Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are versatile: they can change their approach based on the person they are dealing with."

Tag: sales management

You Can Win Business Against Larger Competitors

You Can Win Business Against Larger Competitors

In most industries, a single company controls the market. Compared with their competitors, they have a much larger market share, top-of-the-line products, a more significant marketing budget and reach, and more company cachet. Life can be very intimidating for salespeople who compete against these industry giants.

However, a Harvard Business Review study provides some good news in this regard. Buyers aren’t necessarily fixated on the market leader and are more than willing to select second-tier competitors than one might expect. In fact, only 33% of participants indicated they prefer the most prestigious, best-known brand with the highest functionality and cost. Conversely, 63% said they would select a fairly well-known brand with 85% of the functionality at 80% of the cost. However, only 5% would choose a relatively unknown brand with 75% of the functionality at 60% of the cost of the best-known brand.

There are a few keys to competing with more prominent companies. In general, they boil down to just being a competent salesperson but let’s list some of the elements.

  1. Do your research – know your competition and what they offer
  2. Create a unique selling proposition (USP) that sets you apart from the competition
  3. Focus on quality over quantity – make sure each product or service is the best it can be
  4. Offer customer service that is superior to your competitors
  5. Stay up to date with industry trends, and find ways to incorporate them into your business
  6. Promote yourself online and offline through social media, networking events, and advertising

1. Do your research – know your competition and what they offer

Knowing your competition and what they offer is essential, as any salesperson knows. By understanding what your competition is offering, you can be sure to target your sales pitch appropriately. In addition, you can use this knowledge to tailor your sales strategy to meet your potential customers’ needs best. For example, if your competition is offering a lower price point, you may want to focus on the quality of your product. Alternatively, if they target a different customer base, you may want to adjust your sales approach to appeal to your target market better.

In today’s competitive marketplace, trying to win sales by offering the lowest prices can be tempting. However, this is often not the best strategy in the long run:

  1. Competitors can always undercut you on cost, forcing you to lower your prices even further.
  2. Customers who only buy based on price are often the least loyal and likely to switch to a different supplier as soon as a better deal comes along.
  3. Focusing on price can distract you from other important aspects of your business, such as product quality and customer service.

For these reasons, it’s usually best to avoid competing on price. Instead, focus on offering a high-quality product or service at a fair price. This will help you attract and retain loyal customers willing to pay a little more for a company they trust.

2. Create a unique selling proposition (USP) that sets you apart from the competition

In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s more important than ever to have a unique selling proposition that sets you apart from the competition. Whether you’re selling products or services, your USP is what will make you stand out from the crowd and attract customers. There are a few critical components to creating a strong USP:

  1. You need to identify your target market and what needs or pain points they have that your business can address.
  2. It would help if you determined what makes your business unique and how you can best serve your target market.
  3. You must craft a clear and concise message that communicates your USP to your potential customers.

By taking the time to create a strong USP, you’ll be able to increase sales and grow your business.

It is essential to have a unique selling proposition (USP) that sets the business apart from its competitors. Many factors can contribute to a USP, but choosing one that is both relevant to the target market and achievable for the company is vital. For example, a business that sells eco-friendly products may focus on its sustainable manufacturing process, while a luxury retailer might highlight its exclusive range of designer labels.

By definition, a USP must be unique, so you should carefully consider what makes the business special before choosing a USP. Once the USP has been selected, it should be prominently featured in all marketing and sales communications to attract attention and drive sales.

3. Focus on quality over quantity – make sure each product or service is the best it can be

When running a successful business, there’s no substitute for quality. No matter how good your sales team is, they’ll never be able to sell an inferior product or service. That’s why it’s important to ensure that every one of your products or services is the best. Whether developing a new feature for an existing product or ensuring that your customer service is responsive and helpful, making quality a priority will always pay off in the long run. Not only will your customers be happier, but you’ll also see an increase in sales and loyalty. So don’t cut corners – instead, focus on making every one of your products or services the best they can be.

