Tag Archives for " Professional selling "

Lifeless sales people – whose fault is it really?

“There’s a lot of lifeless sales people out there.” ~ Larry Levine, author of Selling from the Heart

Before we go any further, would you mind going back to that opening quote and just pausing for a moment?

That statement is such a profound truth.

Consider the following:

  1. Only 30% of firms have 75% or more of their salespeople hit their quotas (CSO Insights). Sales leaders are struggling to get their sales teams into sustainable high performance.
  2. 34% of sales teams leave every year (The Bridge Group). Sales teams are churning through their people.
  3. 77% of executive buyers claim salespeople don’t understand their issues and where they can help (Forrester). Buyers increasingly ignore the attempts of sales people to make any kind of contact – let alone attempts to engage in meaningful conversations.

Mirror moment: Do any of the above statistics hit a nerve for you? Are you seeing struggling sales performance, high levels of sales team churn, and/or increased buyer resistance?

I see all of this – and more – on a regular basis and I have to ask myself why?

Why are sales people struggling to perform?

Why are sales people leaving their companies?

Why do buyers increasingly resist sales people?

I keep coming back to the conversation I recently had with Larry Levine. In his words, they are all empty suits. Too many sales people lack the presence, competence, and – most importantly – passion for helping their customers.

You know the stereotype. All talk, no listen. Pitch, pitch, pitch. Me, me, me.

It’s both mind-numbing and irritating.

But is it really the fault of the sales person?

My gut instinct says no.

My gut instinct says that sales people have become what we have told them to be.

Be “busy.”

Be a CRM guru.

Be a demo machine.

Be challenging/assertive/pushy.

Say this.

Do this. Not that.

Don’t think. Obey.

And it’s destroying our revenue engines. It’s destroying our sales targets and customer credibility. And it’s destroying our sales people.

If you are leading a team of sales professionals, please consider that the potential gaps in your sales team performance are self-inflicted. Maybe it is not your fault. Maybe it is your company’s fault. Regardless, it’s your responsibility to provide the kind of proactive leadership that sets the tone and establishes the definition of success.

Be explicit about what matters most. And what does not.

Be present with your people as they press toward success.

Listen to their customer interactions.

Coach them on what you see/hear.

Teach them what you know/do to be successful.

Run downfield to knock obstacles out of their way.

Empower them to have presence, competence, and passion.

And be the example of what presence, competence, and passion looks like.

If you are an individual contributor, looking for leadership to make everything better, you only have two acceptable options:

  • Option A – You can become the leader that you want. Proactively create your own energy so that you inject presence, competence, and passion into everything you do as a sales professional.
  • Option B – You can leave your company and find a leader who will teach you how to accomplish Option A. Because eventually, you will have to own your presence, competence, and passion all by yourself. That’s what true professionals always do.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

David vs. Goliath: How to beat the giants in your market

You know what’s really hard? Being the “little guy.”

And what I mean by “little guy” is being the smaller/newer/outsider competitor in the marketplace.

I learned this lesson the hard way when I left a global brand and went out on my own. Where I once had instant credibility with the famous logo on my business card, I now got blank stares. And silence.

If you are working for a smaller company, you very likely know how this feels. For some of you reading this, the giants can beat on you pretty hard. And make you feel totally ignored.

But, as the story of David and Goliath tells us, you can change the battle. Giants don’t always win.

So, this week, I want to give you three of my favorite ways to beat the giants in your market. In fact, I actually look forward to fighting against giants (cough, cough – McKinsey, Accenture, Deloitte) because these tips consistently work so well.

First, exploit their weaknesses. Every giant has at least one.

You will have to do your homework, but trust me when I say that the gaps exist. The key is to know everything that your customer is expecting. In other words, what will your customers complain about if their expectations don’t get met?

For example, the giants you compete against may be able to offer a lower rice, but their quality suffers. Or perhaps they have pricing models that are complex and difficult to understand. Or maybe their initial speed gets over-run by inefficiencies and require constant restarts.

But it will only matter if THIS customer on THIS deal wants it. You cannot rely on exploiting the same weaknesses over and over again. Giants figure out their weaknesses and address them. And because they are giants, this usually creates a weakness somewhere else (for example, their efficiency just went up – and so did their pricing). Stay on top of their weaknesses and never stop adapting to them.

Second, leverage your successes with the same clients the big companies have.

Big companies love to tout their big customers. Walking through the airport, I see all of their stories plastered on posters and billboards. What they don’t show are the numerous small customers that they have as well.

The chances are you also have some good clients to talk about. The key is to not simply display customer logos. Instead, talk about that customer’s challenge in a way that will resonate with everyone else. In other words, put your emphasis on the problem you helped solve and then drop the big logo as a side thought to reinforce your credibility. Make your message less about the big customer and more about the big problem – and how it got solved.

Third, execute really well.

Of all the things that you can do, this is arguably the most important. Why? Because it anchors EVERYTHING you do as a company.

Innovation will only get you so far. Your ability to execute is what will take you to the next level.

Big companies might have great innovation, killer marketing, and tons of money. But they struggle to execute. If you have ever worked with one of these companies, you know that they often get mired in bureaucracy, politics, and old-fashioned confusion.

However, when you ask your customers what matters most to them, they will likely care most about execution. Go back to thinking of all the things that customers complain about. How often did they say the innovation wasn’t good enough, the marketing was weak, or the supplier had too much money? Those complaints are minuscule compared to the complaints that we often hear:

  • They were late
  • They weren’t worth what we paid
  • They couldn’t address simple issues
  • They didn’t respond to my requests/questions/problems

I fully believe that if you can do this, you will be seen as an equal at the table your customers set for all of the big companies. In fact, you will be invited to that table every time.

So, which of these can you do now? If you were going to make the biggest impact with the least amount of effort, which of these tips would work for you first? Pick that option. And build up to being able to do all three.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

3 ways to improve sales performance without relying on innovation

Years ago, when I worked as an employee for a global company, I had access to some interesting resources. One in particular stands out – for a couple of not-so-great reasons.

First, it was expensive. It cost tens of thousands of dollars just to become a member of their community and get access to research. It wasn’t my money, but I never thought it was the highest priority spend for us.

Which leads me to the second point: the research wasn’t worth the money. This group of primarily academics would provide me “best practices” that had been defined by the companies doing the best financially that year. But when I looked under the veneer, I found a terrible bias towards companies that were predominantly technology innovators. Well, duh. Innovation sells itself. That’s why it is such a precious resource to consistently invest in.

But what do you do when you don’t have any game-changing innovation? What do you do when your best innovation is essentially the same as your top competitors?

In my last post, I ranted about how too many leaders don’t know how to improve their team’s performance without some new innovation to sell itself. So this week, I’m giving you three things that you can do immediately to drive improved sales.

Number one: I can’t say this enough – drive clarity. Make sure everyone on the team (inside and outside of sales) understands the outcomes they are supposed to be working towards (no, a sales target is not an outcome – that’s the metric) and their roles in achieving them. Simply sitting your people down and making sure everyone is on the same page costs you nothing to do and provides immediate benefit. Frankly, this one action alone can drive an immediate lift in performance. Further, investigating where – and why – clarity breaks down will provide you months of action to address the biggest obstacles.

Number two: Create engagement. And by engagement, I specifically mean BOTH motivation AND empowerment. Don’t simply persuade people to care. Create an environment where you tackle what is de-motivating them (like isolation, information overload, etc.) and give them the assets they need for success (like access to people who can be an example/coach, showing them how to use their resources better, etc.). Again, simply giving this area attention and telling people what you see and what you will do can lift sales performance quickly. The critical key is immediately doing something about what you see/say. Make the effort, share the results.

Note: If you combine clarity and engagement, you get a powerful one-two punch that may literally take you years to fully build and implement. But the rewards will be phenomenal because how you execute matters.

Number three: Get deep on your customers. By this, I mean make sure that everyone on the team understands their customers in very specific, very tangible ways. They should be able to talk about their customers for at least 10 minutes without mentioning your company, your products, or themselves. They should be able to give real examples of what their customers are doing now, the challenges they are experiencing now, and the decisions they are making now. Share this information with each other – then define how you are helping these customers now. Only then can you connect the dots between the customer’s problems and the solutions you provided to them. Describe how you worked together to deliver the value you promised. Finally, make these stories available to the entire sales team so that they can see what true customer-focus looks like. You would be amazed at how often simple story-telling will help sales people get outside of their perspective and see their roles in new – and motivating – ways.

And for a bonus: You can always ask for help. Get someone (like us) to help you navigate the complexity of your business with an outsider’s eye. Leverage a fresh perspective to see what you and/or your team is missing. The impact can be immediate.

What would you add to the list?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

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