Archive for the ‘Getting Better Sales’ Category

Stop Guessing & Gambling With New Hires

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Whenever companies bring on a new hire who doesn’t last more than six months, much more than the [tens of] thousands of dollars of spent payroll are lost. Team morale suffers along with work flow disruption. On-boarding and training efforts are wasted. Customer-facing staff changes bring unease into the marketplace. The list could go on and on; suffice it to say the hidden costs of poor hiring can be daunting.

In the April 4th, 2005 edition of Newsweek, Jack Welch said, “Hiring good people is hard. Hiring great people is brutally hard. Nothing matters more in winning than putting the right people on the field.”

Gut Feelings

Most companies large and small, continue to prepare for new hires they way they’re used to. Hiring managers run an ad, collect resumes, interview the stronger candidates, check references on the final one or two, and then trust their gut feelings. When more than one hiring manager is involved, differences easily come to light when one person’s gut feeling doesn’t match the other. At the end of the day, many hiring managers cross their fingers and ‘hope for the best.’ It doesn’t have to be that way.

Take an X-Ray

When interviewing to become a financial consultant for a major investment house 9 years ago, Edward became upset because his hiring manager had promised to show him the results of the assessment he was being forced to take prior to being hired. The manager never shared those results and he’s long gone, yet Edward’s a top producer today.

A lot has changed with hiring tools in the past 9 years. Today, it’s like taking an X-Ray. Not only can you easily see what the personal styles are of your strongest candidates, but also how they might modify those styles to ‘fit into the job’. The more modifications they have to make, the harder it will be for them to meet the demands of the job.

You can also learn their specific strengths, understand what their ideal working environment looks like, and get directions on how best to communicate, motivate, and manage them for best results. Sure, you have a team and a business to run, and you want to operate it as most effectively as possible, but, finding the person with the right credentials for the open position is only half of the equation. Matching the natural styles of the right candidate to your position is critical for long-term success due to stronger satisfaction levels and personal fulfillment.

You’d Be Crazy Not To

There are also seven hidden ambitions we all share that are revealed through each comprehensive X-Ray. All seven are listed in order of influence on each individual.

Different positions call for different ambitions. You would want hunters who close new business opportunities to have the economic and political ambitions in their top two. You would want farmers to have altruism as one of their top three. Not only would you want accounting and bookkeepers to have different personal styles, but they should also have theoretical as one of the top two ambitions driving them.

This powerful insight not only matches the right job to a new hire, it can identify reasons why existing staff aren’t satisfied in their current positions. Instead of firing them outright, take an X-Ray to reassess, and then move them into a different position. You’d be crazy not to.

It’s All Yours

The fact that candidates have demonstrated success is sales, administrative, or operational roles in prior companies doesn’t actually predict any level of success in your company. They’ll need to ‘fit into’ your expectations, job role, and culture.

In the world of sales, great hunters can be just so-so farmers, and vice-versa. Individual ambitions graphs will highlight those differences for you along with the personal styles. You can’t see this anywhere else but through the X-Ray.

See just how powerful this X-Ray is for yourself. FREE. For a limited time, we will also debrief you on your results; no obligation, no hard sell.

Test drive it here (or have one of your current staff complete this simple questionnaire) by clicking on the link, and make sure that you answer all the questions in one sitting, as they relate to work, and without any input from others. Take the X-RAY by clicking here.

Rules of the Roads

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Neither my wife Cathy, daughter Emily, nor I had ever been on an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV), so we paid close attention to our adventure guide Sebastian, when he gave the rules of the road to us during our school vacation break in the hot sun and strong trade winds of Aruba.

He was very specific: everyone in our group would stay in a single line, and adhere to the rules of the road to which all vehicles adhere. There would be no ‘hot-dogging’, and each of us would respect the others in the group by keeping a safe distance between vehicles. Any violation would result in the immediate termination of the adventure. Sebastian was so serious when telling us that a young couple immediately left our group and went out on their own.

No Accidents

As we made our way across the sand toward the north shore of the Caribbean, Sebastian repositioned how we were riding. He decided that some individuals didn’t have the strength or confidence to make it over the treacherous route to get to the natural pool, so he changed course. He prolonged our route which resulted in a very enjoyable ride. Sebastian’s proactive management skills gave us all better results. Every one had a great adventure, there were no accidents, and the company created another success by satisfying several new customers.

Rush Hour Biking

Before last week, it had been 20 years to the month since I had ridden my bicycle in a group of people going 15 miles an hour. Back then, my friend Lynchie, who was new to riding in a peloton, was right in front of me and Tom (the experienced triathlete) when he suddenly yelled out TURTLE, while swerving sharply to avoid a large turtle. With just three inches separating my front wheel from his rear wheel, there wasn’t a lot of time for me to react.  As I fell into the asphalt, my right knee turned into a pile driver. Despite many weeks on crutches and through extended physical therapy, my knee wasn’t right for a very long time. I am now renewing my passion for biking.

