APPLICABLE TO LEADERS/MANAGERS

 

The HBR article Selling is Not About Relationships (title misleading) categorizes sales people into 5 buckets:

    • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the customer organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet customers’ every need, and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.
    • Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team.
    • Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the sales force who do things their way or not at all.
    • Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the customers’ standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly.
    • Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — with both their customers and bosses.

In their analysis, they state that Challengers far outperform others, with Relationship Builders coming in dead last. Not that relationships are unimportant, their point is that the type of relationship is what is important. Challengers push the relationship, to make it better while Relationship Builders focus only on reducing tension.

This made me stop and think: How does this apply to management/leadership? I have often debated the merits of sales people transitioning from sales to management – where they can leverage their relationship skills. What this made me realize is that it is is more than that, the ability to build relationships is important but success will hinge on what type of a person they are. Consider the same definitions applied to management/leadership with a few key words edited (i.e. customer changed to organization):

    • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet everyone’s needs, and work hard to resolve tensions in the internal relationships. (Add: Infrequently progress from manager to leader as they are the keeper of the status quo).
    • Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team. (Add: It is naïve to think that you do not have to work hard to be successful. You do. But the person who thinks that hard work is enough stay managers. They are great ‘do-ers’.)
    • Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the organization who do things their way or not at all. (Add: Often burn bridges and have difficulty moving from manager to leader as they are not a team player. After all, people follow those they trust)
    • Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the organization’s standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on follow-up, ensuring that issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly. (Add: Great reporting to a leader)
    • Challengers use their deep understanding of the business to push their thinking and take control of the conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — within the organization. (Add: Can build, communicate and execute a vision … in other words, can lead).

As with the sales profiles, I would suggest that the Challenger will outpace the others as they are willing to paint a vision of the future, push boundaries, take risks, face big issues and execute – with relationships, problem solving and hard working contributing to that success.

PERSISTENCE

 

I love the article I Stalked Steve Jobs in Forbes, detailing how a junior CEO got time with Jobs in the 90’s … all about persistence:

I was a young CEO and I needed answers. Steve Jobs had them. There was only one thing to do.

So I sent a FedEx letter.

Then I sent another.

Then I started calling.

Then I sent another FedEx, and called some more. Finally, after 7 FedExs and 12 phone calls, Steve’s assistant said he wanted to talk with me.

He then offers tips on how to get to a VIP, although she did not include one of my old favorites – call at 7:30am before their assistant gets in. Shocking how many times that one has worked for me (As long as you try it enough times).

HP 12C ANNIVERSARY EDITION

 

A colleague forwarded a press release on HP releasing their 30th Anniversary Edition HP 12C, for a mere $80-$100. You can read about it here.

image

Leaving HP’s current problems and troubled future outlook aside, this is quite an event. I have many fond memories of this calculator and consider it one of the tools that propelled me to sales success after university in the early 90’s.

I commented on it in this entry under ‘Reciprocity’ in April and keenly remember how this tool set me apart from other reps. My peers would go in front of the financing manager with no understanding of how the deal was structured; no knowledge of interest rates or financing charges where I went in front of them understanding rates, terms and all of the affiliated deal details so that I could negotiate both internally and externally. A clear lesson to me that I remember today – it is not good enough to be good in just one aspect of your job – you must actively ensure that you are well rounded. For example, being a sales rep who is great at relationships but not good at understanding the technical and value details of the product, negotiation, objection handling, internal resource management, team leadership, cold calling, presentation creation and delivery .. etc. …. isn’t good enough.

Success comes from understanding all of the aspects and either being good at all of them (tough) or having a plan to ensure that you can execute well on all of them with the support of others. Top performance requires a Renaissance Man/Woman approach to business.

I have a HP 12C sitting on my desk as a reminder.

HUMILITY

 

I had the opportunity to golf with the President of a large sports franchise a few weeks back and found it a fascinating day asking questions about the “business of sport”. At some point, we moved around to discussing the importance of marketing and image in sports, which inevitably lead to a conversation on Tiger Woods, the  documentary “The Rise and Fall of Tiger Woods” and how his image continues to struggle. In the end, we all agreed that it is because of attitude.

Consider the following case in point (made by my golfing companion): Michael Vick. Convicted of some pretty nasty crimes – a vehicle he owned was involved in marijuana distribution, failed drug tests, petty theft and the most heinous – dog fighting that included torture and execution of under performing dogs. He was convicted federally, did his time and came out with an apologetic manner and managed his image, doing charity work for the Humane Society and a number of other important public moves (A good overview here) starting in 2009.

What happens? $100M contract and not a lot of talk about his past. Even if I am sceptical as to the authenticity of his rehabilitation and authenticity, at least he is making the right steps and has been rewarded.

Another great example of that is Martha Stewart. If there was ever a case of humility, that is it – jailed as an object lesson for others while hundreds of larger white collar, inside traders run free, she managed it with dignity and came out just as strong, or perhaps even stronger. I know that I respect her.

Compare and contrast that Tiger, which is best summarized in the article ‘Still acting like the old Tiger in a new world’:

Tiger Woods stepped from behind a microphone, thankful to be done with a short interview that felt like an intrusion. He took 23 questions, most of them about his golf, a few others about his left leg, then walked off without looking at anyone.

“That’s why you guys listen,” he muttered under his breath, “and I play.”

He was as dismissive as ever, another example of how much has changed in his world, and how little he realizes it.

He has never been apologetic or humble. He still acts like he is No.1, not No. 30, which means that people are no longer tolerating his arrogance and overlooking his shortcomings due to his strong performance.

Which reinforces how important humility is at all times. Imagine how successful these people would have been through the tough times had they been humble from the start. People tolerate arrogant behaviour from the sales rep or high flying manager/leader when they are on top, but await their fall, ready to relish in their failure.  However, those same people will help the successful person reach greater heights and through tough times if that person gives back, acknowledges the contributions of others, says thank-you, remains humble and supportive of others.

Unfortunately for Tiger, he was never coached to be that person when he was successful and it would appear that no one is around to point out the Michael Vick lesson to him now …..

PRACTICE FOR THE NEGOTIATION

 

I have been cataloguing a few old folders over the past month and came across the photo below. It is the photo of a whiteboard from one of the largest deal negotiations that I have been involved in over the last decade (9 figures). The negotiation team that we were working ‘with’ on the other side consisted of some of the most professional negotiators I have ever had the pleasure to deal with. During the 6 week negotiation, I learned a lot from them thanks to a very observant teammate.

Negotiation Board Whited Out

That board was a 3 hour internal dialogue to prepare me for a 30 minute phone conversation. We role played out the conversation, areas where the conversation would go, objections that would come up, rat holes to be avoided and where to stand firm.

In the end, both parties were happy with the outcome, but it was tough and the experience reaffirmed my motto of practice, practice, practice. Whether doing a presentation, meeting a client for the first time, running a negotiation, practice and preparation pay.

I need to Photoshop this photo and clean it up a bit, it deserves a good frame.

POLICY & PROCEDURE

 

A peer had a great insight that she shared this week:

“When I first arrived, I realized that all of our policies and procedures were built around catching the naughty 10%, which simply lowered the performance of the other 90%”

It is a statement that I have often thought about, but never articulated as well. In reviewing policies/procedures that I have seen over the last 6 years inside organizations, it would seem that this is the status quo in companies that are bucking under the weight of too much internal process.

Consider the case for contact management strategies in sales organizations. Generally, these strategies are built with a goal of ensuring that the salesforce keeps in regular touch with a client ‘X’ times per year or is built around some type of end goal such as:

At the end of 3 years we have a contract renewal, therefore at month 18 we must send out a letter, at month 20 we must meet with them and review this PPT, at month 24 we must have 1 executive meeting …. etc.

The problem being that if one were to step back and look at many of these processes, good sales teams are doing this as a matter of course and do not need the prompting. The only value that the process brings is another data point for central management to review, with questionable correlation to an improvement in sales.

This is in direct contrast to a sales basic, such as forecasting, which drives many productive outcomes such as resource allocation, executive focus to support good or struggling scenarios, inventory levels, etc. That being said, I can see how even forecasting can fall into this trap. I have read more than my fair share of articles on how large sales organizations dealt with the financial crisis (and experienced it). Many implemented draconian rigour such as world wide weekly or twice weekly forecasts with the following impacts:

  •  
    • The sales organization spent less time selling and more time working on recasting the same information that probably had not changed much. It reduced sales productivity.
    • Central management acquired an illusion of control by being busy, by feeling that they were closer to the minute by minute action. When the reality is that nothing changed. Most did not react faster, in fact they probably reacted slower as a reaction was even harder to do as they were too buried in the details to see big trends or too resource constrained due to the additional process load.

Therefore, I have decided on a new litmus test for policy and procedure approval/rejection which will center around a single question:

  • Is the policy/procedure designed to capture the ‘naughty’ 10% or does it raise total organizational performance?

