Archive for October, 2009

Randolph Sterling Inc. and Talent Management Solutions Team up to Present a Great Roundtable Event in Durham, North Carolina

October 26, 2009

About six months ago I was approached by my friend, President of Talent Management Solutions, Rob Pulley. He was interested in the two of us collaborating on a seminar about attracting the right sales team for your company and helping them become and maintain being a strong, productive sales force.  Last week we had the opportunity to present this seminar for the first time as sponsors of a roundtable through Business Clubs America of the Triangle, in the conference room of KeySource Bank, overlooking Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  No, there were no Crash Davis sightings, just a strong group of aggressively growing companies looking for an edge in hiring and developing top sales talent.

I love presenting at seminars, but hate preparing for them. Our philosophy at Randolph Sterling, Inc. has always been to provide services and solutions that are the best fits for our clients and prospects based on their needs, so it is always difficult to develop a pre-selected seminar based on what I think is important. This is one of the reasons it was great to work with Rob. Rob had a lot of information that he wanted to present on figuring out what type of salesperson your organization needs and then finding them. It was my job to talk about what you do with them once you have them. This worked out perfectly for me. Rob presented his portion of the seminar and took the group through a series of exercises to help them to determine who an ideal fit was for their sales team. He had charts and graphs outlining different sales and customer types and how he helps to find the right fit for them as they grow. As you can imagine, this left a lot of people with a lot of questions, since you can only do so much when it comes to predicting success (this is often the part of a presentation where I remind people that future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza was drafted by the Dodgers in the last round of the 1988 draft as a favor because Mike’s dad was good friends with Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, while they drafted pitcher Bill Bene in the first round of the draft. Does anyone know what Bill Bene is doing these days?)  Sometimes you just have to get out on the field and prove yourself.

This is where I get to come in. I kept my portion of the presentation relatively open, with very little pre-planned content and even fewer visual aids. That always works best for me anyway as I always prefer for my presentations to be more conversational in nature and more open to the attendees. Yes, I am presenting and I want to do business with you so I want to put my best foot forward, but you took the time to be there and paid to do it, so I want to make sure you walk away with what you are looking for. I had taken the results of the sales diagnostic test that we provided for the attendees and picked out 6 of the 30+ questions that seemed to be the ones that the most people had questions about. Fortunately, many of these happened to be areas where we best help our clients.

Question 1-do you have a defined lead generation plan for your sales team? The easy answer to this question is yes, of course we do, everyone knows that without lead generation we don’t bring in any new business so we make this a part of our everyday life, whether we have 1 sales rep or 100. As we discussed some of the attendees’ lead generation plans, it was discovered that many did not truly have a plan at all. In fact, most realized that they did not truly focus their salespeople on finding new business. Heck, we are so busy trying to keep our current clients happy and getting work out the door that we don’t have time for it until we slow down—music to my ears!

It is not surprising that this is the philosophy of many sales teams, whether they want to admit it or not. As salespeople get busier, it is always easier to knock on the door of the person who already knows you and likes you, rather than risk rejection by talking to the unknown person behind door number 2. Many salespeople fancy themselves risk takers, but in reality, they will take the safe route on this one. This is why we developed our outsourced sales solutions, so we can provide that type of relationship development service to companies to help keep their sales pipeline filled.

The next question that came up had to do with sales and operational process. While some of the attendees had defined this pretty well, the “norm” was that most really had not. In fact, many of the ones in the room who had a sales team built one out of necessity. They had too much ground to cover so they hired another salesperson. They hadn’t yet taken Rob’s matrix into account and defined their ideal sales profile, nor had they really developed a strong ideal client profile, so they used their gut to hire, usually leaving them with a stable of sales mavericks rather that a team that would truly best fit their growth needs.

This is another of the issues we often tackle when providing our sales management solutions to clients. It is quite a common problem, which is why I like opening these types of seminars up to the attendees to not only bring up these types of issues, but also to discuss how they have handled it before I give my two cents. Sometimes it helps to get an idea for a solution, either internally or externally, after knowing that you are not the only person who is dealing with this same problem.

All in all it was a great event. Attendees walked away with ideas they could apply directly on their own to their business, although many looked at the issues, turned to either Rob or myself depending on their particular issue and said “You deal with it!”

Music to our ears

Closing the Deal on the Go: 7 Rules for Examining Prospects

October 23, 2009
  1. Research each prospect.
  2. Qualify each prospect.
  3. Ask yourself what you have that your prospect needs, wants, or can use.
  4. Ask yourself how much your prospect may be worth over time.
  5. Ask yourself how much of your time and energy is your prospect worth.
  6. Find out who is the best person to contact.
  7. Never get caught up on any one prospect.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Burghgraef, Richard. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)

Overcoming Voicemail? Why? Voicemail can be your friend!

October 12, 2009

Recently I received an email inviting me to a seminar on how to “overcome” voicemail and become an effective sales generator. This seminar promised to teach how to:

  • Reach More Decision Makers
  • Overcome Voice-Mail Jail
  • Get Past Gatekeepers

Oh, how I love these seminars!

Why would you want to “overcome” voicemail? Voicemail is one of our best friends. In our inside sales business, we contact a lot of people everyday. Of course we get a lot of voicemails which inevitably leads a client or prospect to ask us why we even leave voicemails. Their thought is that we can reach more people by hanging up when we get voicemail and moving on to the next call. I explain to them that we leave a voicemail for every person we can (of course not the people we actually get to talk to) as it is a great way to develop a relationship with that person.

How many times do you walk into your office, check the caller ID on your phone, see a number you may or may not recognize, and then call them back figuring they have something important to tell you that you believe you might miss out on if you don’t get back to them right away? Has it ever happened? Now how many times have you come back to your office, listened to a voicemail you received, realized that you meant to call that person back from the last time they called, and called them to discuss an opportunity? This has happened to me a whole lot more than the first scenario!

When I managed salespeople for an IT staffing firm, we used to bring all of the new reps to the corporate headquarters for training. Part of that training was that the newbies would sit in with the more experienced people and watch them as they made 100+ calls a day. I always had these guys sit in with me because they were my good luck charm. Inevitably, I would get 2-3 calls every time from people looking for us to work with them. The rookies would always think that the job must be easy because people are just calling us with opportunities. I would inform them that these calls were actually call backs: people who I had left several messages for but hadn’t heard from until they needed me. When they did, they felt comfortable because they had heard my voice so many times as I had developed a rapport with them through voicemail.

The average person needs to see your name or logo or hear your name 7-13 times before they have developed a strong enough comfort level to do business with you. I have seen relatively similar numbers in the calls we do for clients. Why would you want to waste an opportunity to get yourself just a little bit closer to a sale?

This seminar also covered one of my other favorite topics, “getting past” the gatekeeper. Why would you want to get past the gatekeeper? This person is the pillar of knowledge within most companies. They know who is in, who is out, and who is doing what to or with whom. The CEO may have the big desk but it is the gatekeeper who houses the everyday company knowledge. Those who try to find their way around them usually are met with a brick wall of voicemails, messages of “he’s not in today”, and responses of “he’s not interested, while the person who shows the gatekeeper the respect they deserve usually finds themselves a valuable ally inside the company who can help them with when to call, what to talk about, and other ways to further develop the interest of the person making the decision.

When I worked for a medical staffing company, I would routinely call on hospitals where we placed MRI, CT, and X-ray Technologists. Decision makers were rarely at their desk and tough to catch up with. One day, I walked into the MRI area of a pretty well known Chicago hospital armed with two boxes of cookies. One I had for the decision maker I was trying to see, the other for the group at the front desk. I walked up, handed them a box of cookies, and simply stated that I knew that they were busy so I wanted to give them some cookies in appreciation for their hard work and just ask them when would be a good time to see Mr. So-and-So, the head of the MRI Department to discuss his staffing needs. I also asked them if, based on what they see every day, they thought that he would be receptive to us helping out with their staffing needs. The response I got was exactly what you would expect when you treat people with respect (well, maybe a little bit more since they were clearly used to salespeople who had taken the “how to get past the gatekeeper” seminar). They told me the best times to reach him, the positions they knew to be open, what the person looks for, and how to get to him (“just go through that door over there to his office…yes that one…the one that says no admittance. Don’t worry about that, that’s just to keep people out”). Heck, they even offered to validate my parking.

It’s funny what a few cookies and treating people with respect will bring.

Are Your Salespeople Not As Successful As You Would Like?

October 11, 2009

I was recently asked by a Vistage member for my thoughts on new client sales activity in the IT consulting space. This member has two sales people dedicated to obtaining new clients (upper small/mid market) and over last year together they have brought in only four new clients. These were new positions in Aug 2008. They wanted to know if others in IT consulting having similar problems attracting “new clients” in this economy, or do both individuals need to be replaced. It is a question I see a lot, so I wanted to share my response with all of you.

It sounds like there are a lot of factors at play here to determine what can be done to help these guys or if you need to replace them. I sold IT consulting in both a good and bad economic situation prior to opening our inside sales and sales management group, Randolph Sterling, Inc., and I noticed that different people bought from us in different economic times for different reasons. Not knowing the specific area of expertise, I will use my own experiences as a guide.

In poor economic times, I found business was good as we helped out IT teams that were overworked by coming in and completing certain projects. They had cut back on staff so it was easier to bring in the specific talent needed for a project without having to worry about a long term commitment. In better economic times we sold a bit differently, but certainly effectively. In those times, IT departments were expanding so we were used to get to those projects that had been put on the back burner during the slow times but now desperately needed to be done. We were also used as a proving ground for good people. They could work with our team and if they liked specific people, we would allow them to buy out their contract. I’m not sure if that is how you work, but it helped us out tremendously.

We built many of the procedures we use as a template for our clients based on my work in IT consulting to develop new clients and to grow with our current customers; from our inside sales teams, whose sole responsibility is to look for new opportunities for the sales reps, to our sales management team that will help to set up policies and procedures within a company to best accentuate the skills and abilities of their sales team. In all instances, one thing ran true. If we focused on what the market was telling us and helped to find a solution to the prospects problem, we were most likely successful. If we tried to sell them on what we thought was best, our numbers definitely went down.

How does your team sell?

The Economy Is Tough? Time to Raise Prices!

October 7, 2009

Wait, did you read that correctly? I meant lower prices, right? Times are tough and we want to make it easier for people to buy from us, don’t we?

No, I don’t live in a bubble and I’m not completely crazy. I understand that times are tough, people are tightening their belts, and spending is down, but we all want a piece of what budget is out there. I just don’t think discounting the price of your services is the way to go. Actually, I am going to make a case for raising prices.

For those of you who know me or have read my blog (hopefully I will have an opportunity to know you one day as well) you know I am not a huge fan of negotiating. It has it’s time and place but I have always been of the mindset that if I understand my customers’ needs and they understand how I can help them and trust that I can, most of the things that are the basis of negotiation have become a foregone conclusion. It’s all about closing at the right time. (Hey, maybe I should write a book about closing deals. I can call it Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies That Will Make You Money.)

So why raise prices? Wouldn’t that just put the price negotiation right back into play? My feeling is that it would not. What I believe it would do is eliminate the customers, the people who buy from you but aren’t really in it for the long haul, and bring out more clients, the people you will partner with for success and who are willing to make an investment in doing it right. Here are a few experiences to illustrate my point.

I have mentioned in the past that when I started out, my main goal was to help people. As a result, I found a lot of people who needed help—they needed a miracle actually. They would come to us at Randolph Sterling with a few hundred dollars hoping we could find the one client they needed to help them stay afloat for another year. My intentions were good, I wanted to help them, so I would lower our prices to maybe allow us to work with them for six weeks rather than four. All that did was delay the inevitable. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t have that one client to save their year, their problem was that they truly had no idea what their value was to the world. The one client we would find wasn’t going to save them. They needed a complete overhaul.

I found that I had priced our services to try to be all things to all people, which we certainly are not. If you want a strong inside sales team to help you define your ideal client, develop a strong relationship and help your sales team continue to grow the business, we are the ones to talk to. If you are looking for a $10/hr. college kid to telemarket for you, we are not the people for you. If you want a sales manager to help you build process for your growing sales team, work directly with them on their own personal development, and run a sales meeting where the entire team gets involved, grows, and holds each other accountable, we are the people to be speaking with. If you are looking for a consultant to give you a report on general ideas or a trainer with the latest 12 step program to building sales clones, we are not. If you want your sales reps to interact with other sales professionals in a roundtable meeting where they are all learning, teaching, and working together to achieve more professionally, give us a call. If you want another networking event to hand out business cards, we are not the resource for you.

I realized that by trying to help everyone rather than working with the growth minded clients we needed to be working with, we had put ourselves in competition with everything that we are not, so four years ago, we decided to raise our prices to reflect the solutions we provided for our clients.

The best way I can describe the results is that we went from working with people who would ask “tell us about what you do” to people who said “this is what we are looking to do.” They knew that we were in it for the long haul and that we were a partner, not just a service provider. I also noticed that clients and prospects started speaking about us using words like inside sales team instead of telemarketer, outsourced sales management instead of consultant, and peer advisory group rather than networking group. They realized that those other groups, while good for some, were not really competition for the type of work that we are passionate about.

I know it sounds strange to recommend not going after every piece of business you can during this time of recovery, but before taking that smaller job or discounting your prices, consider the time that project will take, how long it will be until you get paid, and other factors that may eat into your profits. I’ll bet most times you will find that you are probably better off saying no to the person looking for the cheap solution and using that time to find the client who is a better fit.