.

Get engaged and get results today with Colleen’s Sales Flash newsletter and her FREE 7 day intensive sales video eCourse: www.EngageNewsletter.com.

©2012, Engage Selling Solutions, Inc. You have permission to use the above article in your newsletter, publication or email as long as you do not edit the content and you leave the links and resource box intact.

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Avoiding Sales Mistakes as an early stage company

Many early stage companies face a difficult struggle with their sales teams that can truly affect their ability to achieve long-term success. Building an effective, high-performing sales team as an early stage company can be a tremendous challenge that can cripple your ability to grow. 

At Engage Selling Solutions, we have seen a number of these mistakes in action. By being aware of the pitfalls and how you can avoid them or work around them, you’ll be better-equipped to build an effective sales team.

Not Building a Targeted Pipeline

Your first concern is usually about revenue, and that worry gets turned on the sales team. Building a targeted pipeline of the right clients is essential in gaining traction—and therefore revenue—within the market. Go back to prospecting and ask: Who are we targeting? What is our message? What’s the value proposition? Who are the right buyers? And how many leads do we need to have in the pipeline in order to ensure success?

AS an early stage company your pipeline needs to be targeted towards real opportunities for the product or service. The sales team needs to understand the market and go after the specific customers who will close quickly and provide good case studies, which will provide entry into larger opportunities.

Not Understanding the Business Case

The purpose of any company is to provide a product or service that solves a problem for its clients. All too often, early-stage companies hire salespeople with great track records at other companies who don’t yet understand the company’s business case. People are ultimately converted to customers based on the business value you’re providing to them, so your sales team needs to be well-versed in that.

Not Hiring Hunters

Founders can often become very excited over the concept of a salesperson with a great resume and experience with multi-million dollar opportunities and large deals. But that experience might not be the right fit for an early stage or startup company , where sales reps really need to be great hunters. They have to love building pipelines and creating something from nothing, which may not be a great fit for an experienced sales rep from a large corporate environment.

Losing Focus

Early stage companies can require that employees wear many hats, and that means that a sales manager can get caught up in a million different tasks or experimenting with the compensation program as part of the spirit of an early-stage company. A manager needs to be focused on his or her team and consistent and confident in the compensation plan in order to lead effectively. Ensure that the compensation plans that are in place are allowing the entire team—from management to reps—to work towards the same goals so that there isn’t any issue with them working together to hit their targets.

Allowing a Sales Manager to Sell

Because early stage companies are often run on a smaller, leaner staff, it may be the case that the sales manager is direct selling. If that’s the case, the first goal for the manager should be to replace him or herself. Sales teams require focused, full-time management and reps need a manager that does not feel like competition. The idea that a sales manager might be selling in a territory with the best leads or accounts, or is stepping in to close deals and getting a commission, the sales team can become combative or defensive.

By learning from the costly sales mistakes that early stage companies often make, we all can build a team that will move your company forward, increasing revenue with the right kind of client, building on new opportunities, and creating a harmonious work environment for the team.

 

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Colleen has studied the habits of the top sales performers to complement conventional sales wisdom with proven strategies that get results in today’s tough economy.

Get engaged and get results today with Colleen’s Sales Flash newsletter and her FREE 7 day intensive sales video eCourse: www.EngageNewsletter.com.

©2012, Engage Selling Solutions, Inc. You have permission to use the above article in your newsletter, publication or email as long as you do not edit the content and you leave the links and resource box intact.

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Converting Dysfunctional Sales Teams to High Impact Sellers

Dysfunction: the word comes up in conversation every day, usually in relation to crazy families, nutty reality show contestants, and all-around gossip. But what happens when the word dysfunction can be applied to your sales team? In particular, when a dysfunctional sales team is preventing you from getting the results your company needs to move forward, how do you identify the root cause of the problem, eliminate it, and transition from dysfunctional to high-impact? Dysfunction on your team may be inherited or may be something you’ve created inadvertently, but the important thing to understand is that it can be identified and fixed. 

Signs of Dysfunction

As we always hear, the first step to a solution is admitting you have a problem. Keep an eye out for some tell-tale signs within your sales team and your company at large that indicate you may face a problem.

The Company Isn’t Focused on Sales. If product management, development and engineering are the main focus at your company, and the CEO or head of sales has a background in finance, product management, or development—not sales and marketing—the company as a whole may not be sales-focused and that may trickle down to your team.