4. Offer customer service that is superior to your competitors

In today’s competitive marketplace, offering superior customer service is essential for businesses of all sizes. There are several ways to provide service that is superior to your competitors. One way is to ensure that your sales staff is knowledgeable about your products and services and can give informed recommendations. Another way is to offer a broader range of products and services than your competitors. You can also set yourself apart by offering more personalized service, such as customized product recommendations or assistance with troubleshooting problems. By providing superior customer service, you will be able to attract and retain more customers, giving you a significant advantage in the marketplace.

5. Stay up to date with industry trends, and find ways to incorporate them into your business

Sales representatives should always be up to date with industry trends. This can help them identify new sales opportunities and also be able to speak knowledgeably with potential customers about the latest products and services. There are a few different ways to stay up to date with industry trends. Representatives can attend trade shows and conferences, read industry news sources, and follow relevant social media accounts. Additionally, they can reach out to colleagues and other contacts within the industry to get insights into what is happening. By taking these steps, sales representatives can ensure that they are always ahead of the curve and able to capitalize on new opportunities.

Businesses must stay up to date with industry trends. By understanding the latest trends, companies can adapt their sales strategies to suit the needs of their customers better. Additionally, staying up to date with industry trends can help businesses identify new growth opportunities. For example, if a new trend emerges that is closely related to a business’s products or services, the company may be able to capitalize on this trend by marketing its products or services in a new way. Finally, keeping abreast of industry trends can help businesses stay ahead of their competitors. If a company is aware of a trend before its competitors, it may gain a competitive advantage by being the first to market its products or services in a new way. In short, there are many good reasons for businesses to stay up to date with industry trends.

6. Promote yourself online and offline through social media, networking events, and advertising

As a small business owner, promoting yourself online and offline is essential. Social media is a great way to reach potential customers and build awareness for your business. But don’t stop there – networking events and advertising can also be effective marketing tools.

When it comes to promoting your business, sales are essential, but so are building relationships and connecting with potential customers. That’s where networking comes in. Attending industry events and meeting potential customers can help you make those critical connections.

And don’t forget about advertising. There are various ways to get the word out about your business, from print ads to radio commercials. While online marketing is essential, offline advertising can also be a great way to reach potential customers.

You can effectively promote your business online and offline with a little effort. By using a combination of social media, networking, and advertising, you’ll be able to reach more potential customers and grow your business.

It would help if you were the best professional that you could be. You must embrace work as a profession, not as just another job. A professional salesperson is proud of his craft and tries to be the best that s/he can be.

In my book, Eliminate Your Competition, I discuss there are three things that you must sell:

  1. your product,
  2. your company,
  3. yourself.

Since most products have competition that solves the core of the same problems, products rarely win the deal by themselves. Since most companies are high quality, the company’s reputation rarely wins the deal. The significant variable in all sales opportunities is you. You can show you are a better partner and advocate than the other salesperson. You can show that buying from you is better than buying from another person.

You may purchase my book from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at retailers like AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

There is a way to beat your competition, even if they have all their advantages. Believe it or not, this is possible with the right sales skills. Many small businesses have used effective selling techniques to overtake their larger counterparts. So don’t be discouraged; you can outsell any competitor with the right approach and attitude. Start honing your skills today! What are you waiting for?

Header Photo by Laura Tancredi: https://www.pexels.com/photo/skyscrapers-with-reflecting-walls-in-modern-megapolis-7078666/
Good Managers Make You Better

Good Managers Make You Better

My very good friend and respected sales professional, Dean Wiener, published this post on LinkedIn. He allowed me to reproduce the post here. I think his comments are great advice for anyone that is a sales manager and even for salespeople that are looking at their current manager to see if it makes sense for them to continue with their current employer.

Today’s market is extremely competitive for salespeople. Most sales organizations cannot find enough high-quality talent. If your manager isn’t living up to Dean’s standards, you may want to find a better manager.

Conversely, every sales manager needs to look at these words from a sales expert. If you are not adding value to your sales team then you should re-think your style. The big question that you should answer for yourself is embedded in Dean’s original post:

Do you work for your sales team or do they work for you?

Header photo courtesy o f La solitudine del manager by Sgt. Pepper57 on 2017-05-31 14:59:13

The Seven Deadly Management Sins Of Sales Managers

The Seven Deadly Management Sins Of Sales Managers

I recently read a great article by John Care, Managing Director of Mastering Technical Sales and author of the book Mastering Technical Sales: The Sales Engineers Handbook. His focus was on pre-sales managers but I actually think the seven sins were appropriate for any leader and definitely any sales leader. Here is a quick list but jump over to John’s article and read the rest of his discussion.

