Wanted – Humble Sales People

iTEJd_6QOne of the challenges when you're hiring salespeople (or coaching them) is the dichotomy between being confident and being humble. Part of being effective in sales is coming across as knowledgeable and confident, but if your sales people push that too far they'll be seen as arrogant and cocky.  What would happen if they came across as humble and curious as well as confident? You can explore this tension between confidence and humility as you're interviewing salespeople.  Ask tough questions and change topics quickly to see how can they handle pressure. Also, ask for examples of how they've grown and what they've learned - then listen carefully for stories of humility and curiosity.

From a practical sales perspective, the balance between confidence and humility really comes down to being a great listener. Nobody wants to talk to a know-it-all, and yet so many sales people spend all their time focusing on mastering the technical aspects of their product. You certainly need to know your product, but more importantly you need to know what questions to ask. It's not about having the right answer, it's about having a great set of questions – without being overbearing – that can uncover the compelling reasons for a prospect to buy and help them understand the full impact of their current situation.

An arrogant salesperson will ask a question then begin to answer it before the prospect has a chance to jump in to contribute to the conversation.  Or, they'll asks overly complex questions that make the conversation harder than it needs to be. Many salespeople falsely believe that showing off their intellect and demonstrating their technical knowledge makes them seem more confident.  Usually they are just masking their insecurity and are afraid to just have a conversation.

In our experience, the most effective questions are simple, direct, and straightforward. Most importantly, a good salesperson takes the time to pause after asking a question. There’s no need to rush in and start talking right away if the prospect is considering your question.

Humble sales managers can make a huge difference as well.  We’ve seen great sales people get promoted to become a sales manager, and suddenly it's like they walked through a magic portal with the title "sales manager" above it and forget to ask questions. The very thing that made them so effective and helped them rise to the top of their sales team was likely their ability to ask great questions and be a great listener. Yet, when they become a sales manager, they forget all about that and instead they start telling their team, "Well, here's what you need to do."

What ends up happening is rather than developing a team of diverse personalities, each with their individual strengths, they start building a team of clones. Sometimes that can work well in the near term, but ultimately they’re limiting the growth of each team member by just making them do the job their way. It's not about telling your team, "Do this, do that, here's what you need to do next in this situation," because you're doing the thinking for your sales people. Instead, think like you're back in a sales role. How can you get them to the right answer? How can you ask them questions that help them discover what they need to do next?

If your sales people come to the conclusion on their own, it's their idea and they'll start to apply it. They'll have more ownership. If you just tell them what to do and it doesn't work, they can blame you. For salespeople, be humble and ask questions. Ask questions that make the prospect think and give them a pause to answer the question. For sales managers, rather than telling your team, “do this, do that,” ask a question to help them get to the right answer. Being humble enough to ask questions rather than show off how much you know because you were once a top distribution salesperson can really make a big difference.

Leveraging Sales Enablement Practices that Drive Performance

How much focus do your sales managers put on conversation speed and tonality when they coach their salespeople? At Intelligent Conversations, we use a powerful analytical tool called Refract that looks at conversation speed and tonality, among dozens of other factors which play into your team's sales performance. If you'd like to learn more about sales enablement best practices, please join me on Tuesday, June 25th at 1pm CST for a free live "Sales Enablement Mistakes - And how to Avoid Them!" webinar, sponsored by Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. All registrants will be invited to submit a brief recording of one of their top sales performers in action, and receive a FREE call analysis.

Even without a tool, a good place to start is to have your sales managers listen to live calls or recordings of calls. It's common for salespeople to ask and answer their own questions before the prospect has an opportunity to engage. You can coach them to slow down and to be comfortable with a pause.  Even though your salespeople have had this conversation 500 times before, they should remember it's the first time for the prospect..

Blog Photo1The next time you meet with a sales leader, ask them to pay attention to this when they coach their team.  Whether they're making cold calls, following up on an inbound lead, or even in a face-to-face meeting, a good mindset to teach salespeople is go “low and slow.” As salespeople get nervous or grow uncomfortable, they tend to speak faster and at a higher pitch. When they slow down and talk with a lower pitch, they sound more authoritative and confident.

