Increase you Teams Productivity

In a recent sales productivity study we conducted for one of our clients, we learned that while their sales reps spend more time on selling activities compared to the external benchmark, they spend a small amount of time actually meeting with customers.

Salespeople face all sorts of distractions. Factors ranging from internal corporate demands to ramifications from a reeling economy and shifting competitive landscape all take a toll on their customer-facing time.  So how do you keep them focused on their primary task at hand?

Too often “time sinks” require a disproportionate amount of salespeople and sales managers’ time compared to the value delivered to their customers for those activities.

In a recent sales productivity study we conducted for one of our clients, we learned that while their sales reps spend more time on selling activities compared to the external benchmark, they spend a small amount of time actually meeting with customers.

Significant national account time was also being spent in post-sales activities that were time sinks. For example, their star salespeople were spending twice the amount of time constructing estimates as they were meeting with customers. Issue resolution required almost a day a week.

In the same previously mentioned sales productivity study, we learned that star and on-quota sales leaders spend more time managing their teams, including one-on-one coaching.  The best understand the systems and processes that their teams are using—both those that make them successful and those that impede their productivity.

  • Maximize selling time.

    How much time are your salespeople spending doing paperwork or following up to see that orders are processed and delivered? Can you remove those tasks from their to-do list if you improve your processes?

    Functional reassignments or outside resources can provide many of these support functions as long as your salespeople remain in the loop. In general, be attuned to removing obstacles to their selling success.

  • Keep them focused on the prize.

    One of the most powerful ways to keep momentum in the sales organization and drive consistent results is to establish a pattern of accountability through regular reviews. Visit account strategies and action plans once a quarter with your salespeople.

    Clearly framing your expectations and identifying milestones and planned near-term actions for the next 90 days keeps their focus on activities that lead to accomplishments versus things that are urgent. A 15-minute review of each plan keeps them moving forward with consistent targeted actions, resulting in a tight cycle of value with key customers.

  • Coach around sales calls.

    A well-written call plan and strategy for each call is a best practice. Coach your salespeople to cut through the clutter and be heard by articulating value that is personal, relevant, and time-sensitive.

    Spending five minutes to develop a thoughtful call plan brings more value to their customers, improves their odds of getting back in front of the decision-makers, and ensures that they are efficient and effective each time they meet.

  • Make sales calls with your folks.

    There is no better way for you to learn about your salespeople’s sales challenges and performance than by seeing them in front of their customers. And by watching what happens in between sales calls, you’ll gain a fairly accurate picture of where they need time and territory management improvement.

    Spending time in the field allows you to observe, analyze, and coach your salespeople, a highly productive use of time for all of you. Some studies suggest that on-site coaching can increase performance by as much as 20 percent.

  • Provide just-in-time market-ready plays with sales playbooks.

    Customer-facing time is valuable. But too often, salespeople don’t formulate how they want to talk to a customer or what message they want to convey until they’re standing in front of the customer.

    Sales playbooks capture and document what your best salespeople do to qualify, advance, and win deals. Brief and easy-to-reference, they deliver sales stage-appropriate content to your salespeople within the context of their current deal.

  • Provide a consistent rhythm for sales process.

    Brief weekly footprints (activity report) and as-needed, agenda-driven conference calls or meetings keep your sales teams accountable and give you an opportunity to shine the spotlight on their successes. Crisp, tight pipeline and forecast reviews define expectations and reveal a lot about your salespeople’s abilities and how they spend their time and effort.

Improving sales productivity is a common goal among sales organizations seeking ways to improve the top line of their business. As a sales leader, you must identify key factors to improve selling time—specifically customer-facing time—and generate better results from the selling time spent.

Top 10 Time Sinks for Salespeople

These sap time, energy and creativity, and limit high-value interactions with customers.

  1. Estimating/proposals
  2. Contract management
  3. Installation coordination
  4. Pricing/billing
  5. Scheduling
  6. Service delivery
  7. Issue/problem resolution
  8. Internal and customer communication
  9. Internal processes/systems
  10. Daily “emergencies”
  11. For more information please contact us at or…

Writing Effective Emails

Want to get your emails returned? Who doesn’t… Many of us would settle for just getting our emails read! Let’s face it: prospects get hundreds of emails per week and there is a slim chance they are going to read – let alone respond to – an email from a sales rep.

Luckily, there are 5 quick secrets to help your emails stand out and give you the best chance of getting them read and returned. Here’s what they are:

Secret #1: Put the prospect’s first name in the subject line.

