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Is your weapon loaded?

GunYour vocabulary is the greatest weapon you have. The power of the “word” is extraordinary. When used properly, a phrase or even a single word can make all the difference in your success. The key to harnessing this kind of power is simple, “think before you speak”! Arm your mouth only with words which are compelling and impactful when presenting, meeting or simply conversing.

How do you respond to the question, “What do you do for a living?” Do you say, “I’m in ad sales” or similar? Or do you say, “I’m responsible for the success of businesses in my community”.

We have all heard a salesperson trying to set an appointment in this manner: “Hi Bob, we’ve got a new product that you might find interesting. Do you have a few minutes for me to come by and show it to you?”

Now compare that to: “Hi Bob, we’ve just launched a new and dynamic tool which will dramatically and positively affect your bottom line. I’m sure you’ll agree as soon as you see it. As quantities are limited, I’m accepting appointments on a restricted basis.”

Or how about this one for subordination? “I know you’re very busy, so I’ll only take a few minutes of your time.”

Versus, “I have a brief and extraordinary presentation prepared specifically for you. As I highly value our time together, I will take 30 minutes, no more and no less. I’m sure we’ll be able to mutually agree that it was time very well spent.”

And of course, there is that endless slide presentation. The audience is not told the number of slides and is therefore in limbo. When you notice that half way through your presentation that they are looking at the clock, you begin to use phrases such as “well this slide isn’t very important so I’ll skip over it.”

Once you’ve begun to speak in that manner, you’ve relegated yourself to “unimportant and unprepared”. You’ve lost the sale.

So take the time to prepare for every meeting. Think carefully about the kinds of words you will use to assure your audience of your competence and importance. Eliminate weak words and unimportant slides. If you’re not sure of a word, don’t use it. Terms such as “irregardless”, “nucular” and “for all intensive purposes” will sink you.

Load your weapon and use it carefully.

So what about Bob?

What about bob

Bob is one of your Sales Managers. When I ask you to tell me what you think about Bob as an employee, what will you say?

I’ve been to more than 100 client sites over the years and have asked this question of as many VP’s of Sales. The typical answer is, “I like Bob”. Why? Because “Bob has been here a long time, knows the company and the culture and is a hard worker. He is also very responsive to my needs and never misses a reporting deadline.” So this is how you assess the competence of your managers…by gut feeling?

I say “nay, nay”. There’s a much better way and it’s Q&A! There are 5 critical areas which when rated on a scale of 1 to 5, will give you a realistic assessment of Bob.


Q: How is Bob performing? Does he consistently overachieve?

A: “Bob usually makes his numbers although with the economy lately and a Tsunami in Japan, he’s struggling. He’s also lost 3 of his best reps because we don’t pay enough.”


Q: Does Bob have a written plan to achieve goals?

A: “Things change so much around here that writing up a plan is useless.”


Q:  Is Bob viewed as an inspirational and motivational leader? Does his staff respect him?

A: “The staff that is left really like Bob. They think he’s a great guy to work for. Those who didn’t think he was a fair manager have already left the company.”

4-Employee Development:

Q: Does Bob coach and mentor his staff? Has he developed some to the point that they can take over when Bob gets a promotion?

A: “Bob’s way too busy for this. He provides whatever training the company offers, but he’s got to make sure he gets to the number.”


Q:  Has Bob been able to anticipate attrition and recruit satisfactory replacements?

A: “That’s really not his job. We have an in-house recruiter who handles that. When they find a suitable candidate, Bob will set up interviews. And besides, we don’t pay enough to attract great talent.”

So, if Bob works for you and these answers ring true, it’s time to make some changes.  Knowing and understanding your managers from an objective point of view is critical.  Start by setting up criteria for each of these questions and rate your managers against them.  If you don’t think you can be 100% objective, get some help.  Create internal relationships with other managers or go to outside consultants who are objective by default.  The worst thing you can do for your organization as well as the managers themselves is to allow emotions to get in the way of an objective evaluation.  The primary function of your Sales Manager is to “lead, coach and mentor”!   Help them, your company and yourself by ensuring objectivity in your evaluation process.


What Do Software Development & Sales Have in Common?

Technical Debt

Technical Debt you keep using that wordI’ve had an epiphany. I attended a presentation on Technical Debt. As I listened to the speaker discuss how software code development processes can cause Technical Debt, I thought that the topic was interesting, but not really relevant to SalesClinic or our clients. Unfortunately, I’ve worked with companies that have had significant Technical Debt without even knowing it. My epiphany hit on the drive home from the event.