As we set out on our 20 mile group bike ride last week from the Natick store of Landry’s Bicycles, (sponsor of the ride), our leader, Mark, reminded us to keep safe distances between each rider and to announce when they would be passing another. Bike riders always honor the rules of the road, as if they were driving a car. They stop at all intersections; they keep to the right; they respect all other drivers on bicycles and in cars, etc.

More than 15 of us enjoyed a trouble-free ride by following the rules of the road as the sun started to set in near perfect weather through the idyllic towns of Dover, Needham, Sherborn, and Wellesley. There were no accidents, and then several riders bought accessories and scheduled repairs at the store.

Magic Formula of Growing Sales

Having grown sales year after year after year, Sales Managers of Distinction (SMoD) are in a league of their own. They develop and manage their teams accordingly to their own rules of the road. Just like driving an ATV in Aruba or bike riding in the Boston area, the success of the team can be ensured when the rules of the road are followed by all.

Effective rules accomplish three things: Generate highest level of customer satisfaction possible, achieve defined corporate objectives, and fulfill the professional and personal needs of sales producers. Call it the proverbial win-win-win situation; it’s the magic formula of growing sales through any economic cycle.

Just like Sebastian and Mark, SMoDs clearly define the rules of the road their team members follow. Simple rules that are based on discipline and structure; this is what you will do; this is what you won’t do.

They don’t have many rules, but the rules they do have are strictly enforced.

When individual producers generate high customer satisfaction levels and achieve corporate objectives, they’re rewarded handsomely. But, when individual production falls outside the lines of expectations, overall team production suffers, and necessary adjustments are made in a timely fashion. Call it the dog wagging its tail.

These days, many companies have been shedding sales people left and right. Chalk it up to being a sign of the times, but SMoDs haven’t had to make sudden changes in this economy because their system, with its rules of the road, keeps team members getting better sales consistently.

When everyone clearly understands what’s needed to be done, and the manager provides the necessary resources in a timely fashion, nobody gets hurts, and everyone enjoys the ride.

How are your sales people adhering to your rules of the road?

Time & Temperature

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

I finally gave up drinking coffee. I can’t say I really miss the gurgling in my stomach, the jitters in my voice, or the extra calories in the cream and sugar. I don’t even pine for the acidity left over in my throat.

I traded in my coffee cup for the mystical elixir of loose leaf tea, and that has made all the difference. I figure the Chinese (and other cultures) have been enjoying different teas for more than 5,000 years, there has to be some kind of magic in those leaves. And, it comes in so many different types and flavors.

There are white teas and black teas. There are green and red teas. Flavored and scented, oolong, mate, and herbal. And, it is prepared using a variety of techniques: withering, steaming, rolling, shaking, pan frying, fermented, firing, and drying. I’m convinced there has to be a way I can healthfully benefit from this all natural, calorie-free, fat-free, delicious beverage with little to no caffeine.

Since I’ve made the trade, I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur. I’ve come to realize the mystical elixir comes with a simple formula; the brewing process is all about time and temperature. There are basically three temperatures at which to brew tea: 208, 195, and 175 degrees. The high numbers are for herbals, rooibos (red), and black teas. The low numbers are for the green and the white teas. It really does make a difference to the level of enjoyment.

The teas brewed at 208 degrees are steeped/infused for 5-6 minutes. Those brewed at 195 are infused for 3 minutes; those at 175 degrees for just 1-2 minutes. Each has its own range of flavor and level of health benefits. 

I never knew that when you strictly follow the time and temperature brewing process, you never need to add cream and sugar. That’s why they don’t offer cream and sugar for the tea with your fried rice in Chinese restaurants; they only serve tea that’s been brewed properly.

Sales pipelines work the same way. While most managers drive sales people to ‘make their numbers’ every month and quarter as measured by the selling cycle, little to no attention is paid to the buying cycle of the prospect. I’ve always said that every sales opportunity has its own personality, separate and distinct from quota deadlines. And, that’s because the buying cycle makes up fully one-half of every sold opportunity. It’s the prospect’s need that your widget is addressing. It’s their money. There’s only one decision maker who ultimately signs the check, and they do that on their own timetable. The deal isn’t really closed until their check clears your bank.

When you don’t brew your tea for the right amount of time or at the right temperature, it will be bitter and in need of cream and sugar. The same thing happens to sale quality when strong pushes are made at the end of the month and quarter; discounts are given that curb profits. Kind of like the acidity left in the throat from coffee.

It’s a simple formula to enjoying great tea: time and temperature according to type. It’s a simple formula to closing sales: align selling cycles to buying cycles while matching needs to solutions. High performing sales people with the healthiest pipelines consistently have multiple opportunities at every sales stage that close at the intersection of the buying and the selling cycles.

Simple formulas: better tasting teas, stronger profits.

How Will You Walk Down the Leadership Path of President Obama?

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

It seems all of America transitioned from the ‘old’ legacy political leadership into a new age under the direction of President Obama as he took the oath of office of President today at noon. Under the gaze of the entire world, he delivered what seemed to be an inspirational speech doubling as a ‘call to arms’ for all Americans to do their share in turning around the misfortunes our country is facing today.

I happened to sit down to lunch with my old friend DJ immediately following the coronation and the first words out of his mouth were, “So tell me, are you drinking the Kool-Aid along with all the others?”

“No,” I replied, “but I did admire the eloquence of his speech. He is my president and I hope you feel the same.”

This is a wonderful day in our history, no doubt. But what will the political leadership look like at the end of the week? Already today, six cabinet secretaries have been confirmed. They’re holding back Secretary of State Clinton’s confirmation because of alleged shenanigans by president #42. 

What is President Obama telling us through the nomination of Mr. Timothy Geithner to head up the Department of Treasury? According to Fox News tonight, he will have to explain to the Finance Committee, his initial failure to pay payroll taxes he owed while working for the International Monetary Fund. Four years of avoiding paying taxes he owed? How can that be change to believe in?

How can an American working for the International Monetary Fund who neglects to pay four years of payroll taxes show any credibility as the Treasury Secretary? This is either way too much of the transparency Mr. Obama has ordered, or look for this nominee to be replaced. What would you do if you were in his shoes?

As sales managers, how will you walk down the leadership path of Mr. Obama now that 2009 has just begun? Does your written plan have specific goals to which all of your team can subscribe?  Are your mutual expectations crystal clear? How is your leadership addressing these economy challenges? Upon the coronation, the Dow slipped below 8,000. I’d say there is lots of work to be done.

I shared with DJ that I had just come from a new partnership meeting with a firm that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of sales team performance. During a dynamic exchange that went on for well over an hour, Greta turned to me and said, “At the end of the day, it’s all about the results, isn’t it?”

How can it not be?

Here’s what that leadership path looks like to me. Chart a course that is practical and has specific targets. Hire the right people that fit the profile of natural ability combined with demonstrated experience who can positively affect the dynamics of your team. Get them on board by defining specific results to be achieved. Put a system in place that can easily manage through necessary course corrections and persevere until the results are achieved.

It’s tough to know what Change We Can Believe In really means. That’s a lot like saying, Our Sales are Going to Grow This Year. Or, like the sales producer telling his manager that he’s got a ‘gut feeling’ the opportunity is closing this week.

For those clients who finished up for 2008, they’ll keep on doing what lets them keep growing sales year after year after year; refining the path that works every time. For those of you whose sales were flat or down for 2008, the time for charting a new practical course is now.

What’s your next logical step?

Every Sale Counts Whenever It’s Closed

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

There is nothing more exciting than a ‘walk-off’ home run when the home team wins the game by scoring the winning runs in the bottom of the 9th inning. They walk-off the field because, as the home team, they have no need to use all of the 27 outs each team gets for every game.

It’s the same as a sales team achieving quota before the end of the month/quarter.

David ‘Papi’ Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox has made a career scoring clutch walk-off runs in a dramatic fashion.

There are few things more exciting than watching Tom Brady of the New England Patriots throw a ‘Hail Mary’ pass to anyone of his talented receivers in the closing minutes of the ball game. Or see a long field goal make it through the uprights as time expires.

It seems that every sales team has a super star like a David Ortiz or a Tom Brady. Great sales teams have more than one. But the problem is, many producers wait until the end of the month or quarter and pray for the ‘walk-off’ home run, the ‘Hail Mary’, or dramatic field goal made at the buzzer.

Proactively managed sales teams understand that every run and point scored during any inning or quarter count. It’s the same with every sale that’s closed. Why not focus every day in every week on optimizing individual production?

Every sales opportunity in every business in every industry has its own personality. Take a minute to expand your view of your pipeline. Unless and until the buying cycle of the prospect is understood and properly navigated, there will be no sale.

Top producers strive to have multiple opportunities at every stage of their well-defined pipeline at all times. Consistently filling and draining the pipeline takes all the pressure off of having to score in dramatic fashion. Why not relieve yourself from all that pressure of having to score at the buzzer? That’s when most discounts are given which reduces profit margins and hurts the overall performance of your company.

Why not choose to spend the same amount of your time and energy to create the greatest value to your prospect, your company, and your compensation?