Archive for the ‘Self Improvement’ Category

Should You Adjust Sales Compensation in a Declining Revenue Environment?

September 14, 2010

How one adjusts the compensation of their sales force is something many people have been talking about recently, both on business oriented discussion boards online and in person, privately as well as at well attended events.

On the surface, these are simple questions with several variables. In general, I have always been a supporter of lower salaries with the majority of the upside in total compensation coming from commission, especially when the salesperson controls the sale from start to finish. However, if the product or service being sold has quite a long sales cycle, 9-18+ months perhaps, and is a pretty high ticket item, I would usually say a larger base salary is needed because people do need to eat while they are developing a long term relationship.

The deeper question though is why so many companies are considering changing their compensation. Are they paying their sales people too much up front to begin with? Has the sales cycle just gotten too long? Has their sales team started to buy into the “bad economy” excuse and lost their focus on developing new relationships and growing the ones they have? What exactly is making it a “declining revenue environment?”

In over 20 years of selling and managing salespeople, my response to a change in compensation either by the company or by the salesperson is simply “SELL MORE!” While it isn’t nearly that simple, I would look at all factors of the “declining revenue environment” before making any strong consideration on changes. Plus, we have not even begun to discuss the potential for negative reaction from the salespeople. What would they do if there was a change? Would such a change cause you to risk losing too many of the right people and put you in a steeper declining revenue environment?

Does Being an Athlete Help You in Business?

September 12, 2010

I recently read a forum question on LinkedIn asking this, so I wanted to share my answer with all of our readers. Being an athlete growing up has definitely helped me not just as a professional, but as a grown adult. I played baseball growing up and still play softball and basketball today. As a sales professional, baseball taught me that by playing a sport where “greatness” still means that you will fail 7 out of 10 times, you still have to always go up to the plate (whether that plate is the start of your day, a meeting with your boss, a presentation, etc.) understanding that failure is a possibility, but not something to dwell on. It also taught me to always be ready to learn from success as well as failure. Have I always been successful in baseball? Well, since I’m sure none of you have a baseball card with my name and statistics on it, let’s just say that the things I learned playing baseball have served me for much longer in the boardroom than on the field.

While baseball has some great team elements, a lot of it is one on one, you against the pitcher. Basketball, however, has helped me become even more of a team player and I have added that to my business life. Basketball is not just about scoring, but about playing defense, passing, and doing the little things that make your team win. That same attitude helps our team at work be successful as we each help each other out and help each other to grow.

I never was a great basketball player growing up, so I never played on an organized team. I was always tall, but I think the uneven surface on the basketball court in the park behind my house growing up caused some difficulty picking up good ball handling skills and that hurt my confidence in playing. I never really played until I was in my mid 20’s when I used to go with my brother in law, Bob, and his best friend, Frank, to the Rutgers University gym to play in some pick up games. It was there that I learned that I could be an effective teammate by setting picks, playing good defense, and rebounding. It helped that Frank always had a good jump shot so he would pick up the scoring slack. I soon noticed that the teams I played on won more often than not and usually the guy I guarded (not used to someone playing defense and taking pride in it) didn’t score too much. I had become a good teammate, even if I wasn’t the top scorer.

All of those skills help me today as President of Randolph Sterling, Inc. and I think that team attitude and the desire to constantly learn and grow has permeated the culture at work as well as to our clients. We will always try to do better, to do more and learn more for our clients. Will we be perfect? Probably not. But, we will always work to do our best and to learn as much from those ground balls to second base as we do from the great successes we have for our clients.

Are You The Best In The World At What You Do?

April 15, 2010

Since I was a kid, I could always sell. Quite frankly, I thought it was pretty easy…talk to the right people, find out what they want, give it to them and they will pay you. This process, as simple as I have made it out to be, is not always that easy, usually for one very important reason—the salespeople get in their own way.

Who is the best in the world at what you do? If you don’t think that you are, neither will anyone else.

Salespeople often stop their own sale because they have talked themselves out of it. They start thinking that maybe they don’t understand their product or service as well as they should, or that a competitor may do it better. There are a million ways to talk yourself out of closing the deal…no one that doesn’t improve by knowing that you are the absolute best at what you do.

I know our company—even if I am learning something new every day about it—and I know we are the absolute best in the world at what we do. Our sales management and process work–it is the best out there because we work with our clients to achieve their objectives. We don’t come in with a premeditated plan of attack or a multiple point plan, but rather we work with our clients in their environment to achieve their goals as they continue to grow.

Our outsourced sales team is made up of professional salespeople who have worked in the business and know how to develop a relationship. They don’t just try to get an appointment for our clients; they find the right person in the right company and develop a rapport to see if they are the best fit for our client. When the conversation between the two gets to a point where they need to bring in the expert, we get our client involved to close the deal. That’s something you only get from the best of the best.

Our SAM Peer Advisory Groups. If you want networking, there are plenty of places to go, but how many places offer an advisory board to the people in your company who are directly involved, right at the front line, in the growth of the company? CEOs have been involved in advisory boards for years, but salespeople have been left to fend for themselves many times. We bring these dynamic personalities together, in one room, and help them achieve or continue their greatness.

Do I think we are the best in the world at what we do? Absolutely I do. Mediocrity is for someone else.

Would you really want to work with someone who didn’t know they were the best at helping you grow?

“The Performance is Only as Good as the Audience”…And We Have a Great Audience!

March 3, 2010

Remember back in the days of elementary school, on those special days when you would have an assembly? We would pile into the gym—or as our principal used to call it, the “all purpose room” to either see one of the other grades perform a play or an outside group come in to perform for the whole school? Mr. Campbell, the principal at Westmoreland School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey where I grew up used to start out each assembly by reminding us kids to be respectful of the performers…”the performance is only as good as the audience” he would always tell us.

Those words have never rung more true than at the SAM Peer Advisory Group meeting that we held in our office in Cary, NC the other day.

We had a great meeting, and, as with all SAM Groups where each member is an equal participant and can give and/or receive advice, the participants determine the value of the meeting. Since the value of the meeting is that the discussions are confidential, allow me to take a minute to tell you about some of the participants:

Draughon Cranford of Xpress Image: Draughon is very well connected throughout Raleigh. So, when an issue comes up, he not only has his opinion about it, which he offers in a very professional manner, but he also knows someone else through all of the networking he has done in all the right places, that he can usually offer a recommendation of someone he can bring in to help with the issue.

Will Webb of Dupree & Webb: Will is one of the first people I met when I joined Business Clubs of America. In a world where people sometimes blur ethical lines (especially in the insurance industry where he lives) Will’s ethics are beyond reproach. Will is the kind of guy who would walk away from a profitable piece of business if it meant he wouldn’t feel good at the end of the day when he came home to his wife and 2 year old daughter to tell them about it.

Rob Pulley of Talent Management Solutions: Rob is the second person I met when I joined BCA. Rob is the kind of guy who doesn’t just speak to hear his own voice. Trust me, he has a lot to say, but nothing he says is not the result of careful thought to the issue at hand. Rob is also a guy who is very well connected and will make a recommendation for what he truly feels is best for his colleague, looking for nothing to gain other than respect of his peers. He definitely has it.

Danny Worthy of North Carolina Central University: Some of you basketball fans might be thinking…wait a second…North Carolina? Worthy? Is he related to former Tar Heel and Los Angeles Laker great James Worthy? Actually, yes, Danny and James Worthy are brothers. Danny, after a successful career at Verizon, decided to come back to his alma mater, NCCU, with the sole goal of helping them achieve growth as their athletic teams move into division I. Danny works to partner businesses with the university through various sponsorship opportunities. Danny is one of the most polite and respectful people I have met. He adds great insight and experience into every topic and isn’t afraid to ask for assistance as well as give his opinion.

And, I can’t forget to mention our very own Angela King: Angela has been very helpful in getting the SAM Groups up and running in Raleigh as well as assisting me in facilitating the meetings. As a facilitator, it is our job to keep the meetings on topic, but to also know when to go off of the agenda if a topic is being bounced around where everyone is contributing and getting a lot out of the discussion. Angela’s vast experience, both professionally and as a working mom who runs a household of four kids ranging in age from 18 to four, allows her to not only give insight that many of us have not had experience with, but it allows her to keep us all in line.

These core members of our Raleigh SAM groups are class acts, every last one of them. I would have no reservation in recommending any of them and I certainly appreciate the assistance they give me every time I am privileged to meet with them.

We still have a few seats available in this particular SAM group and we are starting new groups every day in both Chicago and in Raleigh; and we are working on “virtual SAM groups” to be able to serve sales and marketing professionals around the world. If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact Angela directly at aking@randolphsterling.com.

Closing the Deal on the Go: A Few Quick Tips for Winning at Phone Tag

February 9, 2010

Phone tag is worse than ever these days. We use voicemail to reduce human error, but in doing so we reduce human contact.

Making things more difficult, many companies now use an automated list of options that do not always include a live person to talk to who can provide such information as a person’s schedule or whereabouts.

To help, here a few quick tips to help you win at phone tag.

  • Make high priority calls early.
  • If you do no reach the person you are trying to contact, leave a message that requires a specific response.
  • Leave a concise reason for your call with your name, phone number, and the best time to reach you.
  • When the call is returned, try to take it, even if you are busy.
  • Keep track of calls owed and expected.

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)

Anticipation: Bringing SAM Peer Groups to the Triangle

January 26, 2010

Anticipation…remember the old Heinz ketchup commercials where they showed the ketchup slowly flowing out of the bottle and talked about the value of anticipation? That’s exactly how I feel as we start our new SAM Peer Advisory Groups.

The concept of our SAM groups is great. We provide an advisory board for salespeople and sales managers. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

It was an idea brought to me by a mentor of mine who works with business owners and salespeople. He noticed that much of their internal pain revolved around bringing in new business and sales in general. We further noticed that many of the salespeople craved an additional outlet beyond their sales manager to bounce around ideas. This was for several reasons, but mainly because they didn’t want their sales manager to know they were struggling or had questions. In a SAM group, they can talk with other people out on the same front lines they are, dealing with the same issues as they sell their own products and services.

So what’s the problem? This is where my Heinz ketchup analogy comes in. SAM groups are great. Starting SAM groups are not.

Why? Well, there’s a couple of issues. One is that for a sales manager, VP, or President to commit to taking his sales rep out of the field for a four hour meeting once a month, he wants to see a return on his investment of both time and money. Another is that when we start a SAM group we may find two competing companies or two reps from the same company that want to join. This means starting another group for the second rep or the competing company.

The value of the SAM group is in its people. The agenda admittedly doesn’t look all that impressive, which is by design. In looking at the agenda the first thought that comes up is “this is going to take 4 hours?”

Agenda:

8:00    Welcome and Opening Announcements

8:15    Significant Sales and Marketing Events

8:45    2nd Half Annual Goals and Tracking of Quarterly Goals

9:45    Host Presentation

10:30  Sales and Marketing Issues–“Today’s Issues,” other issues

11:30  Guest Presentation on Topic of Interest for Entire Group

12:00  Adjourn Meeting

You see, the content of the meeting is determined by the needs of the people in the group, not by the group facilitator. When you start a group with 2 or 3 people, it does not look that impressive to management when the members get back to the office (although in reality, they probably got a lot out of the meeting because we were able to dig deeper into the issue they brought up).

We figured that the best way to build up even stronger SAM Groups was to partner with another association where what we do can benefit their members. The easy choice was to work with Penn Shore and Business Clubs of America (BCA). So I met with Penn, and after months of negotiations, starting this month…this week actually…we are offering SAM Group membership as an added benefit to the membership of BCA.

Anticipation…it’s making me wait, as the old Heinz slogan goes.

So here we are, on the precipice of our first BCA/SAM meeting and I wonder what I wonder every time we start a group: How many people will show up? Will they be good fits for the group? Do they understand the concept (the hardest part for us salespeople is trying to truly understand the problem before going right to trying to solve it?)

…it’s almost here, so I’ll let you know how it goes!

Closing the Deal on the Go: What to Do When Your Salespeople Are Dealing with Difficult Clients: Showing Support in Difficult Times

January 20, 2010

The other day I posted an article about what to do when you deal with difficult clients. Today I thought I would write about what to do when your salespeople encounter such clients.

Salespeople can find dealing with difficult customers draining, especially if they do not feel they have the support of their management. Therefore be on their side when they are right, and be there to listen. Help them more effectively deal with difficult customers with role-playing exercises. Tell them when a customer goes over their heads to you. And let them know you will speak with them about any action you take when intervening in one of their accounts. If you do not do this, you risk damaging your relationships with both your salesperson and their client.

Also, resist taking the easy way out when a salesperson’s difficult client comes to you, even if placating them seems like it would be the best short term solution, because ultimately your people must live with the consequences of you decision, plus, that difficult customer may soon becomes your consistent problem.

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)

I Love Sales Training…But Not Another 12 Step Program!!!

September 20, 2009

Living my life in the world of sales, I have been exposed to my share of sales training, so when I started Randolph Sterling, Inc. I wanted to make sure we always had a way where we could help salespeople become better leaders in their field and, overall, hopefully leave the profession stronger than when we entered it. As we began as only a sales management company (before expanding into inside and outside sales and sales peer advisory) many companies asked about our sales training and how many steps our program had.

How many steps? I don’t know, how large is your office from one side to the other? How much walking does the average rep do in their territory?

I was completely confused by this question because I never looked at sales training as a 12 step program. I have heard of 12 step programs, but my understanding (with all due respect to those who have worked so hard to enter and stay on their personal programs) was that they are more for trying to stop doing something rather than learning how to be more effective at doing something.

Sales training, in my humble opinion, is not something that is completed in a set number of steps, but an ongoing process of individual improvement within a team concept. (Note: for those of you new to my blog, this is the time where I remind you how often I compare sales to baseball, so here is the next comparison.)

I look at what we do less as training and more like coaching. Think of a baseball coach. How long do you think the hitting coach would be employed if he said, “OK, day one of spring training all of you are only going to hit the ball to the second baseman. I will spend “X” amount of time with all of you in a group and tell you exactly how to hit to the second baseman so by the end of that time, you should all be able to do it. Tomorrow, we will be trained in hitting home runs. I don’t care if you are 6’5”, 240 lbs or 5’6” and 140 lbs, I will teach you the technique so you can all break Barry Bonds’ home run record.”

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It is easy to picture a baseball team and realize that you would not train each individual player exactly the same because you can tell just by looking at them that they have different strengths and weaknesses. However, in reviewing many of the sales training programs out on the market, there is an abundance of “one size fits all” programs. Why? Simply put, they are easier to sell. The person who signs off on this training wants to know exactly what they are getting.

When they look at:

  • Week 1—cold calling
  • Week 2—planning for the appointment
  • Week 3—overcoming objections
  • Week 4 and beyond…special topics,

they see that each week, their reps will be learning something. It doesn’t matter if some are already pretty proficient in that particular area or if others need more time on a particular concept, each week they are learning something. By comparison, our inside sales service (which includes a component of training and coaching) takes a different approach to the concept of sales training which was adapted from many different influences but mostly from reading about how the single most successful team in professional sports, the New York Yankees, “train” their players.

When a new player joins the Yankees via trade, free agency, or is drafted into their minor leagues, that person is given about 200 at bats, or roughly 1/3 of a season, to do things “their way.” It is only after this time that the coaches will make any significant changes to the approach that the player takes. The reason for this is so that the player, who conceivably has some decent skills or they wouldn’t be in the organization in the first place, can find their own comfort level and show what they do well and what they may need help on over a decent evaluation period. This also gives the coaches time to better understand the player, his strengths and weaknesses, so they can tailor the coaching they give to get the most out of this person. Yes, there are certain absolutes that come into play once you become a Yankee, much like the certain absolutes that will be in the employee manual of any growing company, but to get the best out of a player, they have found it is best to teach them what they need to be taught rather than what they want to teach them.

Our sales approach is quite similar. We first evaluate the company and hope that they are evaluating us. Are we a good fit for them? Are they the type of company that we will best work with? Then we will do exactly what the Yankees do…watch and learn so we can find the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of the individual reps within their sales system. Once we have understood that, we will tailor our approach to fit the individual and work with them so their time is spent on the areas they need to work on, not in a class going over information that they do not find valuable or buy into.

I hope that this doesn’t sound like I am anti-training. I am not. There are some great training programs out there that fit certain industries and teams. I recommend quite a few of them. But, overall I feel an individual approach is quite more valuable.

Closing the Deal on the Go: Am I a Good Prospector???

September 3, 2009

Prospecting, despite its importance, is often pigeonholed and neglected, as well as misunderstood. It is seen as a last resort, something done when you are in a slump or under pressure from your boss. You might keep an eye open for new leads that present themselves or you might set aside a specific time every week to search for new prospects, but this is not enough.

To prospect properly you must keep your eyes and ears open for those opportunities that do appear before you, but you must also search for new ones. You must qualify your potential prospects, differentiating the good from the bad, the ones that want what you are selling and the ones that are less interested or unwilling to pay for it.

Prospecting is a state of mind and a round-the-clock activity. It is something you are consciously aware of. It is something you actively pursue.

If you are unsure if you possess the prospecting state of mind, here are ten questions you may wish to ask yourself:

1) Do I learn from my mistakes?

2) Do I enjoy the challenge of selling to someone new?

3) Do I stay optimistic even when facing a challenge?

4) Do I have an interest in my prospect’s business?

5) Do I try to find new way s to find new prospects?

6) Do I know my goals?

7) Do I keep my files on my prospects up to date?

8 ) Do I know my strengths?

9) Do I prospect at all times?

10) Do I listen to my prospects?

If you answered no to one or more of the above, don’t worry. Even the best salespeople are all constantly honing their prospecting skills.

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)