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

What is your capacity? Planning & Growth

What is your capacity to handle new clients without reducing what you deliver? The focus of small business owners everywhere tends to be the same: Making money, paying bills–not building systems and people, not planning capacity.

As entrepreneurs, we usually believe we can handle an increase in sales volume. It’s what we seek, it’s the holy grail of growth—right? Unfortunately, unplanned rapid growth can send any business to an early grave. Often, only after the fact of rapid growth do we discover we didn’t have systems and people to meet our growing needs.  Customers have little patience for trial and error. Waiting until necessity drives development of systems and people, we miss the opportunity to proactively increase capacity.  Ultimately, we damage profitability, and our reputation. So, how do we dodge the bullet?

Hire the Right People. Hiring the best can be a slow process. We must answer three questions:”Can they do the job?” (capacity); “How will they do the job?” (behavior); and, “Will they do the job?” (occupational interest—is this what they want to do?) All three questions must also be context-specific: “Can they do this job here?” If the questions are asked properly and answered clearly, the probability of hiring someone who fits the job increases. Research confirms it: people who fit their jobs produce more, stay longer, and create happier, more profitable workplaces!

Clarify strengths and weaknesses. When your capacity doesn’t change much, employees stagnate!  Those who might have handled new challenges have left for new opportunities, usually with your competition.  Current employees may have effectively departed while still on your payroll—a problem Harvard Business School calls “presenteeism.” A clear view of each of each employee’s “true” interests is critical. Remember, it’s an ongoing process: A wise entrepreneur once said, “When you think you have it all handled, you’ve set yourself up for failure.” Our working systems are often created by employees for their own convenience, not necessarily for your customers. Worse, we rarely know what our systems really are, and employees modify them continuously.

Customers have their own, private opinions about your business. Ask them questions, directly and indirectly:  What works for you, our customer? What do we do that does not work?  Allow them to clarify. What do they need from you? What else would they like from you?

Develop accountability and responsibility in your employees, managers and yourself.   Simply having feedback is one thing, acting productively on it is another—and acting is harder!  Measure skills in your managers, and plan to improve them. Make sure everyone realizes it’s an ongoing process: “Perfection is a direction, not a place.” Handle problem employees now! If you have an employee unable to do the job, be fair and let them go.  Hire slowly, fire quickly.

One manager put it very well: “The most expensive employee time I have is the interval between when I realize they have to go, and when I actually make it happen.” An effective manager must concentrate on, and measure, results.  ”Working hard” is a valuable part of the systems producing your total results, but is rarely sufficient. Focus on these fundamentals of business, and you will soon see new opportunities for growth in your business, based on planned increases in your capacity!

Copyright © Jeannette L. Seibly and John W. Howard, 2004-2010

Jeannette Seibly, Principal of SeibCo, LLC takes your company to the next level by creating leaders, success and results. Whether it be generating your next million, making a strategic difference or resolving people issues, SeibCo, LLC is your partner in causing unprecedented results and impacting your bottomline.

John W. Howard, Ph.D., owner of Performance Resources, Inc. helps businesses of all sizes increase their profits by reducing their people costs. His clients hire better, fire less, manage better, and keep their top performers. 

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

Are you a company “brat”?

  • Do you believe the company’s policies and procedures do not apply to you, as an employee or business owner? (Think “ethics and integrity”)
  • Do you make negative comments, gestures or express facial disgust when someone else is talking, and call it humor?
  • Do you refuse to listen to others thoughts and opinions — believing your ideas are the only “right ones?”
  • Are your mistakes always someone else’s fault?
  • Do you indulge in being angry whenever someone does something you don’t like?
  • Do you frequently disparage your boss, co-workers, clients, and vendors to others?

If you’re a top producer, highly paid individual, business owner and/or the bosses’ key person, keep in mind that while you may enjoy success, the paycheck and favoritism today, it may not last. For the unwary, career and/or business derailment is inevitable.

Companies are being bought and sold faster today. The acquiring company isn’t going to take on problem employees (or owners) who are unwilling to be part of the new corporate team, and act accordingly. Good bosses are upwardly mobile and often do not stay with the same company forever. They may not want to take you with them for fear of their own future career derailment. Realize that co-workers and management have long memories and could sabotage your attempt to become part of their upcoming venture or a newly assimilated corporate culture. Word gets around about poor ethics and integrity, both from vendors and within companies. Your success in business today won’t guarantee the same results tomorrow. 

It’s time to improve your business savvy while you still can!

Hire a coach. You need to get real and come down to reality about what you’ve been doing. Hire a coach who is supportive of your success, able to effectively “kick your butt” in order to have you listen and ultimately transform your interpersonal skills into excellent business acumen.

Take a 360-degree feedback assessment. Use a tool designed to build upon your good skills and clarify specifics to help you grow professionally. Do not use the types of tools that use the detrimental approach of allowing others to “dump on you.” It will only deepen any animosity between you and others. 

Actions speak louder than words. While you will need to be forgiving of those who have rightfully complained about your poor people skills, simply asking for forgiveness will not be enough. Develop a focused plan of action with your coach. Follow it. Understand that it will take longer than a couple of weeks or months to effectively transform you into a team member whom others enjoy working with, believe they can rely upon and – bottom line – trust.

(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

What if your boss is wrong …

What do you do when someone says something untrue? What if that someone is your boss?

Pick your time and place. Many professionals have inadvertently sabotaged their own careers by telling a boss s/he is wrong — in front of others. It is better to wait until you can have a one-on-one meeting. Be sure to prepare the facts in a manner that your boss will appreciate (e.g., written, numeric, graph, articles, etc.).

Be willing to step in professionally. If you see someone is about to sign a contract or make an agreement, and you know the facts are incorrect or have changed, take action. Be willing to stop the meeting and ask for a confidential conversation with your boss and/or management team.

Let it go. Understand that no matter what the facts are, some bosses make their decisions based upon their gut feelings. It won’t matter what you say. They are going to do what they want to do — without regard to your input or feelings. Handle the fall-out graciously when that happens. It only takes a couple of negative outcomes for an astute boss to start listening to your recommendations. 

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Are you a Pouncer?

Many bosses love to just saunter up and start talking about job performance. Unsuspecting employees experience this as being pounced upon.  You’ll know you are a pouncer if your employees seem to run for cover every time they see you coming their way!

You may believe this type of management style can be good for morale, but in truth it only alleviates your own boredom and maybe lessens your frustrations with the ongoing challenges of working with people and/or systems.

Employees will make mistakes.  This is a truism. If they are not periodically making mistakes, they are not growing with the business. But if employees are making the same mistakes over and over, it’s time to review their performance and put them on a plan for improvement. Usually training is missing, or they are in the wrong job. No amount of finger-pointing or complaining will fix these problems without tactical and/or strategic intervention.

Don’t expect your employees to take the blame when you make an error. It’s up to you to apologize and work with your employee(s) to clean up issues.  Learn to laugh at yourself. Have compassion for others. Take responsibility and be accountable to get a problem handled quickly.  How you handle setbacks is an example that your employees will mimic.

Walk it out. Write it out. Talk it out.  It can be lonely at the top. If you are someone who lets your frustration get the best of you, regardless of the reason, take time for yourself. Get enough exercise. Keep a very private journal (not at work). Hire a coach for confidential conversations that will reduce your stress level and stir up solutions.  Simply talking out issues can help you resolve them quicker and improve your management style.

(c)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

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

#1 Energy Zapper!

Our excuses!  It takes the same amount of energy to entertain the chatter about why you shouldn’t need to do something, as it does to simply get it done.  It’s amazing how much time we waste looking for excuses.

Want to be more effective?

  • Schedule
     Use a calendar or Outlook, schedule time to get the task done, and honor it as an appointment with someone important. 
  • Do or Delegate
    Just because you don’t want to do it, doesn’t mean others may not welcome the opportunity.
  • 20 minutes
    If you’re still finding excuses, set a timer for 20 minutes. Focus on the task during that time and see how far you progress.

 © Jeannette L. Seibly, 2010