Creating an Effective Map – The Buying Process

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Greetings friends,

In the last post on setting goals we touched briefly on the aspects of training, quota, and territory assignment.  In this posting I would like to explore a fundamental measurement of success for a sales person.  This is the outcome of closing a sale.  My view of the terrain in the “sales person/buyer exchange” is one where the power to buy rests solely with my buyer. Let’s spend a few minutes using this lens to identify the steps we would consistently observe in the buying process.  Since we are looking at this from the buyer’s perspective perhaps a better outcome for the high performing sales person would be observing the buyer getting his expected results from the purchase!

Consider these events:

  1. Our buyer has a need and is motivated (ahead of other competing priorities) to make a change.
  2. Our buyer has the ability to make a change.
  3. Our buyer can articulate how my product or service will help her meet her need.
  4. Our buyer believes the risks and costs of making the change are outweighed by expected benefits of making the change.
  5. Our buyer has resources (money/budget) to buy and the resources (time/people available) to address his need.
  6. If the buyer is buying from me, he believes that I will, better than any other alternative, help ensure the greatest opportunity for his success.
  7. Having already made the purchase decision our buyer has confirmed she is now seeing her expected results.

We will come back to each of these topics in future posts.  For now, let me leave you with these thoughts:

  1. Take a look at your “sales process or methodology.”  If it has not been documented, consider doing so.  How are each of these items facilitated and tracked as they are completed?  Remember these steps will occur with or without you. Your ability to predict (or forecast) success will be directly linked to your success in anticipating and adding value to each step.
  2. In a business to business sale it’s very likely that an exchange will occur with a   funding executive or someone other than your primary contact.  This individual will make or approve the final buying decision. Are you anticipating this event in your planning? How might a high performing sales person be proactive in helping this event occur without unnecessary delay and in seeing a positive outcome of this inevitable step?
  3. Next to helping your buyer get to this point, make it a top priority to be able to clearly articulate your buyer’s needs, motivation to change and how your product or service will uniquely help your buyer meet her needs.   In addition to getting better at predicting the likelihood of success in each engagement, it is an excellent step in ensuring the high performing sales person’s continual growth as an effective prospector and value add resource to his buyers!

In my next posting we will discuss how a high performing sales person or organization might articulate the buying steps into it’s personalized framework or sales process.  At another future point we will come back to this topic when we explore the interesting topic of forecasting!

Your Salesman for Life!

Jim_1

Quote on my mind:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

Setting Goals

Goals-1

Greetings my friends in sales,

Let’s say that you have found the right company;  the best product or service, eye on the customer, inspiring leadership and opportunity to earn high income.  Where do you start?

First, I salute you. You have earned this opportunity and it’s likely that you have executed on much of what follows in this post!

As the great Zig Ziglar said, “you gotta have goals!”  These goals will be created based on a combination of what your organization expects and what you expect.  They will include a quota assignment, working a territory or customer assignment, and completing some type of on boarding or training program.

Lets discuss each briefly.

Quota – Your quota will be a sales target that in most cases is set each year.  As Alexander the Great said, “Fortune favors the bold.”  How much do you want to earn?  Figure out how this translates to the sales you will need.  Set your income target to an amount that calculates to a percentage greater than your income at 100% of quota.  The number should be a stretch but not unrealistic.  You need to land on a scenario (formula for tasks and metrics leading to sales) that shows this is attainable. You will get better at managing this process as you learn more about your organization and your territory.

Training –  It’s great if your company offers an on boarding or training program. The purpose of training is to help you understand how to identity buying opportunities, manage your company’s available resources, and earn credibility as a value add resource to your buyers.  A high performing sales person understands that training and learning are lifelong commitments and something she always takes ownership of.  Never find yourself in a position where you are holding anyone but yourself accountable for lack of growth. The power in this case is with you!

Territory assignment –  In business to business sales this will usually be a geographic region that you are given responsibility for as a steward of your organization.   This is your business!  It’s now your opportunity and privilege to figure out how you can help the people who will be the cornerstone of your success; Your Customers!

I am truly grateful to all of my customers.  There are a handful that have probably made the difference in my career.  Thank You.  I will never forget it.

In the next posting I will spend some time discussing how a high performing sales person might create the map defining the path to success!

Your Salesman for Life.

Jim_1

jim.morgan@salesmanforlife.blog

The True Starting Point

Old Young Women

 

Greetings my friends in Sales!

Have you heard the term, “Beginning with the End in Mind?”  It encapsulates the practice of establishing what the destination looks like before taking the first step.  It’s the starting point for constructing and navigating the map of the journey.  In subsequent posts I will share some thoughts on how a high performing salesperson might work in setting goals, creating his map, and navigating the voyage.

For this post, I would like to summarize the key aspects of the material covered to date. In many respects I believe the content attempts to encompass the essence of the true beginning point of any journey: A clear understanding of where you are now!

Let me start by reinforcing this thought; ” The map is not the terrain.” As a high performing sales professional, my success is linked directly to the clarity of the lens  through which I see the world; and the degree to which the map that I have created to navigate it, accurately reflects the terrain as it truly exists.

As you  read the summary below, have you thought about my view of the terrain and the lens that informs it.  Do you think my map is accurate?

Those things that are most personal, are most general.”  Just like I cannot expect to cram for the harvest, The Golden Rule governs consistent behavioral consequences in response to my actions on both my internal and external worlds.

“Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing.”  If customers are not buying, I am not successful. If I am not constantly looking for ways to personally engage buyers (to understand and meet their needs), chances are I am not focusing on the highest leverage activities that will result in the outcomes I am seeking.

Understanding “Power” and who has it.   I do not sell, my customer buys!  This was a very powerful realization for me and it took many years to internalize.  Choosing how I spend my time and how I make make commitments based on this awareness (part of my power), has a major impact on my productivity and internal balance.   Think about how you might respond to the immense power of an oncoming 50-foot wave?  One could exert tremendous energy fighting the wave for a return of only fatigue and stress; one could give up and allow the wave to consume them, or one could learn to surf and leverage this tremendous power as a guide to the destination facilitated by the surfer.

Yes, the high performing sales person is an expert surfer!

If you have any questions on these topics I encourage you to look through my previous posts for more discussion.   Of course, I would be delighted to hear from you!

Your Salesman for Life!

Jim_1

jim.morgan@salesmanforlife.blog

Quote on my mind: “Let every interaction be an opportunity to lift the other up”

Being Proactive

Gabby Andrrew

Greetings my friends in Sales!

Let me start our visit with a question. If you had to observe a behavior that is consistently demonstrated by every highly performing sales person, what would it be? At the top of my list would be the highly developed practice of “Being Proactive.”

What do I mean by this? Before going into the short answer, I encourage you to read through  Habit 1 of Stephen Covey’s novel “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” In this section on private victories  he talks about four unique compositional elements we possess as individuals in our common life experience.  Covey points out that the most highly developed and successful people, are those that manage life experiences, regardless of external conditions, in a proactive manner!

Now the short answer: being proactive is the practice of increasing the space that exists between stimulus and response; and being consistent in using this refined awareness to keep promises made to one’s self.

To clarify, let me ask you to think about an achievement  in your personal or professional life that brings you satisfaction? To what degree are you able to credit the outcome to your success in delaying gratification; and to consistently following a plan that credible sources would agree was sound?

My take away thought for today…. We are fast approaching the time of year that many in sales would say is the slowest.  Are you being proactive in keeping your pipeline development commitments…? If yes, I humbly salute you!

Your Salesman for Life.

Jim_1

Quote on my mind: There is no standing still.  We are going either forward or backward.

 

What is Personal Power?

Bar Harbor Light House 2.jpg

Greetings my friends in Sales!

I must apologize for the time that has passed since my last posting.  My intent was to publish something weekly and I have found that other obligations and my desire to publish thoughtful content have made this goal more challenging than I should have anticipated.

A short thought and very important life principle for me. The word “power” can be defined as “the ability to influence.”  Part of being a highly productive sales person lies in my ability to consistently make and keep promises to myself.  Doing this builds personal power and failing to do this has the opposite effect.

At the end of the day, my own grounding is based on my sense of personal reliability.   Further, my ability to influence others, perhaps in no greater measure, is directly related to my ability to influence myself.  Think about this!

My takeaway; Think about your commitments, no matter the size, before you make them.  If you don’t keep a promise, acknowledge it and correct what you can.  Don’t be too hard on yourself and be tenacious in your life long commitment to developing this golden character attribute.

Let me close by first thanking my wife Reguina for her consistent, patient example.  Second I ask your pardon and that you allow me to commit to Biweekly postings for the remainder of 2017.

Your Salesman for Life!

Jim_1

Quote on my mind:   What you are doing is screaming so loudly I can’t hear a word you are saying!

Does Incorporating Obligation Mean “Controlling the Sale”?   

Controlling the Sale

Greetings my friends in Sales!

In my last posting I wrote that successful execution of a commercial organization’s mission means that it must also carry out its obligation to be profitable.    As sales people representing ourselves and our companies, we are in turn obligated to utilize our resources effectively in facilitating the buying exchange.

So here is my question, “Does being a steward of his company’s resources mean the successful sales person needs to control the buying process?” I have heard this term many times in my career and I believe it’s a trick question!  As a sales person I may have the ability to manage how I deliver my resources and decide with my buyer under which conditions they are provided.  My experience in facilitating many customer successes requires that I do this.  It’s part of the value I bring to the exchange.  However; Never forget that it is the customer and no on else who makes the decision on what to buy, how to buy, and when to buy!

Let me clarify with some examples:

  1. After establishing credibility as a potential supplier and some level of understanding of your prospective buyer’s needs, ask about her evaluation process for seeing her needs resolved. What steps are required? Who needs to be involved and when does each step need to occur? Write these items down and recap them in a concise letter for validation. Documenting these steps with dates, resource needs and expected results can prove to be an excellent aid in helping your buyer move the process along when delays occur. Instead of trying to force next steps you are adding value by helping your prospective buyer execute her buying plan.
  1. In one popular sales training program I attended during the 1980’s and 1990’s, one of the most valuable insights shared was a process step where the salesman after establishing credibility and articulating the prospective buyer’s needs, asks this question, “If you find the right solution, who will need to approve the buying decision?” The sales person then proposes the following question, “If I can show you how I can help you meet your need, will you introduce me to the approving stakeholder?”   If your buyer says “no” than as a steward, you have two main choices.  The first is to assess whether you can help prepare your buyer to successfully run this inevitable meeting without you.   I have proceeded down this path many times with great success and personal satisfaction. The key is partnering with the right prospective buyer. If your confidence is not high or you suspect that your interface point is not committed to investing in the buying process, you might be wise to consider disengaging and looking for a new prospective buyer.
  1. Remember that your ability to incorporate obligation to facilitate mutual agreement on buying process steps:

–   Increases to the degree your prospective buyer believes that you can help him  meet a prioritized need

–   Decreases to the degree your prospective buyer does not require your further assistance to come to a decision.

The moral of the story; Understand needs well and get agreement early!

Let me leave you with these final thoughts.   Believing that the sales person “controls the sale” is like believing that committing to a forecast has anything to do with the Buyer buying.  It does not!  You might be willing to pay the price in the form of added anxiety and the hope of delivering on your promise.  The only results you can count on are the added stresses to your internal and external worlds.  This is because you are promising to bring about outcomes not in your domain of control!  This is a powerful truth we will investigate further in the future.

Your Salesman for Life!

Jim_1

Quote on my mind:

Don’t get caught in the thick of thin things!

Stop Preaching about the Customer…I have a Quota to Make!

question_the_direction_400_clr_10501

Hello friends.   I started my sales career for a publicly traded software company in 1987. I was 27, ambitious, competitive and out to prove that I had what it took to be a peer among the best salespeople anywhere.

“Focus on the customer” and “prospecting with integrity” were not among the top agenda items I recall from sales meetings.  On one occasion, now over 30 years ago, I listened in partial bewilderment as one of our top sales people thanked his customers for making him successful!  Today I have no doubts about the wisdom of this statement.

I believe that true power in sales comes when the salesperson truly understands that making ones quota and placing top priority on meeting customer needs are deeply integrated aspects of the same formula. Think about this….  A company cannot be successful in meeting the needs of its customers unless its sales people are successful!    Let me break this down further by discussing this topic in terms of mission, culture and obligation.   

First let me ask you about your mission?  You might define it as the deepest part of who you are and what you believe.    Based on this personal creed, what values do you express through everyday behavior that reflect integrity with your mission?   I believe the highest performing sales people are very clear on what is important to them and they are relentless in seeking out and becoming part of organizations where there is clear alignment between their personal mission and the mission of their organization!

What about culture?  In an organization culture is what one would observe as the common expression of values, manifest through behavior that is shared throughout an organization; top to bottom.  If you are fortunate enough to experience this, it can be magic.  There is a common bond, sense of purpose and true power that one owns.  You know what to do without being told.  If values are aligned you are simply being you!

Finally,  obligation.     A company’s mission will be a concise statement  clearly defining  the results that it helps its customers achieve.  In any commercial organization its obligation is to make a profit.  Yes, it’s not only okay to make a profit, it is an obligation! Without this, the company cannot fulfill its mission.   As sales people we are obligated to effectively utilize our company’s resources in serving our company’s (and our own) mission!

So, how does a top performing salesperson truly integrate serving his customers and consistently exceed quota?

  • If you have not done so, I encourage you to spend some quiet time thinking about what is most  important to you.  Write your thoughts down. Be thoughtful and concise with your words.  Come back to it on occasion.  Ask yourself everyday if you are acting consistently with your deepest truth.  If you are interested in more, the first three chapters of Stephen Covey’s book; “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” were a good source for me.
  • Remember the “rule of the harvest”.  If you try to cram success you will not be able to circumvent the consequences on your internal (and inevitably your external) world.
  • Find an organization, promote a product or service where the results bring true alignment with your personal mission and that of your company. Don’t short cut this process by quickly accepting words exchanged in an interview or by reading a web site.  Remember the statement, “What you are doing screams so loudly I can’t hear a word you are saying”. If after evaluating your current situation you see a disconnect, ask yourself if you can positively influence change in your organization.  If not, consider making a change at the right time for you.
  • Remember that serving your customer means that you are obligated as a trusted company steward to effectively use your resources and the resources of your company. This may mean at some point saying “no” to a prospective customer!

In the next posting  I will share specific examples of what effectively incorporating obligation into the buying process might look like.    For now let me leave you with this thought.    The benchmark and unyielding quest for any high performing sales person is to constantly improve her proficiency in directly engaging prospective buyers and helping them quickly get to the point where they can (maybe better than you) clearly articulate:

  1. Their needs and motivation for change;
  2. How your product or service will help them meet their needs!

When this happens “closing the deal” for the price you are asking becomes a non event.    The buyer truly buys in a win/win exchange!

Your Salesman for Life,

Jim_1

Quote I had a chance to reflect on from my nephew’s graduation on Saturday:

“Live like you are going to die tomorrow.  Learn like you are going to endure forever”

Prospecting Part Three – What might Prospecting with Integrity look like?

Prospecting-2

Friends, by now you are properly not surprised  that I would like to start this post  with a question.  Can you think of a time in your professional career when you realized that you were truly being heard?  For me it was over 20 years ago.  I was sitting with an important executive undisturbed in his office.   This individual sat across from me; away from his computer, no phone in hand or secretary standing at the door.  I started talking and became almost oddly aware that this individual who had given me his valuable attention, was really listening to me!  It was a brief meeting and yet had a very powerful impact on my life.

In thinking about my buyer and the prospecting experience, perhaps the best description of the thought I would like to share was encapsulated by Stephen Covey in a communications term he called  “psychological air”.  In this instance it means that no matter how eloquent I think I am, my prospective buyer will not be listening to anything I have to say until she controls the space to breath.  One way for her to do this is to hang up the phone.  One way for me to improve the opportunity of being granted the privilege for more time is to pause and ask for permission to continue!   It’s interesting, I can almost feel the experience of my buyer pausing, taking a breath and leading our path forward!

Several thoughts on what prospecting with integrity might look like. If you don’t recognize the term I invite you to read last week’s post before reading on!

  • Demonstrate that you value your prospective buyer and his time by conveying early who you are and why you are calling.  Is there something you know about this buyer’s  situation that might peak his interest in what you have to say?
  • Write out your script. Think about the words you use.  Be concise.
  • In the first 20 – 30 seconds, pause and ask for permission to proceed!
  • No matter what the outcome, even if the prospective buyer elects to terminate the exchange, be sincere in your appreciation for his brief attention and wish him  a good day. Believe it!
  • Plan for and meet your call targets! Making and keeping promises to ourselves is also an expression of self-integrity and a driving force in personal power!

In treating my buyers the way I want to be treated  I am not only consistent in taking  the necessary steps of earning the opportunity to “understand”, I am making it easier on myself to execute on my prospecting goals.   Why?  You guessed it. I am prospecting with Integrity!

Your Salesman for Life,

Jim_1

jim.morgan@salesmanforlife.blog

Thought on my mind:

“Your actions are screaming so loudly I can’t hear a word you are saying!”

Prospecting Part 2 – Is it possible to love doing this?

Compass

I just finished my last phone call of the day yesterday at 4:50 p.m.  253 calls this week and 19 conversations.  Do I love doing this?  The answer is “No”.  Do I want to do this?  “Yes!” Like a consistent routine of exercise and proper eating I believe doing so will have a direct positive outcome on what I desire.   Second, I can do these things with Integrity!

If it is not clear to you how consistent prospecting or other measured activities driving direct buyer contact are key ingredients to lifelong sales success, I encourage you to invest the time in determining whether or not you believe it is true.   After 29 years in direct sales, I believe without any further convincing that my success as a sales person is defined by few greater factors than my ability to make personal contact with my buyer.

For this post I would like to spend a few minutes on what integrity in prospecting means. Let me start with another question; “Do you believe in the Golden Rule?”  It simply says, “treat others the way you want to be treated”. I believe it embodies correct principles that when followed, will guide me to the true life outcomes I most deeply seek.  Just like I cannot expect to defy gravity by walking on air, or a farmer cannot expect to be successful in cramming for the harvest, there are true north principles of behavior that govern consequences I cannot circumvent (positive or negative).

I am living in integrity when my mind, body and heart are acting in accordance with what my inner most world already knows to be true!

To explore this further, let me ask you some questions about your current view, or map of prospecting. Do you:

  • See it as a contest where the sole objective is to get agreement on what you want?
  • Hold your breath with every dial in anticipation of what you are going to blurt out before the reciever is slammed in your ear?
  • Believe there are acceptable fringe rules of engagement like telling white lies to get past a secretary, or calling cell phone numbers left for emergencies?

If you do, then even the best “can do attitude” will be sorely tested in consistently executing under these conditions.  Why?  This outlook, or manufactured world map of prospecting, provides a destination that is in discord with the “true north” map directed by the Golden Rule.   Even if you succeed in the verbal debate, get past the secretary, or close a deal, some part of your internal world will be resisting with every call.  Our map is taking us in the wrong direction!

In the next posting I will discuss some specific examples of what prospecting with integrity might look like.  Let me end this posting by leaving you with these thoughts:

  • Invest the time to determine what you believe about the importance of prospecting.
  • As a long term motivator and predictor of success at multiple levels, do you agree that a “can do attitude” pales in comparison to choosing to prospect with integrity?  Think about this in a quiet place.
  • Now with the right outlook and preparation, fire up that “can do attitude”. It’s still important! Prior to every call be your own personal coach.  Is this the prospective buyer I can help?!  Will this call be the one that gets me one step closer to that family vacation?

Your Salesman for life!

Jim_1

Thought on my Mind:
Thank You Stephen Covey. I will always be grateful.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Prospecting Part One

Prospecting

I want to start this post by saying Thank You. One of the great benefits of going through an exercise like this is that it reminds me of three related attributes I admire in every high performing salesperson; A passionate commitment to lifelong learning, evaluation, and application.

Let me begin by asking if you have heard about prospecting discussed in terms of these four stages of learning and execution?

1. Unconscious Incompetent – A salesperson  who “doesn’t know he doesn’t know” how to prospect!  Depending on outlook this might include a salesperson who has decided prospecting is not important.
2. Conscious Incompetent – A salesperson who “knows he doesn’t know” how to prospect and wants to learn!  I hope that some part of me remains in this stage and the next for all aspects of my life.
3. Conscious Competent – The salesperson in training. This is the one who is consistently practicing at making his learned prospecting skill sets proficient.
4. Unconscious Competent – This is the salesperson  that is so practiced at consciously developing her prospecting skills that she can execute perfectly without even thinking about it.

Let me stop for a moment to clarify my definition of prospecting as the process of personally hunting for and actively speaking with prospective buyers.  No, it does not include solely sending 500 emails unless this is part of a process that gets you into a forecastable number of conversations!

Now let’s make some observations about the learning stages just introduced and prospecting.  First, as a sales person, “Do you think prospecting is important?” If you think it is, “How vigilant are you in planning and execution?”   To answer this objectively,  “Are you are looking at your metrics?”

If you are not a consistent prospector (I have been in this category) I encourage you as a fellow salesperson to think about why that is.  More on this topic in the next posting.

If you are a consistent prospector and have refined your approach (research, clearly defined objective, execution, tracking, adjustment  and consistent achievement of call targets), I humbly salute you!

If you are in the unconscious competent category, I encourage you to continue to evaluate your metrics and determine if your approach can be adjusted to increase effectiveness (improve ratio of calls to conversations). Do this at least on a weekly basis. Technology and resulting options are changing rapidly. There are no substitutes to personal contact. The right questions is, “What can be used to enhance it?”

Whatever the outcome of your personal assessment, I encourage fearless reflection and self-honesty.  Do not decide that consistent, prioritized prospecting is not important   because you don’t like it!  I believe that many including myself are tempted to do this. With two full rings, no voice message, and a 7.5% conversation rate, I found that I can make and log up to 50 phone calls in an hour.  8 hours of uninterrupted phone work a week means 400 calls and 30 conversations!

Whatever your approach and execution tactics, personal engagement is the goal. Without it you are not helping your customers buy!

Is it possible to love prospecting? Join me next week for more on this topic.

Your Salesman for life.

Jim_1

jim.morgan@salesmanforlife.blog

Quote on my mind:

An unexamined (sales) life is not worth living!