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Are You Managing Your Sales Team or Are They Managing You?

Just this past week, I was doing a keynote presentation for a company (who shall remain nameless) whose executives warned me that my biggest challenge would be the sales team.  “They just don’t like change they said.” Are you kidding me? What do you mean they don’t like change? So why does that matter? Your […]

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Are You Managing Your Sales Team or Are They Managing You?

Changes Ahead Who is Leading Your Sales TeamJust this past week, I was doing a keynote presentation for a company (who shall remain nameless) whose executives warned me that my biggest challenge would be the sales team.  “They just don’t like change they said.”

Are you kidding me? What do you mean they don’t like change? So why does that matter? Your customers need better and more enhanced service, your profits need to improve, and business growth is not an option it is a requirement. To get any of those things you need change! So why is a little pushback from a sales team making you hesitant, and getting you to slow down? Who’s in charge anyway- you or the sales team?

Okay, I hear you, and I get it, you are going to get nowhere “forcing” your team to accept change, and yes, I have seen those cultures where they push, drive and demand change; that does nothing but create cultures of disengagement, resentment, and lackluster results. However, setting a vision or creating a strategy and then not engaging your team to carry it out has even worst consequences. It ensures you never implement change, and you will lose your best and most talented employees along the way, your best customers and any chance you might have to grow your business.

“Take risks. If you win, you’ll be happy; if you lose, you’ll be wise.”

– Anonymous

 

This is what we call being caught between a rock and a hard place. How do you  “make” your team do what you want them to do, and make them happy about doing it?” Answer – You stop letting your team run you, and you start running your team.

Let me show you what I mean. A few months ago, I was working with one of my favorite clients in business development training and strategic business growth. Our typical style when making change is to involve and engage the team right from the start, ensuring before we implement change we get their support and buy-in.

However, out of nowhere the company got a major opportunity, and the CEO had to make a quick decision. It was a unique and innovative new product line that would be the perfect addition to their client offering. A little out of the box, but truly filled a client need. If they wanted to offer it, they needed to act quickly and sign an exclusive deal with the vendor. Meaning there was not the time to engage the team and get their input and buy-in. Not an ideal situation, but one we didn’t worry about as this product was going to give the team a great new product to sell, a great way to open doors and sell more to existing clients. I mean who would not love that right?

The CEO was pumped up, excited and could not wait to share the news with the team. I cautioned him that we needed to prepare for this meeting and discuss how we were going to get their buy-in; and how we would handle their push back. He blew me off, and felt that was unnecessary, his feeling was how could the team not embrace a new product line that was going to make sales, client growth and retention so much easier?

Oh, how naive some leaders can be; so, I let him go, and it was like watching a lamb being lead to the slaughter (not that I have ever done that – but you know what I mean.) So, forward he went, had the meeting, and he rolled out the new idea complete with the dates of required training to get started. I asked to be at the meeting to observe, and observe I did. The moment he started talking, his entire sales team, including his sales leader, began to resist. Before they even said anything, you could feel the energy in the room change, feel how irritated the team was getting, and you could almost hear all the negative thoughts running through their heads.

As soon as the CEO stopped talking, they started; pushback, complaining, and shear resistance. So strong and so loud, that even the sales leader jumped in and the CEO started to cave, and he at once began making concessions. Concessions such as, perhaps we could wait on the training, maybe we could have the product in our mix and not highlight it, perhaps we should review it one more time before we truly signed the contract, and the list went on. The more he back peddled, the more the team smelled blood and the stronger they got, they knew they had him, and if they just pushed a little more, they could kill this entire “change” thing.

It was clear at that moment who was running the sales team and the company, and it was not the sales leader and not the CEO, it was the sales team. Unfortunately, if someone didn’t start leading the sales team, this company was going to miss a significant opportunity.

However, again, what do you do when the very people you need to embrace the change, resist it? You stop managing your sales team, and you start leading it. People don’t resist change because they are bad people, they oppose it because they don’t understand it.

Your job as the sales leader is to simultaneously acknowledge the challenge of what they do see and help them see the benefit of what they don’t. You need to ensure they understand what is in it for them, your sales people, their customers and their company.

In this case, right after the meeting, the CEO, the sales leader and I had a coaching session in which we debriefed the meeting. Going through what went well (very little) and what could have gone better (a lot). The result, a CEO with a stronger backbone and a willingness to strategize before meetings about change, and more importantly a sales leader who was now committed to focusing on seeing opportunity rather than challenge when change is introduced.