Management Sin 1: Expecting Perfection – You Are Only Human.

Management Sin 2: Micro-Managing the Detail.

Management Sin 3: Confusing Communications

Management Sin 4: Not Understanding Who The Customer Is – to modify John’s point in his article, a sales leader isn’t primarily serving the customer that pays the bills but the sales leader should consider his/her sales team to be the customer. Question for all sales managers: what did you do today that will enable your salesperson to hit their goals when you are not watching?

Management Sin 5: Giving Orders.

Management Sin 6: Losing Sight Of The Fight.

Management Sin 7: Ignoring The Needs Of Your Employees.

Think about the best and worst characteristics of all your previous managers. Make a list. That is a great start to positive and negative behavior for any presales leader. You must understand that, especially in high-technology settings, there are many ways to get something done – and only one of those ways is “yours.”

We have all seen great salespeople flop when they become managers. I believe there are two key reasons for this:

  1. The great salesperson really didn’t know how they were able to achieve greatness. Yes, they did most things correctly, but they didn’t understand why they were doing those things. This caused them to be unable to effectively share these techniques with their teams.
  2. The great salesperson thought that managing was different than selling. If the sales manager looks at each of their team members as an individual customer and tries to think about how to “sell” that individual on the manager’s goals, the entire process would go differently. For instance, you would never “tell” a prospect that they have to do X. Instead, you would explain to a prospect why doing X was in their best interest and helped the prospect achieve his or her goals. When you treat your direct reports like a prospect, everyone wins.

You should read the entire article by John on this subject. It is excellent. Please download it here.

 

Make your sales force automation project increase productivity

Make your sales force automation project increase productivity

Yesterday, I explained that your sales force automation project was probably not increasing the productivity of your sales force. Today, let’s discuss ways to improve your project so that your SFA system is not an albatross around the neck of your salespeople.

Obviously, we are not going to go back to the age of administrative assistants for each group of salespeople. Also, there are some things that SFA systems excel at such as capturing contacts at accounts, running analytics on opportunity information, documenting opportunities, assisting in communication in group-selling scenarios and much more.

I challenge you to question every added field in your account, contact, and opportunity screens. If the empty field is there, then it is demanding an answer which takes time to fill out and it is affecting the productivity of your salespeople. Is the time to find the answer to a question important enough to skip a sales call? That is the question that you must answer: is the answer so crucial that a salesperson with a “billable rate” of $1,000 per hour is inputting the answer? Worse yet, is the answer so important that it would be okay for a salesperson to skip a sales call to find the information? If “no” is the answer to either question, then delete the field.

We can all probably agree that one of the benefits of salesforce automation is the production of reports and analytics about your customers and their opportunities. I suggest that you run a report looking for empty fields. If there are blank fields across your 40% of your data set, your salespeople are telling you that the information is affecting their productivity and is a waste of time in their opinion. They have said that they don’t think it is valuable for them to find that answer and are making sales calls rather than find the information.

Assume that you have 100 salespeople each with a $2 million quota. Assume each salesperson is tracking 50 opportunities in a year. If that empty field that needs more research takes 5 minutes per opportunity, then it costs that salesperson 250 minutes for that information. That is over 4 hours of time which means it is “costing” the company $4,000 to find that information over the course of the year – for each salesperson. If you extend that math across your entire sales force, that field costs you $4,000,000 in lost productivity. Is that information worth $4M to you?

Obviously, your company will not be $4M more profitable for each mandatory field that you cut in your sales force automation system. Many factors affect a salesperson’s productivity, and one of the keys to success in sales is to overcome time drags. Usually, we do this by:

  • Driving a bit faster between appointments.
  • Getting to work a bit earlier.
  • Working late into the evening.
  • Sometimes, we overcome these time-drags by skipping an event with the kids though.
  • Maybe we don’t help out with homework as much.

You probably get the picture; when you start to ask your employees for information that isn’t critical, you begin to create an environment where they may not be as happy to be your employee.