If it is centered on the bottom 10%, then it needs to be rethought. It if raises total performance, then it is worth considering.

FLIGHT CENTRE: GOOD SELLING

 

I bought my first trip from Flight Centre during the holidays – a short jaunt down to Atlantis. I have heard many good things about Flight Centre, and their growth is a good indicator that they are on the right path. When we were in England, it seemed like their shops were everywhere.

The service was fantastic and I thought this was a great follow-up touch. A thank-you (people who know me, know my opinion on that topic) and an opportunity to provide feedback via a survey.

Well done Flight Center.

From: Lindsay.Adler@flightcentre.ca [mailto:Lindsay.Adler@flightcentre.ca]
Sent: January-04-11 4:01 PM
To:

Subject: Thank You

Fight Centre

Thank you

Hello Michael,

I would like to thank you for trusting Flight Centre and especially myself with your trip. Thank you for the business and I look forward to working with you in the future to meet and exceed your travel needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions regarding your trip or future travel.

Enjoy your trip and travel safe.
Sincerely,
Lindsay Adler

We appreciate your feedback. Please click here to complete a short survey and be entered to win a $500 Flight Centre Gift Certificate.

THE WORST COLD CALL

 

I admit, I have a pretty critical eye when it comes to sales people. But I will also admit that I am probably the easiest guy on the planet to sell. If you are a great sales person, my admiration for your skill often outweighs my attention to the sale itself. My wife would call me an ‘easy mark’.

However, if you are a bad salesperson, unless  I really want your product, you are done. Consider this email that I received the other day:

Michael,

Pleasure meeting you virtually. I am trying to connect with your sales organization or sales training team so that I may help prevent them from making a costly financial mistake.  I understand that they are currently evaluating a new sales methodology and have focused on XXX.  This would be a costly mistake due to its complexity and lack of results.  I don’t think xxxx would want to use the same methodology used by your closest competitor.  XXX is a very time consuming process that is ineffective and takes away time that the sales force which could be used to interact with the end customer.
(Our company) would be willing to do a pilot of our process for comparison to illustrate how effective we can make your sales organization. 
Can you please direct me to the person I should speak with to make sure that a better alternative is considered?  

I read this and was left with very negative emotions for a few reasons:

1. Never trash the competition: The old IBM model of selling. Rise above it. Sell your value and your own merit.

2. Use of acronyms and assumptions:  He makes an assumption that we are about to make a decision and his information is completely wrong. Furthermore, he refers to his competition using an acronym that I have never heard of before – leading to confusion.

3. Adding value:  The entire email is centered around trashing the competition, at no point is there a single reference to where they have helped a customer excel or the value that they bring.

4. Disparaging my team:  By saying that we are about to make a big mistake, how does that make people feel if they have already done the work, due diligence and made the decision? Probably defensive (even if he is right).

5. Over-all tone:  Negative, negative, negative.

Truly the worst cold call email I have ever read. If he was a rep on a team I managed, I would have coached him along these lines:

Dear Michael; (a salutation would be nice)

It is a pleasure to meet you virtually (I actually like this touch – the only positive in the note). I am trying to connect with your sales organization or training team as I understand from a contact that your organization is about to make an important sales training tool decision and we believe that we can make a significant contribution to your team’s ongoing success.

Our organization has a long track record of helping sales organizations improve using the XXX sales methodology. Our methodology has been proven to (insert value statements).  If you were to contact (Insert reference customer) they would say (insert quote).

I would appreciate any time that you could spare in your calendar to either meet with me (you name the time and place), discuss on the phone or would appreciate a reference to the right person on the team.

Thank-you for your consideration,

A very different tone and potential outcome.

HOW DO YOU KEEP FINDING ME?

 

For the last 8 years someone has been following me around .. and a few months ago, they found me again. How? I do not know. But the person did. I received an ‘executive focus’ newsletter with a yellow post-it note attached and handwritten:

Michael, try this. It works! J

At the end of the article, the address and subscription to American Speaker is circled with a check mark.

The first couple times I received this (in 2002), I actually thought it was someone that knew me. Obviously, that is not the case. But, I admire their persistence. They keep at it after all these years.

It is a strategy I have used before, and one I will use in the future, but in a different way. I find a quick handwritten note is an effective communication tool and in today’s world of billions of daily email, mail is becoming a way to differentiate.

IS SALES DEAD?

 

A friend forwarded the article ‘Death of a Salesman’ and thought of the quote famous quote by Mark Twain:

“The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”

The author points to the fact that the Sales profession has been expanding rapidly over the century, at the front line of capitalism and the ‘consumption’ mindset. He then points to a large perceived ‘killer’ of sales roles:

But the biggest culprit in killing off sales jobs is right in front of you: the Internet. There was a lot of talk in the dot-com era, mostly positive, about "disintermediation," or creating direct connections between consumers and suppliers. Think of all the purchases you make today online that once would have been accompanied by a salesperson: a sweater, a book, a "compact disc," a small appliance or piece of electronic equipment, shares of a stock or mutual fund, airline tickets, etc. Even in my own industry—media supported by advertising—some ad space can be booked online, as Slate writer Seth Stevenson demonstrated in a video earlier this year. The precise impact of Internet selling on sales jobs is hard to quantify, but it’s a big contributor and it’s irreversible.

I would argue that the author’s viewpoint is too limited. The reality today is that if a job can be automated, it should. Capitalism and market economics will eventually dictate that reality, as the company who automates and gains efficiency overcomes the ones that do not. As simply stated in this poster from despair.com:

Do I really need someone to help me select a CD or a book? No. I would rather use the web and social media to review opinions. Plus, the economics do not make sense.

What the author fails to understand is that this fundamental economic principle needs to be balanced off against human behaviour. It has been proven time and time again, that people are more likely to buy from people that they like or have a relationship with. Companies simply need to do the math: When the value of the sale is matched with an increased probability of volume, due to persuasion, and it makes financial sense, then the salesperson will remain in the equation. If the value of the sale is so low, or relationship does not play a part in the purchase, the salesperson will be cut out. Simple.

But it hardly means the death of sales. It just means the death of low value sales jobs:

The middle, however, is being "hollowed out," in the phrase David Autor used in an economic paper published in April, and sales is a major component of that shrinking middle. The strength of sales jobs is that they can be reasonably high-paying but typically don’t require technical training or other specialized skills. When those jobs disappear, the people who hold them will often be pushed down the wage ladder or even out of the workforce. Sixty years after Willy Loman, that is our tragedy.

It means an evolution, where the low value ‘sales people’ see their roles eliminated, not unlike many other jobs that are automated. Of interest, I have spoken to more than one sales leader who lamented about how hard it is to find qualified, high quality sales people, as many ‘salespeople’ enter the field by accident, do what comes ‘naturally’ and don’t take the profession of sales seriously. If people wish to remain in the ‘hollowed out’ middle class via sales, then they better take it seriously and focus on skills improvement. Most sales people I know have a University degree as a start. In the profession, sales books and training abound, but how many actually leverage it? The successful ones.

It also points back to something that I continue to harp on, when will our educational institutions get out of their glass towers and recognize that a business degree should include sales and leadership training? It is pathetic. Instead they stick to the antiquated notion that an Economic class is more relevant, when in fact I have never used a theory from that class in my daily business life. But I could have used practical sales and management training, even if I was too young and inexperienced to really leverage it, at least it would have provided a foundation.

Time for Universities to recognize that employers require sales, that they need to meet the market demand AND finally provide sales the respect that it deserves.

GOOD OLD FASHIONED SELLING

 

I experienced good old fashioned selling a few weeks ago from the Culligan rep, as we bought a soft water system. I was an easy sell, I knew I wanted Culligan (this would be my third purchase) and it was simply a matter of picking which one and working through the details.

The rep did a good job of walking through the steps, and as this is an industry that seems quite stable and without change, their sales model was pretty by the book. A binder, with his sales materials and good old fashioned reference letters from happy clients.

And when I received my final bill from them in the mail, it had a form asking me to reference them to another client with the offer of free bags of salt for the reference.

Good old fashioned selling, that worked.

SALES AND LIKABILITY

 

The Entrepreneur magazine article ‘The Likability Factor’ opens with ‘For better or worse, the sales process is not much more than a popularity contests. Do you  have what it takes to win?’

They go on:

Do your potential clients like you? Do they perceive you as likable–and I mean really likable?

If they don’t, none of the rest of your efforts to establish yourself as the answer to their problems will matter. When you get right down to it, life is a series of popularity contests. You may not want to admit it or believe it. In fact, you’ve probably been told it ain’t so, but ultimately, if you’re well liked, then you’re more likely to be better in sales.

And you have to be able to grab their attention …. ‘Capture your clients’ attention when you convey:’

  • Confidence. Humble, quiet confidence is just plain attractive and makes others feel at ease.
  • Intrigue. Lean into greetings, make eye contact and prepare short conversational bits to eliminate awkward silences
  • Interest in others. Say less and ask more questions. Then show you were listening.
  • Enthusiasm. Pull out your genuine enjoyment for others and always be willing to laugh at yourself.
  • Respect. Be well intentioned, well mannered and share compliments generously.

Interesting article. On a personal note, I just spent a lot of money at the garden center down the road. Is their product better? No. Do they have the best price? No. I figure I was paying 20-30% more. Is the location a factor? Not really. I could reach one of 5 different garden centers within a 5km radius.

So why? Because I really like them. 3 brothers who are friendly, helpful and full of good humour. I like going there. I am guaranteed a laugh a great service.

Their likability definitely lead to sales.

MICROMANAGEMENT

 

I know a few internally focused micro-managers who would like this software. Just so wrong.

2009 02 18 WMC  (9)

GV SNOWSHOES, JAM AND TOO MUCH CONSUMER CHOICE

 

The internet is an amazing place. Access to information changes everything, our ability to research topics, the speed at which information (and misinformation) travel and our buying habits. In the past, a purchase of any item was based on the opinions of the salespeople we meet, opinions of friends and limited research (i.e. The library or magazines like Consumer Reports). But not anymore, information is everywhere.

This Christmas I was reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s comments on choice in Blink:

Conventional economic wisdom, of course, says that the more choices consumers have, the more likely they are to buy, because it is easier for consumers to find the jam that perfectly fits their needs.  But Iyengar found the opposite to be true

He is referring to Sheena Iyengar’s study ‘When Choice is Demotivating:Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?’. The crux of the study is that less choice lead to higher sales and greater customer satisfaction:

These three experiments which were conducted in field and laboratory settings show that people are more likely to purchase exotic jams or gourmet chocolates, and undertake optional class essay assignments, when offered a limited array of 6 choices rather than an extensive array of 24 or 30 choices. Moreover, participants actually reported greater subsequent satisfaction with their selections and wrote better essays when their original set of options had been restricted rather than expanded. Implications for future research are discussed.

In fact:

6-choice booth:  30% of visitors bought

24-choice booth:  3% of visitors bought

This was my life prior to Christmas. We had decided on snowshoes as the family gift and conducted a broad search to determine the right choice. That search induced paralysis as we found more and more information on the topic and choices, and began to become overwhelmed with information and the bigger challenge – what is the right information?

  • Salespeople said different things
  • Friends gave different advice
  • Websites sold based on different elements, and commenters on those web sites had different opinions

It took a lot longer than expected. But our desire to purchase and a deadline (Christmas) pushed us through the challenge. But it was very complex and the Internet has not solved that issue – the crushing advance of too much choice.

In the article ‘Craigslist: In praise of primitive’, blogger Andrew McAfee talks about how simplicity works for Craigslist.

Every time I use it I’m reminded of wiki inventor Ward Cunningham’s fantastic question: "What’s the simplest thing that could possibly work?"

CL CEO Jim Buckmaster understands that this is the right question to guide his company "I hear this all the time," he says. "You guys are so primitive, you are like cavemen. Don’t you have any sense of aesthetic? But the people I hear it from are invariably working for firms that want the job of redoing the site. In all the complaints and requests we get from users, this is never one of them. Time spent on the site, the number of people who post — we’re the leader. It could be we’re doing one or two things right."

Keep it simple.

And for us, what did we end up with? Well we ended up going smaller than the salespeople recommended by a little bit, larger than our friends recommended (because they only go on packed trails) and with GV Snowshoes, a Canadian brand that has a few key features – including the 180 degree articulation (the ‘energy soft system’) on the toe which makes them very easy to walk in and the super easy buckles.

                

Painful? Yes. In fact, we had to get them from 2 different companies, but successful. Just too complex, and had it not been for the deadline, we may have delayed the purchase … or had it been 24 jams, I probably would have walked (smile).

MY TOP 5 SALES BOOKS

 

I read a great quote the other day, “Experience is not the best teacher. Other people’s experience is the best teacher”. It was a lesson that was reinforced by many mentors, take the time to read and it will help you be successful.

The other day I was asked for my top 5 sales books. For the record, in no particular order, I would consider these the books my ‘Must read – minimum’ list:

1. SPIN Selling:  The art of asking questions. As so many wise people have said, we have two ears and one mouth. They should be used in proportion.

2. Major Account Selling:  Based on the analysis of thousands of sales people (and written by the author of SPIN Selling), it walks through the buying cycle – not the sales cycle. It gives great insight into the major account selling and how to win customers. It is mandatory reading for anyone selling into medium or enterprise business.

3. Swim with the Sharks:  I am a big fan of Harvey and the MacKay 66 is core to Sales 101.

4. Mr. Shmooze:  The art of relationship selling. Whether you are in sales, customer service or for your personal life – there are lessons in there. In the end, life is all about relationships and people who build great, trusting, quality relationships have a better life. Simple.

5. How to Sell Anything to Anybody:  Is this really applicable? Have the teachings of Joe Girard, the ‘World’s Greatest Salesman’ gotten outdated? Does he still sell 6,000 cars a year? I don’t know. But it is worth a read. This is one of my first every sales books and will remain fond. I remember one little tidbit which I find interesting, Joe is all about relationships. Sense a theme?

A few others that are not selling centric, which I would recommend to someone if they were willing to invest in themselves and go beyond 5 books:

1. Getting Things Done:  I can honestly say that this has changed my business life and allowed me to reduce stress. I empty my mental RAM into a system that I trust and have less things ‘popping into my head’. Without this system, email and tasks would overwhelm me.

2. Think and Grow Rich:  Even all these years later, the wisdom of Napoleon Hill remain relevant. In the end, success is about visualization, seeing the end goal.

3. How to Win Friends and Influence People:  Relationships in business are everything. In the last 20 years, I have gotten two jobs from recruiters – and both did not end well. Every other job was through my network. Enough said, and remember ‘Little people have big friends’. Treat everyone with respect, from the janitor to the President, you cannot lose.

There are many other great books, but if someone were to request a starting point, this would be it. I personally look at these as a competitive advantage, because most professionals don’t invest in themselves …..

NOT SO GOOD SALESPERSONSHIP

 

I will admit, I grade salespeople’s performance all the time. This weekend was no different. I was seeking a new cage for my boys’ rats. I know, rats? They are the most social of rodents, have a convenient 2 year lifecycle and eliminate a lot less than my 93lbs Lab did. So yes, rats. They are actually quite cute.

So I called around to find a Prevue cage (which involved months of painful evaluating). I called Pet Paradise and the conversation went like this:

Me: ‘Hi, I understand that you carry Prevue products. I am looking for the Prevue corner ferret cage. You probably do not have it in stock, so I was wondering if I could order one in?’

Her: ‘Sure. Let me take down your details. What is your name?’ (I would guess her in her 40’s or 50’s).

Me: ‘Michael’

Her: ‘May I call you Mike?’ (Odd question .. I just told her my name).

Me: ‘No. Michael’

Her: ‘Ok then. How can I help you hun?’

I had to laugh.

SCHMOOZE

 

As many people know, one of my top 5 sales books is Mr. Schmooze. It is relevant to you whether you are in sales, distribution or someone who is internally facing because in the end it is not about ‘the schmooze’, it is about how to be interested in people … how to build relationships by not being focused on yourself.

That being said, I was in a restaurant on the weekend and read this on the wall and had to laugh …. ‘Trust me Mort …’

image

GREAT SALESMANSHIP: ABC

 

ABC: Always Be Closing, or something like that …..

 

Via Modern Family, the only funny new sitcom I have seen this year.

THE ART OF KILLING THE DEAL

 

I enjoyed the article by Ben Stein on his ‘how to lose a deal’ list. Out of Ben’s top 22, my favourites:Ben Stein, How Not to Ruin Your Life

3. You learn from talking far more than you learn from listening. Talk all you want, but don’t bother to pay attention to anything your customer says. He’s just a bore.

5. Don’t sweat the details or the small stuff, like year-to-year increases in rent or other charges. You’re way too important to worry about trivia, and let your customers know it.

18. Never do any research or any footwork about a client. You’re a cool, Ferris Bueller type of guy. You can always wing it. (This one personally drives me crazy. The MacKay 66!)

REFLECTING ON RELATIONSHIPS & SALES

 

We are having a patio put into our backyard this week. Being new to the area, I don’t like doing these kind of things. You never know if you are getting a good price, if the contractor is a quality contractor or if you will be happy. So most people quickly turn to references. In our case, a neighbour three down from our home had a great patio in place, so we introduced ourselves and he referred us to his contractor.

Now, it has been demonstrated over and over that our propensity to buy from this contractor goes up with the referral and a relationship. After all, people are 2X as likely to buy from someone they know and like. But what struck me through this process was how important the referral was to both parties. They were getting the business, but we were counting on it to deliver a good experience and result. The process went something like this:

  • I called the owner of the company, introduced myself and explained that I had been referred to him by my neighbour.
  • He sent over a landscape designer to look at the backyard within 24 hours, delivering a design super fast.
  • It then went a bit off the rails.We didn’t hear anything for a week, so we took action:
    • We called in and were forwarded to a salesperson.
    • The salesperson provided an over the phone quote (he didn’t really know us, looked at the design but did not inquire about who was helping us (the owner)). He provided a quote and said they might be able to get to us in October (maybe).
    • Learning my lesson on quotes, and as the rep didn’t actually come to the house, I called in four other contractors to estimate.
    • Two of the four showed up. We received our quotes and through the process I learned a lot about what was to be done, specifically that the original contractor did a special finish and one of the contractors talked about the great work they did. He had worked with them before.
  • I called the President back (took 3 calls to get him to return the call), and I refreshed his memory – noting my neighbour’s reference. It turns out that he does a lot of business with my neighbour, and he kicked into high great after I said that I had additional quotes, his price was high, we had not heard from his salesperson but I still wanted his team to do the work.

A week later they are in the backyard, putting in the patio at a price point that is 23% lower than the original quote (we didn’t even haggle – he just changed the quote). Now we wait ….

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In this case, both the buyer and the seller valued the relationship. Interesting to reflect on.

CORPORATE GOLF

 

Being new in role, I think I have turned down 20 golf invites already this year. Too much to do in the early days of the plan. But I have been passing on my customer – executive golfing best practice to people – morning golf.

The norm for golfing is to start at 1 pm. I encourage sales people to think differently, to think about their customer’s personal life. A 1pm golf game has a number of implications:

  • It often gets interrupted as afternoons are always busy.
  • If it is a Friday afternoon, enjoy the traffic. I guarantee they won’t.
  • It impacts family life as it often goes beyond business hours.

However, if you have a morning round (I love a 7AM tee time), you get the following benefits:

  • In a Canadian summer, you avoid the 32 degree heat in the afternoon.
  • It is never as busy (I hate being on a ‘corporate’ course where you get dragged into the 6 hour round)
  • You leave time for lunch and people can still connect with the office and catch up.
  • You don’t impact your client’s evening and their family.

Morning golf, all around better proposition. Richard Abraham has a great article on thinking about a customers’ family life when looking to all forms of business entertainment:

Taking a client to a nice restaurant during these stressful times really means something. It was always a nice way to show appreciation and to nurture our client relationships, but it has taken on extra significance during these challenging times. Now here is the kicker.

To the extent you can make it happen, try to include not only the client, but his or her spouse and your spouse or significant other for a great dinner. While we see the stress on our clients at work, it is multiplied on the home front, and a great night out can be an unbelievably powerful highlight and tonic for everyone involved.

I have worked for a few managers (note, I say managers – not leaders) who disagreed with the above, much to my chagrin. I still remember one hockey game many years ago where a few managers were distraught with decision to focus on families, not the individual. Executives get invited to events all the time, and it cuts into their evening. I decided to break the mould, I had the box for the evening and it was the playoffs. Instead of inviting 10 executives, I gave each executive 2 tickets – one for themselves, one for a family member. Some brought their spouse, some brought one of their children. It was a huge hit because they looked like a hero at home. Take the time to think about your client’s family life, they will appreciate it.

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PUSH OR PULL

 

I was at an offsite meeting the other day and it had an odd door to the meeting room. The handle looked like a pocket door but you had to pull to open it, not slide. Through the morning people would walk up and keep trying to slide the door, eliciting laughter each time.

It reminded me of a story from my sales rep days. There was a door in the office that you had to pull open. Many, many times I would walk through the door with a consultant friend and almost every time I would try to push it open, then stop and pull.

Finally, on pushing, stopping and then pulling for the hundredth time, he laughed and commented ‘You truly are in sales, you only know how to push’.

It made me laugh and then stop and think. Is there such a thing as a push or pull personality?

Which are you?

NEGOTIATION IN A RECESSION

 

I recently read an article on MSN about personal negotiation titled ‘Haggle anywhere .. Even in big box stores’ on how you can negotiate in places that you never thought possible. Personally, I negotiate in one shape or form all day long as part of my job, so in personal life I just want it done. In other words, if you are a decent sales rep, I am a pretty easy sell. Plus, my dad used to do this and when I was a kid it made me uncomfortable. So I don’t do it often.

In the article they basically said that you can negotiate in all big box stores (although I doubt that this applies to Costco). The opening line being ‘What is your recession price?’.

"The thing people don’t understand about the retail industry, especially brick-and-mortar stores, is that prices aren’t fixed," said Albert Ko, a co-founder of bargain-hunting site CheapCheapCheap.com. "With the economy, it’s all about the numbers and getting goods sold. . . . They’re willing to listen and work with you."

Interesting. By accident I did this two weeks ago. We are almost moved into a house (ending three months on the road for me) and I needed an LCD mounting kit. I went to Home Depot and saw one for $169 but it looked flimsy. So I walked next door to Future Shop. It was dead in there, so they were clearly up for a sale. The one I wanted was $369. I simply looked at him and said ‘I understand this is better quality, but I was over at Home Depot and they have one for less than half the price. It isn’t twice as good’. He said wait a minute and came back to tell me that I could have it for $300.

I saved $100 without even negotiating.

The same goes for contractors. I am not sure if there is a recession out there. As we are moving into a new house, it sure seems like they are not very interested in returning our calls or earning our business. We had a contractor in and we told him we were in a hurry so he gave us a price to paint the house. When I heard it, after sitting down and slowing my heart rate, I suggested to Narda that we should get a few more quotes. I called 8 painters and left messages, getting 3 return calls. Shocking that only 3 returned the call, business must be good. We then went on and got 2 quotes and sure enough, the first guy was way high thinking that we would not benchmark the price. In the end, we will do it for less than half the original quote.

So while I hate doing it, seems like a fair deal only comes from a little haggling.

A HOUSE, 2 CARS AND A CHANDELIER

I often reflect on my own personal purchasing experiences from a professional point of view, always looking to learn. While I don’t enjoy personal negotiating (I do enough of that at work), I find how salespeople treat me interesting. Upon reentering the Canadian market I provided a few sellers with opportunity, I needed a house (and didn’t need to sell a house to get one) and two cars. As I went through the different sales cycles, a few things stuck out in my mind:

  • Be careful about a flippant comment.  During the sales cycles, a few of the sales reps became a little too comfortable or too casual in my opinion. More importantly, certain phrases that they used are imprinted on my brain and really struck the wrong cord. When people are making a big decision, the ‘fight or flight’ mentality is at the forefront and inadvertent comments can send the whole cycle down the wrong path. Here are a few:

A few months ago we travelled to Italy (still not finished processing all of that, will blog it on a future date) with a stop in Venice and Murano for glass. We decided to buy a chandelier. It is a very well engineered sales process to trap the tourist. The hotel offers you a ‘free’ trip to the factory to see glass blowing. You arrive and a super slick salesman shows you the master craftsman as he blows the glass and then you are ushered into their showrooms. In the showrooms all the prices are very high but you are told that by cutting out the middleman and buying directly from the factory you will get 50% off.

The problem in this situation is simple – who knows what a good price is? If he is cutting off 50% will he cut off 70%? So we negotiated to the price we were willing to pay (65% off). We thought we got a fair deal (and when we went back to the island we looked at the shops and we paid ‘around the right price). But as we got on the boat to go back, our salesman said one thing that has stuck with me, making me feel taken as opposed to feeling that I got a fair price.

He smiled and said ‘Thank-you for the business. Please, make sure that you tell your friends about us. We would be glad to service them. We need more customers like you’.

I had to purchase two cars over the last 2 weeks. I have bought one already and know that we got a fair deal as there was a vendor program that took the negotiating right out of it. But I still have one car to go – my commuter car. I don’t care about this car – I am not a big car guy. I need efficient, reasonably comfortable, Bluetooth and an MP3 jack as I love to listen to books as I drive. So the dealer that I bought the first car is trying hard to sell me a second. The sales rep is alright, but I would not hire her. So as I test drove the car, I asked the price. She stated it and I said ‘That is about $3K more than the other car I am looking at and I am not sure that I am willing to pay the extra’. She smiled and made what she thought was a witty comeback ‘Well, then I guess you are buying the other car’.

This is about her 3rd faux pas. So I told her I think I will pass. The sales manager got involved and he said ‘He really wants to sell me a second car’ (What a shocker). So we went back and forth and as I was tired of looking for a car and have much bigger issues to deal with, agreed on a price about $1K higher than the other car. I felt that it was worth it and that I was getting a ‘fair deal’ until he said ‘Well, that was easier that I thought it would be’.

Later today I am going to call him back and tell him the deal is off. I want a fair deal and that just tells me that he took me.

For a house these days it is a buyer’s market. Agents will tell you differently because it is their job to ensure that you don’t take a long time – or they don’t get paid. So we low balled the house that we want expecting to go through a negotiation phase. After the first back and forth the other agent told our agent ‘Look, we are not going to sign back. My client is a wealthy man. He owns a house in England and a few houses here in Canada. He is a busy man and not interested in going back and forth’.

In any negotiation, I was always taught that you can only negotiate (truly negotiate) if you are willing to walk away. I didn’t want to but my wife was unattached and said lets walk. So I called the agent back and said we are walking, please start looking into these three other houses.

Well, magically, he came back. What he doesn’t know is that had he not said that, we would have probably gone $20K higher over the coming 24 hours. But we figured that because he was ‘too busy’ and ‘too important’ that he was also too arrogant and so why bother.

  • No one sent me a thank-you card:  If you have worked with me you know that I am big on thank-you cards. Less than 1% of sales reps do it and I firmly believe that the little things are important (and no, e-thank-you cards and e-holiday cards are not good enough. They show that you are cheap and take too little effort). I have yet to receive a single thank-you card.
  • Very few sales reps followed up:  In the car pursuit, I went to a range of dealers on a Saturday. Each of them had my information. A number of them provided quotes. Only ONE out of the entire car buying experience followed up. Pathetic.
  • It isn’t about you:  It was shocking to hear how little probing the sales reps did around my pain points, my buying cycle or about my personal situation. One extreme situation was at a the Lexus dealership.  By the time the test drive was done I knew that the salesman next to me was divorced, had two kids, lived with his mom in Collingwood, wasn’t ‘really’ a car salesman but really a golf pro, that he loved to give lessons and often did big corporate events for Audi and Lexus, that he had a 5 handicap and was really looking forward to driving home tonight to have a BBQ with an old friend. He didn’t know anything about me (he didn’t ask). He sent me a quote but never followed up even though I told him I was buying two cars. He absolutely didn’t send a thank-you card. He didn’t even get consideration.
  • I appreciate a great sales person: Our real estate agent has been truly awesome. It has been a rough ride dealing with the house and a furnished place (the other agent has been a nightmare). But our agent absolutely believes that ‘5 no’s make a yes’ and has pounded away. Awesome follow-up, open communication, tenacity and a willingness to fight for the deal. And most important, she has shown empathy to our situation and the stress that it can cause. I truly appreciate the person who does it right. Well done.

 

PERCEPTION IS REALITY AND NIXON

 

I have blogged about the philosophy ‘Perception is reality’ before, a powerful statement that can be applied to all aspects of life as we work to understand each other. Recently I churned through the book Overcoming Your Strengths by Lois Frankel and she makes a few very interesting points with regards to communication, first impressions and the evolving workplace dress codes.

pg. 84   Dr. Allan Weiner, president of Communication Development Associates has conducted research that suggests in day-to-day communication the impression we make on others is based largely on how we work and sound. The following chart reveals that, in fact, 90% of that impression is based on factors related to other than what we actually say.

image

pg. 83:  Perhaps the seminal defining moment of the importance of image was the Kennedy/Nixon debate of 1960. Although most of us can’t remember the content of the debate, we do remember the physical appearance of the candidates as they sat on the platform. Despite the fact that Kennedy was in poor health, he looked youthful, tan, poised and relaxed. Although only four years Kennedy’s senior, Nixon (who refused to wear television makeup) looked wan and tired. In terms of outcome, polls of television views conducted after the debate gave Kennedy the edge, while polls of radio listeners reported Nixon the victor.

It is something worth reflecting on and takes me back to one of my first sales lessons when I was still in University. I learned my very first sales lessons at a high end men’s wear store that had the highest dollars per square foot in the province in a small blue collar city. I learned it from a man who exuded confidence, paid attention to detail and had tons of local customers. He said ‘You can tell a lot about a man by his shoes’.

I often wonder what message the young intern in the office is trying to convey when they show up in jeans and a sweatshirt? Or what message the gentlemen in the 3 piece suit and tie is trying to convey when he does not see customers and everyone else is dressed business casual?

Personally, attention to these details is a way of life in business. It was reinforced at my second job, where I sold fax machines. I was working from home and went into the office wearing jeans and a t-shirt as I was going to work at the photocopier making fliers for a campaign I was executing in my territory (In the old days … we made our own sales brochures). The sales VP walked by the room and stopped. He was not happy. He walked over and said one simple thing:

‘You are a sales professional. You are the face of our business to the customer. The staff in the office have perceptions of the sales leaders and look at them as our face to the customer. Don’t ever let me or anyone in the office ever see you dressed like that again’

He turned and left. It never happened again.

PS: Dr. Frankel wrote an interesting article on the topic for Fast Company here. A few thought provoking ideas.

RELATIONSHIPS IN SALES

 

I had the opportunity to view a very interesting statistic this morning with regard to customer satisfaction:

  • 83% of the teams with customer satisfaction over the worldwide average were forecasting to make or beat budget.
  • 72% of the teams with lower than average customer satisfaction were forecasting to miss budget.

I have never seen it laid out so clearly. As Tom Peters stated in his manefesto ‘IT’S RELATIONSHIPS, STUPID—DEEP AND FROM MULTIPLE FUNCTIONS’

    

THANK-YOU EMAILS ARE SECOND RATE

 

Everyone sends email. We are all over loaded. Be mundane, send a thank-you email. But if you want to be in the top percentile and someone that people remember, you will send a hand written thank-you note.

It is the little things that matter.

PASSION

 

In the book Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again they identify drive as the number 1 predictor of sales success:

‘Drive – the Lance Armstrong type of Drive – is the most important factor for sales success. In a 1998 analysis of more than 45,000 salespeople, psychology professor Andrew Vinchur and his colleagues found need for achievement a critical component of Drive, to be more predictive of sales success than any other trait’

‘These 3 traits – need for achievement, competitiveness and optimism – are all necessary elements of drive’

Another element of drive is passion. Do you believe in what you do? Do you love what you do? Do you believe that your customer will be better off when you walk out that door – deal in hand?

When I was younger I was lured away from Dell Computer by an IT company that paid very well. It was not uncommon to see people earning $1M a year. The culture? Poison. Screw the customer, get the deal at all costs, underhand dealings and a classic 1950’s – pick the worst – sales culture. I hated every minute of it and left after 4 months. I was not passionate about what I was selling and I did not feel good about how they did things.

For me, if the passion is gone, I am gone. Watch this video – it is a great demonstration of passion. Love what you do – believe in what you do – play hard or go home.

You can read the inspiring story of Paul Pots here. Mobile phone sales guy to famous opera star. Inspiring.

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THE ECONOMY RINGS THE ‘TOUGH TIMES AHEAD’ BELL

 

Many think sales is an easy profession. The comments of ‘anyone can sell’ or ‘all you guys do is golf’ have been heard around the world thousands upon thousands of times.

One of the first sales professions to swell when times are good is the real estate market. People decide ‘I can do that’, take their test and thanks to an employment program which is usually 100% commission (meaning low risk to no perceived risk to the real estate company), they become an agent.

A friend of ours is an agent (called estate agents in the UK) and we were discussing the impact that the decline is © Roy McMahon/Corbishaving on her business: never better, she doubled her income last year. Why?

Simple. As this article points out, all of the part-time – I think I will give sales a go – agents are dropping out at a fast and furious pace. As times get tough and they are required to actually apply skill to win business, they realize that they are not up to the task and customers (people selling their houses) are realizing that it is getting tougher to sell the house (As an aside, she mentioned that $600K+ homes are not moving at all). Which means that customers are turning to the agents with a good reputation, who market effectively, who have been referenced by friends to them, to sell the house.

I have known a few very successful real estate agents earning $300K++ a year. It is a 7X24 grueling pace, relies on great reference selling and professionalism.

Real estate sales are anything but easy – especially in the years ahead. Buckle up. The economists say here comes the recession ….

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SUCCESS

An interesting Middle East quote shared with me today:

‘Success has 1000 fathers, but failure is an orphan’.

So true. Everyone flocks to the win and shuns the failure. Which is why I always say ‘Good news should travel fast, bad news faster’. If you are a sales rep and facing failure (i.e. A lost deal, missing quota), then you need to ensure you do not become that orphan. How do you do that?

  • Make sure that all of the little things are done. Forecast accurately, do whatever internal things are required. Be on time to internal meetings. Be the picture of perfection. Demonstrate that you run a good business and that you are simply working through the issues and that your methods will win.
  • Don’t hide it. Be open about it. Deal going off the rails? Bring in executives, talk through it with your manager, let people know. If you are working on a deal and you lose it without others being involved, you will be an orphan because of YOUR own choice. But if everyone is involved, there is no one to blame. It is a shared loss.
  • Remain accountable. It is fine to blame M&E activity or something in the market, as external factors often have an impact. But, if you always end that with ‘That being said, we are driving a good business, working through the issues and ensuring we do everything to right the boat’, then people will have confidence that your actions and leadership are having an impact. They will be confident that you are the right person to lead through those tough times.

We all face tough times. It is the nature of sales and business. Good years. Bad years. But it is in the bad times that the true test of character happens and the greatness is seen in people. Something that applies to business and personal life.

SNOOKER

 

In a recent discussion with a colleague about relationship building in sales, he shared a great story. He was on a train to see a client and was reading a book on snooker. His colleague (A technical sales person) noticed and asked ‘You like snooker?’. He replied with a resounding no. ‘Then why are you reading that book’ was the perplexed follow-up question. ‘Because my client loves snooker’

He went on to relate how the sales meeting, with a customer who had always been cold toward him went, they spent the first 20 minutes talking about the snooker championship on the weekend and he spent the time learning more about the game and why his client was passionate about the sport.

It seems so obvious, but so many salespeople just don’t understand how to build relationships that are meaningful.

As an aside, I told that with my new UK team and found out afterward that as I was walking through the story half the people were saying ‘who is snooker?’. It would appear that the UK pronounce it ‘snooooooker’, not ‘snooker’. Separated by a common language.

CHANGE THIS: 111 Ridiculously Obvious Thoughts on Selling

Change This is a site where people post their views or manifestos for others to consider. In the words of the Change This creators, it is a site for optimists.

There are many interesting ideas on the site, it is worth a look. One that caught my eye was by Tom Peters, one of the most prestigious business speakers and writers of our time. In his manifesto ‘111 Ridiculously Obvious Thoughts on Selling’ , Tom provides quick nuggets to digest and consider.

The fundamental tenet which comes through loud and clear is relationships, that you must be maniacal about managing contacts AND out there on the lunatic fringe. Slow and steady is for 5th place. A few choice points that really captured my eye:

“Everyone lives by selling something”  Robert Lewis Stevenson

“You can’t behave in a calm, rational manner. You’ve got to be out there on the lunatic fringe”    Jack Welch    

(8) IT’S RELATIONSHIPS, STUPIDDEEP AND FROM MULTIPLE FUNCTIONS.

(1)  “Strategy” overrated, simply “doin’ stuff” underrated.

(21)  Good listeners are good sales people.

“If you don’t listen, you don’t sell anything.”   Carolyn Marland, Managing Director, Guardian Group

(27)  Are you a great (not merely “good”) presenter? Mastering presentation skills is a life’s work—with stupendous payoff.

(29) Are you good at flowers? Think: FLOWER POWER! (See Harvey Mackay’s “Mackay 66”— what you should know about a Client; e.g., birthdays & anniversaries.)

(34) Never stop growing-broadening-deepening the relationship. The key to “indispensability” is to get the Client more and more … and more … and then more … imbedded in “our” web. Hence the so-called “selling process” is only the first step!

(59) Work hard beats work smart. (Mostly.)

(66) Be hyper-organized about relationship management—you are in the anthropology business. Study the great pols! Brilliant NRM (network relationship management) is not accidental! It is not catch as catch can. (Football analogies are cute—but deep political understanding pays the private-school tuition.)

(77) It’s never over: While there may be an excellent service activity in your company, the “relationship” belongs to You! Hence the “aftersales” “moments of truth” are at least as—if not more than*—important to the Continuing Relationship as the sale “transaction” itself. (*I vote for “more than.”) You’ll get your biggest “points” with the Client for being an effective after-the-fact go-between with your company.

(95) YOU MUST LOVE THE PRODUCT!

(105) Become a student! Yes, you can study Relationship Building. So, study …

(107) The smartest guy in the room rarely wins—alas, he usually is aware he’s the smartest guy. (And needn’t waste his time on that “soft relationship crap.”

BOOK: Mr. Shmooze

I read a book on the plane last week which makes it into my top 10 sales books: Mr. Shmooze.  The title is a little cheesy, but the content is anything but.  It is written like the One Minute Manager, as a story. The story revolves around a summer intern learning from Mr. Shmooze, the uber sales person. It is 74 pages long and I easily burned through it in 2 hours (While doing email and taking notes).

The essence of the book is that relationships are the core to business. Early in the book, Mr. Shmooze defines the book with this statement:

“I consult for a living. I advice companies on how to grow revenue. That means my product, to a great degree, is myself, my ideas, my connections. I believe most successful service providers succeed because of their ability to build relationships

He goes on to state:   “… the only way you are going to win is by accomplishing two things. First, establish an intimate, personal relationship … And Second, be able to clearly and quickly explain how your product and services will benefit the buyer, personally, in memorably graphic and provable terms”

It is so true. Unless you are selling a true commodity that requires no service, then it is about the relationship and the value that the sales person bring to that person through that relationship. Only the best sales reps pay attention to the details, go that extra mile and really endeavour to build trust and a relationship that go beyond a single meeting or golf game.

For me, I find it gratifying that I have retained friendships and relationships with clients even after I moved on. That is relationship building, and something every sales rep should endeavour for. A client of Mr. Shmooze sums it up: “This guy has reached out and touched a lot of people. But he does more than just touch them, he adds value to their day to day lives. He always gives more than he gets. Don’t every forget that!”

Have you added value to a client or partner’s life today?

I read this book and laughed, nodded as I read things that I do regularly and wrote notes about ways that this book can help me take it to the next level. Read this book.

THE ART OF (KILLING) THE DEAL

A must read for every salesperson, Ben Stein on The Art of (Killing) the Deal. I personally found the following deal killers top of mind with me:

·         You are doing all the talking. I have done hundreds, if not thousands of presentations and to me, nothing is worse than a lack of interactivity. I will often stop and request comments, draw out discussion, get the customer speaking. Nothing is a bigger business killer than a one way conversation.

·         You think you are more important than the customer. This one kills me and I will admit, there are times when I have groaned about the inconvenience of a meeting, but in the end, the customer always comes first. Just the other day, I was unhappy because I need to travel 45 minutes to the same spot, two days in a row and tried to force it into one day. But, in the end, I could not get frustrated with my assistant because I always say ‘Everything else can move, customer first’.

·         Don’t sweat the details. This one kills me and I think that 90% of reps don’t take this seriously. The details are the thank you note, remember names, remembering details about people, birthdays, going that extra mile on holidays, etc. I will blog more on this one soon, but it is one that drives me crazy and I see very few sales reps do it well. Those who do, always have a higher chance of success. Every sales rep should adhere to the MacKay 66, or something like it.

LAND A BETTER JOB

 Another great side bar article in Men’s Health (Sept 2006) was called ‘Land a better job’. The lines of questioning are often predictable in job interviews, but these a couple good ones. I blog them for future reference.

Q: Why should we hire you?   I produce results, and I have strong analytical skills and good initiative. Wouldn’t you like to work with a manager with 3 years experience in this position who’s a breeze to get along with?

Like that answer, and like how you can build on it (adding, ‘who gets things done’, add in a few examples). I remember in my last job interview (current role), the hiring manager was tough on me, and he was my last interview when I first came to the company. In my interview with him the first time around, he said to me ‘Are you the kind of guy who get’s stuff done? I need those kind of people.’

This time around, when he hit me with this one I looked him square and said ‘Because I am the guy who got it done for you for the last 4 years, and I will do the exact same thing here. I will run with this, I will ensure you are never surprised and I will nail this job. We both know it’

Q: What is one of your weaknesses?  I’d like to understand the nitty gritty of technology better so I can use it to implement my best ideas. The advise to forget the ploy of strength as a weakness (‘I’m a workaholic’), it is too transparent (I agree). Be real .. as long as it is not something like ‘I have a temper’.

Q: Why are you leaving your current job?  I feel like I’ve come a long way in the 3 years I’ve worked at initech (LOL, they reference Office Space), but I think now is the time to branch out into new areas.

Trash talking the old boss is a fools game. Everyone interviewer looks at you as their potential direct report or as a potential ex-employer. They do not want their weaknesses broadcast to the world. Focus instead on how the new job will allow for new challenges. Come across as a motivated self starter.

Q: What do you do with your off time?  I have a 3 year old daughter who keeps me on my toes. But I still shoot hoops on the weekends with college friends, and I’ve been reading about the revolutionary war’

They reference that the interviewer thinks that they will be seeing this person allot and it is almost like you are hiring a potential friend. I disagree with this, but think it is healthy to show well roundedness. After all, the workaholic will burn out and if I were hiring, I would want well rounded to bring new ideas, thoughts, approaches.

Interesting article.

NAVIGATE AN EVENT

Men’s Health magazine (September 2006) has a great article on the office. A sidebar article talks about navigating the office party (Titled ‘She’s hot. The boss is drunk. Make the office party work for you anyway’).

In my role, I am often put into situations where I need to ‘work a room’. A few of their office party tips are very relevant to sales people and/or sales managers, in no particular order:

1.       Hold your drink in your left hand: your right should be busy glad handing.

2.       Make sure your drink is empty before you join a new group. Use the empty vessel as an excuse to change groups. (I would also add that you should always take half drinks at the bar to ensure maximum flexibility of movement without drinking too much – see bottom)

3.       Always stay on your feet to increase social mobility, and introduce people. Be the one who is making connections. People will look at you and say “Here is someone you need to know, people will look at you as a connecting point and will return the favour”

4.       Hopping from conversation to conversation can make you look like a climber. Always looking over shoulders and you will be resented. Want to maximize face time, stand where there is lots of traffic.

Some other points from my own handbook:

  • Evaluate the crowd. If this is your event (You are the host), look for gaps. Important client alone or with the wrong people? Interject, be the connector, ensure they are comfortable. I remember a bad scenario where we had a big dinner and the rep did not control seating. The most important exec was last to sit (through the mingling) and was left sitting with a low level table. I looked on in horror as it happened (And ‘educated’ the rep afterward). As soon as I could break out, I hit his table and spent the rest of the evening at his table.
  •  Take control. When seating, take the time to think it out. Put the right people beside the right people. This applies to meetings and dinner events. For example, if in a meeting, think about breaking up tribes, of ensuring there isn’t an ‘us and them’ scenario (i.e. Where your team is on one side, they are on the other or your team is at the back, they are at the front. Intermingle).
  • Remember, always on. Want to enjoy yourself? Take your spouse out for dinner, go drinking with buddies. You are on the job. You are not allowed to sit in the corner, or stick with the ‘comfy guy/gal’ you like. You’re on, be on and control your drinking. Let someone else fall over.

SALESMAN’s VERSION OF “A Few Good Men” SPEECH

Sales:  “You want answers?”

Expense Admin: “I think we are entitled to them!”

Sales: “You want answers?”

Expense Admin:  “I want the truth!”

Sales: “You can’t handle the truth!!!”

Sales:  “ Son, we live in a world that requires revenue.  And that revenue must be brought in by people with elite skills.  Who’s going to find it?  You?  Mr. Operations?  We have a greater responsibility than you can’t possibly fathom.

You scoff at the sales division and curse our lucrative incentives.  You have that luxury.  You also have the luxury of no knowing what we know: that while cost of business results are excessive, it drives in revenue.  And my very existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, drives REVENUE!!!

You don’t want to know the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about in board meetings…you want me on that call.  You NEED me on that call!!!  We use words like stop loss, cost management, network discounts and transparency.  We use these words as the backbone of a life spent negotiating opportunities.  You use them as a punch line!!!

I have neither the time nor inclination to explain myself to people who rise and sleep under the very blanket of revenue I provide and then question the very manner in which I provide it.  I would rather you just said “thank you” and went on your way.  Otherwise I suggest you pick up a phone and make some calls.  Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!”

Expense Admin:  “Did you expense the $4000 dinner for 4 and the $500 bottles of wine?”

Sales:  “I did the job I was hired to do!!!”

Expense Admin:  “Did you expense the $4000 dinner for 4 and the $500 bottles of wine?”

Sales:  “YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT I DID!!!”

TENACITY AND THE HANDWRITTEN NOTE

For at least 5 years, I have been getting these once quarterly snail mails. The mail includes a clipping from a magazine called ‘executive focus’ (Which, from my online searches, appears to be a fake magazine).
The article is on public speaking and attached to the ‘torn out’ article (It is not torn out and it looks like and advertisement type article) is a post-it note with the following handwritten note:
Michael, try this. It works!  J
At the end of the article, the address and subscription detail to American Speaker is circled with a check mark.
The first couple times I got this, I actually thought it was someone sending it to me, someone who knew me. Obviously, that is not the case. But, I admire their persistence. They keep at it after all these years. I have never signed up, public speaking is not an area (perceived or real) weakness for me.
It is a strategy I have used before, and one I will use in the future, but in a different way. I fid a quick handwritten note is an effective sales technique and in today’s world of billions of daily email, mail is becoming a way to differentiate.

12 CLICHES TO LIVE BY

  1. It ain’t over till it’s over.    (So true, so many give up before the ball game is done. I remember being told years ago that I had lost a deal. I went back … I did not give up because they had not finished yet. I got that business back.)
  2. Do unto others.
  3. You can’t save someone from himself.  (How many times have you sat in a meeting and watched the ship go down? I am sure that others have also watched me ….)
  4. Always consider the source. (An interesting one when walking around the office, as the unproductive talk swirls ….)
  5. Life isn’t fair.   From the artice: If it were, the boss’s kid wouldn’t have been promoted to Senior Executive Suckbag, and John Mayer would in no way be bigger than John Hiatt.
  6. Shut up and play.  From the article: Vent? Sure. Reflect? Sure. Whining is not a choice.
  7. Surround yourself with good people.  (This was explained to me as the XEROX philosophy .. bring the good people with you. Heck, I say take it a step farther, do your best to hire people who are better than you. It ups your game and brings the goal that much closer.)
  8. Think before you speak.  (Five seconds, 1 .. 2 .. 3 .. 4 .. 5 .. I will remember that Monday in that all day meeting.)
  9. There’s no pleasing some people.  (These people don’t enjoy Python, video games, your dog or a good round of golf.)
  10. Get over yourself.
  11. Die trying.  (Amen to that.)

Via

CORPORATE GOLF TOURNAMENTS

I have been expanding on the benefits of golf in sales and have a point to add on the golf tournament.
Executives and clients get many offers to golf tournaments. MANY. They have to be choosy on which ones they go to.
When I was a rep, I can remember my peers struggling to fill their slots, while I hovered around – ready to take the extra slots up because I had too many people wanting to come. Invariably, the excuses would fly:
1. My customer has an event that day (You should have invited them sooner)
2. No one at my customer golfs (can’t see that being true)
3. They are not allowed to golf (can’t see that being true)
As a sales manager, I use the corporate golf tourney as a litmus test. The best reps, who have built strong relationships and positioned the company as a key partner, are the ones who fill the slots to overflowing.
A good measure of the rep.

CLIENT GOLFING: A FEW RULES

Once you have bought into the fact that golfing is important to sales, you also need to know the ground rules. Here are a few of the rules that I live by when golfing with clients:

  1.  I don’t let them win:  I have heard this time and time again, ‘let them win’. This type of false sincerity is inappropriate in my opinion. The wonderful thing about golf is that it is an individual sport so play your best.
  2. Tone down the competitiveness: While I don’t let them win, I also tone down the competitiveness. When I am out golfing with buddies, I might start some chatter to beef up the competition, which is inappropriate with clients (Unless, they open the door and enjoy this. But, be careful, they may start it but the tide can turn quickly).
  3. Be a good sport: Don’t make them put out that 1 footer, encourage them, don’t cheat (i.e. give yourself that extra inch) and whatever you do – don’t throw a temper tantrum (i.e. throw that club).
  4. Beware betting: Do you want to work with the client and take their PO or the cash out of their pocket? I don’t bet with clients and if I do, it is for fun on the course and if I win, I never take their money.
  5. Always remember you are the host: Pick up the flag, make sure everyone is having a good time, help them find a ball. Remember, you are there to ensure that THEY have a good time. Your enjoyment is secondary.
  6. Enjoy the duffer: The true test of a great salesperson is when they golf with a duffer or group of duffers. This is one of the greatest opportunities to build trust. If someone is having a really bad game or is really bad at golf, then ensure that you are a good host. Encourage (but don’t offer advice!), help out and ensure that they feel comfortable golfing with you.
  7. When you are the duffer:  Don’t apologize, but ensure that they know who they are golfing with BEFORE they arrive at the course. Make sure that you pick up, keep the pace of play and consider taking lessons (FAST) to get your game up to speed. Again, you are the host, don’t slow down the group.

Golfing is the greatest opportunity to build a relationship or ruin one. Make the most of the opportunity so they want to golf with you again. After all, they probably get hundreds of offers .. and they will golf with those that the have a good relationship with, not the jerk.

WHY I STARTED GOLFING

My brother was the kid who grew up golfing. A group of them saved their money, got golf memberships and that is all that they did in the summer: golf. He worked at the golf course with a bunch of my friends .. and loved it. He grew up a scratch or low single digit golfer, fated to be a doctor (He is a surgeon). I did not golf.