The pace of their speech should depend on your market and where they are calling.  For example, if you're in New York City, and calling on prospects in the Northeast, a faster pace is appropriate.  If your New York sales rep calls a prospect in Birmingham, Alabama they should slow down.  In other words, let the market dictate the pace of your conversation. The ideal pace - across any region - should be somewhere between 100 and 150 words per minute. Speaking slower than that may indicate a lack of confidence and any faster than that may come across as nervous or difficult to understand. 

Where they are in the sales cycle can also affect speed and tone. As your salespeople hit crucial moments in the conversation, coach them to allow a little space before asking, "Would you like our help?" or "Would you like to move forward?" A simple pause before a question like that can make the prospect more comfortable and facilitate a smoother communication. Be comfortable with the pause, and don’t say anything until they've had an opportunity to consider and respond.

Even early on in a cold call situation, give your prospect time to absorb the fact that they're receiving a phone call. Too many salespeople introduce their name and company, and immediately launch into their pitch. It's better to just say their first and last name, then let the prospect respond. 

We hope you'll join us on Tuesday, June 25th at 1pm CST to do a deeper dive into all things 'Sales Enablement'! Register for free, HERE!

For any other inquiries about Intelligent Conversations,please fill out the text boxes below:

Keeping Your Sales Team Focused through Goals-Based Coaching

As a follow up to our recent post “Is Your Sales Forecast Giving You a False Sense of Security” I think it’s pretty safe to assume that your company has at least a few of the signs we listed that may indicate your CRM installation is failing (or is “sub-optimal” as CRM integrators like to say).  Please don’t feel bad, many companies we work with struggle when it comes to getting their sales people and sales leaders to using the CRM properly and fully leveraging its power.  This isn’t a new issue; however in this post we’d like to suggest a new approach that can help you do something about it. 

Basically you have two options:

1.  You can continue the beatings until morale improves (“Ok team, get your CRM updates in by Friday or else!).  I’m joking, but this is actually quite common.

2..Or you can try something different.  An option we’re helping our clients focus on as they drive remarkable sales growth is to simplify things by using a goals-based coaching methodology. 

We’ve built an entire system around this and if you want the details you can send us anemail.  For purposes of this post let’s keep it simple.  Have everyone on your sales team identify a small number of goals to focus on for the upcoming quarter.  These should be meaningful, achievable, easy-to-measure goals that align with their territory plan and their annual sales goals.  How many goals?  A good target in our opinion is three (3) business goals and one (1) personal goal.

Intelligent Sales Coaching

For example, quarterly goals may include:

  • Sales People –  acquiring a new account in an under-served vertical market or in an under-served geographical market, selling new/additional products or services to existing clients, achieving certain revenue goals (new revenue, profit margin, etc.), or holding a top-of-funnel event to attract new prospects to the sales funnel (e.g. lunch and learns, breakfast events, networking mixers, etc.)

  • Sales Manager – making a key hire, increasing profit margin across the team, improving forecast accuracy, shortening the sales cycle, improving proposal win ratios, creating more consistent LinkedIn profiles across their team, etc.

  • Personal Goals – these goals can be anything from fitness-related goals (losing weight, working out more consistently, eating better), to family-related goals (home by 6, family vacation, coaching your child’s team, etc.), to personal development goals (reading three books, taking a class, learning a language, and so on). 

When sales people create a handful of meaningful goals (both business and personal) and begin to see the company as the means through which to achieve their goals, it is easier to motivate them and hold them accountable.  And when a sales manager supports their team by understanding both the business and personal goals of every team member and discussing these goals during a formal weekly coaching session, it becomes easier to stay focused on the right activities and behaviors that drive success.  And this focus and clarity will absolutely help you cut through the data fog we see too many failed CRM installations create.  You might be surprised how powerful an impact this coaching methodology can have on your organization and sales growth.  If you’d like some help getting started, please contact us.


A Practical Story About Effective Sales Listening

Blog Listen Train

I’d like to share a personal sales story to illustrate an issue we often see in our coaching conversations with the sales people and sale managers at our clients’ companies.  It provides a practical, real-world example of effective listening skills.

I recently had a meeting scheduled with a CEO after completing the first phase of our program -- a detailed analysis of the people, systems and strategies impacting sales (our Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis).  We had already reviewed our findings and identified the biggest issues and challenges facing his sales organization, and we had scheduled a meeting to review our recommended course of action and the investment required (both in terms of time and money) to make a meaningful impact on their sales organization, revenue growth, and profitability.  

