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What’s Holding Your Sales Team Back from Closing More Sales?

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”  –Mark Twain

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from CEO’s and business owners about their sales efforts is that there are too many instances where opportunities on their sales team’s pipelines never turn into closed business on a timely basis. And too many times, it never converts at all.

Like Twain’s observation above, a small difference can make all the difference in the world. So in the world of sales, what’s the difference between a ‘qualified’ opportunity and a ‘not qualified’ opportunity? What process should a salesperson follow to determine whether a potential sale is ‘real’?

Here is where using a consultative sales approach can be invaluable.

A qualified sales opportunity would be the result of a salesperson having a conversation with the decision maker that was as deep and wide as possible.

A qualified sales opportunity would be the result of the salesperson asking many questions and employing great listening skills.

A qualified sales opportunity would be the result of a discussion of all the issues, opportunities, and implications facing the prospect.

A qualified sales opportunity would be the result of knowing what people inside the prospect organization would be impacted and how.

A qualified sales opportunity would be the result of knowing all the potential outcomes the prospect hopes to achieve.

And from the standpoint of a formalized, structured sales process, a qualified sales opportunity would be the result of knowing the prospect’s reasons for buying, uncovering an actual budget and learning the decision-making process.

The endpoint of this consultative conversation is a qualified prospect. Anything short of that and they’re still a suspect.

Keep in mind that when it comes to the skill set of converting predicted sales into closed deals in an appropriate time frame, a primary area to focus on is the development of your team’s qualifying skills.

High-achieving salespeople aren’t necessarily great ‘closers’ in the Glengarry Glen Ross sense of the term. Rather, high-achieving salespeople are terrific qualifiers!

Want to know if your next sales candidate has the qualifying skills to be a top performer? Go to our Free Resources page for a free trial of the world’s leading sales specific, predictive sales assessment available. Voted Top Sales & Marketing’s Gold Medal Winner for the fourth consecutive year!

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Webinar – “The 5 Hidden Factors That Determine the Fate of Every Sales Force”

 

“The 5 Hidden Factors That Determine the Fate of Every Sales Force”

In this fast paced informative presentation, Dave Kurlan, CEO of Objective Management, will explain how each of these 5 factors plays an important part in determining whether or not your salespeople will perform to potential–and whether or not you can do anything about it.

Register today for “The 5 Hidden Factors That Determine the Fate of Every Sales Force,” hosted by Dave Kurlan, Founder and CEO of Objective Management Group.

This LIVE webinar will be held on Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 11:00am-12:00pm USA Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5).

REGISTER NOW

As a result of watching this webinar, company presidents, CEO”s and business owners will gain insights into their sales force that they can act on and implement immediately!

 

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“When Will This Deal Close?”

All sales leaders would love to have a crystal ball that would accurately predict incoming sales revenue. Too often sales management is left wondering at month’s end where the promised sales are from the sales team that said it would come in and then failed to appear…again.

If we looked at this company’s sales pipeline, odds are this is what we would see:

a.  Not enough new opportunities

b.  Predicted closing that get delayed

c.  Not enough of the right kind of opportunities

d.  Opportunities that seem to be stuck and never move to the next stage

From working with companies over the last 20 years, I can also say with confidence what I won’t see with this company–a formal, structured, optimized sales process. Would you be surprised to learn that 91% of all companies suffer from this condition? And here’s the impact:

1.  The company loses its most powerful tool to accurately forecast sales and drive profitable revenue through its sales pipeline in a realistic time frame.

2.  Salespeople can’t effectively qualify their opportunities. They can only go with their gut or ‘quesstimate’ when  asked by management  whether their deals will close–and when they don’t close, offer up the same tired excuses.

3.  Sales management can’t effectively coach the sales team using a ‘common sales language’ and thus hold them  to a formal standard of selling strategies and behaviors which sends the underlying message to the salespeople:  “This is the way we do it at this company.”

4.  Research from the CSO Insights organization in 2012 revealed that less than 50% of forecasted deals actually were won. About 27% were lost to competition and about 26% resulted in no buying activity at all. Without a formal, structured, optimized sales process, it’s difficult for management to prioritize valuable resources to pursue deals that will actually happen and the company has a good chance to win.

A formal, structured, optimized sales process should have these two qualities:   First, it must have defined steps that are clearly performed and, when executed correctly, provide expected results and second, it must have a concrete method of measuring progress made.

A well trained and well coached sales force, following a this type of sales process will see these results:

  1. Shorter sales cycles
  2. Higher conversion rates
  3. More repeat business
  4. Higher margins
  5. More accurate forecasting

Finally, for a little bit of fun, watch this clip from “The Italian Job” and see a structured, optimized ‘process’ come to life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Underdog Selling

On October 3, 1964 a cartoon series debuted on NBC called Underdog, a show  about a humble dog, who when trouble threatened, transformed into a superhero and save the damsel in distress. The well-known character actor, Wally Cox supplied the voices for both characters.

Why am I describing a television show that ran over 40 years ago? For this reason—many companies are competing in the marketplace today and living at the “corner of ignorance and bliss”. They don’t realize that they are ‘underdogs’ in their industry and need to be selling their products or services in a totally different manner.

If only they could leap tall buildings in a single bound and save the day by defeating the ‘villain’ (the competition) and save the damsel (the sale). But they can’t.

Why not? Because they’re not following a predictable, optimized, systematic sales process when they go to market.  As a result, their sales pipelines are inaccurate, contain poorly qualified ‘hot deals’ and they’re not making their sales numbers. A well-designed sales process would take into account their underdog status and allow them to leverage it to make the sale.

How do you know if your company is the underdog?

If you are selling really expensive products or services, you might be an underdog.

If you’re not the market leader, you might be an underdog.

If you have higher priced products or services than the competition, you might be an underdog.

If you have a story to tell to the attention of your market, you might be an underdog.

If you have a new product or technology, you might be an underdog.

If you are a new company or brand, you might be an underdog.

If any of the above conditions are true for your selling organization, it’s time to put on your superhero cape and invest the time in fine tuning your team’s sales process.  Where to start? My previous posts herehere and here would be great places to begin.

Good luck!

 

 

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No More Hiring Mistakes

As the economy continues to slowly improve, we’re seeing more and more companies in the mode of hiring new salespeople. However, it seems many companies are again making the same hiring mistakes as before.

The biggest mistake they’re making is not having a formal, structured sales recruiting process they can follow to minimize or eliminate bad hires. Instead, they’re using the same process that their human resources department is using to hire non-sales people. What they haven’t discovered yet is why hiring salespeople must be different… and what ‘different’ must look like to find, attract and hire  high performing salespeople.

Let’s talk about one part of an optimal sales recruiting process that most hiring companies get wrong–the creation of an ideal candidate profile.

Typically, they will put together a job description which lists all the responsibilities of the position and post an ad on a job board that describes the company and the opportunity. Can you see the influence of HR here? This is exactly backwards of how to go about it. Instead, a profile should be developed that describes the successful candidate along with the necessary requirements for the role.

Here are a few examples:

If the hiring company’s salespeople call on prospect CEO’s, a requirement of prior success of getting to the executive level in targeted accounts should be in the candidate profile.

If the company’s salespeople encounter heavy competition in their marketplace, a requirement of prior success in selling against competition should be in the profile.

If a company sells a product or service that prospects don’t think they need or want, their salespeople will face major resistance from prospects. A requirement of successfully dealing with resistance and still getting the business should be in the profile.

These are only a few examples of how the correct requirements are developed in order to design an ideal candidate profile. It’s a cliche but if you don’t know what a successful sales candidate looks like, how will you recognize them when you look for them.

Once a hiring company has a clear ‘picture’ (actually it’s written out) of what a successful hire looks like, now they can write the ad that attracts those candidates to enter their hiring funnel for screening and interviewing. And if the profile and ad are done correctly, these candidates will be of higher quality, reducing the hiring timeline and increasing the efficiency of the process.

To find out what your company’s hiring mistakes have cost, go here and use the Hiring Mistake Calculator and find out.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Which One of Us is Elvis?”

This weekend I heard an interesting story that reminded me of a particular sales challenge that almost all salespeople encounter.

The story comes from a podcast interview with Peter Noone, lead singer of the ’60’s musical group, Herman’s Hermits (I’m dating myself with this reference). Noone had an opportunity to meet Elvis Presley, his band,  his manager Colonel Tom Parker and heard many interesting stories about the ‘King’.

Here’s the story–In the process of putting together the music for the film, “King Creole”, Presley and one of his band members got into an argument about how to play a certain song. The disagreement went back and forth for awhile and then in Noone’s telling of the story, Presley asked the band member a question–“Which one of us is Elvis?” End of argument.

With six words, Elvis established who was in control of the conversation and who had the authority over the decision on how to play the piece of music.

This anecdote got me to thinking about how salespeople react to prospects who, with a heavy hand, take control of the sales call, dictate the conversation and turn the salesperson into a facilitator instead of a consultative seller and advisor.

How many of us have been in a sales meeting with a prospect with a ‘strong’ personality who has it all worked out in their minds what it is they think they want from us and when we’ve tried to slow them down and employ a consultative approach, they proceeded to attempt to bowl us over with a “Which one of us is Elvis?” move? I would guess we’ve all been there. But the key question is which salespeople are capable of defending themselves from this type of prospect, keeping control of the sales process and still getting the outcome from the call that they want?

