Sales Managers Can You Operate in Space? 

No, not that space. This is actually a photo of my brother in law Steve who once set the record for hours walked in space, but hey, records were meant to be broken.

The space I’m referring to is a brilliant phrase coined by a client of mine, the president of a sizeable industrial products company.

On a recent coaching call we talked about how the best sales managers he knows learned to operate in space.  When I asked him to explain he said these managers learned to think and manage in three dimensions, instead of being handcuffed by linear thinking.  You might call it situational adaptation.

For example, a manager that is hired from another company where she did the same job would have two options for how to do the new job.  One option is to fairly quickly apply proven processes, do some training, and make sure people get it.  That approach usually requires constantly hitting the compliance reset button.

Another option is to carefully observe the new environment over time, ask and learn a lot, process all of the inputs, then make conclusions about people, processes, about how things get done, whatever.  Maybe involve people in the solution design.  Eventually set a course and consistently lead it.

This made me think of someone I know who took a new job with a title similar to one he had in the past, but with a company that was in a wildly different industry than any he had experienced.  The worst thing he could have done was quickly apply processes, frameworks, systems, etc. that he used in previous positions to this new environment. Looking back we both believe he would not have survived.  Instead, he was patient in coming to conclusions yet aggressive in absorbing everything around him.  His superior and colleagues say he’s made an incredible impact at this company in a very short couple of years.

It also made me think about the careers of some musicians.   Neil Young didn’t seem interested in making Harvest 2 and Harvest 3 and 4 and 5 as much as he preferred to create new works like Live Rust (1979 with Crazy Horse), Trans (1982), Broken Arrow (1996), Everybody’s Rockin (1983 with the Shocking Pinks).  Compare those to Silver and Gold or Comes a Time.  Same with Bob Dylan. Compare Blonde on Blonde (1966) to Oh Mercy (1989). By contrast will Jon Bon Jovi be performing You Give Love a Bad Name at your local Holiday Inn in 2025? Sorry, I hear he’s a good guy!

In trying to figure out the secret formula here, this is as close as I‘ve come:

Operating in spacemeans you have learned how to learn.

This isn’t the same as what you’ve learned as in a body of knowledge, or how much you’ve learned about a subject or market.  This is more about how you take the lessons and learnings of your past and apply them to new situations in your present.  This is hard, but it isn’t hard like getting buy-in to something you did 3 times before at 3 different companies or forcing your process on a ‘skeptical’ group.

By definition isn’t every new rep that a sales manager hires an entirely new experience?  Doesn’t that new experience demand a truly fresh, unbiased and tailored approach to being coached?

If you’re up for the challenge your impact could be outta this world.

 

Good Selling,

 

Mark Sellers

Author, The Funnel Principle

Founder, Breakthrough Sales Performance

Soon to be released sales coaching book Blindspots:  The Hidden Killer Of Sales Coaching

 

 

Sales Process Core Values

Listening to Lyle Lovett reminds me of one of the keys to making sales process work.

He croons “you can have my girl, but don’t touch my hat”.   I admire a guy who respects his core values.

Applying core values to sales process?  Absolutely.  Let me explain why, what and how that should be done.

Why are core values important for sales process?  Why answers a lot of questions for all of the stakeholders that are affected.  The salesperson wants to know ‘why’ do I have to get training?  The managers want to know ‘why’ is this sales process the key to my region hitting its numbers?  The CFO wants to know ‘why’ are we spending ‘x’ to train the salesforce and what’s the return?  The CEO wants to know ‘why’ is this investment needed and now?

When ‘why’ is clearly established – after it’s thought through and justified – the front line sales managers can consistently refer to it at every step of the implementation.  Why can help smooth out the speed bumps in resistance. Why helps people get on board.

What do core values look like when implementing a sales process? For example, one core value could be ‘we will freely communicate what we’re doing regarding sales activities’.  I can tell you right now I have clients where that’s not a core value.  For some the problem is an over active sales manager being busy but not so effective for her sales team.  For another client it’s a salesperson who thinks she’s above that core value, it doesn’t apply to her because ‘she produces’.