Wikipedia defines Technical Debt as “a neologistic metaphor referring to the eventual consequences of poor system design, software architecture or software development within a codebase. The debt can be thought of as work that needs to be done before a particular job can be considered complete or proper. If the debt is not repaid, then it will keep on accumulating interest, making it hard to implement changes later on. Unaddressed technical debt increases software entropy.”

So what does this have to do with Sales? Everything.

Think about your Salesforce automation (SFA) system. In most cases we find that Sales or Sales Operations departments identify and implement these applications rather than making a request of the CIO. In implementing a SFA, screens are customized, reports are written and processes are defined. These implementations usually don’t keep up with the evolving business model or sales process learnings that are realized every day.

At some point in the future, use of SFAs by the Sales Team start to decline. Managers find that their reports don’t accurately represent reality. Things start falling through the cracks. That’s when the Technical Debt comes due.

Because the SFA has not kept up with the changes that the company’s market has dictated to the revenue generation process, it is forced to embark on an expensive and time consuming project of updating the SFA. To complicate things further, the user community needs to be resold on the use of the SFA and re-trained. This effects on-going adoption and has its own costs as well.

From a non-technical perspective, Technical Debt can be applied to Sales Strategy and Sales Processes as well. Even before considering the effect of change on your SFA, you must consider if the steps a sales rep takes to sell your product are still valid. Has the market moved forward but your sales process hasn’t been adjusted to meet the market’s demands?

Consider a newspaper sales team. From the late ‘90’s to today newspapers have evolved into media companies. They provide multiple marketing opportunities for local businesses that may have nothing to do with a print advertisement. Digital marketing solutions should now be part of every conversation between a sales rep and their prospect.

This evolution changes the Sales Process and therefore the SFA implementation. Not keeping up with your process changes and associated SFA customization equals debt. Take the time to start servicing that debt yourself or with outside help. Don’t have the same epiphany I just had when you can’t afford to pay the interest and principle.

Why “visionaries” are leaders and others are “managers”…

No matter how much effort you expend, if you don’t know where you’re going, you will likely never achieve your goal.

Imagine a 26.2 mile marathon. You’re at the starting line and jogging in place awaiting the gun. You know you’re in shape; you know you can make it…but make what?

You surely can’t see the finish line, yet you can see it as clear as day in your mind’s eye. Why? Because you have a vision.

Despite the hundreds of other aspirants ahead, aside and behind, you can picture what it will be like when you cross that line. You are not thinking about pain or injury, simply success. You are passionate about your pending Facebook post telling your world that you are “26.2”. You can’t wait to place that sticker on the rear window of your 4-wheel drive shouting “26.2”.

This is a vision driven by passion.

Corporate visions often sound like dispassionate “marching orders”. We are asked to believe in shallow wishes couched as visions. “We will be the best in the market because we have a world class product and world class sales people.”  Hardly inspirational; hardly motivational.

When you evaluate your management team, ask yourself if you’ve provided a genuine, passionate vision for them. Have you clearly demonstrated why the team is in the race, where the finish line is, how to navigate towards it and what the rewards will be for reaching it?

If you have, then you are an inspirational “leader”. If you have not, then you are a “manager”.

“But you’ve never sold a product like mine.”

Does a lack of product knowledge disqualify a sales candidate?

Product Knowledge Have you ever sold a building escape parachute? Ever try to hire a sales rep that has? Well I’m available if you need one.

Right after 9/11 I worked with a manufacturer of a parachute that occupants of high rise buildings (above the 10th story) could use to exit the building should there be an emergency. My job was to get the parachutes on retail shelves for sale to the general public. I was marginally successful. Not because I didn’t know the market. Who did? But there were other concerns retailers had about the product including who’s liable if someone dies after jumping.

But this experience confirmed once again what I had learned very early in my career. If a person knows how to sell, they can learn the product.

In 1986 I interviewed with a company that developed and sold computer based training for IBM mainframe software. I had no idea what an IBM mainframe computer did or the software that someone would use. During the interview the sales manager asked me questions about terms I had never heard before. SAS. MVS. And other acronyms that were meaningless.

At some point I asked her if she thought I was the right person for the job. I was a sales rep. I had to float a trial close. She said she was very concerned that I didn’t know anything about the product questions she asked. She was absolutely right.

Then I told her that my current position was selling electronic test equipment to engineers who worked at the major defense contractors. My title was Applications Engineer. I was a theatre major for goodness sake. I didn’t know what a spectrum analyzer or micro-processor development system was when I got the job. When I went to my 10th high school reunion a number of people asked me how I got an engineering job as they snickered and laughed. They knew I hadn’t taken a higher level math class.

