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9 Behaviors of Great Salespeople

30 Oct

People aren’t born to be great salespeople – it is a learned trait nurtured over many years. Chances are your organization has great, good and bad salespeople. Because sales managers are often dealing with the bad apples, they aren’t investing enough time in coaching the good salespeople to be even better. If you are the sales leader in your company, you must either hire the best salespeople from the beginning or carve out more time for developing employees before they leave.

Beyond their bottom-line performance, what does a great salesperson look like?

  1. They are a consultative salesperson. Gone are the days of talking about all the great features of your product and pushing until the prospect (regrettably) agrees to buy.
  2. They do everything asked of them and more in their first year with a company. Year one is an important period for learning and that requires extra effort from the new salesperson. They are also comfortable with the fact that their sales activities are under increased scrutiny as they get out of the gate.
  3. Real salespeople know their product and services. They always have a crisp elevator pitch and value proposition prepared along with 10 questions. Their messaging sounds natural but is practiced and often memorized so they are always prepared; even this weekend when they bump into a prospect at the grocery store.
  4. They are authentic – and memorable. They don’t change their personality in front of prospects and clients which ultimately creates real connections. They also say “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry”.
  5. Great salespeople really listen. They are curious and ask a lot of open-ended questions. If the prospect or client is talking, the salesperson is probably winning.
  6. They sell solutions. Most prospects don’t really care about your product or service. They have a challenge in front of them and it can potentially be solved with your product or service.
  7. Winners are consistent. They take days off and have a balanced life, but they always hit their activity numbers, follow up, dot the i’s and cross their t’s.
  8. Closers drive towards YES or NO. A great salesperson must be aggressive and is conscious of time management. This means they understand how to target and qualify prospects. They aren’t here to please prospects, but to close deals (or move on).
  9. They continually learn. It doesn’t matter where they start, the best are always improving regardless of age or experience. They actually read the sales books given to them and challenge the entire company to better understand the prospects and customers.

Of course, being the best translates to hitting their sales and gross margin numbers. Your bad salespeople are regularly stuck between 1-2 times gross margin. Your good salespeople are hovering between 2-3X. The great ones are at 4X and beyond. Investing more time in your better salespeople is easy math. Is it time to cut the cord on your lowest performer? The answer is YES if it’s affecting the time you can spend with the rest of the team.

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

The Effect that Good and Bad Apples have on your Sales Team

18 Sep

A “great” salesperson isn’t just a performer – he/she is a team player who is able to help co-workers due to their experience from past challenges and successes. A “bad” salesperson isn’t only a poor individual performer, they are a bad employee even as they attempt to sell for the organization.

I often talk about the importance of hiring strong salespeople, but today I’m sharing a true story about the positive impact of a great salesperson – and another example of the ramifications of keeping a bad salesperson.

The Good Apple

A few years ago, I was consulting with a company and running their monthly sales meeting. Other than their monthly meeting and separate one-on-ones with their leadership, I had little contact with the salespeople outside of those two hours a month. My job was to run a great meeting and motivate the salespeople while keeping them on track.

What the meeting was lacking was a veteran salesperson. I asked ownership why their top three performers weren’t required to attend the meeting and convinced them that we needed to have the best of the three present at the next three sales meetings.

We quickly determined that Julie was their best all-around salesperson. She knew which suspects made great prospects… she knew how to balance the workload and pressure of hitting her goals… and Julie knew how to close.

Because I wasn’t a full-time salesperson in the company, Julie was better equipped to share real examples with the greener group of 8 salespeople. I asked Julie to attend three meetings and basically, made her a one-person panel.

  1. At the first meeting, I asked her 10 questions about lead generation and the activities she focused on in order to always have enough prospects in her sales pipeline.
  2. In the second meeting, I focused my 10 questions on targeting and qualifying. Which suspects and prospects deserved her time?
  3. In the third meeting, it was all about the close. How did she hit her record numbers over the past year? Exactly what was her sales process all the way to close? She knew the questions that I was going to ask ahead of time and never failed to show up prepared with great examples and stories.

WWJD?

By the end of that third meeting, I saw the sales team’s eyes light up. For the next few months it was WWJD – What Would Julie Do? We talked about how she built up her base of clients over the last four years. We discussed her obstacles and how she overcame them. The effect she had on that group as a significant sales performer was immeasurable. By the end of that year, the company had surpassed their 16% projections – mainly because of the newer group of salespeople getting out of the gate faster than expected. I give most of the credit to Julie.

The Bad Apple

This past year, I had a 6-month project working with a software company. Before I started the engagement, we gave a sales assessment to the entire team of 11 salespeople. 4 of them were clearly wired for sales. 6 of them seemed coachable and had the potential to become top performers. One was an obvious misfit for the sales role.

Thomas was the sore thumb. He had been there for two years and hit his goals just once out of all eight quarters. I joined him on a sales call and caught him out-right lying to a prospect. As I dug in, I realized that there were two tough customers the company worked with – both clients had been landed by Thomas. In my second month, a project manager shared with me that there had recently been an issue with a client that had been promised a delivery date that wasn’t humanly possible. Guess who was behind that promise? Thomas.

Thomas showed up to half of the internal meetings late. He blew me off as someone that couldn’t help him with his sales process. He had a likeable personality and supposedly a huge rolodex when he was hired, but he wasn’t a good salesperson.

The year prior, half of the salespeople hadn’t hit their numbers. It didn’t seem to be a problem with their software, operations or delivery. The problem seemed to rest squarely on the sales team’s lack of activities. And Thomas had the least phone calls, least appointments and fewest proposals the prior quarter.

Harvard Review recently did a study (https://bit.ly/2FrduBJ) and found that “employees are 37% more likely to commit misconduct if they encounter a co-worker with a history of misconduct. This result implies that misconduct has a social multiplier of 1.59 — meaning that, on average, each case of misconduct results in an additional 0.59 cases of misconduct through peer effects.”

I convinced management to cut ties with Thomas. Without his negative presence, I’m confident that most of this team will hit their 3rd and 4th quarter numbers if they commit to the activities. For those underperforming, their chances probably doubled the day he walked out the door.

The bad apple exists in most companies. If he/she sits in the sales team, they are costing you real money. Good apples pay dividends – not just in terms of their individual production, but the amazing effect that they can have on the rest of the team.

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

4 Questions to Take out of your Backpack

28 Aug

Your kids have probably loaded up on pencils, notebooks and a few new clothes in preparation for another year. Summer vacations in Minnesota are aplenty and it always seems to be the slowest time of the year (quickly followed by the busiest). As fall arrives, this is an important time to refocus and examine past and present business and personal goals. As we shift to a more hectic time of year, set aside an hour to do a little self-reflection.

The August stock market has soured as the United States, Europe and China’s economies have decelerated in 2019. The Federal Reserve cut rates, job growth has slowed, China and the U.S. haggle over trade agreements and Brexit drags on – there is a lot of uncertainty and undoubtedly, lack of confidence in the year ahead.

Economic highs and lows are a part of running any business. Don’t miss the opportunity to gain market share if the downturn occurs. As your competition restricts, they will under-perform and provide you a chance to gain new customers. Are you ready to seize the day?  

September is upon us! This month can be critical for you setting the right tone as the end of the year nears. Below are a few questions for you to consider as you approach the last four months of the year.

1. How did the last 8 months go? Have you taken time to objectively reflect on the successes of the first half of the year both personally and professionally? If not, take a moment to note how the big deals were closed, how goals were accomplished and why you missed the mark on others.

2. Are you ready for the last 4 months? Your sales projections for September through December were probably made almost a year ago and may likely seem a little out of touch right now. It’s time to fine tune them. If the general business climate is slower, do you have sales methods to overcome it? What is your big hairy audacious goal for this year? Which goal needs to be put aside for the moment – so you have the time to ensure that you surpass your gross margin goals?

3. What else do you need? Do you have the support and resources around you to hit your numbers? Who can help? Have you reached out to them? People make the world go round and often we fail to simply ask for support and guidance.

4. Are you happy? We probably don’t ask ourselves this question often enough. Do you have the right position and work environment – or is that something you need to work on before 2020 is upon us? Do you have the best team around you? Whether you are the manager or not, you have an influence on your team and culture.

This 2/3’s turn of 2019 must be a time for questions and reflection as you charge forward. If you are behind, it’s still possible to catch up. If you are asleep at the wheel, a good year can turn south quickly. And if you are on track, examine what you accomplished and how it can be repeated or even improved upon.

Good luck accomplishing your remaining 2019 goals!

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

Changes to Your Business Bookshelf

23 Jul
No longer a classic.

Good to Great… it’s time to put it away along with Collin’s Build to Last and Tom Peter’s In Search of Greatness. They made a lot of money off us over the years, but their philosophies were false, and they are outdated today. At the bottom of this blog, I have a list of 11 books that I would recommend.

Between those three aforementioned books, Tom & Tom named 50 successful businesses that were destined for long-term success. 19 of those companies beat the market… 13 succeeded to meet projections. That leaves 18 that failed including Maytag, Ford, HP, IBM, Delta, Kodak, Citicorp, Motorola, Sony, Pitney Bowes, Fannie Mae and Circuit City.

What did the Toms have wrong? Only two major things:

  1. They had NO IDEA what technology was going to do to these titanic companies. I can forgive them here.
  2. These companies are all running their companies on short-cited decisions that focus on profits NOW. Their stock value TODAY.

I won’t delve into the technology boom and unpredictability of the internet that brought Wi-Fi and an astronomical shift to cell phones and smaller devices. Only a few of the technology greats predicted it would happen as quickly as it did.

But #2 has stuck in my craw throughout my lifetime. Why are we making stupid decisions in major companies and pretending its wisdom? Everything I’ve seen in publicly traded companies is based on squeezing the most out of the orange this quarter. Even the model companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are under this same pressure.

The leading companies on this list are following the same path. Sure, go ahead and invest in them because half of them will succeed and pad your retirement – but we must make some changes in America. Or at the very least, in your business.

Don’t run your business like a publicly traded company. Stop looking at Wal-Mart, Philip Morris, Merck, Disney and Johnson & Johnson like they have something to teach you. They are hiring and firing without emotion, they are destroying our environment (or at least China’s), they are gluing our eyes to screens like never before and they are propagating an epidemic of “medicines” and mental health into our U.S. culture.

Instead, build your business making long-term decisions surrounding profit – and an authentic culture.

A few books to read in 2019:

  • DO NOT put away Carnegie’s How to Win Friends
  • …or the Art of War by Sun Tzu
  • The Snowball -Warren Buffet
  • Crush It! -Gary Vaynerchuk
  • The 4-Hour Workweek (becoming an oldie but goodie) -Tim Ferriss
  • Drive -David Pink
  • Predictable Revenue -Aaron Ross and MaryLou Tyler
  • Smartcuts -Shane Snow
  • Learned Optimism -Martin Seligman
  • Mojo -Marshall Goldsmith
  • Rework -Jason Fried and David Henemeier

Next week, I will write about one more book that should come off your shelf as well as recommend a list of business books focused on sales management and business development.

I’d like to hear about what’s on your bookshelf. Please comment or drop me an email!

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

YOU are the Sale

17 Jul

In 2019, we are selling ourselves. It doesn’t matter what your position might be – frankly, it becomes more and more important the higher you are in a company. And as an entry level salesperson, you carry YOU forward – whether that’s at the same company all your life or more likely, whatever career is generated from your first few years in the workplace.

How do you sell yourself today?

1 – You have a kick-butt LinkedIn profile. Because that’s what professional people do. You also have other social media sites – at least Facebook – where you are community-facing on a regular basis. In the old days, networking happened in your neighborhood or at your place of worship or the grocery store where you knew everyone. Today, it’s on the world wide web.

2 – You operate every day with every person under the golden rule. People around you start saying (because you usually succeed at living the golden rule), “I wonder what that guy does…”. They won’t listen or remember – unless they ask with genuine curiosity. That curiosity only comes when they like you as a human being.

I grew up learning from people and many sales books that the buyer didn’t need to like you. It’s actually true – but then you can only be one thing – an expert with a perfect product or service. In case you aren’t the expert yet and/or your product service is only very good in a competitive field, genuine, trusting relationships go a long way in the ten years that I’ve been running my own business.

3 – You are authentic. Part of being likeable is being vulnerable. You have a couple warts and you talk about them openly.

For example, I don’t like golf. That makes me a bit odd in the business community, but I haven’t played a hole since my third child was born. Somehow, I’m accepted.

I’m also a spazz. My children and fiance definitely understand this. They also know they can say “shoosh you dumb bear”… and I’ll immediately realize that I might be talking an octave too high about something that probably isn’t that big of a deal.

4 – You strive to be the best in the world at something. It doesn’t have to be work-related because whatever it is, it makes you human and helps people remember you. I’m not the best in the world (yet) but my passions and talents are in writing. I’m a recruiter, consultant and salesman, so I decided to put off the fiction novel and pour my efforts into these blogs and business books until I’m 50 (then I write the novel).

If you have these four principles above well in hand, there are many directions you can go from there. It’s all about taking your passions and making you memorable – beyond the privacy of your friends and family...

You’re good at golfing… then represent your company at EVERY charity tournament this year.

You’re a juggler… then learn how to juggle EVERYTHING and tell everyone about it (think concise, short stories 🙂 ).

You love to travel… is your office covered with pictures from your vacations away? What’s the front-page screensaver on your phone? Buy a padfolio with photos on the cover. Start a blog for photos or writings.

You’re a pastry chef… then why isn’t EVERYONE at your office getting a birthday cupcake from you every year? Or maybe deliver some cakes to your clients? They will think you are nutty… but they won’t forget you.

You’ve got a heckuva story to tell… you don’t have to be a writer to be an author. What would be cooler than starting your own book? I can help you with that one if you reach out.

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

8 Characteristics of Inauthentic Leadership

17 Apr

authentic

Authentic leaders stay true to who they are and are comfortable voicing their own truths. They aren’t pressured into decisions or judgments by outside influences. Because of this, people who are authentic succeed over their competition.

Do You Have Any of These Flaws?

dumbo1. The unauthentic don’t expose their own faults. Instead, they hide their flaws and try to make themselves look ‘perfect’ which drives people away. A few years ago, I wrote a piece about “the fat fireman”. Essentially, I told the story about a disarming neighbor that cracked jokes and always had a smile on his face. I compared him to an intelligent attorney who always wore an expensive suit and perfect bow tie … but the lawyer was plain and not interesting. People were drawn to and disarmed by the fat fireman. I’m friends with the fat fireman and all his flaws and would definitely buy from him.

mistakes2. Therefore, they don’t learn from their mistakes. Because they are always hiding their faults, the unauthentic aren’t going to learn from them. A strong leader fosters an environment where faults and mistakes are not only accepted but encouraged. Everyone in their world is required to speak the truth and give feedback even if it hurts. Great leaders and their teams will learn much more from their mistakes versus their successes.

Ass_Kisser_Mug_300x3003. They are butt-kissers and people-pleasers.  Don’t kiss butts – it doesn’t work long term. Instead, tell the truth and be direct. Help, give and make genuine relationships with the right people and stop worrying about taking care of everyone. If your organization doesn’t promote this type of culture, you are probably working for the wrong organization.

4. They make short-term decisions that benefit themselves. Hopefully the reasoning behind this is obvious but it’s amazing how commonly this occurs. Great leaders stick to their guns and often make unpopular long-term decisions for the greater good.

Corporate America fails at this over and over again. They care about the stock price today, tomorrow and at the end of the quarter. This causes them to lie, hide and often make horrible decisions for the long haul. Artificial bubbles are created by poor, short-term decisions – and I have no doubt that America is building another bubble right now.

tightlipped5. They are tight-lipped. Don’t get me wrong, an authentic individual doesn’t need to be totally transparent. And a great leader usually isn’t the most talkative person in the room.

I have a deal with my three children that they can ask me anything and I’m comfortable answering 3/4’s of their questions. But there are 3 other categories: (a) I’ll tell you when you are 18 (b) I’ll tell you when you are 21 and (c) That’s dad’s business and I’m not going to share that information with you. Strong leaders need to express their thoughts, feelings and views unapologetically. In business, stay away from religion and politics… the rest should be fair game!

6. They are more concerned with impressing versus helping others. I had lunch with someone last month and I almost walked out on him after he referred to himself in the 3rd person for the 5th time (“John is really good at sailing…”). I decided instead to call John out on it. Let’s just say it was a funny moment (for me) but I don’t think we’ll be having lunch again.

Authentic leaders don’t care about their self-importance. They are much more concerned with helping those around them become successful. The authentic individual gives and shares because it’s obviously the nice thing to do – but understands that it also will benefit them. Warren Buffet isn’t significant because of his money and boasting. Buffet will be remembered for a long time to come because of his humility and value system.

surrounded-100526213-primary.idge_7. They surround themselves with anyone and everyone. Inversely, authentic leaders carefully select their trusted inner circle (because they tend to attract so many people). They conscientiously choose others that are direct, reliable and honest. In turn, authentic people are loyal to these relationships to the end of time.

8. Their value system constantly changes. That doesn’t mean those with strong value systems don’t adjust their principles here and there. If you watch the hit NBC Show “Good Place“, it provides laugh after laugh while consistently focusing on good ethics. In today’s ever-changing-world, the show recognizes that the definition of a “good decision” changes… but the core value system does not. Authentic leaders understand that their strong value system is at the heart of all they do.

The_Good_Place_S3-KeyArt-Logo-Show-Tile-1920x1080

If I haven’t convinced you yet that authentic people win long term, I’ll close with the fact that unethical behavior will cost you real money in business. You won’t land certain deals and customers because of poor decisions. A recent study by Goodpurpose demonstrated that where quality and price were equal, the leading purchase driver for 53 percent of consumers was social purpose.

So be real and be you. Live without regrets and be authentic!

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

Are You a Squiggle?

28 Mar

 

squiggle9My most popular blog of all time is about this quick personality exercise – so I thought I would revisit the topic with a little updated editing. I originally wrote articles on WordPress (now I write on LinkedIn as well) and this 2011 post continues to get daily visits even though I never promote it (Old Blog Post).

Are you a square, circle triangle, rectangle or other?

Quick, without thinking – go with your gut and answer that question in your head (better yet, quickly draw it on paper) before you read the rest of this and we will dig into your answer in a minute. If you are thinking about your answer 10 seconds later, this exercise probably won’t be accurate.

shapes1Many moons ago, I met Connie Podesta (Connie’s Site) at a conference. Connie spoke over the lunch hour on this very topic of shapes and the personalities typically attached to them. Based on how people answered (first silently in their head), she described the likely personality traits of the individual with surprising accuracy. For example, Connie said, “the circles are probably talking right now…” and sure enough, I was talking at my table.

This is an oversimplified exercise and admittedly, a little silly. But similar to many personality assessments, there is some real accuracy to it … and it only takes 20 seconds! Give this exercise a try and don’t fret about the results as we are all a bit of each of the five shapes. I often ask this as an interview question to candidates, depending on the position. I’m not only curious about their answer, but I like to “read” their reaction to the question as well.

Note that I modified the original exercise on two accounts:

  1. I found that too many people were answering squiggle when given as an option (just because many people thought it was clever or funny) so I changed it to Other.
  2. I also added a rectangle because there was a void between squares and triangles. And those who choose rectangle seem to fit my personality description below.

copSquare: They are typically organized, work hard, love structure and want more order in the universe. Squares dislike situations where they don’t know what’s expected. They prefer working alone and are logical, sequential thinkers who often collect loads of data and file it so it’s easy to locate. Squares have trouble saying, “I’ve got enough information,” to make decisions. They strive to label everything as black or white – and they usually dislike this shape exercise more than the others! Your librarian or the next police officer who pulls you over is probably a square. I hope your CFO is a square.

edisonRectangle: They are a seeker and an explorer who is always searching for ways to grow and change. Rectangles often ask themselves “Who am I? What is the world about?” They are the most receptive of the five shapes to new learning. Rectangles are the least attached to a specific ideology and often cause their co-workers confusion when changing from day-to-day. Most people go through rectangular periods of their life when they’re in a state of change. Thomas Edison was probably a rectangle.

Steve_Jobs_Headshot_2010-CROP-780x611Triangle: They are decisive leaders who focus well on end goals. Triangles are self-confident and carry strong opinions. They can be dogmatic and shoot from the hip. Triangles like recognition and put stock in status symbols. American business has been run by triangles, and this shape is most characteristic of men. A huge positive is that they can communicate well with all the other personalities. Steve Jobs was a triangle.

marilynCircle: They get their energy from other people and work well with others due to their ability to communicate and empathize. They read people and can spot a phony right off. Circles like harmony and have more difficulty in dealing with conflict or making unpopular decisions. They can be swayed by other peoples’ feelings and opinions. They can be very effective managers in egalitarian business structures. Circles like to talk! Marilyn Monroe was a circle.

ladygagashockingpics2

 

Other / Squiggle: They are creative; a “what if” person who’s always thinking of new ways to do something. Squiggles are starters, but struggle with finishing because their mind never stops as they leap from A straight to Z. These catalysts do not like highly structured environments and can’t tolerate the mundane due to their shorter attention span. If squiggles don’t get excitement at work, they’ll find it elsewhere in life. Undoubtedly, Lady Gaga is a squiggle.

 

What’s your shape?

Beyond this shapes exercise, I’m a big fan of personality assessments like DiSC, Myers-Briggs and Strengths Finder 2.0. Over the years, I’ve probably taken 40-50 different assessments. I also like the Kolbe index and at our company, we always use a sales assessment for our candidates. In addition, I’d recommend a plug-in tool on LinkedIn called Crystal which analyzes the personality of a connection based on an algorithm that studies their communication style.

I think even the worst assessment forces you to go through an exercise of self-reflection. Even if the results don’t seem accurate, you will examine your personality, habits, strengths and weaknesses. Even the worst assessment accomplishes this.

I personally feel that the best aspect of these assessments is when you share them with your boss, co-workers or significant other. When I have an employee take an assessment, I share my personal results with them as well. I’ve found that it fosters an easier discussion about their weaknesses. We all have a personality and none of them are wrong – they all come with positives as well as negatives. By identifying these, it’s easier to work with others.

If I’m a circle and you’re a square, we can poke fun at ourselves – and objectively, discuss the value and strengths we both bring to the company or team. We’re all great and all a little crazy. Be aware of your weaknesses and focus on your strengths!

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

 

Building a Kick-Butt Sales Team

15 Jan

kickbutter

I’ve seen small companies build excellent sales teams from scratch, lousy teams become very good and good sales teams become great. What are the main ingredients in a great sales team?

A sales leader. This may be obvious, but it starts here. I’ve seen many organizations create sales teams without a full-time manager. If you don’t have someone to oversee, push and encourage your salespeople, it’s going to falter. The sales leader is an excellent communicator, task-master and great coach. Hire someone that has already proven that they can build a team by demonstrating their past results and successes.

A great hiring process. I’m a recruiter but I don’t think I’m biased in saying that you must have a strong hiring process. One or two interviews isn’t enough. A sales assessment and team interviewing process are key ingredients to identifying the right people for your team (when I say “right” people that means salespeople that fit your culture and can hit the ground running).

Base salaries and commission structures that can pay them more than their base. Provide them with a reasonable base salary – I’d rather have salespeople worrying about bringing more deals than worrying about their bills. Then give them a realistic shot at exceeding that in commissions (i.e. A salesperson at a $60K base can make $60K in commissions if they are reaching their annual gross margin goals).

A sales process that salespeople can follow. Do you know how to teach your next star? There should be a path to success that they can follow… and a manager that makes sure they succeed by taking the right steps in year one.

KPI’s that hold people accountable. I’d rather fret about a salesperson’s monthly activity and results than micromanage their daily schedule. The metrics should be easy to understand and basically be measured 3 ways: (1) Activities (2) Pipeline and (3) Gross Margin on closed deals. Not only do these measurements exist, but there is accountability from all to reach these goals.

An honest culture. Within the company and within the sales team, everyone is open, direct and honest. People are comfortable discussing their successes and failures. The team is constructively calling one another out on their achievements and mistakes. No one is afraid to speak the truth to one another and –most importantly- to their manager.

A company that is willing to fire people. I’ve worked inside small and mid-size companies that almost never let people go. Give new hires an opportunity but be willing to let them go at 6 months if they aren’t hitting their numbers. All of your salespeople must fit the team culture regardless of their tenure in your company. If you put up with lousy attitudes and under-performers long term, it will affect the psyche of the entire team.

Awesome training. I’ve written an entire post about this recently: Year 1 Training. Especially in year one, a new hire needs more training and assistance than most companies are giving him/her. Are successful salespeople also receiving ongoing training? Is your training better than your competition?

If you’ve implemented my 8 suggestions above, you probably didn’t need to read this article. Because you already have a kick-butt sales team!

It’s time to grow faster! Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

 

 

 

 

Salespeople Can Produce 4X

6 Nov

growth

I’ve seen many examples of salespeople and even teams that have achieved an ROI of 4X (gross margin / cost). In some industries, it is easier, but I’m a strong believer that most salespeople can reach that production level by year 2. I’m assuming that your B2B product(s) or service(s) cost more than $1,000 – and that your GM is more than 20%. If you fit that criteria, it’s time to focus on ROI and 4X.

Calculating Return on Investment (ROI) for Salespeople: 
Total Margin (Not Sales!) / Salary + Commission + Benefits

Example: 
Julie sells $1 Million in 2018.
Her Gross Margin is 34% = $340K

Julie’s salary is $60K and her commission is $34K.
The company’s benefits cost approximately 20%.
$94K * 1.2 = $112,800 is the expense of this employee

$340K / $112,800 = 3.01 is her ROI

When you simplify it, salespeople only do three positive and/or negative things for your company:

  1. Make you money or cost you money.
  1. Boost or hurt the company and team morale.
  1. Externally, they positively or negatively affect your company’s reputation.

They’re Just a Number? 

I hate to turn salespeople into numbers and that isn’t where I start; especially in the interview and training process. Your sales force is much more than salesperson #12 that sits in the 34th cubicle on the 5th floor producing 3X.

If you’ve read any of my previous material in my newsletter, blogs or book, Sales Neutrinos, you realize that I put a lot of emphasis on the qualitative side of appropriately selecting, managing and motivating employees. Every salesperson is a unique human being and typically you should be helping them versus berating them over their ROI. If you hired well, assume they are another important future 4X producer on your team – and do everything in your power to get them there (or fall short at 3X).

Managing salespeople is actually a lot easier than we make it. They are working for you to help sell more goods or services. Long term, it’s about measuring their production. If they aren’t delivering a strong return, then they aren’t making a lot in commissions… and they probably aren’t happy either.

Hire, train and manage them well. In terms of numbers, first and foremost, concentrate on ROI; the rest of the metrics are secondary.

It’s time to grow faster~ 
Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Year One Sales Training

10 Oct

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Great sales training inside companies is hard to come by. Usually a salesperson joins a company, learns the basics and is then given a sales territory and told to “go get ’em”. If they succeed in the first 6 months, they are basically ignored ongoing. If they fail, they are usually replaced. But what if a sales manager did it differently? 

Generally, I don’t believe in micromanagement – but in year one, management should be a little more overbearing and involved in their daily lives (especially in the first half of year 1 and really, until the start of year 2). Tell them to expect this up front – and reassure them this isn’t what they should expect long term if they really commit to the 6-12 month training program.

Sales Assessments:

  • Even prior to hiring someone, you should be utilizing a sales assessment tool like the one we use at Blue Octopus. After they are hired, review the results and talk openly about their strengths and weaknesses as they prepare for the role.
  • Also give them an easy tool like the DiSC assessment or the one included in the book Strength’s Finder 2.0 (by Tom Rath). As the manager, you should, in turn, be sharing your results. Personality profiles are not only cheaper than ever, but they provide an easy segue into a conversation about what the new salesperson brings to the table and what they need to overcome.
  • Lastly on the assessment list, figure out their learning style. Are they an auditory, visual or tactile learner? If they haven’t identified this in the past, there are many free online tests you can use. This will help you cater a training program specific to them.