The Team Isn’t Focusing on Numbers with Visible Reminders. Take a minute to look around. Are sales targets written on the walls, on whiteboards, tacked to cubicles? If not, there’s a lack of focus on those numbers for your team, and that’s a problem.

The Sales Group Doesn’t Know Its Funnel or Projections. Ask your sales team and managers to define their funnel—ask them what they’re working on and what’s closing soon. Question them on their revenue forecasts and margins. If they can’t give you simple, concise answers, they’re not functioning smoothly. In fact, the topic of hitting targets, bonuses, and commissions should be frequently discussed within the team—if it’s not, they’re not focused on selling.

There’s No Sense of Urgency. Get a feel for your sales team at the end of a month or quarter. Activity should be almost frenetic at this point—your team should be on the phones and selling. If reps are taking 90-minute lunches or doing a lot of chatting at the water cooler when hitting their targets is on the line, you’ve got a problem within the team.

Your Sales Room is a High School Cafeteria. Of course, dysfunction comes in the most obvious of forms as well. Much like high school, gossip and rumors on the sales team can lead to nothing but trouble and means that the team is off focus. Playing the blame game is a problem as well: when your team is blaming shipping, support or finance for their losses, you need to root out why they’re not accountable.

Sometimes dysfunction isn’t really a harmful thing for your team—and the only way to know this is to be measuring your results. If your team is hitting its targets and acting legally, morally and ethically, does it necessarily matter if someone’s a bit quirky or has some strange work habits? Perhaps not. But in all other cases, it’s important to root out the source of the problem so your team can focus on its purpose: selling and results.

Eliminating Dysfunction from the Team

Once you’ve identified the signs of dysfunction on your sales team and determined that it’s a problem that’s inhibiting your ability to generate revenue, it’s important to take action to turn the situation around. This could range from simple steps like clearer communication or the tweaking of goals, to more drastic measures like eliminating problem staff members or making changes to your compensation plan. The following are steps you can take to mitigate dysfunction on the team.

Focus on the Pipeline. Highly functional sales teams focus on the pipeline, build camaraderie and surge forward at month and quarter end. They’re extremely results-oriented and they focus their office work and activities on obtaining those results. If your sales team isn’t getting results, the first step you should take is to manage by walking around the floor. Make sure the room isn’t quiet and listen to the conversations going on to help you determine why your reps are not hitting their targets.

Is it because the pipeline isn’t filled, or because they have poor closing skills? Dig deep: if the pipeline’s not full, decide what the root of the issue is. Consider whether the problem is willingness or ability. Are your reps being lazy or ineffective, or are they working with a bad product or problematic sales process? Whatever the issue is that’s preventing your reps from working with a full pipeline and closing deals, identify and eliminate it.

Examine Individuals’ Behavior. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. In many cases, this issue can be one you inherit from a previous sales leader, but a problem employee still needs to be dealt with.

Take a look at the individual members of your team and how they’re behaving in professional situations. Are the reps taking their jobs seriously, or are they playing games or enjoying themselves, possibly at the expense of the company’s reputation or relationship with the client?

Signs that you’re going to have issues with a particular team member include a resistance to forecasts or measurements—often, they’ll claim they don’t have time to measure because they’re “too busy selling.” If a rep has a heavy reliance on a small number of accounts or they complain about changes to marketing, product or process, they may be part of the issue on your team. In some cases, these issues may be inherent to someone’s personality (as opposed to something you can solve by training and mentoring), and that may mean they’re not going to be a good fit for your team.

Look at the Environment You’ve Developed. In large part, you can create your own dysfunction by putting the wrong compensation plan in place, fostering extreme competition, or leading by the stick, punishing or penalizing without ever rewarding. When it’s time to assess the health of your team, don’t forget to look inward to see what you could do better.

In sales, compensation is king. As much as it can motivate employees, it can also create an extremely hostile environment when done poorly. Changing your compensation plan partway through the year or changing rules or territories unexpectedly can create this type of negative environment. It encourages your reps to fight, hoard deals, hide deals or game the system. In the end, your sales team will most likely behave the way you pay them to behave, so pay attention to your compensation plan and ensure you’re paying your employees for the habits and achievements you want to see.

