Apr 272017
 

Dan of Sales Talent Agency shared a report, which is worth reading for sales and sales management professionals. Sales Talent Agency is a recruitment agency and, as such, is obviously self-interested and the report is part of the company’s marketing collateral. With that said, the report is the result of a survey of 4,860 sales professionals from a range of experiences, industries and regions which makes it useful. What is more – importantly for Canadian readers – it is Canada-focused, which makes the report valuable to those north of North America given the scarcity of Canada-only research.

salary guide Canada

There is a host of interesting information in the report.

  • How much sales professionals make given their years of experience,
  • Job titles are rather meaningless (and so Sales Talent Agency has gone further and asked whether folks manage anyone or not) as many directors and vice-presidents do not nowadays,
  • There is information regarding what salespeople want (which matches previous reporting on this website),
  • There is information on job stability,
  • 70% of respondents felt their targets are achievable,
  • Et cetra.

How much sales folk get paid is important to salespersons, sales managers and compensation and human resource management. Compensation, however, is one of the many levers of motivation and partnership and the report touches on that as well.

The Sales Talent Agency Sales Salary Guide Is Here.

Do you see yourself in the report?

STA Salary Guide

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: large discrepancy in what companies pay salespeople of the same experience in base salary based on how recently someone entered the organization’s workforce. Internal promotions receiving 4% raise per year, while new employee arriving 20% ahead is illogical.

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Apr 102017
 

My friend Chris texted me a picture of the The Boss Baby from the movie of the same name that is in cinemas right now. The baby’s line “… Cookies are for closers.” is a reference to Alec Baldwin’s character from the seminal ‘sales’ film Glengarry Glen Ross of course. In that film Alec Baldwin and a host of sales characters interact in a real-estate sales office as the company goes about countering slumping sales with, er, leads and, cough cough, some motivation.

Boss baby

So, need some sales inspiration? Need to find the tip of the spear of materialism? Need to laugh at the exaggerations, salesmanship, hyperbole or incredible lines? Here is a list, in order of release, for you salespeople and observers of salespeople.

These films should mostly focus on the ‘sale’ rather than are about salesperson’s lives and other endeavours, but included are films that at least delivered a good line or two.

Now don’t go watching these! Instead, get out there and sell something!!
1. Tin Men (1987)
2. Cadillac Man (1990)
3. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
4. Jerry Maguire (1996)
5. Boiler Room (2000)
6. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
7. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009)
8. Love & Other Drugs (2010)
9. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
10. Unfinished Business (2015)

Let me know what I missed.

*Things That Need To Go Away: High-pressure aggressive sales (which thankfully is as obsolete as the cathode ray tube television).

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Mar 142017
 

Unless one is dealing with an invading army (whose soldiers have eyes that emit their version of LASER no less!), being ignored is rarely a nice experience. It makes one feel unwanted, rejected and base – all the qualities that evolution has taught humans to dislike. Some may be more immune to the negative reactions that come with it than others. Most persons, however, would regardless take it badly.

Every salesperson has experienced it time and time again. The customer who does not reply. The prospect who does not follow up subsequent to a first conversation. The follow-up call that does not happen. The e-mail goes unreturned.

It is a sad reality that whether out of carelessness, a lack of class, being busy, politeness or pressures at work many sales e-mails go unreturned. It is ironic because promptly responding or a firm ‘no’ would go a long way towards saving everyone time, but alas let’s not launch into a discussion of logic and illogic here.

Instead, let’s look at what to do in such situations.

First and foremost, you have read it here before. Make you communication relevant and personalized. If you have not already then read this. Spending time researching calls and e-mails is better and more conducive to success than the alternative. It is ultimately a time-saver to invest time to look for relevant and applicable information.

Secondly, every salesperson should be frank enough to disqualify as well as qualify his or her customers and pipeline. Time and resources need to be spent on productive work and not folk who are uninterested or inattentive. This is not an invitation to rely exclusively on inbound marketing, but rather insistence to deal in reality and productivity. If you have more good leads than bad or more leads than time then you are in a good situation to execute on this advice anyway.