Looking at our data, we know that 62% of salespeople will not be able to deal effectively with this challenge and will default to the facilitator role. They aren’t able to push back and challenge these ‘driver’ personalities and regain control. Their need for approval prevents them from doing this. Need for approval is defined as the salesperson’s need to be liked, the need to fit in, the need for ‘strokes’ from people with whom they deal. It becomes a problem when a salesperson’s need for approval is stronger than their need to close the sale. They will avoid saying or doing those things which, in their mind, would change how the prospect feels about them. This includes, but is not limited to tough questions, legitimate confrontation and the potential inability to handle rejection or a ‘no’.

So if you recognize some of your salespeople as having need for approval, what should you do?

Step One – Evaluate your salespeople with a sales specific assessment that will determine who on your team has need for approval and   how severe it is.

Step Two – Use the assessment results to craft a coaching plan for your salesperson to help them fix their need for approval.

Step Three – Conduct a disciplined, consistent coaching process with your salesperson.

An important reminder–when coaching a salesperson who has a severe case of need for approval, be patient. Very patient. Need for approval is the second most powerful sales weaknesses we find in salespeople so it takes a minimum of six months to see improvement.

 

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Will Your New Sales Hire Succeed…or Fail?

According to Forbes, businesses in the U.S. spend close to $72 billion each year on recruiting services and products, yet 46 percent of new hires fail within the first 18 months of employment. Wow!

If you have ever hired a salesperson who didn’t work out – even though you were sure they would – take a minute, click here and complete the Sales Hiring Mistake Calculator worksheet to determine what these hiring mistakes are costing your company.

And if you’re thinking of adding new salespeople this year, make a vow not to repeat these hiring mistakes. Then contact us – we can help! Our clients have been benefiting for 20 years from using the Objective Management Group Sales Candidate Assessment to hire stronger salespeople…who won’t fail.

 

 

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Question, Questions…and More Questions

Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’     –Charles M. Schulz

If you’re like me, you’ve probably gotten a few chuckles over the years from the comic strip Peanuts by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. The above quote illustrates a great point about where salespeople are today when it comes to developing one of the key competencies of consultative selling–asking good, effective questions. The data I’ve seen tells the story—they’re not improving. Go here to look at it for yourself.

High-performing consultative sellers are good listeners. They’re able to ask intelligent questions that help prospect recognize their compelling reasons to buy, and in the process, differentiate themselves from the competition.

And it all starts with asking great questions.

If you’re a sales leader (or a business owner who serves as their own sales leader) and you’re in the process of developing your sales team, growing them with a desire for them to be stronger in the sales process, listen for the quality of the questions your salespeople are asking when they meet with prospects or customers.

Are their questions open-ended that move the conversation forward or lead to a ‘dead-end’?

Are their questions designed to encourage the prospect to talk or do they result in one word answers?

Are their questions delivered in a manner that’s warm, friendly, conversational or do they sound like part of an interrogation?

And hopefully, you haven’t heard these two sales ‘duds”:

“Are you happy with your current supplier?”

“What keeps you up at night?”

Wherever your team’s skill level is when it comes to asking great sales questions, don’t ignore the importance of sharpening their skills even further and taking them to the next level of proficiency. If you want to shorten your company’s sales cycle, improve the quality of your sales pipeline, lower your selling costs, this is one of the best areas  upon which to focus your attention and efforts.

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Shortening Your Sales Cycle

When I meet with company presidents, CEO’s and business owners, the most common frustrations I hear from them is “Our sales opportunities never seem to close ‘on time’ if they close at all!” or “Our sales pipeline is full but nothing seems to be closing!”

There are many reasons as to why sales organizations are experiencing these problems and among the biggest is that often they’re not using a defined, optimized sales process. Would you be surprised to learn that 91% of all companies don’t use a common sales process?

There’s more bad news–if you’re looking to shorten your team’s sales cycle, it’s not enough to have a defined sales process . You also need to have salespeople with the correct blend of skills and sales DNA to execute your sales process effectively.

Now for some good news–there is a method to determine whether your team has what it takes to bring sales through the door in a timely, cost-effective manner and it doesn’t involve guess work or using a crystal ball. By using the science behind the 26 questions we can answer for clients, it’s now possible know the strengths and weaknesses of any sales organization and whether they’re capable of shortening their sales cycle.

For a look at the ‘science’ and some great examples of why sales cycles are so long, go here and read the article by Dave Kurlan, CEO of Objective Management Group, at his award winning blog.

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Hello World!

After a little time off, my blog is back–it’s now part of Exsell Inc.’s newly redesigned website.

We’re proud of the new site and the updated ‘look’ and hope you like it as well! Check out the Free Resources page and take advantage of the offers you’ll find there.

Be sure to come back often to this blog to read my timely, insightful posts on best practices regarding sales process, sales management, sales hiring and sales coaching.

And if you would be so kind, please like us on Facebook! (I think that’s the first time I’ve ever used those words in a blog post–you can teach an older sales dog new tricks I guess!)

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