Got Sales Smarts?

While many companies are busy blaming the economy for their reduction in sales, smart companies are reassessing their sales teams and focusing their money and attention on top performers. Why? They often sell more – exponentially – than others. 

For the past decade, many products and services were sold to non-discriminating buyers.  Sales people did not need to learn the art of selling to make sales. Buyers often bought without first validating the functionality, legality, integration or longevity of their purchase.  (Think electronics, mortgages, bank loans, lease-options, etc.) They relied upon the sales person to tell them what they wanted to hear. Now, limited budgets are spawning much more selective consumers.

Successful sales people first learn how to deal with a buyer’s first impression, and effectively handle fear of new products or services. They understand how to work with busy people who rely upon yesterday’s experiences and overlook the value of today’s new products or services.

These top performers sell up to six times more than average sales people who do not incorporate objective data into their repertoire to facilitate the buyer’s decision making process. 

What does it take to sell more?

First and foremost: Get real about who is a top performer. We hire for job skills and fire for poor job fit. Many sales executives and business owners still rely upon their gut and other antiquated methods for determining one’s ability to sell their product or service.  Unfortunately, they falsely believe that a person’s verbal ability to talk the talk will ensure sales ability. As a result, they miss out on hiring top performers who could have made the difference between an adequate bottom line and a great financial outcome.

Use scientifically qualified assessment products and it will make all the difference in hiring the right person who can sell. You cannot fix and change someone who does not possess the right job fit skills for your sales requirements. Thinking style accounts for over 50% of a person’s success; core behaviors (can they close?) and occupational interests (do they possess up-to-date info?) round out the other 50%.

Another falsehood: We believe that high energy type people make better sales people. This myth can create many problems. 

  1. High energy is not just “younger employees”
  2. This type person can actually deter potential buyers, particularly in a long sales cycle or in developing a long-term relationship
  3. This belief is discriminatory and focuses on personality issues that statistically don’t make a difference!

Focus on sales results.  Traditionally, poor sales people have relied upon brochures, websites, credentials or social network data to sell their products or services. For many products and services, this didn’t work then, and certainly does not work now, even with the increase in web-based purchases. Buyers have become more selective, and rely upon their “relationship” with their sales rep. 

Pay attention to your sales team’s communication style. 

  • Will the person listen to the buyer’s needs and provide value-add solutions?
  • Can they quantify the product or service details vs. their competition?
  • Will they close the sale? Can they up-sell and cross-sell to address future needs?

Additional communications basics that are often missed:

  • Say please and thank you – still works. 
  • Learn proper email etiquette – it’s not hard.
  • Follow-up and follow-through — still required to get and keep customers.
  • Greet someone with the proper handshake — makes a difference.
  • Talk voice-to-voice — still required for many purchases.
  • Pronounce people’s names correctly — it’s still a must!

Do it now. Objectively assess your sales team’s ability to sell. Focus your attention and money on your top performers. Train those who have the potential, based upon the right job fit. Sales will naturally – and exponentially – escalate. 

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Got client loyalty?

Many of us falsely believe that once we have a client they are ours for life. We stop doing the little things that differentiate us from our competition. Perhaps we rank order our clients in order of revenues received, and respond to them accordingly.  Or we fail to form strong relationships that will get us through any “bumps in the road.”

Be a great advocate.  People are looking for quality and service not just a good price.  Most clients are willing to pay extra for the right connection, service and knowledge.  Clients love to do business with people they like and enjoy, particularly vendors who share their products and services with their own clients. 

Connections.  Treat these clients as “gold” and look for the “little things” that  make the difference.  For example, if you enjoy researching family genealogy, share resources.  If you love stock car racing, pics of nature, or a particular sport, connect with them on FaceBook and post your pics or other activities.

Responsiveness.  Minimizing the importance of others’ requests will not keep them as your client. What may seem obvious to you, will not be readily apparent to others.  If there are complaints, handle them as quickly as possible.  If there is a constant nay-sayer, or you repeatedly receive the same or similar requests, provide these clients free training, either one-on-one or in a webinar.

Customer Service Blitz.  Conduct a Customer Service Blitz designed to get your staff on the same page.  This will allow them to do what they do best: 

  • Sales people focusing on selling
  • Customer service advocates handling the details. 

Train your staff in the nuances of client management, share legacy knowledge with them of client issues and situations.  Encourage and enable them to continually cultivate client loyalty.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Attitude Transformation Brings Satisfaction

Do you hear an internal mantra, “I should not have to do this!” over and over?

Unfortunately, there will always be job duties or activities that must be accomplished for your continued employment or to run your business successfully. If these hated tasks constitute more than 20% of your job, you are probably in the wrong line of work.

Truly successful people learn how to get the hated job activities over and done with minimal stress. They are good at delegating to others who are competent to do them. Yes – there are people who actually enjoy doing the work you hate to do!

There are certain business practices and standards must be adhered to, no excuses are acceptable. Customers, employees, the IRS, a judge or plaintiff attorney are not interested in excuses; they do not care “why.”

We all must follow the laws and common expected business practices (e.g., following standard accounting practices, refunds, EEO/Equal Employment Opportunity, DOL/Department of Labor, etc.) Failure to follow your own business policies and practices can provide irreversible consequences, personally and professionally.

Swish. When there is something you hate doing, create a new attitude or visual picture. For example, if you work in retail and hate it when people walk in the door, “swish” to see the people walking in the door as “new money.” Or, if you hate working with accounting details, “swish” and see QuickBooks as the pathway to your million dollar success.

Be selective when saying “yes.” Learn to say “no” instead of taking on job duties or activities that are not your forte.

  • If there is a legal issue, give it to the attorney.
  • If you have an accounts issue, delegate it to your customer service rep.
  • If you have a sales or customer service person who won’t return calls, replace them!

Realize you are setting the tone for your future. Then you are free to say “yes” to legitimate requests from your customers, boss, Board of Directors, or business partners.

Create your future. You were hired, and you accepted the job. Now you need to adhere to getting the job done in a manner that positively supports the company. Customers truly don’t care how you feel about your job duties. As the business owner or executive, you created the current business model. Even though it may have worked well at one time, if it no longer meets your business goals, it’s time to strategically create the future. If you are no longer energized in your business or job, hire a coach and find a job or business the “fits” your thinking style, core behaviors and occupational interests. Set yourself up for satisfaction and success.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

When employees make costly mistakes ….

As bosses and executives, we do our best to ensure our employees are given the tools they need to do their job well (e.g., computer, desk, policy manuals, etc.).  However, non-tangible aspects of a job can be roadblocks to their successes (e.g., limited people skills, lack of discretion or business savvy, inability to work well with boss and co-workers, inability to plan properly or make decisions within appropriate timeframe, etc.). These aspects of poor job fit can devastate profitability. Moreover, how you handle these occurrences may help your employees learn from their mistakes and ultimately make or break your own career.

First and foremost, use scientifically validated assessment tools for hiring, coaching and managing your employees for success. Good job fit most often reduces the chance of costly mistakes on the job. [Contact JLSeibly@gmail.com for further details.]

Gossip. Everyone does it, but unfortunately, there is no way to know who else is listening. The people seated at the next table in the coffee shop may learn invaluable information that they can use to get a competitive lead with a prospective client, or even proprietary information for product development.  It is imperative to periodically remind employees of their confidentiality agreements and advise them of the sensitivity of the information they may possess.

Zero tolerance. When major errors in judgment happen, it’s best for all employees to know proper protocols and be empowered to implement them immediately, such as contacting the boss, the appropriate human resources executive and/or company attorney.  Do not be fooled into assuming theft, harassment or safety violations won’t happen on your watch.  If the unthinkable does happen and someone is killed or hurt on the job, damage control will fall to you.  What if key employees leave due to a perceived hostility in their work environment, or your company files for bankruptcy? These unfortunate occurrences quickly and irrevocably change your daily reality and do not bode well for your career or the company’s reputation. 

Finesse is necessary.  Handling delicate issues can be a challenge for everyone. Every company has a client or vendor, business associate, or business partnership that didn’t work out due to ethical reasons. Unfortunately, some employees may not understand the significance of these unwritten no-no’s (e.g., don’t do business with, etc.). Empower your employees to navigate these no-win issues knowledgeably and work with them to minimize the impact and fall-out.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Do your clients think you are inaccessible?

Ridiculous you say?  Hhhmmm…

  • Does it take several phone calls to get in touch with you? 
  • Does it take longer than 24 to 48 hours to respond to your voice mail messages or emails?
  • Do you normally use the excuses “I’m too busy.” OR “I don’t have the time?”
  • If so, you probably do not know this Law of poor customer service:
    The longer it takes for you to return a call or respond to an email, the more the issue will grow exponentially larger.

 Try this instead:

Treat your phone and email with reverence. Phone messages and email messages from clients and prospective clients are the life blood of your business. Prompt responses are a good opportunity to enhance the value you provide to your clients. It’s also a great way to up-sell and cross-sell any additional products and services that they may need, but do not realize you offer.

All clients are important. Rank ordering clients as to whom you will contact based upon revenues will work only until you lose the BIG client. Then, you’ll need to re-group and try to re-capture smaller clients who found excellent customer service with your competition while you focused on the BIG client.

Keep meetings. Continually canceling, not being prepared, and not taking responsibility for ensuring the client feels valued are good excuses for your clients to seek out other vendors. It’s easier and less expensive to keep good clients, then to go and find new ones.

Blitz them with customer service. We falsely assume, with devastating results, that everyone knows how to be a good representative of the company. Train all employees to be on the same page, and work together for the benefit of the client. Contact me for details … it will save you many clients! JLSeibly@gmail.com

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Bosses! Come down to reality!

Are you a business owner, executive or the boss?  We all need a reality check from time-to-time. Do you believe projects could be completed quicker if only they would do it your way? Do you expect more from others than you do from yourself?  Are you intolerant of others’ mistakes? Yet, harder on yourself?

Here are three easy ways to get real and get results:

Come into alignment.  Get on the same page with your employees regarding the expected results. This is critical for ensuring agreement. Then, have them put together an action plan and review it with you before they start!

Be the coach.  Don’t micro-manage the process. If the process is not moving forward as discussed, or it has hit more than one bump, you may need to step in. Review the thought and action processes. Correct inaccurate assumptions and negative attitudes. Be aware that many people have a hard time addressing the details of a project, particularly if the process is not working the way they envisioned it would.

Manage results.  Have short weekly reviews. What worked? What didn’t?  Be specific and stay away from the why’s. Create a plan to address issues and acknowledge successes. The key is to fine-tune and move forward. Above all, do not let set-backs stop you.

As the boss, your job is two-fold:

  • To manage major blunders and the hiccups that occur along the way.
  • To recognize and reward great progress.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Confidence vs. Bravado

Strong leaders recognize that their self-belief starts from within. They are responsible for their actions and words.  They develop a natural and positive self expression, a genuine confidence that is not false bravado.  They meet challenges by sharing their ideas and solutions without blame, judgment or criticism.  Others are comfortable following their lead, and wish to follow the leader’s example of developing a clear compass for achieving great results.

1)Leaders make mistakes. When they do, they quickly apologize and don’t nitpick the facts. Then, they simply follow through and deliver the newly negotiated agreement on time.

2)Experience is the key to understanding. Everyone has thoughts, opinions and feelings about a situation or person — normally a reflection of their unconscious biases. Conscious recognition and experience require taking responsibility of one’s own perception, and developing compassion for others. Compassion does not imply agreement, but it does develop the depth of soul needed in a true leader.

3)Leaders are able to work with a wide variety of people and situations by relying upon their strengths, and managing their own weaknesses. Leaders who stay focused on the human and material sides of a project are able to elicit the best in others.  They are developing breadth in their own skills and the skills of others at the same time. Their success is repeatable.  They enjoy celebrating their successes, and the outstanding results of others.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Does perfectionism get in the way of results?

Perfectionism is a relative term depending upon your viewpoint. Innovative types don’t like to follow the rules. They view others as perfectionists when they ask too many questions or are unable to see the potential success of the venture in the same way they see it. Conversely, the “dot every I and cross every T” type of person looks at others as being irresponsible and unable to plan appropriately — not perfect enough in their thought processes. They simply squash any ideas that don’t match their stringent point of view.

We are all perfectionists at some level! We love to make things harder than they are. We wait for the perfect time in our lives when the economy is good, life circumstances are stable. We wait to be working for the right company, with the right boss and co-workers. In the meantime, we postpone fulfilling our goals and dreams. People stop listening to our ideas. We are upset when others “take our ideas” and are successful!

Attitude The “perfect time” is an attitude. Fulfillment of any business venture or project requires that we focus and follow through. Declare goals. Write-down specific action steps. There is no perfect plan that will prevent inevitable challenges.  Many of us love to make systems harder than they are.  We, make working with others more difficult than it needs to be.  Hiring a coach will provide invaluable simple and strategic insights.

Integrity and ethical behaviors required.  Breakdowns are to be expected, regardless of the “perfect” plan design.  Short-cuts will normally get you in trouble in the long run. Ignoring key issues now may hurt your future reputation, financial solvency, and the ability to attract and retain top performers.  Instead of relying upon your own internal monologue of what is right or wrong, talk through challenges with your business mentor.  Use the opportunity to clarify your perspective and the required action needed to avoid further pitfalls.

Learn when to quickly move forward, and when to strategically wait.  Many people self-sabotage when the results don’t fit their “perfect” view of how they should look. Instead of dealing with the facts, they play spider-solitaire or spend a lot of time surfing the Internet. They blame their lack of focused action upon not having enough: information, time, money, or opportunities. Honor your plan, even if it seems like you’re taking baby-steps. You’ll get there!

Enjoy your achievements and the accomplishments of others, now.  Too often we excuse the importance of acknowledgement due to our ambivalent feelings about being in the spot-light, even for a moment. Appreciate others’ successes and accept their congratulatory wishes. Building upon success keeps you moving forward, and encourages the right people to work with you.

 ©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Are your employees on the same page with you?

We inevitably get upset with people who are not doing things the way we would do them ourselves. We expect them to effectively learn after reading a manual or being shown once how to do something. Their lack of consistency loses us customers (both internally and externally). Rarely do we stop to see what is missing from our employees’ perspectives so that they could be on the same page with us. 

1)     Review your training, systems and procedures. What’s missing? The national reading average is 6th grade level. This reflects a person’s ability to adequately comprehend the material and put it to good use. Some people need to talk it out to ensure they understand. Some need to be shown how to do something more than once. Still others need to “try” it themselves first, and then ask for coaching to fill in the gaps.

2)     When hiring and coaching people, we don’t have fool-proof intuitive crystal balls. Use legally and scientifically validated job fit tools for hiring, coaching and managing. This helps us understand objectively why people fail to do work the way we would do it. And it creates an opportunity to provide guidance for skill development (ours and theirs).

3)     Set specific goals, and then manage the milestones to ensure the project and people are all moving forward. When people fail to deliver the necessary results, coach them by focusing on the task at hand. Sometimes you need to be very specific and other times you’ll need to help them understand the bigger picture. Trying to fix the person never works!

 (c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Is attracting top performers problematic?

Or, are you a top performer who is having trouble finding your next opportunity?   The first place to inspect about yourself and/or your company, is how you talk about your employees, customers, prospects, family members, neighbors and/or competition. While you may believe using colloquialisms, profanity, or slang sounds smart, entertaining, or knowledgeable, the reality is that it provides the opposite effect.

Clean up your labeling. Name-calling, regardless of your excuse, is harmful and hurtful. It sends a negative message to others, consciously or unconsciously, about your emotional intelligence. It actually will bolster business if you speak authentically about others in a positive manner, even when they’ve made a mistake.

People are a valuable resource. When you honor everyone (and your company’s Vision and Mission statements) regardless of gender, gender choices, racial, religious and/or ethical differences, you’ll be amazed by the difference it makes. Calling women and men, girls and boys, sounds demeaning after the age of 16. Pronounce people’s names correctly. Stay away using nicknames. Be sensitive to the fact that employees may be offended and uncomfortable telling you or others to stop. As a business owner or executive, you need to ensure all people are treated with respect. Harassment suits are costly.

Take charge of your own anger. Using anger as your excuse doesn’t work, since everyone deals with some level of anger due to life experiences. Get help to find a creative way to use the negative energy in a positive manner to help others. 

Take responsibility.  In your meetings, whether one-on-one or in groups, make sure that people are referred to respectfully. Ensure any name calling is stopped, immediately. Something said in jest can actually cost you a pricey lawsuit or a million dollar client!

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010