Thirdly, if the salesperson knows a game is being played the best advice is to not play. After all, one is not gamed if he or she is not playing. Focus should be on productive work. At the very least, one has detached himself from the negative effects of this behaviour.

With that said, here are several bullets based on my experience that will help with the response rate.

  • Be prompt. Respond right away to inbound calls, e-mails and leads. First, this in and out of itself increases one’s chances, but also if multiple follow-ups and attempts are needed the first one was the aforementioned. Importantly, per Insidesales.com, “the odds of qualifying a lead in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times and from 5 minutes to 10 minutes the dial to qualify odds decrease 4 times.”
  • Do leave a voice-mail. Voice-mails are likely retained whereas missed calls are not. Hearing your name and reason for call also begins the process of awareness.
  • Unanswered e-mails require follow-up. No, not of that kind. Of this kind: forward your last e-mail and keep it as short as possible. Exclude a salutation and signature and ask a simple follow-up question. The details and explanation are in the original e-mail that are being forwarded.

“Want to follow up in case this e-mail got buried.”

“What would be a good next step?”

“Is there some way to find out if this is a priority?”

That is it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Sales And Customers Working Against Each Others’ Interests. Collaboration, Service and Honesty Wins.

 

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Nov 252016
 

Forecast accuracy is a touchy subject at most companies and among most sales leaders.

Most sales professionals have the same attitude towards forecasting as a cat does towards a swim in the sea or a diner has towards a rat in his soup. Being held down to a commitment is a part of it. Spending valuable time in a CRM, or would-be, system that outwardly does not provide value to a salesperson’s bottom-line is the major anathema to salespeople. This is difficult argument to overcome because the manner in which CRM/spreadsheets/forecasting tools are (mis)used at companies leaves a lot of room for criticism of the kind. However, when done correctly systematic forecasting is useful not to mention mandatory.

sqkjxvlue3q-cedric-servay

Photo Credit: Cedric Servay

The stock method of forecasting at companies is:

  • Tally the total amount of forecast dollars available. This is typically done for the Quarter and, by extension, for the year, although a company like Salesforce, for example, forecasts monthly.
  • Review which percentage of forecast dollars in similar previous timeframes ended up as sales wins. For example, if 25% of the forecast amount from previous year’s same quarter ended up being a completed transaction then the same ratio should be applied again. Note the opportunity to explore ways to improve the ratio.
  • A thorough review should be applied on top of the above pattern to special deals in the pipeline. That is, if there is a particularly big deal in the pipeline or a especially large miss is occurring in the forecast timeframe then those have to be distinctly taken into account. These one-time ‘events’ need to be taken into consideration exceptionally as they are exceptional to the pattern. Sales managers need to have a bracket for what makes this deal ‘special’ within the context of the company’s average deal size.
Photo Credit Modestas Urbonas

Photo Credit Modestas Urbonas

Special ‘events’ or deals which need added consideration include:

  • Special deals in the pipeline (as described above)
  • Extraordinary misses in the pipeline (as described above)
  • A special scrutiny of the Top 10 of the biggest deals being forecast
  • A special scrutiny of the deals in pipe for the Top 10 biggest existing customers for the territory
  • A special scrutiny of the deals in pipe for the Top 10 biggest customers by company size for the territory
  • Deals which are considered won already although are not officially booked yet.

 

With the process outlined there are several undertakings that would complement the above and should be mandatory.

  1. Everyone needs to be trained on the system and shown how the calculations are rolled up. One should not assume everyone knows, or can figure out, how to use Excel/Google docs/CRM/methodology of choice. Speaking the same language is a must if the company is to work in lockstep. Define and explain your stages, nomenclature and its prerequisites and, if using a tool like Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce.com, Sage CRM, Maximizer, etc., use the out-of-the-box templates and definitions as much as possible. Forecasts need to be a lot more science and a lot less art.
  2. Consistency wins. For the sake of credibility and not sending a message of pointlessness stick with the regimen and enforce it for the medium-term. It will become a matter of lost authority if the company asks for a work and time commitment with forecasting and does not follow through. The sales team needs to routinize the updating of the system.
  3. The process and time spent on the above need to be justified and explained. Having a clear sales forecast enables sales managers to report accurately and be accountable to the company, but also it must be a tool in identifying where and whom requires assistance. That is the personal aspect of forecast accuracy and it is very important. Forecasting is ultimately ironic if it does not help sellers sell to buyers and does not identify buying patterns and cycles. Please read that last sentence again. The macro picture is one of a company which knows, understands and addresses its pipeline and can make better decisions towards its own fiscal health, which helps everybody within the ship.
  4. Think about incentives to motivate the sales team to adopt and maintain the routine. How about 5% of the sales team’s variable depending on forecast thoroughness and maintenance?
  5. It also needs mentioning that companies should automate this process as much as possible. Given how it is a mostly inward looking process and is not adding direct value to customers liberating sales teams’ time to spend more time on customers is a bright idea.

 

And here is the most important thought in all of this to emphasize: the above must not come at the expense of team morale and a customer-focused sales process. Salespersons and sales managers cannot get lost focusing on the above at the expense what is more important: working with customers.

Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy

Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy

*Things That Need To Go Away: New Forecasting Process Or Tools That Are Here Today; Gone Tomorrow

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Jul 222016
 

How many lies, half-truths and jibs do you recognize? They are everywhere, right?

big Mac corporate lies Trump Lies

Many people will likely consider themselves smart enough to spot the above. What about sales-related information though?

Do you enjoy learning from the various statistics and infographics on sales you find on the Internet in places like LinkedIn, Twitter or sales blogs? Do you know anyone who takes these for granted, ‘likes’ them or quotes them? The folks in charge of the Internet sites have as much inclination to check facts as Pizza Hut has to supply you and I with nutrition.

One of the books I read years ago, which still sits on my shelf, was Trust Us We’re Experts! The book narrates real-life stories of experts and so-called scientists whose claim are factually inaccurate and whose facts are anything but. Think that is bad?

Here is something worse: when the experts and data sources do not even exist… they are all made up… and people like you and I rely on them, quote them and internalize them. Look at this one:

false-sales-information

The problem? The source for the depicted ‘data’ in unknown and likely non-existent. To start, National Sales Executive Association does not exist. Go ahead and check it.

So, the next time someone disseminates one of these icons with many neat and packaged data bites question the information and ask the person to take a second look. At the very least, we will all have more free time to learn something factual instead of wasting time being fed myths.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Quoting And Reposting Infographics And Articles With Dubious Source Material

 

 

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Jun 112016
 

Fear sells. We know that much.

What else sells? You might think ‘competence sells’ or ‘return on investment sells’ or ‘likability sells’ or even ‘fun sells,’ et cetra. However, the question of the day is whether insulting a customer sells? What about boring a customer? Does that sell?

Take a look at the following videos. In the first, a man who appears to have been in business a number of years (success?) utilizes something he calls G.U.T.S.* Sales Training Method or the *Great Un-Orthodox-Un-Traditional Techniques Of Selling Success to insult the customer into buying from him.

In this video, the world’s most humanlike automaton cranks out calls at rates that would put those embarrassingly useless automated dialing computers to shame. Is he.. could he… be successful?

What do you think?

*Things That Need To Go Away: Calling Lying, Half-Truths, Fudging Or intimidating ‘Sales.’

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Jun 082016
 

In an earlier article I wrote, “Analyse your expenditure and revenue sources. Do some customers/vendors/partners cost you more than they bring in? Now is the time to discover them and ditch them. Be brave about it.”

It is a simple concept. Business is in it for the revenue and, more importantly, profitability. It is not about the sale. It is about the profitable sale. If you agree then how do companies come across unprofitable customers? The customers who make more demands than they are worth, the customers who rather bankrupt their supplier than establish a partnership, the customers who find success mutually exclusive…

There is no one to blame, but us, the sellers, the sales managers, the shortsighted companies who are the enablers of the shortsighted customer.

How does one end up there? First and foremost, the culprit is selling on price. When a customer has nothing to differentiate a vendor on then the easiest fallback is on the vendor’s price. As discussed here often there are many other differentiators you should sell on – service, after-sale service, education, reliability, industry knowledge, you!, etc. – and if you do and the customer is uninterested then you have reached the definition of the undesirable customer.

You might have come across the following anecdote about a company’s sales force:

CFO: What happens if we train them and they leave? CEO: What happens if we don’t and they stay?

Let’s turn that around to customers:

CEO: What happens if we do not discount and they go somewhere else? CFO: What happens if we do and they become our customers?

Companies need to shape up, get their chins up, become confident in their product or service and get a differentiator and acquire customers based on it. Otherwise, the cycle perpetuates itself. Is it a pipedream? Perhaps, but companies possibly have no choice either as natural selection will force their hands? Companies selling on price and acquiring customers at any cost are bound to go out of business.

Ask yourself: how are you serving your company by perpetuating a precedent-setting low, or no, profit transaction?

Then ask yourself: how are you serving your company by not understanding your customer and not articulating yourself based on it?

bad idea

Related articles:

Myth: Customers Value (The cheapest) Price Above Anything Else

Of haggling, discounting and price pressures

Not Competing On Price

*Things That Need To Go Away: Sales Managers Who Pressure Salesperson To Close The Sale At Any Cost And Salespersons Who Pressure Sales Managers To Close The Sale At Any Cost

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Jun 052016
 

Does anyone need reminding that when we say a successful salesperson should have attitude, we are not taking about bad attitude. We are talking about something else.

Sales is there to align customers’ stated or latent needs with goods or services.

Here comes another pushy, rude and annoying salesperson who is doing exactly what gives the worst of the profession a bad name.

Vacuum salesman stays until 1am, leaves pile of dust

Assertiveness and persistence win. They should be coupled with the abovementioned alignment. Stunts like the one pulled by the vacuum salesperson are a black mark and unfortunately hallmark of someone who does not have a good product and is not expecting to return or repeat business.

facts

*Things That Need To Go Away: Pushy Salesperson Who Lie

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May 252016
 

On May 18th Bloomberg ran an article about Atlassian Software, whose sales last year topped $320 million and may reach $450 million this year, “without a single salesperson on the payroll.”

Here is the article: This $5 Billion Software Company Has No Sales Staff

This was not the first article out there on the topic and Atlassian. Others had also written about the company and its business model. An analyst also offers a cautionary note: “Though Atlassian counts more than half of the Fortune 500 as customers, no single customer accounts for more than 1% of revenue. In other words, no single client pays Atlassian more than $3.5M.” That suggests the company is hitting a ceiling in how much revenue it can derive from its customers.

This is not a rebuttal or an article that is designed to be contrarian. Like many other people I read the article with interest and appreciated a company whose product’s name, project management software Jira, is better known than the corporation behind it. Think Kleenex and Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc. or Popsicles and Unilever. In today’s modern society, everyone and everything has to be justified and that includes sales professionals.

The article does note that the low sales (and marketing) expenditure came about accidentally when the company received an order off its fax machine. However, reading the article one could read into a little bit of a different story.

The company’s co-CEO states, customers “much rather be able to find the answers on the website.” That is, of course, much easier said than done. I am not referring to the power of search technology. I am referring to the power of finding, reading, understanding and not having any questions.

The company advertises. One expenditure cited is “mostly on ads.”

Another expenditure, and this is important so pay attention, is “payments to partners,” which is described as “one-fifth of that” presumably referring to the software firm’s revenue. Would it be wrong to assume partners exist to resell, the company has a channel as a model for leverage and scale and these partners have professional sales teams?

However, what was most interesting were the quotes from several executives like president Jay Simons who is quoted as saying, “lower prices and more investment in research and development to refine software, making it easier to try, understand, and purchase.” One cannot help, but notice that he, and others, are doing some selling here. He sounds like a good salesperson for his firm, doesn’t he? … Or is it just me?

What do you think?

*Things That Need To Go Away: Not Counting Public Relations, Media, Marketing Or Partners As Sales

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May 232016
 

Request For Proposals are document vehicles through which private and public organizations procure goods and services. The process to use an RFP, or its variants namely Request For Quotation (RFQ) and Request For Information (RFI), are occasionally mandated by organizational policy and more often simply used to ensure the issuer receives the best and most appropriate goods and services from bidders at the most favourable terms. More completely, a RFx ensures there is clear communication between the two, or more, parties.

Naturally, the system is not fully efficient or fool proof. Additionally, resources are expended on the creation, consumption and reaction phases of a RFx. This is true to such an extent that organizations have dedicated units to creating and to answering these documents. Moreover, the process is developed to such an extent that there are consultants who write these things for organizations, sell pre-written and pre-compiled ones or websites that centralize the repository for such documentation.

Suppliers, however, do not typically like these documents. In sales circles there is little confidence that these procurement vehicles lead to business. Anecdotally, the success rate is low.

  • For one, there is nothing stopping organizations from not moving forward. There is no obligation by companies to do anything.
  • Secondly, the very fact that many organizations are bound to issuing a RFx may mean that, while a supplier has already been unofficially nominated, the buyer still has to go through the motions.
  • The most obvious reason, and the third, is that in a game to stack vendors the winning provider may have little profitability or joy to proceed. Indeed, there are several books out there on how to avoid, ignore or respond to an RFP (if one must).

No surprise then that many vendors have stopped responding to these documents. The manpower to entertain these documents and the payoff is considered unjustified.

RFP process

However, there is a time when you and your organization decide to play the odds and respond to an RFx despite the three points above.

Here are tips to increase your chances of winning the business:

  1. First and foremost be truthful in your response. It is important to describe your capabilities and qualification accurately and systematically. This not only mitigates future problems – one of which could be legal –but also allows you and the organization to focus on what you do best. The law of comparative advantages certainly applies here – not to mention your eternal soul should you believe in that sort of thing.
  2. As mentioned, sales organizations typically insist on having input into the document and its creation or having a level of prior relationship before engaging. Lead an honest internal discussion on your chances, your cost (time and money) to participate in the process and estimated profit you may derive. Regular sales factors like likelihood a solution will be adopted and a set deadline for a sale being present also apply. Is there potential additional business? Do you have the scope to offer an elastic response, which gives you and the buyer several cost, material and scope options thus increasing the odds that one of your solutions will be adopted? Speaking of which, should you be the winner your offered price will not be the accepted price. Expect to face price negotiations. Have you bracketed if needed?
  3. Think about the problem you are solving for the customer. This is a different proposition than answering the document point by point. As experts in the field, it is necessary to express your solutions and bring your know-how to bear in addition to solely addressing the questions posed. This includes understanding your audience. Is the end ‘customer’ technical? Is the end customer the manufacturing manager? Is there a financial audience that will review your proposal? Are you speaking their language?
  4. Do not be shy about selling. The sales process did not start or end with the receipt of a RFP or delivery to the customer of a RFI. In fact, sellers are often asked to present on their proposals and answer follow-up questions. It is a must that you explain what you can do, better and above and beyond the competition and how your experience and subject-matter expertise can contribute in addition to what is obvious and written in the document. Remember that your number one competitor is not your competitor, but the standard do-nothing laziness. This does not mean you have license to ignore your closest industry competitor. It is necessary to contrast yourself and to do so explicitly. Do you have differentiators that you should state even if you are not being asked explicitly to do so?
  5. Most obviously, understand the rules. There are typically pre-deadline Q&A sessions, conference calls or information sessions. You may be surprised to know how many times organizations are disqualified due to procedural errors, mismatched expectations or prohibited stipulated criteria (see ‘elasticity’ in point II). Spending some time on this factor saves time, regret and even schadenfreude later on.

 

On the flip side, should you decide you do not wish to proceed explain it to document issuer within the parameters of your organizational context, offer your free additional consulting and do express your wish that you work together in the future instead.

*Things That Need To Go Away: Organizations picking a supplier and subsequently issuing a RFP.

RFP

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