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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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Ownership…

I bet our clients are amused (and amazed) to no end by us sales and marketing professionals.

How much time and energy do we spend today discussing and debating the best ways to win the client’s business; their engagement; their loyalty?  We tout we are “Trusted Advisors”; “Subject Matter Experts”; we seek “Client Engagement”; “Likes”; “Links”.  We invest millions of dollars and staff hours in social; mobile; SEO; and ecommerce technologies.

Well, we definitely have those clients surrounded!

I like to openly (and proudly) declare that I am a sales professional.  That’s usually not the positioning my sales brethren prefer tp use.  Their preference?  “Business Development”; “Client Engagement”; “Account Executive”; “District Manager”; are a few of the business card titles sales people like to use to try and disguise that fact that we are – well – sales people.  Do we really think clients can’t tell?

I also spend a fair amount of my time mingling with my marketing professional counterparts.  They like to openly (and proudly) declare that “Sales is no longer relevant!”  They profess it’s now all about “engagement”.  Increase your social media level of engagement and the sales transactions will magically follow.  And I can’t even begin to describe some of their business card titling creativity!

It must be amusing to our clients to observe sales people and marketing people donning our business card disguises and debating the question, “Who owns the customer”?   Let’s face it – we on the vendor side have been arguing this point since last century.  This century?  I’m pretty sure our clients have moved on; amused perhaps; but moved on!

Of course, it does me no good to argue with my marketing colleagues about, “Who owns the client?” and “Is sales still relevant?”  They seem to approach such arguments like engineers do:

Arguing with an engineer is like wrestling a pig in the mud. After a few hours you realize, the pig likes it. 

Unknown Sage

I mean, how many times do we hear marketing professionals profess the value of “mass personalization”?  “Mass Personalization” – what the hell is that!  Do we really think the client doesn’t notice the “mass” aspect of those “personalization” campaigns?

How many sales people still describe themselves as “Trusted Advisors”?  Really?  Do we think our clients have forgotten our sales predecessors who were not trustworthy?   Let’s face it – it was some “Business Development/Engagement Partner/Trusted Advisor” type that caused,

…a firm that once stood for trust and accountability ended 90 years as an auditor of publicly traded companies under a cloud of scandal and shame. (see Chicago Tribune article )

Smell that word “trusted” burning?

I suggest we need to change our traditional (shall I go as far as to say outdated; very 1990’s; legacy; tail lights; yesterday’s news; dead!) views about the amount of “ownership” sales or marketing has over the client.

The reality today – thanks to the modern technology developed by those argumentative engineers – the customer owns the customer.

I believe today the client thinks of us sales and marketing professionals as nothing more than “transaction facilitators”.  (Bet you won’t see that as a business card title!)  They no longer want to answer our “What keeps you up at night?” questions.  They don’t want to “Like” us on Facebook.

They just want to complete their transaction.  And in reality, they’d just as soon buy online and by-pass us altogether.  Amusing to the clients!  Not so much for us sales and marketing types, true?

GAP

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“Good judgment”…

I have written recently about sales management best practices (a few worst practices, too).  I believe the topic primarily relates to the attribute of judgment:

Rule # 1 – Use your good judgment in all situations.

There will be no additional rules. 

Bob Nelson

But what is judgment to begin with let alone “good judgment”?  According to merriam-webster.com, the definition of judgment includes:

judg·ment     noun 

The act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought 

The ability to make good decisions about what should be done

Careful thought; the ability to make good decisions – key metrics we use when judging the quality of our sales managers, true?  Our favorite Unknown Sage suggests this is the origin of judgment:

Good judgment comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgment.

Ok, but are we destined to acquire good judgment from “trial and error” only?  Can we learn from the experience (and judgment) of others?  Hoping the latter is possible permit me to offer a few of my experiences (if not judgments) on the topic of a sales manager’s biggest challenges.

Challenge #1 – Integrity – our greatest challenge: 

In my judgment, our integrity is always on display.  Performance is important; knowledge and skill contribute to performance; but what our people notice most is our integrity:

Don’t wait for the last judgment.  It takes place every day. 

Albert Camus

Challenge #2 – Changing sales territories: 

It’s an annual ritual isn’t it?  Raise quotas; shrink territories; modify compensation plans.  Quotas and comp plans may be sore spots for our sales reps; but territories can be downright well, territorial.  Ever notice that sales reps speak of territory in singular-possessive terminology (i.e. “my territory”)?  After careful thought I have come to the judgment that in reality it’s the sales manager who actually “owns” the territory.  We then permit sales reps to “rent” it – under a limited, 12 month lease – with a performance clause to boot!

Challenge #3 – Fairness: 

Territory challenges can lead to sales rep accusations that their sales managers are “unfair”.  Guilty!  I believe it is impossible for a sales manager to be “fair” to everyone on our team.    When I managed my teams I didn’t even try.  Nope, I operated under the “Principle of Equal Unfairness”.  When everyone on my team complained that I was unfair, then I knew I was being equally unfair – and in my judgment, that was fair.

Challenge #4 – Turnover: 

Turnover is inevitable.  Whether due to territory changes, (un)fairness, or even promotions; in my judgment sales managers must constantly prepare for roster moves.  So “ABR” sales managers – Always Be Recruiting.  Find good people; enjoy them while we can; help them succeed and advance; then go find some more!

Challenge #5 – Managing under performers: 

It precedes turnover – ours or theirs!  The reality is not everyone can do this for a living.  As a sales manager, our job is to get the job done.  Now I’d just as soon get it done with the people on my team.  But if I have an under performer, then I must find someone else who can perform.  In my judgment I can’t wait for the under performer to quit; I must initiate the action:

Among the chief worries of today’s business executives is the large number of unemployed still on the payrolls. 

Unknown Sage

Certainly, there are more sales manager judgment challenges.  These are my Top 5 – what are yours?

GAP

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Qualifying, Clarifying, or Guessing?

One of my mentors Joe Carusi, recommended I read the book, Selling is Dead© by Marc Miller to help clarify how buyers buy today.  Catchy little title, yes?  I highly recommend it to any B2B sales professional.  Marc Miller’s main point is we should understand the type of buyer-demand we’re facing, and once understood, use the appropriate selling tactics.

Understanding the buyer-demand; focus on the prospect more than the deal – what a concept!

Qualifying is more difficult than guessing, yes?  Knowing which prospects (aka “Buyers”) to pursue and which prospects (aka “Lookers”) to nurture is a challenge, true?  The former make decisions while the latter represent the “long lose”.  The former have a decision-making body, with decision-criteria, and an approval process.  The latter just want a demo and a quote.

It’s hard to stay focused on the prospect.  Sometimes we get so focused on the “deal” that we do a poor job of picking up the subtleties the prospect offers.  It’s easy to get caught “guessing” that they are qualified and just focus on winning the deal; getting to the approval process.

Sales Management likes to “help” us qualify our deals too, don’t they?  Of course, everyone wants to talk about the prospect’s approval process.  I wrote a little ditty about approval processes (see The Approval-Process).  Sales professionals live and breathe approval processes.

As defined by TheFreeDictionary.com:

Live and breathe something 

If you live and breathe an activity or subject, you spend most of your time doing it or thinking about it because you like it so much.

I suppose we only “like” living and breathing the approval process when we win the deal, true?  The “looonnnggg looossse”?  We hate living and breathing through those approval processes!

Sales training from the last century taught us “BANT” – Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe.  Not much there about understanding buyer-demand.  Yes, I am reminded that the “A” and the “N” are supposed to be about the prospect.  I’m simply asking whether we focus on the prospect; or the deal?

Let’s take a closer look at the “A” – Authority.  When we speak with our prospects, we often ask, “Mr. Prospect, in addition to yourself who else will be involved in this very important decision?”  Perhaps we don’t believe Arthur W. Radford’s advice:

A decision is the action an executive must take when he has information so incomplete that the answer does not suggest itself. 

Is the information we provide complete?  Does our solution “suggest itself”?  Do we understand their “Need”?  Can there be dissent?  And if there is dissent, do we panic?  Press?  Discount?

Alfred Sloan, Chairman and CEO of General Motors for years was in a Board meeting about to make an important decision.  He said, “I take it that everyone is in basic agreement with this decision.”  Everyone nodded.  Sloan looked at the group and said, “Then I suggest we postpone the decision.  Until we have disagreement, we don’t understand the problem.”

This is the funny part about winning deals – the less we understand buyer-demand; the more we focus on the deal.  The more we (over) react to dissent; the more we press.  The more we press; the harder it is to win …. the deal.

How many times do we just want the deal while caring less about the prospect?  Yet when we clarify more about the latter, it’s amazing how many more of the former they reward us with.

GAP

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The rest of the story…

A phrase and actually a process made famous by the late, great Paul Harvey.  Who better to draw a parallel to when I think of a structured sales process? 

Occasionally, sales reps confuse the purpose of adhering to a sales process.  They mistakenly think that using a sales process will “slow the deal down”.  In reality, your sales process speeds the deal up!  If (and only if) you’re working with a “buyer” vs. a “looker”. 

Lookers only commit to one meeting at a time; waste our time; and put us on the path to the “long lose”.  Buyers on the other hand buy according to plan.  And the “plan” works best when it is our structured sales process.  Here’s an example. 

You might remember I recently wrote about a call-in I once received (see http://thequoteguys.com/2013/02/first-in-best-dressed/  ).  Permit me to pick up where we left off: 

Carol turned to me and asked, “OK, what do you need from us?”  

We spent the rest of the morning completing the Requirements Analysis.  I suggested over the noon hour, while they grabbed lunch and caught up on emails, I drive back to my office and pick up my PC.  (I didn’t bring it with me for this Very 1st Meeting). 

We reconvened at 1 pm and reviewed my Initial Findings along with a presentation of our key product features, reports, and technical specifications for installation and interfaces.  Bill from IBM nodded his agreement that he could work with us on the technical side; Carol agreed that our payroll capabilities were “good enough”; Judy from HR suggested we do a deeper dive on HR after Finance was ready to proceed.  (The “phase 2”!) 

I asked Carol and Judy to give me an hour to prepare their Price Quote.  I also had a hard copy calendar that I circled critical milestone dates for them to meet their 5 week conversion deadline.  It was going to be a herculean effort. 

We reconvened and went through the calendar and the quote; addressed remaining questions; and I provided Bill from IBM the technical specs for installing our software.  Carol asked what else I needed, and I responded, “Just a signature on the order and a $5,000 deposit check.”  She took my quote down the hall to “his” office and returned with it signed: 

“Can I give you the check in the morning?” she asked.  “It will take a couple of hours to run the request through our parent company’s accounts payable system”. 

Good enough for me!  I headed back to the office.  I had some significant expediting to do. 

When I arrived, I had a voice mail from Carol.  My heart sagged – was this too good to be true?  Did they change their mind?  Want to slow down?  Do a competitive comparison after all?  There was no end to how fast my mind went through all of the reasons why this “blue bird” was going to turn out to be a fantasy. 

I returned Carol’s call.  She had a quick question: 

“Gary, did you say you needed a $5,000 deposit check or a $50,000 deposit check?” 

That’s when I knew I had under-valued the price of my proposal! 

Technically, NewCo was not a “1-call-close”; but it was a “1-day-close”.  I leveraged a 5-step sales process; clarified they were a “Buyer” vs. a “Looker”; and “sold fast”.  Paul Harvey might add: 

            And that; is the rest of the story.  Good Day! 

GAP 

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Hello…

No? 

In the 1996 movie Jerry McGuire, Tom Cruise’s character gives out a heartfelt speech to Renée Zellweger’s character; Zellweger stops Cruise and says “You had me at ‘hello’.” 

But that was the 90’s.  Today’s audience is a lot more difficult to connect with, don’t you think?  Take last week for instance.  I was facilitating a selling skills class.  The audience was comprised of three dozen seasoned sales professionals some of whom own their own technology business.  I didn’t have them at “hello”! 

Talk about multi-tasking;  I was observing one person with IM, email, and Google search open on her laptop; while texting on her cell phone; and chatting with a classmate across the table; all while one of my colleagues was explaining instructions for a Discovery simulation we were about to role play.  Hello? 

Her Discovery performance?  Predictable: 

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

Zig Ziglar 

Her Year-to-Date sales?  Zero. 

But Zig was popular in the 80’s and 90’s; the sales professional today is much more difficult to connect with, true?  Hard to have them at “hello”. 

However, if you agree that sales training for experienced sales professionals is challenging, try addressing the “modern buyer”.  Talk about demanding; most modern buyers today would rather pursue a Do-It-Yourself purchase than have to rely on a sales rep. 

Of course, when they do eventually call us for help because many sophisticated products and services can’t be purchased DIY, they’re expecting to have us at “hello”; but we can still disappoint them. 

The weekend before our sales class mentioned above, my wife and I attended the Colorado Home and Garden Show.  What a kick!  There must have been a couple of thousand sales reps pulling booth duty.  While my wife walked the gauntlet looking for replacement windows, I had a bird’s eye view of hundreds of initial interactions. 

“No thanks, just looking.”; “How’s the show?”; or simply “No. I’m not interested.”  permeated the aisles.  OK, we’ve all been there, done that, yes?  But for the window replacement vendors, they had my wife’s attention at “hello”. 

It’s simple.  My wife is a modern buyer.  We had already decided we needed to replace the windows in our condo; we already knew the number of windows; she had already been researching online.  Now, her calendar was open on her phone.  She was “VITO”. (You know “VITO” from Anthony Parinello?) The sales reps didn’t. 

As soon as she said she was looking for windows, they almost immediately responded with a feature-benefit pitch.  They opened up product brochures and read key sections.  They demonstrated how their windows opened and closed.  Some even had cut-outs of their windows showing the double/triple glazing, aluminum framing, and in-window screen options.  They were experienced sales professionals who seemed to know it all. 

Our reaction?  Predictable – my wife wanted to schedule an appointment so each of the five vendors could measure the windows and give us an estimate.  Three of the five vendors talked and talked and talked so much (without ever asking for the appointment), that we decided to continue looking at other options. 

Two of the five wouldn’t accept my wife’s business card for her contact information; and wouldn’t schedule an appointment on the spot.  Nope, she had to fill out a lead request form first before someone would follow up! 

And today, eight days after completing the lead forms?  She’s still waiting to schedule those two appointments.  Hello?  

GAP 

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How things work…

I’ve always been fascinated about how things work.  One of my favorite TV programs on the Science Channel is “How It’s Made”.  A complimentary program on the Discovery Channel is “Dirty Jobs”.  Put them together and what do you get?  Sales! 

I’m fascinated about how sales works; when it works; which many times it doesn’t work; and that makes it fascinating! 

I’m also fascinated by business leaders’ perspectives on how sales works.  Earlier this year, a colleague of mine gave me the book Softwar©, which I recently wrote about (see http://thequoteguys.com/2012/11/giving-thanks/ ).  He added this note: 

Gary, you’ve got a great way of making complex problems seem simple.

Chris Corcoran 

What a wonderful compliment!  And in his own words, Chris crystalized the role of a sales professional.  Our job is to interpret what the customer is trying to accomplish; clarify the business issues in their way; and convey a path to help them reach the value they’re seeking.  In return, the sales professional is handsomely remunerated: 

You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.

Zig Ziglar 

I’m fascinated by, “how sales works”.  I also get to make a living helping others figure this out.  “De-Mystifying” is the term I like to use; Chris calls it making complex problems seem simple.  I find the best path to successful selling is to keep it simple.  Lord knows, our products are complicated enough without us adding to the mystique, true? 

Here’s one insight from Softwar©, portraying Larry Ellison (one of the richest people on the planet) and Oracle Corporation (one of the most successful technology companies on the planet) – in case you don’t want to take my word for it: 

I wanted to get the creativity out of the sales process.  If you want to be creative, go write a novel.

Larry Ellison 

OK; but in the sales profession you’d have to admit there is plenty of latitude for personal style.  I bet you have experienced meeting two sales reps from the same company – you would buy from one, but not from the other, yes?  Something about their style – fascinating!

However, I agree with Larry that a disciplined; well thought out; practiced; repeatable; sales process produces the best results.  Even though every prospect likes to say, “Well Gary, at ABC Manufacturing, we’re unique…”  In reality, prospects position this “we’re unique card” so frequently – it actually makes them all the same!  And being the same in their own, unique way is fascinating! 

Getting at each prospect’s “uniqueness” and showing them how we uniquely address their uniqueness, makes us uniquely well positioned to win their business.  Practicing and perfecting these professional selling skills may be less creative but it is definitely more financially rewarding than writing a novel.

On the other hand, some business leaders de-value the sales profession by thinking their products are so good they literally sell themselves.  How creative

Another Softwar© excerpt from a different executive: 

Jay Nussbaum, who had joined Oracle from Xerox in early 1992, summed up what Oracle 7’s product superiority meant to the sales force: “A dog with a note in its mouth could sell it technically.” 

I haven’t seen one of those dogs in conference rooms or on TV documentaries, have you?  In spite of what some might think about sales, Larry and Jay are both wrong; and they’re both right; and that’s how sales works.  Fascinating! 

GAP 

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The modern buyer…

These days, I find myself pontificating with my clients (a lot actually – thank you clients for your patience with the old guy!)  about “legacy-based selling tactics”.  You see, I believe like many things in business, the profile and preferences of our prospects has changed.  Our “prospects” have become “modern buyers”. 

Many studies have been published suggesting that in today’s economy, the “prospect” does a vast majority of their investigation, analysis, vendor qualification, and preliminary decision-making independently and before their very first meeting with a sales rep. 

The modern buyer wants to dictate the process – pricing first; demo second; references up front; all the things we used to be able to say, “No” to we now must be prepared to say, “Yes”. They want control, or at least the allusion of control.  They don’t want to waste their time with a legacy-based “qualification” discussion.  A legacy-based sales rep might think he is meeting with a “prospect”; I believe we are actually meeting with a buyer – a “modern buyer”. 

They’re in a hurry – very first meeting hurry.  The modern buyer psychologically “buys” (or decides not to) in our very first meeting.   Here we are, thinking we’re there to establish rapport; build a relationship; tell them about our company; learn about their business; blah, blah, blah…  They want to get to the price; see a demo; and talk with two references!  Seemingly, our only choice is to play or pass. 

Example: 

Prospect,        “Thanks for coming in; your offering looks very interesting.  Tell me; how much does something like this cost?” 

OK – play or pass time.  What would you do?  Beware – they’re ahead of us. 

Sales Rep,       “Well, before I could answer your question we would have to complete a thorough analysis of your needs.” 

There it is – the non-answer-answer (aka, I want control Mr. Prospect).  But they’ve played this chess-game before. 

Prospect,        “Ok; what do you need to know?” 

Check.  They know what they’re looking for; already been “looking” before this very first meeting; we have to catch up; they aren’t giving up control to that legacy-based, non-answer-answer technique anymore.  Play or pass?  Let’s play along a little further. 

Sales Rep,       “Well, how much have you budgeted for this project?

Prospect,        “$100,000 (or whatever ballpark number their research indicates).” 

Check.  They know what to say to that legacy-based question.  Ever notice how their number is always rounded to the nearest ten-thousand dollar unit of measure?  It’s your move. 

Sales Rep,       “OK, in addition to yourself, who else at your organization will participate in making this very important decision?” 

Careful – you just implied that the person you’re meeting with is just some schmuck and can’t possibly be the decision-maker. 

Prospect,        “I am the project leader assigned the responsibility to make a vendor selection.” 

Check and mate.  They have the control. 

See what I mean?  It’s our very first meeting; we have barely met-greeted-coffeed-settled; and the prospect jumps right to the “money question”!  The fact is, if the prospect could have obtained an answer to that question before this very first meeting, we wouldn’t be meeting to begin with.  Welcome to the modern buyer! 

It takes a new set of selling skills to collaborate with the modern buyer.  In reality, we don’t want “control’, we want a deal!  And we might not find out that they’re “qualified” until they place their order.  How will you play the game at your next, very first meeting? 

GAP 

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Polar opposites…

I’ve been self-conscious about the appearance of my finger nails since high school.  Back then, I was a nail biter; today, my nails reflect my work around the barn.  In the white collar role of professional sales, it’s hard to hide the blue collar effects of working with hammers, horses and hay.  Seems polar opposite, yes?

Coaching sales people entails polar opposites, too.  I enjoy coaching coachable sales professionals.  Role plays are my favorite! What’s that?  You hate role plays?  Ah yes, that’s the opposite pole.

Some sales reps like sales practice sessions; some hate it; many avoid practice because they’re “too busy”.  Too busy to practice?  Well, at least they’re not an eye doctor.  After all, we wouldn’t want to turn our baby blues over to an eye surgeon if we thought she hadn’t practiced the procedure a thousand times before, would we?  Medical professionals vs. sales professionals – polar opposites?

One of my recent clients told me he has been in a white collar, professional position as a business analyst in the IT industry for over 30 years.  His primary role has been doing implementations.  Now, he’s working for a new company who hired him for a “pre-sales” role to help them sell larger, more complicated deals.  His finger nails are immaculate.

He’s been playing the “I’m just too busy…” card lately, and opting out of practice sessions.  His company signed him up for coaching, it wasn’t his idea.  Yet, his main concern has been over my reaction to his cancellations; says he doesn’t want me to think it is a negative reflection on me.

It brought to mind an interview I conducted years ago with John Bruce.  John had been selling management consulting services.  I don’t think he had fared too well though.  First, he was interviewing with me for a new job.  Second, he had grime under his finger nails; a polar opposite image of a white collar professional, true?

When he noticed I had noticed his finger nails, he became a bit self-conscious.  As it turned out he was doing a little auto repair work the prior evening.  I wasn’t sure if he was working on his own car to save a little money, or if he was moon lighting to augment his income.  That’s when he confided his desire to succeed in this new position.

I asked him if he thought he was coachable.  His reply has stayed with me ever since:

“Gary, I’m all balls and no brains.  You coach me what to do and I’ll give you everything I’ve got.”

It was an exaggeration – John had plenty of brains.  Coachable he was, too.  He earned the job offer; sold at a President’s Club level; and improved his selling skills every step of the way.  Reminded me of Joe Newton:

If better is even possible, good is not enough.

Maybe it’s not in the finger nails or the polar opposites of white vs. blue collar.  It could be the coach who’s at fault.  Ever tried to “teach” sales to a professional that isn’t coachable?  There’s a fine line between coaching someone vs. trying to force them to do it our way.

Coaching a sales professional requires (among many things) mutual consent – kind of like forming a partnership.  But beware – even partnerships can have polar opposite definitions:

Partnership means, 

“Let’s you and I agree to do things my way.” 

                              Naomi R. Blakeslee

Sounds like marriage – but I digress.

GAP

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The usual…

I attended a sales presentation recently – it was a “lunch ‘n learn”.   One challenge with a “lunch ‘n learn” is determining if the audience is attending for the “learn”; or just the “lunch”?  Nonetheless, I like to observe other sales professionals present: 

            You can see a lot by observing. 

                                  Yogi Berra 

It was the usual setting; we’ve been here before – either on the “pitching” side or the “catching” side of a sales presentation, yes?  This was a partner of ours; the sales rep had scheduled a 1-hour “lunch ‘n learn” presentation to our sales team.  I wonder who first added the “lunch” ditty to sales presentations.  I mean, are our presentations so bad that they require caloric bribes?  

No one confirmed the amount of time the audience had set aside for the presentation – all too “usual” in today’s sales presentations, true?  I mean, how many times does the prospect say, “Gary, go ahead and take all of the time you want.”? 

As usual, she didn’t ask what we wanted to “learn” over lunch; why, she had already prepared her PowerPoint deck. I mean, how many times does your prospect say, “Gary, never mind what we’re interested in; just show us whatever you’ve got.”? 

She had the usual preface, “I want today’s meeting to be very interactive, so please interrupt me when you have questions.”  I wonder where the “Please interrupt me” ditty originates from.  I mean, have you had many prospects ask at the beginning of your meeting, “Gary, is it OK if we interrupt”?  (And if you say, “no”, don’t they interrupt anyway?) 

She started with the always exciting – company image PowerPoint pitch.  No one interrupted.  I wonder where the “let’s start with a company image PowerPoint pitch” ditty originates from.  I mean, have you ever had a prospect say, “Well Gary, your product really sucks; but we liked your company image PowerPoint pitch so much we’re going to buy it anyway.”? 

Her presentation then moved on to the usual PowerPoint bullet list of features-benefits.  No one interrupted.  And as usual, she proceeded to read each bullet out loud to us – just is case we were more focused on the “lunch” than the “learn” I suppose.  I wonder; where did the “reading PowerPoint bullet lists” originate from.  I mean, do you have many prospects say, “Gary, I can’t quite make out that slide, would you read it to me please”? 

Next up – the product demonstration; still usual.  A 30 minute demo; to a room full of sales reps; after lunch; for a product we didn’t ask to see, and would never sell – we would simply refer her to a prospect and only if we needed to, to close our deal.  No one interrupted. 

Back to PowerPoint for the usual “logo slide” of her clients; none of which we recognized from the logos – always a sticky wicket.  I wonder who started the “sticky wicket” ditty anyway.  I mean, have you ever heard a prospect respond during your “logo slide” presentation, “Gary, that seems to be a sticky wicket”?   

As we neared the end of the “lunch”, and since no one interrupted the “learn”, the presenter asked the usual question – “Any questions”?  I mean, how many times have you asked during or after your sales presentation the question, “Any questions?’ and not get any? 

Yep, it was a sales presentation – I mean, the usual – not much “learned” but everyone was “lunched”. 

GAP 

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