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Guessing…

One of my strengths according to Strength Finders 2.0 © is “Context”:

You look back.  You look back because that is where the answers lie.  You look back to understand the present. 

Tom Rath

Unfortunately, I try to apply this strength in my business world but not so much on the personal side.  The business world seems objective whereas the personal side is… well… personal.

Nonetheless, I enjoy looking back and studying the tools, tactics and techniques that have proven successful for business leaders and companies alike.  I study past failures, too.  It’s interesting to me to find that the difference between winning and losing in the business world is often not based on what we guess it should be based on:

Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake. 

Savielly Grigonevitch Tartakower

And over the years, I have noticed much of the success in business has come about as much by accident as by any other means.  More times than not, leaders witnessed outcomes at their companies that were the direct opposite of their best laid plans:

There were times when we lost money on every PC we sold, and so we were conflicted – if sales were down, was that bad news or good news? 

Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.

I remember reading The Google Story © and learning how one of the most powerful technology companies on the planet was formed – with great reluctance – seemingly guess work, by Sergey Brin and Larry Page.  To monetize their intellectual property, the last thing on their mind was to start a company.  So, when they launched a company and eventually went public, they did their best to guess what a company was, and was not, about:

Google is not a conventional company.  We do not intend to become one. 

Sergey Brin and Larry Page

At the other end of the spectrum… We all know of times where things are not working well at our companies, yet leaders were clueless on what to do about it.  Seems like guessing is still a core attribute among leadership:

An old adage was that companies typically spent twice as much as necessary of advertising but had no way to figure out which half to cut. 

Unknown Sage

We all might agree that leaders do the best they can to make educated guesses while leading our companies, but no one really knows for sure how things will turn out.  There’s an example offered by our Unknown Sage about the auto dealer who fired all his sales reps and sales went up!  That story reminds me of the current Wells Fargo situation – at least the firing part; not sure yet if their sales will go back up.

One of the primary lessons I have learned in any and all roles I have held in the business world is not to take myself too seriously.  Truth be told, that is sometimes easier to blog about than to operate by.  (There’s that darn personal side again.)  I have had, and continue to have, my share of diva meltdowns when things don’t go my way.  However, I am eventually able to get a grip – eventually – and return to normal.  I mean; I’m just guessing too.

And I would guess that since I (along with everyone else) don’t know it all; I (and everyone else) can relax at work and do the best I can at what I would guess to be the best.  Is that what you would guess?

GAP

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Boat floating…

Last week I wrote about Annual Achievement Planning.  Planning is one thing; now comes the achieving part.  Motivation is a good place to start, yes?

Careful though, individual motivation is quite personal.  For me, recognition floats my boat.  For you, it might be a promotion or an office.  If you manage a team, how do you motivate while avoiding a “one-size-fits-all” approach?

Here are excerpts of Tim Houlihan’s thoughts (see “Don’t show me the money”) published in Sales & Marketing Management ©:

A few months ago, I was in Denver and met a retired man who asked about my work. I told him I research the motivational effectiveness of different types of rewards. He held up a worn leather bag and said with a smile, “I was a sales rep and this was my first reward for winning a sales contest in 1967.” He beamed at the accomplishment made over 50 years ago.

When it comes to motivation, our brains know deep down what we’ll do with a bonus check: pay off a credit card or replace the water heater. There’s no joy and no motivation in that. Motivation comes from a new TV or a vacation, especially if it’s a reward.

Don’t show them the money, show them the vacation, show them the new bling. Focus your incentive spend so reps have unforgettable experiences — not just a paid-off credit card. High performers are motivated by things and trips, not cash.

I had a unique motivational experience in 2016, receiving “on stage” recognition:

Unfortunately, my last name was misspelled turning a boat floating opportunity into, “Misspelled?  Really?!”

That certificate hangs in my cube as motivation; reflecting my potential job security.  Such “one-size-fits-all; let’s not bother to check the spelling of his name” example reminds me of the, “Here today; forgotten tomorrow” realities of today’s workplace.

In the sales profession, much has been said and much has been written about the role money plays in motivation.  Money actually fits that impersonal, “one-size-fits-all” category mentioned above.  In the real world, money doesn’t float sales reps’ boats the way many people think it does.  Personal motivation is not that simple.

Here’s another excerpt from BI Worldwide also published in Sales & Marketing Management © (see “Nudging Sales Reps”):

While it can be intuitive to believe the risk-loving nature and generally high confidence of sales reps would lead to both high goal selection and high goal achievement, research is proving otherwise.

Risk-loving?  High confidence?  Research suggests maybe not.

What if sales reps aren’t these made-up, Hollywood, gun-slinging personas?  What if we’re just average people working in a career where individual performance dictates our income, our outcomes, and our very job security?  What if it’s a symbol of accomplishment in the face of job uncertainty that floats our boat? A leather bag; a paper certificate?

What if a bonus or a commission – minus taxes of course – just blends into our direct deposit for a week, and then it’s spent; gone; forgotten?

Looking beyond stereotypes and following credible research we find motivation originates from sources more powerful than mere money.  However, these sources are personal.  For managers, they’re hard to leverage; they aren’t “one-size-fits-all”; but they’re there.  And when we’re motivated – we will “run through walls” to achieve!

Today’s research is sales-oriented.  Yet, if sales reps are truly mere mortals; just average people risking income and job security on quota performance; then these principles apply to any person and every position, true?

What will float your boat in 2018?

GAP

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What do they do when…

I am assisting one of my clients recruit and on-board an Inside Sales Rep.  As an engineer by background my client has expressed disappointment on how difficult it has been to find a Sales Rep capable of meeting his expectations.

He has been following the usual path; looking for someone with prior experience; assuming that experience will readily transfer to his company; find a “hunter” he can plug-in; should be a snap.  After enough trial and error, he called.

Always preferring to start at the beginning, we chatted about the oversight of his previous reps; the structure of their daily routine; their on-boarding; etc.  We agreed – no specific processes were in place.  Just expectations – get someone to set a bunch of appointments – inexpensively.

My client agreed to join me at the beginning to start his search and on-boarding of his next new sales rep.  He created a written job description for bi-directional candidate screening; a compensation plan both affordable as well as offering incentive income for over-performers; and an initial 13-week, ramp-up plan.  (Actually, he simply borrowed a copy of my 13-week plan.)

While putting his program in place he was surprised at the amount of effort, detail and documentation I advocate.  Although it appealed to his engineering background, he didn’t expect such necessities for sales; leading to my reaction on his reaction:

What do most sales people do when they don’t know what to do? 

Unknown Sage

Confessing he hadn’t given it much thought, we went on to discuss that selling is a skilled process requiring clarity of expectations, structured methodology, and continuous coaching.  Further, in the technology industry, sales is a team sport not an individual endeavor:

Kevin Joyce, a sales and marketing leader in the technology industry, shared the following on effective collaboration. “When there is not a crisp definition of what people should do, they will gravitate to what they want to do. As a metaphor, I refer to this as ‘swarm ball.’ If you ever have any children that play soccer under the age of 10, you know what I am talking about. The entire organization basically swarms around the ball and the ball is whatever the issue is at that moment.”

As my client prepared to welcome his next new recruit, I cited advice from another Subject Matter Expert, Townsend Wardlaw, on what his next new sales rep’s first day, first impression should be:

That wasn’t how my client did it in the past.

We have continued our preparation to on-board his next new sales rep.  We’ve included weekly training and practice sessions.  When my client expressed surprise at the amount of commitment I emphasized for continuous training – even for an “experienced” sales rep, I offered:

Think training is hard? Try losing. 

Davee Jones

As his engineering tendencies came to the forefront, there was more than a bit of worry about adding up all of the time he and his team would be devoting to the new sales rep.  “Was this really going to be affordable?” he wondered.  This brought to mind the thought process of the Founder of my company:

“Someone once asked me if it’s worth $100 million to win the America’s Cup,” Ellison says in the recent documentary The Wind Gods. “It’s certainly not worth $100 million to lose the America’s Cup.”

What’s your company’s approach?  Do you rely on your structured processes for sales performance?  Or do you seek that mythical character known to some as a “hunter”?

GAP

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Philosophy or fact?

When I Googled for the definition of “philosophy” I found:

The study of the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge or experience.

The theoretical basis of knowledge, hmmm.  Sounds… well… philosophical.  But I digress:

Digress: Leave the main subject temporarily in speech or writing.

I’ve been attending a new MeetUp for B2B sales reps and the last session, facilitated by Chad Burmeister, author of Sales Hack © and Director of Sales Development at Ring Central, was stellar (http://www.meetup.com/denversales/events/230718803/ ).  Chad facilitated an examination of cold-calling; starting with the rhetorical question, “Is cold-calling dead?”

Rhetorical: (of a question) asked in order to produce an effect or to make a statement rather than to elicit information.

And continuing on with Chad’s leading practices for cold-calling tools, tactics and techniques.  His presentation and discussion was stellar.

Of course, during the MeetUp many attending sales professionals offered differing opinions about their preferred cold-calling tools, tactics and techniques.  And as anyone even slightly involved in the business development field (e.g. sales, marketing, branding, etc.) would know – much is being said and more is being written on the topics of cold-calling, social media selling, and the like.

Chad’s presentation offered facts and statistics supporting his beliefs.  When others chimed in they too offered facts in support of their beliefs.  I’ve noticed when I am exposed to other authors, presenters and pontificators and their cold-calling beliefs each offers a persuasive set of facts as evidence proving the truth behind their pontification:

Fact:  A thing that is indisputably the case.

But if everyone has their own set of supporting facts, even if their beliefs around the singular topic of cold-calling are different, what is the truth?

Truth:  The quality or state of being true.

Wait – what?  Truth is the state of being true?  What the hell does that mean?  Ah…but I digress…

All-in-all, my pursuit of the “truth” seems to keep me in a constant state of self-reflection:  How do my beliefs (and corresponding facts) compare to the beliefs (and facts) of others?

I believe I am a die-hard, self-reflective sort.  As a life-long-learner, I find myself constantly asking “Why?” when presented with beliefs and facts that have serious impact on my professional success.

I am told in the book, The Absurdity of Human Life © by Tom Nagle – he writes of the collision between what in life we take seriously while simultaneously doubting the “why” behind these serious things.  I am also told (having never taken the pursuit of philosophical investigation seriously) that the 16th century French philosopher Rene Descartes (considered a “modern skeptic” of his time) suggested we should subject everything to doubt and see what is left.

As a self-confessed skeptic, my continuous search for answer to “why”?” seems to fall into Descartes’ philosophy of subjecting everything to doubt.  After doubting some of the beliefs that were debated during this MeetUp, what was left for me was an epiphany!

Epiphany: a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand something that is very important to you.

When it comes to cold-calling, social media selling, and any other form of sales-prospecting there is no “truth” regardless of what facts someone offers in support of their beliefs.  There are simply our beliefs and the corresponding results – nothing else matters.

In the sales profession if our beliefs are generating successful results, we should continue; if they aren’t, we should change.  “Change to what?” you might ask.  Well, simply change to beliefs that work.   Ut oh – does that sound too philosophical?

GAP

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Triangle – the series continues…

This is the second corner of a triangle I’m devoting to the term “engagement” that is prominently used in Corporate America today.  (Missed the first one? http://thequoteguys.com/2016/03/triangle-the-series/ )

Much has been said and much has been written about the term engagement in our modern marketplace.  Employee engagement as spoken by human resource professionals; customer engagement as spoken by marketing professionals; leadership engagement as spoken by management consulting professionals.  Engagement seems to have us surrounded.

Last week we examined leadership engagement.  In this week’s segment of the series let’s explore employee engagement.  Employees serve a key bridge between our companies’ leadership vision and the actual experiences felt by our clients:

If you want happy clients, first make sure that your client services employees are happy.  Everyone has run into that disgruntled client service representative who hates his job.

I recently read a report about millennials in our workforce and their lack of overall engagement.  Troubling – isn’t this the generation that will lead us into the future?  If they’re not engaged, how will we compete?

The report cites five reasons blocking millennial employee engagement https://hbr.org/2016/02/motivating-millennials-takes-more-than-flexible-work-policies . When we look at these reasons each one seems easily addressed, true?  What are we all waiting for?  (Is it the leadership engagement I wrote of in the first part of the series?)

If employee engagement is critical to business success in today’s global, competitive marketplace we have to get fired up!  For example, one of the oldest American industries is littered with failed businesses – big failures too; wiped out by competition.  Yet one company has arisen from the ashes as analyzed by a leading management consultant:

“We have the hardest working steel workers in the world”, said one Nucor executive.  “We hire five, work them like ten, and pay them like eight.” 

Jim Collins

We all get it – engage us; motivate us; lead us; pay us and we will forge steel with a level of effort on behalf of our company never before witnessed.  We can do it; so what’s stopping us?  Is it all of those silly, little, internal administrative processes that disillusion and ultimately diminish employees’ enthusiasm?

An angry worker goes into her company’s payroll office to complain that her paycheck is $50 short. 

The payroll supervisor checks the books and says, “I see here that last week you were overpaid by $50.  I can’t recall your complaining about that.”

“Well, I’m willing to overlook an occasional error, but this is two in a row.” 

Paul Dickson

OK, it could be that our company “bigness” has begot internal inefficiencies that irritate our employees from time to time.  It could be these minor mistakes are milking our pride; making us think our company is being run by a bunch of monkeys.  Could be, but…

There are many companies that still remain a beacon of pride, whose brand beams quality – dare I say “ENGAGEMENT”?

Welcome to Nordstrom… Here, almost in its entirety, is Nordstrom’s employee handbook:

We’re glad to have you with our Company.

Our number-one goal is to provide outstanding customer service.

Set both your personal and professional goals high.

We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. 

Bob Nelson

Hang tough millennials (and all generations in today’s diverse workforce), we too have great confidence in your ability to achieve your goals.

If we are a team of five, let’s produce like ten.  Let’s engage to make our company a beacon of pride.  Our customers will help us; as I will discuss next week.

GAP

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We’ll get started shortly…

I’ve been attending a lot of webinars recently.  As we all know, virtual events are quite common vs. in-person seminars these days.  Sometimes webinars are very educational; sometimes they’re more of a sales pitch; but when delivered correctly, they can be a good use of our time, true?

Ahh, when delivered correctly – that’s the key, yes?  Permit me to point out a few faux pas (plural) I’ve observed recently with the intent of helping my audience avoid losing your audience in your upcoming webinars, OK?

The first comes as no surprise.  Why do presenters punish the prompt by waiting for the tardy?  I know – audiences frequently arrive late.  I wonder if they arrive late because they believe the presenters will start late.  The timing of the starting time should not be such a challenge, should it?

I just heard the sad story of the comic who lost his timing.  He stepped on his own lines, tried to talk over the laughs, and lost his ability to build a strong close.  He got fired from one gig after another until he got so depressed, he decided to end it all.  He went down to the railroad tracks and threw himself behind a train. 

The Jokesmith

Well, once our webinars (finally) get started, why is it that the presenters often show their lack of knowledge in using their own web-meeting systems?  We have all suffered through a presenter stumbling, fumbling and bumbling trying to get their PowerPoint slides to advance, true?  And I thought the Keystone Cops form of entertainment went out with silent films.

Thankfully, these presenters are merely using web-presentation systems and not performing brain surgery.  But would it be too much to ask that they practice their presentations first?

At anything you choose to do, you’ll be as good as the practice, drill, and rehearsal you go through before you actually perform the action. 

Tom Hopkins

One webinar I attended was titled, “Making the most from referrals”.  The subject matter experts consumed the first 30 minutes of their 60 minute web-meeting telling everyone that making the most of referrals is a good idea.  Yep – that was what the title stated; that was why we were all there.  But did we really have to wait through 30 minutes of obvious stuff before they got to the good stuff?

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact. 

Elliot

To be fair, I did attend a webinar by Deloitte where the subject matter experts walked us all through “how” to help clients establish and maintain “Key Performance Metrics” for managing their companies.  Their explanations and examples were stellar – believe it or not – almost too good.

It can be a fine line at times, but the presenters did an excellent, tag-team presentation that was very thorough; addressing a complex subject; and stopped just short of confusing everyone.  A natural ability, I must admit, that I do not possess:

Only someone who understands something absolutely can explain it so no one else can understand it at all. 

Unknown Sage

Reinforcing my hope, I watched the first half of a recorded webinar today on the importance of business acumen in the sales profession.  Other than starting late (and recording their tardiness for posterity) and practicing their web-tool on the audience, the presenters’ content looks like it will be excellent.

When I finish watching their presentation, I’ll let you know – but please wait – we’ll get started shortly.

GAP

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Selling in reverse…

Have you ever thought about structuring your sales presentation backwards?  I mean literally taking the topics we do at the end and putting them at the beginning?

What about our sales cycles?  In reverse?  What if we offered pricing early?  Very first meeting early?  Or a “demo”?   Or references?  How do you suppose our prospects would respond?

If you think about it our sales process is like a novel.  A novel was defined to me once as a written piece that has a beginning; a middle; and an end.  Are our sales cycles (and presentations)?  Or not?

Novels are also defined by their length.  I’m told a novel has 50,000 words or more.  Writing coaches suggest that the writer must “capture” their reader’s interest early – very early – first few pages – or better – first few paragraphs early.  And if the writer doesn’t, it’s likely the reader will put the book down, never to return.  It is critical to start entertaining the reader early knowing they have to wait until the end where the “essence” is typically revealed by the author.

Think what it would mean to writers if their readers could read the end of their novel first; get to the “essence” up front.  Would writers continue to write 50,000 words or more?  Would their readers read them?

Thankfully for writers, readers today are entertained by a good story.  It’s OK if the book is long when the “middle” is entertaining.  Sometimes people read a novel to escape from reality; sooth a headache.  Are our sales presentations and sales cycles soothing?

For your consideration… in 2015 prospects expect our end at the beginning; they cover the beginning before we arrive; and prefer to minimize or totally skip our usual “middle” all together.  To them, our middles are neither entertaining; nor soothing.

Many of us still include a company image pitch in our presentations.  In 2015, how entertaining is that?  If our prospect is interested in the idea of doing business with us, won’t they do what we do – check us out online first?

In 2015, the “beginning” is no longer our first meeting with a prospect – it’s the preparation for that first meeting.  They’ve prepared to meet with us with their online research.  We should prepare too, true?  If they could simply buy online and by-pass us altogether, wouldn’t they?  Wouldn’t we if we were them?

In 2015, when we find ourselves in a sales meeting with a prospect shouldn’t we ask – why on earth are we there?

In 2015, the “end” of our sales cycle isn’t the transaction (aka the opportunity; the deal) we “close”.  It’s what we do after the deal is done that counts.  Add-on’s; Phase 2; referrals from our clients to their clients.  Yes, we have many, many more opportunities to maximize “lifetime client value” than merely the dollars from that first transaction.

OK, we’ve covered the “beginning” of our selling activities which I’ve suggested actually takes place before we arrive.  And we’ve addressed the “end” of our selling activities and I’ve suggested there is no “end” – just follow on transactions from satisfied clients (and their clients).  So what about the “middle”?

Well, maybe there is no “middle” anymore.  Maybe our prospects don’t enjoy the “entertainment” of our “middles” anymore.  What if we realized the “end” comes at the “beginning”; and we eliminated the “middle” all together?  What if we sold in reverse?

Now I’m getting a headache; need some soothing.  Anyone have a good novel you’d recommend?

GAP

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What’s different?

I flew to Boston yesterday to work with one of my clients in person (a novelty in itself in our web-meeting world of 2015).  Since the client was paying the travel expense, I simply let them book my flights.  JetBlue offered the best rate and schedule – so I flew JetBlue for the very first time.  What’s different?

We departed Denver 2 hours late.  “Weather in New England” was the culprit they offered.  Of course, the initial update was posted on the screens at the gate as a 55 minute delay.  They boarded us according to that posting.  I was seated in the last row; aisle seat; where coincidentally I could overhear the flight attendants chatter.

Well beyond the 55 minute posted delay, the pilot came on the intercom and offered, “We’re all set to go; just waiting on final route information from ATC.”  I overheard the flight attendants fill in the blanks.  “They’re routing us over Canada to avoid the weather.  We don’t have enough fuel.  When we take on more fuel, we’ll be overweight, so we’re going to have to take some passengers and their baggage off.”  Unbeknownst to those passengers of course.  What’s different?

An hour and thirty minutes past scheduled departure, the pilot updated everyone else on the fuel situation that I already overheard.  He left it up to the gate agents to deal with selecting eight passengers to de-plane.  “Looks like you’re going to miss your connections”, I overheard one gate agent say to a family of three.  “We’re going to take you off this plane and try to reschedule you on another.”

The problem was, I overheard a second gate agent say to a different passenger the next available flight was tomorrow; nothing else going from Denver to Boston tonight.  Same situation, different stories.  What’s different?

I know, we all have had our bad travel experiences.  And try as they might with their marketing slogans and in-flight announcements, aren’t all airlines about the same today?  What’s different?

Yet, this experience caused me to think about my in-person client work starting today.  What makes working with me different than every other sales professional they have ever worked with?  Before turning further attention to my reflections, permit me to expand the focus and ask, “What makes you and your company different?”

So whether important to my clients or not, here are the “Top 10 things that make Gary different”:

  • I’m a pretty good talker, but I’m an even better listener.
  • I’m pretty good at listening, but I’m even better at remembering.
  • I’m pretty good strategically with the “big picture”, but I’m even better tactically with identifying the myriad of details.
  • I’m a pretty good presenter, but I’m an even better problem solver.
  • I’m pretty good at committing to being prompt, but I’m even better at arriving prepared.
  • I’m a pretty good leader, but I’m an even better follower.
  • I’m pretty good at positioning my company competitively, but I’m even better at acknowledging the “reality of multiple solutions” each client has.
  • I’m pretty good at orchestrating a sales-cycle, but I’m even better helping my clients’ coordinate their evaluation process.
  • I’m pretty good at overcoming objections, but I’m even better at identifying client fantasies that no vendor and no product can address.
  • I’m pretty good at negotiating price, but I’m even better at helping my clients clarify the value.

In a nutshell – that’s what I believe makes me different.  OK now – your turn.

GAP

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Nobility…

I was working with a group of senior, successful sales professionals recently.  I always get such a kick out of the fact that my clients actually pay money to send their senior, successful sales professionals to Denver and work with me for three days.

My company provides these three days within the context of a “sales training” class.  I doubt that I’m actually “training” my experienced clients on selling.  And I can tell when some of them arrive with the same mind set.  Of course, sales trainers over the ages have faced what one master, Zig Ziglar, so eloquently stated many years ago:

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

So there I was with a group of senior, successful sales professionals; and in the morning of the 1st day they’re all looking at me as if to ask, “OK Pokorn, let’s see what you got.”  It always varies a bit by person, but usually sometime during the course of the 2nd day they realize:  It doesn’t matter, “What I got”; my job is to set the selling scenes to see, “What they got”!  Which is great fun for me.

If my class is successful, I’ll get them initially to wonder what they’re doing there; and ultimately wonder why they didn’t attend sooner:

Wonder, rather than doubt, is the root of knowledge. 

Abraham Heschel

Yes, the class includes sales theory over the course of the three days; but the problem with sales theory is – of course – it’s theoretical.   And my clients’ professional knowledge and experience extend way beyond theoretical:

A little experience upsets a lot of theory. 

S. Parkes Cadman

Thankfully, I too have “real world” experience.  So my clients receive a big dose of Pokorn (whether they ask for it or not I suppose LoL!).

The best parachute folders are those who jump themselves. 

Unknown Sage

Hopefully, it’s not me standing up and “telling” them what to do, but rather it’s  a collaboration where we can all share our knowledge, experience and opinions.  “All of us are certainly smarter than any one of us”, is my overarching positioning with my class participants.  And I do my best to encourage them to share their thoughts and opinions on the focused sales scenes we examine.

Some participants choose not to participate; a constant competition with one’s in-box for us all these days.  I envision the sirens of their email calling their name, “Check your in-box… check your in box…”   It’s not a problem.  Even King Odysseus had to face the Sirens in his journey The Odyssey (see http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/odyssey1/ss/062508POdyssey.htm#step6 )

Nonetheless, I maintain the ultimate respect for my sales professional brethren.  After all, not everyone can do this for a living!  Scott DeGarmo wrote a piece published in Success Magazine years ago that I still carry with me today – here’s an excerpt:

“The Noble Art”

Salespeople Are the Knights of Business

…noble means pre-eminent and selling is the pre-eminent business skill.  You can have every other element in place, but without sales you have nothing.  A Dun & Bradstreet study of the cause of business failure puts “inadequate sales” at the top of the list.

Noble also means “of the nobility”, and salespeople are the knights of business.  While their colleagues skulk about the castle, salesmen and saleswomen get out there and make results happen in the real world.

Making results happen – for our clients; for our company; for ourselves.  Yes, sales professionals are all about results.  And that’s a Nobel pursuit indeed.

GAP

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New hire ramp-up…

Recently, I’ve fielded many questions about ramping-up new sales reps.  My answers aren’t liked.   The “ratios”; the effort; the structured oversight; sounds like work, I guess.

The conversations start the same way, “Gary, do you know any really good sales reps we can hire?”  Or, they ask if a machine-based, on-boarding system is the way to go so their sales managers can do, “more important things”?

“More important things”?  What’s more important than ramping-up new sale reps – hitting the number?  My bad – I thought that hitting the number was the sales reps’ job.  If the sales manager is focused on “hitting the number”; then what are the sales reps focused on?

These new hire, ramp-up questions are typically framed in time-based units of measure; preferring to minimize the time.  “Can’t automation shorten the ramp time (and the work)”?  “If we hire an experienced sales rep, they won’t need any ramp-up, right?”

Reminds me of my sons.  They chose professions other than sales.  (No following in the old man’s footsteps for them, LoL!)

My younger son is a commercial driver.  When he chose his profession, he had two ramp-up options:

  • He could have taken a Do-It-Yourself; Internet-machine-based-learning; take the CDL test cold; multiple times if necessary; and hope for the best
  • Or, graduate from a Professional Driving School

The former offered a slim chance of being licensed and a slimmer chance of being hired.  The latter involved classroom lectures; tests; twenty hours on the “backing pad” learning three backing maneuvers; 30 hours of supervised driving time on the road; a DOT physical; and then passing the CDL test.  The work was worth it.

My older son is a commercial electrician.  When he chose his profession, he also had two ramp-up options:

  • He could have found a contractor  using an On-The-Job approach for their new employees, not caring if they are licensed or not
  • Or, chose to start as an apprentice; log 8,000 documented job hours; then pass the State Journeyman’s Examination; to become licensed

Practicing on the “backing pad”?  Supervised time in the role?  8,000 hours of documented experience?  Licensed?  Sounds like work.  I enjoy the comparison.

In the “blue collar” world of professional drivers and professional electricians, ramp-up plans involve structured, supervised processes to insure effectiveness.  What about the “white collar” world of sales professionals?

Reminds me of the strength and conditioning work athletes put in; the ratios of workouts needed to excel in the “game”.  For distance runners, its miles logged not weeks on the calendar that count.  For professional golfers, the ratio of practice balls hit dwarfs the number hit in tournaments.

Sales?

Cold calling is a numbers game (or, to be more precise, a ratios game). 

Stephen Schiffman

Here’s how I apply Stephen’s ratios for ramping-up a new sales rep:

How many calls will the new sale rep have to make,

before they schedule their 1st appointment?

How many 1st appointments will they have to complete,

before they identify their 1st qualified prospect?

How many qualified prospects will they have to complete discovery meetings with,

before they deliver a solution/demo?

How many demos,

before they deliver a proposal?

How many proposals,

before they close their 1st deal?

How many deals,

to get to their assigned quota run-rate?

Elapsed time; even machine-based elapsed time?  IMHO – wrong unit of measure.

I believe the effort needed for successfully ramping-up a new sales rep is based on ratios of supervised effort.  And yes, that is called work.

GAP

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