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3 Sales Management Lessons From
The Power of Practice
We all think we are sooooo great! Just wind us up, do a little preparation and let’s go talk to customers. Well the scary characters in Monsters, Inc. would tell you different. Scaring is critically important in their world because the “screams” that come from the children they scare power their city, lights, heat, cars you name it.
The first scene in the movie shows their training area where they practice “scaring.” They have a replica child’s room complete with a “little boy” robot. One of the “professional scarers” comes out of the closet to scare the little boy and he makes some serious mistakes. It is prime learning time for the all monsters on the team because they video tape the simulations. Now they can go back and coach/correct all the mistakes. It helps the individual monster making the mistakes and all the other monsters on the team.
Sound familiar? Folks you are making a gravely serious mistake if you do not conduct simulations with your team. Make them as real to life as you possibly can. Video tape them so you can document progress or regression. Make the simulations part of your weekly/monthly/quarterly sales meetings. Make them fun, have contests around them. But most of all DO THEM!
You should also practice presentations with every rep individually. Don’t leave anything to chance. Give your rep the best shot possible by running through the discovery/presentation/negotiation with them BEFORE they go to it. George Patton, one of our greatest generals of all time, said “Sure I am tough on them during training! I much rather they sweat with me than bleed on the battle field.” Well, I rather my sales people learn in an office from me so they are prepared to get the sale, than by learning a lesson with a client and losing the sale.
The Power of Naming
About half-way through the movie there is a scene where the two main characters, Sully and Mike, are trying to send home the little girl who snuck into the Monster’s world. They are arguing about how to do it when Sully says that he has named her “Boo.” Well Mike is just livid at this development and he says, in a very angry voice, “You named it? You can’t name it; once you name it you get attached to it.” Exactly, once we take the time and effort to name something we begin to place value on that something. It is the reason why I tell all my clients that they should name their proposals.
What is special about an ‘Investment Analysis for ABC Company’ or what about ‘A Proposal for Electronic Payment Services Prepared by Joe Smith Company’? Answer: NOTHING. Both sound as generic as the proposal inside, I would wager. That is why I am amazed when sales management does not make formally naming proposals an air tight rule for every proposal that goes out the door.
The proposal is supposed to be a professional selling document not a glorified descriptive invoice. NAME YOUR PROPOSAL based on what the prospect wants as a RESULT of buying your products and services. A couple of examples I have used:
Each one of the above Proposal Names tell the prospect EXACTLY what to expect from reading the proposal but more importantly each name tells THE VALUE that comes from implementing what is inside the proposal.
The Power of Laughter
Remember when I told you that a child’s scream was the source for power in Monster City? Well by the end of the movie Sully and Mike learn that laughter is 10 times more powerful than a scream so they completely re-engineer Monsters, Inc. Now each monster who visits a child’s room has to make the children laugh instead of scream and the result is a record breaking year for energy production.
Managers, find a way to make sales fun for your team. Have contests, pit individuals against each other, get your team to volunteer for community events or hold them yourself and ALWAYS celebrate victories with your team. Take them out for cocktails or dinner or both, take them bowling, take them to an amusement park, it doesn’t matter what you do, the effort here COUNTS, but try to have fun with your team.
I know you need to maintain a certain professional distance from the team. If you get too close it can cloud your judgment or worse cost you a great sales person or a big sale. I am also aware there is always going to be the need to be tough with your team. There will also always be the need to place corrective actions on 1 or more members of your team. That’s fine just don’t let your managerial brio get in the way of having your team enjoy themselves.
Remember laughter is 10 times more powerful than screams keep that ratio in mind and you will be amazed at the results.
I was at a customer’s last week starting to dig into the Strategy Module for a S.I.T. Blitz we will be conducting the 2nd week in September. Working with the salespeople, we always go through a series of questions to understand their perception of the suspect/prospect/customer (SPC) dynamic which is so crucial when planning for a successful S.I.T. Blitz.
One of the key factors is knowing their standard for SPC communication in terms of frequency. During the course of questions one salesperson chimed in and said “I keep in touch with my suspects and prospects 2x a year, any more than that and I think it would appear pushy.”
Well after the black cloud and threat of lighting inside the building passed I asked him how often does he talk to his best friend? He said probably 2 times a week. Then I asked how often did he call his wife when they were dating? He said minimum 4 times a week. Then I asked him if he considered his relationships with his contacts as solid and he said yes, emphatically, I might add.
So I think you know where I was going with this line of questioning. My final question to him was how many times has he called one of his contacts only to find out that his contact person wasn’t there or there had been a drastic change in the company. His answer “John, more times than I can count,” and therein lies the ‘problemo’ my sales friend.
Believe it or not this happens to me about once a month; a salesperson who understands staying in touch with friends or girlfriends, but doesn’t have a clue what it takes to maintain a successful business relationship. Strangely enough, these same sales people will argue, ‘till blue in the face, they have a good feel for their customers.
I call the first level of this problem Relation-Slip behavior. The sales person “thinks” they know how to stay in touch with a contact. The problem is what they “thinks” has nothing to do with the facts, needs and wants of the suspect/prospect/customer so what winds up happening is a deepening chasm develops between sales and contact with sales being quite oblivious to it. There is a ALWAYS correlation with a drop in sales but the sales person is stuck scratching their head and wondering why this is happening to him.
The next level DOWN is Relation-Dip behavior. The sales person here doesn’t have a clue how to stay in touch with their contacts. They will never admit they have a problem, so they go the other direction and MINIMIZE contact to the point of neglect. You see, in their mind, by not “bugging them” they are maintaining a good relationship. These sales people are so afraid of experiencing the UGH Factor that they will stay away from the suspect/prospect/customer. My question is “If you stay away for long periods of time how will you know when they have become a ripe prospect?” Insert collective silence or righteous indignation ‘here. Then you add the precipitous drop in sales and you have yourself a major issue.
Like any problem in sales early recognition is key. If you are a sales manager WAKEUP! You should be tracking not just their sales production but their lead generation activities. Either one should give you enough of an alert to intervene before the behavior jeopardizes their career and your quota attainment.
If you are a sales person WAKEUP! Your sales are down! Either you don’t spend enough time staying in touch with your customers or you are doing the absolute WRONG things. You have to be self aware enough to say “I have to change what I am doing or this sucker is going down!”
All righty then…. that’s it for today! Next post I will be talking about the solution to Relation-Slips and Dips and the changing nature of the sales contact process.
Until then remember “You can either make sales or you can make excuses but you can’t do both…” I’m outta here!
If you want more information about the S.I.T. Blitz and how you can have a “revenue raining, climate change” experience at your please call Matrix at 216 347 6729 or go to buildyoursalesmachine.com for more details!
Why do even the most advanced athletes practice the basics over and over?
Why do they review game flims/videos before, during and after an athletic contest?
The answer to the above questions is simple. They do so because they want responses to situations to be essentially automatic. If you can remove the ‘what should I do?’ thought and instead allow the best and brightest to simply react using their God given abilities you have the chance to see real success in athletics. It’s not complicated, you don’t practice and the probability you will ‘choke’ in an unfamiliar situation is VERY HIGH.
It is the same in sales. You have to practice your craft to become the best and also so you can recognize situations and know immediately what the solution to them is. If you can eliminate the ‘I wasn’t expecting that’ commentary, which is another way of saying ‘I choked,’ I promise you will see sales increase.
Now I know some sales people will say ‘I get enough practice in front of my customers’. But think about it for a moment, is that where you really want to practice? What happens if what you try doesn’t work? Whoops, you just lost the sale; and that is the minimum that could go wrong.
The repetition of successful performance results in the “Video Game Effect.” We all know the basic concept of video games. Each level of the game has a ‘boss’ you have to defeat. After learning the needed skills and defeating him you move on to the next level, and so on and so on. Through practice and repetition you improve and have more success in the game. The better you get the more you enjoy the game. The world of sales is no different except that the better we get not only do we enjoy our work more but we make MORE MONEY!
There is science to this as well. When confronted with a scenario you have prepared for, the body will produce a neuro-transmitter called Serotonin. Its main job is to induce a calming effect allowing higher level critical thinking to happen at a much quicker pace. The result is better decisions and actions that dictate performance. Once you start to succeed at the task, the body produces Endorphins which creates the euphoric feeling coming after you have performed at a high level or won a contest. Thus, you become conditioned to want the same feeling over and over which propagates continued performance improvement. You might call it “Addiction to Success.”
Sales managers I strongly urge you to start a regimen of sales simulations with your team. You should have each member of the team submit a situation where they either lost the sale or didn’t move the process forward on a monthly basis. Also, build up your “Catalog” through your experience in the field riding with your team. Turn those actual events into simulations and before you know you will have a docket of potential selling scenarios that you can use to help develop your team and reduce the “Choking Happens Syndrome.”
Last thing; always do a post mortem, an evaluation on both live events and the simulations. Make sure your team knows what they did right, what they could do better and what they better not do EVER again. Eliminate the ‘what if’ from you and your team’s vocabulary and watch the sales numbers soar.
Okay, you conduct the simulation, video tape it and have your results all laid out. Now, you have to relay the results to the candidate. You may think you have learned everything there is to know because of the thoroughness of the simulation but you haven’t.
Our friend “Gauge” tells us how the candidate accepts your critique should be a crucial factor in your overall decision.
Now a short course on how to relay critique. The better the simulation the harsher the critique, the worse the simulation the more gentle. In both cases you MUST relay the facts it is just the manner that will change.
If they did a great job but are thin skinned during the critique that should tell you that they may not take criticism well much less be able to handle adversity. Or as Alec Baldwin said in Glen Garry Glenn Ross “if you can’t take what I am saying to you how are you going to take the abuse you get on a sit?” People who perform well need a more tougher approach because you don’t want some talented prima donna who can’t take coaching. They tend to be complainers and could undermine authority and teamwork.
If they did a poor job but take the criticism well or ask for a second chance to fix their mistakes and put your suggestions in action that should tell you about their resilience. I want somebody with the attitude to try until they get it right. You may be softer in your approach but nobody likes a bad review. If they crumble well… If they are made of sterner stuff they you’ll know by their response.
These examples are the extremes. Your critiques will vary of course as will how you handle them, always based on the individual. What is important is learning more about the candidate and their viability for your position while determining the direction of the interview process.
Check back for my for my next post on Hiring a Sales Superstar!
And remember “You can either make sales or make excuses but you can’t do both!”
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Sales simulations are a KEY tool in discovering the actual skill level of any potential sales hires. Think about it, what tells you more about a person besides how they actually react in a particular situation? And the beauty of the sales simulation is that you can construct it EXACTLY to the experiences you have everyday.
There are a 1o steps that must be adhered to so the simulation will yield the results and information you need to help in your hiring selection. I will detail 9 of them today and the 10th will be in my next post.
That’s it for today. If you have any questions or need any help constructing/conducting a Sales Simulation give me a call at 216-347-6729. Make sure to check back for my next post where I detail out Number 11; How to conduct an effective Critique Session. And believe you me if you thought the Simulation was an eye-opener just wait to see what you will learn by critiquing your candidate’s performance.