How to move forward

The first thing to do is to make sure you are truly getting value out of every piece of data that every rep is typing into your sales force automation system. Once you think you are attaining value from that information, use it to help them drive more revenue. If you show your salespeople that the information is helping them not just helping you, the manager, then they will be more willing to be on the program.

If you have fields that are regularly blank, challenge the team that says they need the information to justify the cost of filling out the information. Perform the math that I showed above and ask them if they are getting $4M per year (or whatever your specific calculation) of value from that information. If they cannot justify the cost, cut the field.

The great thing about cutting fields is that a few cuts make a huge difference. If you currently have 100 fields to be filled out regarding an account or an opportunity and you cut it by 10%, you will find that the remaining fields are far more likely to get attention. You have helped your salespeople, and they will reward you by more eagerly participating in the process.

Salesforce automation should help to automate the sales force and increase productivity. It shouldn’t be a burden on the sales force. Your goal is to help them be more efficient not to teach them to type better. Make a point to not waste the time of your salespeople by using every piece of information that they provide and show that the usefulness of that information makes your company a better company.

Photo by tec_estromberg

Sales force automation should not punish salespeople

Sales force automation should not punish salespeople

Nearly every sales force of size has implemented a tool (or tools) that are designed to “automate” the sales force. Unfortunately, the implementation of these tools rarely automates anything. In fact, it regularly slows down the people that it is supposed to help.

Let’s do some simple math. Assume the average salesperson at your company has an annual quota of 2 million dollars ($2M) divided evenly to $500K per quarter. There are approximately 2,000 hours in a standard working year (yes, I understand that exceptional salespeople will regularly work more than 40 hours per week). This means that each hour of the year has a quota of $1,000. Each standard working day has a quota of $8,000.

Let’s put this a better way. The billable rate of each of your salespeople is $1,000 per hour! Think about this; this is far more than the billable rate for any consultant that you sell or more than any consultant that you have hired to help you run the company. Kimble recently did a study of consulting billing rates, and the average rates were all less than 1/4 of the rate you need from your salespeople!

It is obvious that your company would want to automate that very valuable resource.

When a salesperson thinks of automation though, he or she think of reducing the time on the more mundane time hogs to maximize the time in front of customers. When a manager thinks of automation, he or she thinks of how to extract even more information from their sales force. These two goals are inherently at conflict since managers want more and more information while salespeople want to do less drudgery work.

This lack of alignment in goals means that at least one group is going to be frustrated with the implementation of a sales force automation system. Unfortunately, if the salesperson is frustrated then it is likely that the “automation’ project will never be truly successful. Instead, there will be constant threats from management to keep the system up-to-date and failure to do so will result in fines, loss of some benefits, and maybe even firings.

Whenever I hear of a company that is “nagging” salespeople to update the system, I know that they have done a poor job in making sure that everyone is on board with the sales force automation project. They have implemented a system that is win/loss rather than a win/win.

When my father was a salesperson, he did very little internal book work. When he needed a TELEX sent, he scribbled it on a piece of paper and handed it to his team secretary. When he needed a letter sent to a customer, he scribbled the note, and it was typed up by the secretary or his secretary came in for dictation. In either case, he didn’t worry about formatting or letter structure as that was the job of his secretary. He would hand business cards to his secretary, and she would insert them in order in a notebook that he carried in his car. If the customer didn’t have a business card (rare for him in those days), she would create a note card of the same size with the information. His expense reports were easy: he handed receipts to his secretary along with a handwritten log of his mileage, and she did the rest. He had the ultimate in “automation” as he just delegated all work except for making sales calls.

When I was a young man and beginning my career in sales, we also did not have gadgets to make us more productive. I carried a tape recorder with me. I would dictate my call notes to the team of secretaries in my office. Those notes were returned to me as well as copied for my manager so that he knew what was going on. My correspondence was simple as well since I dictated those while driving down the road and handed the cassette to the secretarial pool. If a piece of literature was required, I noted it in the dictation, and a secretary pulled it out of the library. Expenses were a little more difficult than my father since I had to fill out a form and sign it. I still spent more time selling than I ever did doing bookwork.