Ultimately the product didn’t matter. I was a trained sales rep with a track record of exceeding my quota. Within six months I was the number one sales rep selling computer based training. And although I knew the product, to this day, I still don’t know what MVS or SAS does other than it is software that runs on an IBM mainframe and there are people in the world that can learn it using that product.

SalesClinic has worked in the enterprise software, metal distribution, print and digital media, product container, travel and food service space. We may not know your product, but we know how to sell it.

Good help is hard to find…

Wanted-Good-HelpI say, “Nay, nay”.

It’s great leadership that’s hard to find.  Good people want to work for inspirational leaders.

Good help is in fact, easy to find.  It’s convincing them to work for you that’s difficult.  I have found that sourcing, hiring and retaining good talent is directly proportionate to the level of leadership in the company.  Great leaders understand that “greatness” is fleeting and therefore know how to inspire greatness when needed.  Talented staffs are motivated to do great things.  None of us are “great” every day.  Think of those who were farmers one day and then heroes on the battlefield the next.  They were inspired to be great by circumstance, dedication to a cause, and great leadership. No soldier ever enlisted because of the pay.   Sure, everyone goes to work for a buck, but motivation and inspiration trump compensation every time.

When I was a young man of 15, I went to work for a McDonald’s franchise for $1.65 per hour.  Sure, I needed the money for summertime fun, but there was much more to working there than donning a crew hat.  McDonald’s strived to build a culture of competition, a culture of understanding.  For me, it became a challenge.  Why?  I can attribute it to one inspiring leader… Lou G.

Lou G. was a regional manager who came to me one day and said, “Son, thank you for working so hard for us.  I want you to understand though, that we want you to work ‘smarter’, not ‘harder’”.  That one inspirational exchange led me to understand that the culture of the company valued my thinking more highly than my ability to “flip burgers”.  From then on, I went to work every day trying to impress Lou G. with my creative ideas.  The notion that my “mind” was the reason they hired me made me feel incredibly valuable.  Of course a raise every now and then was helpful, but what I really craved was Lou G.’s nod of approval.

So before you hold that meeting giving your sales team the “what for” because of underperformance; before you chastise your recruiters for sourcing sub-par candidates, take a closer look at your sales management team.  If they are more comfortable submitting reports; more at ease with attending meetings, they will likely never lead anyone to greatness.  If you can’t identify inspiring and motivational leaders among them, then you have discovered why good help is hard to find.

Don’t Hire Me.

We're HiringIn the early 2000’s, the COO of a major search engine company asked me to become an employee on three separate occasions. Each time I said “no”. The first two times she asked, I told her that I was happy as an independent sales consultant and had great prospects for the future. That was and is true. But only after her third attempt at hiring me did I reveal all of the truth.

The COO asked me to meet with her to discuss the work I was doing with the sales organization. I was contracted to build out a sales team that would attack the SMB market. Along the way I had uncovered some inconsistencies and areas of improvement that positively affected the generation of revenue in all of the markets the company addressed.

When I sat down with her she told me that she wanted me to join the company as a full time employee and that this was the last time she was going to ask. I said “no”. Then I told her why.

If I became a full time employee, my value decreased dramatically. Once hired, I would be forced to start thinking about my career first and the company second. As a consultant (an outsider looking in), I could be brutally honest about my view of the organization.

My second point to the COO was that once “inside”, my focus would have to be on my objectives as defined by my compensation plan. I would not have the luxury to seek areas of improvement unseen by other managers. It would also cause other functional area heads to question my motives when suggesting they make adjustments to their processes.

My engagement was originally for a 90 day project. It was ultimately extended to 16 months. It didn’t end because there wasn’t more work to be done, but because a large competitor bought them.

Throughout my career as an independent sales consultant I have been asked to close my practice and “join up”. Only once did I take the company up on the offer. And what I told the COO of the search engine company came true. I became one voice in a group of six, each of whom was looking out for himself first, and then the company. I had become part of the problem rather than the solution.

There are two takeaways from my experience that executive teams can use to improve their organizations. First, hire consultants to ensure objectivity in the evaluation of your organization without prejudice. And second, unless you want to lose that objectivity, don’t hire your consultants. Stop the Bleeding

What does Salesforce do for your company? Does it support your operational processes? Is it running your company? Or are you running your company and Salesforce is the system that ensures increased productivity?

Most of the companies in which I’ve consulted implemented Salesforce. In every case, it was running the company (or at least the sales team). Not the other way around.

Like all enterprise applications, Salesforce is designed to codify many processes that are operationally critical to your success. But time and again I see Salesforce implemented before these processes are defined and documented in preparation for a Salesforce deployment.

That’s when Salesforce becomes a patient. Through a series of changes, band aids are applied to “fix” something that’s not working. A field is added, a new report is deployed, consultants are hired to patch the hole created by the evolution of a process that was never fully thought through or documented.

At the end of the day, what you’re left with is a critical piece of your infrastructure that no longer mirrors the most effective possible method of doing business.

Ask yourself some questions.
• Have you documented all of your critical processes? Does your Salesforce implementation support these processes?
• What is the relationship between Sales and Customer Service? Technical Support? Marketing? Production? Product Development?
• What is your sales process? When does a Lead become a Contact? What needs to happen for a sales rep to create an Opportunity?
• How well is Sales forecasting through Salesforce?
• What is your order to cash process? Does Finance use Salesforce? Credit?
• What are the key reports for each functional head?
• Is management using Salesforce reports in weekly discussions with sales reps? If so, how? If not, why not?
• Does Salesforce stand alone? Or is it integrated with other critical applications?

Did your Salesforce administrator or consultant ask you these questions? Probably not.

The most successful deployments of Salesforce are thought through as carefully as your most comprehensive operational or marketing plan. Would you hire a new employee without a job description? Create a manufacturing process without a product plan?

Salesforce consulting firms will do as they’re told. They get paid for customizing the application according to their client’s specification. This is not a bad thing. A deep knowledge of the application is required for a successful customization project. They have a role and most do their jobs very well.

Where my clients have seen significant ROI on their Salesforce investment has been in the work I’ve done to analyze these processes, compare them to the existing implementation, and then write the specification for their Salesforce administrator or consultant to make the necessary changes. By understanding the sales process and how the functional areas outside of Sales should interact with Sales, a customization specification document can be created to ensure a successful deployment.

Oh, and an added bonus is that your sales reps will be more productive and typically increase revenue production significantly. They’ll also be a happier group!

For most of you, it’s time to recoup your investment in Salesforce and dramatically increase revenues by aligning all areas of your company while creating an implementation that allows everyone to be more productive.

It’s time to stop the bleeding.

Art vs. Science

Are your sales reps a Picasso, Einstein or Gehry?

Pablo Picasso was considered one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century. Albert Einstein remains one of the most famous scientists of all time whose name is synonymous with the word “genius”. Frank Gehry is a world renowned architect who has designed some of the most iconic buildings in the world. His works combine beautifully artistic designs and the science of structural integrity.

So who best represents your sales team? Are your reps great talkers? But maybe they’re talking to too many of the wrong prospects? Are they scientific in their approach to their territory? The sales process? Do they record their activity in a sales force automation system to ensure proper follow up? Can you as a manager understand why they’re successful?

Art in sales. The creative and organized delivery of thoughts that are crafted on the fly based on verbal and non-verbal cues delivered in an interactive volley of questions and answers between sales rep and prospect.

Successful sales reps have an innate ability to identify the needs of prospective buyers and present their product’s features and benefits verbally, visually and textually to successfully address those needs while guiding and advancing the prospect down the path to a close.
Science in sales. The defined sales process and systematic analysis of a company’s prospect universe to ensure the highest level of sales rep productivity while managing the process in an automated system for future learnings used in coaching sales reps and the evolution of best practices.

These reps also have the ability to analyze their assigned territory, prioritize their targets, and systematically identify the prospects with the lowest barrier to a sale. Through research and process, these reps consistently generate revenue greater than most of your team and typically have higher revenue per sale numbers as well.

Through years of sales consulting, I have seen many Picassos, Einsteins and Gehrys. You probably have a mix in your organization. But the goal is to create an organization of Gehrys; a group of reps and managers who combine both the art and the science of sales. By applying both art and science to your revenue generation process, you will create a sales organization that attacks the market in an organized way while creatively addressing your prospect’s needs with appropriate attributes and benefits of working with your company.

But your reps can’t do it alone. Your entire executive team is required to create the culture and the tools that integrate both art and science into your sales process. From defining the ideal prospect to developing a clear sales process to creating training and marketing materials in line with the company’s key messages and positioning, you have the ability to create a group of Gehrys who will talk to the right prospects, identify key needs, deliver the proper message, and generate greater revenue.

This transformation is not easy or quick. A concerted effort to establish processes and tools takes time. Once developed, the day to day management and coaching of managers and sales reps will change the culture over time. The language of your organization will change. Consistency in revenue generation related discussions is critical. Just as you would monitor how the company’s positioning statements are communicated, key sales management messages are essential whether a sales rep is speaking with their manager or customer service or finance.

Like Gehry designs buildings, you have the ability to build a creative yet structurally sound sales organization.