Hiring can make a difference to your team’s environment as well. Hire the right people for the type of sales your company makes. A rep who’s excellent at closing multimillion dollar deals with long sales cycle may fail on a team that needs monthly results with smaller revenues. Fit and skills are important, so keep your sales process in mind when hiring, and don’t get dazzled by impressive numbers that aren’t relevant to your specific business.

Strategies to Take Your Team to High Impact

Even if you’re able to get the dysfunction out of your sales team, it doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily created a high-impact team. There are some strategies that will help move your team in the right direction once you’ve solved for dysfunction.

Create excitement around the pipeline: Develop leads at every stage and ensure your team is confident about the pipeline

Rally around a simple, single concept: Be focused and constant in reinforcing a single concept for a selling period (typically a quarter) so your team knows exactly what they should be aiming for.

Protect your team: Make sure the entire company knows not to bother your team or create non-revenue-generating meetings or activities during the last week of the month or the last week of the quarter, respecting that killer sales time for your team. Rally the entire company around the fact that the sales team is generating revenue.

Coach for opportunity, not discipline: Reward your team verbally or with an email when deals are won or saved, or when reps hit their quota. It’s as important to let the team know when they’re doing well as when things are wrong or need to be corrected.  Make progress public within the team and the entire company, and celebrate both big successes and small victories.

Create a two-phase coaching program: Sales VPs should meet with reps one-on-one for about 30 minutes each week to run through deal analysis and talk in confidence around their pipeline. To foster camaraderie, teams should also meet once a week to share ideas.

Separate the manager from selling: If you have your own territory as a sales leader, you’re essentially competing against your reps. Pass off your accounts to your team and coach them on how to improve their performance.

Ridding your sales team of dysfunction can be a difficult process—but making it successful should be energizing and fun. By examining your practices, your people and yourself, you can develop a team that performs and generates revenue for your company.

 

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Colleen has studied the habits of the top sales performers to complement conventional sales wisdom with proven strategies that get results in today’s tough economy.

Get engaged and get results today with Colleen’s Sales Flash newsletter and her FREE 7 day intensive sales video eCourse: www.EngageNewsletter.com.

©2012, Engage Selling Solutions, Inc. You have permission to use the above article in your newsletter, publication or email as long as you do not edit the content and you leave the links and resource box intact.

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The Myth of Over-Delivering

It sounds like the dream sales team: the one that under-promises and over-delivers, creating an overjoyed customer and exceeding expectations on the sale. What more could you ask for? Have you ever found yourself telling your team to under-promise and over-deliver? If so, today’s the day to put a stop to it. That seemingly excellent policy does, in fact, erode your customer’s trust in your company over time, and can eventually harm your relationship.

The Importance of Consistency

Surprises have their place in life, but that place isn’t in business. Keep your surprises to birthday parties and presents, and remember that your customer will only trust you if they know exactly what they’re getting from you each time they do business. Clients love consistency, and consistent behavior over time builds trust—the ultimate goal in your customer relationships and customer loyalty.

Most sales leaders and reps know intuitively not to over-promise, declaring that their customer will receive the world and then giving them something less once the sale has been transacted, especially when the rep knows that the promises are empty. Customers feel that they’ve been lied to in the sales process and are typically underwhelmed with their purchase, even if it otherwise was a good one, because it’s been framed all wrong for them. There’s nothing worse than feeling as though a company has taken your money and not delivered the value you expect.

So what’s the harm in doing the opposite?  Imagine your sales team goes to the customer pre-sale and downplays availability, the delivery date, the features and functions and then, in the end, they deliver a product that’s better than the customer could have ever expected from the sales pitch. Of course, the customer at this point is overjoyed. You’ve more than satisfied their requirements, but will you be able to consistently maintain that standard throughout the life cycle of that customer?

Essentially, you’ve become a liar; the customer can’t trust what you’re saying. From now on, when you tell them something, they’re going to assume you’re being modest and that you can produce more than you said. In many cases, this won’t be the case, and the one time you deliver what you say, your customer will be disappointed.

Building Trust Through Delivery

The best way for you to build trust with a customer is to maintain this mantra throughout the customer life cycle: “Do exactly what you say you’ll do.” This means you need to start by telling the customer what you’re going to do in terms of product delivery and what the product or service can do in terms of features. Then, proceed to deliver exactly as you said you would and when you said you would, and ensure the product performs exactly as you said it would.

