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How Your Parents Set You Up For Failure in Sales

Many business owners that have to sell their products and services and the people that are tasked with selling for them have never considered themselves as sales people.  I have heard it many times, “I am not a sales person and I am not comfortable with selling”.  It’s not your fault and you can blame it on your parents.

What did your parents tell you while you were growing up?

  • Don’t talk to strangers
  • Don’t bother that important person
  • That person doesn’t care about what we do
  • It’s not polite to talk about money

What do you have to do in sales?

  • Talk to strangers
  • Bother the important people
  • Talk to people that should care about what you do
  • Talk about money

It is time to get over the notion that you are not a salesperson.  Sales is nothing more than having a passion for what you represent and being able to transfer that enthusiasm to others, like potential customers.  If you believe in what you represent, just talk to people about it and make sure they are the right people or are people that know others that can benefit from what you represent.

Be sure the people you talk to are strangers, be sure they are important, be sure they are the person that you can provide value to and the person that can make sure you get paid.

Don’t “B” The “ANT” When You Find an Opportunity!

There are many CRM systems that measure the “Probability to Close” metric of a sale for our organizations. There are also many discussions on social media about how we can effectively measure the likelihood that a particular piece of business that we are chasing will become reality for the organization.  This potentially creates a problem for our organizations when that particular piece of business might not actually become a reality at all.  How can our organization effectively plan resources based on a “Whim” that is entered without a factual basis by us?

As sales people, our organization trusts that we are bringing qualified opportunities that will close within a given amount of time so they can plan on delivering the goods and services that we are selling to make the customer happy and deliver a profit for everyone involved.

What criteria do we use to measure probability for our organizations?  I would offer the following criteria to ensure the proper amount of resources are dedicated to the proper opportunities that we deliver.  We need to answer the following criteria that define the actual sale and assign a value to it to ensure success for all of the stakeholders.  The criteria is known as “BANT”

Budget = 20%: Do the prospects have the budget to purchase what we are offering to them as a value?

Authority = 20%: Are we speaking with the decision maker(s) that can purchase the product or service that can add value to them?

Need = 20%: Do they need what we are offering as a product or service and can it add value to them?

Timing = 20%: Can they purchase the product or service that we offer within a given timeframe that will produce value for both stakeholders?

The remaining 20% is all “Us”.  Are we and our company a credible source of the product or service that will bring them the identified value in the time frame that they expect instead of the competition that they have also met with?  I guarantee you that we are not the only choice they have!

Most of us do not ask the right questions to discover the Budget” before we present a solution and then are surprised by a response from the prospect that they can not afford our product or service.  How do those sales meetings and reviews work out for us after the time and resources you have spent chasing the business?

By using the above criteria to measure our opportunities, we can ensure that the organization will align behind us to deliver the necessary resources for the qualified opportunities that we are delivering.  Don’t miss the “B”!

Every Company has Low Hanging Fruit

The question “How do we grow sales quickly?” is asked in every business on a weekly basis.  The easy answer for us is that you would not have to ask that question if your sales function was doing three simple activities on a regular basis.

Asking for additional business from existing clients

When was the last time you met with your top clients to review the current business you were doing with them, showed them what else you could do for them better than others, and asked what they were planning that you might be able to help them with?

Asking for referrals from existing clients

Your clients have stayed with you for a reason.  When was the last time you asked them who they knew in the industry that you could help as well and who else they do business with where you might be a fit?

Asking for new business from other “ideal” future clients

Can you identify your best clients and why you have been able to be a partner with them?  Take your success and replicate it by producing a marketing piece about why people do business with you and send it to other “ideal” prospects with a call to action about engaging you.

These simple activities are often overlooked because businesses get caught up in their business and do not focus on them.  Make these activities part of your regular sales meetings and their will be no need to have conversations about how you can grow sales quickly.

The Benefits of Role Playing

What if your sales team could increase their conversion rate without spending money on expensive training programs? What if you could increase the velocity of your sales funnel without changing your personnel?  What if you could increase your client base without increasing your marketing budget?

Role playing is one of the most effective training tools that sales managers and organizations can use so why do not more managers or organizations use it on a regular basis?

Let’s look at the benefits of using role playing on a regular basis:

  • Cross pollinating best practices amongst team members.
  • Increased organizational understanding of market challenges.
  • Efficient and confident navigation of client objections.
  • Development of highly targeted marketing messages.
  • Less training costs to the organization.
  • Increased sales team confidence and camaraderie.
  • Increased conversion rates of opportunities.

Peer review can be one of the scariest events that sales people can go through because it has the chance of revealing weakness to other members of the organizations.  It’s time to get over the fear.  By working role playing into the regular sales meetings, managers can improve the effectiveness of their teams and organizations can increase their conversion rates to close more of their opportunities.

FIFO and Project Management Failure

In a conversation at lunch with my first client that is still a client, we started to talk about all of the ongoing projects in the company outside the scope of my delivery and what is keeping them for accomplishing them.

I discovered that my client falls into the classic seven-eigthers group that most companies become part of when they cannot complete even one project before the next idea and direction comes from the top.  Hence they only get 7/8 of the projects completed and then are surprised when there are still in the same position they were two years ago.  Their agility and ability to move forward is non-existent.

Ever been told to finish what you start?  FIFO is an accounting term for First-In-First-Out and if you apply that same principle to project management then every new good idea would see success because it would be placed at the bottom of the pile before it would be addressed.  A simple practice that if re-purposed would help companies maintain their agility in the market place.

I am proud to report that all projects managed by me as it pertains to building their sales engine have been completed on schedule and the client is currently experiencing an increase of 38% in revenues over the same period last year.

How to Become An “Opportunity Creator”

A mentor recently reminded me that the word “sales” is not always perceived well when used in a  conversation.  It is unfortunate but true because some “sales people” have ruined the reputation of all of us through non-standard practices that are remembered and shared with others.  Even those companies and employees that I coach have trouble being called “sales people” even though what they do does have an impact on company revenues.  Maybe that is why most businesses do not even print the word “sales” on business cards.

The primary duties of anyone in the business development field is to create opportunties for their company by finding a need in the marketplace and filling that need the products or services that their company offers.  How do you do that without being “sales’ like?  I would offer that the activities that you do have an impact on how you are perceived and that some of the best sales people I have know have never been described to me as “sales people”.

What do these people do differently that leads to increased opportunities for their companies?

  • Perform strategic business reviews with current clients that helps them understand how you have added value to their business and what other services you offer

  • Conduct lunch-n-learn sessions for account managers in other companies that can refer you to opportunities in their client base.

  • Schedule breakfast and lunch meetings with centers of influence that are secondary stakeholders in targeted companies you want to work with.

  • Focus your free time and champion a non-profit by volunteering your services to help with their fund development.

  • Ask current clients for referrals.

  • Introduce your clients to prospects, strategic partners, and other service providers that help them grow and improve their business.

  • Make sure all of your family and friends know what you do.

Working any of these tactics into your activity calendar will help you increase your opportunities without the traditional sales tactics that are taught in videos and highlighted in the movies.

How can they be called “Salespeople”?

Salespeople spend most of their time on non-revenue producing activities. Really?

A recent study found that salespeople spend more than 70% of their time doing things other than selling. Our research found that salespeople spend, at most, 30% of their time in face-to-face selling. The rest of the time is spent handling administrative tasks, making collections calls, resolving logistics issues, attending meetings, and filling out reports.

How can we call these folks “salespeople” anymore when less than half of their time is spent selling? Maybe we should call them “support account administrators who occasionally sell.” Who is at fault–salespeople or management? Finger pointing does not really accomplish much other than scapegoating the blame.

It confounds me when salespeople tell me that they cannot make more face-to-face calls. Why not? Do buyers perceive little value in the meeting? Do managers require salespeople to yield to administrative distractions? Is traffic that bad?

I grew up in a sales culture where we were required to make eight face-to-face sales calls per day. If we were in the office between 8 AM and 5 PM, our bosses assumed we were goofing off, and we probably were. Sales managers scrutinized our phone credit card statements to make sure we did not spend the day doing phone work versus face-to-face selling. We did paperwork at night or on Saturday morning. If it sounds a bit Draconian, it was not. We were salespeople after all, not office people. I learned a work ethic that helped me start and run a successful business, and I am eternally grateful for the lesson. Maybe it is time for some old-school selling rules again.