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Ask a Better Question

November 17th, 2017

 

 

All business owners would like their salespeople to close more sales, consistently blow away quota, and create more predictable, profitable growth.  Most would also like to interject scale into their business.

 

Every week business owners and sales leaders ask me questions like “can you train our salespeople to sell more?” and “how can we find sales candidates that can actually sell?”

 

While we are always more than happy to provide the training and coaching required to address these questions in order to improve selling and sales recruiting effectiveness, there are at least 2 questions that could likely unleash an even better return and value.

 

Before I share these golden questions, let me share some facts…

 

1.     Sales training IS important and you certainly cannot win a race with a team slow horses, so choose wisely.  

 

2.     Study after study reveals that approximately 75% of all salespeople fail consistently.  I’ve written extensively on the reasons and solutions to these problems, so won’t go into them here.

 

3.     The vast majority of salespeople have never had an ounce of effective, formal sales training.   Pilots, accountants, engineers, cops, and fireman all train.  Most salespeople just wing it… 

 

4.      Most sales managers are former salespeople.

 

5.     Most sales managers don’t have a clue about what effective sales management entails.

 

6.     Effective sales management and leadership is a major force multiplier.

 

7.     Although most organizations invest little in sales training, sales management training is the area that is addressed with the least frequency. 

 

 

In light of these facts, you may have already concluded that Sales Management and Leadership lie at the core of building a consistent, predictable, scalable sales effort.

In the absence of competent sales management, your strategy is simply one of hope.

 

Your best salespeople require effective management and coaching in order to optimize results and ensure growth.   Weaker salespeople are guaranteed to fail without it.

 

A proficient sales manager will coach, hold salespeople accountable, reinforce training, and improve the results of all your salespeople.  They will swiftly release non-performers and will motivate and develop your A-players, creating a dramatic improvement in your company’s revenue, profit performance, and scalability, leading to a much stronger company.

 

An effective sales manager will also direct a productive sales-recruiting process and continuous improvement of the team.

 

Effective sales management changes everything.

 

Sales training is an essential part of any sales improvement initiative, but you will likely find the investment in developing sales managers to carry a much greater ROI.

 

So the next time you look to upgrade your sales organization, you might start by asking…:

 

“How can we develop our sales management and leadership?”

 

or

 

“What steps can we take to build a world-class sales organization?”

 

 

 

Continued Success!!!

Joe

 

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

Are You Stifling Innovation?

July 21st, 2017

If you own or direct a small or medium sized business, you likely know that one of your greatest assets is your ability to act and react much quicker than your larger, bureaucratic competitors.    You drive a speedboat, while they attempt to navigate ocean liners.   You can turn on a dime, they have significant embedded inertia that prevents any type of rapid change.

 

As a consequence, your potential to innovate can be a tremendous advantage.   In fact, innovation may actually be the most powerful weapon in your entire arsenal.  Whether you choose to access this potential or not is entirely up to you - a very simple decision.   Unfortunately, a majority of private business owners do not inspire, but actively stifle innovation, squelching huge opportunity and prosperity in the process.   Some simply don’t understand the unbridled power their companies possess, others are limited by their egos.

 

I’ve constructed a list of some of the most popular innovation-stiflers.   These stiflers are described in the first person in an effort to make it easier for those who would like to honestly assess themselves to determine if they inspire or stifle…:

 

1.      I demand trust from others before I trust them FIRST.  If you do this, you are guaranteed to create a culture of Blame, Silos, and We versus They.

2.      I Champion the Status Quo.   I surround myself with a group of “yes-men” and “yes-women” to make myself feel better and validated.  I emphasize continuous compliance in lieu of diverse views.  People who challenge my views don’t last long around here.  I don’t like when people disagree with me.  They frustrate me.

3.      I blame problems, especially chronic problems, on my staff and stakeholders.  If things aren’t working swimmingly, it must be due to their incompetence, their poor work ethic, their weak skills, and their lack of accountability.   It is much easier for me to point the finger at others than at myself.

4.      I spend more time managing than leading, and I encourage my executive team to do the same.   I stress compliance and intense micro-management.   (Hint:  This pervasive behavior diminishes creativity and critical thinking and makes people feel stupid.   A real killer…)

5.      I confine discussion of strategies and plans to my small, inner circle of trusted, time-tested advisors.    After decisions are made, I typically announce them in a grandiose fashion.   (This ensures that no one will start anything new because they never know what new directives might soon come down from the top.)