It’s a simple concept, but by sticking by our promises, we develop a culture internally that ensures the customer is treated consistently and the highest level of trust is cultivated.

Over-delivering can also erode your ability to make sales and achieve your revenue targets. The customer comes to expect extras in the transaction when they’re accustomed to them as part of the sale—your “over-delivery” actually becomes an implicit promise.  The customer demands the extras. The day you don’t add products or exceed your service speed, your customer looks at it as a failure—even if you delivered exactly on target to what you were saying. Over time, this erodes your sales process and relationship with customers.

By creating a culture in which your promises to customers are honored, you’re also creating a culture of trust. Remember that impressing your client over their entire lifecycle is more important than dazzling them once and then disappointing forever after, and train your sales staff to outline expectations during the sales process and deliver consistently.

 

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Colleen has studied the habits of the top sales performers to complement conventional sales wisdom with proven strategies that get results in today’s tough economy.

Get engaged and get results today with Colleen’s Sales Flash newsletter and her FREE 7 day intensive sales video eCourse: www.EngageNewsletter.com.

©2012, Engage Selling Solutions, Inc. You have permission to use the above article in your newsletter, publication or email as long as you do not edit the content and you leave the links and resource box intact.

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Can Your Sales Team’s Rapport with Clients Be Too Strong?

Relationships between companies and their clients are complex in nature, the deepest link being between the sales rep themselves with their clients. One frequent issue that often arises is the level of rapport between a customer and an individual sales rep. Companies are often concerned that if that sales rep leaves for any reason, whether they are fired or otherwise choose to leave on their own, that customer will go with them.  They worry that a strong rapport between their sales rep and a customer will result in loyalty to the individual, rather than the relationship. It’s a valid concern, but there are ways to combat the issue that will lead to a stronger overall bond with your client.

Balance is essential in these relationships, to ensure closeness between the sales rep and client, as well as safeguard loyalty to the company. To create a balanced relationship that ties the client’s loyalty to the company and not a single individual, it’s critical that your company takes time to cultivate the following four relationship levels within your organization:

Level One: Personal Rapport. Clients need to have to develop strong personal rapport with their primary contact, that sales person. They have to know them, like them and trust them so they’ll be compelled to buy from them. It’s important as a sales leader to help foster this relationship and acknowledge its’ significance.

Level Two: Business Rapport:  Being known liked and trusted is not enough. Today, buyers also need to know that you are a business expert in their line of work. You build business rapport by adding value to every interaction. Ask yourself this question when you meet with the client (in their office or when out for coffee) “How is what I am doing, saying or brining to the client improving their situation?”

Level Three: Corporate Rapport. At a higher level, the customer has to develop a strong corporate rapport with your organization. That means that they trust the corporation. How do you do that? Well the first and easiest step is to ensure the customer knows who the other people are inside the organization. Some key relationships that they should be developing are you as a sales leader. If the business is small, the owner of the business should also have some level of rapport with the customer. Additionally, if you have a tech support team or a customer service team, clients should have primary contacts on that team. Lastly, contact with the management, directors or the leadership of that organization are crucial as well. These key leadership contacts are essential to helping the client feel as though they are being given special attention and most importantly, helping them developing a devotion to the company as a whole.

Level Four: Customer Advisory Panel. For some of your best customers, you might also consider having the highest level link, a customer advisory panel. This provides your customers with a third relationship level within your corporation in that they're developing relationships within your customer base. This connection will acknowledge the strong association between the two groups, with your company as the connecting link. This bond is an added reinforcement that it’s in the best interest of the client to stay with your company.

As an added protection on top of these three relationships, there is one additional protection you can put in place. The last thing that you can do is to develop case studies or testimonials or use cases with your client groups. We have found that when a client publically states how much they love your product or how much your company has transformed their business and that is in writing or video or audio, a part of your marketing material, it’s very difficult for that customer to leave your organization. So that testimonial can really cement the relationship and help build a customer for life.

It is essential that your customers develop relationships with their sales rep, a relationship with the corporation and a relationship with other customers. As a sales leader, it’s essential to encourage and cultivate these relationships to protect your entire base. That way, when a sales rep leaves your organization for any reason, it’s very difficult for the customer to leave as well. These elements cement customer devotion to your organization overall, rather than the specific sales rep.