At the appointed time I called the CEO (they’re in a different city and it wouldn’t make sense to fly there for a one hour meeting) and was about to begin reviewing the action plan we had developed.  When the CEO answered, he sounded a bit harried.  I asked him if this was still a good time and he quickly recovered and said “Yes, yes of course, this is important and I’m looking forward to getting started and learning how we need to proceed.”

While he was extremely convincing and was working hard to make me feel comfortable, my instincts told me he was masking something.  So I paused and asked a follow up question, “Jack, you sound a little stressed, are you sure everything is ok?”  And he smoothly replied “Well, I am a little rushed this morning but let’s go ahead.  We scheduled this meeting so let’s go forward.”   

I still wasn’t buying it.  Something told me I wouldn’t have his full attention on this call.  So I followed up with “Jack, if you need to take care of something else this morning we can easily reschedule this call, it’s not a big deal.”  And finally he said, “Really? That would be tremendously helpful.  Can we talk next Tuesday morning at the same time?  Thank you, that’s really nice of you.  We have a bit of a crisis this morning with a key customer and I need to get involved to help turn this situation around.  Thank you so much for you flexibility!  I really appreciate it.”  

So let me share a few observations about this exchange:

  • I can’t pin down exactly how I knew he was preoccupied, but something in his tone of voice told me he was under some stress. 
  • I didn’t accept his immediate response that “everything is ok.”  I had to press and probe three times to get to the real issue.  He wasn’t giving it up very easily.
  • On my sales forecast I had this meeting down as a high-probability close. I probably would have been able to slam through the meeting and close it right then and there.  But I would have missed a great opportunity to build up our relationship and may have even created some resentment.
  • Slowing down and asking these follow up questions allowed me to bond with the CEO and build our relationship.  He was very appreciative when he finally admitted he was preoccupied with a customer crisis.
  • When I’m in the program talking about effective listening skills with his sales team, I will ask Jack to share this story and that will create tremendous credibility (he’s a pretty intimidating dude and I think most of his sales people are afraid of him).
  • A lot of sales people would have missed these signals and would have just barreled ahead with the call, thrilled to get the CEO on the phone.
How would you rate your sales team’s listening skills?  Would they have picked up on these signals and slowed the process down, or would they have moved ahead full speed?  What would happen if everyone on your sales team had the courage to slow down the sales process and apply these types of listening skills?  What kind of relationships would they build for your company?

Why Your Sales People Fail to Listen Effectively

Blog Listening Cartoon

I love this cartoon because it is so true.  The more you listen the more you sell.  How effective are your sales people at listening?  At truly listening…not just to what is said, but what is not said.  Not just for the words used, but also the intent behind those words.  If there is one thing you can get your sales people to do more effectively this year that will dramatically improve sales, drive revenue growth, get into new accounts, expand existing accounts, increase profit margins, and improve customer satisfaction -- I can make a strong case for improving listening skills.

First, let’s look at what gets in the way.  Here are the top barriers to effective listening we’ve observed in our sales consulting practice.  How many do you recognize on your sales team?  Sales people fail to listen effectively because they…

1.     Lack confidence

When sales people really know their stuff, they have no problem listening effectively and asking open questions.  When they are unsure of themselves and lack confidence, they tend to talk about what they know rather than ask about something they might not know.

2.     Rush their calls

Instead of slowing down and investing quality time in quality prospects, many sales people buzz from call to unqualified call.  They sure look busy!  But being busy is not the same as being productive.

3.     Lack empathy for their prospects

For too many sales people, it’s all about them.  No, it’s all about the customer and prospective customers.  It is impossible to listen effectively if your sales people feel it’s all about them.

4.     Never learned how to listen

Yes, your sales people can get better at listening.  Just like they can get better at asking questions or making prospecting calls.  Listening is a learned skill and like every skill worth having, it takes practice and consistent maintenance to stay sharp.

5.     Ask lousy questions

If your sales people sound like they are reading from a script, they are probably waiting for the prospect to finish talking so they can get to the next question on their list.  Great listeners stay in the moment, giving all of their attention to the person speaking and responding with great follow up questions because they are fully engaged.

6.     Cannot quickly synthesize information

Great listeners can absorb everything being said, pull it all together succinctly, and summarize the key points back to the prospect.  As a sales person improves their ability to quickly synthesize what is being said and provide a concise summary that is accurate and on point, they will learn what to listen for and how to listen better.  When they can make connections that the prospect has not considered, they will do even better in terms of moving the conversation forward and being memorable.

7.     Talk too much

Some sales people just like to hear themselves talk.  It may be because they lack confidence (see #1 above), but it can also just be that they like to talk.  We have two ears and one mouth for a reason – we should listen twice as much as we talk.  So in a one-hour sales meeting your sales people should talk for about 19 minutes and listen for about 41 minutes.

8.     Don’t practice enough

How full are your sales people’s calendars?  Listening takes practice and if your sales people are not regularly engaging in qualified sales meetings to keep their listening skills sharp, they fall apart when they finally do get in front of a prospective buyer (or worse, they think they do great but when your sales manager debriefs them it becomes clear that they didn’t truly listen).

9.     Are too focused

While it is helpful for your sales people to know what they should be listening for, they also need to be flexible enough so they can catch all the information being shared.  Sometimes sales people are simply so focused on listening for the one or two specific issues they know they can solve, they miss great information that could also move the conversation forward.

10.  Get inconsistent coaching

Listening is a skill that needs constant reinforcement and development.  Are your sales managers doing everything they can to coach and reinforce effective listening skills across your sales team?  Do your sales leaders know how to coach for improved listening skills?  What would happen to your revenue and profit margins if they did?

If some of these issues ring true for you, tell us the top three listening challenges your sales team experiences. I also recommend reading Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston. And never underestimate the power of a good listener.

Four Ideas to Shorten Your Sales Cycles and Keep Things on Track

Sales Cycle, Keeping Sales Conversations on Track, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee Sales Expert, ToutApp, Postwire, sales toolsOne of the more common frustrations I hear when talking with Presidents, CEOs and Business Owners is that their sales cycle seems to be taking longer and longer.  They'll describe how their sales people get great meetings, ask good questions, find opportunities that seem to fit what they can do, qualify the budget, prepare a proposal,

and then....everything grinds to a halt.

The sales train comes right off the tracks.  Calls are not returned.  E-mails are ignored.  Prospective clients seem to disappear into thin air.  

What happened?  And more importantly to the executives and owners I talk to about longer sales cycles, what can you do about it?

Here are four ideas you can implement today that will dramatically shorten your sales cycle, sustain sales momentum, increase revenue, keep your sales team focused, improve feedback from prospects so your team understands how prospects are engaging when prospects disappear, and keey sales conversations on track.

 

 

 
 

1) Begin every meeting with a strong agreement
This is something every sales person on your team can do. Have your sales people set expectations at the beginning of the meeting to clearly define the purpose of the meeting and what they want to accomplish by the end of the conversation. This simple step keeps everyone on the same page, sets a goal and expected outcome, and idenfities any potential misalignments. All in the very first 5 minutes of the meeting.

A strong agreement at the beginning of a meeting sets a clear agenda for the call and will seperate your sales people from everyone else calling on that prospect.

 

2) End every meeting with a strong agreement
This is also something every sales person on your team can do.  No matter how the meeting ends there should be a clear next step. Let's say the meeting is dreadful and there is no potential for future business. An appropriate step might be taking that prospect off your list.

Let's say the meeting was good, but the timing is not right. A great next step is to ask the prospect "could I call you in 3 months" or whatever the appropriate timeframe might be.

And when it's a great meeting wher the timing is right and the conversation should move forward? A great next step will summarize the key points agreed upon, define the next steps each person needs to complete, set a timeframe as well as the next meeting or phone call. Actually scheduling it right on the spot will greatly increase the momentum and keep things on track.

 

3) Use Postwire to share and distribute information
At every stage of the sales process a common next step is to send additional information (design specifications, product information or brochures, case studies, testimonial videos, and more). Rather than just e-mailing it and hoping they read it, we have been using Postwire to create pages for prospects where they can go to one place to view all of the relevant information to the sales conversation.

The presentation is much better, you can include videos and other media, and you can track whether they open the information, when they open, whether they forward it to someone else in their company and much more. This creates a better client experience and will help your company and your sales people appear far more professional than just sending an e-mail with a bunch of attachments.

 

4) Use Toutapp to manage your e-mails and track engagement

Bring greater consistency to the sales communication process using this great little application. Instead of each sales person on your team reinventing the wheel every time they need to send a follow up e-mail, break down the wall between sales and marketing and have them work together to create common templates that apply to each stage of the sales process.

Not only will this save time for your sales people, it also helps them be more timely in their follow up. For example, you can set an alert so when the prospect opens the e-mail your sales person can call them right then and ask "did you get that e-mail I sent to you?"

Time kills deals and if your competition has this kind of insight and your sales people are just following up whenever they get to it, who do you think is going to win the business?

 

Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis
How long is your sales cycle? Could it be shorter? What would your business look like if it were? Are your sales managers capable of coaching your team to set strong agreements at the beginning and end of each sales meeting they go to? 

Need answers? Ask 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.

CTA sales effectiveness improvements analysis





 

 

  

Does Your Sales Team Have Consultative Selling Skills?


Change SalesOur last article discussed how sales has changed over the past few years, why selling is so much harder, and why taking a consultative sales approach is crucial to consistently winning more business.

"Does your sales team have the consultative selling skills needed to drive revenue growth and win more business and more profitable business?"

 
 
Here are five questions to consider as you help your sales leaders drive the transition from transactional sales tactics to consultative sales success. And even if your sales managers have already successfully lead this transition, continue focusing on these questions to reinforce the progress your sales team has made.
 
 

  • Do your sales people ask good questions?
    Too often sales people stay in their comfort zone and avoid asking questions that lead them to an area they may not know. And sales people desperately want to avoid unfamiliar ground so they stay safe by asking easy, surface-level questions.
     
    If you have taken steps to map out your sales process and understand the most common business issues and challenges your prospective customers face (from their perspective, not your perspective), you are on the right track.
     
    Tip:
    Use your next sales meeting to brainstorm the top three most common business problems your product and service addresses, then develop question funnels that can help your prospects discover and quantify these areas for themselves.
     
     
  • Do your sales people ask enough questions?
    I'm always amazed by how quickly sales people want to move on to another topic. When practicing a sales call or observing a sales rep in action, I can never understand why they are in such a rush! Just when they find something to dig into, they move right past it to the next issue.

    - Tell your team to really slow down, take their time, and dig deep.
    - Ask follow up questions.
    - Ask questions about the problem.
    - Ask questions around the problem.
      1. How long has it been an issue?
      2. When did you first notice this?
      3. What impact has that had on
          (your operations, your budget, your team, your market position, new product development, recruitment, etc.)?
      4. What have you done about it so far?
      5. How did that work?
      6. How much did that cost?
      7. What do you think you'll do next?
      8. What happens if this isn't fixed?
      9. What does that mean for you?

    And on, and on, and on. You can always ask more questions, and the more questions you ask that help the prospect consider their business challenges from a different perspective, the more valuable your conversations will be and they will want you to stick around.
     
     
  • Are your sales people creating urgency for the prospect to take action?
    Asking good questions and asking lots of questions will only take your sales people so far - are the questions they are asking creating urgency for the prospect to act? Are they helping the prospect discover their problems, think about them differently, quantify the impact, and want to do something about it (whether or not that means doing something with you).
    When your sales team starts asking questions that create urgency, the opportunities in your sales pipeline will begin to move more quickly and the deals they close should be at higher margins.
     
     
  • Are your sales people effective listeners?
    It is nearly impossible to keep a consultative sales conversation on track without being a really good listener. Your sales people need to decide to listen, block everything else out, focus in on the most important issues the prospect shares, and ask follow up questions with ease. When your team can let go of the need to control the conversation and just listen, respond, and ask a follow up question, you'll know they're track to becoming consultative sales professionals.
     
     
  • Do your sales people quickly develop relationships?
    How well do they know their prospective customers? Can they quickly build trust and is it genuine? Without a foundation of trust a great relationship, it is nearly impossible to dig into all of the issues they need to explore and ask all the tough questions they need to ask.
     
    The sales person who builds rapport quickly, asks great questions that makes the prospect think about their business differently, and adds value by summarizing the challenges and offering new ideas or approaches will quickly develop relationships and will be able to ask enough questions.

 
Consultative selling
In this economic environment it's crucial to master the art of consultative selling. Challenge your sales managers to focus on these five questions with their sales teams and hold them accountable to follow through and reinforce these concepts. The sooner you establish that you will no longer tolerate mediocre margins and transactional selling, the faster you will see your revenue picture improve. 
 
 
Free Download
The difference between top producing sales people and everyone else is their ability to focus their time, energy, and sales efforts on their best prospect and client opportunities on a consistent basis. Our simple Sales Focus Worksheet will help you do just that. 
 
Click here and download the free sales focus worksheet 
 
 
 

Harvard Study Explains Why Sales People Talk Too Much

Sales Blog, CEO sales blog, Intelligent Conversations, sales questions, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Objective Management Group Partner, OMG Partner, Sales Team Effectiveness, Sales Results, Revenue GrowthAn article in today's Wall Street Journal caught my eye, "Science Reveals Why We Brag So Much."  It talks about a Harvard University study that finds:

"Talking about ourselves...triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money..." It goes on to say "In several tests, (the neuroscientists) offered volunteers money if they chose to answer questions about other people...rather than themselves...Despite the financial incentive...(volunteers) willingly gave up between 17% and 25% of their potential earnings."

Ask a sales manager who has been on a joint sales call recently and they'll tell you the test subjects got off easy.  When sales people talk about themselves instead of engaging the prospective customer in tough, timely questions they almost certainly give up more than 17% to 25% of their potential earnings!

This is one of the most common issues we run into when we work with a sales team.  Instead of asking good, tough, timely questions....questions that help the prospect think about their situation in a new way....questions that challenge the way a prospect is doing things currently....questions that reframe the issue and create urgency....questions that highlight the consequences of NOT acting to fix a problem....questions that help your sales person earn respect and credibility....questions that uncover compelling reasons for the prospect to move forward and more importantly to move forward with your company.  Instead of doing all of that, what do most sales people do?  What do your sales people do?

If they're like many of the sales people we meet when we first get started, they probably do exactly what the test volunteers in the Harvard Study did.  They talk about themselves.  They talk about their product.  They talk about the features and benefits of their service.  In short, they puke all over themselves and stick to what they know rather than engaging the prospect in a real conversation by asking great questions.

What would happen to your revenue growth if your sales people learned a different lesson from this Harvard Study?  What if they learned how to ask good, tough, timely questions that got your prospects talking about their problems and challenges?  About their strategies and plans?  About their company and their job?

This study cuts both ways. When your sales team learns to get out of their own way and ask questions that get your prospective customers talking, you'll have more awards to hand out and bigger bonus checks to sign at the end of the year.  How many of your sales people are capable of making that transition?  Do you have a sales team or just a group of professional braggarts?  How does your sales team measure up?

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

Sales Vision - Gap Between What Is/What Could Be

Nancy Duarte, TED Talk, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Sales Force Development, Expert, CEO Sales Blog, Sales Meeting Ideas, Discovery ProcessHere's another excellent Ted Talk with an important lesson for your sales team.  In this 18-minute presentation, Nancy Duarte highlights "The Secret Structure of Great Talks."  And while her focus is more on presentations and speeches - she uses her structure to map and highlight Steve Jobs' 2007 launch presentation for the iPhone as well as Dr. Martin Luther King's famous speech, "I Have a Dream."  If you listen carefully there are several key points that apply to sales conversations:

  • Creating awareness of the gap between "the way it is right now" and "the way it could be" will pull the audience toward you and create more urgency to take action. 
  • Establishing a rhythm by traversing between various aspects of "the way it is now" and "the way it could be" creates a more compelling and interesting conversation, building momentum until you end with a new vision for the future.
  • Harnessing the natural resistence we encounter as we ask people to change by tacking back and forth from "what is" to "what could be" and using that natural resistance to actually draw them closer to our vision and idea.
  • The difference between an audience (or a prospect) choosing a mediocre idea (or product/service) over a more clever idea (or product/service) is often simply a matter of how you communicate that idea.
  • Using archetypical examples, personal stories, appropriate emotional examples, and familiar analogies makes it easier for the audience to engage and understand your vision.

As you think about the type of conversations your sales team has, how often do they start by spending some time on "the way things are now" and end with a vision for "the way it could be if you used our product/service?"  Do they spend enough time asking questions about "the way it is now" and helping the prospect discover the problems and consequences of sticking with the status quo?  How effective are your sales people at creating as wide a gap as possible between what is and what could be?  What would happen to your sales results and business growth if everyone on your sales team mastered this approach? 

Please enjoy a great presentation from Nancy Duarte on "The Secret Structure of Great Talks."

If you would like talking points and a meeting outline with ideas about how to use this at an upcoming sales meeting, please let me know.