Another example could be ‘we will demonstrate attitudes of continuous improvement’ regarding selling. In other words, if anyone rejects the idea that there’s nothing left to learn, you’re probably not a good fit here.

How do you use core values in your sales process?  I think it’s a bad idea to think you could lock your door and establish core values for the team.   It’s not that the outcome would be vastly different, rather, it’s that your team misses the journey it needs to experience in that exercise.  It might be easiest to establish core values for sales process when you’re establishing a new one.  Most of you don’t have that luxury.  Fortunately you don’t need it.  Why not assemble your team in an offsite and define core values at your summer meeting or next quarter?  They’ll have more buy in when they build it.  It will refocus their attention on fundamentals that they identify.

The exercise could be just the boost your team needs.

 

Good selling,

Mark Sellers

Author, The Funnel Principle

Founder Breakthrough Sales Performance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sales Manager Challenge: Negative Sales People

If you manage sales people long enough, you’re sure to encounter negativity. It can be frustrating to say the least. But it doesn’t have to hit as hard as it sometimes does, provided you take the right action to address it.

Negativity in your salesforce can come from many sources.  One of your reps could be disgruntled at the company’s leadership for making a string of fateful decisions and decide to take it out on you. A rep could be disappointed or angry because he or she didn’t get a coveted promotion.  Someone could be frustrated at decisions made that affect commissions, even if the decision still gives opportunity to meet income goals but in different ways.

A salesperson might express his negativity first by telling you directly. Regardless of the outcome he might recruit others to share the same attitude by airing negative comments in meetings.  I’ve seen reps even hijack meeting agendas.  Worse is when a rep works the back channel to get others on board ‘the problem’.

Here are some ways to deal with negativity.

1)    Listen.  Though it’s tempting to shut down a negative person try the opposite.  Sometimes people feel they haven’t been heard.  You don’t have to promise that you’ll fix the complaint.  It might be beyond your authority to do so.  Authentic empathy can have a significant impact.  Be genuine when listening.

2)    Stick to agendas for meetings.  When a negative salesperson tries to take the meeting off track you can refer to the need to get back to the stated agenda.  It’s ok to ‘parking lot’ issues that come up even if they are the same ones expressed earlier.  Including time frames for agenda sections gives you another defensible stand.

3)    Differentiate whining from complaining.  A complaint is a one time event.  Whining is incessant and highly distracting.  Accept complaints as the valuable feedback they are. Shut down whining quickly.  One way to shut down whining is to address it 1:1. Tell the person his/her comments have been noted and now you need her to respect the process and time it takes to deal with it.

4)    The best way to keep the weeds out of the lawn is by growing healthy grass.  Constantly reinforce where you want your team to focus.  Overcommunicate.  Repeat yourself to make sure your message gets through.

5)    Don’t take it personal.  It’s easy to take a salesperson’s negativity personally for many reasons.  It prevents you from doing what you’d rather be doing – focusing on the positive things and what can be controlled.  When you take negativity personally it takes your immune system down, and when you’re down you can’t be as productive.  Plus,  you’re more likely to read into some comments as personal attacks when they aren’t.

6)    Find sources of positive energy.  Maintaining a positive defense mechanism takes effort and intention. Don’t expect it to just come naturally.  Maybe get into a routine every week or even every day to feed yourself the positive thoughts.

Good Selling,

Mark

Selling to the Financial Decision Maker

Welcome to another Breakthrough Sales Tip.

You ever find yourself reluctant to ‘take the next step?’

I’m talking about some important decisions you’ve considered. Maybe join the gym? Take your first yoga class? Join a group at church? Decide to downsize? Decide to buy a house?

Taking the next step can be hard for the people you’re selling to. Especially the people we call PFAs. The PFA is the person with financial authority for a purchase. Think final approval. Veto power. Obviously, a very important stakeholder to your sales success.

One way to improve your success in selling to the PFA is to learn about ‘risk’, learn how risky the PFA believes it is to take the next step.

Recently I was with a client that sells mechanical services and major project services to the energy and construction industries.

One of the salesmen shared his approach to a deal he was working on. At a sales call recently his prospect said they needed a cooling solution for a server room. The salesperson threw out a number to the PFA, a ballpark price to see how the he would react.

Another salesman in our meeting suggested a different approach. He said why not ask the PFA questions about risk?   Is there a problem now with cooling, or is something happening that could become a problem? For example, if the business need is because the company is growing and wanting to attract more customers, then the risk of not having a solution is not growing. That sounds pretty important. And how’d you like to be the one stakeholder ultimately responsible for getting in the way of growth?

I also recommend acknowledging the risk, not discounting it. When people feel nervous about something, telling them to not feel nervous, or worse telling them they have nothing to worry about, doesn’t make them feel any better. You’re not going to make any emotional connections with that approach. When you acknowledge the PFA’s concerns about risk, you’ll gain the PFA’s respect.

In our Funnel Principle Selling system we see the PFA’s risk as a ‘stage 2’ issue. The PFA hasn’t committed to spending money on ANY solution yet. There needs to be a compelling enough risk of doing nothing, or, he can choose the less risky option, do nothing.

In my experience risk is always tied closely to emotional and personal issues. It’s not about the money for example; rather, it’s about being seen as making a poor decision with the company’s money. See the distinction?

If you liked this tip and want to learn more I encourage you to contact me at the information on the screen. I’d really enjoy hearing from you.

As always, I wish you the best success, and good selling.

Mark Sellers

Author The Funnel Principle

Book a meeting with Mark using Calendly

4 Tips for Making Better Sales Calls

Welcome to another Breakthrough Sales Tip.

I’m a consultative salesperson with a confession to make: For years I thought my line of selling was somehow a notch above the world of transactional selling. It was more complicated. More challenging. It required more skill and technique and intelligence. Shame on me.

To all you exceptional transactional sellers, I apologize. I realize I can learn from you. I’ve been observing and learning how the best transactional sellers get it done. And I’m blown away.

First, a quick definition. By consultative selling I mean the type of selling that usually takes more than one call to close and often requires calling on more than one stakeholder.

By transactional selling I mean the type of selling that often takes only one call to close and where only one stakeholder is involved. I realize both of these are very simplistic but nonetheless directionally suitable for this column.

Here are 4 things I’ve been learning about exceptional transactional salespeople:

  1. They make a connection. Excellent transactional sellers get it that the emotional drive leads the logical drive. So they make it a priority to connect with that emotion. Often they only get one chance right, in a one-call sale? Unless they’re laser focused on looking for that connection they’ll likely miss it and maybe lose a sale.   An excellent book on this is by John Maxwell, Everyone Communicates Few Connect.
  1. They make you feel like you’re the only thing that matters right now. Think of how easy it is to be distracted by your over booked calendar and pressure to perform. It’s hard to fake this ‘you matter’ thing. Think of when someone sold to you and you felt his or her total attention on you. When it happens it’s special.
  1. They create a path to purchase.   Transactional sellers need to make a living too. What impresses me about the exceptional ones is how they respect my buying process but still keep the sale moving. Their call strategies seem designed to put the customer buying process milestones in front of the customer and then let the customer decide if and when she’s ready to proceed.
  1. They give me control. With exceptional transactional sellers I never feel like I’m being railroaded or backed into a features-benefit corner. They seem to have intuitive pacing around how I want to buy. This is the ultimate show of respect. Wow, what a way to build credibility.

So go out there today and make your next sales call really count – for your customer. If you succeed, it will really count too for you.

As always, I wish you the best success, and good selling.

Mark

get on Mark’s calendar here

buy The Funnel Principle here

Know Your Win Rate

 

Below is a transcript of this week’s video sales tip.  

As someone who has spent the last 15 years exploring, learning, training and consulting on the sales funnel, I often get asked ‘how important is it to know your win rate’?

It’s very important. When you know your win rate you’re able to know how big your sales funnel should be to hit your quota.

For example if you have a 1M quota and you have a 50% win rate, you should have $2M of funnel value. We call funnel value TVR, Total Viable Revenue.

But if you have a 33% win rate then your funnel should be $3m.

And if your win rate is 25% your funnel should be $4M.

Those are some big variations in funnel value, aren’t they? You don’t want to miss this by a mile.

Unfortunately I have learned that few salespeople and their sales organizations really know their win rates.

It’s easy to calculate. Create a list of all of the sales opportunities you try to win. Then list the ones you do win. The number of sales you win divided by the number you try to win is your win rate.

For example if you win 3 but try to win 10 then your win rate is 30%.

Now what I’m about to say is really important. When you calculate your funnel value you don’t want to just add up the dollar value of all sales opportunities at all stages. You add up only the deals at the mid to late stages because with these opportunities the customer has committed to making a change. That means they commit to either replacing what they’re using with something else, commit to add to what they’re using, or commit to using a different approach altogether.

If you think of your sales funnel right now, you can probably think of deals that haven’t gotten to the customer commitment stage yet, can’t you? These deals might still be very much worth your time to keep working on, just don’t count them toward funnel value.

The problem comes when your sales funnel doesn’t have enough of these ‘commit funding’ opportunities. Your funnel value is too small.  Your focus and priority is to get more funnel value, TVR.

If you liked this tip and want to learn more I encourage you to contact me at the information on the screen. I’d really enjoy hearing from you.

As always, I wish you the best success, and good selling.

Mark

get on Mark’s calendar here

buy The Funnel Principle here

614.571.8267

 

Work The (Sales) Process

I know sports is an often over used reference for analogies and making points in the business world, but when I see a brilliant, even courageous example I’ve just got to share it.

Maybe you saw it too.  It was the New England Patriots’ performance in the 2nd half of this year’s Super Bowl.  (disqualifier:  I’m not a Patriot’s fan, but I am a fan of winners)

Two things took place in the second half.

The first was something that was missing.   Maybe you saw it too.  Panic.

The Tom Brady-led offense marched down the field in typical, grinding Patriot fashion and scored.  I think that drive took 7 or 8 minutes.  That’s a lot of time off the clock.  The defense then did its job. Then the offense marched down and scored again.  And of course the rest is history.

Instead of panicking the Patriots committed to their process . The one that brought them to the dance. The one that has brought five rings for team Brady and Belichick.

There are two occasions where committing to a sales process pays off. One is when you’re down and need a comeback kind of year. Best to double down on the process. It’s really the only thing you do that you can control.

The other occasion is when you’re up and having a great year. Doubling down on your sales process prevents you from forgetting that effort, not luck will make you successful, year after year.

The second thing that took place at the Super Bowl second half was adjustments. Belichick didn’t do exactly the same game plan used in the first half because it wasn’t working in the first half. Adjustments were made within the process.

If your salespeople are struggling, you might need to coach to some adjustments, maybe related to target accounts, or messaging for sales calls, or even pricing strategies. But I hope you keep those adjustments within your sales process. Be sure your salespeople understand that’s what’s going on .

Good Selling,

Mark Sellers

Author The Funnel Principle (buy it here)

Next book: Blindspots: The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching

Interview of Mark by Red Cap Consulting Hugh Liddle

Interview of Mark by Linked In Guru Ted Prodromou

 

 

 

 

 

Sales Funnel Movement

Below is a transcript of this week’s video sales tip.

A key to any sales funnel success is movement – funnel sales opportunities moving closer to the ultimate objective – a close. Without movement of funnel opportunities your funnel is like a kitchen pantry full of old, stale food that’s no longer fit to eat.

Movement is when a sales opportunity changes stages, like moving from stage 2 to stage 3, or from stage 4 to stage 5. Adding a sales opportunity to your funnel is also movement.

Opportunities can move in the other direction, like from stage 4 to stage 2. Usually that’s not the kind of movement you want.

NOW HERE’S THE KEY TO MOVEMENT – it’s not what YOU do that defines movement, it’s what the customer does.

For example, if you deliver a proposal to a customer you might be tempted to say that the opportunity has moved to the ‘proposal delivered’ stage.

But your customer hasn’t done anything. They just received your proposal. Go ahead and test this. Have you ever delivered a proposal and the customer didn’t get back to you right away with any kind of answer? Or if they did answer was it 6 months later and they said they changed their minds?

It’s the same thing with a sample or a product trial or even a demo. You’re the one doing all the work. No movement.

The key to driving sales opportunities through your funnel – getting movement – is getting your customers to commit to doing things.

When customers commit they have skin in the game. When they commit they invest time, they invest political capital, and sometimes even money.

Even getting little commitments is important. Little commitments often lead to bigger commitments and to the biggest customer commitment of all – they purchase.

So, when you define your 30 day sales funnel plan each month, you really want to define what customer commitments you’re going to seek with each opportunity on your funnel.

At my company we call these Goals. It’s just a term that can mean different things, but for clients that use The Funnel Principle they know that a Goal is the customer commitment the salesperson is seeking with each opportunity on his or her funnel.

Let’s wrap up by going back to the proposal example. What would a Goal look like? How about this: Only deliver your proposal if the customer commits to reviewing it with you. Or, if a customer wants to trial your product agree to, but ask the customer to commit to discussing with you after the trial how the trial went and maybe even communicating the results with other key stakeholders.

If you found this tip helpful and you’d like more information I encourage you to contact me through the link below.

I wish you the best success, good selling!

Mark

614.571.8267

Buy The Funnel Principle here

get on Mark’s calendar here

 

 

Blindspots in Sales Coaching

As a sales manager, have you ever caught yourself having done something that you weren’t proud of, like giving poor feedback to a salesperson?  You realized after that it wasn’t your best ‘coaching’ moment?

If you have, welcome to a blindspot.

A blindspot like the one above is something that you do that you don’t always catch yourself doing until it’s too late.

Unfortunately you have other blindspots that you don’t know you have.  These can be even harder to do something about it.

It could be as simple as a bad habit of talking over top of your salespeople or not letting them finish their sentences.  It could be a habit of jumping to a conclusion too early.  It could be a habit of not letting your salespeople struggle on sales calls.  You feel you have to jump in and ‘save them’.  It could be a habit of not listening.

Every sales manager has blindspots, if that makes you feel a little better.  Yes, that’s plural.  You could have quite a few.

Some blindspots aren’t too troublesome.  They could be just annoying.

Then there are others that are downright nasty.  They can have a significant, negative effect on your salespeople.  And their sales performance.

I’m on a mission to help you manage, and even eliminate some, of your blindspots.

I’m finishing up writing a book on the topic to be called Blindspots: The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching.  It will be published in Q1 of 2017.

What’s my interest in blindspots?  It’s both a personal and professional journey for me.

After realizing and then facing a personal blindspot that nearly wrecked me, I discovered how powerful facing the demons can be.  How liberating it is.  How much more value we can really add to everyone that comes in contact with us.  Clients, family, friends, communities.

Professionally, I began observing blindspots with my clients.  They hire me to coach their sales managers and I do it by observing via conference calls their coaching conversations with salespeople.    I found myself hearing things on these calls that I had not heard before because I wasn’t listening for these things.  That was one of my blindspots.

Many conversations went well.  But when they didn’t I heard tension, skepticism, lack of trust, even blame and accusation.  And these were supposed to be coaching calls.  We learned that the ones that could catch us most off guard were the ones where the salesperson didn’t let on to how she was feeling.

I started to document what I heard.  I poured through my notes from 600 of these conversations.  And eventually I drew some conclusions.

One conclusion was many times the sale manager gets in his own way.  It’s like they can’t help themselves.  Simply getting out of their own way is often the escape route managers need.  Of course this is easier said than done, but it’s a good place to start.

Let me leave you with this thought.

This week listen to yourself talking with your salespeople.  If you catch yourself in one of those ‘not your best coaching moments’ find time to reflect on that and learn from it.