Tag Archives: Coaching

Controlling Your Sales Destiny – Tip #11: Find a Coach, Conscience and Cheerleader

This is the eleventh in a series of posts about taking control of your sales destiny and achieving sales success.

Tip #11:  Find a Coach, Conscience and Cheerleader

There seems to be a tendency in sales people to ‘go-it-alone.’  Maybe it’s because we’re adults and we feel we should be able to work on our own and be independent that we resist coaching and help from others.  Maybe we feel ‘inadequate’ if we ask for help or guidance.  Maybe we fear embarrassment.  Maybe we worry about admonishments. Or perhaps we are just shy.

Whatever the case, get over it!

Reach out. Find someone who can lend perspective, sharpen your game, improve your skills, and give you an edge; someone you respect and someone who will HELP you grow professionally; someone who is honest and forthright; who doesn’t have an ‘agenda’ other than to help you succeed. It could be:

  • A manager
  • A sports coach
  • A consultant
  • An advisor
  • A role model
  • A friend
  • A parent
  • A partner

You’ll be in Good Company

Think of it: superstar athletes have coaches.  Aaron Rogers, Serena and Venus Williams, Tiger Woods, Justin Verlander, Sydney Crosby, and every Olympic athlete under the sun have coaches.  They have them because coaches make them better, provide objectivity, and ultimately hold them accountable.

Here’s the big thing: they’ll often act as your conscience: remind you of things, push you a little, admonish here and there, get you to do the things you might like to do.

Oh ya, they’ll do another thing:   they’ll also cheer for you and praise you. They’ll help build you up.  High five you.

Actions

Here are a few actions to get you started

  1. Make a list of people who can act as your coach, conscience and cheerleader.  Typically, it is your boss because they can work with you, real-time, on the job. (But not all bosses want to coach or cheerleader so you might have to go elsewhere).  Incidentally, you can have more than one coach. Different coaches can help you on different elements of your sales game: skills, attitude, knowledge etc.
  2. Formally approach your would-be conscience/coach/ cheerleader and explain what you want them to do.  Depending on your needs, their role will vary.
  3. Commit to listening.  Hey…sometimes you won’t like what you hear. Don’t defend yourself or your action.  Just listen to what they have to say.  They’re in your corner.  For you to control your sales destiny you need to have someone who points out what you might not see.
  4. Implement what you learn.  This is where the rubber hits the road.  Your coach will provide you with direction but it’s up to you to take the steps.

Don’t go it alone.  If you’re truly interested in succeeding in sales, find people who will help.  Take control of your sales destiny!

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50 Dumb and Costly Mistakes Tele-Sales Managers Make

Here is a list of fifty dumb and costly mistakes tele-sales managers can sometimes (or often) make.

They are dumb because they can be easily avoided. They are costly because they impact the integrity and profitability of a tele-sales department.

  1. Not being an active part of the interviewing process; leaving it to HR
  2. Not conducting at least three telephone interviews with candidates to determine their ability to communicate over the phone
  3. Providing minimal sales and /or product training
  4. Thinking ‘baptism by fire’ (putting reps on the phone right away) is a clever way to determine who will ‘cut it’ and who will not.
  5. Believing that tele-sales (telemarketing, inside sales) is purely a “numbers” game.
  6. Obsessing over activity (dial counts).
  7. Failing to understand that tele-sales is a ‘results’ game too!
  8. Not providing continuous training to develop skills and/or knowledge.
  9. Not monitoring calls (and call quality) on a regular basis.
  10. Not rolling up your sleeves and actively providing feedback to your reps on a 1:1 basis
  11. Playing favorites
  12. Lack of consistency in management behavior
  13. Not having a well-defined, step-by-step ‘get well plan’ for underachievers
  14. Having a well-defined ‘get well’ but not implementing it well, consistently or at all
  15. Keeping under performers far too long because you are worried about ‘letting them go…’
  16. Changing the compensation plan throughout the year
  17. Capping commissions when some reps perform too well or land a big sale
  18. Setting absolutely ridiculous sales objectives that no one will ever achieve (but you know your boss will admire)
  19. Taking credit for achievements that others have achieved
  20. Ignoring individual achievements
  21. Not celebrating group achievements
  22. Not creating a motivating environment (contests, decorations, activities…)
  23. Thinking that having an “…open door policy” is enough to help develop, coach and motivate your reps
  24. Failing to keep your word … on anything … big or small
  25. Not being tough enough when being tough is necessary for group or self-improvement
  26. Failing to have clearly defined standards/expectations for the calling process
  27. Micro managing … everything
  28. Sneaky behavior – reading e-mails and listening to voice mails (both business and personal) 
  29. Providing critical feedback …only
  30. Not communicating regularly or effectively
  31. Focusing only on what’s NOT been done versus what’s BEEN accomplished
  32. Using ‘but’ too often (“…that was a good call, but …”; “…you had an excellent month, but…”, “…that was a great sale, but…”)
  33. Publicly embarrassing an employee
  34. Not having a sales strategy or plan
  35. Having a sales strategy or plan but not following or implementing it
  36. Preaching that “our people are #1” but not practicing the philosophy
  37. Create compensation programs that are confusing and convoluted and grotesquely interpretative
  38. Giving top reps the best leads (to increase the odds of closure)
  39. Giving new reps or low performing reps crumby leads
  40. Getting some of your reps to do YOUR job (orienting , training, coaching)
  41. Getting some of your reps to do YOUR job and not compensating and/or recognizing their assistance
  42. Overwhelming your reps with ridiculous tracking reports … that are never reviewed anyway
  43. Judging individual sales behavior based on an aberration rather than a trend
  44. Holding off on commission till the end of the quarter … or end of the year
  45. Promising marketing and sales support material
  46. Spying (monitoring e-mails and voice mails)
  47. Arbitrarily take accounts away from your reps or reorganizing territories
  48. Pointing fingers of blame
  49. Not listening despite the logic or relevance
  50. Not saying you’re sorry … acknowledging you made a mistake
 Summary

No one is perfect and some of these mistakes are unavoidable due to circumstances. However, by minimizing what you can, you will create a more effective, more positive and more profitable work environment.

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The 2012 B2B Tele-Sales Trend Report

What’s in store for B2B tele-sales departments in 2012?

This Special Report provides you with an abbreviated ‘executive summary’ of 10 trends that are impacting the world of telephone sales.

Tele-Trend #1: Telephone Selling Growth Spurt -Again

B2B tele-sales is growing at a rate of 7.5% compared to field sales at only .5%. Clearly more companies are jumping on the telephone band wagon. Telephone selling applications are also growing in complexity and sophistication thanks in part to technology and the internet and thanks in part to a newer generation of buyer who is relatively comfortable with less face to face interaction. However, growth means more competition and more options. Smart telephone executives will emphasize the quality of the sales call to give themselves a distinct, competitive advantage.

Tele-Trend #2: The Decline of the Cold Call

Cold call to closed call ratios with drop like a stone which means it will take more dials and connects to achieve the same results. With so many companies turning to the phone your buyer has more options. Savvy companies will look for ways to become more effective with the smart use of the internet (see below) combined with a higher quality call. More emphasis will be placed on ‘smart dialing” (more skills, finesse and expertise) and less on ‘hard dialling’ (cranking out more phone calls).

 Tele-Trend #3: The Growth of Visual ‘Calls’

‘Visual prospecting’ is the intelligent use of e-mail to prospect because today’s buyer is linked to visual messages through their smart phones at work in meetings, commuting, at home, at leisure, on the weekends, 24-7. Smart, 1-to-1 e-prospecting customized to the individual prospect and integrated with a well planned voice follow up campaign will change the telephone prospecting landscape.

Tele-Trend #4: The Rise of the Hybrid Rep

 An interesting trend that seems to be emerging is that of the “hybrid sales rep.” The hybrid rep is a cross between a field sales rep and an inside sales rep, often working from a remote location. What this means is the scope and dimension of selling will change significantly. A pure ‘field selling’ model and a ‘pure telephone selling’ model will merge. It will require a different type of rep and a different approach to account management and account development.

