Two Great Sales Lessons From the Film Free Solo

A few weeks ago I was flying across the country, and was able to watch the Oscar-winning film Free Solo. Watching it in an IMAX theater would have been a lot cooler than on a four by four screen on a Delta airplane, but I enjoyed the movie nonetheless. There were two awesome sales lessons hidden in the film, and in no particular order, I'll share them here.

The whole movie is centered around Alex Honnold and his desire to “free solo”, or climb without ropes, El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. El Capitan is probably the most famous rock wall in the world, and it had never been free soloed. The thought of free soloing El Cap is truly insane. It's a monumental accomplishment. After he climbed it, somebody on the film crew asked him, "Well, what are you going to go do next?" And he just said, "Well, I'll probably go do some hang boarding." He'd been working toward this goal for years and years, thinking about it, staging it, doing similar climbs, trying to prepare for it mentally, overcoshutterstock_280705463ming all of the fears and doubts that he had, and then after this pinnacle achievement what does he go do? He goes back to fundamentals. The sales lesson here is you can win the big deal, you can close the big sale, you can get the biggest sale in company history and just be humble and go back to the fundamentals. 

The best time to make a cold call is immediately after closing the big deal.  Go make some cold calls. Go practice your next pitch. Go think about other questions you can ask. Let that momentum of a big goal accomplished be a slingshot to carry you toward your next goal rather than an opportunity to rest on your laurels. Don't rest on your laurels!  Accomplish something and then think, what can I do next? Go back to the fundamentals.

As Honnold was going through his prep work to do that ascent of El Cap, he went through and rehearsed key sections. There were four or five critical sections that he wanted to dial in on and really practice every single move he was going to make. He did this with a rope so that when he was without a rope, when it was showtime so to speak, the muscle memory would kick in and he would be able to climb without hesitation. There was one particular stretch called 'the boulder problem' where he had two options: He could either leap from one tenuous ledge and grab onto another more substantial ledge, but he'd be totally out of contact with the wall, or he could do what he calls the karate kick, which is a little bit more complicated, but he would stay in contact with the wall. He went back and forth between these two moves, really thought it through and decided to do the karate kick.

The lesson we can take learn here from a sales perspective is how much time is your sales team using to prepare for a phone call, meeting, sales pitch, etc.? Are they really thinking through every option, looking at it from every angle, and thinking through who's going to be in the room? Who's going to be on that call? What are their primary objectives? What are their concerns about our product or service? You have to go in the sales call, just like Honnold had to go on the climb, prepared and able to react well in the moment.

There's probably no better example of being in the moment than when Honnold is free soloing, but that relentless preparation and rehearsal made it possible for him to just glide through the climb without hesitation. So, a few valuable lessons from Alex Honnold's successful free solo of El Capitan are: Don't rest on your laurels, and relentless preparation will help your team perform well when the moment comes.

As a sales leader, how are you enabling your sales team to 'free solo' on their cold calls or in the field? Are you tracking whether your top performers are resting on their laurels after a big win, or if they're using that momentum to exceed their targets? Next Tuesday, June 25th we're going to have a live Webinar on Sales Enablement Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. To join us in conversation on Sales Enablement best practices, click HERE TO REGISTER. 

Dog Days of Summer

Dog days of summer, slow down, CEO

Are you accepting excuses from your sales team during the dog days of summer? When the weather turns nice everyone wants to enjoy long weekends and warm summer nights. But as prospects disappear, are you letting your sales team fall behind when they don’t need to?

One of the challenges we see with companies across the board this time of year is that everything slows down. It's tough to add new deals to the pipeline. It's tough to keep current opportunities moving forward. Particularly in a complex, multi-party sales environment. People are taking vacations this time of year, so if one of the key decision makers is out or on vacation, everything just takes longer. People take longer weekends and it's just easier for them to delay. You know how it goes, “Joe's not back until next Wednesday, we're meeting on Thursday, but then I'm on vacation the following week”.

It makes for stalled deals and slow movement. When that happens, it's really easy for your sales people to slow down as well. They take their foot off the gas, accept put offs, stalls and delays from their clients, and just wait until things get better. As a CEO what can you do to solve this slow down?

  1. Number one, everyone on your sales team needs to increase their activity level. While prospects may slow down, your sales team can counter that by increasing their activity levels. More calls, more voicemails, more emails, more InMails via LinkedIn. Think in terms of “polite persistence.” You don't want your sales team to be a pest, but you absolutely want them to consistently pursue prospects in multiple ways. It's not that buyers and decision makers aren't working this time of year; it just takes more effort to make contact with them.

As they’re doing that they can create a commentary. Coach them to say things like "Hey I know things slowdown in the summer, just wanted to find out if there's anything moving on this opportunity. When's the next time we should talk? You were supposed to get this to me by Friday, I didn't see it, how we doing?" Have them actually talk about the fact that it's slower in the summer and that's ok.  Just acknowledge it, and again, increase the activity. The other thing sales people need to do at this time of year is ask more questions. It's easy for the prospect to coast through the summer and not have an urgency to move forward. It’s not ok for your sales people to do the same. They need to ask questions to create urgency, to create incentives to move faster on these deals. Make prospects realize the benefits they'll accrue when they buy your solutions faster. That's what's going to separate and create urgency even in the dog days of summer.

  1. Second, remind them that while in July and August things really slow down, September is right around the corner. We get past Labor Day, kids go back to school, everyone's back from vacation. Buyers and decision makers look at their calendar and they realize, oh my goodness, I've only got four months left to make my number this year. If you wait until September to get going, you're already behind. It's your responsibility to make sure your sales team uses these dog days of summer to build momentum going into the final year-end push. 

 
  1. Third, remember many companies are starting their budget process in the August/September time frame. How can your sales team start planting seeds for getting in the budget for next year? Do they have the urgency to start filling their calendars right now, even though its summer?

As a CEO, are you accepting excuses and put offs from your sales team?  Ask them to do a little bit more during the dog days of summer and you’ll have a much stronger pipeline in the fall.

Questions Your Sales Leaders Should Ask Halfway Through the Year

Yesterday marked the end of June, which means if your company runs on a calendar year you've hit your mid-year point.  Two quarters down, two quarters to go.  It also means that, based on the results produced thus far, some of your sales people are strutting around with a huge ego and others are slinking about with their shoulders slumped forward and their eyes on the ground.  And the reality is, both may be wrong!  Here are some questions your sales leaders should ask to make sure each sales person on their team has the right focus and attitude midway through the year.

For Sales People on Plan or Ahead of Plan

  1. Are they bringing in the right kind of revenue?  With the right customers?  Consistent with your corporate strategy?
  2. Are their wins producing solid margins?  No discounting? 
  3. Were there any deals that should have closed Q414 that slipped into Q115?  Were there any unusual (i.e. once-in-a-lifetime, difficult to repeat, not likely to happen again soon) deals that are boosting their year-to-date numbers?
  4. Are they maintaining their activity levels?  Booking net new appointments every week?  Maintaining an active sales pipeline?  Moving opportunities from stage to state in a timely fashion?  Consistently asking for referrals?
  5. Do they remain open to coaching and feedback?  Are they still hungry to learn and get better?  Remember, small incremental improvements can make a huge impact with your top producing sales people.
  6. Will they keep their foot on the gas through the end of the year or are they likely to coast?  What will motivate them to keep driving at their current pace?

For Sales People Behind Plan

  1. How strong are their weekly activity levels?  How many net new appointments are they going on every week?  What problems are they finding to get invited into a new appointment?  What can they do to increase activity at the top of their sales funnel for the second half of the year?  What do they plan to do differently?
  2. Are they creating enough urgency for prospects to take action toward the next step in the sales process?  Are they slowing down during the discovery process to really understand the issues and situation (or are they rushing to get to the proposal/close too quickly)?
  3. What is in their pipeline that is closable?  What will it take to get the win and put some points on the board?  Is there anything they need from the company to support their efforts?
  4. Do they remain open to coaching and feedback?  Are they still confident?  How can they focus on their tonality and improving their questioning skills until they get back on track?
  5. Is there too much on their plate?  What non-sales activities can be removed or postponed so they can focus during prime selling hours?  Can you narrow their focus (temporarily reduce their territory, emphasize only one or two product lines, etc.)?
  6. Can they turn it around and save their year or have they already given up?  What will motivate them to pick up their efforts and finish strong?

 

Predictive_Validity

 

Whether you have sales people who are ahead of plan, behind plan or somewhere in the middle, remember that part of building an over-achieving sales team is having sales leaders ask the right questions so they know why their sales people are ahead (or behind).  Sometimes it’s possible to do everything right and lose the deal.  Other times you can do nearly everything wrong and win the business.  It is your sales leaders’ responsibility to make sure everyone on their team knows the difference and takes away right lessons from every opportunity (win or lose).

Consistent coaching (ideally weekly), weekly planning by every sales team member focusing on outcomes, defining 3-4 clear quarterly goals and staying focused on them, and continuing to learn and grow are a few of the keys to building an over-achieving sales team.  One more factor for building an over-achieving sales team?  Effective recruiting!  We’re halfway through 2015 and we are in a candidate-centric market, which means it can take 90-120 days to find a great sales person.  If your sales leaders have team members who may not make it to the end of the year, NOW is the time to begin recruiting.  Remember, a decision to recruit is not a decision to hire – why wait?  Want an unfair advantage?  Learn more here.

Is Your Sales Forecast Giving You A False Sense of Security?

How many people in your sales department would enthusiastically endorse your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system?  When I talk with CEOs and Vice Presidents of Sales I rarely hear “enthusiasm” in their voice or see it in their face when discussing their CRM system.  Instead, I see a resigned look of frustration.  Or worse, a false sense of security (“You should see the charts and reports I can produce!”).  It gets worse when you talk with sales managers and sales people, the people who actually need to enter the data and keep all the information up to date.

Sales CRM Best Practices

CRMs are part of the landscape and are key to driving accurate sales forecasts.  And when properly implemented, rolled out, modified based on field input, and managed on a continual basis, CRMs can be powerfully useful.  We have clients who have come close to this type of installation.  Two of our clients that utilize Salesforce.com immediately come to mind.  We also have a client with a Membrain installation and another client with a GetBase.com installation that come close.  We use GetBase.com for our sales team, in part because we love the simplicity of the design and its similarity to our preferred project management tool, Asana.

However, these are the exceptions!  We more commonly see examples of failed CRM installations.  Let’s be specific.  To us signs of a failed CRM installation include:

  • Inconsistent and incomplete data

  • Unclear process (no definition of milestones in the sales process)

  • Old, out-of-date data

  • Overly optimistic data

  • Opportunities consistently languish in the pipeline (no movement or very slow movement)

  • Opportunities that should be eliminated are kept in the pipeline/forecast

  • Limited clarity around next steps and customer commitments

  • A false sense of security among the leadership team (followed by “surprise” shortfalls)

And while there are many other signs to list, this should give you a general sense of what to watch for at your company when reviewing sales reports from your CRM.

During your next leadership meeting make the decision that 2015 will be the year that you can actually trust your sales forecast.  Review the checklist above as a starting point, then go further to discuss specific issues and challenges you see in your company’s use of sales forecasts and your CRM.  You should also have your sales managers facilitate a discussion at their next sales meeting to identify the most common reasons for sales that were projected to close falling apart and not occurring.  The output from that discussion will provide a great framework for on-going coaching topics as you move forward.  

Planning For 2014: 5 Things CEOs Must Focus On To Improve Sales

Sales Team

It’s the time of year when we take stock of where we are, and make plans for where we want to go. What went well in your business in 2013? What didn’t go so well (or “needs improvement” as some people like to say)?

As you create a sales plan for 2014, and map out where you would like your business to go, consider some specific things you can do to improve sales productivity. Here are five (5) objectives we suggest you consider.  Whether you select one of these or come up with a sales improvement plan of your own, pick at least one area to focus on in 2014 and stick with it for the next four quarters.