We had a “do over” and this time walked the team through all the benefits of this new product line (which were immense and why the CEO was so excited,) acknowledged their worry with the added challenges on the front end and guaranteed the support and help they would need to make the transition.

The result? A motivated, engaged and excited sales team hitting record sales numbers with the new product line; and a CEO and sales leader who back in charge of their sales team.

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Employee Engagement, leadership development and tagged , , , ,

Why Every Sale Is A Complex Sale

3 Strategies To Get The Deal Closed Think about this, since you have woken up this morning, gotten online, started reading this article on how to close more deals, your future customer has already begun the sales process. Right now, your prospects and customers are online, “googling” to discover information and ideas around products and […]

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Why Every Sale Is A Complex Sale

3 Strategies To Get The Deal Closed

Why Every Sales Is Complex Meridith Powell

Think about this, since you have woken up this morning, gotten online, started reading this article on how to close more deals, your future customer has already begun the sales process.

Right now, your prospects and customers are online, “googling” to discover information and ideas around products and services you sell. They are going to an industry meeting, where an expert or guru is speaking, and networking among companies and sales reps seeking referrals, or they are calling their peers or reading industry magazines to try and discover cutting-edge information.

If your name, your products, and your company are not coming up in those searches, if you are not being referred to in conversation, or are not even being mentioned in presentations and articles, then by the time you go in to make the sale, you are already behind. Your future buyers need to have heard of you and about you if they are going to buy from you. Moreover, your existing customers need to be hearing from someone else other than you, how amazing you and your products and services are.

Everything about today’s marketplace is different:  Customers are far more demanding, skeptical and well-informed. Products and technology are continually changing at a rapid pace. Global opportunities have changed the competitive landscape. All of this impacts you and your sales process.

As a sales professional, you have to shift your process from that of traditional sales strategies such a product knowledge, and relationships building to a more complex sales strategy that combines marketing, sales, and value-added selling.  You need to be prepared for a longer selling cycle and be ready to sell to and win-over multiple decision makers.

Remember, every sale is unique, depending upon whether the product you are selling is a commodity or a unique, custom product. Depending on the number of buyers or decision makers you have to interact with and ultimately sell. Also depending on the specific needs and challenges of the individual prospect on whom you are calling.  Even if you specialize in one industry.

There are so many moving pieces in selling today, and that makes it complicated. Industries are experiencing so much change, and feeling the pressure of global competition. To sell in any industry, you need to know more than your products and services.

Your buyers need you to deeply understand the industry, the trends, and the players. They need you to ask strong and insightful questions that pull out the right information to get at the heart of their issues. Even help them uncover the problems beneath their problems, the ones they did not even realize they had. Plus they need you to have the resources and strategies to provide valuable and high-quality solutions that do more than sell them a product, they increase their revenues and streamline their production.

Selling today requires you to overhaul your sales strategy, and question what you are doing to move from traditional sales rep to that of a valued resource and partner.  In essence, you need to know your customer’s industry, competitor, and company better than they do.

Here Are Three Strategies To Get The Deal Closed:

  1. Attract Before You Ask – you have to dominate your market if you want to open more doors and close more deals. If you think competition is fierce for you, imagine it from your customer’s perspective. The amount of sales reps calling on them, and the companies to choose from, they are overwhelmed with choice. They are going to go with the path of least resistance, what is most comfortable for them. You need to be that choice. Work on building your reputation in the marketplace, getting above that white noise and standing out from your competition.
  2. Do Your Homework – this is not your father’s marketplace. Just having a little product knowledge, and being able to crack a few jokes does not a sales rep make. You need to do your homework, do your research, and understand both the customer and the industry in which you are selling.
  3. Go Deep – sales today is only partly about selling what your customer needs. It is really about helping them uncover the problems or opportunities they did not even know they had. Your job is to go deep, as the questions that get to the heart of their issues, and provide value at a level your competitors have not even thought about.

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Sales Tips and tagged , ,

The Must-Have Skills Of The Modern Sales Professional

What are the sales skills the Modern Sales Professional is going to need? What a great question – and why the “modern” salesperson? Because everything about selling today is different, and it takes a new (modern) approach. The economy, customers, and technology –  they have all changed the game. So in times of extreme marketplace […]

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The Must-Have Skills Of The Modern Sales Professional

High Five Meridith Elliott PowellWhat are the sales skills the Modern Sales Professional is going to need? What a great question – and why the “modern” salesperson? Because everything about selling today is different, and it takes a new (modern) approach. The economy, customers, and technology –  they have all changed the game.