 

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Colleen has studied the habits of the top sales performers to complement conventional sales wisdom with proven strategies that get results in today’s tough economy.

Get engaged and get results today with Colleen’s Sales Flash newsletter and her FREE 7 day intensive sales video eCourse: www.EngageNewsletter.com.

©2012, Engage Selling Solutions, Inc. You have permission to use the above article in your newsletter, publication or email as long as you do not edit the content and you leave the links and resource box intact.

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Ways to Retain (and Grow!) Your Customer Base

Keeping customer loyalty is one of the greatest challenges in sales. This can be especially challenging if your product or service is one that is offered elsewhere on the market for the same quality or price. Some time ago, if a customer liked or trusted you as an individual, it would be enough to win their business, but in today’s more competitive and educated marketplace, that’s often insufficient.

 Now, customers must not only like and trust you, they must also see you as an expert in their industry—and that’s just to make the initial sale. In order to protect your customer’s loyalty, you must also develop relationships across the customer’s organizations—broadly and deeply—to ensure that you maintain your reputation even if your primary contact leaves the customer’s company.

 There are three aspects to a customer relationship that lends itself to strong customer loyalty.

 

Build Personal Rapport

In sales, the personal relationship is perhaps one of the most well-known and traditional sales techniques. Before a customer moves forward to do business with you, he or she must like and trust you as the face of your company. This means balancing your personal relationship with the customer with your transactional relationship.

When you call on a client, is it always about reordering, upgrading, or some other conversation that requires the client writing a check? If so, you’re heavy on the transactional relationship and constantly asking for money, which is going to wear on the customer eventually.

Instead of focusing on the sale first, make the client feel like you care about them. I’m not talking about conversations about your kids, though that small talk is a great way to personalize the relationship. What’s more important, however, is to make the client feel as though you care about his success. By cultivating a personal relationship with your client, you add intangible value to your products and services.

 

Build Business Rapport

Your personal relationship with the client is the first layer in developing loyalty, but today’s customer is much more savvy than the customer of 3-5 years ago. You need to not only make them like you, but also make them see you as a resource that will help them move their business forward and meet their goals. We call this building business rapport.

Establish yourself as a resource for your clients. Introduce them to potential customers or employees when you see a fit. Put them on a customer advisory panel, asking their opinion and input, which will give them an intrinsic sense of ownership and investment in your company and product. Ensure that your company and you as an individual are participating in thought leadership, conferences, professional development and other reputation-building activities.

Many studies have shown that around two-thirds of the customers that leave do so because they feel their vendor has become indifferent to their needs. Ensure that your customers never fall under that misconception by fostering a relationship outside the sales process.

 

Build Corporate Rapport

Don’t underestimate the power of not only having a good relationship with your main point of contact at an organization, but also having excellent rapport with other people within the client. With the amount of turnover that most companies have, it’s a mistake to assume that a great and loyal contact within the organization will necessarily lend itself to a secure relationship with the client itself.

 At Engage Selling, we recently had a client with a multi-million dollar shipping services contract. The customer was a great one for our client, but problems cropped up with their main contact, the vice president of operations, left the company. When the new vice president came in, he did a complete review of services, including shipping, and because the client hadn’t developed multiple relationships within the organization, there was no advocate for their particular shipping services. No one stood up and said to the new VP that our client’s shipping services were necessary to do their jobs; no executives considered them integral to the company. As a result, they were seen as “just a vendor,” ultimately losing $1 million of their contract to a competitor.

It’s wonderful to have a quality relationship with each of your clients, but don’t underestimate the value of quantity. People move on; give yourself the insurance of having established a reputation in multiple areas of your client’s organization.

By providing a superior customer experience with relationships that span your client’s entire organization and a sales process that shows you care about the customer and its business success, you can begin building your customer loyalty and stop worrying about whether a competitor might be chipping away at your customer base. In fact, you just might be able to start chipping away at theirs.

 

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Colleen has studied the habits of the top sales performers to complement conventional sales wisdom with proven strategies that get results in today’s tough economy.

 Get engaged and get results today with Colleen’s Sales Flash newsletter and her FREE 7 day intensive sales video eCourse: www.EngageNewsletter.com.

 ©2012, Engage Selling Solutions, Inc. You have permission to use the above article in your newsletter, publication or email as long as you do not edit the content and you leave the links and resource box intact.

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