1.  Face the brutal truth

In Good to Great and the many subsequent books resulting from his research on what makes companies great, Jim Collins notes that the first step to being a great company is to face the brutal truth. 

In our opinion, the single most impactful investment a CEO or business owner can make in their sales organization is to conduct a comprehensive Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis from Objective Management Group.If you are serious 

Sales Effectiveness Analysisabout making significant progress this year in terms of growing revenue, improving margins, building a predictable sales process, shortening your sales cycle, closing more business, and developing your people, investing in a detailed analysis of your people, systems, and strategies should be your first step (link to sample SEIA report landing page).

2. Focus on your sales pipeline

Your sales pipeline is the single most accurate forecast of incoming revenue in your company.  Your management team should review it regularly and make adjustments accordingly.  Your operations manager must use your sales pipeline as a guide to adjusting capacity requirements.  Your Chief Financial Officer should use your sales pipeline as a guide for making strategic investments and managing cash flow more effectively. 

In fact, everyone on your management team should look at your sales pipeline and gain confidence.  Most companies don’t use their sales pipeline this way because it is usually a joke your sales manager tries to defend and justify at management meetings.  What would happen if you had a reliable sales pipeline your leaders could count on?

3. Commit to coaching

Your sales managers should spend about 50% of their time directly coaching your sales people.  It is the only way your sales people will make consistent improvements so that every week, every month, and every quarter you will be able to look at the behaviors and activities across your sales organization and say “Yes, we’re clearly getting better.  We’re having better conversations.  We’re getting into better opportunities.  We are winning business more consistently because our proposals are better qualified.  We are selling better work at higher margins.  We are improving customer satisfaction.  We have better communications from our sales team to the rest of the organization.”  To be able to say these things you need to commit to a consistent and rigorous coaching routine.

4. Hire stronger sales talent

Upgrading your sales talent can be a growth strategy.  How many people on your sales team would you enthusiastically rehire?  Who are the mediocre performers on your team that you tolerate because you don’t want to make a change?  What is your plan for these B and C-players?  Can you develop them?  Coach them?  Put them in a position better suited for their skills?  What would happen if you committed to an A-Player-only hiring strategy?  Perhaps this is the year to make that happen.

5. Narrow your market focus

Sometimes we just take the work our sales people can sell instead of being focused and disciplined around selling to accounts that best fit our model. 

Who are your best accounts?  The idea of “best” could mean most profitable, easiest to work with, most strategic potential, deepest relationship, or many other factors.  What would happen to your business if your entire account base was comprised of customers who really fit what you do?  Who are the customers that take up disproportionate resources?  Can you adjust your pricing to encourage them to leave (freeing up valuable resources for customers who are a better fit)?  Looking at your sales pipeline, are your sales people targeting the right types of accounts and are they having conversations at the right level?  Or are they just taking whatever they can get?  What would your company look like 12 months from now if you narrowed your market focus and aligned your sales organization around the accounts that best fit your operation?

Make it a priority to clearly define what your ideal account looks like, and include it in your entire sales process.

Where does your sales team “need improvement” this year? Let us know which one you picked and we’ll check in with you in 90 days to make sure you are sticking with it!

6 Questions Your Sales Managers Hope You Won't Ask...


...About Their Sales Forecasts and Pipeline Reports

Sales Pipeline, CEO Sales Guide, Sales Management Accountability, Sales Forecast, Accuracy, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sales Force Development Expert, Sales Consultant, Objective Management Group, Baseline Selling

Many CEOs we work with either don't pay close attention to the sales pipeline reports they get from their sales managers (because it's rarely accurate) or ignore pipeline reports and sales forecasts completely (because they've lost faith in the accuracy of the reports, the sales manager who put them together, or both).

 

We work with middle market and large corporate clients in a wide variety of industries - selling different products and services, to different target markets, with different sales cycles, at different price points, with varying levels of complexity and competition, and several other important differences. And yet, nearly every CEO we work with has similar issues and challenges when it comes to the accuracy and rigor applied to the data tracked in the sales forecasts and pipeline reports they get from their sales managers.