Initial Training:

If the training process usually takes 4 weeks, then double it. Make sure the training they receive is hands-on. See it, hear it, do it. See it, hear it, do it. A salesperson’s personality is one of a go-getter – and typically they shouldn’t be sitting on one subject for more than an hour. Variety is key as they prepare to master their role. After 30 days, have them repeat everything they were taught in the first month: people forget 40% of what they learned in 20 minutes and 77% of what they’ve learned in 6 days (Work-Learning Research).

They should be over-trained by others in their role. How do your existing salespeople prospect? How do they manage their pipeline? How do they get referrals, appointments and commitments from their customers? Have them team up with other salespeople to see the appointment in action. On their first 10 appointments, they should be buddied up with a teammate.

On the first day making phone calls, sit beside them for 6-7 hours. As their manager, “pound the phone” together. Show them what a good sales call sounds like – and listen in on their calls, critiquing them throughout the day. Make it positive and promise them you will repeat this exercise again at the mid-year point – and never again! 

Record their sales presentation. Then have them listen and watch themselves as you give an encouraging critique. They will be as nervous in front of you as any tough prospect… which is why it’s a great exercise. Wouldn’t you rather have them first practice in the office rather than in front of the prospect? After they have been on 10 solo appointments, record their sales presentation again and this time, have them self-critique.

The next step is to throw them to the wolves. Send them out on 10 solo appointments. They are going to make mistakes -you just want to get them past any fears they might have about selling your product or service. After they’ve been out on 10 appointments without you, join them on the next 5. Tag team appointments work well, and this is your chance to show them how to run an ideal meeting.

Upon closing their very first deal, make sure to celebrate! Spoil them, share the success with the office and their co-workers, take them out for dinner and/or buy them a bottle of champagne. Overdo it because this is why they work for you!

After 2-3 Months of Training: 

Let them run. Of course, they aren’t perfect yet, but you’ve already done a lot more than most managers to get them trained up. At the end of every week, have them share their best and worst appointments in detail.

Hold one-on-one weekly lunches. Now that they aren’t under your constant scrutiny, give them a forum outside of the office to keep in touch with you and get to know you better. Getting away from the office is a nice way to break the pattern.

Mid-year Training:

Bring them back into the office for a week of retraining. You are going to make phone calls together… record their presentation… go out on a few appointments together… and once again, review their successes and failures.

Have them sit in the shoes of marketing, customer service or sales support. For a day, have them be a part of another team that works with and influences the sales team.

Send them out on 5-10 appointments with your best salesperson. Make sure to have them share with you why they think that salesperson has been successful.

6-12 Months Training:

It might be time to get them outside help. As their coach, you’ve repeated yourself many times and now they probably need outside motivation and a new angle of advice on their position.  Hire a sales consultant to help you coach them. Also, send them to a sales training event or to see a motivational speaker before they hit 12 months.

Continue to celebrate! Unexpectedly, give them a day off. Wait until they have a big success – and then tell them to take that Friday off.

Make sure they are a part of your off-site sales team retreat. Obviously, they are going to be involved in your sales meetings (please only hold them once a month) … but also bring your salespeople offsite annually to share success stories and to discuss best sales tactics and practices. Simply getting the team away helps them get to know one another, builds camaraderie and is well worth the investment.

Give them a sales book every month. Then discuss them at every sales meeting.

Call ten of their customers. Ask them for feedback about the service they received and the experience they’ve had with your company. In turn, share their responses with your salesperson.

Training at 12 Months:

It’s time to rinse and repeat. At the end of the year, they are going to – guess what? – record their sales presentation and hang out in the office with you for a day. What worked over the past year? What failed? How can they be better? How can you support them in year two? What do they need?

The time has come to let them know that the shackles are finally coming off – but that you will always be there for them.

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew Schmitz

drew@blueoctopusllc.com