Sales Talent- The Horn of Plenty

Be afraid, be very afraid of what you wish for. 
Ok, perhaps a little melodramatic, but seriously, as the economy begins to pick up so will the inevitable hiring.  This is where caution needs to be exercised.  I see planning taking place in all industries and in all different sizes of companies.  This planning is turning executives into “wide-eyed-Christmas-morning-children” just thinking about the level and sheer number of top-grade sales talent presently in the job pool.

The fallout of the economic recession left extremely talented sales professionals in one of several states of flux.  Either currently out of work, doing less-than-their-potential, or covertly looking for the next position.  Either way, senior sales people are out there.  The rub is, companies are looking to acquire this talent, yet they do not have the “infrastructure” to support this level of talent.  The opportunity to obtain this talent has never been better, and quite possibly will we never see this plethora of talent sitting idle again.

Sales managers coming out of regular or special planning sessions need to understand how extraordinary this level of talent is and how to quickly adjust to accommodate them.  If you made the commitment to raise the level of sales standard in your company by hiring the upper echelon, then you need to understand the following basics:

  1. What makes them different
  2. What motivates them
  3. How to interact with them

Understand that personalities at this level are mostly of the “A” type and nothing should be done to counter what works for them.  After all, you are looking for the best, right?  Doing so could signal an implosion of success and leave you as a manager holding the bag that just exploded and wondering what happened.

Several years ago, I worked for one of the biggest software companies in the world.  This company had a HUGE pool of top-level salespeople.  Yet, they did not possess the infrastructure to guarantee their salespeople’s success.  Why?  Because they didn’t understand the complexities of this group, nor what it took to support this level of talent.  At the time, most other companies didn’t either; and still do not.  The damage this did was to put the mark of “unsuccessfulness” on these people.  There were those that were good and did well, but there were a lot more that didn’t fair as well through no fault of their own.  They were just as talented.  The reason: No SupportThe company basically said here’s your territory…go get’em! The lesson learned was a hard one for every software company at the time.  The bottom line is they gave sales and market share away and never knew it.

So what does this all mean?  The level and number of talented individuals in the labor pool right now is enormous. Not every company needs this level of talent.  If yours doesn’t, then don’t drool over something you don’t need.  If your company does, this use this list as a starting point for successful onboarding.

  • If your company’s culture will not or cannot support these people, then do not hire them until it can.
  • Does your sales model support this level of talent?
    • lead development
    • no overlap of territory
    • clearly defined compensation model
  • How are you going to measure success level?

These are just a very few considerations you must think about.  The biggest and most overlooked is lead generation.  Let’s face the fact here; these people are going to command $6-figure base salaries.  Do you want to pay this kind of salary for someone to cold call or close business?  I would hope the latter, but you might be surprised to learn some managers today don’t understand this logic.  If you don’t understand this, then you don’t need this level of talent…period!!

If you find this useful, Contact Me or please leave a comment. If you have a Twitter account and found this article useful, it would be much appreciated if you would retweet this at the beginning of the article!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

How Desperate Are You?–Part 2

In Part 1 I asked, if, as a salesperson you reacted to pressure by showing desperation.  In this the second and concluding part of the article I will address some additional techniques that should be used to thwart any form of desperation.

Some common “must have answers” for any sale should include the following:

  • Does a need really exist?
  • What are the business drivers and motives of this need?
  • Does a budget exist that supports these?
  • What is the timeline for purchase?
  • Do you have explicit knowledge of the buying process? (See the second bullet point)

Unless you know these, your process is flawed from the beginning and puts you at a disadvantage.  Once you arrive at a point in the selling process, a very valuable tool to differentiate yourself from the competition is to draft and write a deliverable document to the executives and team members.  This serves several purposes:  1) Furthers your relationship within the company (insider advantage), 2) Those that respond are usually your allies, 3) The deliverable usually triggers a reaction related to the competitor(s) and allows you to counteract early, 4) Achieve an upsell if the document widens the scope of the project, but only, if there is value and investment is justified.

If the sales process appears to be lagging for no apparent reason, simply ask if the urgency has diminished or that there was no real urgency in the first place.  This allows the opportunity for customer to reveal the timeline changes to you. It also gives you the opportunity to present real dollar figures about how much not buying your solution is costing them.

