Top 5 Mistakes Your VP of Sales Makes at Trade Shows

sales, trade show, selling, exhibit, conference, sales process, sales strategies, selling at tradeshows, selling at trade shows, exhibit booths, marketing, marketing dollars, marketing budget, CEO, CEO Sales Guide, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, PresidentIf you are the person who signs the checks (the President, CEO or business owner) for all of the expenses that go along with exhibiting at trade shows, one of the things that can drive you absolutely nuts is trying to figure out how to get the maximum return on your marketing investment while also ensuring enough new business closes to justify the expense.

As many of our clients get ready for "trade show season" and prepare to send their sales teams off to exotic convention centers across the country, here are the top five (5) trade show mistakes we see VPs of Sales make that can absolutely destroy your return on investment.

  1. Planning as an after thought.  Running a sales organization can be a tough, demanding job.  There are so many moving parts to manage and often meeting with the VP of Marketing to provide input and feedback into trade show planning gets put on the back burner.  Huge mistake.  Your marketing team always needs a longer lead time than your vice president of sales believes.  If your sales team is busy talking about problems solved by product X and your marketing team produces materials and give aways for product Y, you've got a big problem.  Make sure your VP of Sales and your VP of Marketing schedule some time to plan well ahead of the show(s) you plan to attend.
  2. Customers or Prospects?  The great thing about exhibiting at the right trade shows for your industry is that everyone is there, including your current customers and prospective customers.  To maximize your sales teams time make sure there is a clear strategy about how to handle both groups and where sales people should spend their time.  Our advice is typically to talk with customers before the show to find out if they will attend and perhaps schedule some time with them before or after the show or during off hours.  It could be a dinner or a cup of coffee or just a quick hello.  Let them know that you value and appreciate their business and then set the expectation that your goal is to focus on new business.
  3. Focus on Getting Leads.  Many sales people (and sales leaders) attend these events expecting to get a lot of leads and connections - and they are often disappointed when they fall short.  In our experience the sales people who leave the show with the most leads and connections are the ones who focus their time, energy and efforts and making connections for others first. What would happen if before the show everyone on your sales team invested some time thinking about who they could connect, who they could introduce, and what they could do to help your clients and prospective clients?  Get your team focused on giving first, and they will receive plenty of leads and opportunities.
  4. Missed Opportunities.  If all you are going to do is set up your booth and stand there for 8 hours, don't even go. Get involved with the show.  Offer to moderate a panel.  Use the event to learn more about your competition and your market in general. Leverage the opportunity to have hundreds of short conversations as a training opportunity for your newer sales people. Provide on the spot coaching and feedback as you observe them interact with tradeshow attendees.
  5. Poor Execution.  The details matter. From pre-show planning (meeting with marketing to get the message right, identifying clients who will attend, calling prospects who will attend to book a cup of coffee during the show, etc.) to post-show follow up, successful sales organizations nail the details and execute with ruthless efficiency. Compare that to what you typically see as you  walk a trade show floor (bored sales people nursing a hang over) and ask yourself which side of that coin you want your sales team to be on?

Investing in the right trade show can provide oppotunities to connect with current clients, fill your sales pipeline with propsective clients, increase your company's visability, and learn more about your competition and your market in general.  Make sure your VP of Sales avoids these mistakes and you'll be on your way to a strong return on your tradeshow investment.  If you need some help we have our free Trade Show Checklist

Effective Sales Listening

The first thing a sales person needs to do to listen more effectively is to stop talking. We've all heard the phrase "We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk."  And yet many sales people forget this simple lesson and do most of the talking during a sales conversation.  If you want to have better sales meetings, stronger conversations and improve your sales results, work on becoming a better listener.

Here are two specific things you can do right now to work on your "sales listening." 

First, watch this 7-minute clip of Julian Treasure's TED presentation on "5 Ways to Listen Better."  Great insight and information.

Second, ask for our "Effective Sales Listening" checklist and implement it today.



Building An Over-Achieving Sales Team - Outlook & Attitude

sales attitude, building an over-achieving sales team, ceo sales guide, Intelligent Conversations, hiring a sales superstar, Milwaukee business consultant, happy, emotion, transfer emotions, sell more, b2b sales, sales win, Attitude, HappyTake a moment to write down the last time you made a major purchase from someone you didn't like. It's difficult because we tend to buy from people we like and who make us feel good.  We buy on an emotional level and then rationalize our buying decisions with logic.  In other words, sales is about transferring emotion.  So the sales people on your team who can effectively transfer emotion and get a potential buyer as enthusiastic about your product or service as they are will sell more.

But your sales people can't fake a positive outlook or a great attitude.  It has to be genuine.  If they don't like their job or their boss or your company or your industry.... if they don't truly believe in your product or that your solution is really the best option for the buyer, it won't work.  The people who buy your product or service will see right through fake enthusiasm and insincere excitement.  Bad attitudes and negative outlooks on your sales team will cost your company serious money.

If you want to build an over-achieving sales team, start by establishing a "No Excuses" culture.  Also make sure your sales hiring process can screen out the people with a negative outlook or a bad attitude.  There are ways to do this in the interview process, but to be sure we recommend using the Dave Kurlan sales screen for every sales hiring decision.  Its accuracy and predictive value is legendary.  To learn more just download his white paper.  Or better yet if you're in the Milwaukee area you can see Dave Kurlan live at the Milwaukee Athletic Club on Wednesday, March 30 at 7:30 am.

Systematically hire sales people with a great outlook and a positive attitude and you will be on your way to building an over-achieving sales team.

2011 Sales Resolutions for Presidents, CEOs and Business Owners

CEO Sales ExpectationsIt’s the first week of a brand new year and your “To Accomplish List” has already hit a second page.  Before you get too busy, ask yourself if 2011 will be the year you choose to do things differently with sales and business development.  What can you do to make sales better this year?  To drive growth with new and existing accounts?  To increase margins?  To improve customer retention?  To gain market share?  To increase the value of your company?

It’s easy to lose sight of these issues as you hustle from meeting to meeting.  The start of a new year gives you an excellent opportunity to take a step back and think about what you want to accomplish.  So in addition to trying to lose weight, exercise more or read some fiction, we humbly suggest the following Four (4) Sales Resolutions for Presidents, CEOs and Business Owners:

1.       Raise Your Expectations – when I talk with Presidents, CEOs and Business Owners it usually takes just a few questions to help them realize they have relatively low expectations of their sales team.  If you want 2011 to be your best sales year ever, your first sales resolution is to raise your expectations for the sales department and hold them to a higher standard.

2.       Raise Their Expectations – once you’ve raised your expectations, let your sales leaders and the entire sales team know about it.  Everyone in the sales department should know that “good enough” isn’t going to work anymore and should have a clear understanding of where they need to focus their time, talent and energy.

3.       Set Clear Targets – now that you have raised expectations, get specific by setting clear targets for your sales team.  Identify what you want the sales team to focus on –whether it’s a new market or ideal client, a specific goal for margin or volume, a certain number of new appointments per week, a target for renewing existing clients – whatever it is be very clear and specific about the three to four targets you want the sales team to focus on.

4.       Hold them Accountable – hold your sales leaders and the entire sales team accountable to following through on your new targets and higher standards 100% of the time.  It only takes one exception to ruin the momentum you’re trying to build this year.  Remember the most important part of accountability is defining consequences – both good and bad – for everyone on the sales team.

Would you like some help with this process?  We have prepared a CEO Sales Expectations worksheet for you to download.  Schedule some time with yourself this week to focus on raising your sales expectations for 2011, before another “typical” sales year just happens (again).

What Is Your Sales Team Selling – Transactions or Relationships?

The next time you review your new accounts report with your Vice President of Sales, pick a few and ask her if the sales person sold a transaction or a relationship.  There are very few businesses that are purely transactional.  And while it is relatively easy to take an order or make a “one-time” sale, selling a relationship will pay dividends in the long run.  But here’s the challenge – selling a relationship takes more time, stronger commitment, more discipline and superior selling skills.

Your sales team will take orders all day if you let them.  And if you need the revenue what’s the harm? 

But with effective sales coaching and strong accountability, your sales managers should help their team move beyond the transactional sale and into relationship sales.  When you sell a relationship the right way, multiple transactions will follow.  Keep in mind, it’s possible to have a customer buying things multiple times – one transaction at a time – and still not be in a strong relationship with them (check their loyalty, who else do they work with, how much of their business is going to your competitors, etc.).

Here’s the real test.  Are the people on your sales team willing to walk away from “a transaction” if the prospect is not willing to build a relationship?  It may seem counterintuitive, but when your sales team has this level of discipline you will see your sales results explode.  And how will customer service and client satisfaction improve when your sales team is focused on building fewer, deeper relationships?

Now here’s the really tough question.  Which of the sales people on your team can make the transition from an order taker focused on transactions to a consultative sales professional focused on building relationships?  Do you know?  Does your sales manager?  Can you afford not to know this?

sales transactions

Living Above The Line

As I was rereading Bradley Sugars book, “Instant Systems" I revisited a topic that often gets pushed under the table.  You can't control what happens, but you can control how you react to it.  You can choose how you respond.  Sugars calls it "the line of decision" and you can choose to live "Above the Line" or "Below the Line."







Living "Above the Line" means taking ownership, being accountable and responsible.  Living "Below the Line" means you look elsewhere for blame, excuses and denial.

Is anyone on your team living below the line?  Do some team members complain "I never get good leads" or "my territory is harder" or "the market is down" or "we can't match the competition's pricing."  Compare them to your team members who take ownership of the issues and thrive on being accountable for the results they produce.  Who would you rather be around?

Are you living below the line?  Some sales managers complain "my team just doesn't get it."  Well, whose fault is that?  Who hired them?  Who's managing them?  What are you going to do about it?  How can you, as the manager, change the situation?

Living above the line means having a Victor's mindset.  If you're below the line, you have a Victim's mindset.  Living above the line means producing results.  Operating below the line means producing reasons.  Where do you want your sales team to be?