I started golfing when I was 29. I was working for Dell Computer as an Account Executive and began to quickly realize that the people I worked with (clients – specifically executives and middle management) golfed. Seemed to me that everyone golfed except me.

So, I started golfing. Candidly, it was something that I had to do and I have come to realize that in relationship selling, it is one of my top 10 ‘must haves’ for sales success.

Where else do you get 5 hours with a client? Surely not in a meeting (Although I have sat through my fair share of 5 hour meetings). It provides the opportunity for you to learn about their personal life and what they are like away from the office (serious, playful, thoughtful).

It is also a great opportunity for your clients to get to know you, what you stand for, who you are. All of these things help build understanding and that relationship bridge. It helps you build trust faster than 10 lunches or 20 meetings.

So, if you are in a sales role where relationships are important, I would suggest golf. It was one of the best investments I ever made. Plus, I love telling people that I ‘had’ to start golfing (smile). I wish I ‘had’ to more things like this ….

BODY LANGUAGE

Body language is an interesting thing. The impact of a smile, the message of a slouch or crossed arms. A simple overview:

Arms

The most obvious pointer concerns what you do with your arms. Crossing your arms over your chest indicates a defensive, almost hostile attitude. People will be afraid to approach you or think that you’re closed-off this way. Your arms form a “blockade” keeping you at a distance from others.

When people have an unfavourable impression of you, they develop a schema (a sort of script) on how to converse or interact with you before you even meet. Keep your arms at your side, or if you’re holding a drink, don’t be afraid to switch hands once in awhile to reach out and speak with people.

Legs

If you’re sitting, you may think crossing your legs is comfortable or attractive, but the truth is that you’re subconsciously sending out signals that you’re a bit closed off.

This has the same logic as crossing your arms – it’s a subconscious signal you’re sending to tell people that you’re not sociable.

Hands

This is a simple one. Don’t wring your hands – it’s a dead giveaway that you’re nervous or anxious. One trick is to hold a drink in your hand. Not only does this make you seem more sociable, it stops you from wringing them!

When shaking hands with others, make sure you have a firm grip. A sloppy handshake can do more damage to interpersonal relationships than you think.

Torso

Believe it or not, the position of your torso when speaking to people says a lot about you. Make sure your entire body faces a person when you’re talking to them. This way, you convey a feeling of friendliness and it tells others that you’re giving them your full attention.

Facial Expressions

Lastly, your facial expression is essential to the image that you project. It’s especially important because most people don’t even realize what their faces are saying to others about them since people are not looking in the mirror all the time.

A few weeks back I was at a meeting and the person called me out, stating that they found my defensive body language very interesting. In that case, they were completely right, because the topic was bugging me. Great observation.

VIA .

IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU

Had a bad day? Your boss isn’t treating you well? Your wife just ran off with the mailman and your pet ferret? Did some kids egg your house?

Well, if you are in sales, leave it at home. When you walk out that door, check your emotional luggage at the door because it is not about you. In sales, always remember it is about the person you are serving, not you. It is about what is bugging them, not you.

This point was brought home to me by my local vet. He may be great with my dog, but when I speak to him he:

1. Is always grumpy. I have never seen him smile.

2. Takes my questions as personal attacks and responds with indignation, how dare I question HIM?

3. He is rude. All the time.

4. He has a sense of entitlement, like I should be using him to support the local community.

He really ticks me off and so I use him as little as possible and his business is under performing (I have heard him complain about the lack of ‘local support’ and had more than one neighbor say they will not go back). The community votes on his sales skills with the mighty dollar, something that he does not see a lot of.

If you are going to use the vet’s approach, you better have the best product on the planet, more demand than supply and a strong propensity for saving because as soon as this dynamic changes your customers will flee.

Remember: It is not about you.

DO IT WELL

In life, people are so preoccupied with moving ahead, getting to the next level that they forget that to get to the next level, you must do your current task/job/role well.

That does not mean that you cannot be vigilant about new opportunities or that next big job. On the contrary, as a personal services corporation , it is good business to always be on the look out. But, if you are new to a role or in the middle of a challenge, it is hard to have your head thinking about the next role while dealing with the present.

My philosophy: Dig in, build a strong foundation, get the machine in the right direction and gaining speed, then stick your head up and look around.

At a high speed, the wind in your face is quite refreshing …..

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Every since I was a little boy, my mother drilled into me that my name is ‘Michael’, not ‘Mike’. When friends would call the house, she had been known for her response of ‘We do not have a Mike here, we do have a Michael’. Most people call me Michael, mission accomplished.

But, there are a few who call me Mike, even though my business cards uses Michael, my email says Michael and I introduce myself as Michael.

I really do not care, but it sends a negative message to me. That person does not really care about me as an individual. If they did, they would have picked up on my preference with regard to my name, which is a very personal thing.

And that creates a small doubt in my mind about that person. Do they pay attention to other details? If they do not care now, what spurs them to care?

For the person in sales, any doubt or dissonance is bad. For the manager, there are two messages that you can send people when you meet them. It is all about the details.

GOING IT ALONE IN SALES

There is no greater glory in winning alone. However, there is great peril. If you lose, you lose alone and that is a pedestal that no one wants to be on.

The idea of the single salesperson out there winning deals is history. Most sales positions require team work. Today’s sales person needs to demonstrate leadership, acquiring support from technical staff, inside sales reps and support personnel.

The truly great sales person is a strong team leader. Read more on team leadership and going it alone here.

PENTAGON BEGINS CERTIFYING LAUGH INSTRUCTORS

I have always been a big believer in the power of humour. It reduces stress, boosts the immune system and without laughter, what is life? The Pentagon appears to agree. To reduce stress, they have been sending instructors to World Laughter Tour to become certified laugh instructors. Read about it here. Doctors also agree. Even the Bible agrees: “A cheerful heart makes good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22)

The guiding principal: laugh for no reason. (Note: I did that the other day while walking down the sidewalk and a remarkable thing happened, the busy sidewalk cleared as people moved to get out of my way. I almost stopped laughing when they kept pointed .. it was a bit offensive).

I find that in meetings, during presentations and in 1:1 conversations, the ability to laugh or show a sense of humour (At the right time: For example, when your boss slips and dislocates his hip, that is not a good time to laugh) is a key skill. So laugh, and if you have a tough time laughing, try getting certified (no pun intended).

DILBERT: THE SALESPERSON WITH THE EXECUTIVE

I had a very interesting lunch with a friend and we talked about a topic that I have thought about many times: the access of the sales person. If you think about it, sales people (good ones) get to see all levels of the the organization they are selling to. They will meet at all levels – from the junior (if they add value to that client) to the most senior in the organization. 

For myself, this has been an invaluable opportunity in a way that stretches well beyond the traditional role in sales. The opportunity is for learning. I realized several years ago that these high talent executives that I was working with are in the positions for a reason: they are successful – smart – experienced. For me, I am always looking at other people with an eye to learning – and the smart sales person uses these opportunities to watch, ask and learn. As an “outsider” you get to see the executive make a decision, see how they treat their people, watch them run a project, manage a crisis or learn about their personal philosophies while out golfing with them – and that privilege is something that many of their subordinates will never get. Be thankful for that opportunity. It is a unique aspect of the sales job that most people do not realize and use to grow. For me, over the last 4 years, it has had a profound impact on all aspects of my life – I have been privileged to work with and learn from some very talented clients – and friends. 

Dilbert puts it best in “The Dilbert Principle” (Love that book): “Salespeople can set up meetings with executives of client companies anytime. Employees can’t do that. The only way the average employee can speak to an executive is by taking a second job as a golf caddy. Executives hate talking to employees because they always bring up a bunch of unsolvable “issues”. Salespeople just buy the executive lunch. It’s no contest.” 

My personal philosophy: I have a lot to learn from everyone – family, friends, mentors, colleagues and yes, clients.

TRUST AND MONSTER CABLES

I was in a electronics store the other day and they had a plasma TV hooked up to 2 DVD players. The screen was ‘cut in half’ as a visual advertisement. On the left side was a DVD player that used Monster HD cables, on the right side was a DVD player that did not. ‘Wow’ I said to myself ‘that is a huge difference, too big a difference …’

I looked behind the Plasma and the ‘not using Monster cables’ was connected to the DVD with a regular RCA cable.

Standing beside me was a saleperson, ‘What a crock’ I said ‘Of course it is going to look different, HD cables versus a single silver plated RCA cable. That is like putting a 400 horsepower engine versus a lawnmower engine and saying ‘see, because that engine is made by Porsche, it is way faster”.

The saleperson looked at me, shrugged and said ‘I never set it up’. He then walked away. I wonder how many people had the same reaction I did, thought ‘Wow, I spent 4K on that HD TV, I need those cables’ and bought?

Something that salespeople need to think about. The world is full of people like this, who make the words Caveat emptor reality. It is all about building trusts and remaining worthy of that trust.

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