Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

Keeping Your Best Sales People

May 11, 2011

What Are You Doing to Keep Your Best People?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that hiring by the nation’s small employers is starting to grow, and that large employer hiring is not far behind.  This will mean that as re-hiring accelerates, the competition for the best people will intensify.  Here’s the question:  “What are you and your company doing now to keep your people from leaving when they are offered attractive opportunities elsewhere?”

Various studies over the last few years have reported a number of interesting trends.  Among them:

1)  Youthful workers today like to earn good money, but the work environment is more important.  They want to “be part of things,” and have the freedom to collaborate with friendly team mates to achieve more.

2)  Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organization studied what “the world’s greatest managers do” and reported their results in the 1999 bestselling book, First Break all the Rules.  One of their conclusion that startled a lot of corporate executives was that “People do not leave companies; they leave their bosses.”

3)  One of the most effective ways to keep your best people is to create an environment in which they feel that they are personally growing in addition to professionally advancing.

4)  Effective coaching is one of the most cost effective ways to keep top people from leaving, and help managers focus on the factors that help the employee grow and the company prosper.

When I discuss “coaching” with clients and prospects, I learn that their view of coaching is more like a miniature performance review.  While there is a performance aspect to effective coaching, helping people grow personally and professionally requires a greater focus on behaviors that lead to the effective performance.  If I am not meeting my sales quota, my manager can talk to me about increasing my number of contacts.  But until she finds out what keeps me from picking up the phone, she cannot help me by simply telling me (or threatening me) to make more calls.

I believe there are two primary reasons managers do not coach their people.  One is that they do not think they have the time.  The real reason is that most do not know how to coach.  Reading a book, or attending a one-day class is not likely to change their coaching skill level.  At Integrity Solutions we have found that teaching a specific coaching process, coupled with weekly accountability and follow-up discussions with peers, led by a trained facilitator, removes obstacles and produces remarkable results.

One $2.8 billion credit union saw a 60% increase in closed loan referrals and a 5% increase in membership (customer base), when coaching was implemented.

A pharmaceutical manager reported that one rep reached 143% of quota “as a result of  coaching.”

For additional insights into the effectiveness of the right type of coaching in a selling environment, get the Integrity White Paper, “Balancing Accountability with Engagement.”


Thoughts of “Spring Training” for Integrity Selling® Clients

April 18, 2011

     A few years ago a client of one of my colleagues, Harriet Butler, spoke at the Integrity Solutions National Meeting. His first name was Tom.  Recently retired as a VP of Sales and in his early 50’s, Tom was a multi-millionaire from his sales management success. He told us two things that stuck with me, and that I want to share with you.

First, he “lived with” the Sales Congruence Model.  Each Monday at 6:30 AM he invested a half-hour reviewing the five dimensions of the Congruence Model.  He asked two questions:

1.  What took me out of congruence last week?

2.  What do I have to do this week to get back into congruence?

After listing his congruence issues, and what to do about them, he had his weekly 7:00 AM call with his Region Managers, and their discussion was the same.  Then at 7:30 AM, each Region Manager had the same congruence discussion with his or her sales team.  As a result every person in Tom’s sales organization remained congruent and highly effective at growing sales.

The second thing Tom told us was that he conducted Integrity Selling® for everyone in his organization every year in March.  He called it “Spring Training.”  If you were in your tenth year with Tom, you participated in your tenth Integrity Selling®.  If it was your first year, it was your first time, but there were people there with you, earning six figures, enthusiastically doing the same exercises.  His metaphor was simple.  Professional athletes have spring training every year.  They go back to the basics of their sport and practice, practice, practice.  Why, Tom reasoned, would it be any different for professional sales people?

So here is my challenge to you – conduct Spring Training every year.  Maybe it’s not in the spring – and maybe you call it something else.  Here are four tools to help you:

1.  If you are certified, like Tom, you can simply do the full Integrity Selling® program again.  You purchase Participant Manuals only for new people.

2.  Even if you are not certified, there is a “sales managers review course” which is a download from the web site.  The script is also behind the sixth tab in the Integrity Selling® Facilitator’s Manual.

3.  There are great tools for an individual to use, as well as for a manager to use in coaching, in the “Diagnostic and Prescription Section,” Tab four, of the Integrity Selling® Participant Manual.

4.  Of course, the Performance Accelerators are also part of the Facilitator’s Manual, and every Participant Manual contains the two blue CD’s with the six Performance Accelerator audio messages.

Integrity Selling® is probably the most robust behavior-development solution you will ever use.  The content is timeless, and every year each of us is at a different place in our lives, able to learn new substance that we were not ready to absorb before.  “Use it or lose it.”

Call me with your questions or comments about these ideas.  Mark Walker.  678-794-1195

The Importance of Listening to Your Customers and Prospects

September 4, 2009

Or “How to Save Money on a New Car”

This is really not about cars. It is about listening. Let me tell you about the time my friend, Dave, saved almost 25% on a new car. This happened in the early 1970’s, when you could buy a new full sized car for about $5,000. (Have I really been around that long?) Dave was the kind of guy who bought a new car and drove it until it died 10 or 15 years later. His wife needed a big, safe car to haul around their two small sons, so at the end of the model year, Dave made the rounds of the dealers to find a “deal” on last year’s model.

He was disappointed at the small discounts. The best deal he could find was about $4,300 dollars. Finally he stopped at a dealer whose salesperson said, “You are in luck. There was a new full-sized sedan on the truck that came in today, and it is last year’s model. We don’t know how it got there. The price is $3,500.”

Dave exclaimed incredulously, “$3,500?” He was surprised that the price was so much lower than other quotes he’d received. The sales person, however, took his exclamation as a sign of displeasure with a price that was too high. So the sales person said, “Okay, okay. I’ll throw in the undercoating for free.” That was worth another $350! So good ole’ Dave got a great deal on a brand new car.

Instead of commenting on what the sales person said, he simply repeated part of the price quote as a question. In Dave’s case this was an involuntary exclamation of surprise, but it was interpreted as a form of clarification. Unconsciously, Dave used a form of “active listening.”

When you actively listen in your selling interviews, you give customers a chance to further explain what they mean and help you understand whether you have a solution for them. We’re about to enter a long weekend. Practice “active listening” with family and friends. They will think you have become more charming and intelligent.

The Secrets to Effective Personal Organization

August 27, 2009

Or Gaining Control in an Out of Control Environment

A major cause of stress is a feeling of being out of control. Having helped people be better organized for more than 20 years, I see that many are out of control when it comes to their personal organization skills. Gaining control is relatively simple, but it requires being willing to make changes in habits, and learning to use an organization process. This process or “system” enables you to make effective, productive choices about your time use throughout the day.

We cannot control people, so let’s focus on PERSONAL ORGANIZATION. This is controlling our own activities and the information related them, which help us reach our goals and objectives. Mastery of appropriate tools is vital. Technology is not always the answer, and may cause some people to become even more out of control.

If you are frequently interrupted, an organizational system is even more important because you can easily be taken off important tasks by urgent but unimportant events. Let’s look at a simple process, then figure out the best tools to make the process work for you.


The Time Link – A Secret to Activity Control

Two types of activity which occupy our days:

1) appointments, which are events requiring our physical presence. We have to “be there.” An appointment is a scheduled meeting, a phone appointment, an airline flight time, a parent-teacher conference.

2) action items or “to do’s,” which do not require us to be necessarily at a particular place. Often these are listed on a “to-do list” or a calendar.

Gaining control over these activities (appointments and to-do’s) requires that we develop the habit of identifying The Time Link, telling yourself three things:

* What (to do or be there for) * When (to do it) * Where (is the information)

The tool you use to establish The Time Link is part of your system. Key point: it must be a place that your mind trusts that you will see the linked item at the appropriate time, knowing you will not forget to act on it. You can make The Time Link for an appointment on your calendar, either computer-based or paper. Entering an appointment on a date automatically tells you What and When. If you use one master calendar, it also gives you a “panoramic view” of all your “be there’s.”

To-do items should not be on your monthly calendar, but should be on a to-do list. This can be a “task list,” similar to that found in Microsoft Outlook®, or a written to do list organized by date or sequentially. (Click here for a great resource for paper organization skills.)

Alphabetic Filing: A Secret to Information Control

Note that the third “W” when making The Time Link is “where.” Many of us try to work in an extraordinarily cluttered environment because we are afraid if we put the information away, we won’t be able to find it. Part of your personal organization system is a simple filing system.

Whether you save information in a computer or in a paper file, or both, alphabetic filing helps to retrieve information quickly. When you save a file on your computer, you are asked to give it a file name, and are allowed to put it in a “file folder.” Without getting into details about computer filing, give your file a simple name, related to the person or the subject or the organization, and file it in the appropriate folder. When you enter The Time Link, you simply name the file and the folder.

When your organization uses a particular filing protocol, then always follow it. The Time Link just names the specific file in which the information can be found for action.

Using A – Z paper files: You can organize thousands of notes in three files; an active file, an inactive file, and a dead file.

The Active File is in your organizer or notebook which you carry daily. It contains notes about people, the projects and the programs that you need to have with you, for the next one to four weeks, wherever you go. This turns your organizer tool into a “portable desk.” (On your calendar for the 15th is “9:00 AM Meet w/Mac Johnson (J)” This tells you “what” (meet with Mac Johnson), “when” (the 15h at 9:00 AM), and “where” the notes are (behind the “J” tab in your portable A-Z file). If you work mostly at your desk, this A-Z file can be in your desk as a set of hanging file folders.

The Inactive File contains the items that are not active for the next one to four weeks, but which are likely to be needed when that project, person or program becomes active again. It can be a set of A-Z hanging files in a desk, or even a two inch thick three-ring binder with a set of A-Z tabs. Nothing should be put in this Inactive File unless The Time Link has been entered. This is a good time to use your computer calendaring tool. In early May you note: “Follow up with Principal Jones about driver’s ed for Billy Joe (I-D) The “I” is for “inactive file” and the “D” is for your top of mind reference, Driver’s Ed.

The Dead File is simply information which you are not ready to toss out, does not fit into any of your organization’s master files and which you might need some day. This paper is filed alphabetically the way you would think of retrieving it later. Use a two inch wide three-ringed binder labeled by the time frame (January 1, 2008 – March 31 2009). When full, the binder is closed out. After sufficient time passes, the “dead” paper is “buried” in your trash can or shredder and the binder recycled.

IMPORTANT. These alphabetic files supplement your organization’s master filing system, not replace it. If the paper has a place, put it there to provide appropriate organizational documentation and history.

Think of Outlook® or your e-mail system much like you would the filing system above. You could even set up the three files identified above. And store e-mails and other files accordingly. Attend a class on Outlook® usage if you don’t know all its potential. (Click here for a great resource on using Outlook® to be better organized.)


Harness the power of habit by making The Time Link process routine. When something requires future action, establish The Time Link, put the paper away (or the file in it’s place). Clutter will disappear!

You probably understand the power of a process like this. However, you may not understand what happens to you when you try to change your old habits into the more productive new habits. It is like the power of the exponential curve: “consistency over time, leads to explosive growth.”

When you are trying to develop a new habit, it feels uncomfortable and you must stop and think about it. Often after about three or four days you give up. However, psychologists tell us that 7 to 21 days of regular practice will make a new habit displace an old one. To gain the benefit of a new habit you must persist! Learn to take advantage of the exponential curve in forming a new habit.

Submitted by J. Mark Walker

“Cold” Calling and Getting Results

July 9, 2009

Recently I was reflecting on three occasions in my life when I began new jobs, and had no customers and no prospects. What did I do? Cold call! My process was simple. Send mail, follow up with a phone call. Based on what I learned in that phone call I had: 1) a “hot” prospect, willing to talk to me now, 2) a future prospect to follow up with later, or 3) not a prospect, which I took off my list. Using this simple method, I had profitable territories within 18 months in each case.

Today’s economy is like starting from scratch—no prospects, no customers. The good news is that most of us still have some customers, so that we are not really starting from zero. We also have many new tools to get our message out based on the Internet. But suppose we “pretend” that we are starting over from zero. Here are four books that I recommend, and from which I have learned by “going back to the basics.”

42 Rules of Cold Calling Executives by Mari Anne Vanella, SuperStar Press, Cupertino, CA 95014: The title of this new book says it all. Most of the “rules” are common sense, and you have done them before. “They worked so well, you quit doing them,” as my mentor, Ron Willingham has said. My favorite two rules are “Rule 21: Just Pick Up the Phone,” and “Rule 10: Ask Good Questions.”