With just a little bit of attention, these same CEOs could have a significant impact on increasing revenue, improving profit margins, accelerating sales cycles, improving accountability, and increasing forecasting accuracy.

How? By putting some focus on these common sales pipeline challenges companies face. 

 

With that in mind, here are six (6) questions your sales managers hope you won't ask about their pipeline:

  1. How long has each opportunity we are tracking been in our sales pipeline?
  2. What would the total value of our pipeline be if we eliminated each opportunity that is older than X months?
  3. Under ideal circumstances, how much time should it take for an opportunity to move through each stage of our sales cycle?
  4. Have we defined the committments we need from the prospective customer at each stage of the sales process so we can confidently move an opportunity to the next step?
  5. When an opportunity gets stuck at a particular point in the sales process, what coaching feedback are you providing the sales person who is responsible for that opportunity?
  6. How many opportunities should each salesperson on the team either move forward in the sales process or eliminate from the sales pipeline every week.

In our experience working with middle market and larger corporate clients, too many CEOs ignore the pipeline reports they receive from their sales managers. Not enough CEOs ask these types of challenging questions to hold sales managers accountable. Worse yet, some CEOs we know ignore pipeline reports and sales forecasts all together and instead rely on backward looking reports such as orders shipped. It's easy to understand the frustration that leads to this approach - a shipping report is a lot more accurate than a sales forecast - but what does it accomplish?

Your sales pipeline report should be the single most accurate predictor of future revenue in your company - and it almost never is!

What can you do about it? Three things:
1) map your sales process;
2) implement an easy tool to track each opportunity every step of the way; and,
3) hold your sales managers accountable.


You may think you're already doing these three things. Chances are you are not. And it's easy to find out - just ask your sales managers the six (6) questions we shared above.
If you're not satisified with the answers you need to make the decision to do something about it.
If you'd like some help, we would be happy to have a cup of coffee to find out if our systematic approach to mapping your sales process could have an impact on your sales results.

sales effectiveness and improvement analyses, sales success

What would happen to your planning process and decision frameworks if you actually believed the sales forecasts and pipeline reports your sales managers shared with you?
 
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Building a Profitable Sales Process - Qualify the Opportunity

Qualification, Sales Process, Close more business, hope is not a strategy, wishful thinking, sales people, sales manager, pipeline, building a profitable sales process, quote and hope, sales effectiveness, sales coaching, Mike Carroll, Intelligent Conversations, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sales consultant, Objective Management GroupHere's a radical idea - let's have your sales team qualify opportunities before you prepare a quote!  Too many sales organizations seem to use a "quote and hope" strategy that rarely drives consistent revenue growth.

Continuing our series on Building a Profitable Sales Process, this post will cover step 8 - qualifying the opportunity.

 

 
  

 

If you asked your sales people and sales managers what's the most important area to explore in the qualification process you'll probably hear "budget".  And that's good, profitable business begins by working with customers who can afford your product or service.  But there is much more to the qualification process than just finding out if they can afford to pay you.

Here are eight (8) questions to have your sales managers ask when coaching your sales people to review opportunities at the "qualification" stage of your sales process:

  1. Have we uncovered all of the issues and do we fully understand the impact our product or service will have on the prospect's situation?
     
  2. Does the prospect agree with all the issues we have identified and do they have urgency to make a change?
     
  3. Have we discussed the investment required to implement our solution or purchase our product and does the prospect understand the value this investment will create?
     
  4. Do we understand the prospect's timeline for when they need our product or solution and do we have the capacity to take on this work within the timeline the prospect requires?
     
  5. Do we understand the prospect's decision process, know all of the stakeholders involved, and have a strategy to leverage our advocates and covert (or at least neautralize) our detractors?
     
  6. Have we asked enough questions about the competitive context in which the prospect is making this decision?  Do we know the advantages our solution provides and how these advantages fit into and align with their buying criteria?
     
  7. Do we have all of the technical information we need to produce an accurate quote?  Has the prospect provided contact information for any technical people on their side (engineers, quality control, etc.) we may need to contact with clarifying questions as we prepare our quote?
     
  8. Have we clearly defined what happens when the prospect receives our quote?  Has the prospect agreed to make a decision?  Have we set up a meeting to review the quote and go over any questions?
And of course there may be more questions your sales manager should add that are specific to your business.  What would happen if your sales managers regularly asked these types of questions of your sales people?
Would the quality of your quotes and estimates go up?  Would the total number of quotes sent out go down?  Would your sales people win more deals?  
  
Free analysis report - download it here
Too many companies use a "quote and hope" strategy where their sales people use the quoting process as a means to have the discovery conversation they should have had earlier in the sales process.
  
Too many sales people waste valuable company resources preparing unqualified quotes. And too many sales people (and sales managers) mistake "being busy" with "being productive."   
What would happen to your sales results if your team consistently took a more disciplined approach to the qualification stage of your sales process? 
 

Free analysis report
Does your sales team have the skills and strengths to effectively qualify the opportunities in your sales funnel? What challenges and weaknesses get in their way?  Who on your team is capable of selling at a higher margin?  Who can you save and who should you consider replacing or putting into a different role within your organization?

If you're not sure how to answer these questions, ask us for a free overview of our newest tool - the Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis™ - and we will follow up with you to find out if it makes sense to talk about helping your sales organization become more effective.

Building a Profitable Sales Process - Making Initial Contact

Building a Profitable Sales Process, making initial contact, cold calling, prospecting ideas, how to make effective cold calls, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee Sales Development Expert, Objective Management Group, sales ideasContinuing our series on 10 Steps to Building a Profitable Sales Process, this post will address steps three and four.

If you are following this series and applying the ideas to your sales organization, by now your sales leaders should have lead the sales team through the process of identifying your most profitable prospects to target and everyone on your sales team should have a focused list of top prospects.  If that's where you are right now congratulations!

 

You're off to a great start.  If not don't worry, you can easily catch up.

Now it's time to get to work by actually contacting these prospective customers. There are a lot of cold calling articles, books and scripts available to you, so our focus for this article will be high-level principles rather than specific tactics.
  

  1. Schedule Prospecting Time
    Everyone on your sales team should specific times scheduled on their calendar for business development activities.  Zig Ziglar wrote about this years ago urging sales professionals to schedule a time by which they will make their first call of the day.  The earlier the better.
     
    I'd say go one step further and have your sales team schedule a block of time to make contact with prospective customers. They should treat this time as a "can't miss appointment" and their should be consequences for missing it.
       
      
  2. Low and Slow
    One of the problems we see when sales people make cold calls - especially if they are out of practice and are just getting started again - is they tend to talk too high and too fast.  Think "low and slow" when making initial contact with a prospective client.
     
    A lower tone conveys confidence and authority. So does slowing down a bit and being comfortable with the inevitable pauses that occur when making first contact. Have your sales leaders listen to some calls and remind their sales people to slow down and lower their tone of voice.
       
      
  3. Point of View
    When making initial contact, your sales people should look at the world from the prospective customer's point of view. What is important to them? What are some common frustrations they might have? Have your sales people position your product or service from their point of view rather than your company's point of view. For more on this highly effective approach read about "positioning statements" in Dave Kurlan's Baseline Selling.
      
      
  4. Sell with Stories
    Instead of describing the features and benefits of your product (which will generate a quick hang up), have your sales people sell with stories. Give examples of issues and challenges people like your prospect are experiencing and ask if that's something that is challenge to them.
     
    A strong story or example followed by an engaging question is much more effective than just describing your product or service. Remember, the goal of the initial contact is to engage them in a conversation that (hopefully) leads to a next step.
      
      
  5. Ask Questions Three Deep
    Once your sales people have engaged the prospect in a conversation it's important to keep the conversation going by asking questions and going at least three questions deep (more if possible).  Questions and phrases such as "when did you first notice this...." or "how long has this been an issue..." or "tell me a little more about how that impacts your operations..." can go a long way toward keeping the conversation going. 
      
      
  6. Ask for the Appointment
    After a few minutes of phone discover, if there's a problem your sales people might be able to solve, ask for the appoinment. That's the goal of making initial contact, so don't let them beat around the bush.  Get right to the point and ask if it makes sense to get together or schedule a follow up call to explore the issue in more detail.
     
    If your sales people are having the right conversation this should be an easy, logical next step.  If they're forcing the conversation this will be difficult to convert and they will continue to struggle.
     
      
  7. Ask for a Name
    If your sales people cannot find an issue worth exploring in an appointment or follow up phone call, have them form the habit of asking for another name to call.  It's as simple as "it doesn't sound like you need us right now, is there someone else in your network who might?"
     
      
  8. End with a clear next step
    Even if there is not an opportunity to get together right now, everyone on your sales team should set expectations by asking permission to re-engage in the future.  I like to use the sports calendar as a reference point because it's more memorable.  So instead of saying "I'll call you next fall" I might say "I'll call you when the Cowboys are 2-0" (if I'm prospecting in Dallas).  Or "I'll call you right after the Masters..."  Or "I'll reach out to you again around the All Star break...."
     
    Make sure your sales people keep good notes in your CRM so they can keep track of these follow up calls. 

     What's holding your sales team back from making initial contact with prospective customers?  Find out by investing in a detailed analysis of the people, systems, and strategies that impact sales at your company. Download a free sample of the new Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis.
 Download the eBook Sales Effectiveness Improvement Analysis for free
  

Are Your Boring Sales Meetings Driving Growth and Change?

Boring sales meeting, six ideas to improve sales meetings, sales meeting topics, sales manager ideas, sales productivity, weekly meeting rhythm, Intelligent Conversations, CEO sales blog, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, management consultant, growth consultantHow effective are your sales managers at running a good sales meeting? How engaged are your top performing sales people? How much is this costing you in terms of lost productivity, lower morale, and higher turnover on your sales team?

Here’s a quick test you can do by sitting in their next sales meeting. Put aside the fact that your being there may change everyone’s behavior.

Just ask one of your sales managers if it would be alright to sit in for a few meetings just as an observer.



Here’s what I want you to observe:  count the ratio between statements your sales manager makes and questions your sales manager asks.


You  might be surprised by the results!

Too often the sales meetings we observe tend to focus on unimportant administrative tasks and boring progress status reviews. Too often we hear statements, proclamations, and updates instead of questions, discussions and collaboration. That's why most your top producing sales people dread going to sales meetings and will find just about any excuse to be somewhere else.

What would happen if all of the administrative updates happened offline before the weekly sales meeting? What would happen if every week your sales managers spent no more than 15-20 minutes on updates and then focused the balance of the hour on a particular sales challenge or market opportunity? Would your sales people make incremental progress if every week they spent 40-45 minutes collaborating with their teammates in engaging discussions facilitated by your sales managers?  


Here are six (6) potential topics to consider:

  1. Prospecting Focus - ask your sales managers to go beyond a quick review of the top 20 prospects each sales person is targeting. Instead they should facilitate a conversation about why they picked those prospects, how they're approaching them, what they say when they get them on the phone, which questions and examples create the most urgency to schedule a meeting, what activity levels are driving success across the team, and so on. Everyone on the team should walk out with clear next steps and expectations to meet and report on at the next sales meeting.
     
  2. Overcoming Objections - have your sales managers facilitate a brainstorming session to identify the most common objections (price is always number one) the sales team encounters. Rarely will the list go beyond 12-15 total objections.  Work through the top two to three (2-3) objections as a group and then assign the rest and have each sales person outline strategies to overcome/address/handle/neutralize the objection assigned to them and present it at the next sales meeting.
     
  3. Voice of the Customer Exercise - have your sales manager work with each team member to select a current client and conduct a brief interview to understand

    a) what the customer likes best about working with your company (descriptive and results focused),
    b) what they would change if they could change one thing about your company (opportunities for improvement), and
    c) where they would focus their time and efforts or who they would call if they were the sales person (prospecting and referral opportunity).

    Each sales person should share their findings with the team and your sales manager should facilitate a discussion around what this feedback means and how to use it on upcoming sales calls.
     
