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Controlling Your Sales Destiny – Tip #7: Get Some Skin in the Game

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

Tip #7: Get Some Skin in the Game

“Get some skin in the game” is an old expression that you don’t hear that often.  It means invest some of your own money in a venture or task or assignment.  In the case of this post, it means investing some of your own hard-earned cash on your sales education and development.

Here are some examples:

  • Buy a book on selling (or time management or goal setting or anything that will help you improve and succeed.)
  • Purchase some CDs or DVDs.
  • Pay for a download for a sales site or subscribe to a paid newsletter.
  • Fork out a few bucks to attend a workshop or tele-seminar.
  • Invest in a coach.
  • Do something, anything … that can help improve your skill or knowledge.

Two Important things:  First, don’t expect your company to do all the heavy lifting.  Don’t expect them to invest in training for you at the drop of a hat.  If you need training, invest in yourself.  Second, and perhaps more significantly, when YOU risk YOUR money, you are more apt to want an ROI.  Typically you feel compelled to read that book or listen to that MP3 or try a new technique. You pay closer attention.   You try a little harder.

(Hey, here’s an idea: suppose you see a workshop with a larger than usual price tag.  Approach your boss and say, “Hey boss, I’ll pay for half if you pay for half.” )

Skin in the game also applies to time.  Invest the time to learn.  Schedule it. Stick to it. It’s the difference between good intention and implementation.

Action Items

Action #1:  Create a learning budget.  Put twenty bucks aside every week or every two weeks.  That’s $40 – $80 per month to spend on knowledge based items.  That’s a lot cheaper than college or university but it’s just as significant.

Action #2: Read, listen or use what you’ve bought.  Sometimes it gets easy to fork out the investment and then put it aside.  Budget 30 minutes a day to read, listen and use.

Action #3:  Try the techniques right away. Don’t wait till ‘next Monday.’  Try it right away.  And then give it a fighting chance and apply the skill or techniques twenty or thirty times.  That will help you develop a degree of mastery.

Summary

It’s up to you to shape your sales destiny.  If you invest in yourself, you are investing in your own personal development, growth and success.  Makes cents, eh?! (Forgive the clever little pun … it should be ‘sense.’)

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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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14 Things Sales Reps Should Never Stop Doing

The following  article is by training expert Kelley Robertson.This article was awarded the silver medal for “Article of the Year” at the 2011 Top Sales and Marketing Awards!

Selling for a living is challenging. There are many highs and frequent lows. Constant pressure to reach sales targets, customer and prospects that are more demanding, and changes in the marketplace all make sales a tough career.

If you are serious about maintaining a long-term career and increasing your sales, here are 14 things you should never stop doing. If by chance, you haven’t started doing some of these, I suggest that you do start…the sooner, the better.

1.   Prospect. If you do nothing else but prospect for new business every day the chances are you will always be busy and seldom, if ever, experience peaks and valleys in your sales.

2.   Improve your skill. Professionals in many industries require regular upgrading up skills. Selling is no different. The marketplace has changed and what worked five years ago is no longer relevant. Make the time and invest in regular self-improvement programs (workshops, conferences, books, audio programs, etc).

3.   Listen more than you talk. People who listen more, learn more. The more you learn the more effectively you can position your solution or offering. Enough said.

4.   Establish clear call objectives. Whether it’s a face-to-face meeting or telephone call, you need to have a clear objective of what you want to accomplish. Closing the sale is NOT an objective.

5.   Create plans (yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly). I know very few sales people who actually create a business plan for the entire year. What sales do you want to achieve? How will you reach those targets? What daily, weekly and monthly activities do you need to execute to achieve your goals?

6.   Study your products. How much time do you spend studying and learning your products? Do you know the key differences between similar products? Do you know how each product will actually benefit a customer?

7.   Network. Effective sales networking means attending the events that your key prospects attend. A friend of mine deals with high-ranking executives so he attends high-profile fundraising dinners. The cost of entry can be expensive but the return can be excellent.

8.   Ask awesome questions. I’ve mentioned this…more than once! But the ability to ask great questions, tough probing questions, penetrating questions, is one of the most effective ways to increase your sales.

9.   Deliver great presentations. Don’t confuse this with the ability to stand up in front of several hundred people and deliver a keynote presentation. The key to delivering a great sales presentation is ensuring that it addresses your prospect’s key issues and that it focuses on their needs and objectives, not your agenda.

10.  Adapt your approach. Do you ever consider the personality style of the other person when planning your sales presentation? Do you know if your prospect prefers correspondence via email, texting, face-to-face or telephone? Is your prospect a 35,000 foot view person or do they like to know every detail?

11.  Set high goals. People with the highest goals tend to achieve the most. Are your goals challenging and motivating? Do you even set your own goals or do you simply take what’s given to you by your boss?

12.  Be persistent. Four or five years ago it would take an average of seven calls to connect with a new prospect. Now it’s a safe bet to say that it can take as many as twelve or more, just to make that first contact. You need to be diligent and persistence.

13.  Forge relationships. Developing and maintaining great relationships with prospects, customers, friends and other people in your network is one activity that will ALWAYS pay off.

14.  Show respect. I have seen, firsthand, how poorly some sales people treat gatekeepers and receptionists and it always disappoints me because I am a firm believer in treating people with respect and dignity. Yes, that person may only be the receptionist in your eyes but they often hold the key to the Presidential Suite. Treat them accordingly.

If you consistently apply and execute these strategies you will definitely see an increase in your sales.

Kelley Robertson is president of the Robertson Training Group. Kelley is the author of two sales books, Stop, Ask & Listen-Proven Sales Techniques to Turn Browsers into Buyers and The Secrets of Power Selling. Both sales training books provide practical insights to improving your sales results. Visit his website at www.fearless-selling.ca or call him 905 633 7750.

 

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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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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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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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