The B2B buying process has changed considerably in recent years, thanks to digital and social technologies. But, the one constant that can open doors or shut them forever is how well the sales professional performs in the moment of human interaction with the buyer.
Because the sale is truly made in those moments in front of the prospect and in the execution of compelling customer dialogues, there is still a great need for improvement in this area among salespeople:
Only one in ten executives say that they get value from meetings with salespeople. (Forrester Research) The #1 reason salespeople miss quota is an inability to articulate value. (Sirius Decisions) Only 17% of salespeople get a second meeting with an executive. (Forrester Research)
These numbers could be significantly improved if sales leaders coached their teams to the desired behaviors necessary for engagement.
The impact of sales coaching has proven its value time and again. According to Forrester Research, in 2014, 63.2% of organizations with a formal sales coaching methodology achieved quota vs. 54.6% of organizations without coaching. Additionally, only 27% of organizations reported having a formal coaching methodology in place.
From the salesperson’s perspective, the Amabile Study (Harvard University, 2010) found that salespeople are more motivated when they make progress and grow. This speaks to the outcome of coaching, which supports the personal and professional development of those being coached.
Additionally, in 2009, the Gallup Organization reported that top » Continue Reading.
In conversations I’ve been having lately with prospects and clients, I’ll ask how well their sales professionals are performing on the job. Their answers focus on the more tangible areas of sales performance. They might refer to lagging indicators, such as where the sales person is in relation to quota goal, revenue attainment, number of closed deals, and growth vs. the prior year. On the other hand, they might reference leading indicators, such as the number of opportunities created, value in the pipeline, or number of calls or meetings with prospects.
Even with all of these proof points, what they’re not able to evaluate very well is this simple question: How good are they? How well does each sales professional perform during those crucial moments when they’re interacting with the buyer? This kind of assessment is important because it’s really where the rubber meets the road — in those human moments of interaction.
Part of what differentiates a seller in the buyer’s mind is being able to trust the seller and knowing that the seller understands the buyer’s business and the issues that the buyer face. It is the quality of interaction, more than technical knowledge, marketing materials, or the value proposition, that creates a connection and convinces the buyer that the seller has his/her best interests in mind.
So, when I probe to find out how sellers’ sales professionals are really performing when interacting with prospects, they often don’t » Continue Reading.
But, Did Your Follow-up Ruin the Deal?
As CEO of Richardson, I head an organization focused on helping other organizations improve their sales execution. And, as a CEO, I am continually the target of prospecting calls and e-mails by sales professionals who base their approach solely on my position.
In my two previous posts — So, You Want to Sell to the C-suite? and So, You Got in to See the CEO. — I shared reflections on what works and what doesn’t. Now, I want to talk about the sales dialogue itself and follow-up.
Gaining access to the C-suite is not an invitation to launch into a soliloquy where you talk entirely about yourself and your organization. You’re there to start a relationship, and what goes a long way in building relationships is making the prospect feel truly heard. In our time-tested and proven Richardson consultative selling methodology-speak, listening is one of the Six Critical Skills in selling. Simply put, listening is the ability to concentrate on meaning, and when listening at the highest level, you are fully engaged and fostering effective sales dialogue.
As a proponent of the importance of listening in the sales process, I expect sellers to focus on what I say and to be attentive. If you’ve gotten my time, don’t miss the chance to actively listen to the information I am providing you. Too often, I am surprised by » Continue Reading.
As CEO of Richardson, a leading sales training company, I am continually struck by how many sales professionals try to sell me solely by virtue of my position.
In my previous post — So, You Want to Sell to the CEO?— I talked about the 30-second window in which I can determine whether the seller is worth my time. I touched on the epic fail on homework and how tricks and fancy talk will backfire.
Tell me something that I don’t know.
Now, I want to touch on something that’s a big issue for me: the predictability of sellers. All too often, when reps are selling to the c-suite, they tell us things that we already know. Or, they place the burden upon me to do the work of answering a ton of questions. All that does is tell me that they don’t respect my time. Their approach doesn’t engage me or hook me into a conversation. It’s like they never considered the next step after succeeding in getting my attention.
I don’t know any CEO who has the time to answer a bombardment of questions from a seller who hasn’t done his/her homework. Our job is not to educate sellers.
What we do in granting time for a conversation is give them the ability to credentialize themselves at the start. We open the door for them to tell us something that we don’t know, to hear about » Continue Reading.
It’s difficult to secure a meeting, or even get through via phone or email to prospect and sell to the C-suite. I am well aware of the degree of difficulty, as I am one of those targets defending my time against countless sales professionals trying to get in the door. For the past 15 years, I have held C-suite positions with commercial training and education companies. Now, as CEO of Richardson, I am continually struck by how many sales professionals try to sell me solely by virtue of my position.
They might have better luck contacting someone on my team, someone responsible for the particular area of business that aligns with their offerings. But, they start at the top, and because I head an organization focused on helping other organizations improve their sales execution, I feel compelled to share my reflections on what works — and what doesn’t.
Epic fail on homework
The first mistake in prospecting to the C-suite is coming in totally unprepared. Instead of impressing me with their persistence in securing a meeting, some sales professionals demonstrate that they’re lazy sellers. It becomes apparent within the first 30 seconds that they don’t know very much about my business. It’s not hard to figure out that they haven’t done their homework, and they’re dead in the water from the outset.
My argument is that it’s easy to find out not only what my role is, and » Continue Reading.
Move away from the computer and coach
Time is a limited and much sought-after resource in the sales environment, especially for sales managers who are being tasked to do more with less. Taking the time for coaching sales professionals can seem like an unrealistic luxury, but the time invested can create greater gains and even more time for the manager. We all struggle with making time to coach so that you have to create a cadence.
There are a few secrets that I have found that can improve your sales coaching techniques and make coaching easier and more effective. The first is discipline. As a sales manager, I disciplined myself to make time for “in-the-moment” coaching every single day.
Each morning, I would walk over to the office or workspace of each of my employees. I said, “Good Morning,” and then asked them three questions:
What was their plan for the day? How were they doing? Was there anything that required my immediate attention or that they needed my help with today?
The whole process took about 20 to 35 minutes. It helped me manage my time, coach my people, and deliver on expectations.
I could tell what I needed to do to coach them in the moment by how they answered the questions. This process surfaced urgent items that needed processing, challenges with a client, any lack of focus, attitudes that were forming, and any performance » Continue Reading.
In my previous blog post, I talked about the need to find time for sales coaching moments. One of the greatest myths that sales managers have about coaching their teams is that it takes too much time. Yes, coaching conversations do take time, but when done right, with the right structure and preparation, coaching can be the most effective use of a sales manager’s time. And, it can actually create more time for sales managers, as they find themselves putting out fewer fires. When sales professionals have the skills and the confidence to operate well independently, they become more responsible and accountable for their own results.
In reality, too many managers commit to coaching without a plan. They can spend hours on one coaching session, trying to get the sales professional to change a
handful of things, overwhelming him/her with a data dump of information.
At Richardson, our target for developmental sales coaching is to focus on one, maybe two, changes that can have the most effective impact. Considering that most people can only change one thing at a time and attention spans continue to shrink, a targeted approach to coaching is better received. Short sessions — 20 minutes or less — can be highly effective. Praise alone takes just a few minutes.
When sales managers don’t take the time to coach, they end up doing more work themselves. They either correct mistakes made by their » Continue Reading.
The business world is constantly churning, which puts pressure on organizations to keep up. Most operate in an environment of globalization, more competition from more places, mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, and technology disruptions. Still, the end goal never changes: to grow the business and optimize resources.
For sales managers, this means not only staying nimble and being able to switch paths quickly but rallying their troops through effective sales coaching so that everyone understands their role and is equipped to contribute. Coaching is no small task, especially as management layers become flattened and those who remain have more responsibility. Today’s managers have to act fast, shift tactics to address priorities of the moment, anticipate changes, and set a vision for his/her people to follow.
Coaching has become a key component of a manager’s responsibilities, but coaching conversations take time. And, finding time for these conversations, one on one, with every member of the team can seem like an impossible task, especially when virtual teams are involved.
There are, however, several ways to create coaching moments that, over time, can work for both sales managers and their sales professionals.
One sales management tip from my own experience as a sales manager involves what I call “fan moments.” The office environment was a tough one, with a lot of pressure to get things done and no excuses. When tensions ran high, people would come into my office so that we » Continue Reading.
If you are planning on delivering a traditional learning program in a corporate setting, stop. Look at the workplace environment and inhabitants. Listen to the sound of the new commerce.
Workspaces are more open and casual. Inhabitants are more diverse in every way. Mobile devices abound. Paper and writing tables are scarce. There is a sense of continuous motion. Start and stop times are difficult to identify. Organizational hierarchies are nearly invisible.
Now, the largest demographic in the U.S. labor force, workers of the Millennial generation, have often been criticized or, even blamed for some of the generational conflict in the workplace as they push up against the traditional power holders in organizations, the Baby Boomers. Another, sometimes painful, reality is that we are changing and learning from the new workers! The Millennial and other younger generations have grown up with technology in hand. Their hand-helds are their security blankets. They multitask as a way of life, are comfortable in a self-directed learning environment, and are adept in digital and electronic communications, whether e-mail, text, twitter, or video calls.
