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.
Everyone knows something about body language and how it impacts the way that people perceive us.
We all know a firm handshake is good, eye contact relays confidence and smiling makes us more likeable.
But did you know your body language has a scientifically proven impact on your own body and your emotions?
By adopting certain postures for only 2 minutes, such as the wonder woman pose here, you can make yourself feel more powerful and confident… a very useful tip when you are preparing for a high pressure situation such as a difficult meeting or an important sales pitch.
By Changing your Body Chemistry ….
Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School Professor and social psychologist, is known for her interest in emotions, power, nonverbal behaviour, and the effects of social stimuli on hormone levels.
During her research into social stimuli and hormones Amy proved that certain body postures that she calls ‘Power Poses’ can immediately change your body chemistry, which in turn changes your emotional state.
They tend to have higher testosterone levels which are associated with power and dominance, and lower cortisol levels which indicate decreased anxiety and a better ability to deal with stress.
Levels of both of these hormones can change rapidly depending on the social, physical and environmental cues around you. If you are in a situation that makes you feel anxious or less then confident (ie. a difficult meeting or an important pitch), you can counter that by changing your body posture. This will in turn change your testosterone and cortisol levels which will change your emotional state.
To increase your testosterone and reduce your cortisol Amy suggests 2 minutes in a high Power Pose.
This involves opening up your body, stretching and expanding it as much as possible. Basically you are making yourself appear bigger – think Mick Jagger strutting on stage!
If you need to feel more confident we suggest adopting a high power pose for 2 minutes (ideally before your meeting and not whilst in it!) to help your body to create the right balance of testosterone and cortisol to help you to feel more powerful and relaxed.
If you continue to use power body language in your meeting or pitch (see the picture at the end of this post for examples) you will positively impact how others perceive you too.
It is also useful to be aware of your posture so that you avoid ‘low power’ poses, where you are hunched or making yourself smaller (look down at your notes or slouching in your chair).
Below are some examples of high power poses with the associated low power pose underneath to avoid.
Amy’s TED talk on how your body language shapes who you are is one of the most popular talks of all time is and definitely worth the 20 minutes to watch if you haven’t seen it
So here are our top tips on how to ensure that it goes as well as it can, and that both parties feel positive afterwards:
The key is in planning and preparation
- Consider what you plan to say and ensure you have objective and specific feedback or information
- Consider the outcome that you want and make it specific and achievable
- Think carefully about how the other person may feel about the conversation. If they are likely to feel uncomfortable about it what can you say to frame the conversation to minimise these feelings?
- Start with a safely statement if this is appropriate. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person – what might they think this conversation is about? Some people can mistakenly think that your feedback on one issue is actually much more than that and it calls into question lots of things they do. If you feel this might be the case construct a statement that explains what this conversation is not about before stating what it is about. For example “I have been really pleased with your work ethic and focus (possible concerns in the other person’s mind) and just want to talk about one aspect of how you write the monthly reports that I think can really make a positive difference.”
- Give objectives and specific feedback – take the emotion out and focus on the facts
- Give a clear message – resist the urge to wrap the message up in so much cotton wool that the other person doesn’t really hear the message that you want to give them
- If possible, ask questions after making a point or giving feedback to encourage the other person to contribute. This is especially important in coming to an action plan – ideally this would be co-created with them.
- Be aware of assumptions – these are dangerous. Try to ensure that you a) listen for facts, and b) report on facts
- Avoid using subjective, judgemental or emotive language.
We ran a survey recently, and having difficult conversations was one area that participants didn’t feel confident about handling well, so we hope this helps. Do you have any experiences to share?
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.
When you are in a sales situation one of the most important things to do is to appear credible, and asking intelligent and thoughtful questions is a great way to demonstrate and build your credibility. Asking questions promotes thought in the other person – particularly if the questions you ask are open (cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and come from a state of curiosity.
When planning your questions, think about what you can ask early on in the conversation or presentation that will cause the other person to really think. Asking a question that causes thought, directs attention or encourages the other person to question their perspective can all build your credibility, providing the question is authentic (or sincere) and not simply designed to lead the other person.
Here are some ideas on devising your questions:
- Plan your questions. By planning your questions you increase the chance of asking something that really resonates with the other person. Being curious and brainstorming possible questions with a colleague will also help.
- Ensure it is authentic. Resist asking a question simply to lead the other person to your point of view. This is often ‘obvious’ to the other person and can come across as manipulative
- Leave silence. Once you have asked a good open question, resist the urge to dive into the silence that follows (which often results in you giving the other person a multiple choice answer for them to pick!) and be comfortable with the silence. Silence is a sign that the other person is truly considering your question and giving it thought
- Using framing. Make a question ‘safe’ or prepare the other person to answer it. Framing is a technique where you give an explanation for why you are asking the question before you ask it. This gives the listener the context and reason for the question along with a little time to think making it easier for them to answer. For example, instead of asking: “what has led you to that conclusion?” in a situation where the question might be taken negatively, you could frame it as follows: “In order to understand your thinking so I can give you what you need (this is the frame), could you explain what has led you to that conclusion?”
You can find out much more about how to build your credibility in The C3 Model of Influencing™ Field Guide, available on Amazon. It teaches our simple Influence Model that will enable you to be more confident, more credible and connect more easily with your sales prospects.
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
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?
Brilliant Salespeople ensure that they make time to plan their meetings in order to maximise the chance of achieving their objectives from them. This planning often takes little time but can make a significant difference. We know of lots of salespeople who do not plan in this area- who turn up and ‘wing it’. For the small investment in planning, they could dramatically improve their outcome.
• Research the prospect e.g. use the internet
• Set an agenda for the meeting
• Plan your key questions
• Think about who should be there
• Plan you own outcomes – what do you want to achieve?
• Think about what it is the prospect needs to know
• To bring greater empathy, put yourself in the prospect’s shoes
• What questions may come up? How will you address them?
• Plan how you will make your points clear and compelling
• If presenting with others, who will do what? When is it best to handover? How to manage handovers?
Internal sales meetings
• Look at, and action if appropriate, the minutes from the previous meeting
• Think about issues on the agenda so that you can contribute
• Understand what is expected of you in the meeting
• Do the necessary preparation
Do you plan and prepare before all of your sales meetings? If so, do you have anything to add to our list?
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?
When selling, we often don’t think consciously about how we are going to do it and whether our sales approach will help or hinder our success. We process huge amounts of information every second of every day and have to simply adopt habits in order to manage this. And over time these habits become unconscious – we do them without thinking.
Everyone sells differently, and in order to sell authentically we all need to be ourselves. It is no good trying to ‘become’ someone else when we sell. What we need to do is to consciously understand ourselves and our preferences, or habits, so that we can continue doing what works and change what does not – whilst still remaining ourselves! We have many different preferences that decide what we pay attention to, what motivates us and how we respond in different situations.
When we learn something, we go through a period of time when we have to concentrate and put all of our attention on the thing we are learning – for example, riding a bicycle. After a while, this simple becomes an unconscious skill. We have developed a habit.
To change an existing habit or to create a new one, we need three things:
We must be consciously aware of our existing habits if we are to change them. We need to have the knowledge of how to change and we must have the desire to make that change now. Some of our selling habits currently support a good result and we need to be aware of these as well. The more consciously competent we are at some aspect of selling, the better we will get at it. You can find out more in The C3 Model of Influencing Field Guide.