Archive for the ‘sales training’ 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.

“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