That brings me to the next book, Socratic Selling: How to Ask the Questions that Get the Sale, by Kevin Daley, Irwin Professional Publishing, Chicago. First released in 1996, this book is as timely now as then. Recently Jim Giuliano published a blog, “The Biggest Complaint about Sales People.” Can you guess? It is “Salespeople who don’t listen enough and talk too much.” (Click here for the full post.) This little book is full of great ideas on how to listen by going beneath the first answer to find out what the customer’s problem really is.

How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients by Jeffrey J. Fox, Hyperion, New York. There are many great ideas in this book, but the one I like the best is to “dollarize” the customer’s problem and your solutions. I call it “monetizing” the issue. When people understand the cost of NOT solving the problem, it is easier to sell a solution.

The Inner Game of Selling: Mastering the Hidden Forces that Determine Your Success, by Ron Willingham, Free Press, New York. Success in building a business or a sales territory is more about who you are than what you know. Willingham takes us through all the ways we sabotage our own success, and shows us how to be the successful person we are born to become.

When times are tough, we should also associate with people of like mind, who will encourage us, and whom we can encourage. Well, having said all this, I have to get back to closing the prospect gap by cold calling.

Posted by J. Mark Walker

What is an “Open-Ended Question?”

April 13, 2009

The title above is an example of an open-ended question — it cannot be answered “yes, no or maybe.” Open-ended questions are structured to draw information from people. They usually begin with who, what, when, how, and sometimes, why. Other phrases such as, “Please tell me about…” or “Help me understand…” are also useful ways to draw out information. They are statement, not questions. Example: “How does the process work?” becomes “Please tell me about the process you are using.” The second version will probably get you more information, and you may eventually want to ask the “how” question in addition.

Checking up on yourself: The next time you make joint calls with your manager or with a colleague, ask him or her to count the number of closed ended questions you ask, and to jot them down if that’s not too obvious to your client or prospect. You will probably be surprised at how often you ask questions that can get you “yes, no, maybe” answers.

Converting questions to open-ended: You can often rephrase a closed question using one of the helper words listed above and make it open-ended. Example: “Were you satisfied with the results?” could become “What did you think of the results?” or “How satisfied were you with the results?” or “What were the results?”

There is nothing wrong with asking closed questions when appropriate. Often you just need a “yes, no, maybe” response. When you ask, “Did you install the new system?” you find out which direction to take your conversation based on the “yes” or “no” response, for example.

Be careful asking why. When we teach open-ended questions to our Integrity Selling® students, we recommend they use the word “why” carefully. People can be inadvertently put on the defensive when they are asked “why.” “Why do you do that?” might be perceived as a challenge. “Tell be about the reasons for doing it like that,” might be better received.

Our best advice: Think about the problems you can solve for your prospects. Then generate a list of five to 20 questions from which you can choose to conduct an initial interview, which will tell you whether they have one or more of those problems. Then go over the questions and convert as many as possible to “open-ended.” You will uncover more opportunity this way, or find out that you do not really have a prospect.

Posted by J. Mark Walker

Becoming Intentional in Your Selling

March 26, 2009

There is a characteristic of top performers in selling and serving others. I recently learned a term that describes it – “intentionality.” This characteristic is often missing from selling efforts.

A few months ago I was invited to be a panelist in a discussion on leadership. Our speaker at this session was Betty L. Siegel, Ph.D., the recently retired president of Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA. Among the topics she discussed was the concept of intentionality, which is a cornerstone principle in her book, Becoming an Invitational Leader, co-authored with William W.
Purkey, Ed.D.

Listening to Dr. Siegel that day, and hearing my fellow panelists respond to questions from the audience, caused me to begin to think about the whole concept of being “intentional” about life and work. What is this whole idea of living or working “intentionally?” As Dr. Siegel pointed out that day, intentionality is not the same as intentions. “It is our ability to have intentions in the first place.”

There is an underlying factor in becoming intentional – that is ultimate purpose or chief aim. Hundreds of books stress the absolute necessity of an individual as well as an enterprise having a clearly defined, written and effectively communicated purpose or aim. Intentionality is what brings that aim or purpose into reality, and engages others in action with the future in mind. It is my opinion that many businesses suffer from a lack of intentionality. Their leaders are not clearly moving the enterprise toward its purpose.

As I reflected on this idea of intentionality, it seemed that there were some significant peaks and valleys along my own life journey. Thinking about these fluctuations, I had a BLIGOI (a Blinding Glimpse of Insight!) When my chief aim was meaningful for me, the factor that caused the peaks was BELIEF! I had a passionate belief in my product or service and believed in the value that I brought to my clientele. Where there were valleys, the belief was weak.

As I think about this now, there is a process that underlies all this:

Chief Aim > Belief in Product or Service > Intenionality in the Marketplace = The Sale

During the period of my greatest success, my chief aim was strong and meaningful for me, I held a strong belief that my products were superior, even unique, and that belief communicated itself in my attitude of intentionality where ever I went. Success followed. If I doubted, or held a wavering belief, I lost my sense of intentionality, and had a difficult time making sales and achieving my chief aim.

So here is what I have concluded. The rock for success is, of course, a “definite chief aim,” as Napoleon Hill calls it in his classic book Think and Grow Rich. You can call it “life purpose, ““vision, “or “spaghetti,” as long as it gives you a reason for being. So these three factors, Chief Aim, Belief in Product and Intentionality are all related. One follows the other in sequence, yet each stands independently.

Once you know your purpose or chief aim, you will see that there are dozens or hundreds of ways to achieve it. For a sales or service professional there are millions of viable and useful products and services that must be sold to the customer or client base. People will have to work through this on their own perhaps, but I have sold tangible and intangible products and done well in most of them. Whenever I have had difficulty it was because of a low level of belief in the value the particular products to the customer. I could not “sell myself on what I was selling.”

One more thought. Some people have a chief aim that is very lofty and sophisticated. Others may have one that is more basic. It just has to be yours – vital to you. Then sell yourself on what you are selling! If you can’t, in Integrity Selling for the 21st Century, Ron Willingham advises us to, “Have the courage to face the truth,” and make a change. Sometimes the change is in you, not your job, by the way.

Then become Intentional in your marketplace!

By J. Mark Walker

Sales Training is Like Viagra?

February 4, 2009

I once observed a panel of sales executives who answered the question, “What are the characteristics of a good sales training program.” As the discussion warmed up, one of the panelists, a Senior Vice President for a large financial service company, said, “Sales training is a lot like Viagra – it is over-prescribed and only lasts about two hours!”

He got a good laugh because there is a lot of truth to his statement. We could call this the “Viagra training syndrome.” Later in the discussion he made the point that there are external factors like competition, product design, and market place changes that should influence training for sales people. Then he made a point that is often overlooked: there are internal factors which include individual morale and skill, as well as the direct involvement of the senior sales executives as leaders in the training initiative.
That brings me to the question, “How do we avoid the Viagra training syndrome?” Here is what I think.
1. As our panelist pointed out, you can only know if training is successful if you define what success is before you start. For example:
     a. Increased sales are not necessarily such a measure. I have a client whose manufacturing plant is maxed out. He wants better customers, who want value and with whom they can align as partners, not just people looking for the lowest price. That may mean smaller gross sales, but greater margins and happier customers.
     b. More repeat business could be such a measure. It is significantly easier and more profitable to sell to a satisfied customer than to find a new customer.

2. Much of what is labeled as “sales training” is a one to three day motivational speech. Everybody has a good time, but 30 days later nothing in their behavior changes.

3. Sales training should not be just an event. It is a process that includes:
     a. Values-based content that seeks to uncover customer needs, not manipulate people into buying.
     b. A cordial learning environment that builds trust as people learn from each other as well as from the content of the program.
     c. A sales system, so sales people understand where they are in the selling process. This helps them know whether they have a genuine prospect.
     d. Accountability over a period of time such as six to eight weeks for application of the principles taught. This avoids the “two hour” part of the syndrome, and leads to lasting behavior change.

If you want sales training to result in long term sales person behavior change, and achieve specific business goals, consider these ideas to avoid the “Viagra training syndrome.”

Posted by: J. Mark Walker, VP of Client Development (Southeast), Integrity Solutions, LLC