When it comes to training, Millennials know how to mine data and gather information; they don’t default to an instructor to present fundamental concepts to them. There are many components of traditional Learning and Development (L&D) programs that can be carved out and deliver more effectively on digital platforms. This is where technology shines, with eLearning, webinars, self-paced learning, virtual classrooms, » Continue Reading.
Wishing You the Very Best this Holiday Season!
This three-part series on the sales management process began with Part I: Why Sales Leaders Need to Craft and Control It and Part II: Team Cadence Builds Accountability and Results. Now, I’ll address the remaining, critical element of communicating upward by scheduling one-on-one reviews with senior leaders.
There are many reasons for maintaining regular and scheduled one-on-one meetings with your senior leader. Within the hierarchy of your organization, your leader is an essential link to the next higher levels of management, often to the C-suite itself. Rule of thumb is to never surprise your boss, positively or negatively; but, beyond that guidance, you need to keep them informed of your plans, your progress, and how you are addressing any challenges. Think of your leader as your champion, representing your work and value to higher levels of the organization. At the same time, your leader is your conduit to those higher levels, funneling key information from above and providing key updates on initiatives back to you.
One-on-one meetings allow you to have a consistent touch point in which you can convey the status of each component involved in the sales management process. Your updates should be comprehensive, spanning what your team has accomplished since the last meeting, pipeline results, and activities underway that will lead to future results and provide value.
Meetings provide a framework to discuss how you are managing your team, what your people do, where they » Continue Reading.
In my previous post on the Sales Management Process — Why Sales Leaders Need to Craft and Control It — I talked about the necessity for sales leaders to have such a sales process and the foundational element of account planning sessions.
In Part II, I’ll focus on the people factor and developing a sales team cadence of engagement that builds accountability and results. There are a number of elements involved in developing a regular and reinforcing rhythm of events to refocus every member of your sales team on what needs to be done and when.
Pipeline and forecast reviews provide regular touch points to track the progress of opportunities in the pipeline, improving the accuracy of forecasts. As a sales leader, these reviews offer the chance to assess how well your people are performing, their strengths and skill gaps, along with the ability to coach in the moment as deals move or get delayed in the pipeline. Additionally, such reviews allow you as the leader to hold your people accountable by setting the right expectations around forecasting.
Individual development planning sessions are a natural extension of annual development plans that should be developed collaboratively between sales leaders and their direct reports, although such development should ultimately be owned by the sales professionals themselves. They are the ones who should be responsible and accountable for their own professional development, proactively identifying what they want to focus on in the » Continue Reading.
Each year, Richardson conducts a survey on the Sales Challenges that your sales organizations may anticipate facing in the upcoming year. We would appreciate if you could complete the survey and forward the link below to your sales team to complete. Your team’s input is critical to the success of the study, and we appreciate your time and honesty in responding to the questions.
For submitting the survey, you will receive a free copy of the final report and become eligible to win a new Fitbit.
Link to participate: https://www.research.net/r/9L3MZQG
Thank you in advance for your participation.
I am such a hard-core believer in the value of having a sales management process because I know without it, long-term success will not happen. My loyalty stems from watching a mentor from earlier in my career construct and implement a process that became a motivating force for achieving results. When I transitioned from sales into management, I followed his lead and began incorporating this critical element into my work. I now credit it for my success.
Simply put, a sales management process is a disciplined approach to driving multiple facets of performance, with regularly scheduled touch points along the way. By defining such a process, specific to the goals and culture of your own organization, you can drive both execution and accountability over the long term.
I recommend this type of a process for any sales leader, whether you are responsible for a team of direct-reporting individuals or a larger global team. Even senior sales leaders should institute their own consistent, repeatable management process so that everyone can under them — every individual, every line of business, and every division — becomes aligned and committed to the same strategic path.
When you introduce a defined process into your organization, know that it’s not a short-term exercise running over a 30- or 90-day cycle. It takes discipline and a long-range view to gain the necessary buy-in and see results over time. Among your priorities should be the following:
Creating » Continue Reading.
In my previous posts — Sales Process? You Should Probably Call It a Pursuit Process and Dynamic Sales Process Leads to Dynamite Results — I talked about the value of a dynamic sales process that helps sales professionals pursue opportunities in an optimal way.
In this post, I take the discussion a step further by talking about validation of the sales process. After all, if your sale process isn’t valid, if it doesn’t reflect the way your sales team should be pursuing opportunities, or if it doesn’t engender confidence about opportunities in the pipeline, then it really doesn’t matter if the salesforce uses it or not.
There are several ways to validate a sales process, and the one I can speak to most effectively is the methodology we use here at Richardson when creating a customized and dynamic process for clients. Over four to six weeks, we collaboratively work through a multiphase methodology:
Phase 1: Data Collection – We begin by meeting with the company’s top performers, sales leaders, and other stakeholders who can provide insights into the sales or account management cycle. Phase 2: Development of the Branded Sales Process – We develop a customized sales process that aligns with the company’s sales cycle and buying patterns, and we map it out in a matrix that identifies specific accountabilities. Phase 3: Validation and KPI Phase – We validate the sales process itself with line stakeholders in a workshop » Continue Reading.
In my previous post — Sales Process? You Should Probably Call It a Pursuit Process — I talked about the different types of sales processes that companies have, if they have one at all.
In this post, I’ll add some proof points that speak to the value of using a dynamic sales process within your organization.
In my current role, I sit in countless interviews with top-performing sales professionals while in the process of working with companies to develop their own customized and dynamic sales processes. I get to hear what those who excel do and do well to get results, and these approaches become part of that company’s dynamic sales process. What they do might also be considered best practices that can be adapted and more broadly applied.
For example, in a recent interview, one top performer talked about considering not just his external clients but his internal ones as well. Imagine that! These were the company’s experts who he would be touching base with for their input and feedback as he assessed the prospect’s needs and his potential solution. He said that most sales professionals tended to look at their sales organization and the prospect’s organization, but there was great benefit in developing relationships with internal sources who might support the sale or provide key insights. His recommendation as a best practice: identify internal experts who should be a part of the process.
Whether or not this » Continue Reading.
What do you think is the intent of your company’s sales process? Maybe I should step back and ask: does your company even have a sales process?
What I’ve found is that many clients interpret the purpose of a sales process to be overcoming objections or outlining the skills necessary to close a sale. Those certainly are elements of a sales process, but the real value comes from an overall framework for pursuing opportunities — beginning with initial research and ending with negotiation, closing, and expanding the relationship. In essence, the sales process is really a pursuit process.
In many companies, if there is any kind of sales process at all, it’s usually random or informal, and few people follow it consistently. Some individual sales professionals may have their own processes, relying on tried-and-true formulas that they’ve used throughout their careers, but there isn’t a single process that is followed by everyone in the company or is based on outcomes that have been proven to be successful.
Some companies do have formal sales processes, but they may be so rigid that few stick with them in practice; instead, the process might become a reference or a template for adding opportunities to the pipeline.
Then, there’s the dynamic sales process, which provides both structure and latitude for sales professionals to determine where they are in the pursuit of an opportunity, how to move to the next steps, and how to » Continue Reading.
In my previous post, Confessions of an Old-school Sales Professional, I discussed several different selling styles — charismatic, technical, aggressor, and consultative — which may be known by a variety of names.
Many sales professionals find themselves stuck in a particular style of selling. I was one more at home with a charismatic approach and, sometimes, a technical approach. I had my share of successes, but I also saw a number of opportunities vanish just when I thought they should be closing. I began to see the limitations of my narrow go-to selling styles, and I wondered how much more growth I could experience by expanding the tools to my skills toolkit. Moving beyond my comfort zone took some doing, so I thought I would share some tips in this post.
The first step to shift your selling style is awareness. You need to become clear on where you tend to live in terms of approach by identifying your default style. Do you focus more on relationships? On technical knowledge? On pushing clients to consider new ideas? Assess where you are and how well your current approach works for you. Think about your successes, and why they have worked. Remember the deals that you couldn’t close, and be honest about the reasons of why they slipped away.
Then, do a gap analysis. What might you have done differently that could have changed the outcome of that opportunity? What different skills » Continue Reading.
Confessions of an Old-school Sales Professional
When I look back over my sales career, I realize that I mainly operated as a relationship-based seller. I had my share of successes with this approach, but I also saw a number of opportunities vanish just as they should be closing.
In one particular instance, I invested 18 months in building a great relationship with a client. At the eleventh hour, as the deal was set to close, it was pulled out from under me. Why? My main contact wasn’t the one who made the buying decision; it was her boss. I had been so embedded in my relationship that I developed a blind spot about considering other people who might ultimately be the decision-makers.
My biggest mistake was believing in old-school sales training, which taught the value of creating a connection with people, because, “if they like you, they will buy from you.” Today, with the knowledge of hindsight, I offer this addendum: It’s not enough to rely on just your interpersonal skills, staying in the opening phase of the sales process, when establishing relationships are key. Too many things can happen to derail the sale, so don’t put all your eggs in the one basket of relationships.
There are several other baskets of sales approaches and, as I’ve come to learn, those that are too narrowly focused can create undue risk of lost sales.
Charismatic: This is the relationship approach. » Continue Reading.
What Sinatra Teaches Us about Consultative Selling
It’s been 100 years since Frank Sinatra was born, on December 12, 2015. Even though he’s been gone since 1998, he remains an icon, with a growing following. His classic sound and signature style have earned such accolades as “a voice for all generations” with “unmatched showmanship and artistry.”
Why is Frank Sinatra relevant in a blog post about consultative selling? Because he stands the test of time, as does the consultative selling framework for structuring sales calls and client meetings. In today’s socially networked world, where trending topics tend to capture the most attention, Sinatra’s legacy refutes the idea that the latest, shiniest tools are always better than the tried and true.
When it comes to successful selling over the long term, we can all take a few lessons from Sinatra:
Ol’ Blue Eyes
Sinatra had a vision for what worked with an audience. He connected with people. He used all of the skills at his disposal: poise, style, phrasing, and tempo. He “killed” in concert, causing women to swoon and scream. Such engagement wasn’t by accident but, it was by drawing on his strengths and matching them to audience needs and desires.
Consultative selling also focuses on engaging the audience, in this case, prospects and clients. But, it’s more than relationship building. A true consultative approach makes the transition from product-based selling to needs-based. A consultative sales professional » Continue Reading.
I have worked with Richardson for more than a decade. I was first based in Brussels, working across multiple industries and cultures in Europe. Now, I’m in Australia, working with a broad range of clients across the Asia-Pacific region.
As a facilitator, I take a high-energy approach in the classroom, encouraging debate, discussion, and a sharing of experience that is respectful of different cultural perspectives.
Questioning skills take on another layer of complexity in Asia because you need to ask fairly direct questions but in a gentler, less aggressive manner than is typical in the US or European markets.
In Asia, you might have to ask the same questions several times, in different ways, to get the response that you need. Sometimes, it takes circling back to a particular question later in the meeting or in a future meeting after the client has become a little more comfortable with you.
During first meetings, I find clients in Asia to be more conservative initially. That’s when questioning skills in prefacing, trading, and pacing become really important (see Part II: ).
With pacing, for example, clients need time to think through and consider their response to questions. So, maybe you ask a question, then sip your water or coffee to provide a pause, and then let them know that you’re expecting a response, in a respectful manner. It’s also important to respect the fact that, if you’re conducting business » Continue Reading.
In Part I of this series, I focused on the strategy of questioning skills — the “what” to ask. In Part II, we’ll move on to the best way of asking sales questions — the “how.” The elements involve proper empathy, pacing, and back-and-forth dialogue.
The objective is to have a two-way dialogue with the client so that the meeting doesn’t feel like an interrogation. The skills for achieving this include acknowledging, little nods, and paraphrasing back — “If I hear right, Mr. Client, what you’re saying is …” You become an active listener, being there in the moment instead of thinking about your next question or your next meeting. You demonstrate empathy.
I’ll share a true example of how not to do it. This comes from the time of the global financial crisis when a salesperson meeting with a client began the conversation by asking, “How’s business?” He said it more as a throwaway ice breaker as he was getting himself settled. The client was an entrepreneur who had grown the business to several hundred employees, including family members. The client responded, “To be honest, this has been the toughest of my 20-plus years in business. I nearly lost everything. I couldn’t even sleep at night, thinking about the impact losing the business would have on my family and employees.”
How did the salesperson respond? He said, “Oh OK, so what I wanted to talk to you about today » Continue Reading.
Great Questioning Skills Have Two Components: Part I – The Strategy
There are two essential components to questioning skills in a sales environment. The first involves strategy — the “what” to ask. The second is about the “how” of asking questions. The art of getting better at both begins with preparation.
This post will focus on the strategy of questioning skills. Part II will cover the skills involved in how to ask questions with proper empathy, pacing, and back-and-forth dialogue.
The first element in establishing an effective questioning strategy is to identify what you want to learn from the client. This means establishing clear objectives but not just those related to what you want to get out of the meeting. Think about what it is that you want to leave behind. This doesn’t mean a brochure or other information but, more importantly, what is the perception that you want to leave behind.
As for type of questions, at Richardson we often refer to the concept of a questioning funnel. At the top are big, overarching questions — such as the client’s goals and objectives — moving down to more granular questions about implementation and decision criteria.
Often, salespeople find it hard to start with big questions. They think too broad: “Tell me about the business and what you want to achieve.” If they have an existing relationship with the client, they usually start with what’s currently going on » Continue Reading.
Five Quick Sales Tips to Sell More Effectively
In Part I of this series, I talked about the changing sales environment and how more buyers are buying than being sold. In Part II , my focus turned to the need for salespeople to dig deep into buying motives to establish credibility and provide new ideas and insights to buyers. Now, it’s time to turn to some sales tips and techniques for selling in today’s environment.
I don’t want to say that cold calling is dead, but it certainly has changed dramatically. Salespeople used to be able to call a prospect who had never before expressed an interest and get a few minutes of their time. Sometimes, they could just show up at their office and gain entrance. That rarely happens today.
Since the advent of Caller ID, it’s never been easier to ignore incoming phone calls. Salespeople are then left with the question: Do I leave a message or just hang up? Even leaving a voice mail is little guarantee of a call back, so many don’t even bother. I used to get 50 voice mails a day; now I don’t even get 50 a month.
The secret to getting in the door is to find a hook that resonates with the prospect. Here are some more sales tips and techniques that may help.
Cultivate your network. Salespeople need to have an ecosystem in place to build and leverage » Continue Reading.
In Part I of this series, I talked about the changing sales environment and how more buyers are buying than being sold. As a result, salespeople need to dig deep into buying motives to establish credibility and provide new ideas and insights to buyers.
One of the techniques that I used in my 30-year career in sales, including 15 years as a senior vice president of sales in the IT services industry, was to conduct a targeted dialogue with buyers. I would start by asking them to tell me about their top ten customers:
What are the common themes among their largest customers? Why do their customers continue to buy from them? Is it because of long-standing relationships, customer service, speed to market, or any other specific advantage? On the negative side, what about the top ten customers that left to go with a competitor? Are there any common themes among those who are gone?
Even though most buyers could not give good answers about their customers, I was able to gain credibility and position myself as a business partner who could provide value.
For me, it’s all about research and sales preparation before meeting with buyers. First, you have to know where they’re coming from, what’s going on with their company, who their competitors are, what markets they’re actively going after, and what the common problems are associated with these markets. You have to learn so much about » Continue Reading.
In every sales training class that I facilitate, I start by telling participants that they may consider my background either lucky or unfortunate for them. That’s because I’m not a “professional” trainer. What I am is a professional salesperson, with 30 years of experience under my belt. The last 15 of those years were spent as a senior vice president of sales in the IT services industry.
With this background, I have witnessed just about every sales scenario imaginable. And because I was responsible for premier accounts — those that billed in the top 40 — I developed an expert ability to deal with large, complex sales with long buying cycles.
During my career, I have also witnessed dramatic changes in B2B selling, as the availability of information has created more sophisticated and informed buyers. In my sales days, customers relied on me to provide them with information. Now, customers want salespeople to validate information that they’ve discovered on their own.
The way I describe today’s selling environment is that “more buyers are buying than being sold.” We have all seen these numbers previously, but they are worth communicating again. According to SiriusDecisions, buyers now digitally complete 67% of their decision processes before ever contacting a salesperson. Forrester Research goes even further, citing that 60% to 90% of the buyer’s journey occurs before he/she ever engages a potential provider.
Another important change is the number of people involved » Continue Reading.
When we work with clients to create a common language and sales process, that’s just the start. A process by itself is just a process. It needs to be absorbed and put into practice. It needs to become part of day-to-day behaviors. It needs to be second nature.
Depending on the organization, this can be straightforward or complex, depending on how well sales professionals understand what they’re doing as they go from one step to the next.
That’s where Richardson sales training, reinforcement, and coaching come in. By linking the sales process and sales training, participants can see what they are currently doing, how it fits within the desired behaviors, and where adjustments are needed. A process that may have seemed overwhelming to start becomes a welcome roadmap that breaks down each step, and they can see how the things that they currently do fit within the overall scope.
At the end of training sessions, I’ve had participants tell me the structure of the sales process is “awesome” because now they have something to guide what they’re doing. They know that they can always refer back to the steps of the sales process and make adjustments, as necessary, for their specific situation.
It certainly is possible to train sales people without linking content to a sales process. The training would incorporate information from interviews with sales professionals and managers of the activities in the process of » Continue Reading.
How Can a Common Vocabulary Create Shorter Sales Cycles?
At Richardson, we place great stock in creating a common language and a customized sales process for consistency across a client organization. The reason is simple: results. We continually see benefits in terms of creating sales success and shorter sales cycles.
Why does language — vocabulary — matter so much? What is the big deal if one person talks about pursuing a lead, while another talks about prospects, and a third an opportunity. They all mean the same thing, don’t they?
Similarly, some sales teams talk about a close, others about gaining agreement or signing contracts. Again, are they the same thing? Maybe or maybe not.
Whenever members of the same team use different words to describe what may be similar activities, they can confuse clients and coworkers, particularly those who work in global organizations.
Consider the case of a large US company that has grown by acquisition, with local offices in Europe and Asia. Say the company then contracts with a global supplier that also has a US headquarters and branches around the world. The expectation at the headquarters level is for consistency across all locations in terms of service, the relationship, and the overall value provided. But, if the local offices in Japan or India hear different vocabulary than what was used in the US, it can make the supplier look unorganized and create confusion with the client. » Continue Reading.
The Best Sales Process Comes from Successful Sellers
One thing we know about successful sales organizations is that they take guesswork out of the equation for sales professionals. They establish a consistent sales process and language, and this means that sales professionals don’t have to recreate the wheel or figure things out as they go along. Instead, they are able to follow a process that has been tested, prove its value, and provide a roadmap to next steps.
A critical challenge for sales organizations in onboarding new hires is the length of time before they become productive. They have to learn the product that they’re selling, the company’s culture, the clients, and the prospects. Any steps to shorten that coming-up-to-speed period contribute to the productivity of sales professional and the organization.
At Richardson, we believe a common language and sales process helps bring sales professionals up-to-speed faster and serves them better throughout their career. By telling them, “This is how we do it, step by step,” sales professionals get better and quicker at turning a sales lead into a successful deal.
The way that Richardson works with clients to create and validate an effective sales process — one that clearly identifies leading indicators of success — begins with what we call an affirmative inquiry. We interview senior leaders and then ask them to nominate sales professionals who consistently perform at top levels. The goal is to determine what » Continue Reading.
At Richardson, we have a wealth of senior-level experts who facilitate training sessions around the world. All of them have line-management experience in complex sales environments, and they draw on their real-world understanding to engage sales managers and executives in improving performance and changing behaviors.
In our first Sales Expert Series, we ask them to share what they see when working with clients and offer tips based on what leads to the best results. Here is our first insight.
What suggestions would you offer to sales leaders to move their team members from vendor status to true strategic partner?
The first step is to ask these questions: What does a true strategic partner look and sound like? What does this really mean from the customer’s perspective? What do you do daily to achieve this status? As a sales leader, the way to move team members toward becoming strategic thinkers is not by telling them what to do but by asking them what they think.
With the answers to these questions, select just one aspect of being a true partner, then make it the focus of your weekly team meeting with the ground rule being that everyone has to contribute. The topics could be anything from how to get to know a customer’s business as well as they do to becoming more global in thought processes, or something as specific as adding more polish in verbal communication. After all, a primary » Continue Reading.
Only 17 percent of salespeople get a second sales meeting
Here’s the bad news: only 17 percent of salespeople get a second meeting with an executive, according to Forrester Research.
The good news is that you can improve your chances of getting a second meeting through preparation and demonstrating your credibility in the first meeting. If you are lucky enough to get into the executive suite, you have to balance your strategy of question-led and insight-led dialogue to create “aha!” moments for the client, proving that you do indeed have a deep understanding of their business.
The first step is to determine, in advance of the meeting, what you’d like to happen at its conclusion. It’s not always going to be a sale; it might be to have another meeting. The way that you build that expectation up front for yourself and communicate it early in the meeting can be an important move.
Be aware that executives will often spend the first few minutes of a sales meeting trying to determine whether you have earned your right to be a part of the conversation regarding whatever initiative is on the table. So, if you begin by being too product-focused or talking only about yourself and your company, most executives will consider that a deal-breaker. You have to demonstrate from the start that you know enough about their business and their industry to be credible, insightful, and a valuable partner, » Continue Reading.
Improve Your Next Sales Call
Many people use slides in their client presentations but few use them effectively. Slides should be a tool to support your message — not a crutch to help you get through the talk. Anything you put up on the screen should be there to back up what you’re saying so that the dialogue continues and doesn’t go off track.
It’s important at the beginning of any sales presentation to put your remarks into context. Typically, your audience will want to know two things: 1) Who are you? and 2) Why are we here? So, you need to communicate these two points briefly, and then ask their permission to continue on the agenda that you’ve just laid out.
You also need to ask for input periodically, checking to make sure everyone’s questions and desired outcomes are being addressed. Even though you are the one making the presentation, no meeting should ever be a monologue. Whether you’re meeting with one person or a group, every interaction should be a dialogue.
To make sure it’s an effective dialogue, you have to know your audience. The conversation and sales presentation will differ depending on the level of people you’re meeting with because they care about different things. Front-line managers tend to focus on the day-to-day operations because that’s where they make their contribution. Senior executives take a broader perspective, considering how different functions can impact key areas » Continue Reading.
Preparation is a no-brainer when thinking about ways to improve the progress and outcome of sales calls. But, just saying preparation is important does little to make it happen. It helps to address the many ways salespeople can prepare effectively.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the client’s industry and then, specifically, with the company you’re targeting. Have they been engaged with mergers and acquisitions as a growth strategy? Do they have new leadership? Have they changed strategy recently?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these scenarios, you can expect that people throughout the organization, from leaders to individual contributors, will need to begin to do things a little differently. So, for Richardson, in the area of sales training and effectiveness solutions, you can begin to drill down into whether they have the skills and abilities needed to align themselves with achieving the new goals and objectives.
This approach is not specific to the training industry. The same kind of preparation is necessary in any industry so that salespeople can demonstrate their understanding of the business in customer dialogues.
Among the tools I use to dig into the information I’m searching for are websites, such as Hoovers.com or the company’s own site. Search engines help me find information on specific terms, people, and companies. Also, LinkedIn is always a good resource to find out about the people attending my next meeting.
Another tool full of useful » Continue Reading.
Sales Assessment Help Sales Managers Make Sure that they have the Right People in the Right Roles
The traditional role of a sales manager has evolved from being a boss to acting more as a coach. This change requires knowing your team and offering the right kind of feedback to help them be more successful.
What research tells us is that the focus of this feedback should be to build on existing strengths. Instead, managers are more likely to focus on weaknesses than strengths, and they’re frequently likely not to have a dialogue on either strengths or weaknesses (i.e., essentially ignoring a person) rather than talk about either strengths or weaknesses.
Author and researcher Tom Rath, who champions strength-based leadership, conducted a survey in 2004 to discover how a manager influences employee engagement or disengagement. From the results come these statistics: the chances of becoming actively disengaged were 40% if the manager ignored the employee; that figure shrank to 22% if the manager focused on the employee’s weaknesses, and it dropped to 1% when the manager focused on the employee’s strengths.
Similarly, numerous researchers have found that people who use their strengths at work perform better, have greater energy and higher self-esteem, are more engaged at work, experience less stress, and remain longer with their employers.
This strength-based approach seems counterintuitive to conventional wisdom about identifying weaknesses and correcting them. Time is often spent on trying to improve » Continue Reading.
Sales assessments increase win rates by 10% and decreased turnover by over 30%!*
What is in your wheelhouse — your area of expertise, the place where you operate with confidence and skill? Do you even know the areas in selling situations where you perform best? Most salespeople can’t articulate their strengths, and they rarely, if ever, receive feedback from sales managers about their strengths.
When it was once common wisdom to focus improvement efforts on eliminating weaknesses, research is now finding that building on strengths has better outcomes. Over the past dozen years or so, studies have found that focusing on strengths, sometimes called strength-based leadership, results in better performance on the job. Specifically, employees who focus on their strengths are more likely to achieve their goals, experience less stress, have greater energy, be more engaged on the job, have higher levels of self-esteem, and be more confident. Just as important, they are more likely to remain with their employer longer.
Too many salespeople avoid this type of self-discovery altogether, leaving development and coaching efforts to their sales manager. Instead, every salesperson should take responsibility to identify and understand their strengths in the selling environment, especially in today’s highly competitive and constantly changing business landscape.
A strength-based conversation is critical to the salesperson’s career and for his/her own personal satisfaction at work.
Many Richardson clients begin their journey in sales performance improvement by identifying core competencies. Then, they conduct assessments » Continue Reading.
In the war for sales talent, finding and retaining good people is a continual challenge!
One way to stay at the forefront of sales talent management is through a strength-based approach: focusing on what people do well and tapping their natural talents, versus trying to improve their weaknesses.
The concept works in two ways. It supports the identification of strengths that you want to bring into your team, helping to make sure that you recruit the right people into the right roles. Secondly, research shows that when employees are given feedback related to their strengths and when their work plays to their strengths, they are more likely to remain with that organization.
I am currently completing a master’s degree in Positive Psychology, and in my work, I’ve found quite a lot of research and information on the subject of creating strength-based organizations and teams. As the experts say, people who use their strengths …
Perform better at work (Corporate Leadership Council, 2002) Are more likely to achieve their goals (Linley, Nielsen, Wood, Gillet & Biswas-Diener, 2010) Experience less stress (Wood, Linley, Maltby, Hurling, 2010) Have higher levels of energy and vitality (Govindji & Linley, 2007) Are more engaged at work (Harter, Schmidt & Hayes, 2002) Have higher levels of self-esteem (Minhas, 2010) Are more confident (Govindji & Linley, 2007) Stay longer with companies (Stefanyszyn, 2007)
In 2004, a survey by author and researcher Tom Rath found that when managers » Continue Reading.
Providing a balance between asking good sales questions and providing good insights
Back before the days of Internet searches, salespeople could start conversations with, “Tell me about your business and what keeps you up at night.” Now, the answer would be: “I’m not here to educate you. I don’t have time to be your onboarding department. You’re supposed to know this stuff.”
If you ask sales questions that are too basic, to which you would have known the answer if you’d done your homework, you risk annoying the customer. And, if you ask too many questions, even good ones, one after another, it becomes an interrogation.
Richardson is completing a research project on teamwork in selling, and we are interested in your views. Please click here to complete this ten-minute survey. After completing the survey, you will have a chance to enter your contact information to receive a copy of the report, and to become eligible to win a Nike Fitbit.
Thank you, in advance, for your interest and participation in this survey.
Survey Link – http://hubs.ly/H019W9_0
Winning Sales Approach – Asking vs. Telling
Over the past year, I’ve been involved in a number of significant sales training initiatives at Richardson with companies that had first invested heavily in other types of sales performance improvement programs. Each had been trying to make fundamental changes in their sales approach to match the constantly evolving B2B buying environment.
As one of our clients, a recently relayed chemical distribution company’s salespeople had taken another flavor of sales training, and while they liked the training, there was no sustainment of the learning. They weren’t using their new skills or changing their behaviors. Implementation and execution had suffered, and so they approached Richardson for sales training in blocking-and-tackling skills that could help in delivering the expected results.
When I have asked other clients about their experiences and why they’re interested in Richardson’s Consultative Selling Skills, they say things like this: “My guys have been trying to provoke new thinking and ideas, but they don’t have the credibility. They’re 24-years-old and trying to tell executives how they should run their business instead of asking good questions and establishing a meaningful dialogue. They just end up sounding arrogant.”
Age isn’t the issue here; it’s strategy and preparation. At Richardson, we believe that the strategy of telling vs. asking, especially without the proper preparation, can chill many deals. We are, after all, human beings, and we typically prefer a dialogue over monologue.
A consultative selling strategy » Continue Reading.
Why Sales Training Reinforcement is a Must-Have
Richardson recently partnered with the Aberdeen Group to provide you with complimentary access to its newest research, Once is Not Enough: Why Sales Training Reinforcement is a Must Have. This report is a “must-have” that identifies the organizational best practices that “post-training reinforcement” companies invest in to emphasize how sales training is not only as an event, but as a lifestyle, that can achieve measurably better results. Here are some key findings that we thought you might find some of the data interesting:
34% more of first-year sales reps achieve quota at organizations with post-training reinforcement Companies that perform post-training reinforcement see a customer renewal rate of 74% Post-training reinforcement companies are 64% more likely to collect sales lessons learned on the fly by the entire team and incorporate them into their sales methodology to promote cross- and up-selling
If you would like to discuss how a reinforcement process might help you gain better results from your training initiatives, please let me know.
Thanks in advance,
Preparation Is Key to a Successful Questioning Strategy
Asking good sales questions is a derivative of good preparation. That’s a given in my book. And I’ll give you a personal example that proves the point.
I was working on a sales opportunity with what has become one of Richardson’s largest clients. We were nearing the final presentation and would be going head-to-head against a major competitor in our industry. Our team would be presenting to a dozen people, and so we focused considerable energies on preparation. Before we even entered the room, we wanted to know what those 12 were thinking so that we could be sure to address their expectations in our questioning and presentation strategy.
I contacted each one of the 12 and was able to speak with ten people. In these individual conversations, I thanked them for their time and assured them that it would be time well spent because what is important to Richardson is what is important to them. I told them that I wanted to hear their individual views before meeting en masse so that I could understand their critical objectives for the meeting, what would be important for them to hear, and what they needed to walk away from the meeting knowing in order to make their decision.
When we all sat down together, our team had a good idea about the level of questions that we needed to pose and the insights that » Continue Reading.
Becoming Hardwired to Close Deals
One could argue that the whole point of selling is to close deals. That’s often easier said than done. Many sales professionals struggle with asking for the business or next steps to maintain momentum on sales opportunities.
From my own experience working with sales professionals, I know that by the time you get to the Close, you should already have created such strong sponsorship within the situation that it’s hardwired for the Close. In fact, we tend to think about the collaboration leading up to the Close as just as important, if not more so, as planning for the Close.
The situation we recommend that you are in at closing time is this: your sponsor and you should be in it together. You are creating a plan for how you are going to execute and make the deal happen, going well beyond just getting the right signatures on a contract.
There are several things you can do throughout the sales cycle to put yourself in this superior position to close deals:
Find the right sponsor. Look for someone on the decision-making team who is invested in moving the deal forward. They typically have a lot on the line in terms of wanting to see this through and achieve the desired results. » Continue Reading.
How to Close a Sale? Generate Urgency!
In my previous post we provided 3 closing techniques for getting a client invested in the deal. Today I will review creating urgency in how to close a sale. The Close of business deals can be frustratingly slow. The solution is to generate urgency at every juncture so that you create action that moves the deal forward and, in turn, builds velocity toward the Close.
Consider the complexity of many sales initiatives and the stakeholders involved in decision making. To elevate the urgency, you need to understand what the triggers and dynamics are internally and then build upon that.
Risk is a huge trigger for many clients. While they might consider the risk involved in going forward with a project, you can focus on the risk of not taking action. If you can quantify the risk of not moving forward, that’s even better because that elevates the sense of urgency around action, which gets people to mobilize and commit.
For example, we have recently worked with a company that has a relatively high Net-Promoter score. In this scenario, they want to go from good to great, and to do that, they have to engage with their clients in such a superior fashion that it clearly differentiates them from their competitors. The problem is there has been some leakage in scores that could impact their future. The level of urgency for action is high, » Continue Reading.
Creating a compelling Case Against No Action is Critical in Closing a Deal. Learn 3 Sales Closing Techniques to Help Clients and Prospects Get More Invested So It Feels you’re Closing the Deal Together
One of the skills we reinforce and model during Richardson sales training sessions is the Close: asking for the business or next steps to maintain momentum on sales opportunities. This is something sales professionals struggle with, as do clients who don’t want to be pressured into making buying decisions.
That’s why getting clients invested in the Close early on in the sales process is so important.
How this plays out is a lesson in role play — not the kind we do in our training sessions but in adopting different roles depending on the sales scenario.
Here are three sales closing techniques and roles for getting clients invested in the Close:
Be a cheerleader. Early in a sales call, talk to the person about desired results. Learn what is important to them both professionally and personally. With that information, you can become a cheerleader giving them a pep talk. “You are in a position where this could be career defining for you. Have you ever thought of it this way?” Then paint a picture with examples and evidence to support this statement. People who are fortunate enough to be leading these kinds of projects have the opportunity to make an impact in a meaningful » Continue Reading.
Moving Beyond Price: Differentiating Yourself through a Consultative Selling Approach
When we interview our clients to learn why they picked us for a sales training solution, the reason we hear given most often isn’t what you might expect. Although we offer comprehensive sales solutions, exceptional customization capabilities, outstanding facilitators, and many other tangible strengths, the reason we hear the most is that “you were the best fit.” When we look further into that answer, we usually hear phrases, such as “you really got our business and our culture” and “we had confidence in your ability to deliver what we need.” In a time when buyers have instant access to volumes of information at their fingertips, soft factors still matter. They can matter a lot.
As a sales professional, you work in a world where your competitors may be able to match you in price, product quality, and even features. So, how do you convince a potential client to buy from you? You must use a consultative selling approach to help differentiate your solution and yourself from your competitors. You don’t just offer yourself as someone who can supply good solutions; you offer yourself as someone who is fully vested in the client’s success, not just someone trying to sell to the client. You strive to be the best “fit.”
So, how do you become the best fit? This process starts with preparation before the conversation. You need to identify the » Continue Reading.
Sales Prospecting Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint!
It’s OK to want immediate results from sales prospecting. In an ideal world, every call would lead to an appointment and the start of a beautiful business relationship. A more realistic view, however, is one that recognizes sales prospecting as the long-term activity it most often becomes.
Too many people gauge sales prospecting success by the number of appointments scheduled. Yet, if your two-minute call only focused on getting in the door and your conversation didn’t cover any meaningful ground, you won’t be well prepared for any appointment that might result. So, your first meeting could easily be your last with that prospect.
I judge sales prospecting success by engagement, the kind of dialogue conducted, and whether I was able to gain a greater understanding of the prospect’s needs. Success is being able to take the next step in forming a relationship or, better yet, a partnership. An appointment may not come out of the first or second or third conversation. But, when I do finally get in the door, it will be because I have engaged the prospect in learning more about how I can solve the needs or problems at hand.
When you bring value to conversations and put the prospect first, it becomes easier to schedule follow-up calls. And your calls tend to get answered. At least, that’s been my experience with a high percentage of » Continue Reading.
Do’s and Don’ts of Sales Prospecting
During my 20 years in sales, I’ve seen more than enough examples of best practices, fair practices, and I-can’t-believe-it practices related to sales prospecting. I’ve worked in technology sales, leading high-performance teams, and I’ve been responsible for generating engagement with clients who weren’t actively in partnership with me or my then-employer.
Based on my experience, I’ve developed a short list of things that you should do to be effective in sales prospecting and, conversely, things not to do.
DO: Be disciplined. If you are methodical in using a consistent process over time to contact prospects, you will be more successful with your prospecting. It is as simple as it sounds. Set aside a certain amount of time each week to reach out to prospects, be it an hour a day or a half-day each week. By scheduling the time, you can develop a rhythm that includes pre-call preparation and follow-through dedicated to specific clients.
DO: Leverage your account-planning process. Specifically, use the process to understand two things about each targeted account: 1) What is relevant to that organization? What is happening internally and also within the industry? 2) What messaging can you put together that will resonate with those factors in mind? What this information will give you is a roadmap for how to prepare for your prospecting call.
DON’T: Lead with your product or capabilities. Your opening should focus on what’s » Continue Reading.
7 Quick Sales Tips for a Strong 2015 Close
The year has once again flown by and, for calendar-year companies, the fourth quarter looms ahead. For sales professionals, this means pedal to the metal to close out the year on a strong note. For sales managers, it means coaching and guiding teams to reach the finish line in good shape.
Here are some quick sales tips that may prove helpful in bringing 2015 to a strong close.
Adapting Learning for the New Workforce
The reality of the generational shift in today’s workforce is undisputed. Much has been written about the sea change taking place, with baby boomers retiring in record numbers as millennials are entering the workforce and taking on their first supervisory roles. Consider these numbers:
10,000 daily Medicare enrollments 73,000,000 — the size of the Baby Boomer class 2015 — the year that millennials become the largest demographic in the US workforce
What does this mean for the Learning function? In a word: Opportunity.
Programmatic Learning as we once knew it is dead! Now is the ideal time to conduct a post-mortem on past practices from a content, process, and delivery standpoint. With today’s technology, we can more fully engage tomorrow’s leaders while improving efficacy.
Beyond the issues of learning content, instructional process, and delivery vehicles, the Learning function can make greater contributions to any organization by thinking beyond traditional functional boundaries. Learning opportunities and “teachable moments” reside within and across the entire employment experience and lifecycle, including the following:
Organizational structure: The trend toward flatter organizations scares people if they think about career growth from a traditional perspective… always up. Cross -functional assignment, rotations, and special, entrepreneurial projects present opportunities to engage and retain employees? Processes: Are there clear expectations about what to do and how things should be done? We’ve been lobbying for clear expectation setting for years … and not doing » Continue Reading.
Best Sales Questions that Work
You may love watching police dramas on TV, but a good salesperson never recreates the interrogation room in a prospect’s office.
The foundation of a good sales questioning strategy is creating a well-paced dialogue based on asking open-ended questions.
Here is a list of questions that I typically draw on in developing my pre-call strategy. They can be easily honed for specific situations and are intended to draw the other person into a meaningful conversation.
What is the opportunity?
What is the initiative we’re here to talk about today? Why is now the right time for this initiative? What is the driving force behind this initiative?
What are the expectations?
How will you recognize or define success? What changes do you want to see in your organization? What do you want your people to be doing differently How do you see this working within your organization? What are the roadblocks? Are there any champions or other stakeholders with an interest in this initiative?
What are the circumstances?
How have you been addressing this issue? What is your time frame for getting started? What does your decision-making process look like, and who will be involved? What are next steps and your time frames for implementation? When can we schedule time for a presentation to all of the decision makers?
Who else is in the running?
Who else are you considering » Continue Reading.
Educational Technology and Digital Content Innovator Joins Richardson; Christopher Tiné to Head Product Development
Philadelphia, PA — August 5, 2015 — Richardson, a leading global provider of sales training and effectiveness solutions, announced today that Christopher Tiné has joined Richardson as SVP & Chief Product Officer. Previously, Tiné was Vice President of Product Development for ESI International and IPS Learning — both part of the Providence Equity Partners family of companies — where he headed the group responsible for product development and design, digital strategy, curriculum, and professional services.
The Best Sales Questions to Ask on a Second Call
Life would be fantastic if initial sales calls resulted in every question being answered, in full, with enough detail to go straight to the close. That rarely — if ever — happens. That’s why it’s necessary to plan the best sales questions very carefully for the second sales call.
In my previous post, The Art of Asking Sales Questions to Engage Prospects, I discussed the kinds of questions and strategy that salespeople should use in calls with prospects and clients. Now, let’s consider the best sales questions to focus on for the second call.
One of the first things to do is share your understanding of the initial conversation. The reason is twofold: it validates your understanding of the situation based on what you heard, and you can gauge reactions and uncover additional perspectives in various areas.
What I typically do is to put together a conversation summary, highlighting my understanding of the conversation and what the prospect is trying to accomplish. This makes for a good starting point for a second meeting, and I always ask if there are others who need to be engaged in these conversations.
The questioning strategy at this point should be designed to drill down into more detail of the initiative under discussion. Many of these would focus on implementation and on uncovering each individual’s point of view:
How do you see this working within » Continue Reading.
The Art of Asking Probing Sales Questions to Engage Prospects
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin
Salespeople who call on prospects or clients without well-researched, well-prepared sales questions are likely to walk away knowing little more than when they began.
The four main objectives in any initial sales dialogue should be these:
To establish yourself as a credible professional and partner by being prepared and thoughtful in the sales questions that you ask To seek to understand the prospect’s current situation, which includes an effort to validate what you’ve researched or the assumptions that you’ve made To uncover a broader and deeper range of information, from strategic objectives to immediate business needs To seed new ideas to either influence or disrupt the prospect’s current thinking
With those four objectives firmly in mind, your next step is to develop a series of open-ended questions that you will ask to engage clients in a meaningful dialogue. Sequence your sales questions to create a flow. Forget about yes-or-no sales questions. Don’t provide multiple-choice answers. You want each question to elicit a thoughtful answer from the prospect’s or client’s point of view.
What is the initiative we’re here to talk about today? What is the driving force behind this initiative? Why is now the right time for this initiative? How will you recognize or define success?
Just as important as specific sales questions are the » Continue Reading.
Aligning Key Stakeholders in Rolling out Global Sales Training Programs
“Not invented here” is probably the leading challenge facing the rollout of global sales training programs.
What happens in too many cases is that someone or some group in corporate headquarters says, “We need a training program for all our locations. We will develop it here, in our home country, and then roll it out around the world.”
It doesn’t matter where that corporate headquarters is located. If a training program comes solely from any one place, the rest of the world will say, “That won’t work in our country.” It could even be that the proposed program is exactly what they themselves would recommend, but the fact that it came from somewhere else makes it tainted.
The resistance to a program developed in Country A being implemented in Country B, C, or D is high and often justified because the targeted customers — their communication styles, their customs — are different. Overcoming this resistance is possible and can be relatively easy. It just takes collaboration and alignment of stakeholders.
The people in Country B, C, and D should be considered stakeholders, not recipients, of the proposed training. Taking the time and effort to ask their input may not significantly change the construct of what the program would have been without their involvement, but it will make a huge difference in adoption.
The stakeholders will feel » Continue Reading.
Today’s blog post was exclusively submitted and written by The Online Expert
Three Easy Steps in Building your Mobile User Persona
The digital boom has helped marketing and sales reach new heights. From conventional print, radio, and television, to the viral, social selling activities, online marketing, and now mobile, the pattern of business development strongly suggests that it will follow the type of medium most used by people. Smart Insight reported that mobile marketing will be vital in the success of marketing and demand generation campaigns for businesses this year.
However, there are a lot of factors to consider if you want your mobile demand generation campaigns to be more effective. Start by building mobile user personas necessary for your campaigns.
But first, what is Mobile User Persona?
Mobile user personas are essentially your ideal target market classified in different personalities depending on how they use their mobile devices, the type of mobile devices, how they consume content via their gadgets and a slew of other factors. It basically provides sales and marketing with ways to identify customer motivations, habits, personalities, expectations, and goals.
Building such personas will allow you to create strategies based on the mobile habits of your ideal customers, which can lead you closer to reaching your goal/s.
How to create mobile user personas quickly?
Building personas for your mobile demand generation and prospecting isn’t really different from defining your target market. The only difference is that you are » Continue Reading.
For the Third Consecutive Year, Richardson has been Named to Selling Power’s 2015 Top Sales Training Companies List
Philadelphia, PA—July 20, 2015 — Richardson, a leading global sales training and effectiveness company, announced that it has been included on Selling Power’s 2015 list of the Top Sales Training Companies for the third consecutive year. The Selling Power Top 20 Sales Training Companies list identifies leading companies that excel in helping sales leaders improve the performance of their sales teams. Selling Power editors say that the firms included on the 2015 Top Sales Training Companies list have “demonstrated an excellent awareness of the skills and tools required to succeed and remain competitive in today’s selling environment.”
