Productivity was poor on the sales calls and we were asked for advice on how to get the team up and running.
Here are our thoughts:
I seem to recall a statistic that stated that 73% of companies believe their most valuable learning approaches are informal, yet only 30% of resources are focused there. How accurate that is I am not sure but I would certainly agree that informal on-the-job sales training can sometimes suffer from a lack of focus and structure.
Here is our advice on how to develop on-the-job training that will lead to the most likelihood for success:
- Focus on product/service knowledge first to make sure the new team know what they are talking about and can answer questions comprehensively. Nothing undermines credibility more than waffling or not answering a questions directly because you aren’t sure of the answer. Also ensure that the benefits of the product/service are clear to the new salesperson. It is natural to focus on features but remember no-one buys a drill because they want a drill … they buy it because they want a hole!
- Products/service knowledge can be embedded through some shadowing with experienced sales people, and some observation of sales calls. This also helps the new hires to get a sense of how to handle themselves with the customers
- If possible, get them into a smaller part of the sales process quickly, for instance prospecting, so that when they move into the whole process it is less daunting. Gradually build up their involvement as they develop their sales skills and understand the process
- If possible start on the easy sells. Early quick sales will build confidence and also give new hires the chance to find their feet in building relationships with the customer
- Assign someone more experienced to take them under their wing and show them the ropes. The first 90 days are crucial for someone new to sales, and unless you can help them to feel comfortable and supported they may well become discouraged and leave. The company has invested time and money into them so this is the last thing you want to happen. Ask the more experienced salesperson to keep an open dialogue with them so that they have someone to come to with questions or concerns.
- Share success stories across the team as these are a great way for new hires to learn on the job, and they also motivate the existing team. This can be done in weekly meetings, or in just sending out a weekly email to highlight successes and share sales tips
- Do a weekly check-in for the induction period. This shows the new salesperson that you care about them and you want them to succeed. It can be as simple as a quick phone call to see how they are getting on and whether there is anything you can do to help. But it is a powerful message that their success is important to you.
- If you haven’t already, start to document every part of your sales process. For new hires retaining the amount of information needed to do the job is impossible. If you can carefully documenting every part of your sales process such as scripts, frequently asked questions, CRM processes, etc, then they can easily look up the basic information they need (and that they may have forgotten) and it will save you having to answer the same questions over and over again. It also means they don’t feel they are constantly asking about everything and can just seek advice for the more detailed queries
- Encourage your experienced sales team to contribute to the documentation too as they learn new tips and tricks on how to sell your product, to ensure new information is shared with everyone.
- Celebrate big successes with the whole team to create a sense of a unified team and to motivate all members.
And it should lead to increased sales too!
Do you have anything to add from your experience? If so, please let us know by commenting below.
It is a fact of life that inevitably difficulties will crop up during your business dealings with you customers. How you deal with those difficulties is crucial for the on-going development of your business relationship.
When difficulties arise
Difficulties can include any issues that have the potential to disrupt the business relationship. They include situations such as:
- A late delivery to your customer
- Having a particularly aggressive negotiation over terms
- Mistakenly giving the customer incorrect information
- Not following through on a commitment you make.
Whilst we do what we can to avoid these situations, when they do arise we need to address even the smallest of difficulties. Just because something is not, on its own, enough to create a big problem it is important to know that if we ignore it or respond in a way that doesn’t truly satisfy the customer then it can then compound. And then the next ‘small thing’ could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The easy solution
These small individual difficulties are called ‘pinches’ and the Pinch Model describes what happens if we don’t deal with individual pinches effectively.
When we first become aware of a pinch, the temptation might be to resolve it in the quickest way possible. For example, if we send out an incorrect invoice and our customer queries it, we may be tempted to simply correct it and send out a new one.
But this doesn’t address the wider effect of the error. The mistake may have impacted our customer’s trust levels, or made them feel less confidence that we can take care of the detail. They may feel less valued leading them to question other things and the quality of our relationship.
What we should do
When there is a pinch, even if it is only small, we must fully address the issue to prevent future issues building up and damaging the relationship by creating a ‘crunch’.
The first thing to do when we become aware of a possible pinch point is to recognise that this is something that might be really important to the customer, and then use it as a way of going back to them to:
a) let them know we are concerned and want to address the issue in the right way, and
b) use it as an opportunity to create more clarity on how we will be working together going forward to avoid similar issues occurring.
By stating relationship expectations and ways of working in this way we continually build a stronger relationship going forward.
How to do it
One thing that can hold us back from having difficult conversations is that we don’t know how to approach it and we are fearful of the possible reaction. There is no substitute for being honest, and it is best to address the difficulties as they occur. You can say something such as:
“I have just realised that I gave you some mis-information and because our relationship with you is important I want to put that right”, or
“As I think back to our negotiations last week I am concerned that I might have been too aggressive and I want to talk about it so that it doesn’t negatively impact our relationship”.
If you want to raise your game in building lasting customer relationships then think ‘pinch’ and ‘crunch’ each time you have a problem and use the opportunity to strengthen your relationship.
Have you had any customer experiences that you wish had gone differently? We would love to know, please comment below.
Question: I’m enjoying your book, but wonder if you ever come across people who are reluctant to sell their company’s product, and who don’t necessarily believe in what they are selling? This is an issue where staff have been drafted into telesales from other areas of the business where their skills are no longer needed. Any thoughts on how to tackle this?
Answer: Not everyone who finds themselves in sales set out to be there. I would definitely class myself as an ‘accidental sales person’ in that it wasn’t something that I set out to make a career of. But what if you find yourself in a selling environment where you don’t fully believe in the product or service you are providing? Or perhaps simply don’t believe that you should be selling or that you are any good at it? What can you do in these situations to maximise your success?
I should say that it helps dramatically to believe in what you are selling and to believe in your own abilities: self-belief is at the very heart of effectiveness along with self-awareness. But there are practical steps you can and should take if you find yourself in this situation outlined above on the basis that your mind-set and beliefs impact your behaviours which will impact your results.
Firstly, you can only change that of which you are aware. You need to stop and ask yourself what do you believe about either the sales aspect of your role or about the product or service you are selling. Clearly, it is best not to sell something that you feel is unethical or which you fundamentally disagree with but there are a lot of instances where your feelings won’t be so extreme. Once you are aware consciously of exactly how you feel you can do something with it.
A key to success is not to simply try and put the belief behind you and ignore it – that will rarely work. Also, it is unlikely to help if you simply choose to tell yourself that the product or service is great. The challenge is to think about what you can believe (something that could also really be true for you) about the product or service that would be more helpful and so that you can still remain authentic.
For example, if you were selling car insurance and did not feel positive about it, you could choose to think about the fact that the insurance would give people peace of mind or help others who’s vehicle might have been damaged in a crash. If you choose to hold that more positive thought in your mind as you engage with the activity of selling it will make you more resourceful and lead to more positive results.
Another thing that can help is setting activity based goals. Set goals around the specific things you need to do (even if they are things that you don’t want to do) to make the sale (number of calls, number of conversations or meetings etc.) and give yourself a small reward when you have hit them. Often, these small things help keep you focused and motivated.
So, mind-set is critical for sales success but in those cases where a positive mind-set doesn’t come naturally, you can take conscious action that will enhance your results and your experience. As with any skill though, it takes practice…
Do you agree? Let us know your experiences, we read all of the comments.
Question: “I have been offered a sales job which will lead onto me becoming the operations director, but it’s a start up business in an industry in which I have no experience, and I have to contribute through gaining sales contracts for our service providing business.
Sales has always interested me, and I know a sales job would give me great satisfaction. Although I lack the sales experience, I can talk to people very well, it’s confidence and approach that I’m having issues with. I am unsure how to approach this sales position as we need to get contracts in soon and cold calling does not seem the right way forward. I am struggling to believe in myself in this industry and how I am going to achieve my goal of bringing in new contracts.
Is there any advice you can give me about approaching new customers, best practise and believing in myself?”
Our Answer: You are right to highlight self-belief as a critical success factor and the first step is to specifically define your current mindset and understand how this will be impacting your behaviour and, therefore, your results. Once you have done this you should identify any alternative and more supporting mindsets that you can truly believe in (but not an opposite one as this would not be truly believable for you).
There is another alternative which focuses on behaviour and that would be to just go out and start doing the work because what you will find is that you will feel more confident if you are more competent in the role, and you will grow competence through experience. So no shortcuts here, you have just got to get out and see clients.
Re the question around approaching new customers, whilst this is a big question one practical step that will also have a positive impact on mindset is to focus on how you can add real value to everybody that you come into contact with. This approach, called reciprocity, encourages the people you connect with to see you as adding value and they are therefore more likely to talk about you to their friends and networks.
In terms of approach, there is too much we could cover to do it here, but if you continue to read through Brilliant Selling there are a range of choices of how you approach them, eg.
- Turn up at their offices
- Send emails
- Send marketing materials
- Go to networking events
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Attend conferences/presentations
- Employ a cold calling expert
- Offer a taster session.
The C3 Model of InfluencingTM Field Guide (which we have sent you) will take you through a series of exercises which will help you with mindset and confidence. It will teach you how to apply practical techniques to be confident, credible and to connect naturally with people in any situation so that you can influence them more easily to your way to thinking.
Have you been in Anthony’s position? If so, do you have some tips on how to overcome it? Let us know by commenting below, we would love to hear from you.
Here are some quotes that ring true with us and help us to keep focused. All valuable advice – enjoy them!
1. “If you are not moving closer to what you want in sales (or in life), you probably aren’t doing enough asking” – Jack Canfield, US inspirational self-help author and success coach
2. “A setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve” – Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group
3. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” – Mary Barra, CEO at General Motors Company
4. “Everyone lives by selling something” – Robert Louis Stevenson, author
6. “People rarely buy what they need. They buy what they want” – Seth Godin, author, entrepreneur and public speaker
5. “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy” – Norman Vincent Peale, author and a progenitor of “positive thinking”
7. “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying ‘make me feel important’. Never forget this message when working with people” – Mary Kay Ash, businesswoman and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics
8. “Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination” – Fitzhugh Dodson, US clinical psychologist
9. “Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success” – Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President
10. “Performance = Potential – Interferences” – Tim Gallwey, author
Jerry was chatting to someone recently and was struck by what a great attitude this guy had. As the owner of a small business, he clearly understood that in order to keep growing his business (which was doing very well) he needed to develop himself and his skill set, and not just do more of the same and focus on his business metrics.
It reminded us of the work of Jim Rohn (now deceased), American entrepreneur and motivational speaker, who is credited with shaping a whole generation of personal development trainers. Jim believed you should “work harder on yourself than you do on your job”.
You will find Jim’s inspirational quotes all over the internet, mostly along the lines of taking personal responsibility for developing yourself, the idea being that you attract success by being the person you become.
Jim certainly personified this in his rags to riches life story, starting life as an Idaho farm boy and ending up in Beverley Hills. And we can think of many other people who have followed the same path and started with humble beginnings but by focusing on improving themselves they have built small empires – Richard Branson (started out with £300), Sir Philip Green (Arcadia Group), Charles Dunstone (Carphone Warehouse), Samuel Walton (Walmart), Oprah Winfrey (“Queen of all media”) to name but a fraction.
I’m sure you can think of many people too that you know personally who have achieved success by continually self-educating, learning, developing and challenging themselves.
One of our favourite quotes is “to have more than you have got, become more than you are” and it is very true that personal income rarely exceeds personal development. Or if it does it doesn’t stay that way for long.
Here are some of Jim’s other thought-provoking quotes on a range of topics:
Skills: Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems; wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenges; wish for more wisdom
Growth: Don’t join an easy crowd. You won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform and achieve are high
Activity: The few who do are the envy of the many who watch.
Change: Unless you change how you are, you’ll always have what you’ve got
And finally, “if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
What are you doing to improve and develop yourself and to push yourself to the edge of your discomfort?
Many of us might think through how we could have done things better after a challenging situation or meeting, but how many of us actually pick a specific area in which we want to improve and focus on that even before we get into the situation or meeting that could have gone better?
We can focus on self-coaching once we have identified a specific skill or activity that we would like to improve. The process is similar to that of general development, except for the addition of particular goals. We set these goals for ourselves and we can do this in advance or around the activity or skill.
An example of a skill that we might like to develop is our ability to establish the right first impression. First, we need to define what the ‘right’ first impression is that we wish to create. It may be that we wish to establish credibility near the beginning of the relationship with a prospect. This may require us to do some research and know something about their business and that we show this in the first five minutes of the conversation with them.
On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is ‘totally credible’, where would you place yourself now?
Where do you want to be on this ‘credibility with my prospects’ scale in two or three months’ time?
Only once you have set yourself a specific goal can you hold meetings and reflect upon how well you did. Questions you might like to ask yourself after the meeting in this example include:
• What did I do to establish credibility in the meeting? When did I do this?
• Did my behaviour achieve the objective as far as I can tell? If not, what can I change/do more of/less of next time?
• What was the impact of this that I observed in the prospect- what did I see and hear?
By developing self-coaching as a personal habit we can really give ourselves the edge and dramatically improve our performance – and all for an investment of 5 minutes a day! We think it’s worth it – don’t you?
We had a good question on our TomandJerryUK facebook page recently about credibility, asking us how to judge whether a question will build your credibility or not.
Asking insightful questions is of course a great way to build your credibility, to show that you really know your subject, and also to build a connection with someone by showing you are interested.
Our advice was to avoid boring questions, or those to which you already know the answer. What we teach in our Business Development/Sales programmes is that a great question is “what is important to you about….?”. This elicits values and if you can then match these values with what you deliver then you are more likely to win the work. Shared values definitely form the basis of successful business relationships.
The example we often use is that of finally getting in front of a long-courted client for a briefing prior to submitting a proposal. Having asked the “what is important to you about” question in relation to buying training he mentioned the word ‘rigour’. So we of course ensured that we included the word ‘rigour’ a couple of times in our proposal. When we found that we had won the work we asked the client what it was that made him chose us. The reply? “You seemed to speak our language”. Whilst its not as simplistic as that, it illustrates how finding out values and responding accordingly can have an impact.
Here is a reminder of our 7 core principles to guide you in asking questions. You can find more details in our ‘Asking the RIGHT questions’ blog:
- Start with an attitude of curiosity
- Have a clear outcome for your questions
- Let the conversation flow naturally
- Use both open and closed questions
- Make your questions understandable
- Ask questions that help you to pinpoint the dominant buying motivations
- Avoid offending your buyers!
Interestingly our chapter from Brilliant Selling on Asking the Right Questions has now been included in Pearson’s (our publishers) new book “10 Brilliant Chapters from 10 Brilliant Books“.
Do you have any questions that you find work well? We would love to hear about in the Comments below.
Being a good listener is one of the key characteristics that all brilliant sales people have. When we undertook our survey to help inform us when we wrote Brilliant Selling, we found that when we asked ‘what are your key strengths as a salesperson?’ listening was the top answer.
Many of us think we are good listeners – but are we really? Are you guilty of any of the bad listening habits below? If you are then remember that awareness is the first step towards insight that allows you to improve.
So if you recognise that you have some of the bad habits here, print out our graphic and look at it before you go into your next customer meeting, and ensure that you are truly listening effectively next time. It WILL make a difference.
You can download our Become a Good Listener to Sell More graphic here. Do you have any tips on becoming a really effective listener?
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We cannot NOT influence. It is part of what we all do every day both at work and in our personal lives. Sometimes we actively try to influence a situation and sometimes we do it subconsciously through our body language and signals. But whatever we do, if we are a powerful influencer we WILL be more successful in getting the result we want.
If you are a sales professional or an entrepreneur, a corporate manager or you work in a professional service firm, this book will teach you the secrets of C-cubed Influence, a tried and tested influencing model that we teach around the world. It focuses on skills in the areas of confidence, credibility and connection – the foundations of effective influencing.