 Tele-Trend #5: Finding (and Keeping) the Good Rep

Perhaps the single biggest challenge in the world of B2B tele-sales continues to be finding and keeping high quality sales reps.  Whether it is for a telephone selling position or for a ‘hybrid’ position there is no doubt that the quality of the rep is paramount. To distinguish themselves from their competitors and to implement more complex selling programs, companies need to re-think how they will attract better AND keep better quality reps. Radical shifting in compensation, training and coaching will be required.

Tele-Trend #6: Managing Less, Coaching More

Tele-sales managers absolutely MUST manage less and coach more. Sales reps typically don’t sell more than they could or should simply because they are not very effective at selling. They forget, ignore, dismiss or dilute their skills sets. Managers must be actively engaged on the floor beside their reps getting them better at the sales game. Nothing – absolutely, positively nothing- will provide you with a better return on investment than coaching . Period. But the single biggest challenge is that most sales managers don’t know how to effectively coach behavior … if only because they have never been taught.

Tele-Trend #7: Relationship Marketing and Selling Facelift

Relationship selling and marketing seems good in theory but in practice it seems to have flopped. The problem is implementation. Companies flog their customers and prospects with offers and promotional literature but seem to do little to engage the client at a personal level. This can be tough on the phone but enhancing a relationship and building value over the phone needs a radical facelift.

Tele-Trend #8: Re-Focus on Measurement

Forget about dials and connects. They’re like bikinis: they show a lot but not everything. Today’s telephone sales application must also measure e-mail contacts, e-mail responses and e-dialogues . The way B2B communicates has changed and so too must be the way we evaluate the effectiveness of a rep.

Tele-Trend #9: Social Media Integration

Look for tele-sales departments and companies continue to struggle to come to grips with social media as a ‘selling tool.’ Be careful in determining what is marketing and what is selling and who should be doing what

Tele-Trend #10: Leveraging the Moment

With live contacts on the decline, it is vital to seize the moment. Reps must make the most out of every contact they make or take. Whether it is cross selling, asking for a referral, or gathering market intelligence or whatever, companies need to teach their reps the skills and techniques to professionally and tastefully squeeze every ounce of potential from their contacts. This means skills development and training (not to mention coaching).

Summary

The B2B approach to telephone selling is constantly shifting and changing. Old style techniques, methods, strategies and ways of thinking are not working like they once did. To survive and thrive companies need to adapt and change. Pay heed to the trends and develop your program and your people accordingly.

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5 Steps to Overcoming the Fear of Cold Calling

Do you dread the thought of picking up the phone and making a cold call?

Join the crowd. Whether it is because of the fear of rejection or the worry of being seen as too aggressive or some other deep rooted psychological reason, most sales reps would rather gnaw off a body part than pick up the phone and make an unsolicited call to a complete stranger.

But in as much as you may hate cold calling, chances are you can’t avoid it. It’s a necessary requirement for most reps. If that’s the case, you might as well come to grips with it and deal with your fears head on. Here are five steps you can take to make cold calling less intimidating and more effective.

Step #1: Build Your Knowledge Level

Call it common sense but one of the BEST ways to overcome the fear of cold calling is to become a ‘resident expert.’ Knowledge truly is power. The more you know about your product or service, the more confident you will become. Prospects hear that confidence in your voice and tend to be far more receptive to your call.

Become a resident expert by doing your homework. Read the manuals of top products. Learn the specs. Visit web sites. Subscribe to relevant industry newsletters. Memorize Q & A sheets. Ask existing customers what they like best. Determine how (and why) they use your products. Get examples. Hear the success stories. Take notes.

The simple act of learning more about your product and services enhances your confidence and significantly reduces the fear factor.

Step #2: Get Better a Selling

Cold calling isn’t all that hard. Really! Most sales reps falter because they have not honed their prospecting skills and techniques to a fine edge.

For example, is it any wonder that you get rejected when you open a call with a self-serving pitch delivered in a listless monotone? Do you really expect to engage prospects when you fail to ask questions that identify possible needs? Are you the least bit surprised when the prospect terminates the call because your long winded presentation is long on features but short on benefits?

If you haven’t had formal cold calling skills training, get it. Ask your manager. Get coaching. Buy book on cold calling. Surf the internet. Find sites dedicated to cold calling. Subscribe to newsletters. Download special reports. Order some DVDs. Listen to peers who excel. Take notes. Keep a ‘black book’ of tips. Learn (or re-learn) how to deal with objections. You know the drill. Just do it and take control of your destiny.

(For 26 great selling tips see the article below)

Tip #3: Spend More Time Preparing

Most cold callers are not adequately prepared for cold calling. They grab a list, sit down and wing it or they use a script that worked well for their boss in 1992.

Start by creating a call guide, not a script. A call guide is like a road map that provides you with a step-by-step approach to each part of the call. The trick with a call guide is to avoid scripting it word-for-word. A script forces you to ‘read’ and that can make you sound ‘canned’ or phony (no pun intended …okay… maybe a little one). The more conscious you are of ‘reading a script’ the more self conscious you become and the more awkward you feel.

Instead, use bullet points and short phrases for your opening statement, questions and offer. This will provide you with ‘flexible structure.’ In other words, a framework to help you stay on track but the freedom to sound more natural by varying the message. Psychologically, it does wonders.

Prepare job aids for product descriptions and for objections. Print these job aids on colored sheets of paper and posted them so they are visible and handy. Don’t be shy.

Call guides and job aids are support tools – cheat sheets, it you like- that will help make your call less intimidating.

Step #4: Drill, Practice and Rehearse

Preparing calling guides and job aids isn’t particularly new but what is not nearly so commonplace is drilling, practising and rehearing. If there truly is a secret to overcoming the fear of cold calling, this is it.

Every sales rep knows about role playing and its benefits but most avoid it like the plague. Practicing your call with a co-worker, buddy or spouse just isn’t ‘cool.’ It exposes our weaknesses. It lays bare all our faults and misuses. It makes us conscious of how incompetent we think we sound. We get embarrassed, bury our heads in the sand and avoid it completely.

Get over it. Practising your ‘lines’ is like practising your swing in golf, your slap shot in hockey, your forehand in tennis or your jump shot in basketball, or your sonata on the piano. It’s how you get better and it is where confidence it built.

Find someone and role play until you’re blue in the face. (Or, at the very least, rehearse your call in the shower, the car, the elevator …somewhere.) Use your call guide and learn your ‘lines.’ Get used to the rhythm and flow of the call. Reference your job aids. Practice objections. Nothing will increase your comfort (and confidence) level more than this.

Step #5: Build Your Endurance

Here’s the last step: build your endurance to cold calling.

First off, make your cold calls every day of the week. Whatever you do, don’t try to cram all your cold calling in a half or full day. To overcome the fear of cold calling treat the process as a sprint and not a marathon. A cold calling marathon will beat you down, frustrate you and burn you out. It will also augment your fear and loathing of picking up the phone and dialing another prospect.

Schedule your calls daily and make them first thing in the morning, the earlier the better. When you call earlier you’ll not only reach more prospects but you’ll also find them more receptive and tolerant because their day hasn’t heated up. But more significantly, you’ll get your cold calling out of the way so it doesn’t hang over your head like a dark cloud for the rest of the day.

If you can, start off by cold calling 45 minutes a day which is a manageable and tolerable time frame. Do that for the first week then move to 60 minutes a day the next week. That’s only 15 more minutes a day. You’ll discover that’s a walk in the park. Depending on your needs you may have to hike up the time you spend on cold calling but by then by you’ll have built your endurance.

Summary

These 5 steps are nothing more than an action plan. A plan, when implemented, gives you direction and momentum. By following a plan you take control. You feel less “victimized” because you have focus. Start implementing these ‘secrets’ today and watch your fears dissolve.

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6 Things Coaching is Definitely NOT

If you think coaching is one of these six activities, give your head a shake.

1. Coaching is NOT a Personal Anecdote

I’m sure you’ve had a manager or two whose approach to coaching was to tell you their war stories from their days in sales trenches. They dredge up all sorts of colorful anecdotes of how they tackled this objection or that objection, of the flawless presentation, of countless hours of preparation and of their ability to close on a dime and make the sale. Ad nauseum.

While some of the ‘good old day’ anecdotes may have even been interesting they cannot be mistaken for coaching. The stories might provide a useful tip or two. They might even illustrate a point which in moderation has a degree of value. But as an effective means to modify and change selling behavior, the stories have limited value.

The reason?

First of all, they are often of questionable relevance. Anecdotes tell of a different product, a different time (maybe even a different era), a different market, and a different customer. The telephone sales rep has to somehow extrapolate the similarities to the present, if any, and apply it to the situation

Second, personal anecdotes are not based on an objective standard. This means they cannot be used in a consistent manner. One rep can interpret the story one way while another rep may see it another. As a means of modifying behavior, anecdotes only have validity if they support a technique or skills that has been taught.

2. Coaching is NOT Rah, Rah, Sis, Boom Bah

Coaching is not a Vince Lombardi-like locker room speech. You see this type of coaching style in manages who are ex-athletes. They act as cheerleaders trying to pump up their reps, get them hyped, and excite them into selling more.

A good speech can help create a motivating environment. A good speech can possibly get a rep to push a little harder and make a few more dials. But however inspirational a speech might be, it does not teach a rep to sell smarter or more effectively. It does not modify or change or alter skills sets.

3. Coaching is NOT Training

A good training program is like a good foundation for a house. The better the foundation the more you can build and expand. Training is the formal presentation of knowledge.  Training is the basis for coaching. If done properly, skills training should set the standards for all parts of the call.

But training is not coaching. Coaching is the process of supporting what was learned in training. If your reps learn how to create an effective opening statement using a five step process in a classroom setting, coaching should support those five steps. Coaching helps remind he rep to use the steps. It encourages the reps to stick to the plan.

Coaching takes a few seconds; maybe a couple of minutes. Training can take hours.

4. Coaching is NOT an Open Door Policy

Some managers think that coaching is telling your reps, “If you having a problem or difficulty, come and see me. My door is always open.”

That’s nice but what a cop out. Sure, some inside sales reps will knock on the door and say ‘boss, I need your help,” but many if not most, won’t. Some won’t because they don’t want to be embarrassed by raising their hand as saying “Heh, I don’t know how to close.”

Others, and this is the tragic part, won’t rush to the door for help simply because they don’t know they need help. Blithely, they go on calling not realizing they have strayed from the processes and standards that have been set until one day they are so far behind in their sales objectives that they give up or you give up on them.

Coaching is proactive. It means you actively work with your reps ensuring that the skills and techniques are being used. It means you preempt any problems or difficulties.

5. Coaching is NOT a Personnel Review

Personnel reviews are formal meeting between the manager and the tele-sales rep. Ostensibly they are used to provide feedback to the rep on how they are doing, what they need to be doing and so forth. Conducting a personnel review that includes feedback on quarterly or even a monthly basis is kind of like closing the barn door after the cows have wandered off.

As a communications process, personnel reviews are great but they are not the forum for coaching. If the sales rep is stumbling over objections at the beginning of June, you don’t need to wait to the 30th to address the issue.

6. Coaching is NOT a Group Meeting

I have worked with several clients who claim that their morning ‘get together’ acts or is their means of coaching.  They use the time to share techniques, tips, and suggestions. Problems are dealt with. An idea or two is bounced around.

These meeting are great for communicating. Undoubtedly, there is a nugget or two of wisdom. But they don’t always apply to everyone every time. And that’s the problem, it isn’t always applicable.

Coaching is a one to one process between you and the rep. A group session might be training but it is not coaching.

Summary

Don’t misunderstand: these six items play a role in disseminating information and imparting knowledge. A good story can illustrate a point and a good speech can motivate a rep to use a technique or skill.  Similarly, reps should know they can come to your door at any time and any feedback any time can be of value. But these situations are not consistent and effective means of getting reps to change and modify their behavior for better results.

PS  Want to learn more about coaching, go here.

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6 Reasons Why Companies and Managers Don’t Coach

Can we all agree for a moment that good coaching will help your sales reps to sell smarter and not just harder?

And that in selling smarter, they will consistently sell more products/services in less time?

Okay, if we’re in agreement with this fundamental truth then why it is that so few companies actively coach their reps?

I’m not talking about “my door is always open and I am available to help you out” kind of coaching. I am talking about scheduled, 1 to 1 coaching on a consistent basis. You know what I mean:   the ‘sleeves-rolled-up-hunkered-down-beside-your-rep-in-their-cubicle’ kind of coaching.

Why don’t we coach? It boils down to six fundamental reasons. Do any of these apply to you?

1. No time

When honest and when pressed to be perfectly candid, most sales managers acknowledge that they simply do not have the time to proactively coach their sales reps; they’re busy.  The real question is this: busy at what? At meetings? Working on spreadsheets? Important projects? Strategy sessions and planning? Time sheets? Verifying expenses? Scheduling? Hiring?

Here’s a moment of truth: while all these tasks and activities have merit and are legitimate they do NOT directly contribute to bottom line sales revenue!

To provide some additional perspective, answer the following questions (honestly):

–         Who plans and organizes a call?

–         Who picks up the phone and dials the prospect?

–         Who qualifies and questions the prospect?

–         Who presents your product or service?

–         Who tackles the objections?

–         Who asks for the sale?

–         Who follows up on leads?

–         Who interfaces with your existing customers?

–         Who generates the sale and the revenue?

Last time I checked, a completed spread sheet does not bring dollars in the door. And as near as I can figure it, a meeting hasn’t resulted in a breakthrough revenue month.

Your sales reps generate the revenue. Help them get better at doing just that. The better they are the more they’ll sell.  You HAVE the time. You’re just not spending it effectively. This is understandable. Coaching is one of those “important not urgent” activities.  Look after the important and the urgent will take care of itself.

Find the time. Every single day. About 20% of your day should be devoted to this task. Yes: twenty percent. Do it and watch your sales grow and sustain itself.

2. Sales reps don’t like it

There is no question about it: some sales reps don’t like the idea of coaching. They don’t want a “big brother” monitoring their calls beside them or from a remote location.

Tough.

Unless they ‘re blowing the doors off their sales objectives tell them to get used to it. They will if you do it right.

It’s simple: what sales reps don’t like is a poor coach; a coach who criticizes but does precious little to develop their skill set. Someone who wastes their time. Sales reps don’t want a manager who says, “Here’s what I would have said,” or “Back in my day, here’s how I handled that objection” or words to that effect. That’s subjective, ad hoc coaching. They might be interesting war stories but they do precious little to develop and nurture a skill set.

Sales reps want an objective, unbiased assessment of their call and selling approach. They want constructive feedback. They want information that will make them more successful.

Of course, what this really means is that for reps to enjoy coaching and benefit from it, then YOU had better be good at it. If you’re not, learn how. (See #6)

3. Sales managers don’t like it

No argument here. Most sales managers don’t like burrowing down and monitoring and analyzing taped calls or y-jacking themselves to a rep at their workstation.  I can understand and appreciate this.

Why?  Because it’s tough work. Quite frankly, it can sometimes be tedious and boring.  And there are so many other things the manager could be doing.  (Like working on a spread sheet or attending the fourth meeting of the day.)

Tough.

Get used to it.

Never, ever forget that your career and/or financial success are directly linked to the sales rep in the chair in the cubicle with a telephone in their hand. If you can’t spend the time there then you shouldn’t be a manager. It’s as simple as that. Period. End of sentence.

Learn to like it. Or don’t learn to like it and do it anyway.

4. Don’t need to coach

Some companies don’t coach because they say they don’t need to coach. Why? Because they hire experienced reps.

What a bunch of malarkey.

Experienced sales reps do not necessarily make successful sales reps. Some reps take longer to learn; some struggle with new target markets; some are just plain confused; some are experienced and lousy.

A couple of months ago I watched Tiger Woods win about a billion dollars in some match. He’s an experienced golfer!  He doesn’t need a coach, right?

Oh wait, he has one.  Beside him was his objective coach who helped him re-engineer his swing. Tiger will earn about a gazillion dollars this year because he knows the value of the coach to his game.  Understand this, experience counts for nothing until the dollars flow in and flow in consistently each and every month. Everyone needs a coach. Some more than others. But everyone needs one. If you don’t agree with that you’re kidding yourself.

5. Don’t know the value

Some companies and some managers don’t coach because they don’t understand the value of the process. Usually these are situations occur when companies provide intense and thorough training. They feel the training should suffice.

It doesn’t.

Here’s what happens. The day sales reps leave the training rooms is the day their knowledge begins to decline. They begin to forget 56 seconds after the training stops.  Training is like shoveling ten pounds of sand into a five pound bag. At some point, no more sand can enter and it uselessly flows off to the side.

It’s the same with sales skills and product knowledge training. Companies cram a ton of information into the heads of their sales reps not realizing their reps forget or confuse it. Coaching helps reinforce the good that was taught. Coaching helps modify and change bad that develops. Coaches serve and act as cheerleaders. Coaches’ serve and act like consciences reminding their team members to stay the course. Coaching protects the training investment. It’s valuable. Priceless, in fact.

6. Don’t know how

Some managers don’t coach because they don’t know how.  Thank the stars for this refreshing bit of honesty.  It’s perfectly okay it you don’t know how. It’s not okay if you remain blissfully ignorant.

If you don’t know how to coach do something about it. Buy some books or get some DVDs or whatever. Take a course. Visit my web site and learn about my coaching workshops. Or call me. Or go to one of my competitors. I really don’t care. But do SOMETHING!

And even if you do coach, are you a good coach? How do you know?  Could you be a better coach? Go here if you want to be a better coach.

Summary

Okay, are guilty of any of these?

If so, give your head a shake. Start proactively coaching. Don’t wait. Nothing will bring BETTER and more sustained sales results than coaching. Nothing. Not  a good incentive program, not a good contest and not a great spiff. These activities may get your reps to work harder (for a while) but not smarter. Smarter selling means bigger sales. You’ll be hero.

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Tele-Sales Managers:The Single Most Important Key to YOUR Tele-Sales Success

What’s the secret to blowing the lid off your sales and revenue objectives?

It’s really not that hard to figure out. But to provide you with some perspective, answer these questions:

  • Who plans and organizes the telephone call?
  • Who picks up the phone and dials the number?
  • Who battles past gatekeepers to reach decision makers?
  • Who has to penetrate voice mail and call display to speak to the buyer?
  • Who presents the opening statement that gets the client or prospect listening?
  • Who does the questioning to identify needs?
  • Who presents the appropriate solution?
  • Who handles the inevitable objections?
  • Who advances the sales cycle?
  • Who closes the sale?
  • Who cross sells and up sells?
  • Who generates the revenue?
  • Who helps make the margin?
  • Whose job is it to meet or exceed their sales objectives?
  • Who can make you look good?
  • And who can make you look bad?

 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out… and it’s not the customer or the prospect. The answer is obvious:

The tele-sales rep.

If you don’t have a sales rep beating the bushes and making sales, you don’t have to worry about the customer. You won’t have them around. The tele-sales rep is the key to the success of you and your company because it is the sales rep that brings home the bacon. Without them, without the revenues they produce, nothing else really matters.

So, here’s the BIG question: if the tele-sales reps is so important where do YOU spend your time? Wait! let me guess:

– “important” meetings

– working on complex spread sheets

– implementing a creative project

– crafting a brand new sales strategy

– discussing ways to increase sales with your boss

Okay, here comes the perspective:

-Does a spreadsheet generate a single dime of revenue?

-How much revenue did your last staff meeting make for the company?

-What was the net margin on that last project?

-How many new customers did that meeting with your boss produce?

Get Your Priorities Right

There is certainly no question that managers have to attend meeting, put out fires, deal with accounting and tackle various projects. The issue is priority.

The tele-sales rep is the conduit for sales, customer growth, revenue and margin and if your time is not proportionately spent with those who make the sales then you’ve got your priorities wrong. Dead wrong. There is simply no delicate way to put it.

Give your head a shake right now. Give up a meeting or two. Say no to a project. Skip “American Idol” tonight and finish up your report at home. Come in early and study your spread sheet. I don’t care what you do, but make time for those who are going to make YOU successful

What Should You Do?

There are two things you must do to keep your ‘sales engine’ running smoothly and effectively: constantly provide your rep with training, and constantly support that training with ‘hands on’ coaching.

Simple, logical and effective … if you do it right

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How to Coach Your Tele-Sales Reps Without Being There: The 10-2-5 Chart

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.

The 10-2-5 chart is one of those ideas. It is a way to not only monitor the activities of your tele-sales team but also a way to get your tele-sales reps to monitor themselves and become more accountable for their results.

(The following is taken from a superb book on coaching: “Tele-Sales Coaching: The Ultimate Guide to Helping Your Inside Sales Team, Sell Smarter, Sell Better and Sell More.  Go here for more information)

What is it?

A 10-2-5 Chart is typically a large dry erase board that is prominently displayed within your tele-sales department. It features the names of your tele-sales reps and it features key indicators regarding productivity and sales.  For example, dials, connects, number of sales, value of sales, average value of sales etc.  Whatever you decide is critical.

There’s nothing new about a display chart but what makes the 10-2-5 unique is that at 10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. your tele-sales reps have to get up from their desks and  walk over to the chart and enter their stats. What this does is provide a “real time” look at sales activities throughout the day. It is big, bold and brassy; there for everyone in the department and the company to see.

What this Does For the Rep

– it creates a sense of personal accountability for success
– it creates a degree of pressure to perform if the numbers are low
– it creates a sense of pride and achievement if the numbers are high
– it creates a sense of good competition to drive the reps to work harder or smarter

What it Does for You – The Manager/Owner/ Executive

-it provides you with a real time pulse of what is going on within your department and allows you to respond accordingly
-it acts as an “early warning system” for reps who may be faltering; in effect, you can nip an issue in the bud before it becomes major
-it tells others in your company precisely what your department is doing
– because it does all this, it holds YOU accountable too!

5 Steps to Making the 10-2-5 Chart  Work For You

There are some subtle – call them psychological, if you like- elements at work with the 10-2-5 Chart and you want to leverage them. Here’s how to make this simple idea yield bigger results.

1. Communicate the Purpose of the Chart. Don’t hold back. Tell your reps you ARE creating personal accountability and that you WILL be using it as a coaching tool. Emphasize the benefits. Explain that you won’t clobber someone if the numbers are down – that’s part of selling – but that you will positively respond if numbers stay down. Make sure they see how the chart can help them!

2. Make the chart large. Buy a large, huge, gigantic dry erase board. Or buy two and plunk them together.  The chart must be obnoxiously visible for all to see. This means the stats that the rep enters will be blatantly evident to everyone from a great distance. Believe me, a rep who may have been slacking will be conscious of the results and he or she WILL work harder. A reps who is doing well will beam with pride.

3. Make Sure the Reps Report to the Chart on Time.
The idea is to pull the reps together at specified time so it creates a group session. A jury of your peers so to speak.They can cheer good results. They can feel pride if the numbers are great. They can feel sheepish, angry, or competitive if they are not so great. Be tenacious about this.  This is not an optional exercise. It tells EVERYONE that activity and results is IMPORTANT.

4. Use the Chart for Motivation or Incentives. Create a prize for the top performers at 10, 2 and 5. Something small. A trophy. Have some fun with it. Or create a prize for the biggest % increase between each time.  Use the information from  the chart to target and direct activities.

5. Monitor the Chart. The chart is there for you too. Remember that. Glance at it every time you walk buy. Make sure your reps are complying. If there are dips,  note them or check in with the rep. If you see a trend, respond accordingly. Monitor calls, begin the feedback process. Let your team know that you use the chart too.

Summary

The 10-2-5 Chart is one of the most EFFECTIVE recommendations I make with clients. It is so deceptively simple that it is almost too easy to dismiss. Don’t be fooled. When implemented properly, it is a powerful driver of sales behavior. Use it

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The 4 Steps to Becoming a Better Coach

Good, effective tele-sales coaching is a process which means it’s a repeatable event that you can learn and master.

Here are the 4 steps to developing a meaningful coaching program that will get reps to modify their behavior, apply the feedback, and become better at selling.

SMAF Process

Coaching consists of four components referred to as SMAF: standards, monitoring, analyzing, and feedback

I. Standards

Perhaps the most important component of a good coaching program is setting the “standard.” The standard defines precisely what you expect from the tele-sales rep relative to the selling skills involved for the majority of the calls that are made.

For example, when your reps know what the ‘standard operating  procedure’ for opening a prospecting call or  handling knee jerk objections or qualifying a lead or  presenting a solution or closing  the sale etc.,  then there is no confusion. When you supply feedback relative to those standards, it’s not only objective it is anchored to a system or process. This fosters clarity and understanding. It makes compliance easier and more logical.

Sadly, most managers and companies haven’t identified their call standards. They let their reps wing it. And it explains why your feedback is lame and ineffective.

Do you have specified standards? Do your reps know what’s expected of them from a skills perspective?.

II. Monitor the Call

Monitoring the call means listening. Wander around and listen to what you hear on the floor. Or sit beside your rep and y-jack so you can hear both sides of the call. Or, if you can, record calls and listen closely. Better yet, do all three.

Monitor the call relative to the standard, not to what YOU think they should be saying. Monitor it to what they have been taught.

III. Analyze What You have Heard

After you have heard the call, stop and think before you provide feedback. Analyze what you have heard. Did the rep perform call to standard or not? So, for example, if you have defined 5 elements to an opening statement (e.g., full name, company name, reason for call, clearly defined benefit to the client, and a bridge to a question) ask yourself: did the rep implement the standard? If not, you have objective grounds for feedback.

If you have taught your rep that handling an objection requires four steps (Empathize, Clarify, Respond, Verify), you listen for those steps. If they are there, the process is ‘to standard’ and your feedback is not necessary (other than a pat on the back).

Take this time to craft how you want to present your feedback with each individual rep. Each of your reps has their own way of learning. Respect it and tailor your approach accordingly.

IV Provide the feedback

There are five steps to constructive feedback. First, ask your rep to provide feedback on how he/she though she did. Let he do the analysis first. Often the rep will  know precisely what needs ‘fixing’ in which case, she becomes  her own coach.

Second, concur with the rep or describe the behavior you observed. So  if  the rep is not aware of the non-standard performance, use questions to get them to focus e.g., “Janice, what were the 3-Steps we learned about handling knee jerk objections? And did you use the second step?”

Third, discuss ways to enhance, change or modify the behavior in question. “So Mark, what are some things you can do to remind yourself to add a benefit statement?”

Fourth, agree upon the action plan or task or idea to be implemented. So, if Mark though he should make a job aid  to hang from his wall to remind him of a process, agree to it.

Fifth, and maybe most important, acknowledge the improvement. At some point during the day, monitor a few calls and see if the changes are being made by your rep. Drift by the cubicle to see if the job aid has been hung from the wall. If improvements have been made, provide praise. If not, provide a reminder. Either way, the rep will begin to understand that you are serious about the feedback and they will begin the process of change.

Summary

Your role is to help your reps modify their behavior and make changes that will improve their skill sets.  In turn, this leads to more revenues.

The best feedback is objective based (hence, the standard) and interactive (hence, questions based).  Start your coaching program today and watch what happens to your sales results. You’ll be pleased and so will your reps!

For more information on how to be a better, more effective coach click here.

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10 Tips on How to Change and Change the Way You Sell

Why do sales people find it so difficult to add new skills to their selling process?

Because implementing new skills means adapting; it means change. And as a good rule of thumb, most of us hate change.  It takes us out of our comfort zone.  We resist change even if logically we know that the change will better us.  Change makes us feel awkward, self conscious, and uncomfortable.

Net result?

We do not derive the benefits that the training provided.  The great ideas, tips, techniques and strategies get diluted and sales results more or less stay the same.

Don’t be a victim to change.  By learning to adapt and become a little more flexible you’ll l embrace change and your sales will soar. Here are some thoughts on change to lend perspective and make the process of changing easier.

10  Thoughts on Change

Thought #1: Change is Intimidating

Change can be intimidating. When you are presented with a new skill, you have to step out of your comfort zone and take a chance. You might (in fact, you probably will) fail at your first few attempts. Failure does not make anyone feel good and so we resist trying the new skill to avoid the failure.

Hey, it’s okay to be intimidated. Bur fear the change and change anyway. Know this up front: you will likely stumble and fall and momentarily fail. This is a short term and relatively painless event. It’s kind of like getting a needle from your doctor. It’s not real pleasant but after all is said and done, it’s no big deal.

Thought #2: Change Takes Thought

This is important. Often we attempt the change in skills or tactics without thinking about the process. We just dive in. That’s when things get murky. THINK about what you’re trying to attempt. Plan it out. In some cases, script it out. Draw a mind map or a call guide. Become familiar with the process. Make things easier for yourself by thinking one, two and three steps ahead.

Thought #3: Take Change Slowly

Old joke: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

When I conduct full day training sessions I see how overwhelmed many of the reps become. They seem to think that they have to implement everything on the next call. Not so. Take a technique or two and master that. Don’t worry about the rest.  Then, add another new skill or two and build on what you have learned.

Thought #4: Change Takes Time

Far too many reps give up too soon. They try a technique for an hour or two or maybe even a day or two.  It doesn’t seem to flow smoothly or work effectively so logic tells them to go back to what was comfortable. They give up. They quit. That’s sort of like going on a diet and not losing 10 pounds in two days. Losing weight takes time. So does developing a new skill.

In fact, studies show that it takes about three weeks to create a new habit. It might take you more, it might take  you less but one thing is certain: change takes time. And that’s why you need to think about what it is you are attempting every single time.  You have to be conscious that you are trying a new technique.  It will feel odd at first but given time, the new skill becomes an unconscious action.

Thought #5:  Get Help Changing

Know this: you don’t necessarily have to tackle change on your own. Go to your supervisor, manager, peer or friend and solicit their help.  Ideally, you should have a coach (usually your manager) who can give you feedback – the good kind and the ‘not so good’ kind. The objectivity of a third party can make the change process faster and easier. So raise your hand.

Thought #6:  Cheat Change

Good trainers provide sales reps with a whole host of tools -job aids- to help make the adoption of a new skill easier and faster. Such tangible job aids as pre-call planning sheets, opening statement templates, selling grids and objections charts make change a heck of a lot easier. You can, in effect, cheat change. You can peak at your notes.  See your tools as cheat sheets.  On the phone, no one can see what you have in front of you. Use them!

Thought #7: You Can Change

Guess what? You can change. Anyone can change provided they CHOOSE to change. My observation has been that many sales reps simply give up before they ever try. They defeat themselves mentally. Be positive! Choose success. Choose to change.

Thought #8:  Celebrate Change Successes

Learn to recognize and accept that a change has been positive. For some bizarre reason, some sales reps seem to deny the success. Acknowledge the improvement. Celebrate the success and don’t look back.  Shout to the heavens, “hey, it worked!” Share your success with others.  When you pat yourself on the back you are likely to repeat the effort again and again.