According to Selling Power magazine publisher and founder Gerhard Gschwandtner, sales training is a vital component of a high-performance sales organization. “Great salespeople require the right toolset, the right skillset, and the right mindset to win,” he said. “A great, consultative sales training initiative can address all three areas. Sales leaders should use this list of the Top 20 Sales Training Companies to find the solution that best suits their needs.”
“We are very thankful and honored to be recognized once again as one of the top sales training companies in the industry,” says Jim Brodo, SVP of Marketing at Richardson. “Richardson’s success is a direct outcome of working with some of today’s most innovative clients and by the excellence and » Continue Reading.
5 Key Elements for Rolling out a Global Sales Training Initiative
I am an American who has lived outside the US for 27 years. I’ve worked in 42 countries, lived in the Far East for eight years, in Europe for the last 19 years, and am now based in the UK. At Richardson, Europe Limited, I am a consultant, facilitator, trainer, and coach. I work with European firms, FTSE 100 global companies, and many, many foreign subsidiaries of US companies around world.
A Global Sales Training Program Can Be Challenging, but it’s Worth It!
Global companies often have global customers, which creates certain global expectations. While customers desire customization on the local level, they require consistency across countries. Often, customers negotiate a global agreement so that they can have similar terms around the world, regardless of their volume in different countries — and they expect supplier representatives in all countries to understand the agreement and to know how to support local differences in applying the agreement.
The challenge is that the people who develop the sales relationship and service the account in one country are not the same people who do the same job in other countries. As a result, unless they’ve all been trained the same way, the sales experience for customers of a global supplier will be all over the map.
The need for a consistent sales process across domestic and foreign subsidiaries is clear. To achieve this, global companies need to implement a global sales training program that brings the same skills, methodology, and process to those who work with or support customers around the world.
Equally true is the need for consistency in companies that are expanding their geographic reach to find new business. Often, these growth-oriented companies want their customer experience in new countries to be based on the same best practices developed where the headquarters is located. This means replicating these practices across » Continue Reading.
How do you get the most out of your CRM for Sales Forecasting?
If you were an early adopter of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology, you probably found it to be an expensive, complex tool that often fell short of delivering on expectations. Today, CRM is easier to use, more cost effective, and a must-have for managing nearly every aspect of business data.
Now that you either have or are probably considering a CRM system, how do you get the most out of it? Here are five tips for leveraging your CRM for sales forecasting to gain greater confidence in sales forecast accuracy:
Can micro-moment sales and marketing help restore balance in the playing field?
Mobile devices and 24/7 access to information have certainly changed the way business is conducted. Case in point: More than half of all searches on www.Richardson.com are done on mobile devices, the numbers rising to 52% from 19% in less than a year.
In a B2C world, such a dramatic and rapid shift would make more sense, driven by on-the-go searches by consumers looking for restaurants or best product prices. But for a B2B company like Richardson? It’s hard to imagine someone waiting in line for a latte to suddenly tap her iPhone and say, “Siri, I need to implement a sales training transformation for my 5,000 global sales reps — which providers should I call?”
The Real Moneyball: The Importance of Analytics to Improve Sales Forecast Accuracy
The term “moneyball” is best known for applying an analytical approach to evaluating players on the baseball field, as written about by Michael Lewis in his book of the same name. The concept of moneyball can also apply to the field of sales, where analytics are used to improve sales forecast accuracy.
In my role as Director of Sales Operations at Richardson, I manage support functions that are essential to sales force productivity. When I took on this role in 2012, my primary goal was to improve sales forecast accuracy by providing insights into performance trends, identifying gaps, and recommending ways to fill those gaps.
To do this, I had to develop meaningful reports that would highlight trends and key deals, while assisting the sales team in managing the pipeline. These reports also had to give senior management the detail and visibility needed for decision making on additional strategies and whether to become personally involved in specific opportunities.
To me, there are two key aspects of sales forecasting. One is the analytics of deals in the pipeline. I use these metrics as a pressure test to qualify the risk of the forecast. This is important because, at the end of the day, if senior leadership is making decisions about investments, incentives, or promotional programs on the basis of information that I’m providing, I need to make » Continue Reading.
Way back in 2002, Richardson’s founder, Linda Richardson, published a Cyber Sales Tip called “Make a Thank You Call to Help Build Relationships.” I found this email newsletter while cleaning up some of our archives and in honor of #tbt (Throw Back Thursday) and the pending holiday weekend, I thought I would post it to our blog site as these points are sometimes lost in today’s digital world and are still quite relevant even 13 years later. Hope you in enjoy this post and “thank you” for your readership and support of our blog.
Make a Thank You Call to Help Build Relationships
If you like feeling appreciated by your clients, if you want to strengthen and build relationships, and if you want to win more business, start making thank-you calls today.
Certainly the thank-you call after a meeting or when you win a deal is expected, but the ones after the sale at any time or triggered by a milestone (such as one month or one year after the project, pilot, or implementation…) to say thank you has tremendous relationship and selling power. For example, you could say, “It has been a month (a quarter, even a year, we just completed X and since…I wanted to call…) and I wanted to say thank you…”
Whether you get voice mail or actually reach your client, the power of the thank-you call is the same.
Here are some guidelines:
Tickle in » Continue Reading.
5 Sales Forecasting Techniques to Improve
The key to improving the accuracy in sales forecasting rests with knowing what you need to measure to find out what you want to know. With today’s technology and the near ubiquity of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, it’s more important than ever to give forethought into how you construct your sales forecasts. Otherwise, the data that you get from your time and technology investment may not be what you need to make the right decisions or achieve a real difference in results.
Here are five things that matter most in sales forecasting:
Don’t bother with CRM if you don’t have a sales process. Without an effective sales process in place, how can you trust your CRM technology to provide relevant insights into where deals are stalled or progressing in your pipeline? How can you begin to measure verifiable outcomes and assess the performance (or coaching needs) of your sales force? How will you recognize leading indicators of customer engagement and gain greater confidence in forecasts? There’s an old saying: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Without a sales process, the metrics you pull from your CRM will often be just numbers. Forecast with metrics that matter. Many sales forecasts are built on probability analysis using weighted metrics. The scenario might go something like this: My historical win rate for opportunities in Stage Two of » Continue Reading.
We Asked and You Answered! What is your biggest training challenge?
What better place to take the pulse of learning and development professionals than the ATD 2015 International Conference. We did just that, in Orlando in May, discovering some hot issues in that hot climate. Richardson randomly stopped conference participants to ask a single question: “What is the biggest training challenge you are currently facing?”
Among the leading training challenges uncovered were:
1) Training Reinforcement
2) Measurement/ROI of Training.
In my recap of the full survey which was published on the ATD Blog site, we identify 24 issues that are top of mind, along with insights into ways of dealing with the top five.
Learn more about Richardson’s Consultative Selling Sales Training Solutions.
2 Essential Elements for Building Client Relationships
It’s not rocket science. There is no app. No magic tricks are needed. When it comes to building client relationships, the most fundamental aspect is who you are.
Too many sales professionals confuse client relationships with Customer Relationship Management. The first is a human endeavor — person to person — while the second, known as CRM, is basically a software system that automates the collection of data related to customers and sales opportunities. Think of the two as cause and effect; you have to build a relationship with your clients in order to have data about it to organize and analyze.
Before you can add insights and value to the process of working together — and before you can even win the deal — you have to win over your client. Here are two essential elements that are foundational for making that connection and building client relationships.
1) Be authentic
When I began my career in selling, for Xerox, many years ago, I approached working with my clients as authentically as possible. What I mean by authenticity is being reliable, dependable, and genuine. If you are not “real” with your customers, and you don’t sincerely care about them, they get that message right away. You just can’t fake being authentic.
You relay your authenticity by talking with clients naturally, looking for common bonds and interests, and being friendly. Conversations should be, well, conversational » Continue Reading.
3 Barriers to Better Client Dialogues
When it comes to effective selling practices, there’s often a difference between what’s commonly known and what’s commonly practiced. We know people make buying decisions based on a combination of emotion, logic, credibility, and both business and personal needs and wants. We know that client dialogues are crucial for uncovering needs, exploring solutions, establishing next steps, and building relationships.
And yet, too many sales professionals falter in the interpersonal skills needed for open, effective, engaging client dialogues. Here are three barriers to look for so that you can adapt your approach.
Different communication styles You might be an extrovert, and your client an introvert. Financial folks want numbers; technology groups understand systems and software; HR departments focus on the people element. How do you communicate with these different styles and information needs? The answer is to match your client’s demeanor, while still being yourself. You have to remain authentic to who you are and accommodate your client’s way of approaching business. With technology groups, your presentation should be succinct, based on solid data, with some charts and graphics to convey your message. For financial folks, the focus should be numbers and the economic benefit of pursuing your recommendation. In conversations with HR departments, you might focus on how your solution will make employees more productive. Beyond just considering job function, you should also try to pick up on what motivates your clients. Are they » Continue Reading.
What are Some of the Best Open-ended Questions for Winning Sales?
There is no magic wand to reveal the five best open-ended questions to ask for all sales situations. That’s the bad news. The good news is, there are several ingredients that will make asking five great questions easier. Here is the recipe for success:
Remember the old joke, “Where does an 800-lb. gorilla sit? Anywhere it wants to.” Don’t be that gorilla, starting the questioning dialogue with the questions YOU want answered. Start the sales dialogue by asking about the client’s short-term objectives and needs. This approach allows clients to take the conversation where they want, so they can share what is top-of-mind for them, what keeps them up at night, and what is most important to them in the near future. Even though you control the conversation by the questions that you ask, let the clients control which areas they want to direct the conversation.
Here are some sample questions to consider and adapt, as appropriate:
“In speaking with your senior account manager, he mentioned three key drivers: X, Y, and Z. What specifically are your key objectives related to these drivers?” (This question leverages your preparation so that the question doesn’t feel too basic or unprepared.) “What are you trying to accomplish in the next six months?” “What is most important to you in your business right now?” “What has prompted the shift in strategy » Continue Reading.
Probing questions are at the heart of an effective, consultative selling approach
Being able to win opportunities is what separates a great sales professional from a good one — those who excel, understand the structure of sales meetings, and stay in control. Great sales professionals know where they are going with their questioning strategy and what they want to accomplish at every point in the dialogue. They hone their focus on probing, learning, and fully comprehending the client’s needs before ever talking about their own product. In my last blog post, I focused on tips that will help with open-ended questions, today, I will look at probing questions.
Probing questions are at the heart of an effective, consultative selling approach — one that is all about the client, not how much the sales professional knows or the great products to be offered.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
― Theodore Roosevelt
At the start of a client relationship, you should show interest in the other person’s world, which may include work and family responsibilities, hobbies, sports, or career development. Let the client take the lead, and then use probing questions to explore what the client has just said and to demonstrate your level of interest and caring.
Probing questions are a great way to demonstrate to your clients that you are listening and picking up on key “neon words” » Continue Reading.
Open-ended Sales Questions Allow Sales Professionals to Learn More than Just the Obvious
When you ask yes-or-no questions during sales calls, you get yes-or-no answers, which either confirm or deny whatever you had posited. When you become more strategic about asking questions, you can often discover important, underlying, and previously unknown issues that matter to the success of prospects and clients.
There’s a skill to asking the right questions at the right time. At Richardson, we include Questioning as one of our Six Critical Skills for sales, and we define it as the ability to explore needs and create dialogue. Open-ended questions allow sales professionals to learn more than just the obvious, observable things. As a result, sales professionals are better able to be more consultative and position the best products and services to meet client needs, while demonstrating understanding and caring in helping clients achieve their goals and objectives.
These five tips will help you get beyond the usual questioning strategy to discover what’s really on the minds of your clients:
It’s OK to leave your agenda behind. In fact, we encourage it. Going into meetings without preconceived ideas frees you to focus on what is important to clients. You can more easily step into their world, identify their needs and objectives, understand their worries and challenges, and align your offerings with their strategies. Don’t focus most of your sales dialogue on open-ended questions related to your » Continue Reading.
Better Sales Negotiations Go Step by Step
Sales negotiations don’t have to be stressful, contentious affairs. Yes, there’s a lot riding on the outcome of a sales negotiation. Just think of it as one more chance to uncover opportunities to provide value to the customer.
The secret to successful sales negotiations is all based on knowing what the customer is trying to accomplish, converting demands into needs, and then demonstrating and justifying your value.
Richardson teaches the following sales negotiation framework to help sales professionals to structure their dialogue with customers:
Preparation for the Negotiation — It all begins by planning the strategy and tactics, including bottom-line terms, to achieve the maximum outcome that meets the needs of both parties. Opening the Negotiation — The sales professional should set the stage and lay out terms at the outset. Counter-opening — This step draws out the customer’s opening terms and demands in order to maintain control and avoid negotiating elements in a piece-meal fashion. Converting Demands to Needs — The customer’s real requirements may not surface without probing more deeply to convert demands to needs and gaining insight into their true agenda. Value Justification and Concessions — At this point, sales professionals need to protect essential terms by trading expendables, positioning value to persuade the customer that it is worthwhile to make concessions, and trading concessions to achieve essentials. Closing the Negotiation — The last step is to maintain the » Continue Reading.
Are You Caught in a Negotiating Trap?
Here’s a common scenario: You’ve just presented your truly tailored, well researched, totally relevant proposal. The customer, who had been nodding in agreement all along, now has a strange look on her face. The change happened the minute you mentioned price.
She says your price is too high.
It’s your move. What do you do? If you start negotiating on price, trying to find a figure that she’ll accept without hurting your business, you’ve just landed in a negotiation trap.
The trap is in starting to negotiate too early, before justifying your value. This is how a lot of money is lost, either by discounting too early or by leaving money on the table.
Getting pushback on price is a common occurrence for sales professionals. That’s why it’s important to recognize the negotiation trap and learn how to avoid it.
First, don’t start off trying to resolve any immediate price objections; focus instead on justifying the value of your proposal.
Consider the objection as an opportunity to learn more about the customer’s situation. Where does the objection come from? Is the customer at the end of a budget cycle? Would splitting payment over two cycles be workable? Or, would changing delivery options add value?
The point is, you need to understand what the customer is trying to accomplish so that you can determine which terms are most important. This can be more » Continue Reading.
Training Industry Executive to Lead Richardson; John D. Elsey Named New CEO
Philadelphia, PA — June 1, 2015 — Richardson, a global sales training and performance improvement firm, today announced the hiring of John D. Elsey as president and chief executive officer. Effective June 1, 2015, Elsey will replace Interim CEO Carter Brown, who remains a director of the Richardson Board. For the past 15 years, Elsey held C-suite positions with commercial training and education companies formerly owned by Informa Performance Improvement, most recently as president and CEO for ESI International — a global leader in strategy execution training solutions — and concurrently as president for the portfolio of four other training businesses within the group holding.
“John is a training industry veteran with a strong, global perspective and success in driving results. He is a proven leader who focuses on both top-line growth and bottom-line profitability, with international expansion a key element in his strategic thinking,” Brown said.
“John brings great value to Richardson with his demonstrated ability to work with C-suite customers of large, sophisticated organizations. He understands the subtleties of a conceptual sale and the operational, quality, and financial metrics of an exceptional business service organization.”
In leading ESI International, Elsey substantially grew revenues and margins while spearheading the growth and integration of the Americas, EMEA, and APAC businesses. He also established product development priorities and the go-to-market and brand strategy.
“I look » Continue Reading.
Building Rapport with Six Critical Skills
Some people are extroverts; others are introverts. Some people have expressive communications styles; others get their points across quietly but with authority. There is no right way to be. The only right thing is to appreciate the other person and make an effort to building rapport.
In my last two blog posts, I discussed the importance of building rapport in the articles, Five Tips for Building Rapport and Building Rapport with WIIFO, not WIIFM. To be honest, building rapport is one of those concepts that often can’t be explained, but you know it when you see it. You hit it off with someone or get along well. Rapport is about building understanding and harmony with another person in a way that supports easier and more effective communication.
At Richardson, we often talk of the Six Critical Skills for consultative selling. They also are useful skills for rapport building, which is essential in differentiating yourself in a sales situations and establishing a personal connection.
Presence: Ability to project confidence, conviction, and interest in body language and voice Relating: Ability to use acknowledgment, rapport, and empathy to connect Questioning: Ability to explore needs and create dialogue Listening: Ability to understand content and emotional message Positioning: Ability to leverage client needs to be persuasive Checking: Ability to elicit feedback
The first two skills — Presence and Relating — come into play immediately » Continue Reading.
Philadelphia, PA — March 3, 2015 — Richardson, a leading global sales training and performance improvement company, has been named to TrainingIndustry.com’s 2015 Top 20 Sales Training Companies list for the seventh consecutive year. The Top 20 list recognizes the top providers for sales training services and technologies, and Richardson is one of seven companies included in the list each year.
Richardson develops customized sales training programs that change behaviors and provide measurable results. From assessing talent and developing sales teams through verifiable outcomes, coaching, and reinforcement, Richardson employs effective learning methodologies that draw on the best of interpersonal interactions to help build individual and organizational capabilities. Richardson has spent 30 years examining every type of sales conversation — deconstructing them, rebuilding them, and making them learnable and repeatable for each stage of the sales cycle which Richardson has covered in their eBook, The Sales Conversation Pendulum.
Richardson has been recognized for providing outstanding service and a proven track record for delivering superior training and improving the impact of sales organizations. Inclusion to this year’s Top 20 Sales Training Companies list was based on the following criteria:
Industry recognition and impact on the sales training industry Innovation in the sales training market Company size and growth potential Breadth of service offering Strength of clients served Geographic reach
“Being named to Training Industry’s list for the seventh consecutive year is a great accomplishment and » Continue Reading.
The Ultimate Checklist for Mission Critical Group Sales Presentations
“Mission critical” is a term that you see in many different activities, up to and including military operations. When mission critical aspects do not go well, barring an extraordinary piece of luck, the mission fails. If your group sales presentation does not go well, barring an extraordinary piece of luck, your sales effort will fail and you will not get the contract.