Another important area to be aware of is the CxO’s time frame.  In other words, if you truly have executive sponsorship and that relationship is solid, use that time line for planning, not yours.

Those that know me know I do not believe in unilateral concessions.  If your client starts early about concessions, push them off until the end.  A lot of salespeople see this as an opportunity for an early close; don’t fall for it, it is a trap. It also shows you to be desperate about the sale.  Set the stage early on concessions.  An article I wrote describes the re-negotiating tactics for those customers that demand concessions.

This last piece of advice to avoid projecting desperation is to fully plan for the type of negotiations you will encounter.  The scope of this article is not long enough to cover the topic, but make absolutely sure you understand what is and is not important to the client.  From that point you can plan your negotiation strategy.  It is unfortunate, but I have witnessed sales managers that have no clue about the art of negotiation.  It is not all about getting the sale, rather it is allowing them to buy and they walk away with the perception they have the best deal.

If you find this useful, Contact Me or please leave a comment. If you have a Twitter account and found this article useful, it would be much appreciated if you would retweet this at the beginning of the article!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Shoulda, Coulda, Gotta

This phrase caught my eye a few weeks ago when I saw it as a headline for an article on the U.S. debt.  I began to wonder if there was a message here for the sales community. Sure enough, there is..Voila, my next article! The original article addresses the realization that our elected officials are going to have to come to terms with the fiscal issues over the mounting federal debt.  So too does a salesperson have to address the issue of a mounting quota. The successful ones are those that plan for the triumphant climb to the top of Quota Mountain. Indeed, if you cannot climb you cannot be successful.

For those that are on a different fiscal calendar than others, that’s ok as the same advice applies here as well. Now that we are into the 2nd (calendar) quarter I ask:  “How was your first quarter?” Good, great? Ok, maybe you don’t need to read the rest of this article! If not, or the quarter just doesn’t seem to be getting enough steam to roll into the end of the year, maybe I can help.

Let’s back up to last year…Early 4th quarter to be exact. Did you do any planning for this year?

This is the first part I call Shoulda!
While I don’t like to dwell on things we can’t change, that doesn’t mean we cannot analyze for a better next quarter. Keep in mind the goal is to build for the end. Remember Quota Mountain? That’s the objective.  This is the time a lot of junior and some senior sales people as well, realize that hindsight is 20/20.  Here is some advice to keep from looking back over your shoulder.

  • Plan every step of your next move. Plan for what might not happen rather than what will.
  • Keep progress notes and use what works.
  • Look to your sales organization and the management to see what they expect you to use as best practices.

I like to take 5 top clients from the prior year and use the strategy that worked with them to align myself to the current list of clients.  This gives you a running head-start and allows you to change your tactics as needed.

The second part I call Coulda!
This part can also be considered a “looking over the shoulder” move.  If you lost a deal, the first thing one tends to say is “I coulda done that!”. If you have said this, then I have one question for you: “Why didn’t you?” Do not get into the mode of never wanting to take a chance if the decision is based on sound advice or information.

Strategically, you have to outsell you competition. It is not about what your widget does; it is about how that widget can solve a business roadblock.  Ask yourself this, “How important is my product to the strategy of the company I’m trying to sell to?” Can you answer this? No? Go match your pitch to the company’s goals.

Finally, the third part of this is what I call Gotta!
If you have arrived at the end of the year still doing the two parts above, Should & Coulda, you will undoubtedly fall into this third part.  The pressure in making your number is going to be intense and unless you are skilled at pulling a rabbit out of the hat, your chances of year-end success is minimal at best. Panic is going to bear down with the words “I Gotta make my numbers!” There isn’t much I can offer as advice at this point other than to say, “Don’t wind up here– “

I leave you with this quote from Erma Bombeck.  Apply it every day to your life as a salesperson. It will yield awesome results!

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.”


If you find this article of value please comment. Have a Twitter account? I would be most appreciative if you would retweet this at the top of the article!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Motivation and Sales Performance

Poor sales performance is often mistaken for a motivational issue.  A fine line exists between the two and unless you are an astute manager, you are going to miss the mark. image11

We first need to understand 5 myths of motivation. These are generally agreed upon as being the biggest culprits.