Then came the advent of automation and personal computers. We now need to hunt and find our literature. If you don’t know how to type a well-crafted email or letter, you are at a significant disadvantage. The slower you type, the worse your productivity. We type call logs into the sales force automation system which cannot be safely done while driving to the next appointment, but rather require that you be camped out in the office or a Starbucks.

All of this means that productivity for salespeople has been severely reduced in this age of computer productivity. The gauge of most workers in the internet age is the speed that they can answer emails or create documents. For salespeople, productivity is measured by the number of sales calls we make and size of our revenue. If your sales force automation system is reducing the amount of time your sales force is spending in front of a customer than it is NOT an automation system!

Tomorrow, I will finish this thought by trying to explain techniques to help you make your sales force automation project actually automate your sales force. Check it out!

Photo by hiyori13

Do You Prepare For Your Sales Call Like a SCUBA Diver?

Do You Prepare For Your Sales Call Like a SCUBA Diver?

SCUBA divers prepare more fully for the dive than most salespeople prepare for the sales call. SCUBA diving is a popular hobby and sport. It allows the diver to see a beautiful world under the water filled with fabulously decorated plants and animals. While the environment is beautiful, it can be dangerous if the SCUBA diver is not prepared.

Very few SCUBA divers have accidents, and that is because they are prepared. Before every dive, there is significant discussion and planning. The dive site is discussed in detail including:

  • What currents that are prevalent?
  • How deep is the dive?
  • What possible dangerous animals and plants might they encounter?
  • Which SCUBA diver is going to lead?
  • A review of various hand signals to communicate.

Not insignificantly, the divers also agree when the dive will be over and the safety of the ascent.

All of this makes sense. Diving is incredibly fun, but there can be disastrous repercussions.

Your sales call will probably not cause injury or death if you screw it up. You will be much more effective if you simply prepare for the conversation – especially if you are going on a sales call with a buddy.

In the worst case, a bad sales call could mean that you lose the order – and financially that can be devastating. It can also be a mortal problem for your career if you screw up too many sales calls.

Here are some suggested topics to prepare for your sales call. You should think of these topics even if you are making a solo sales call.

  • What is the major and minor goal of the sales call?
  • Who is going to lead the conversation?
  • When is the sales call finished?
  • Do you need to review some verbal signals to change course during the sales call?

Prepare for the major and minor goal of the sales call?

This conversation is probably the easiest and most important item to discuss during the preparation. You should have two goals for each sales conversation – a major goal and a minor goal. The major goal is your best outcome for the sales call. The major goal is the outcome that you are working towards and you will “high five” your sales partner as you walk out of the building.

The minor goal is the minimum you can settle for without being disappointed at the end of the call. If you don’t get this, you have failed. Failure is bad. You need to work hard to avoid this outcome.

Prepare for whom is going to lead the conversation?

With multiple people involved there needs to be some coordination on which person is leading different parts of the conversation. Your life will be much better if everyone agrees to this plan. Your chances of achieving your Major Goal are much better if this is structured.

A general problem happens here when you have your manager with you. Let’s face it, managers typically are not great coaches and wish they still had your job. In too many situations, they don’t want to sit there passively and let you lead. If your manager suffers from this problem, politely discuss it with him/her. If the problem continues, have him read my post on coaching, and then call him “Coach” repeatedly in your daily interactions with him. It is a sad reality of life that you may have to teach your manager how to be your manager.

Prepare for when is the sales call finished?

It is an old statement that you need to stop selling when you have won the order. The end of the call needs an advance agreement. Do you need to fill the entire time slot or is there some signal that everyone agrees it is time to leave? Figure that out in advance.

Prepare for verbal signals to change course during the sales call?

The main reason for your buddy to be on the call is probably because that person needs to say something important. You may have a technical partner, subject matter expert (SME), or your manager. However, when the customer says or questions something, who is going to take it and what is everyone else going to do?

It only takes a few minutes to plan a sales call, but it is very important. You will have more predictable results, if you prepare. Spend those couple minutes in the car before walking in, in the office earlier that day, or on a quick conference call. Being prepared for the call is not as important to your safety as in SCUBA diving but it can be just as rewarding when it all works out.

You may have other ideas of things to cover in the sales call. If you do, drop me a note at @soshaughnessey on Twitter or leave a comment below.

Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten