Archive for June, 2010

Panera Fun

June 10, 2010

Everyone who know me, knows I am a huge fan of Panera. Those who are friends with me on Facebook also know that there has been much discussion recently about how crazy people always seem to find me, especially when I’m at places such as Panera, Corner Bakery, and various airports. Some of my friends suggested I compile my misadventures into a book. However, since work occupies much of my time, and my blogs, a second addition to Closing the Deal, and an idea I have for a book on improving one’s sales force are slightly higher writing-priorities for me right now, I thought I would put together a blog post containing this month’s highlights. (Also, please note I mean no offense to the businesses these events take place at. If it weren’t for them I’d have nowhere to stop while on the road for free Wi-Fi, some good coffee, breakfast, and a show).

May 4

I’m in a Panera Bread checking email—surprise, surprise–when I walk over to refill my iced tea. A guy is standing by the cups where there is a sign that says “Complimentary Water Cups.” He turns to me and says “They haven’t said a damn thing to me. They must be broken” Can’t make this stuff up!

Top of Form

May 6

Yesterday I had lunch at a Mexican place…not realizing it was Cinco de Mayo. The bartender was complaining…”Why do so many people come to Mexican restaurants on Cinco de Mayo. People don’t go to French restaurants on Bastille Day!”

May 10

Panera Bread is the greatest place to go for comedy. In today’s installment, I’m eating lunch and sitting at a table next to three women while I’m checking my email. One of them says to the other something about her brother “you know, the smart one. The one that’s in jail.” Um, the SMART one is in jail? Where, exactly is the dumb one?

May 14

Another “crazy people in coffee shops.” Breakfast at Corner Bakery. A woman was doing surveys on the French Toast I got, so I jokingly asked “so what do I get?” 10 minutes of who knows what she was saying and then she walked away…comes back a minute later and says “they wouldn’t let me give you a &^%$ing cookie. They won’t even give me a damn cup of coffee!” Trust me, you don’t need any more caffeine in your system!

May 23-26 (Airports)

While waiting to board my flight the other day the guy next to me cleared his throat every 45 seconds. Don’t think it’s annoying? Try it for 5 minutes!

Where has customer service gone? Last week the gate agent was mad at me because her machine couldn’t read my ticket. Sorry you had to key in my seat number, must have been a huge challenge.

More crazy people. Lady started in the aisle seat, moved to the window, then the middle—it’s only a two hour flight; you weren’t flying to Guam!

June 1

More Panera fun…lady on the phone while her pager keeps buzzing and she does nothing. An annoyed guy grabs it and says “Hey Galileo, I didn’t realize the universe revolved around YOU, not the sun!” After a good zinger, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was Copernicus who stated that the Earth revolved around the sun.

Success Or Excellence: Which Do You Strive For?

June 7, 2010

I was recently asked an interesting question: which would I prefer, success or excellence?

My opinion is that if you strive for just one or the other, either way you will be left high and dry in the end.

Our company’s tagline is “Your Success is Our Business” however part of our mission is to change the perception of how salespeople are viewed by making them “excellent.”

You can certainly have success without excellence. Look at Microsoft for example. If I put out a product, then realized that it had flaws, I’d generally be expected to fix those flaws for my clients so they could use what I sold them. Not Microsoft. They can put out an inferior product, fix it, then attempt to sell you the fixed version to replace the one you have. If you don’t buy it soon enough, they will stop supporting the older version, in effect forcing you to buy the “fixed” version. A successful strategy? Yes, it has made them tons of money…but excellent? I think not.

On the other hand, have you ever gone out to a festival, or just walked down a street and heard a street performer and said to yourself…”They are amazing. How is it that they are playing at a festival for free when they are so much better than the crap I hear on the radio?”

Many of those musicians have achieved excellence, but not the success, at least financially, to allow them to continue to do what they are great at.

When we work with sales teams, whether it is providing sales management, working with them in our peer advisory groups, or becoming their inside sales team, we strive to help them be both successful and excellent. If I play basketball, I want to try to beat Michael Jordan.

Closing the Deal on the Go: What Do You Do When Your Loyal Buyer Leaves?

June 3, 2010

Maybe there was a merger or acquisition. Perhaps there was some restructuring.  Maybe your loyal buyer took another job for twice the pay. Regardless, he is no longer with the company you do business with. Someone is there in his place. There’s a chance this new person will wish to continue doing business with you. There’s also a chance he will want to leave his mark on everything he touches, and that keeping his predecessor’s supplier is not part of that equation.

What do you do?

Keep your reaction low-key. Don’t act surprised or disconcerted. Congratulate your buyer’s replacement. Wish him luck, and work at establishing to him the worth of your business relationship.

Stick to business history. Focus on your relationship with his company, not your relationship with his predecessor.

Get the new person comfortable and work at establishing a relationship with him.

Keep your lines to the influencers open. The influencers are the users of your product. If they like what you have to offer, they may let the new buyer know.

If you lose the company’s business, try to hold on to some of it, because even as a backup supplier, you can watch for openings back into a major role.

Keep selling quality. Sometimes a competitor will try to undercut you by selling a lower quality product at a lower price. If you lose business to such a competitor, but you maintain some role, you will be nearby if and when the bargain vendor trips up, either with their lower quality product, or while trying to continue to make a profit while selling at the lower price.

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)

Can’t Invest in Sales Rep Development? How Can You Afford not To?

June 2, 2010

I went to visit a prospect last week who started out his conversation with me by saying, “I’m not really sure why you are here, we have a sales manager and our reps are supposed to be doing their own phone calls. What can you do for us?”

“Good question,” I replied, trying obviously to sound as intelligent as I could while wondering if this was going to be the shortest meeting on record. “Well let me ask you this, why did you agree to meet?”

“I feel like our guys are doing well, but they don’t seem to be progressing, and I thought maybe you could help with that.” OK, now we are off to the races.

“What do you do to invest in their continued development?” Now I’m starting to think there is a chance that this meeting will last past the two minute mark.

“We’ve done training courses, brought in motivational speakers, even set up sales contests, but none of that stuff has brought anything new to the table. Maybe our guys are just good for a period of time then we’ve gotten all we can out of them.”

“How often do you meet with them?” I responded, hoping I could find a way to help.

“We meet as a group once a week to discuss what is working well and what isn’t. I usually hear about these great opportunities that are on the horizon, but very rarely do they talk about anything getting in their way. They seem to have all of the tools needed to succeed. I mean, they are not doing poorly, but they seem to be pretty comfortable with where they are.”

Before making any recommendations or even telling him more about what we do, I asked him if he would allow me to interview one or two of his guys and then meet with him again to see if there is a way to help. He agreed.

What I found was that he was right. They had done several training courses and motivational speakers, which got their guys excited for change for about 10 minutes. They also did have a weekly meeting which, for the most part, nobody ever opened up in because they didn’t want the other reps to think they were having problems, and they certainly did not want the manager knowing they were struggling, especially when the numbers showed they were just fine.

This is a problem we saw way too often…salespeople who need additional help but don’t want to go to their colleagues or manager for fear of looking badly. We recommended that he take two of his guys…the top guy and the bottom guy, and put them in our SAM peer advisory groups for three months. SAM groups are designed specifically to have sales and marketing professionals develop their sales skills outside of the regular work environment. It allows them to work with other, non competing sales professionals and learn from each other’s experience, holding each other accountable for goals (real goals, not the “make my manager happy” goals that many had been setting) and helping each other out.

After the first meeting of each of his reps (the top rep was in an Executive SAM Group while the “bottom rep” was in a regular SAM Group) even before I had a minute to call him, I received a call from the sales manager. “These guys loved it,” he exclaimed. “Now let’s see if it makes any changes. Call me in two weeks and we will see.”

I called him back in two weeks to find that both had made tremendous gains in attitude, which was turning into more dollars in everyone’s pockets.

“What the heck do you guys talk about in these meetings? We’ve got to bring you into our weekly meeting to share it with everyone else!”

I explained to him that first of all, every meeting, like every salesperson, is unique and that SAM meetings contained no “special sauce.” People get out of it what they put into it. I next explained that while I would love to be a part of their weekly meeting, I didn’t think that was the best course of action and, in fact, suggested he scrap the weekly meeting entirely. “It is a waste of everyone’s time. Nothing new gets discussed and they don’t want you or the guys they are working with to know they have problems, especially when the problems are internal.”

I suggested that we put each of his guys in a different SAM group, reinvesting the time and money he had spent on weekly meetings and motivational speakers into something where his people were learning, growing and most importantly, knew that the company really did care about their growth and not just about how much money they were going to make for them.

Interested in seeing if you qualify to join a SAM group in your area? Contact us at info@randolphsterling.com for a schedule and application.