Thought #9:  Change Gets Easier

Here’s the neat thing about change: it gets easier. Every time you add a new skill, it gets that much easier. Part of the reason is that the intimidation factor is reduced with every new success. Another part is because you are mastering a skill or technique… you’re getting better.

Thought #10: Beware the Change Back

Here’s the last and maybe most important thing: the tendency to go back to your old ways will be very strong. Immense.  This is called homeostasis. It’s like a great big magnet that will try to draw you back to where you once were.  You see this a lot with dieters. They loose the weight and then they pack it back on.  Why? Because the reverted to their old eating habits. They got complacent. They lost their discipline.  Same thing in selling.  You’ll discover the tendency to revert to old behaviors if you’re not vigilant.  (This is where a good coach can help keep you focused)

Summary

Change usually not ‘fun.’  At times it is frustrating.  But know this: change is good because it allows you to adapt.  If you study the most successful sales reps in any company you will quickly discover that the key to their success is their ability to change when necessary.

So start changing today and watch your sales start growing tomorrow.

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Tele-Sales Managers: Do You Coach or Do You Compete?

Some managers do a rotten job of coaching. Are you one of them?

Most are not aware of it but  they do a rotten job because they actually ‘compete’ with their sales reps rather than give constructive feedback that will help them change and modify their behavior to sell more.

Though well intentioned, “competitive” coaches do more harm than good. Apart from doing little to improve the sales behavior of the rep, they can inadvertently cause resentment, foster frustration and destroy confidence.

(The following article is taken from “Telesales Coaching: The Ultimate Guide to Helping Your Inside Sales Team Sell Smarter, Sell Better and Sell More.” Click here for more information)

What is a Competitive Coach?

Put simply, the competitive coach is a manager whose feedback tends to elevate their own knowledge and expertise in selling while diminishing the effort or the skill of the sales rep.  Often oblivious to this behavior, the competitive coach tends to belittle their sales rep by pointing how they (the manager) would have done things differently and of course, better.

Here are some typical examples of competitive coaching styles to illustrate the point.

Style #1: The Tell Style

The competitive coach tends to a have a ‘tell” approach to feedback.  They are direct and often blunt in their remarks, “You didn’t close,” “You missed the buying signal,” “Next time, practice your presentation.”  Certainly, there are times when the direct approach is effective but the problem with the ‘tell’ approach is that it rarely helps the sales rep alter their selling behavior. Instead, it reveals flaws which embarrass or annoy the rep.

Style # 2: Chide, De-ride and Kid Style

Some managers tend to coach  their reps by chiding, kidding or de-riding. For instance, “Kelly, what the heck was THAT?” or “Cathy, are you kidding me? A seven year old could have closed that one?”  The manager doesn’t necessarily mean to be harsh or demeaning but that’s the net result.  Most reps get defensive, silently or otherwise.

Style #3: Nit Pick Style

Very competitive coaches often feel that they MUST give some sort of critical feedback even if the call was exceptionally good. They will find something – anything- that could be better or improved.  Again, this approach tends to raise the perceived value, intelligence and savvy of the manager if only because it ‘lowers’ the skill or ability of the rep. Good coaches know that if there are no flaws, there is no need to make them up.

 

Style #4: Schizophrenic Style

Competitive coaches often use the ‘sandwich’ technique of feedback which has been taught for years but is really a discouraging model. This technique states that constructive feedback should be sandwiched between a couple of positive comments.  For example, “Jen, that opening statement was really good… but I’m afraid the questioning and qualifying needs some work. You didn’t really get to the heart of the client’s needs… Mind you, you did attempt a close.”

The ‘but’ is the real killer. The poor rep is left confused. The beleaguered rep hears the positive remark but they are waiting for the other shoe to drop the moment the manager says “but.” In an instant, the positive is whipped out.  Or, the rep hears the positive remarks, congratulates himself and doesn’t hear the negative. Rare is the rep who can emotionally separate the two types of feedback.

The non-competitive coach gives either constructive feedback or positive feedback and lets the call stand on those merits.

 

Style #5: The Rhetorical Style

Like sports coaches, competitive sales coaches sometimes use rhetorical questions as a means of pumping up reps and giving them feedback. “You want to be winner, don’t you?” “You want to close ’em, right?” “You don’t want to stay at the bottom of the heap, do you?”, “Why didn’t you ask for the referral?” The manager is not looking for answers, she is pointing out the mistake and trusting that it dramatically improve sales performance. The fact of the matter is most reps simply endure the rhetoric and do the same thing.

Good coaching is a two way street. A good manager/coach asks questions and waits for feedback. This interactive approach helps the rep understand and learn.

Style #6: Personal Anecdotes Style

Many sales managers are former sales reps and chances are they were good sales reps. Consequently, their coaching is spotted with all sorts of personal anecdotes such as, “When I was on the phone, I used the direct close…” or “I remember a similar customer I had and here’s what I did to close that $20K deal.” Sure, there are times when personal gems might have some value but mostly they are war stories that tell the rep how good the manager was …and, oh by the way, how good the rep could be if they only followed your advice.

 

Style #7: Heaping Style

The final coaching style is the manager who ‘heaps’ on the feedback to the extent that the information is too overwhelming for the rep. This often occurs with rookies where the entire call is weak and the manager provides feedback on everything from the planning, the opening, the questioning, the presentation, the objection handling and the close.  The tele-sales rep is left lost and discouraged.

A good coach focuses on one, maybe two areas that require constructive feedback. Let the rep learn and master these areas before moving on to the rest of the call.

Summary

Competitive managers are not ‘bad’ people with a nefarious plan to sabotage their sales reps.  Most competitive managers are not effective coaches simply because they have never been taught how to provide feedback that is effective in getting their reps to change their selling behavior. See the article below if you think your coaching style could use an overhaul.

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The Top 10 B2B Tele-Sales Trends for 2011 (and what they mean to you)

Thanks in large measure to a dismal economy and slow recovery and thanks in part to a new generation of buyers, the world of selling is evolving, changing and morphing.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of B2B tele-sales.  The telephone is poised to take the lead role in the method that products are sold. Here are 10 observations or predictions:

1. The Demise of the Field Sales Rep

Face to face sales is declining. And it has been declining for the last 15 or 20 years. The reason? The need for face-to-face contact is not nearly as significant as it once was.  A new breed of buyer AND seller brought up on a bread and butter diet of cell phones, smart phones, text messaging, e-mail, social media and web surging has entered the marketplace. The net result is a generation of decision makers and buyers who are more interested in speed, information and instant accessibility rather than in ‘touchy feely’ one-on-one meetings.

2. The Rise of Tele-Sales

If face-to-face selling is declining then B2B tele-selling is doing just the opposite.  Tele-selling caters to the demands of this new generation and marketplace and the telephone will continue to rise in predominance as the prime selling medium. Tele-Selling has always provided 2-way interactive dialogue but it lacked the ‘tangibility’ that face-to-face selling provided.  That’s changing.  Supported by sophisticated web sites, tele-conferencing, web-conferencing, video conferencing, e-mail and the like, the telephone has been synergized.  Speed of access, 2-way communication, and reduced cost of contact have all contributed to the growth of tele-sales.

3. The Increase of Competition

More and more companies will jump on the tele-sales band wagon in an effort to take advantage of these changes in the marketplace. Businesses will either introduce brand new tele-sales initiatives or they will expand the activities of their current tele-sales programs. Either way, more companies will be targeting the same markets.  Your prospects and clients will have more choice.  This could mean bad news as more competitors take a shot at your share. But the good news is that most of these new ‘pretenders’ to the tele-sales throne will be woefully unprepared and their own worst enemies. This means that a strong tele-sales strategy supported by high quality, well trained and well compensated reps, and managed and  by elite tele-sales managers and executives will dominate the selling landscape.

4. The Maturation of Tele-Sales

Tele-selling applications will continue to shift and evolve from transactional to more complex selling situations.  Higher ticket products and services will be sold to multiple decision makers by TAMs (tele-account managers) seated at a desk, supported by the internet, e-mail and CRM systems that will help manage the process.  Sales pitches will give way to needs focused and questions based selling. Gone will be the ‘telemarketing’ mentality, replaced by the consultative tele-sales mentality.

5. The Growth of Personal Relationships

Tele-Account Managers will nurture and develop relationships with existing clients and prospects at both a business and a PERSONAL level.  Savvy tele-sales firms will actively develop written account plans designed specifically to develop and enhance not only the business side of selling personal side of selling as well.  Companies will seek strategies and tactics to create value, likeability and trust on a 1:1 basis that will work in harmony with business applications.

6. The Evolution and Integration of E-Mail

E-mail contact and communication will rise dramatically in the selling process. It will be equally as important as dialling and 2-way live discussion. A new set of skills and techniques must be developed, trained, coached and integrated into telephone contact. Tele-sales reps and account managers will need to be much more effective communicators with the written word. They will have to be persuasive marketer as much as sellers. Many firms will struggle with this concept as they cling stubbornly to the ‘the more you dial the luckier you get’ mentality.

7. The New Breed of Tele-Sales Rep

A whole new breed of tele-sales rep will enter the world of selling. This ‘uber’ rep will have a more formal education; they will be young, tech savvy, sophisticated and ambitious. Recruitment practices will change to identify individuals who can communicate by phone and by e-mail. Compensation and incentive programs will improve dramatically to attract better quality tele-sales reps.  Training will rise significantly in order to provide reps with skills and abilities to sell complex products and services. Career paths will re-emerge and turnover will significantly diminish.

8. The Coaching Solution

Call quality, call success, and revenue results will be directly related to the degree that proactive coaching is implemented on a continuous and ongoing basis. Tele-sales firms/programs and departments will recognize that active coaching and development of their tele-sales reps will be the key method of achieving the “next level” of tele-sales success. Coaching will be the means to differentiate their selling efforts from the multitude of competitors. The emphasis will be on grooming tele-sales reps who can sell smarter, better and faster.  Companies will discover that hands-on coaching is the ONLY activity that can significantly change, alter and improve selling behaviour.

9. Social Media is Still Maturing

In B2B tele-sales, social media will continue to develop but the jury is still out on the role it might ultimately place.  Certainly in simple, transactional situations social media, used wisely, may drive prospects to call an inside sales rep. Used wisely, it is a means to stay in touch with an existing client. However, it is difficult to see the role of social media in more complex selling situations. Whatever the case may be, social media will play a support role.

10. The Scarcity of Tele-Sales Managers and Executives

The single biggest challenge in the tele-sales marketplace over the short term is the scarcity of an experienced tele-sales managers and executives. Geared more towards managing the ‘numbers’ and transactional sales applications, there are precious few managers/executives capable of developing, implementing and coaching more sophisticated and complex telephone selling programs. If companies are to use the telephone to leverage the changes in the selling marketplace, they will require skilled tele-sales managers and executives to lead the charge.  In the absence of external resources, companies must internally develop their tele-sales management team. Associations can help. Consultants and other outside experts are a must.

Summary

Are you prepared to take advantage of these changes in the marketplace? Most companies are not. Analyze your tele-sales vision, your reps and managers, and your processes.  What needs to be done? Figure it out now and don’t get caught short. Do something!

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Tele-Sales Managers:The 5 Silver Bullets to Achieving Superior Tele-Sales Results

The key to achieving and exceeding your tele-sales revenues lies not in any single effort  (like ‘dialing harder’) but rather on five ‘silver bullets.

’ A sliver bullet is a metaphor for an action that cuts through the complexity  of a situation (like achieving a challenging sales objective)  and provides an almost immediate solution.  The silver bullets below are  your keys to transforming your tele-sales program into a sophisticated sales channel.

Silver Bullet #1: Think Tele-Sales NOT Telemarketing

The first silver bullet  to achieve superior sales results is to change the way you think about telephone selling.  Scratch the surface and you’ll discover that most sales  executives have a stereotypical image of the telephone as a “dial and smile” approach to selling; that medium is not capable of much more than a simple, transactional sale.

If you –or others-  think telephone sales is ‘about the numbers’ and that ‘ the harder you dial the luckier you’ll get’, then you’re destined for mediocrity.  This type of thinking limits the potential of your sales team because it implies that luck, more than anything else, is the key to success.  It implies that other activities don’t impact the sales result. And it provides a ready made excuse NOT to change the way companies hire, train, coach and motivate their reps

Tele-sales (vs. telemarketing) is growing in sophistication and complexity.  Complex products with longer sales cycles and multiple decision makers can, and are, being sold by telephone. And as a new generation of buyer enters the B2B workplace, the need for face-to-face selling is being replaced by the need for  the instant accessibility that the telephone (married with the internet) provides.

The first silver bullet is to start thinking about sales results, not numbers.  When you do that, a whole new level of sales will manifest itself.

Silver Bullet #2: Hire Better Telephone Reps

The second silver bullet is  to hire a better telephone sales rep; a rep who is cut out to be a telephone sales rep and rather than a desperate soul in search of a job.

Hiring a good reps begins by having a thorough selection process that evaluate the candidate’s potential to sell over the phone.  Forget the traditional  face-to-face interview process that so many companies still utilize to hire telephone reps.  Change the way you hire to reflect the medium. Here’s how.

After culling the resumes, conduct your first three interviews by telephone.  The first call is short, maybe 2-3 minutes. Evaluate the voice quality, the grammar, and the articulateness of the candidate.  If you like what you hear, have the candidate call you back at a specific time later that day or the next.  You’ll be staggered at how many reps ‘fail’ this little test by 10-15 minutes.

Spend more time on the second  interview and assess their resume as you would if you were face-to-face. Continue to gauge the voice quality and grammar. Can they EFFECTIVELY communicate?

Next: if you like what you hear, get the candidate to call you back in five minutes  and leave a 1-2 minute voice mail.  Tell them to leave you a message that answers the question ‘Why you?’  The objective is to determine if your candidate takes the time to plan and craft a good message.  Listen to see if the rep ‘sells’ you on the ‘benefits’ of hiring him/her.  Can they create a compelling sales message? Do they deliver it well or do the stutter, hum and ha?

The next step is to have the candidate visit your office for a final assessment.  Give them a copy of the job description and let them review it in detail. Get the candidate to sit with one of your telephone reps for a half an hour or so monitoring calls and asking questions. You want the candidate to completely understand the nature of the job. If they don’t like what they see and hear, let them disqualify themselves.

If the candidate is still keen, have them complete a sales assessment.  Don’t skip this step.  It will give you additional perspective on the type of selling style your rep will likely exhibit.  Is it compatible with your sale? How does it compare with those who sell well in your department?

Assuming you’re happy with the candidate and the candidate is happy with you, check their references thoroughly and make an offer. This process takes less time than you think because the majority of time is spent on the telephone. It is thorough and complete and reduces your risk of hiring a dud while increases the odds of selecting a superb telephone rep.

Sliver Bullet #3: Train them

The third silver bullet is to train your reps.  It seems like a no-brainer but the fact of the matter is, most tele-sales departments are treated like the wicked stepchild when it comes to investing in training and development.  Most are grossly under trained.  It’s not surprising because it stems from the belief that ‘how hard can telephone selling be?  Heck, you just pick up the phone and pitch, right?’

Wrong. It is thinking like that which has stunted the growth of tele-sales programs and revenue results. Selling by telephone all day is tough work. If you don’t believe it, try it yourself.  Pick up the phone and dial, not for a token hour or day, but for an entire week.  That will be a real eye opener!  Deal with the rejection and frustration.  Only then will you  truly understand the need for a rep to be better skilled in opening the call, handling objections, questioning, presenting an offer and closing or advancing the sale. Only then will you understand that it’s more than “just a numbers game.”

Treat your inside sales team as you would a field sales team. Provide them with precisely the same training. This includes complex selling, account planning, territory management, product and knowledge session and,  above all, skills training.  Give your reps the skills and techniques to sell smarter!

Silver Bullet #4: Coach Them ‘till They’re Blue in the Face

The fourth silver bullet is probably the most significant in terms of net impact.  If you buy into the training then you must buy into coaching. Training provides the foundation for increased sales results. Coaching provides the brick and mortar.  Coaching translates the training into action.

The overwhelming majority of managers don’t coach yet it is coaching that encourages reps to try new techniques, to stick with them, to correct them when they stray, to encourage them to try again and again. Coaching is the ONLY activity that can modify and change behavior.  Training gets them started. Coaching keeps them on track.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, works better at improving sales results than coaching.  Good compensation and incentive programs, games and contests can get your reps to work /sell harder but they do nothing to help your reps sell smarter. Coaching is about smart selling; about being better at selling so that the rep can sell more with the contacts he/she has got. Leveraging the moment.

A superior coaching program has four components. The first is to set the ‘standards’ by which to coach. Here is where training kicks in. If you train your reps on the precise steps to  opening a call (5-step process) or to handling a ‘knee jerk objections’ (3 –step process) or any number of other skill sets, you establish an objective foundation by which to coach. Your feedback will be based on cited expectations rather than your arbitrary comments and suggestions.

The second component is to actively monitor live or recorded calls. Schedule the time, get in the trenches, and listen.  Next, analyze what you have heard against the standards that you set. The rep will either be performing to that standard or not.  Finally, based on your analysis, provide constructive feedback.   (See Related Article: The 10 Worst Feedback Mistakes Tele-Sales Managers).  The coaching silver bullet really works! Use it.

Silver Bullet #5: Motivate and Entice Them

The final silver bullet is to provide a decent compensation program and develop a motivating environment.  Tele-sales reps and telemarketers are woefully underpaid thanks in large part to the ‘telemarketing’ mindset.

Hate to say it, but you get what you pay for.  When you offer a rep $32K with a chance to make a paltry $3K in bonus, you get candidates who did not get the jobs at $40K. When you cap your reps commission, you stifle initiative and ales.  Then it becomes a vicious circle, the underpaid, under trained and under coached rep does not do terribly well when it comes to selling so it becomes difficult for the company to justify an increase in pay.  Sound familiar?

One of the best approaches to getting and keeping a good inside sales rep is to start off by offering a higher base rate with a moderate commission rate.  After 60 or 90 days, reduce the base and increase the commission rate. This allows your rep to learn your products, generate some sales and build a client base. It also gets them to work both harder and smarter!

Monetary and non-monetary incentives are also necessary to create a motivating environment.  If you actually picked up the phone and dialed for a week, you would  understand  the precise implication.  Activities like contests act like oil in the selling process; they make selling faster, easier and more effective.

Summary

Treat your tele-sales program as  significant and it will become significant.  Your telephone selling program can become a significant revenue source.

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The Top 7 Motivators of Tele-Sales Reps

Last month I ran a brief poll with the readers of my newsletter -Tele-Sales Vitamins- to informally assess what motivates the ‘average’ tele-sales rep.  I provided 7 motivators and asked the readers to rate them from the strongest motivator to the weakest. Here are the seven choices:

7 Tele-Sales Motivators
  • Training, coaching and personal development
  • Compensation
  • Recognition, praise, appreciation
  • Challenging job
  • Career Path/Advancement
  • Good/Fun/Positive environment
  • Job Security
The 7 Motivators Ranked in Order

Below are the results as voted by the readers.

#1 Motivator: Compensation

#2 Motivator: Training, coaching and personal development

#3 Motivator: Challenging job

#4 Motivator: Recognition, praise, appreciation

#5 Motivator: Career path/Advancement

#6 Motivator: Good/Fun/Positive Working Environment

#7 Motivator: Job Security

That compensation was the #1 motivator is not surprising.  It was the overwhelming choice of readers who took the survey.  What it surprising is that motivators #2, #3 and #4 were clustered together. A few votes here and there would have changed the ranking in a heartbeat. Interesting though, that once financial concerns are addressed (compensation) the next three motivators relate to ‘self actualizing.’  Clearly a strong ‘ego drive’ is a key motivator.  That’s a good thing.

That job security was the #7 motivator was a bit surprising.  But then again, maybe it is not so surprising. In today’s uncertain economy perhaps workers understand that there is no such thing as job security. Or perhaps those who took the survey recognized that if they sell well, they don’t have to worry about job security.

So, what do you think?  Any surprises?

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The 10 Reasons Why You Don’t Sell as Much as You Could (or Should) and What To Do About it (Part I)

The First 5 Reasons…

A new selling year is staring you in the face.  It’s your opportunity to excel…if you choose.  But before you can do that you need to take a closer look in the mirror and determine precisely why you are not selling as much as you could or should.  Here are the first 5 reasons why you might not sell (and make) as much as you would like.

1. You lack product knowledge

You might not be excelling at selling because you lack product knowledge. Maybe you’re  new to the job. Maybe you haven’t been diligent in learning more about your products and services. You can readily fix this. Learn your products inside out. Review brochures, manuals, white papers, special reports.  Read industry magazines. Subscribe to industry e-newsletters.  Visit competitive web sites. Find a savvy mentor. Pick your boss’s brain. Do SOMETHING. Invest a few extra hours a week. Eat lunch at your desk and read.  Stay and extra half hour.

2. You don’t use the skills that you got when trained

You might not be selling to the degree that you would like because you are NOT using the skills you were taught in training.  The trouble with learning new skills and techniques is that it means CHANGING your selling behavior.  Most people resist change even if that change means better results.  If this sounds like you, find someone that will act as a coach, a cheerleader or conscience.  Most often it is your manager. Engage him or her. Call them to task. Get trained again if necessary.  Get them to monitor your calls and analyze what you are doing well and not so well.  Get them to pat you on the back or kick you on the backside. Do SOMETHING  and start applying what you learned.

3. You abuse that skills that you got in training

You may not be a good seller because you ‘abuse’ what you learned. This is different from #2 where you don’t use ANY of the new skills. In this case,  your don’t use what you learned well.  You have diluted, changed or altered the selling skills and techniques; you go half way; you cut a corner or two… or three…or four; you don’t follow through; you’ve whittled away a tactic.  You may not even know it. The best thing to do is get yourself a coach – a manager, a friend, a mentor, an outsider- to objectively listen and analyze your calls. Be open to their remarks. If you need to re-train. Get your manager to provide constructive feedback.

4.  You lack experience.

You’re new to sales. You’ve just come off training. You haven’t made enough calls to get a complete feel for your selling environment.  You haven’t dealt enough with customers or prospects.  You haven’t had enough victories or defeats. You lack the experience that  only comes with time and effort. You lack the volume work that provides  insights, confidence and savvy. Don’t quit. Continue to plug away. Keep a log book of experiences. Jot things down. Chat with others. Learn. Store those experience somewhere. Just get on the phone and call. Push.

5.  You quit too soon

Speaking of quitting: you might not be as successful as you could be simply because you quit too soon or too easily.  Quitting means any number of things. It means stopping an activity short of completion. For instance, instead of making 70 dials you quit at 55. Instead of following up on a prospect four or five times, you quit at one or two.  If a prospect says ‘no’ when you ask for the sale instead of querying further you crumble like a house cards and hang up. The solution?  Buck up, baby! Grow a spine. Don’t be a wimp. Push a little further. Push a little harder. It won’t hurt a bit and it WILL help your sales.

So there you have the first 5 reasons.  Are you guilty? Keep your eye out for the next post and  the “Final 5” reasons why you don’t sell as much as you could or should.

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