Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mid-Year Planning - YES, It's time to do that!

Holly crap - it's the end of June 2013.  The year is half over.  It's almost unbelievable how fast the first half of any year goes, compared to the last six months (I wonder why that is).

Right about now, all salespeople on a calendar fiscal year are thinking one of three things:  
1)  "I am kicking ass and am either at or above my 6-month target/quota!"
2)  "I am in it deep.  If I don't get my crap together soon, there's no way in hell I'm going to hit my goal!"
3)  "What are you talking about?  What month is it?"

Actually, #1 or #2 are good things for you to be thinking.  The third one, however, is a real problem - and worst part about it, is that if you can't make a mental-shift to 1 or 2, you're in for a world of hurt.  Let's talk about five important things all salespeople should be doing at the half-way point in the year:

  1. Did you plan your success (or failure) over the past 6 months?  Successful people (in any profession or with any goal), plan for their success.  They know what things needs to be done to achieve a specific result.  OK, I know I'm over-simplifying the complex reality of selling in the real world; however, I will argue with anyone, that if you evaluate your sales activity, pipeline, closing ratios and bookings, you should be able to modify your behavior and adjust accordingly.
  2. Mid-Year is NOTHING!  Salespeople can push half a year's worth of work into 6-months.  Don't freak out.  Even if you've sold $0 so far this year, you can still kill it.  This is a mental game and you control your own destiny.  Today is the day for you to get more organized, become more efficient, be more productive, and change everything.
  3. Every step in the right direction moves you closer to goal.  Do you have a $1M target?  Book that $5K deal and be loud and proud.  Sales is a funny little business.  When you book nothing, it gets you down.  When you book anything (even a small dollar amount), things look brighter and cheerier.  Get a deal, any deal and use that momentum to spiral you forward.
  4. You need to work harder.  Sheer perspiration and perseverance goes a long way in sales.  If you haven't figured out the subtle nature of increased efficiency, tools and how to work smarter, it's time to simply ramp it up!  There's way more than eight hours in a day.  Get your ass up at 6AM, plan your day, and work until 10PM at night.  Do whatever you need to do.
  5. It's not too late!  It's almost never too late (with some exceptions - if you've blown it for a year, it's unlikely your company will "restart" the engine with you).  If it's not too late for you - get it together.  Most companies will be patient as long as they see appointments, pipeline growth and (eventually) some bookings.  
Let's get busy.  It's only July.  Happy Selling.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tips 11-20 for Sales Managers on LinkedIn Impact!

Thanks to my good friend Kurt Shaver for posting the Top ten tips for Sales Managers regarding leveraging LinkedIn for sales success .  I couldn't help but publish another ten tips (11-20) for Sales Managers to motivate and stimulate Account Managers (salespeople) to utilize the "gold" that is inside of LinkedIn.  Below, please find my tips 11-20 on how Sales Managers can leverage LinkedIn to dramatically improve their team's sales results.
  • 11 - Updating LinkedIn is about scheduling time.  Salespeople are busy.  There are a thousand things to do:  prospecting, proposals, demos, dealing with issues, project managing, troubleshooting problems, and on, and on, and on.  Unfortunately, few of these topics trump developing your online presence, garnering recommendations and creating a way for you to be found on the internet.  LinkedIn provides this opportunity.  Short of creating your own website, domain and social networking presence, LinkedIn is the #1 way of promoting yourself and using the tools to create a difference between you and your competitors.  With this said, every salesperson must create time in their busy life to "put in the effort" of advancing their online presence.  For me, this means posting activity 3x/day, blogging every day, and responding to LinkedIn InMails.  Today, right now, schedule time in your calendar to work on LinkedIn.  Get 3 new connections.  Post three activities.  Ask for one recommendation.  Invest in yourself!
  • 12 - Are you a long-term strategist or a short-term tactical salesperson?  LinkedIn can help with both!  If your priority is creating a long-term presence on the social-web, your responsibility is to work on your profile, recommendations, groups, certifications, education, etc.  This goes a long-way in terms of presenting yourself to a potential customer.  If, on the other hand, your priority is to get appointments and make an impact in 30-60 days, you've got a different situation on your hands.  In this case, your job is to connect with as many connections in an account as possible, and push for warm introductions through InMail or Introductions in LinkedIn.  This can happen quickly.
  • 13 - Salespeople Need to Help Each Other.  Individually, we can all work on our LinkedIn profiles and use our instincts for success.  Together, however (as a team), we can leverage each other's progress and succeed together as a bigger part of a whole.  Sections of our profiles can be leveraged between team-members.  We can share positive experiences together.  As a team, we gain significant advantages over independent work.  
  • 14 - Group Time succeeds more than Independent Time.  To make #13 work even harder for you, schedule group time in which team members can share ideas and success stories with each other.  There are two ideas here:  1) Set a team goal for the week, and then share successes via collaboration meetings as a whole.  2) Setup individual criteria and work the "competitive angle" with members of the team.  Create a contest.  Establish a benchmark.  Reward success.  Encourage constructive criticism.
  • 15 - Recommendations Rule.  While LinkedIn offers the more liberal "endorsements," nothing substitutes for a real recommendation.  Recommendations require effort on the part of the recommender, and it is this factor which provides the real power of the recommendation.  A real effort should be made of every salesperson to obtain real recommendations that relate to specific roles they have played in both the current job and previous roles.
  • 16 - "It's the small things that make or break the deal." This is a direct quote from my father 15 years ago.  My dad was a life insurance agent for 50 years.  In all the sales advice he gave me, this is the one item that has always "stuck" with me.  Whether it's in a conversation with a customer, or a proposal, or in your LinkedIn profile - it's always the little things that matter.  Create awards, comment on your education, publish honors and awards, use every character you can in every job description and Summary statement.  The more verbose, the better.  This is about being found.  The more words and key phrases that are used, the more likely you'll be found on LinkedIn.
  • 17 - Connections Are Everything.  Don't have 500+ connections yet?  That is your first priority!  Use the "People You May Know" feature to scour every few days.  Don't connect with just anyone.  Follow the LinkedIn guidelines and only connect with people you really know.  Instead of clicking the "Connect" button, choose the button that looks like a track-pad, which let's you customize the message.  Connect with customers, business leaders, C-level roles and more.  Of course your should connect with all of your employee associates, but that's not the sales advantage of LinkedIn.  Connect with customers and search to find their roles.
  • 18 - Create Saved Searches.  Invest 45 minutes to manually enter all of your prospects and existing customers into the search criteria.  Save this search.  LinkedIn will automatically notify you once a week as to new people who met the criteria search.  This way, you'll see new members who have associated with these companies.  Are you a territory rep?  Do the same thing, but instead of listing customers, use a geography or zip code.
  • 19 - Use every freakin' InMail you have!  InMails are like gold.  They are guaranteed.  They roll-over month-to-month and are like a bat-phone to your most valued customer contacts.  To do this properly, I'd suggest the following scheduled use:  1) Send at least FIVE InMails every week -without fail.  These should be to your customers or prospects (or serious networking folks).  Schedule it in your calendar so you don't miss a week.  2)  For every InMail you get back, start communicating via regular email.  This way, you can re-use your valuable InMails for people that will not use regular email.  3)  Try to go OVER your limit.  By taking this philosophy, you'll never leave a valuable InMail wasted.
  • 20 - Use Mobile LinkedIn.  It doesn't matter whether you have an iPhone or an Android.  Using LinkedIn Mobile allows you to stay one step ahead of your regular process of checking up on what's happening.  Statistics show that people are more likely to check LinkedIn Mobile than regular web-based Linked-In.  You step out for a break, or are waiting for an event and you are on your Smartphone.  Chances are, you are very likely to check LinkedIn.  Post items, accept invitations and use your time wisely.
Happy Selling everyone.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

From Salesperson to Sales Manager - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

As salespeople, we've all heard the expression, "great salespeople do not always make great sales managers."  When you ponder over this commonly uttered phrase, it seems pretty straightforward.  Of course the statement is true because the two jobs are very different.  Nonetheless, it's still a common practice across the world to promote great salespeople into management.  Sometimes is works out, and other times the plan doesn't go so well.

With a bit of analysis, let's explore the top five relevant issues in regards to this practice:

  1. Salespeople have a wide variety of personalities, habits and methods.  Some are more social.  Others are more analytical.  Some salespeople flourish in very strategic selling environments, while others bloom in a more transactional world.  Some are great communicators.  Others, not so much.  It is a combination of theses traits (and more) that lead salespeople to be successful.  There is no one-way of becoming successful at sales.  There are methodologies, common sense, and experience; however, I've witnessed success a hundred different ways with different people that have combinations of different traits.  Identifying these traits is the first clue as to whether a great salesperson may make a great manager.
  2. Successful Trait #1:  Much of sales management is removing sales obstacles from your salespeople.  This empowers them to sell more and builds trust in the relationship.  Sales management is not about micromanaging salespeople.  Great salespeople that must be in control at all times, usually make poor sales managers.  Salespeople don't want to be controlled.  They want to be empowered.
  3. Successful Trait #2:  Careful listening and collaborative decision-making.  Sales management requires listening to many different sides of a conflict.  Socratic methodologies and collaborating with others creates trust and is at the heart of leadership.  Salespeople who succeed by pushing their way past others, involve as few people as possible in their deals, and sell things to customers by persuasion rather than through real consultation/collaboration, usually make poor sales managers.  
  4. Successful Trait #3:  Sales management is also about inheriting the problems, joys, challenges and situations of eight or more people (rather than just worrying about your own issues).  This trait is about  a scientific concept called "non-reciprocal altruism."  The concept stipulates that people do things for other people without necessarily expecting anything in return.  Great sales managers need to practice this trait with their successful and rookie salespeople.  Note: For under-performing salespeople, the great sales manager shifts to a "give/get" strategy.  In other words, the sales manager cannot want the rep to be more successful than the rep themselves wants to be.  This leads to either a behavioral shift or the termination of the salesperson.
  5. Successful Trait #4:  Sales Managers typically make less money than great salespeople.  This may seem like a funny or obscure statement, but it is usually true.  With this said, great sales managers must have at least an equal level of motivation to advance their career (and/or) help others, as they do for earnings.  In a perfect world, if the whole team excels, the sales manager is fairly compensated, but it is almost never equalized.  The sales manager gets a much smaller portion of the deal than the salesperson.  Therefore, if money is the primary motivator over almost everything else, this typically sets up a Sales Manager to fail.
It takes a very special combination of traits to be an excellent sales manager.  Anyone can compile reports, scream and yell for more sales, and keep the ship from falling apart.  It's interesting to ask a seasoned salesperson who is successful to describe the best sales manager they've ever had.  Most will tell you that they've never experienced a sales manager who really contributed to their success and taught them something.  This is truly unfortunate and a big reason why sales management is such an important role.  If you find a salesperson who can identify a sales manager that truly changed their career - you've found one of the few gems in your industry.  Hang on to that person, follow-them, and learn from them.  A sales manager can either be a bothersome disturbance, or a game-changer.

Happy Selling.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to Get to Quota . . . And Beyond!

For salespeople, we all have a quota.  It may go by other names where you work (target, goal, "the number"), but regardless of what it is called, it is the single most important measurement of your success as a salesperson.  Yes, your company (or yourself) also looks at attitude, thoroughness, and dozens of other things; however, it you're not contributing revenue (or margin) as a salesperson, your days are numbered.

Some companies go to the extreme when managing salespeople to quota.  It has become an obsession.  For those poor souls who work for these types of companies, we all know the inevitable result:  Micromanagement.  No salesperson likes to be micromanaged.  For that matter, few Sales Managers like to micromanage their salespeople.  It usually happens because of the culture of the company or how the Sales Manager grew up in the industry.  It's really not important why it happens.  What matters is that you hit your quota (monthly, quarterly, annually) and you put yourself in a position of success.

Here's some helpful tips (some are obvious) that can get the "monkey off your back," and hit your quota:

  1. Figure out early how to get there.  This one seems pretty straightforward, but for every type of company, there is a typical formula for a salesperson to hit quota.  Your job is to talk to other successful salespeople and get them to reveal the secret.  You may get different answers (which is good).  Sort through the mess, overlay your personality and selling style and come up with the formula.
  2. It's hard to get to quota with hundreds of transactions.  It's easier to do it in chunks.  Let's say you have to sell $1M of stuff to hit your quota.  Most successful salespeople will break that $1M down into reasonable, sellable pieces.  For example, one way to get to the number is to sell one big deal (say for $500K), two to three medium deals (say $150K each), and then 15-20 smaller deals.  Believe me, if you don't plan this out and revisit this throughout the year, you can get caught up in the details of selling and before you know it, you missed the target.
  3. Work smarter that you are working today.  I say it like this because everyone is at a different place in their career when it comes to efficiency, tools and selling patterns.  Therefore, wherever you are today, figure out a way to do it smarter tomorrow.  Maybe it's leveraging a new tool, writing down goals, changing a small piece of your strategy.  Smarter gets you to quota faster!
  4. Pipeline development (or Sales Activity in general) is the raw materials that sales are made of.  If you run out of raw materials, you're screwed.  NEVER run out of raw materials.  This means that you have to feed the pipeline, go out on sales calls, do proposals, meet with customers, perform demos, etc. to feed the never ending raw material engine.  Don't let yourself get caught in a rat-hole on some detail.  Stay big-picture.  Never run out of raw materials.
  5. Set your own goals and targets that are GREATER than your quota.  Some companies do this already, but this does not matter.  If you need $1M, set your goals at $1.25M.  Setting the bar higher gives you several advantages:  First, it's a buffer.  Giving yourself a buffer is a good idea.  Second, you will likely be financially rewarded when you over-achieve.
Here's a bonus tip:  When it comes to forecasting - be honest with yourself and your managers.  Don't load-up with pipeline with unqualified deals and don't over-promise bookings that really won't happen.  First, this let's you change your activity behavior if things don't look good.  Second, it helps build rapport with management.

Happy Selling.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How Does "Consumerization of IT" Really Work?

If you're in sales, and you sell anything that has to do with technology, you've seen this phrase before.  For some of us, we think about the massive influx of personal electronic devices being introduced into the work-place.  Consumerization of IT is more than this.  In this blog, I'll try to explain what's going on in a few easy steps:

  • Until about five years ago, Information Technology (IT) was originating at work.  People used Blackberry devices (remember the blue brick?) because they wanted to access work email.  Laptops were provided by companies and you pretty much were stuck with whatever the business/organization wanted you to have.  Same thing with applications.  You used what was given.  Even cell phones were dictated by the company.
  • Everything changed - and some people think Apple was the stimulating factor (I'll leave that one up to historians).  Several factors contributed to this paradigm shift:  1) Technology became smarter and more affordable; 2) Tablets became relevant PC-substitutes and have exploded in growth;  3) Internet applications have become more sophisticated, less expensive and browser-based apps have become common-place;  4) Apple's Macbooks and Google's Chromebooks are real alternatives now to regular PC's.  If you put these factors together, there's been an enormous technology spend by consumers on the compute and applications in their own personal lives.
  • Since consumers have all of these devices, options and applications that are quick, easy, affordable and robust, they see no reason why their companies shouldn't adopt the same technologies.  Guess what?  They're right.  Now it's actually the consumer (in the workplace) telling companies what to do. To address these growing concerns, companies are in a frenzy, trying to "catch-up" with expectations.
  • This "consumerization" is changing IT departments everywhere.  They're asking questions like:  How do I secure my network with 20 different types of devices trying to access the network?  How do I know if the device should be authorized?  How do I only allow users to access certain applications?  How do I manage a 10x fold increase in wireless devices on a network that's not built for that density?  Should I allow Macbooks or Chromebooks on the company network (if they don't - there will be a revolt!)?  How do I secure those?
  • These challenges have pushed IT organizations everywhere to address these challenges.  They are looking at solutions like BYOD (bring your own device), MDM (mobile device management), Virtual Desktops (VxI), and are being forced to evaluate cloud-based applications to keep a competitive edge and decrease operational costs.
Welcome to the Post-Consumerization of IT era.  It will be an interesting ride.

Happy selling.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How Salespeople Manage their Outlook Inbox

Let's face it, when it comes to how salespeople organize, manage and store emails, we all have room for improvement.  In an informal poll about about 25 of the salespeople that work for my organization, I got 25 different ways people handle email, file email, create and manage tasks and store information.  The number one reply was using Flags in outlook to mark important emails for follow-up.  Email use has grown 17% from 2011 to 2012.  As salespeople, we are bombarded by emails and need to constantly improve our use of email if we're going to maintain (or actually improve) efficiency.

Here's 5 great tips that I've learned throughout the years:

  1. Try to touch an email ONCE and only once.  This is the rule of "D's."  If it's simply garbage, marketing, spam and you're never going to need it again - DELETE now (yes right now).  If there is required action, but you can DELEGATE the task, forward the email right now over to the person(s) that should take on the task.  Then move the email to a folder specifically for delegation follow-up.  DEAL with the issue immediately.  If it can be responded to quickly and dealt with, do it now, then delete or file the email.  The Inbox is not a filing cabinet.  Delete, Delegate or Deal with the issue.
  2. Create a Filing system with Folders outside your Inbox with no more than 7 folders.  Studies have shown that any more than 7 folders decreases productivity because it makes it more difficult to find the email you really need.  It's OK to have sub-folders under this, but with Outlook's advanced search features, many busy salespeople can manage to seven simple folders.
  3. Flags are an inefficient way to manage tasks.  Think about it, if you flag an email, then another, then another, over time, you'll have to re-review each of these emails and think about what needs to be done on them over and over and over.  This creates a huge amount of wasted time.  Instead of flags, consider using Outlook's Task feature.  Tasks can be tracked by date due, can be assigned, and separate your task list from your email list (they are two different things).  Create time in your schedule to work on Tasks.
  4. Use email from new people to quickly create Outlook contacts.  This is the most efficient way to develop and keep up your Contacts list.  When you get an email from a new person that you're likely to communicate with again, simply right click on their email and add to your contacts.  
  5. Don't let your Inbox control your activities.  Pick 2-3 times a day in which you "work" on email and dedicate 30 minutes to each session.  Resist the temptation to read email every-time that pop-up shows or you hear the chime.  (FYI- you can turn both of these off in settings if you can't resist).  Spending quality time in chunks with email has shown to improve your efficiency by up to 15% every day.
Happy Selling.