Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Sales Shift - Stop the Patter

Sales is shifting again. We have moved on from the order taker – the GFC fixed that. The GFC gobbled up natural demand and forced the real sales people to thrive; and thrive they have. The order taker sales person is finished.

Sales people who have survived the order taker cull have decided to tell faster. These people don't get the rules of the sales cat. They figure the more they know and the faster they can tell people about it the more sales they will make. Right? Wrong.

This behaviour of course allows the cream to rise to the top. Enter the transformers.

These are the sales people that live in the third circle of selling. 

The first circle is all about product knowledge, throwing it at the marketplace and hoping for sales.

The second circle sees the sales person pitch the product at the customer, adding some value and describing how it may help them.

The  third circle is where the knowledge of the customers environment, combined with the problem the product solves for the customer, integrates a mature approach to business dynamics.

Transformers get how their 'stuff' solves business problems.
Transformers can link product, problems and solutions very well.
Transformers are masters at getting customers to see the value.
Transformers sell outcomes not more 'stuff!'
Transformers deliver 87% of sales results.

In this new world of selling it will be the transformers who thrive. Do you have one? Do you know who the others are and what they are costing your business?

Transformers – the sales cat of today.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

When is it TIME to innovate?

I've just returned from the Albury BMI week where I ran a workshop on Innovation.

On the morning of the workshop, I drove down Dean Street and noticed the town clock, in the iconic building on the corner of Kiewa Street, was stuck on 3pm. You know a regional centre has stopped thinking about its future when the clock has stopped and the battery not changed! 

I challenged my group on this point and an innovative concept.

With a population of around 60,000 there is a massive opportunity to build something better when it comes to retail and the regional experience.

I boldly suggested that they put a roof over Albury and rebrand it 'Albury One dot com.' There were looks of dismay. Their brains were thinking one way, and mine, another.

Not corrugated iron roofing I suggested, which was the conclusion they all clearly jumped to. A brand, a destination, an experience, a performance I explained. 

See, I believe their shopping precinct has lost it's mojo. It has turned into rows of shops with stuff on shelves with nice flower pots and speed humps as the attraction.

Shopping should be a performance, an experience of the senses. It should be like poisonous gas! It should make you clammy, cry, laugh, sweat, run, stop and drop. Albury needs to rethink it's retail purpose. 

Create an environment like Disneyland where everything they do in the magic kingdom is a performance. As 'Albury One dot com' the hundreds of retailers in Albury/Wodonga could leverage their marketing spend, logistics expense, website presence, training and supply chain. They could align themselves into categories like a Chadstone or Highpoint West shopping centre. Once that was done they could then entertain attracting customers to the value, not just the product. They need to  develop innovative ways to attract people to experience their shops again. Create clever events, entertain, engage customers and bring back the pizazz so sorely missed in retail today.

Think about it. Why do you really go to a restaurant? For the food? Be honest, you go for the experience. To catch up with friends, to laugh, to share and to engage the senses. Food is a given. The problem is most owners of restaurants charge for food only which demonstrates they think they are in the food business when they really should be in the entertainment business. There is no competitive advantage in selling just stuff.

It's time to change the clock Albury.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Business People Who Sell

There is a common myth in sales circles that sales people are born not trained. Of course this is nonsense. Send me the details of any midwife that recognised an up and coming sales person like Zig Zigler at birth!

The facts are that selling and the science of selling, like any science, is a learnt skill. The basic foundations of this learning are effective communication, planning, goal orientation and problem solving. These elements combined form the foundations of what we call "Sales Swagger” or the “Sales Essence” of an individual.

For many years now I have said consultants are in a privileged position when it comes to selling. They generally have a fantastic ability to solve problems. They have become good listeners by being forced to understand their clients issues in order to offer solutions. They also, if involved in accounting and professional services, come from a ‘trusted’ position via existing relationships and the perception of accounting in the wider community.

So what is the issue with selling if all these factors are stacked in your favour?

Why is it so hard to become “A Business Person who Sells” when the customers prime driver is to go forward, achieve their goals, be successful and achieve growth and profit?

Through observations, training and my own business experience, here are the top key blockages:
  • Confidence in your own selling ability 
  • Inadequate time allocated to proper sales cycles, from start to finish 
  • A poorly thought out (SCA) or Unique Selling Proposition (USP) 
  • Lack of sales process or model to find suspects, convert to prospects and then convert to customers 
  • Fear 

Fear is not even worth talking about. I have never seen a salesperson shot by a customer! The worst thing that can happen is the customer says “No”! If you have a robust pipeline this will never be a problem.

Selling is not something you can do once a month at the Club Golf Tournament. You need to allocate time to the process of selling. Time for pipeline development, relationship building, sales calls and follow up conversions. Everyone in your organization need to be involved in the process of customer development — not just the ‘rainmakers’.

You need to be able to anchor your sales process with a point of difference to make sure your USP is in fact unique. Understand your SCA. Build a sales process and then consistently use it leaving nothing out. Don’t skip steps.

Lastly, begin to build goals, targets and milestones. Set yourself a meeting target, proposals out for consideration target, conversion goal and win/loss ratio.

Lets be clear. Customers want future goals and success. They are not interested in your products and services, sorry to burst the bubble. I challenge you to ring 20 customers now and ask if you can come over and show them product X, Y and Z. I bet none take you up on your offer. Instead ask them if you can meet to discuss their top 5 blockages to success you can help them fix, and you may even find they offer to pay for coffee!

Here is a model or approach you may have heard of. Sit down with a customer and ask them “Where are you now?” (Listen) Then ask them, “What are your top 5 issues for the next 3 months? You know, the burning ones.” (Listen) Then ask them “Where do you want to be in 12 months time?” (Listen) Then with them, discuss and agree on actions and strategies to get them there. Abracadabra! Looks like a plan!

If you want to be “A Business Person who Sells”, become a person that helps everyone you meet grow in some way. As these people slowly make sense of the value they are getting from the relationship chances are you will become very popular, very successful and well paid.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Recognition and Reward for your Sales Team

There is a great array of commission and incentive packages to boost sales team performance but choosing the right one for your business is not always easy. Ideally it should fairly compensate and adequately motivate the team members while supporting and advancing your company's vision and goals.
Ground Rules
There are some specific ground rules that span all industries and can help provide a framework to develop your package. The most important rules include:
  • Start with the outcomes
  • Prioritize behaviours
  • Keep incentives flexible so that they can evolve along with your company's goals
  • Make it easy for everyone to understand
  • Benchmark your competition to stay competitive
  • Review regularly for relevance
Start with Results
It is fundamentally important to determine what results you want to encourage and design your plan from there.
The sales teams goals should reflect the company's larger goals. Consider including the corporate goals in your sales agreement to promote a unity of purpose. For additional clarity, you may want to include work objectives, even if they are not tied to commissions.
Some Carrots are Larger than Others
Every incentive in a commission plan is a carrot, but some carrots can be larger than others depending on the behavior they reward. Prioritize the behaviors you want from your sales force. You then can set up a system of rewards that encourages top-priority behavior, as well as motivates salespeople for situations that are clearly distinguishable.
For example, you may want to commission third-party products at a different rate. You also might consider commissioning services differently than products.
You can implement an accelerator plan, which provides flexibility in the commission percentage earned and paid. In this case salespeople are paid at a lower rate until they meet their target.
After that, they are compensated at a more accelerated rate for every dollar they generate in excess of the target.
Keep It Simple
A commission plan needs to be easy for your sales team to understand. Not only do sales people need to see clearly what is motivating them, but you don't want to spend your time haggling over commission payments.
Clearly identify how commissions are earned and keep the calculation formulas straightforward.
You can check your plan's simplicity by creating a few sales scenarios and asking the sales team to derive the compensation. If the plan is easily understood, everyone should come up with the same numbers. If different figures are calculated, consider reworking the plan.
Know Your Competition
If you want to retain a top-level sales force, your plan needs to be competitive. Gather intelligence on how your competitors compensate their sales professionals. You can figure out what commission levels are reasonable and competitive for your industry or profession through an Internet search at a source such as
Human resource specialists can often  help you locate surveys with compensation information; or sales professionals always know what their industry pays and can share documentation. You also can tap in to your industry's professional association or ask your peers how they structure their commission contracts.
Commission Structures
At the core of any incentive plan is determining what role commissions play in the overall sales compensation package. Four of the most common commission structures are:
  • Commission only;
  • Commission plus salary;
  • Commission plus bonus; or
  • Commission plus salary, plus bonus.
Although industry standards carry significant weight when creating a commission structure, ultimately your budget and priorities will determine how you pay sales professionals.
Again, when you hire sales professionals, they should immediately understand their earnings potential. For example, if you are paying commission only, you can specify that the commission will be X percent of the net sale, less any discounts. Or, you can define a base salary along with a target commission amount--the amount the salesperson would earn at 100 percent of quota. You might pay 50 percent base and 50 percent commission, or 80 percent salary and 20 percent commission.
If you pay bonuses, you'll need to determine not only the percentage, but if they are based on company-wide goals, individual goals or both.
Different Pay for Different People?
If multiple salespeople do the same job, their commission compensation should be equal. On the other hand, if job responsibilities really are different, these expectations should be spelled out and compensated for appropriately.
You might want to reward salespeople through higher base salaries for length of service, experience or stellar performance. Most importantly, be clear with your sales staff and apply any differences consistently.
First-time vs. Recurring Sales
You will need to address what commission is applicable to first-time sales as opposed to sales to repeat customers. By establishing higher commission percentages for new accounts, you encourage your sales team to bring in new customers.
But, you don't want to discourage sales to existing customers, as this is a strong sign of customer satisfaction with the product. It may be better to pay equally, but to award a bonus to each salesperson who brings in X new customers in a given period.
Timing of Commission Payment
Your plan will need to specify when commissions are earned. Some options include payment at the time of invoicing or product shipment, when the customer payment is received or a combination thereof.
Paying full commission when a sale is invoiced or when a product ships has the inherent risk of paying out the salesperson on what may be a slow or nonpaying customer. To alleviate this risk, some companies pay commissions only after customer payment is received.
Conditions-based Payment 
Another strategy is to pay 50 percent of the commission at the time of invoicing as long as certain conditions are met, with the remainder payable at cash collection.
You can put in the plan that anything uncollected for more than X-number of days past due will be removed from commissions, motivating salespeople to assist with collection follow up.
The "certain conditions" part of the commission agreement are for behaviors you want to encourage. For example, you might specify 50 percent commission payment for sales containing net 30-day payment terms. For sales with net 45-day terms, commission might be paid only when the cash comes in.
Another condition might be pricing in accordance with the internal discount guidelines. If salespeople get any additional discount approved beyond the guidelines, then you pay a proportionately penalized commission percentage, or pay only when the cash is received, or both.