Are Your Salespeople Afraid of the Dark?…Look For the Signs

If you have been in sales, led salespeople you know what it’s like when a sale “goes dark”. You had a “great meeting” , you listened, and you felt you heard the buyer’s pain, you followed up with a proposal that shares how your product or service solves their pain….and then nothing. A day turns into a week, a week a month and your buyer goes dark not answering your voice mails, emails, faxes, and so on.

To make maters more stressful the salesperson shared how they felt they finally closed “XYZ “and all of senior management is now waiting for the order.( and asking for what seems like hourly updates as to when it will come in)

What are your buyers doing when they go dark…does your team know? If not what you will experience as signs your salespeople are afraid of the dark include;

  • end of sales period price discounts

 

  • change in agreed payment terms

 

  • change in standard shipment terms

 

  • free products and or services added to “close the sale

 

The most common cause of salespeople becoming afraid of the dark is a shift in the way your buyers are buying. Your current sales process lacks a clear understanding of the buying process and you require new sales tools to keep the conversation moving to a close.

Reminder, it’s not about how you want to sell, but helping your buyers buy …the way they want to buy!

 

 

 

How about your organization……

 

Is your sales team afraid of the dark?

 

Do you have one or two salespeople who seem more afraid than others?

 

Do you hear about a number of good meetings that never result in an order?

 

Market leading organizations are constantly in their markets and adjusting to shifts in the way their buyers are buying.

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What does it mean to “ Play life like a champion”

 

 

In my recent post; Are you a Pit Bull or a Poodle I share a quick test I give clients who are considering entering the entrepreneurial game.  One of the key indicators you are a Pit bull is you ;

“Play life like a champion.”

 

So what does it mean to play life like a champion?

 

Having lived in North Canton Ohio most of my adult life the Pro Football induction ceremonies and celebrations are a big event we looked forward to each year. Aside from the parades and ribs burn off I often would  listen to the speeches recognized Hall of fame champions gave when they were inducted.

This year was not exception as Emit Smith’s speech was one all business owners setting out to be the dominant market leader in their field should listen to. Below are some key bullet points I gathered from his speech;

  • don’t set out to be good, set out to be the best

 

  • write your goals down and they become real

 

 

  • study the greats that went before you

 

  • demand excellence of your self and those around you

 

 

  • be thankful each day you are blessed to be playing

 

  • rarely is personal recognition won without the contribution of others

 

 

  • share your goals with others who will hold you accountable

 

 

  • understand it will take sacrifice and make sure you are willing to do what it takes

 

 

  • Never, never ever give up

 

I found this speech particularly inspiring as so many business owners and their leadership teams face challenging times.

As leaders we must be intentional about the values and principles we weave into the fiber of our cultures. Just as goals not written down are just dreams, failure to intentionally state and reward the behaviors you desire of yourself and your team is a mistake as champions do not “just happen”.

Hall of Fame Football champions do not “just happen”, they are born of a relentless desire for excellence.

So how about you…..

 

Do you have a clear written goal that demands excellence to achieve it?

 

Does your team clearly understand the goal and the path required to achieve it?

 

Does your team reward the behaviors of champions?

Delivering Happiness; Proof …the “Golden Rule” is Profitable !

  

 Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Does your business (do you) solve your customers’ unresolved problems? Does your team’s culture promote serving your internal and external customers to ultimately deliver happiness in their lives? Or, are you like the 90% of businesses out their hunkered down, focused on your numbers…driving costs out of your business…achieving your objectives…striving to hit your bottom line?

Businesses who passionately deliver happiness through solving their customers’ unresolved problems grow rapidly and are significantly more profitable than those with an inward focus.

 

Market leaders passionately serve their market’s needs and experience greater shareholder value than those inwardly focused.

 

If you read my blog, you know I enjoy reading. Some time ago one of my mentors said “leaders are readers” and this gave me a ravenous appetite to read and learn. I just finished: Delivering Happiness ;A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony  Hsieh the founder of Zappos. The book is a quick read as it is written in a conversational tone that makes its overall message and stories connect. What I enjoyed most is you cannot argue with Zappos success having just recently been acquired by Amazon for $ 1 billion.

We know the “Golden Rule” is something we should all live by….” Do onto others as you would have others do onto you”, however many business leaders are afraid of weaving this into the very culture of their businesses due to fear. The first fear usually comes from the CFO types out there…are you crazy, do you know how much that will cost us? (they are quickly won over when sales and profits grow exponentially)

Then there’s the hard-driving, what DISC would say is a “Driven” personality types, who says…serve my market? I want to drive results through my market.” (they can be convinced)

Lastly we also have the old school (market loser) mentality that says; I win you loose and the delivery of goods and services is about their personal needs and is not in any way connected to their customer’s needs or problems. They look at each day as a competition to sell their product or service, to overcome the buyer’s objections, and create a need for their product in their market. (they rarely change their beliefs and are often removed due to poor overall team performance)

The first two examples, the concerned CFO and the Driven leader can be convinced, however the business leader who is out for his own personal goals …well he or she will take a great deal of convincing and may never see the light based on my experience. The sad reality is this last type often looses what they are working so hard to create since they are focused on the wrong self-serving outcome.

I enjoyed this book as it truly captures the thoughts and emotions involved in the minds of entrepreneurs in the start-up phase of the business. Tony shares those bleeding edge of decision moments that brought me back to a number of personal experiences I have experienced. If you have launched a business or even a new product to some degree, you may have experienced;

Will we have enough cash?

 

Will that promised big order come in?

 

I now know what we need to do but can we truly afford to do it?

 

Will that big receivable we have been waiting on arrive in time for us to make payroll?

 

Should I continue to personally invest in this business or cut bait?

Can we find the funding we need in time?

 

I particularly enjoyed Tony’s account of the roadblocks and the corresponding emotions we all face in launching anything new. In the past 26 years of launching new products, new businesses, I cannot recall one that we did not encounter unforeseen roadblocks. What we must quickly do is identify the issue with unfiltered data, focus on the solution, the objective we plan to achieve, and take action.

Businesses that face roadblocks like the proverbial deer in the headlights get run over.

 

What stands out most is how Zappos is a current example of a business that intentionally has woven the golden rule through their culture and their brand. Far too many organizations launch with an unintentional disconnect between what they say in their mission and value statements and what they actually do. This disconnect is felt internally as well as in their market and in both cases violates trust.

Establishing trust is the most critical foundation in building win-win relationships with your internal and external customers.

 

Zappos intentionally set out to create their culture and clearly defined their culture in terms of 10 core values;

  1. Deliver WOW through service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and a Little weirdness
  4. Be adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do more with less
  9. Be passionate and Determined
  10. Be humble

 

Tony goes on to say; “many companies have core values, but they don’t really commit to them. They usually sound more like something you’d read in a press release….We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to.”

 

So how about your company….

 

Do you have core values? Can everyone on your team rattle them off…or just HR?

 

Are your core values intentionally woven into how you serve your market…or are there exceptions to the rule?

 

Have you intentionally set out to build trust with your internal and external customers?

 

Does your team authentically live the core values of your organization in all they do…or are their very actions breaking trust with your internal and external customers?

 

Do your team members have the freedom (and sense of safety) to boldly challenge practices not in align with your core values?….even if one of your senior leaders is violating them?

 

As I mentioned in a blog that discussed Delivering Happiness, this is not just a book…

 

Delivering Happiness is more than a business model …it’s a Movement

 

So I ask you again;

Is your business, (you), your team, delivering happiness to your internal and external customers?

What is the cost to your bottom line if one of your competitors intentionally sets out to serve their market when you continue your inward focus on your goals and your bottom line?

What Should You Do if You Report to an “ASS Kicker”?…Forgive Them

 

 

There are various styles that leaders use to drive growth. Some unfortunately are less intentional and fall into a bullying and “ASS Kicking” mode. So what are you to do if you find yourself reporting to an ASS Kicker?….believe it or not you must forgive them.

In business, ..Heck,.. in life ,you will encounter all types of people. Some will stand out as mentors for you .My first job, right out of college was a route salesman for Frito-Lay. I see now I was blessed to have worked for an amazing mentor named Harry Jones. He was ; firm fair and consistent. He owned his areas of responsibility. When I made mistakes (often back then) he took the pressure from above and used the mistake as a teaching moment.

Unfortunately I have experienced many  leaders who lead by intimidation , bullying their teams and they frequently looked for : “What ASS to Kick” instead of the defining the nature of the problem that needs solved. They fail do the heavy lifting of finding market truths and they shoot from the hip and their gut.

I feel comfortable discussing “Ass Kickers” as regrettably this was my style early in my career. I drove  my teams through intimidation. Sure I mentally justified my actions with thoughts like;

They will thank me some day   ( none ever did)

 

It is the quickest route to the objective ( wrong, it often caused many other concerns)

 

People need to be driven  ( no, they need to be led, and leadership is difficult )

 

They know what needs to be done and are just not “ motivated” “accountable” ( wrong, in most cases my communication was poor and the team lacked a clear understanding of the objective and they did not have the tools to win)

 

The solution to the problem at hand is the only consideration. ( little or no consideration for the relationship with those involved, win battle lose war)

With  thoughts like above and others racing through their minds, leaders with a low emotional intelligence lead by “ASS Kicking”. Without a leadership filter that also considers the big picture, corporate values and the relationships with those involved they spew their  kicking , throat choking rhetoric.

Sadly, this behavior has a common root: Fear.

As I discussed in my post : Are You Looking For “An ASS To Kick”…” Throat to Choke” or a Solution to a Problem?… (There is a difference) leaders who use a bully approach are very afraid. In their fear they become frustrated, anxious, and more fearful the challenges they face will somehow tarnish their reputation and or political power.

 

So what do you do if you work for an Ass Kicking Boss?…..FORGIVE  THEM

What? Are you nuts? This guy (gal) treats me like crap and I am supposed to just forgive them?” ….Yes!

I heard once; anger and resentment are like acids that only damage the vessel that contains them.

 

If you hold on to the anger, hurt, and so on you feel from your throat choker it will hurt you physically, professionally ,emotionally, and financially.

So forgive them. The first reason to do so is it is Biblical. Finding faith , the truths in the Bible is what taught me the errors of my ways and empowers me to serve my teams today.Second , you must release the anger festering inside . ( I promise you your ASS Kicker has already forgotten what they said to you) Third, your inner anger and frustration , if left unchecked ,will bleed into your relationships with customers, and more important your loved ones.

“ASS Kickers” are not dumb people. Chances are they busted their ( you know what’s) back in the day, earned their bones on a daily basis. They are not happy people. My recommendation is to gather raw unfiltered data as fast as possible and present that data and ask them what they would do. You may need to also make sure, once you see the data , that you truly are doing the best job you could be doing. If not , admit it and commit to improve.

If you take my advice, gather data ( facts without judgments) see how the leader reacts….

If they roll up their sleeves and offer to help, hang in there.

If they blow up again, and actually make the problem worse…leave.

Good value adding employees do not need to put up with an abusive boss.

You are not trapped in this job.

You are not a slave, owned by this employer.

Yes it is frightening when you mentally commit to leave, however you will also gain peace as you can tolerate the abusive boss while you know there is light ahead ….and it’s not a train.

There are many people who have written about abusive/ bad bosses and below are some links if you want to hear other’s views;

What To Do When Your Boss Is A Jerk

 

If Your Boss is a Jerk, Don’t be a Willing Victim 

 

When you work for a Bully 

 

How to Handle a Bullying Boss

 

How to Deal With Bully Bosses

 

Tactics Of A Workplace Serial Bully Boss

 

Bad Boss-Health This Week with Don Baillargeon  ( you tube)  

 

Fox News – Dealing with a Bad Boss – Joe Takash ( you tube)

 

 

So if you work for an ASS Kicking boss…forgive them and remember you are in control of how you feel.

 

You can choose to become angry and bitter and lose yourself in self-pity, or you can choose to forgive them and release that internal acid.

 

You are in control as you can also leave and add value somewhere else.

 

 I Attended an awesome seminar years ago by the Covey institute and I think it was called the Power Principle. simply stated;

“you are not free to stay….until you are free to walk away”

Don’t Kick Your Salesperson’s ASS, …Help Them Find Their Number….

 

One of the easiest things a sales manager, (business leader) can do is resort to a; “boot on the throat”…” a throat to choke” ….and “Ass Kicking “mode. After all it takes very little effort, knowledge or skill to be a critic and a bully.

True leaders help train and motivate their teams.

 If your desire is to hit and surpass your sales objectives….Help your salespeople “find their number”.

I see it all the time, a new product launches or a new sales goal is distributed to a sales team and the key performance measurement: Sales to plan is not met. The easy route is to start “Ass Kicking”. You know …the weekly and by weekly conference call thrashings in front of their  peers. The sales update calls at 5pm on Fridays that last until 7pm. The “contemplation of your navel” market reports on why they can’t hit their sales numbers and their future action plan to change the results.

Yes this may drive some momentary, fear driven results, but this is not how you create sales velocity. In 99% of the cases I have been asked to help figure out why sales objectives were being missed it was not lazy salespeople who needed their butt’s kicked. A frequent cause was poor (or a total lack of) sales training. In these cases struggling salespeople are told to “stop making excuses and just make it happen, figure it out”. However the reality is the reason your team is missing numbers can be traced back to your understanding (yes you) of your market and buyers problems, buying criteria, and buying process.

Sales velocity is sales increases with direction and momentum and it is never driven by fear.

If your salespeople are struggling with sales, particularly new product sales and or new business sales my advice is to stop… the beatings as the morale is not improving and “help your salespeople find their number”. Their number is how many rejections they have to experience to have a win.

For example at one time in my career I ran business development for an ad firm. After tracking my calls I found my number was 18. If I made 18 calls I would get 2 appointments and from those two appoints I would close 1 new account. Instead of dreading the call process it became a game. Each rejection meant I was one step closer to a yes. Over time I also tried to improve that number.

A couple of funny things happen when you track how many rejections your team receives;

First, they make more calls. More calls mean more opportunities to win, more opportunities to start conversations.

Secondly, if your sales team has been properly trained on how to listen to buyers, determine their unresolved problems, and they understand the problems your product solves….you will have a number of net new potential clients dropping into your marketing funnel. Some of these accounts may not buy for 12-14 months, but if you compliment your calls with a lead nurturing campaign you have a high probability of closing them when their problems, (their pains) become unbearable.

As the leader you must listen to your team and look for diamonds as far as what is working and share it with your entire team. In addition you must look for common reasons sales do not occur and work with marketing to create sales tools for these common roadblocks in the flow of the sales process.

So do me (and your sales numbers) a favor …

Track number of rejections for each team member for 60 days. Gain an intimate knowledge of common reasons buyers are rejecting your salespeople.

 

Have your salespeople report on their number of rejections each week and you will see more net new sales and your marketing funnel will increase exponentially to help your future sales numbers.

Or go ahead and Kick Some Ass….it sure worked when you were a salesperson right? …Oh it didn’t? It actually made you feel like a number, and you lacked a loyalty to that manager and or company? Or you left that team, that idiot boss and now you lead the competitor’s sales team?  Interesting…did the ass kicking make you seem desperate to your accounts at the time and the deals you did close were below your targeted profit margin? Hmmm…so what makes you think “Ass kicking” makes your team feel any different?

Does your team track number of rejections?

 

Does each of your salespeople know their number?

 

Does your organization use those individual rejection numbers to identify team member who need training?

 

If you are in sales, do you know your number?

 

Do you find when the pressure is on salespeople chase new business differently? Are they making things up on their own? Making promises your product or service can never achieve?

You always have a choice.

You can “let the beatings continue until the sales and morale improves”….’let the Sh@t flow down hill…”or you can chose to lead your team. You can help them, motivate them to make more calls, and clearly understand your market, buyers, and have a record setting year.

Are You Looking For “An ASS To Kick”…” Throat to Choke” or a Solution to a Problem?… (There is a difference)

When things go wrong, (or not according to plan) how do you and other leaders in your organization react? (go ahead, be honest…it’s just the two of us…) Do you and other leaders look for “What ASS to Kick” or “What Throat to Choke”? Or do you focus on determining and defining the problem and setting out to develop a creative solution?

Your answer will determine if you are on a “market leading” team, or a “market Losing” team.

Predictably our President Obama used some hard talk, harsh rhetoric in a recent interview. I am not going to debate if he was too cool and calm to this point, and if he should have or shouldn’t have said he was looking for “What ASS to Kick”. What I want is for you to watch this You tube clip of the interview and ask yourself how it makes you feel if this was someone you reported to.

Go ahead click this link…I will wait…

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ3nSUdsOeU .

Ok, so how did it make you feel?

 

Before we judge the president too harshly… do you or your organization allow and practice this behavior of blame storming? You sure? When I saw this interview I first thought his language was predictable in the sense that the news media was challenging his calm demeanor during this crisis. So I expected some much stronger language. However when someone in a position of leadership takes this bully approach it quickly makes me feel like they are not a part of the problem or solution. It as if they are a leader trying to distance themselves from the problem as opposed to owning it and being a part of the solution.

When a business leader speaks like this to his or her team ( or me) , they are basically saying…” I don’t know what to do…I am frustrated…my assumption is you know the problem …the perfect solution, and you are choosing not to work,…you are not motivated( accountable)  to execute what needs to be done for one reason or another…and I am tired of looking bad” It’s ok to admit a problem frustrates you. However it is not ok to take your frustration out on others.

Leaders who jump into blame storming mode are more concerned about how the current situation makes them look…”politically”. They are actually fear motivated as they are fearful of how the current situation may somehow attach and tarnish their personal reputation. Blame storming is about reducing their exposure, their fear, by becoming “above” the situation. The trouble is when you enter fear mode, your creatvity needed to solve the problem shuts down.

Do you feel you would be loyal to a leader so quick to look for someone to “Throw under the bus?”

 

Market leaders gather data and perform triage not to find a “Throat to Choke” ( hold people more accountable) but to establish truths versus relying on their gut and intuition.

Market leaders clearly define the problem and humbly seek the advice of experts that have solved problems like this in the past. They seek out advice and develop a plan, a roadmap to a solution based on the data gathered and they manage the process not the people.

Market leaders use problems and challenges to strengthen their teams, and their teams loyalty to them and the organization.

So again I ask….What kind of organization do you work for?

 

Is there ever a time “ASS Kicking” or Throat Choking” is the solution? (I don’t think so but hey…I may be wrong. so please share)

 

Should we seek out “who to blame”?

 

Or

 

Should we clearly define the problem and set out to solve it?

 

Or do you believe ( as one CEO said to his senior leadership team before a  board meeting) : “We need to identify a fall guy for —– as I do not want it on my head”

Again, feel free to argue with me…but I believe people come to work with the desire to add value, the desire to make a difference. If you truly have an accountability problem then shame on you as the leader for allowing it to result in a problem ( disaster) like you are now facing.  Accountability problems do not just show up one day, they fester over time.

As the leader, your job is to create a culture that focuses on the problem and not the person. 

Your role is to  rally your team to break through problems and roadblocks. ( not look for someone to  run over)

Sales is a Science When You Have Strong Marketing….an Art When Your Marketing Sucks!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is sales and “art” or a “science”? It depends….is your marketing strong, or does it suck?

 

In my last post: Is Sales an Art or a Science I shared how I opened a recent presentation to business owners and their senior leadership teams with a question;

Is Sales an Art or a Science?

 

The responses were pretty predictable;

Felt sales was a science: 30%

 

Felt sales was an Art: 60%

 

Felt sales was both an art and a science: 10%

 

This was interesting, however I heard the soft comment I was waiting for: “It Depends…on your industry, team’s training, product, price, availability of sales tools, your web site….” (Perfect! Now we are going to have a discussion!)

Then they asked me…what did I think? Art or science? I said “yes” as sales is often both. I find where sales falls in the spectrum with art on one end and science on the other depends on the organizations competency in marketing.

Marketing? Yes, because the fundamental job of marketing is to have an intimate understanding of your market, its buyer’s problems, and how they set out to solve those problems. Competent marketing teams clearly understand the buying process, cycle and criteria. They create tools to help buyers buy.

Market Leaders

 

If you have a strong competency in marketing, you know your market, and its problems that need to be solved. You know the buyers; you have clearly stated buyer persona’s and you understand the buying process. Your message is clear and does not require a translator (salesperson) to help buyers understand the problems your products or services solve.

Market leaders have such a clear understanding of the buying process their sales is more of a science. The art in the sale for market leaders is the salesperson’s ability to ask open-ended questions and apply proven sales tools for the right step of the buying process that keeps the conversation moving to a sale.

In market leading organizations, sales are 80% science and 20% art.

 

Unfortunately less than 10% of organizations would be considered Market leaders. Those that are, dominate their markets.

 

 

 

Market losers

 

If your team lacks a competency in marketing you will experience it for yourself on sales calls. Your team plays; “ feature and benefit BINGO” in hopes they rattle off all your features and benefits and at some point your buyer yells “BINGO” as they put the pieces together with the problem they have, and they understand how they “think” you solve this problem.

 

Market losers really do not know the problems their products solve for their buyers, the buying process, or buying criteria. In most cases their products were built from the inside out and marketing was tasked with “creating the need” for their products…losers! 

Market losers launch products and believe they can “manage by objectives” and meet their goals by managing key performance indicators created without any knowledge of their market. 

Market losers  have high turnover as they replace those who fail to hit goal, and skilled team members leave to join market driven teams.

Market losers have websites that talk about their company, years in business, and they prepare the feature and benefit BINGO card for their buyers and salespeople.

 

For market losers 80% of sales is an “art”.

 

The CEO and CFO of market losing companies go crazy because there is a lack of predictability, and they can not “manage” their way to market leadership. In this model your salespeople need to disregard what marketing does provide, and listen to their buyers, understand buyer problems, and create their own sales tools that discuss how their product or service solves those problems.

The danger in this model is sales may be promising things your product does not do, and the message varies by salesperson and thus is not repeatable.

 

From my experience, I would say about 50% of the companies out there are Market losers.

 

They build products because they can and not because they should. They are sales driven or bottom line driven. They have high turnover and ironically the salespeople they are letting go today won awards for sales performance two years ago….so what changed?

From my experience 40% of companies are somewhere in between but striving to improve.

They often launch a product that becomes very successful and then have a series of launches that fail. As they grow, the leaders who knew the market are now “managing the business” and lose touch with the market and its problems. They forget it was their understanding of market problems that caused their success and often fall into the trap that they think it was their personal brilliance and or hut spa.

As I closed the discussion I asked everyone in the room to do two things in the next seven days….

  1. Go out and meet with your customers and ask questions about their business and the problems they are facing, and how they try to solve those problems

.

  1. Look in your top salesperson’s trunk of their car and or lap top and see the tools they are using

 

The good news is everyone can become a market leading organization and realize higher than market average profits, lower turnover and increased shareholder equity. When you clearly understand your market and buyers, and create sales tools to help buyers move through their buying process, you create a win-win-win.

So what kind of organization do you work for? Market leader? Market Loser? Or someplace in between? Why?