6.      Instead of truly listening, I wait to speak.   After all, who knows more about this company than I do?

7.      We embrace sacred cows and remain committed to the problem-solving methodologies we’ve used for years.

8.      I’m not a big fan of delegation, especially when it comes to major decisions.   I’ll sometimes delegate menial tasks and grunt-work, but I must be personally involved in the formulation, discussion, and final decision of anything that is important.   After all, I usually have a very good idea of the best solution to a problem before it is ever presented to others for discussion.   In fact, I almost always know the best answer before we even present the question.  I am also very reluctant to delegate authority.

9.      We count, measure and monitor everything that can be counted, and do it as often as possible.  

10.  I promote, admire, and provide accolades to those that closely conform to our rules and regulations.   People need not think, they simply need to do as they are told.

11.  I tend to emphasize historical information more than future trends and opportunities.  Things like last year’s data, trends, and conversion factors are primary determinants of all future decisions and company presentations.   This fact is crystal clear to our employees.

12.  We keep people really busy.  If they have free time, we load them up with more “real work”, the stuff that I think is important.   I know better than they do how they should spend their time.

Private company leaders that inspire innovation consistently beat the pants off their competitors.   Effective owners of these firms make their employees feel smarter.  Their actions motivate an entrepreneurial mindset among employees, leading to much higher levels of productivity, growth, and profit.

 

Creating a culture of innovation is not difficult to do.   But as with any type of significant organizational transformation, it requires the leader’s choice to change, so the decision requires personal courage.

 

For most owners, the transformation begins with a commitment to change one’s mindset and to take an honest look in the mirror.  In severe cases, it may also require the courage to face some ego issues.

 

Innovative leaders look ahead, not behind.  They encourage new ideas from all levels of their organization.  They understand the importance of systems, processes, measurement, and management, but they use these as a basis for continuous improvement, informed risk-taking, trusting communication, personal development, mutual respect, inspiration and learning instead of using them for compliance, CYA, and “I told you so…”.

 

Finally, don’t be afraid to THINK BIG.    You can do it and innovation can get you there.

 

Enjoy the journey….

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

Interested People Are Expensive

May 3rd, 2017

“Interested” people can be expensive.  Really expensive.

Think about a time when you decided to pursue a goal that seemed to be challenging or out of reach.   A time where you worked hard, focused, persevered, powered through, and achieved something great.

Next, think about a time you wanted something badly, but failed to take the appropriate action(s) to make it happen.  What was different?

In the second scenario, did you have a strong desire to obtain it?

You were certainly interested in having it, weren’t you?

You may have even felt like you really needed to have it, but you still didn’t act.

Why not?  What (or who) was standing in your way?

Every week, salespeople tell sales managers and owners about potential buyers in their pipeline.  Many explain that these “hot” prospects are “really interested”.

Interestingly, most managers would tell you that only a fraction of these “hot prospects” ever convert into actual sales.  In fact, studies show that nearly two-thirds of these forecasted sales are lost to status quo or “no decision”.

How can it be that all these “interested” potential buyers, with such strong needs and desires, never make a purchase?  The reason is fundamental and simple.

Most salespeople consistently miss out on discovering the truth about two vital attributes that must be present in order for a transaction to occur.  They are…:

COMMITMENT:  Nothing will happen without the commitment of the Decision Maker to invest the necessary money, time, courage, personnel, political capital, etc required to solve their problem. Nothing. In the absence of this commitment, all that is left is wheel spinning.

URGENCY:  If the Decision Maker perceives a problem and is committed to fix it, action will only take place if and when the issue becomes a priority. Commitment without urgency translates into “I’ll get to it some day.”  Some day maybe next month, or maybe next decade…   Urgency is borne out of emotion (aka: pain).  Some examples of pain include (but are not limited to) fear, frustration, anger, and anxiety.  In the absence of urgency, time will slip away and other priorities will ultimately replace the issue in question.   Commitment to solving the original problem will diminish, along with a diminished chance of any sale.  Sound familiar?

Think about your current warm prospects.  Are your “hot prospects” committed, or just interested?   Is solving their problem a priority, or simply a need, wish, or desire?

If a decision maker perceives a problem, is committed to fixing it and has the urgency to act, he/she WILL make a purchase.  The only question is from whom.  If any one of these pieces is missing, a transaction will not occur.

Buyer’s interest is a drug. It can make us temporarily feel good. But the after-effects often feel bad.  Most salespeople perceive prospect interest as a ‘buying signal’.  However, it should be perceived as a ‘learning signal’, an opportunity to discover the truth about commitment, urgency, and more.

Interested prospects can cost a fortune if we aren’t disciplined and careful.  Salespeople burn up millions of dollars wasting time with prospects that are interested, but not committed.  Consequently, sales managers and owners frustrated by overly-optimistic forecasts are legion.  Activity for the sake of activity is very expensive.  Only results matter.

There are many things that sales professionals can do today to learn the truth, to stop wasting time, to improve the reliability of sales forecasts, and to dramatically improve revenue growth and profit. For starters, they can commit to obtaining this vital information and to mastering a process of understanding the truth.  Again, commitment generates results.

Remember, these principles do not apply only to your sales prospects.  They also apply to your personal performance.

So if you want to achieve something, or if you have a need or problem you’d really like to solve, start by asking yourself the following questions:

How much do I really want to fix (or obtain) it?

Am I committed to fixing it, or am I only interested?

Is this a priority for me, or are my other activities really more important?   (you can do anything, but you can’t do everything)

Whether applied to yourself or your sales prospects, learning the answers to these fundamental questions will save you a ton.

Become a truth detector.  I hope you’ll enjoy your improved efficiency and effectiveness and take an extended vacation (or two or three) with all the time and money you’ll save.

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

5 Easy, Quick Tips for a Happier New Year

January 4th, 2017

 

1.  Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper.  At the top, place a plus sign on the left side, a minus sign on the right.  List activities that energize you on the left and those that suck your energy on the right.  If you can’t delete the energy-sucking items from your life, delegate them.

 

2.   Create an untouchable rounding account.  For every check you receive, deposit everything except the first digit of the check into the fund.  If the check is $3,267.45, put everything except $3,000 into your rounding fund, then watch your savings grow!

 

3.   While brushing your teeth each morning, reflect upon 3 things you are thankful for, and why.  If your gratitude involves a person, make sure they to let them know.

 

4.  Identify something (or someone) that really pisses you off or frustrates you, then let it go!   Forgiveness costs you nothing, but the return on investment is enormous.  You will never be free if you become a slave to your emotions.

 

5.   You already know about the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise.  If you know it but you don’t do it, what is really going on?  Firstly, don’t beat yourself up.  Most people are unable to maintain the HABIT of healthy living.  If you are one of those people, start by identifying the TRUE CAUSE.   Ask yourself what you really gain by breaking this commitment.  This may take some soul searching and you might need to enlist a friend to help, but if you identify and address the root cause in order to change the habit, the reward will be well worth the effort.

 

 

Please share at least one short TIP that you have found to be effective for you.

 

 

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, prosperous, magnificent 2017!

 

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2017.   All Rights Reserved.

The Election, Empathy, and YOUR BUSINESS (Pathetic vs Empathetic Listening)

November 11th, 2016

 

On Tuesday night the United States experienced one of the most earth-shattering events in its history, the culmination of a totally unprecedented phenomenon.

 

Most political, media, academic, and polling “experts” were totally wrong in their predictions regarding just about every aspect of the entire campaign season.   And many were totally dumbfounded at the result. 

 

How can this be and what did they miss?  How could they all be so wrong?

 

Much of the answer lies in Empathy.

 

I often ask people what “empathy” means to them.  When I do, I get dozens of different answers, many of which veer far from its true meaning.    So before we go further, let’s define the word.  According to Wikipedia…:

 

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feelings with the heart of another.

 

When it comes to your clients, sales prospects, markets, and other stakeholders, how are YOU doing in the area of empathy?   Do you listen from their perspective, from your own?   Do you actually listen at all, or do you wait to talk?

 

If you (and your employees) were to become more empathetic, what effect do you think doing so might have on your decisions, culture, and bottom line?

 

Listening is a skill.   One that can be developed.  Empathy requires the highest form of listening.  As with any skill, becoming a more empathetic listener begins with a commitment to improve.

 

Unfortunately, most of us are closer to being pathetic listeners than empathetic listeners. 

 

A view of the USA’s voting map shows two blue coasts, with an enormous swatch of red in between (not withstanding a few small blue dots surrounding major metropolitan areas).    In essence, two Americas, one rural and one urban.   Major media centers and the majority of political prognosticators reside near urban centers.  Their PERCEPTION of the world did not take into account half of the nation’s frame of reference.  They saw the world through their own lenses, and mostly ignored the views of a significant portion of the voters.  They listened selectively and heard what they wanted to hear.   They were blinded by a lack of empathy.  As a consequence, most of their assumptions and predictions were wrong.

 

As business owners, our perceptions, assumptions, and predictions have a tremendous effect on our effectiveness, growth, profit, decision-making and the overall strength and value of our businesses.   Consequently, it is vitally important for us to commit to making every effort to see things not just through our own lenses, but from the lenses of the marketplace, our employees, our sales prospects, and more.  

 

There are many ways to improve empathy in your business (and at home).   You can start today committing to improving the listening skills of yourself and your employees.   Joining a peer advisory board can also help tremendously in helping you to see things far beyond your own perspective and assist you in making better decisions.

 

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2016.   All Rights Reserved. 

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