So in times of extreme marketplace shifts, hyper-competition, and demanding customers – what are the range of sales skills you need to exceed your goals, expand your business and achieve sales success?

They fall into two categories:

Soft Skills – the relationship building skills, the critical thinking and customer service skills, the skills that encourage people, your prospects, and customers, to know you, like you and trust you.

Hard Skills – the more computer, technical and formal skills that you most likely learned in sales training. Things like building your sales system, setting goals, and industry-related skills.

While the boundaries between the two can blur at times, it is essential to understand and be able to identify the difference between the two. You are going to need both skills to sell in today’s modern marketplace.

“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” -Anton Chekvo

So let’s dive a little bit deeper in into the soft skills you are going to need:

What are the top “must-have soft skills” for today’s sales professional?

  1. Flexibility – how stretchy are you? Being in sales is about change, overcoming obstacles and bouncing back.,
  2. Communication – your ability to craft a message in a way that inspires others to take action.
  3. Connection – the ability to get along and connect with people. Get them to want to know you, like you and trust you.
  4. Listening– in other words, knowing when to shut up, really hear what your client or prospect is trying to share with you.
  5. Relationship Building – Both with customers and team members. Success today is a team effort, and the more you invest in others, the more they will invest in you.

Moreover, the hard skills:

  1. Sales Systems – understanding and having an actual sales process. A game-plan and a consistent way you approach sales.
  2. Lead Quality – how to define, research and gain quality sales leads.
  3. Track, Measure, Adjust – how to review and learn from your sales system to track your progress, measure your success and make needed adjustments.
  4. Sales Technology (I should say enablement here) – an understanding of the tools and technology you need to enhance your sales ability.
  5. Negotiation – how to work with customers and prospects to find a deal that works for everyone involved.

I am guessing that by now there are some sales skills you recognize here both in the soft and hard skills that you feel good about, that you know you are solid in. I am also guessing if you are honest, that there are some that may be a little out of your comfort zone.

Well, don’t worry, the great thing about sales is that it is continuously evolving. Moreover, those skills you have mastered – congratulations. For the ones that may need a little more work, there are plenty of resources and tools out there to ensure you can up your sales game! Grab a book, spend a little time “googling” or take a course.

Continual growth is the key to sales, and in a world where the marketplace is constantly shifting, remember the perfect blend of the hard and soft skills is what it will take your sales game to the next level.

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Engage, Participate, Connect – That is How You Network!

Last weekend I was playing in a golf tournament to raise money for a local charity. I was playing with two of my friends, both well connected and master networkers. We were set to be a three-man team when the organizer of the event approached us to ask if we would like a fourth. Of […]

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Engage, Participate, Connect – That is How You Network!

Networking Meridith PowellLast weekend I was playing in a golf tournament to raise money for a local charity. I was playing with two of my friends, both well connected and master networkers. We were set to be a three-man team when the organizer of the event approached us to ask if we would like a fourth. Of course, we said yes.

Our fourth turns out to be a nice young man, early thirties, a big smile on his face, and he jumps in the cart with me.  I immediately introduced myself and started asking him questions. Where are you from? What do you do? How long have you been playing golf? Eventually, I got around to asking why he was playing in this tournament. It turns out he worked for a financial institution expanding into our area, and he was attending to make connections and identify business opportunities.  It sounded like a smart move to me as there were several professionals and business owners playing in this event.

We hit the first hole and turns out our new teammate is a ringer. Good thing, we need him! As we head to the second hole, his smartphone vibrates he takes a moment to answer a message. This is where the story goes downhill. From that point on he was pretty much connected to his smartphone more than he connected with me or with the golf team.

Now, I was a little insulted and a little frustrated, because our new friend thought he was networking. His boss told him to show up at this tournament, play in it, talk to a few people and in his mind, he did all that.

However, that was far from networking.  He happened by pure luck, to be put on a team with three people whom I would argue between us pretty much know everyone, not only in our area but in our entire region. Especially my two teammates – well connected and well respected. If he would have put the smartphone down and engaged in conversation, his results from this networking event would have been much different. It would have led to a follow-up, more connections, and business.  By not networking he missed his short-cut to business and career success.

When he was not glued to his smartphone, I asked him lots of questions. I had a good feel for whom he needed to meet.  A number of those connections were at this tournament, and others were people I could have easily referred him to. In all the time we spent together he never asked me a question.  Never asked for my card or gave me his.

“If you’re not networking, you’re not working.” – Dennis Waitley

This is a great example of why so many people don’t like, don’t see the value or gain the benefit of networking. You can’t just show up.  To do it effectively you have to be present and spend the time building relationships.

Employers, don’t send your associates off to network without giving them the skills and setting the expectations of what you want them to accomplish. Networking is expensive – there are fees to enter tournaments, costs to attending events, not to mention you are losing production time.

I still believe networking has one of the highest rates of return on investment. Had our “new friend” been taught the skills he would have walked away from this tournament with three new friends willing to help him open the doors and expand opportunities.

So how do you strategically network?

1 – Set A Goal –  networking is about getting out of your comfort zone and using your time wisely. When you network, you should set a goal for the number of people with whom you plan to connect. Setting a goal of three or four people for each event will ensure you use your time wisely and make networking effective.

2 – Invest First – networking is not about you, it is about getting to know the other person. So, you need to focus your energy on asking questions and listening.

3 – Expand – networking is the new cold calling, and it is just a first step to getting business. It is the beginning of the relationship building process. Keep in mind that to make networking work, you need to take ownership of expanding the relationships that you want to grow.

You invest a lot of money in sponsorships, golf tournaments, and charity events. Investing in learning to network will ensure you get a strong return on your investment!

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Posted by Meridith Elliott Powell in Networking and tagged , ,

9 Strategies To Deliver Effective Performance Reviews

The dreaded performance review!  Leaders don’t like to do them, employees don’t like to get them, and they don’t ever make the top of anyone’s priority list. However giving feedback, providing input, and working with our teams to help them improve is the highest and best use of your time as a leader. We all […]

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9 Strategies To Deliver Effective Performance Reviews

Employee Performance ReviewsThe dreaded performance review!  Leaders don’t like to do them, employees don’t like to get them, and they don’t ever make the top of anyone’s priority list.

However giving feedback, providing input, and working with our teams to help them improve is the highest and best use of your time as a leader. We all want engaged employees, and the best way to create it is to develop a culture where connecting with employees is prioritized, and getting feedback is valued.

Here are 9 Strategies To Deliver Effective Performance Reviews.

  1. Commit – make it a core value, something that is a non-negotiable and prioritized by your leadership team. What you focus on gets done, what you measure gets completed. Take the lead and be a role model for your team, and then place importance on holding them accountable to do it too.
  2. Clear Outcomes – before you begin the performance review process you need to be clear on what you are reviewing the employee about. Performance reviews, their objectives, and metrics need to be defined and communicated ahead of time with both the reviewer and the employee.
  3. Get The Facts – performance reviews need to be based on facts and facts only. No opinions or emotions. Before doing a performance review, you need to get input and feedback from those who know and work directly with the employee for whom you are doing the review. Then before including that feedback, you need to separate fact from fiction.
  4. Let Them Talk – first that is. People want to be heard more than anything, and if you want them to be open to your feedback then get their feedback first. Beginning a performance review by asking employees to speak first will create a far more meaningful conversation.
  5. Be Transparent – when reviewing an employee, it is essential to tell them what they are doing well, and where they need to improve directly. Do not try to soften the blow, or beat around the bush. Employees trust you and give value to the feedback when they feel you are open and transparent with them. Be respectful but direct.
  6. Listen For Feedback – once you deliver your message, allow time to get their input on your feedback. And listen, really listen, not just wait for your turn to talk. If you want the employee to buy-in to the review, you need to allow them to weigh in on it.
  7. Create A Plan – together, create a plan together. Once you have delivered your feedback, and they have weighed in, you can develop a plan of action. The key is to do it together. People support what they help create.
  8. Schedule Creatively – one primary reason we do not like performance reviews is that they come at the worst time of the year – the end of the year. So why not schedule creatively. No hard, fast rule says performance reviews have to be done year-end, and even if there is break it!
  9. Check-in Regularly – whether an employee is doing well, or whether they have some work to do should never be a surprise. Giving feedback and checking in with employees regularly should be part of your routine as a leader. By the time the performance review comes around everyone should be on the same page.

The highest and best use of a leader’s time these days is with employees. Coaching, developing and yes, giving performance reviews. Your only competitive advantage left in today’s marketplace is the engagement level of your teams. Now isn’t that worth investing a little time in performance reviews?

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