  4. Question Funnel Exercise - what are the six to eight (6-8) most common problems or challenges your customers and prospective customers face? Ask your sales manager to facilitate a discussion and brainstorming session to document ALL of the questions a sales person could ask to uncover these common problems and challenges.  What questions and discussions will expose these issues?  What are the different question sets that will help a prospective customer "discover" the impact these challenges are having on their business.
     
  5. Market Trends - what changes are happening in the markets you serve that could impact your prospective client's ability or urgency to buy your product or service? Is the competitive landscape changing? Is there a new technology or business model that could disrupt your business? Are there regulatory pressures? Are there capital challenges or financing requirements that could delay a project start up? What are your sales people hearing in the market that everyone should know about? Can your sales manager facilitate a discussion that helps everyone on the team drive that discussion on sales calls rather than react to it cold?
     
  6. Win/Loss Analysis - have your sales manager select a recent deal (either a win or a loss) and go deep into what happened. What went really well that should be repeated whenever possible? What didn't go so well that should be avoided in future opportunities? How repeatable and avoidable are these factors? What are the specific activities, behaviors, and deal components that a sales person can control and drive in future deals? Are your sales managers strong enough to go beyond the celebratory "high five" for wins or the surface-level "post mortem" for losses? What lessons should every sales person on the team learn from each big win or loss?

If your sales meetings have become a boring exchange of updates and progress reports, why not have your sales managers jump start them with any of these topics, or whatever issue is most pressing at your company? If they run out of ideas, simply have them ask everyone on their sales team to write down their top three _______ (sales challenges, sales successes, obstacles, growth opportunities, process improvement ideas, referral strategies, closing questions, and on and on) and then faciliate a discussion about that.

 

Need help getting started?
Contact me and ask about how we can help increase the focus for a series of sales meetings.

 

FREE Sales Accountability Plan!
The difference between top producing sales people and everyone else is their ability to hold themselves accountable on a consistent basis. Our simple, four-step Sales Accountability Plan will help you do just that.
 
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Free Sales Seminar - The Ultimate Sales Call

describe the imageThere are only a few seats remaining for our upcoming free seminar, "The Ultimate Sales Call, Five Lessons that Drive Results" on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at the Milwaukee Athletic Club.  After the seminar there will be a free Networking Event on the rooftop where you kick off your summer in style with your peers.  

What are the Five Lessons that we'll talk about during the sales seminar?  Here's a quick preview of the Five Lessons learned that we will explore:
  1. It’s Not About You – when talking with a client or prospective client, the more you can make it about them – their problems and challenges, their operational issues, their missed opportunities, their cash flow struggles, their people issues, their production challenges – the better your conversation will be. 
  2. Narrow Your Focus – to build up your pipeline get very clear about who your target accounts should be.  What type of companies do you like working with?  What challenges do you love to help solve?  What style or personality type do you enjoy working with?  Think carefully about who your ideal clients would be and then build your list.  We will review some simple tools that can help you build highly focused, targeted lists.
  3. Mind the Gap – when talking with a prospective client, your goal should be to ask lots of questions to help the prospect understand the gap between where they are now (without your help) and where they could be if they were to work with someone like you.  The more time you can spend drawing this comparison and increasing the prospective client’s awareness of this gap, the better your results will be.  To find out how this worked for Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs – please see this post from my CEO Sales Guide.
  4. Questions are the Answer – one of the bad sales habits we see right away in our role play exercises is the tendency for sales people to make statements that could easily be turned into a question.  When you make a statement to a prospect, they can disagree and argue with you.  If you turn your statement into a question and have them say it, it’s true to them and it is much more difficult for them to argue or disagree.
  5. Purpose and Next Step – begin every sales meeting with a clear purpose (e.g. “here’s what we’d like to do today…”) and end every meeting with a clear next step that the prospect agrees to do (e.g. “We’ll talk next Tuesday to schedule a meeting with your management team….”).  How often do you sit down with the "perfect prospect," have a "great conversation," only to find yourself in chase mode as you try to move forward and suddenly they disappear?  Starting every conversation with a clear purpose and ending every conversation with a clear next step removes this ambiguity and keeps your sales process on track.