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The Dysfunctional Relationship Between Owners and Salespeople, and How it Will Cost You a Fortune

August 7th, 2019

All business owners want their salespeople to perform consistently.   Unfortunately, the vast majority of salespeople don’t even come close.

 

While mediocre sales performance often results from multiple components, one problem is nearly universal.   This pervasive success-killer exists in almost every private business, as well as in most large public companies.   Fortunately, the problem can be reduced or completely eliminated fairly easily, leading to significant improvements in your overall sales growth and profit picture. 

 

If you are like most private company owners, you have a highly dysfunctional, relationship with your salespeople.   This co-dependent dysfunction is mostly hidden from view, so it typically goes unnoticed until it is too late. Let’s call it the I-Can-Do-It Syndrome (ICDI).

 

Like most co-dependent dysfunctions, ICDI creates a feeling of near-term gratification for those involved.  Owners and salespeople may even feel like they are doing the “right thing”.   Unfortunately, the syndrome quickly creates habits that are highly destructive, ultimately preventing everyone from achieving what they really want, to exceed their sales goals and make more money.

 

ICDI Syndrome creeps in like a virus, then quickly becomes a transparent part of your system, allowing it to destroy from within.  Here’s how it happens:

 

You want to grow your sales, so you decide to hire someone to sell.    You recruit and hire a candidate you believe to be the best salesperson.    Following what I hope is a great training and on-boarding program, your new salesperson is ready to hit the ground running and set new sales records for you.  Then reality sets in.

 

YOUR REALITY:

 

As an SMB owner, it is highly likely that:

 

1.          Your company has more things to do than hours each week to get them done.  (Unplanned stuff happens all the time…)

2.          Most (or all) employees in your company wear more than one hat.

3.          Some issues and urgencies pop up that reside outside of any particular employee’s job description.  No one “owns” these issues, but you have good, loyal employees that are willing to chip in to try to resolve them.

4.          You may not have a competent, full-time sales manager (in fact, many private companies do not have anyone that ever consistently manages sales to keep salespeople focused and productive).

5.          If you want your salespeople to achieve their sales goals, you should clear the deck to make sure they spend all of their time selling.

 

YOUR SALESPERSON’S REALITY:

 

1.          In sales, Time = Money.   If a salesperson does not invest the time necessary to sell, they will fall short of their goals.   If they don’t sell, they won’t sell.

2.          Believe it or not, most “salespeople” in the market today entered sales by default.   Consequently, most really do not like to sell.

3.          Of the ones that do like to sell, the majority don’t really know how to sell effectively.

4.          All salespeople (and managers and owners) behave as they do, because that is how they choose to behave.

5.          Given the choice, most salespeople will choose to stay inside their Comfort Zone by doing the easiest (and least effective) parts of “selling”.   Some easy sales activities include:

 

·                 Sending emails

·                 Preparing proposals

·                 Entertaining (golf, lunches, etc.)

·                 Calling hot, pre-qualified leads

·                 Giving presentations

·                 Demos

 

6.          Conversely, most salespeople also choose to avoid doing the more challenging (but most effective) parts of selling, the ones required to perform consistently.  Some examples are:

  

·                 Consistent prospecting

·                 Asking “tough”, assertive questions

·                 Gaining Commitments from buyers.

·                 Executing their critical daily sales activities with discipline

·                 Calling decision makers, key targets and influencers, including cold or warm leads

·                 Active, empathetic listening

·                 Maintaining an Unconditional Commitment to Continuous Improvement

·                 Uncovering true buying motives and budgets

·                 Proactively seeking accountability

·                 Leaving one’s Comfort Zone

 

7.          Given the choice between executing the effective sales activities which require leaving one’s Comfort Zone, or doing just about anything else, many salespeople would be happy to simply be a good team player and:

  

·                 Handle customer service issues

·                 Fix a broken pipe

·                 Put out a fire

·                 Take unqualified incoming calls (including social ones)

·                 Do some internet research (or other related surfing activities)

·                 Pick up lunch, deliver a package, run errands, etc.

 

Here’s the bottom line.   Just about every activity your sales team performs in sections #5 and #7 above carry a huge opportunity cost, because they are done in place of the critical activities outlined in section #6 that are required to grow sales.

 

In order to generate sales on a consistent basis, your salesperson must start by SELLING on a consistent basis.    It’s simple math.  Even if a salesperson is weak, they will still sell more if they spend more time selling.

 

So, if you are a business owner or leader truly committed to growing your sales, I would urge you look closely at how much time your salespeople actually spend selling, and to evaluate if ICDI Syndrome may have crept into your company with some or all of your salespeople.  Then take action.

 

Remember, if they don’t sell, they won’t sell.

 

The choice is now yours.  The transformation of any sales organization begins by changing the beliefs, choices, declarations and behaviors of the owner.

 

It is for you to decide, and clearly articulate, how your salespeople are expected to invest their time and to decide what steps you will take today in order to clear the decks to ensure they will invest it properly.

 

Best wishes for your continued success…

 

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2019.   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Words that Differentiate Great Sales Organizations from Mediocre Ones

July 9th, 2019

Over the last two decades, Z3 Performance Development has helped many hundreds of business owners and CEOs build world-class sales organizations.  During this time, I’ve also personally observed several thousand companies struggle mightily to achieve better sales results (most of them never break out).

 

From my vantage point (and tons of additional research), the difference between those companies that create consistent, predictive, profitable, scalable, effective sales teams and those that continuously wallow in mediocrity has become abundantly clear. The difference can be summarized in just two words.

 

I’d love to tell you that the difference between superior and inferior sales teams lies in some unique recipe, magical formula, newly discovered revelation, or space-aged technology; in some type of quick fix. But that simply is not true. Before I share the two words that make the difference, let me start by sharing some popular misconceptions–tactics that many CEOs think may be the difference, but are not.

 

The difference between a great and a mediocre sales team never lies in…:

 

1. A sophisticated reporting system.

 

2. A phenomenal sales compensation or incentive plan.

 

3. A complex CRM or sales automation system.

 

4. Paying big bucks to sales recruiters.

 

5. Sales Manager ride-alongs

 

6. Motivational speakers  

 

7. Group Sales Meetings

 

8. The latest and greatest new sales webinar, LMS, training program, or YouTube video.

 

Although some of the above strategies, and several other sales improvement tactics or philosophies, may add some incremental improvement to some sales organizations under certain conditions, none of these items (or even the combination of all of them) will create a superior, consistent sales organization.  The difference is much more fundamental.

 

Predictable, visible, profitable growth is simply borne out of PROCESS and DISCIPLINE.

 

Process & Discipline. So, if you are struggling, these two words are the difference between where you are today, and a reliable, effective, world-class sales organization.

 

Here’s just a few reasons why a solution based upon Process & Discipline (P&D) is such great news:

 

·         The P&D Solution is time-tested and battle-tested, removing all mystery. P&D doesn’t operate on a “let’s try this to see what happens…”. You need not worry if it is “going to work”. It does.

 

·         P&D works EVERY time, for every type of sales organization, market, product, or service.

 

·         P&D works for sales teams of all sizes.  It doesn’t matter if you have 1 or 1,000 salespeople.

 

·         P&D becomes a behavioral rhythm in your organization, creating a world-class sales culture.

 

·         P&D is the least expensive potential solution. It is a highly profitable approach. Once you’ve implemented effective sales, sales management, sales recruiting, sales assessment, and on-boarding processes, you have NO additional incremental costs. You and your team simply need to maintain the discipline (habits) to execute your processes (in the same way your payroll department pays employees with discipline).

 

·         P&D is highly visible. This approach produces all sorts of leading indicators that will provide objective insight into your true sales pipeline, future business, trends, and accurate forecasting.

 

·         P&D is incredibly time effective. Your salespeople and manager(s) will be spending their precious time generating new, profitable sales growth instead of wasting it on distractions, CYA, and other useless activities that cut deeply into missed opportunities and margins. 

 

Whether you’re just beginning to develop a new sales team, or whether you’ve been seeking ways to improve an existing one, I strongly encourage you to seriously evaluate where your sales organization resides with regard to Process and Discipline. If there are deficits in either, I can promise you that these deficits are costing you dearly.

 

If you need more information or have any questions, please let me know.

 

If not, please share your success stories that result from implementing a P&D solution.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2019.   All Rights Reserved.

Five Popular Ways People Set Themselves up to Fail

June 18th, 2019

Have you ever considered the real COST to falling short of your goals?

 

The many studies that have been conducted on goal setting have varied considerably in scope, timeframes, data, and conclusions.  However, independent of whether the studied goals were small, big, short-term, long-term or BHAGs, all of the studies agree that only a very small percentage of those who set goals actually achieve them.

 

All the studies also agree that people who set goals achieve far greater levels of success than those that don’t.   Despite this finding, a recent study by Statistic Brain revealed that 17% of Americans infrequently set goals and 38% never do.    Hard to believe…

 

To top things off, even when including those people that set goals frequently, only 8% of the combined group follows through to achieve them.   In other words, 92% of people who set goals fail short, with most simply bailing out and abandoning the pursuit.

 

So what can be the cause of all of this failure?

Interestingly, the majority of people lose the game before it starts.  Most people that fail to achieve their goals do so before they even leave the gate.   They actually set themselves up for failure.

 

Here’s how they do it….: 

 

1.  They set ambiguous goals:  You’ve probably heard about SMART goals.  Although different people assign different meanings to the letters S, M, A, R, and T, the main point in the goal setting process is to be crystal clear about what you intend to achieve.   This means taking all of the subjectivity out of your goal by making it quantifiable within a specific timeframe.   Nothing should be left to interpretation.   If “Success” cannot be objectively defined and measured, it is time to re-do your goal.   Include key benchmarks so you can effectively assess progress and make appropriate adjustments.

 

2.  They set too many goals:  The more goals you set, the less likely you are to achieve the ones that are most important.  This is simple math.  You only have 24 hours in a day, so in order to do something, you likely need to stop doing something else.   If you are the kind of person that sets too many goals, list them all and prioritize, then consider removing the least impactful half of them (or at least the lower third).  And if you have a chronic problem of setting too many goals, find someone that can help.  After all, the alternative is to continue to spin your wheels and miss out on achieving the goals that are most important to you.

 

3.  They make conditional commitments (or don’t commit at all):  If a goal is important to you, you must go ALL-IN.    If you will not, don’t even bother.   “I’m going to try” is simply a way to avoid responsibility, and anything less than a total commitment will almost guarantee failure.   How often have you heard “I’m going to try to cut down on drinking..” or I’m gonna try to exercise more…”.   How does that typically work?   There are two types of people — those that try, and those that commit and succeed.   If you really want something, go for it.  If not, stop BS-ing yourself.

 

4.   They attempt to go it alone:  All great performers have an accountability partner.   A trained coach can be of great service here, but if you don’t have or want a trained, skilled coach, simply find a friend or colleague that will agree to check in with you on a consistent basis.   A check-in is NOT a long meeting.  Your partner’s main job here is to help keep your focus where it belongs - on the rails and away from distractions and chasing shiny objects.  Focused energy is one of the powerful forces in the world, so you want to make sure to focus your limited time, energy and actions toward achieving the vital goals that YOU have defined.  There is no magic here.  The more frequent you check-in, the better.  Daily is great, weekly is fine.

 

5.   They keep their goals and commitments private:  If you really want to achieve a goal you’ve set, tell everyone you know about your intentions.   A trusted peer group is spectacular here, because you certainly wouldn’t want to make commitments to valued associates that you will break.   And because they trust and care about you, they can provide you with the support, encouragement, insight, tough love, and perhaps some additional resources and short-cuts to help you exceed your goals.

But don’t stop there.  Tell everyone.   The more, the better.   Make your goals public!  After all, you’ve invested time and energy to determine the goals that are most important to you.   So it makes sense to do everything possible to ensure you achieve them.   Announce your new goals on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.   Social Contracts are a HUGE motivator.   Doing so will help you focus, which will dramatically increase your chance of success.   Use your peers to your advantage, and encourage them to use you as well.

 

 

By taking these simple steps, you will increase your chances of success by orders of magnitude.   By avoiding these five pervasive mistakes, you will remove more than 95% of the issues that contribute to missing a goal.   If you’ve been missing your goals by making any of these popular mistakes, I hope you will now enjoy setting yourself up for big wins and hope you will share your success stories.

 

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2019.   All Rights Reserved.

What Millennials Really Want

February 18th, 2019

Over 55% of Millennials in the workforce are not engaged at work, and more than half of them say they are currently looking for a job.

 

This information probably won’t surprise the many business leaders who have experienced the challenges in motivating employees from different generations.   This same group of leaders have probably also noticed that foosball tables and espresso machines have very little impact after the novelty wears off.

 

Gallup recently published a very comprehensive report on this group of 73 million individuals born in the U.S. from 1980-1996.  The report includes new information, many dramatic statistics, and some extremely valuable insights on how Millennials really want to work and live.

 

If you own a business and have employees born after 1980, it is probably no secret to you that the leadership style and strategies you’ve adopted to motivate, engage, retain, and maximize productivity from your more seasoned employees is far less effective when it comes to inspiring your under-40s.   

 

The reason for this dilemma is that Millennials are different—profoundly different.   Although these differences may present a leadership challenge, they present an even larger leadership opportunity.   While extensive research shows that the MOTIVATORS of Millennials differ greatly from the generations that preceded them, it also shows that their POTENTIAL to produce results is greater.

 

This fact should lead every business owner to the question:  “How can we motivate and engage this group of high-potential employees?”

 

The primary answer lies in changing your company culture, which obviously starts at the top.   If we are going to implement a change in culture and leadership, we must begin by understanding what motivates Millennials at work.    Gallup has identified many differences, but they refer to these as the Big Six:

 

1.     Millennials don’t just want a paycheck.   They want a purpose.

 

2.     Millennials are not seeking job satisfaction.   They are seeking development.

 

3.     Millennials do not want bosses.  They want coaches.

 

4.     Millennials aren’t interested in annual reviews.   They want ongoing conversations.

 

5.     Millennials don’t want to fix weaknesses.  They’d prefer to develop strengths.

 

6.     “It’s not just my job, it’s my life”

So if you’ve been frustrated because of your inability to effectively manage your young workforce, or if you have simply resisted a culture change in lieu of bantering “what is wrong with them, they just don’t get it!”, I would suggest you may be overdue for a major paradigm shift.   After all, if Millennials don’t currently comprise the majority of your workforce, they will very soon.    

 

While there are a variety of strategic and tactical approaches you can take to begin to transform and improve the productivity of your millennial-rich company, the simplest and most effective place to begin is by transforming your existing culture into a Coaching Culture.  This type of culture effectively addresses all six of the Motivators revealed in the Gallup study.

 

Like most super-high impact initiatives, transitioning to Coaching Culture is simple, but not easy.   It does not happen overnight, but can be initiated with a simple declaration, and implemented by adopting a proven set of leadership practices and habits, a basic coaching protocol, and some millennial-centric tracking and feedback systems.   These may all be considerably different from your current practices, but if you lead by example, you’ll be astonished how openly your youthful workforce will accept and adopt them.   And a happy, motivated workforce equals greater productivity and results.

 

Since statistics show that more than half of your millennial workforce is likely dis-engaged and seeking new job opportunities today, and since this workforce is going to be around for at least three more decades, this is probably not a good time to take a wait-and-see attitude toward adopting a Coaching Culture.  So I hope you’ll consider doing so and wish you all the best.

 

If you have other suggestions or any questions at all, I’d love to hear from you.

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2019.   All Rights Reserved.

Studies Predict You’ll Fail This Year

January 14th, 2019

In late 2018, Salesforce.com published its third annual State of Sales report.   Among other interesting facts, the research report concluded that 57% of salespeople expected to miss their annual quota.   Various other studies have reported success rates even worse.  In the past, Salesforce has reported that 77% expect to miss their goal.  Think about that—3 of every 4 reps will fail.   Independent of the data you choose to believe, the odds say that you are likely to fail as well.

 

With all of the books, articles, podcasts, videos, and training programs available to salespeople today, how can the success rates be so pathetic?  Can you think of any other profession (or other departments in your company) where performance is so weak?

 

Having run a Sales Development company for over two decades, these results do not surprise me.  What does continue to surprise me is the willingness among some salespeople (and business owners) to continue to tolerate this pathetic level of performance.  Most continue to try the same approach and expect a different result.   Good luck to that.

 

If you have already cracked the code to consistent selling effectiveness, congratulations!   If not, please understand that sales success is not complicated.   It is extremely formulaic and relatively simple, but it isn’t easy.   However, for many people (aka:  the two thirds that are consistently failing) it does require a commitment to change.

 

Change takes courage.   If you have the courage to commit to changing, here are just a few things to consider to tip the odds of sales success in your favor and begin your transformation.  There is nothing magic here and I’ve written about this before.   You may have heard similar recommendations for improving sales effectiveness elsewhere, but knowing and not doing is not really knowing, right?

 

1.   If you don’t have a Sales Process, adopt an effective one:  A process is not a strategy, a model, an approach, or a philosophy.  It is a specific series of steps that leads to a result. 

 

a.     Hint #1:  less than 5% of private companies have any sales process.

 

b.     Hint #2:  If you can’t describe your sales process in detail, and if all of your salespeople wouldn’t describe it exactly like you do, you don’t have one.

 

2.   Adopt an effective Sales Management Process:   If you are serious about maximizing sales success and ROI, effective management is vital.   Selling is a performance/production activity, and all effective result-producers need a coach.   Even if you have only one salesperson in your company, effective sales management will pay huge dividends.   This doesn’t mean that you need to hire a full-time sales manager, but it does mean that a portion of someone’s time must be dedicated to helping your salesperson/salespeople optimize.   Sales management is NOT about rescuing, closing the big-deals, or doing ride-alongs.   It is about coaching, motivating, developing, keeping salespeople on task, and holding them accountable to their weekly activity and pipeline commitments.   The lack of effective sales management in private companies is staggering.   In fact, many private companies don’t even attempt to manage their salespeople.  They just equip their sales reps with some product training, then send them out to sink or swim.  Again, good luck to that.   Talk about a strategy of hope…   

 

3.   Adopt an effective Locate, Land, and Launch™ Process:  Effective salespeople are scarce, and the cost of hiring weak salespeople is outrageous.   Despite this fact, many business owners, unfortunately, would rather pay taxes or get their teeth pulled than go through the “painful” process of hiring, on-boarding, and developing effective salespeople.   Consequently, most owners don’t do it well.  Most simply don’t know how to do recruit, hire, and launch salespeople, others don’t devote sufficient resources to making it happen because of “other really important projects”.    If you are an owner that has more important projects to focus upon than those that will grow your revenues, market share, profitability, and enterprise value, feel free to join this group of non-performing sales organizations.

 

4.    It OK to say “I don’t know how…”:   If you are like many business owners, you may feel that selling directly, or building a consistent, predictable, scalable sales organization simply isn’t your strongest suit.   You are in business today because you do some things well, but none of us does everything well.   So if selling effectively, or hiring, on-boarding, developing, and growing a great sales team is not your best talent, there is a ton of help out there, ranging from training and coaching to interim sales management & leadership.

 

5.   The choice is yours:   Again, there is no magic here and the odds say you’ll fail if you behave like the majority.  Any business owner (whether they are proficient in building sales teams or not) can dramatically upgrade their sales organizations by virtue of single decision to commit and change.

 

So the “secret” of successful sales organizations is really not a secret.   Sales success may be determined solely by virtue of a choice.   You can do anything, but you can’t do everything, so I hope you’ll choose wisely.

 

Best wishes for the most successful 2019!

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2019.   All Rights Reserved.

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