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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.

Stop Kidding Yourself

March 8th, 2019

 

Over the last year, I have interviewed over 100 salespeople on behalf of our clients.   I asked every one of them at the onset to describe their sales approach or methodology.   In over 85% of cases, the candidate replied with some form of “I am a consultative salesperson!”

 

In light of the 93,000 articles that have recently been written about the importance of consultative selling and the enormous impact it has in today’s selling environment, I would fully expect any sales candidate that hasn’t been living in isolation to say they sell consultatively.  Step One—Correct Answer!

 

Unfortunately, after 15 minutes of dialogue with each of these “consultative” salespeople, less than 15% of all candidates asked 3 or more questions!!!  In fact, the vast majority hung up the phone without learning a thing about what I was looking for, why I was talking with them, what success looked like, my role in the hiring decision, or any other vital information.   So much for being consultative…

 

A few quick facts…:

 

1.       Talking about consultative selling and actually selling consultatively are two completely different things.  It doesn’t matter if you can say it.   It only matters if you can do it.

 

2.       Consultative selling mandates that a salesperson ask critical, timely, tough questions.

 

3.       It also requires pushing back and challenging when 1+1 does not equal 2, in an assertive, yet respectful, manner. 

 

4.       The VAST majority of salespeople fail here, not because the questions are difficult, but because the questions cannot be scripted in advance.

 

A salesperson’s questions should almost always result directly from the prospect’s most recent response.  This is where the problem usually begins.   If you are one of those individuals who resembles my remarks and wishes to stop fooling yourself into believing you are selling consultatively, here are several critical personal attributes necessary to begin walking your talk and selling much more effectively.

 

Child-like Curiosity:  Consultative salespeople behave much more like children than like experts, continually challenging their own assumptions and asking their prospects to tell them more about what they are hearing.  Weak salespeople rarely ask prospects to explain anything.

 

Sincere Interest:   Don’t act sincerely interested, BE sincerely interested.

 

Listening:  Many salespeople lack even the most primary listening skills.  Listening skills can be developed, but the journey must begin by being honest with oneself.   Start by asking:  “Am I really listening, or simply waiting to talk?”

 

Unselfishness:    Many people, and most salespeople, find it very difficult to focus entirely on what someone else is saying without reacting emotionally about how the words affect themselves.  A ME-centered salesperson will never hear everything their prospects are really telling them.

 

Patience:  Salespeople cannot wait to talk about what they sell and how it helps.  Consequently, they avoid asking more questions for fear that doing so may delay their presentation, demo, or proposal.   These weak salespeople feel better talking about how great they are because they are more confident in their ability to talk, present, and pitch than in their ability to ask, listen, and learn.  This dysfunctional cycle actually moves them backwards instead of forward.  Effective salespeople slow down and go much deeper and wider with their discovery and investigations.   Believe it or not, this actually saves them time.

 

MORE Patience: - Part of the reason that most of the candidates told me they are selling consultatively is that they actually believe it!   They believe they are selling consultatively when they have asked a few questions.  Unfortunately for them, they aren’t even scratching the surface until they’ve asked 3 to 4 dozen of them.  And these are NOT scripted questions, rehearsed or recited from a list.  We are talking here about 40 or 50 spontaneous, inquisitive, thought-provoking follow-up questions to one, or perhaps two opening questions the salesperson asked during the first few minutes.

 

You’ll notice that each of the items I’ve listed here are foundational qualities of mindset, choice and attitude, versus manipulative tactics or techniques.  Each item can be developed and dramatically improved via an honest self-assessment, a commitment, and some recurrent practice.  You can quickly accelerate your development by associating with a coach and peer group.

 

Enjoy the Journey…

 

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.

Stop Lying to Yourself in 2019

December 12th, 2018

Stop Lying to yourself in 2019.  PLEASE.

 

Most people have a good heart and want to do the right thing.   They do their best to be truthful in their dialogue and interactions with others.

 

Unfortunately, research shows we do not tend to be so honest with ourselves.   Our self-talk is loaded with piles of BS.