Everyone is drawn to their first name, so if you make your subject line something like:

“John, just left you a VM…”

Your email will stand out in their inbox and they will open it.

Secret #2: Personalize the first sentence of your email.

Draw your prospect’s attention to something that is happening now and current in their situation. This will snap your prospect out of his/her rote reading of emails. Things like:

“Hope you’re staying warm on this winter day!” or, “I’m sure you’re buried in your new project, so I’ll keep this brief…”

By taking the time to personalize your first sentence, you’ll draw your reader in and that will give you the best chance to get your email read.

Secret #3: Break your paragraphs up into sentences.

Nothing will turn your prospect off more than long, information packed paragraphs. Their eyes will glaze over!

Break up your sentences into paragraphs if possible to make them easy to read and accessible. I say no more than 2 sentences per paragraph.

Just like this example is written – easy to read, isn’t it?!

Secret #4: Ask for a return response – whether they are interested or not.

Give your prospect a chance to “opt out” of further communication with you.

Thank them in advance for their consideration and ask them to let you know if they’re interested – or not. And let them know you’ll remove their name if they aren’t.

Special Hint: Also give them the option of referring you to the right department or another person who might be more appropriate. This also gives them an out – and you an in.

Secret #5: Promise to follow up by phone if they don’t respond.

Let them know that you understand they are busy, and that out of consideration if you don’t hear from them you’ll follow up with a call in a day or two.

This really increases your response rate, and don’t be unhappy if they ask to “op-out.” Those prospects who do have just disqualified themselves and saved you a ton of time.

And for those you don’t hear from – start calling! Suddenly, when they do pick up, they’ll be a warm call.

Try implementing these 5 secrets today and watch as your emails suddenly become relevant again.

For more information please contact us at or…

Being Likeable..

The article I read on LinkedIn stated that salespeople who relied on rapport, said another way, “being liked” do not fare as well as salespeople who have a greater level of expertise. One example that they cited was familiar to me. The author suggested that you would choose a neurosurgeon that was highly skilled over a likable one with lesser skills and knowledge. Having once been forced to choose a neurosurgeon for a brain surgery, I can’t argue with that math.

That said, there are two problems here. First, the problem of generalizing. Second, the problem of mutual exclusivity.

Large, complex, expensive, and riskier deals require greater insights, greater business acumen, and situational knowledge. Smaller, simple, relatively inexpensive and relatively low-risk deals don’t necessarily require greater skills or greater knowledge.

All generalization, as useful as they are, are lies (even this generalizing sentence). Selling is a complex, dynamic, human interaction, and succeeding in sales is about choices. In some cases, your smarts will serve you well. In others, your fast rapport skills will produce the same or better results.

Mutual exclusivity is a terrible trap. When you are offered a choice of “being smart” or “being liked,” you are presented with the idea that you can only have one, and that selecting one means giving up the other. This is a false choice. You can actually be smart and be liked. You can have insights and also have rapport skills at the same time.

  • High Insights and Low Rapport: You can be smart, have poor rapport skills, and still win business. You will likely win business from people who are more concerned about the outcomes they need and who want to eliminate risk.
  • Low Insights and High Rapport: You can know little and be so amiable that some people buy from you, usually people who don’t want to be challenged or forced to deal with conflict. Some people will work with you because you have a smart team behind you.
  • Low Insights and Low Rapport: You are going to have a very tough selling anything that isn’t a straight transaction, eliminating any need to deal with you over the longer term.

Now you have seen three of four possible combinations of smart and likable. But there is another choice available to you.

  • High Insight and High Rapport: You can be both smart and likable. It is possible to be known, liked, and trusted while also possessing the business acumen and situational knowledge you need to serve your clients, helping them to make substantial changes. In fact, the very best salespeople look more like this than they do High Insight and Low Rapport. Why? Because for most complex sales, the relationship comes with the purchase.

Let’s look at the scenario from the first paragraph again. You are choosing a brain surgeon. One has world-class skills, little empathy, and poor bedside manner. The second has world-class skills, is highly empathetic, and a bedside manner that helps put you and your family at ease, giving you a far better experience as you make a difficult decision under immense pressure. Which surgeon do you choose and why?

A large part of selling, the part that is not transactional, is creating a preference to buy from you personally. There is no reason to believe that you are not part of the value proposition, and in some sales, the largest part. The more advantages you stack on your side of the scale, the better. These advantages accrue to you when you are smart and also someone your client wants to work with long term…

The Long Sale…

Some of your competitors will lie to win a deal. They will say whatever they believe their prospective client wants to hear, knowing it isn’t the truth. You may be frustrated knowing that they’re lying and winning.

Some businesses you compete against will act immoral, and some will take actions that are illegal, all to make a buck. Their success may get a lot of press, and it might look pretty in the papers right now.

Some of your competitors will speak poorly of you and your business to win an opportunity. You may be frustrated and angry to learn that a competitor is trying to make themselves look better by trying to make you look bad.

Some people will tell their prospective clients what they want to hear in order to ingratiate themselves to that person. The would rather have their business than tell them what they really need to hear.

None of these tactics are effective long term. In fact, over time these tactics undo those who use them. Someone may effectively lie to win a deal, but over time that lie will be exposed, and the person who lied will no longer be credible. People and companies that try to win by using tactics that are illegal or immoral get a different kind of press when these actions are exposed. Eventually, you are going to judged by who you are, not what your competitors say about you. And, eventually, your dream clients are going to need to know the truth about what they need to change and how much it is going to cost.

You can’t control the tactics that other people or companies use to pursue and win new business. The only thing that you can control is who you are going to be. If you decide to be something different and higher, you will be known for being those things, even if it takes time for this to be known.

Character is the long game. Who you are going to be has nothing to do with the decisions that other people make about who they are going to be. Your character is your business.

Legacy is the longest of long games. The difference that you are going to make is solely up to you, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that other people aren’t considering their legacy. Your legacy is your business…

Building Internal Relationships…

You are more than comfortable selling to your prospective clients, or what I call dream clients. And when your prospective client wants something difficult to deliver, you are happy to sell your sales manager or leader on why you should do something different to win a complicated deal. But for too many in sales, you are completely oblivious when it comes to selling the team that delivers those results for your client. Let’s call that team “operations.”

I get it. You want what you want. You need your operation team’s help delivering for the client. This begins when you need information to put a solution together and continues on into delivery of of that solution. So you badger, bully, and press them for what you need. You go over them, under them, or around them, anything to ratchet up the pressure and force your operations people to do more, faster, and perfect. You argue your case to anyone who will listen.

But the one thing you don’t do is sell your operations team. And that is a fundamental mistake that only rookies make.

The selling we do inside our own organizations is every bit as important to producing results as the selling we do outside our organization. Here is where to start selling inside.

Lunch and learn: You would move Heaven and Earth for a lunch and learn with your dream client and their team. But you can produce an equally great effect by developing the relationships you need on your operations team. Take someone from operations (or a couple of someones) to lunch so that you can learn about their constraints. Go with the agenda of learning how you can help them with all of the things that make their job difficult, like unmanaged client expectations for example. Don’t ask for anything; just work on the relationship.

Engage them in the sales process early: If you want your operations team to own the account once you’ve won it, engage them in the process of selling that account as early as possible. When you’ve done your first discovery visit, share all of the details of that meeting with your team. As early as you can, get them in front our dream client so they can hear for themselves what “our” new prospective client is going to need. The sooner that prospect becomes “ours,” the more willingly your operations team will take responsibility and own the outcome. You’ll be surprised at all the things they can do to create value for your prospective client if they get to listen to them speak about what they want.

Be respectful of their role and their time. You sell. You don’t do operations. You can’t imagine their world unless you spend time learning what that world looks like. Your operations team is busy delivering for your company’s clients all day every day. They’re really busy, and they don’t have nearly as much freedom as you do in sales. That can make it difficult to give you what you need when you need it. You need to negotiate the commitments you need, being respectful of their role and their time.

Get them help when they need it. You’re the salesperson. So sell. If your operations team can’t deliver for you because they don’t have the time or resources, go and sell management on giving them what they need. You want to make friends for life? You want your operations team to move your requests to the front of the line? Then dig in and help them. Even if you can’t get your operations team what they want, when they discover that you are their advocate, watch how fast your relationship changes.

Show some appreciation. We started at lunch, and we’ll end there. Take some folks to lunch to say thank you for their support. Bring them breakfast. Send a personal thank you note. Send the director of operations of note to share with her the wonderful job her team did helping you win an account. Tell the stories of how valuable the team is to everyone who will listen and build them up. If you want to make serious deposits in the relationships you need to serve your clients, show appreciation.

All things being equal, relationships win. All things being unequal, relationships still win. You know it is your job to make all things unequal when it comes to selling your dream client on you and your company. Now apply that same idea to the team that delivers those results to your clients once you win their business…

When Calls Don’t Go Well…

That sales call didn’t go the way that you think it went. You felt challenged. You felt that you were being asked to defend your ideas. You felt that the difficulty of the questions and the intensity of the conversation indicated negativity about you and your solution. But you misinterpreted the interaction you just had with your dream client.

The challenging questions your dream client asked were not designed to make you defensive. They asked those questions so that you could help provide them with the rationale and the justification for making the changes that you are recommending. The people within their company, and even their superiors, are going to ask them why they are making the changes, why they are making them now, and why you are the one engaged in this process. This is especially true when what you’re recommending is a disruptive change, where it brings risk, and where it requires a greater investment.

You weren’t being asked to defend your ideas because your dream client believes they’re bad ideas. The reason they’re asking the questions is because they need the language and the logic to defend those ideas themselves. The reason you were sitting in front of them sharing your ideas and being asked these challenging questions is because your dream client really wants to buy the change that you are selling.

The intensity of the questions indicates the seriousness with which your dream client is taking their issue. The challenge for them is emotional. It’s stressful to deal with systemic challenges. Some of the intensity might be caused by the fact that your dream client has tried what some of your competitors have offered in the way of changes only to be disappointed. They’ve been told that they can have better, faster, and cheaper. That has never come true for them, so you cannot judge them for being skeptical. You would be skeptical if you were in their position.

After you sell long enough that you have had rich experiences with difficult and expensive change initiatives, you will know that the difficult, challenging, and intense questions are buying signals. They are not the signals of someone who is not interested in change. In fact the opposite is true; the people who are not interested in changing don’t say much at all.

That call went better than you think it did..

Nothing Changes

There are no changes in sales that happen so abruptly that you can predict that they will occur in any specific year. Nothing happens in a single year either.

The major trends in sales take years to develop, and it is easy to believe that the trend line allows you to predict the future easily. But forecasting future events isn’t so simple, and those trend lines can switch direction over time. No one beats the world champion until one day the underdog knocks him (or her) out.

  • Inside sales is going to replace outside sales, they say.
  • Social selling is going to replace the telephone and other traditional prospecting methods.

What’s more interesting than making guesses about the future is looking at what doesn’t change, what persists over time.

  • Trust: In human relationships, trust rules. This has been the case for tens of thousands of years, and it will persist deep into the future. Putting forth the effort to develop character and engender trust is as important now as ever. The value of human relationships based on trust endures.
  • Resourcefulness: As soon as we humans solve some problem or overcome some challenge, we discover that we have created another problem, usually one more challenging than the one we just solved. Fortunately, resourcefulness is limitless, and the need for people to solve problems isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
  • Fear: Fear has been around a lot longer than Homo sapiens. It lives deep inside of us, doing its very best to ensure our survival. People will always fear making mistakes and hurting themselves. Fear moves us away from pain, and it will still drive human behavior.
  • Leadership: Leaders take responsibility for moving groups of people towards a better future. The need for someone to step up and take accountability for delivering that future is unchanged. This is as true for families as it is for businesses and governments. The belief that things can and should be better persists.
  • Alchemy: The idea that lead can be turned into gold through some magical process has been with us since forever. It is still with us now. People have a strong desire to believe that they can have what they want without paying the price necessary to have it. Con artists, charlatans, and snake oil salesmen will always prey on people’s desire to believe in alchemy.

In the future, these things–and things like them–will persist, regardless of the trends.

There is no reason not to explore the trends. This year’s fashion might help you produce the results that you want. But the persistent truths persist for a reason. You are better to build your foundation on what has been true for millennia. Character and value beat the “new” new thing over time.

Worry about becoming the best version of yourself. Nothing else provides as sustainable competitive advantage or happiness.

The Digitalization of Sales

The sell sheet did nothing to improve the salespeople who used them when they called on their prospective clients. Like the catalogue, it may have improved sales, but it did nothing to make the salesperson more effective. It allowed for more orders.

The telephone, about which I am still romantic, didn’t do anything more to make salespeople better at their trade, their craft, or their art. It eliminated distance as an obstacle and it improved efficiency, reducing the time it took to reach their prospective clients.

The laptop and the PowerPoint deck didn’t improve any salesperson’s salesmanship, woman or man, and many would argue the effect has been detrimental on the whole (an idea with which I would vehemently disagree, as it is a useful tool in the right hands). Email doesn’t make a better salesperson, and automation is in some ways giving up on the hard work of making great salespeople.

If you believe this is true, as I do, then you recognize that communication mediumscan change without improving the mindset or skill sets of the salespeople—or any other group of individuals—who use them. As United States Airforce Colonel John Boyd, war fighter and strategist, said when he admonished the Pentagon and U.S. Congress, it’s “People, ideas, and technology. In that order.”

The transformation of sales is from transactional to super-consultative and super-relational, from self-oriented to other-oriented, from reactive to proactive, from selling product to generating strategic outcomes, from execution to accountability for those strategic outcomes, and from responding to opportunities to creating opportunities. To make this transformation, a salesperson needs business acumen and situational knowledge that would make them a 52% SME (or better). They need to know how to be super-consultative, which requires that they be able to offer the advice that their clients need to produce better results.

If the digital tools were capable of producing these outcomes, it would truly be the miracle that many believe it to be. But, alas, the tool kit, no matter the size, no matter the reach, and no matter the efficiency, doesn’t improve the effectiveness of the salesperson one iota.

The transformation is occurring, but it’s far more disruptive than digital.

The Limited Value of Loyalty

The Somewhat Limited Value of Client Lists

In the business-to-consumer world, a client list is made up of the people that business serves. It’s a list of actual people who have made a decision to buy from a business.

The business-to-business world is different. Our client lists are mostly made up of the names of companies we serve. We are proud of the company names on our list, so much so that we create PowerPoint slides and web pages to display their logos for all the world to see.

But the truth of the matter is, we don’t serve these companies. We serve a subset of the people who work for them. A client list of company names is the byproduct of the work we do with the people within that company.

The limited value of client lists is that it identifies an entity that is mostly made up of people who don’t know us, don’t care about us, and have no reason to be loyal to us.

If you want loyalty, you need a different list.

Where Loyalty Is Found

Loyalty is found where it is earned.

Loyalty is found in the list of individuals you serve within your client accounts. When you no longer have the loyalty of the individuals within a company, you no longer have the client—or that client is seriously at risk.

To earn that loyalty, you have to execute for your clients. You have to deliver the outcomes that you sold them when you acquired their business. If you don’t execute, the dissatisfaction that precedes churn sets in and weakens your loyalty.

Loyalty requires that you proactively take care of the individuals you do business with, as well as their teams. You have to bring them new ideas, new initiatives, and new value.

These are the things that prove your loyalty to the people you do business with within the list of client names you refer to as “our clients.” Those people are your real clients, and the list of their names is a better and more useful list than the big company names where they happen to work.

Your loyalty to the people you do business with is what earns you their loyalty.

Your Value Proposition

You want your value proposition to compel your dream client to take action? Here are seven questions you need to ask and answer to test the potency and effectiveness of your value proposition.

(1) Is it different? If you want your value proposition to do its job for you, you need it to speak to your differentiation strategy. You need it do drive a wedge between your dream client and your competitors. Can anybody do what you do the way you do it?

(2) Is it compelling? If your value proposition doesn’t speak to your dream client’s business drivers and their strategic goals, then it isn’t compelling. If it isn’t compelling, then it isn’t an effective value proposition. How does it speak to the need for change?

(3) Is it tailored? You start with a very general value proposition as to how your company creates value. But as you engage with the stakeholders within your dream client company, you create a more specific value proposition tailored to their needs. If it isn’t tailored to their individual needs, it isn’t compelling.

(4) Is it measurable? Your value proposition must be measurable. You may not need to get to a complex or complicated return on investment analysis, but you do need to describe how you will measure the new results you help your dream clients produce.

(5) Is it time-bound? Part of what makes a value proposition compelling is that it describes a benefit against time. Without making your value proposition time-bound your dream client doesn’t have to act with any urgency. By tying it to some measure of time you can better describe the cost of inaction.

(6) Is it easy to remember? Your value proposition can’t be so complex and complicated that your contacts can’t remember it. it It needs to be a simple summary of the value you create. Remember, you can support it with as much documentation and as much proof as necessary. The value prop is a summary statement.

(7) Is it defendable? The contacts within your dream client company are going to have to defend the value you create within their company. The more clearly and concisely you can define that value, and the more clearly it is tied to their strategic initiatives and outcomes, the easier it is to defend. Remember, you won’t be there when these conversations take place.

Did your value proposition pass these tests?