Viewing Posts for: Andrea R. Grodnitzky
Sales coaching is the key to sales success and improving the performance of the sales organization. It is the most important job a sales manager has.
It takes a certain kind of individual to step into a sales manager role — and an even more unique one to be successful at it. Most sales managers know that they have to drive performance through their team if they are ever to have a shot at making their goal. A team goal simply can’t be achieved by one single sales manager. Yet, we often see sales managers making Herculean efforts and resorting to hero tactics to win deals for their team members. Many times, they are putting in the longest hours — more than their direct reports. They put themselves in front of the customer when the stakes are high. They consistently have the monkey on their back.
If you ask a sales manager if coaching is an important aspect of their role, most are sure to agree that it is. It is difficult to find someone who disagrees with the value of coaching. However, in the fast-paced, modern sales environment, where almost everyone has more priorities, more initiatives, more customer issues, and more administrative work, “… it is easy for people to justify not making time for developmental activities.” (Conger, 2013)
In our 2017 Selling Challenges Survey, more than 350 sales professionals were asked “What will be your toughest negotiation challenge in 2017?” The top responses included:
Gaining Higher Prices (24%) Closing Win-Win Deals (20%) Maintaining Profitability (11%)
“Gaining higher prices” has been the top negotiating challenge for three years running. This year’s top challenges indicate a laser-sharp focus on negotiation outcomes — prices, wins, and profits. “Closing win-win deals” shows the value sellers place on building trust and credibility in order to develop long-term, productive relationships. “Maintaining profitability” is a challenge made visible by the greater availability of real-time sales data, which allows organizations to be smarter about decisions affecting profits. “Managing procurement” is another response worth noting, rising from 4% in 2016 to 11% in 2017. This reflects the increasing involvement of procurement staff as they join the decision-making team late in the process without any emotional attachment to the deal. Their role is to drive down price or get additional products or services for the same price. While this specific challenge didn’t make the top three, its impact is reflected there.
Richardson’s Negotiation Insights
Trust and credibility are keys to managing relationships with customers and closing win-win deals. Sellers can’t claim trusted advisor status; it has to be earned. Being a trusted partner begins with integrity but also requires skill and strategy, which can be learned and practiced.
Sellers need a » Continue Reading.
In our annual selling challenges survey, we asked more than 350 sales professionals to tell us about their biggest challenges in prospecting in 2017:
17% of respondents reported that creating a targeted prospecting strategy would be their greatest challenge 14% said that the quality of leads from marketing would be their greatest challenge 12% said gaining appointments would be their greatest challenge
These results tell us time is a precious commodity, especially as demands for productivity increase in an increasingly difficult selling environment. Being able to create a targeted prospecting strategy is essential to avoid wasting time, making this the number one prospecting challenge in 2017.
Compared with 2016 responses, this year’s top challenges indicate a trend toward greater targeting and quality of leads. Sellers are homing in on ways to become more strategic in their prospecting efforts, while being less concerned with the “how” — which sales and marketing enablement tools to use — in identifying triggers for their accounts. The availability of data through lead generation and research tools has lifted some of this burden from sellers. The problem, however, is that without a plan for how best to use this data, sellers can easily get lost in the sheer volume available.
The top two prospecting challenges from 2016 dropped off this year’s list. With more sales enablement tools being used, sellers are easily able to research companies as possible targets and to set triggers for their accounts.
Richardson has just launched a new research piece, “Understanding Selling Challenges in 2017.” This annual study of field reps, senior sales professionals, and sales leaders across industries aims to paint a clear picture of existing sales challenges and how they are evolving.
This year’s report continues to highlight a challenging sales environment driven by ongoing shifts in buyer behaviors, competitive pressures, and operational trends. It also suggests that there has never been a better time to understand, challenge, and change how sales are made. With unprecedented access to mobile and digital technologies, sellers can understand their buyers better than ever before, creating new opportunities to build lasting engagements in today’s hyper-connected world.
The new customer expectation — regardless of industry — is one of value and trust. As a result, sales success in 2017 and beyond means acting as a true business advisor by delivering value through authentic curiosity, prepared relevancy, and unmatched credibility.
Over the past few months, Richardson surveyed over 350 sales professionals, managers, and leaders from all industries to gain insight into the challenges they expected to face in 2017. We asked questions that touched upon every phase of the sales cycle, from prospecting to closing. The study compares these results to the results from previous years. In 2017, we dug deeper, expanding our survey to include questions about productivity, team selling, and buyer perceptions.
Our team carefully reviewed the data » Continue Reading.
As my colleague, Henri, shared in the previous blog, building trust with customers is critical in today’s selling environment. Building and maintaining trust across the full lifespan of a customer relationship takes attention and focus in the following areas:
1. Prepare with the customer in mind.
If, when you prepare, you find yourself spending more time preparing your solution or positioning points than you spend thinking about your customer and their issues and challenges, then you need to rethink your preparation strategy. You should begin and end with your customer in mind. If you prepare for your meeting by thinking about what they might want to get out of your time together, then not only will you build trust, you will also create more value in the meeting.
2. Ask great questions, not bad ones.
There is no such thing as a bad question, right? Wrong. We’ve seen bad questions asked time and time again. A bad question is one you should already know the answer to if you have done just a little bit of homework. Not doing your homework and asking questions about something you should already know not only destroys your credibility, but it also signals to the customer that they aren’t worth your effort in being well prepared to meet with them. If, as your potential customer, I am not worth your preparation, then why would I trust you to act » Continue Reading.
Many sales leaders have told us they are expanding their inside sales channel strategy to take advantage of shifts in buyer behavior (see Don’t overlook competencies when expanding inside sales). In doing so, they also need to take advantage of their sales talent, both in hiring and in developing the skills of current employees.
The hiring process itself should provide ample opportunities for candidates to demonstrate how they would sell to customers. While this holds true for any sales position, it is even more important for inside sales, where sellers never meet customers face to face. There are three relatively simple ways to test a candidate’s skills in action: video, role play, and voicemail.
Skype and other video chat services allow sales leaders to see how candidates would interact with prospects and customers. Sellers can no longer shy away from video; it has become an accepted, and even expected, communication channel. Everyone in sales should get themselves comfortable with video chats. There are a few tactical issues with a video call versus a phone call – such as removing distracting backgrounds, paying attention to posture, and making eye contact – but video can be the next best thing to meeting in person. You can also use a Skype call to role play with a candidate. They should be able to handle the pressure and give you a sense of how articulate, composed, and compelling they are.
Cold » Continue Reading.
One thing we at Richardson are hearing from many of our customers in sales leadership roles is that they are, or are considering, expanding their inside sales channel strategy. They see the shift in buyer behavior, with more customers conducting research online before engaging salespeople. They also see that an increasing number of customers are willing to interact with sales organizations, and even willing to make buying decisions, over the telephone. As a result, they are moving beyond utilizing inside sales for just their small-size customers and simple sales and including mid-tier customers that might also be serviced well by inside selling teams.
There are certainly cost benefits with this strategy, as well as the potential to reach more customers more quickly. In making this shift and adding greater demands for productivity from inside sellers, sales leaders need to consider and train for specific competencies. They need to think about how they develop an inside sales organization differently than field sales.
Obviously, many of the same selling skills are used in telesales as in the field. All sellers need to build rapport, ask great questions, listen actively, share insights, and articulate value. They need to position their solutions persuasively and close the deal. But when selling over the phone rather than face to face, sellers face higher barriers to engaging prospects and building credibility.
It’s that time of year when many sales organizations are either planning or organizing the last-minute details of a sales kickoff meeting.
Sales kickoffs are great opportunities to energize a sales team, ensure they are clear on the strategy and direction for the year, and cover some important operational and product updates. They’re also opportunities to train or introduce a training initiative.
There are a few considerations for sales and learning leaders who are thinking about including a training element as part of their kickoff.
1. The Sales Kickoff Meeting Agenda
Let’s face it, there are times where you can be very proactive, thoughtful, and strategic in planning the launch of a training initiative and carve out dedicated time at a sales kickoff meeting for a focus on upskilling. And then, there are times where you are just trying to fill a slot of time and take advantage of the rare opportunity of having all of the salespeople in person.
In the latter, the key is to just be realistic about the outcomes you can expect. If you only have 90 minutes, it will be very difficult to expect that your teams will walk out of that session ready to change their behavior. It might be possible if you are hyper-focused on one skill or topic and be very practical and hands on in your approach. Ensuring you break out in small groups is critical if you take this approach.