 

Our internal conversations have enormous ramifications on the level of our performance.   Simply, your self-talk ultimately determines your actions, achievement, and growth.   It controls your personal and business success.

 

We all have many motivations to lie to ourselves.   We lie to satisfy our psychological needs, avoid pain, stay in our comfort zone, and remain confident in our personal abilities.   We lie to feel better.   

 

Unfortunately, these lies drive us to consistently make unskillful decisions.  

 

By lying, we sacrifice our long-term needs in order to fulfill our short-term desires. 

 

The psychological motivations here are deep-rooted and strong, so overcoming the desire to maintain false beliefs and deny reality requires courage and commitment.

 

Our self-talk controls our choices and behavior.  So if we don’t make ourselves acutely aware of our lies and commit to an intentional process to prevent them from dictating our actions, we will continue to BS our way into poor decision-making, missing our goals and aspirations and falling far short of our potential.    We become ineffective robots.

 

In other words, productivity and effectiveness are a 100% function of our self-talk.   If you have the courage to totally transform your personal and business performance, you can do so by adopting a process to improve your truthfulness.    The resulting actions will elevate you to much higher levels of personal freedom and happiness.  

 

Executives share their internal lies with me all the time.  I’m sure you hear them as well.   Here are just a few examples of some destructive self-talk I continually hear from well-intentioned business owners:

 

·         “I would do that, but I can’t because…”

 

·         “If I could only ________, then my life would be fantastic.”

 

·         “If I do __________, people might think I’m nuts (or dumb, or arrogant,…).”

 

·         “I would change, but I can’t do it because of ________ .”

 

·         “I know what I’m doing.”

 

and I’m sure you’ve heard this popular diddy…

 

·         “I’m really busy right now, but I’ll get to it next quarter when I’ll have more time…”

 

This last lie is one of the most destructive because it continues to feed upon itself, taking the liar deeper and deeper into the un-productive abyss.  

 

You might notice that people who tell you how busy they are tend to always be busy.  Most are never able to escape their shackles.

 

A person’s self-talk creates their busy-ness.   So without changing their BS, they will continue to make choices that create busy activities instead of productive ones.

 

Most honest people would agree that Busy-ness is not success or freedom, but simply a lack of priority.  As with all self-lying, the Busy Lie mortgages long-term happiness for near-term emotional gain.  And the mortgage interest rate is astronomical…

 

A business owner can do anything, but cannot do everything.  One can choose to be busy, or choose to be effective.   But not both…

 

Being truthful with oneself is a life-long journey.   The process is not easy (especially if you try to go it alone).   But the process is fairly simple.   Here are the steps…:

 

1.      Muster up the courage, then COMMIT to a process of BS elimination.

 

2.      If you don’t have a coach, find an accountability partner – someone who will agree to talk with you frequently to call you on your BS and resulting choices and actions.  

 

3.      Find yourself a peer group.  Remember, this process will take courage.  Peers will keep you on course, drive your accountability up a notch, unearth hidden self-lies, help you generate new effectiveness insights, make better decisions, and much more.

 

4.      Tell EVERYONE you know that you have committed to this new process.  The more people that know, the less likely you are to bail out.

 

5.      Decide what you REALLY want (since you won’t be lying to yourself anymore, you’ll be much more likely to earn it!)

 

6.      Set specific goals and make a plan to achieve them.   Share your new plan with your partner and peer group for advice, council, and insight.

 

7.      Be humble.   Ask yourself what lies you are telling yourself today (use the examples above as a starting point).

 

8.      Stay the course and continue the process.  Doing so will make BS-elimination a productivity habit.    

 

 

When I founded Z3 Performance Development 21 years ago, I did so to help private business owners find Freedom through Results, Results through Responsibility…

 

During that time, I have observed honest self-conversation transform the lives of hundreds of owners.  It lies at the core of performance transformation.

 

I sincerely hope you will adopt this process, leading to a much more effective and prosperous 2019 and beyond.

 

If you have any questions or want to share anything about your journey or success, please email me.   I would love to hear from you.

 

Cheers and Best Wishes for a Prosperous and Happiest New Year!

 

Joe

 

Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2018.   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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