  1. Money as a motivator –if, as a manager, you believe this sits atop the list of motivators, seriously consider a refresher course in motivational management. Paying someone a hefty bonus will get the job done– but only short-term. This will be short-lived as the motivation wears off. Within itself, money has no sustaining power.
  2. Some people cannot be motivated –this unfortunately is a very common belief. Everyone, let me say it again, EVERYONE can be, and is motivated by something. What motivates one person does not necessarily motivate others. It is the manager’s job to know what motivates his team on an individual basis. As a manager, you need to match the motivators with the job responsibilities.
  3. People are happy and grateful to work here –not everyone is happy to work for your company and not everyone is grateful to be there. Assuming this attitude, as a manager, will just about guarantee you will lose your top [sales] talent. Non-engagement management usually accompanies this myth. You have to challenge, recognize and reward your team. The only way to be effective is by engaging your employees one-on-one.
  4. Believing you can motivate –no, no, no, you cannot and never will be able to motivate anyone, and neither can I. They must motivate themselves. Managers must find the factor(s) of motivation for each sales member as well as the environment that will enable employees to motivate themselves.
  5. Fear and intimidation motivate –for about 2 seconds! Beyond that, sales people begin to search for other positions. Unbelievably, some still manage by this course of action. Fear tears down any bridge of trust and cooperation between you and your team. It is a short-term compliance mechanism that breeds resentment. When you need to count on your sales team they will not be there for you!

Next are three perspectives (theories) on motivation directly related to employee performance. There are others, but I feel these to be most relevant. image12

  1. Expectancy theory suggests people are motivated to perform if they believe that their effort will result in high performance, that this performance will be highly rewarded.
  2. Equity theory is based on how fairly an employee perceives they are rewarded according to their contribution. If they are rewarded equally as compared to their fellow peers, then they judge they are being treated equally.
  3. Reinforcement perspective focuses on behavior that results in rewarding consequences, good and bad. There are several sub-categories that include positive, avoidance and punishment. It is simply a comparison between behavior and consequences.

There is no single solution to motivation, as no single theory should ever be used, but rather a combination of motivational techniques as appropriate.

So what does this all mean when it comes to the performance of your sales team? Your team must have four elements in order to have a positive performance.

  1. Motivation to do the job
  2. Ability to do the job
  3. The tools and information needed to do the job
  4. Reinforcement that their effort is wanted, needed and expected

Hope this message helps managers to increase sales. I also hope it enlightens members of your team as to what you deal with on a daily basis. Agree, disagree? Contact Me or leave a comment. If you have a Twitter account it would be much appreciated if you would retweet this at the top of the article!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Let the Customer Sell

Ever wonder how you could decrease your sales cycle and at the same time increase the probability of closure? I have a tip that might allow you to accomplish just that.

Forget about writing proposals that are haphazardly read, instead, engage the customer, and let him do the selling. I used this method when I sold software to a hospital in South Carolina. Here’s how I did it.

image1First, I called the customer and set the appointment, but at the same time made sure I had a fairly good understanding of their IT infrastructure. On the day of the meeting, I cut right to the chase, went straight to their white board and began drawing their system in block diagram. If you have ever given a technical presentation to a group of IT professionals, then you know to expect interruptions; and that is exactly what I got.

I was immediately challenged for the board maker, which I happily relinquished. After all, this was my goal, Customer involvement. The customer then began to draw the infrastructure and all I did was to inject where our equipment would reside and how the benefits would be overwhelmingly positive for what they were seeking to accomplish. This allowed me to engage the customer, make him part of building “his own solution” which gives a greater sense of value in the end.

The greater good here is the ability to show and engage a wider audience for buy-off and at the same time it uncovers holes in what would have been a flat presentation if delivered in the typical paper form. If your design is off target it allows you to adjust, showing the client you do understand and care about their business processes. This way, you don’t mandate change, you solicit support for change.

image2If this is shot down in committee or by finance, I guarantee this group will fight tooth-n-nail to get it approved. I have actually seen the customer make a better case for ROI than I ever could.

This method can work if you sell over the phone too. You just have to ask the customer to describe their current situation and then ask if you could email or fax what you have to make sure you understood their requirements. Bottom line, Get the customer involved!

image3

Using this method in as many cases as possible will decrease the sales cycle time simply by taking the onus off the customer to read your proposal. Admit it, would you want to read it? Hope you are able to use this and if you are, let me and others know by posting your comments. Maybe you used something similar? Hey, we want to know that too!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner