Sales 101

Employee turnover with sales reps rivals many industries.  My first sales job was for a copier company and on an annual basis we would turn over 50% of employees.  Why is this?  Sales is tough, customers are not there waiting to buy, they are not making any money, and many new reps get sick of the rejection and throw in the towel way too soon.

So why do people get into sales and what sets apart the good from the bad reps.  I feel the primary trait is motivation.  Some people in life are winners and others are losers.  If you’re a victim or always come up with an excuse for not making things happen sales is not for you.  Sales organizations need people who are honest, hard-working, career minded, team oriented, customer focused, and are motivated by money, incentives or just doing a good job.

Why do people get into sales? 

  1. You can make a nice living with very little education.
  2. There are always job openings.  Especially for a sales job that’s commission based.
  3. Autonomy– you work on your own for about 1/2 of the day.
  4. Teamwork:  If you like to share your ideas and help others sales provides a forum to work with all sorts of support staff.
  5. Challenging–  Some see it as a game of If I see x amount of customers and x amount of them come in for a product demonstration, then x amount will buy from them.
  6. Uncapped income – The more you sell the more you make.  You get a percentage of the sales.  So the more you sell, the more money you will make.
  7. Benefits- Some of the best sales organizations have tremendous benefits.  Life and health insurance, expense accounts, salary and bonus, retirement through pension or 401k, paid time off, tuition reimbursement, company cars, career opportunities either in marketing or management.

If this post interest you and you would like to explore a career in sales please reach out to me or post a comment.  I have been in sales for over 13 years and it has provided a tremendous amount of opportunity for me personally and my family.  I would love to help someone find a place in this ever revolving door called sales.

Picture Credit

Posted in Sales | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Listen Up

To earn your customers you must listen to them.  Market research states the best sales rep speak only 30% of the time but listen 70%.  This is only possible through good questioning, probing, and keeping quiet while you give your customer time to respond.  How much talking are you doing in your customer interactions? Listening  helps you solve problems your customers care about.  One story is when I was selling copiers to a large graphic arts firm.  The rep demoed their product and positioned it against mine on how it could  print on 12×18 paper.  They printed color on big sheets of paper to prove they could print on some of the largest format.  However, this was never a requirement for the customer.  I focused on the customer  to listen to and understand their needs.  Guess What?  I got the deal. Most of us have been educated in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but have ay of us taken a listening course?  Below are some quick tips to put your best foot forward with your customers. Do’s of Listening

  1. Take Notes–  This will show others that you are paying attention and will help you take down pertinent information to follow-up with.
  2. Don’t finish other people’s sentences
  3. Ask clarifying questions every once in a while to make sure you understand.
  4. Nod Your Head and lean into the person speaking to show interest.
  5. Recap and have a followup plan of action
  6. Read body language.

Dont’s of Listening

  1. Look at your watch
  2. Stand up before they are done talking
  3. Start thinking about what you are going to say  next
  4. Stare somewhere else besides at the person who is speaking
  5. Yawn

How to Measure

  1. You don’t want to hear “As I previously stated”
  2. Ask a question they already answered
  3. Other party’s body language
  4. You understand what they are saying by having great responses, feedback, and questions.

Let me know what you thought by commenting below.  Do you have any funny stories about some bad listeners out there? Picture Credit

Posted in Sales | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Consultive Selling

There is more than one way to find success in our professional life.  Each of us has our own unique and different style to sell to our customers.  The important thing is that we find out what are strengths are and maximize them and understand our weaknesses and work on them to minimize their impact.  The best representatives embrace who they are and exude confidence when they are in front of their peers, customers, and leadership team.

Depending on the type of product you are selling your style may differ as well.  I am in the pharmaceutical sales arena and have been for over 10 years.  I love this field because it gives me the autonomy of not being behind a desk all day and running my own business in my territory.  I also get to sell and interact with customers, which I love, but I also have a responsibility to be an expert with my products and disease state.  The medical community counts on representatives like me to provide accurate information on how to best use the products I represent to safely and effectively treat patients and their disease.

My customers are physicians, nurse practitioners’, and physician assistants.  My goal is to keep the product portfolio that I represent for my company stable or growing in market share or absolute sales depending on the products life cycle and competitive environment.  In order to do this outside of the decision makers that I just mentioned there are several other key players that are involved in my day-to-day operations to be successful.  Pharmacists have a say in what a patient takes home with them in their treatment, medical assistants educate patients, process prior authorizations, and help handout product literature that will ensure compliance and understanding on the new therapy that they have been prescribed.

My point being is that it’s NOT all about the final decision maker.

You need to work with all parts of an organization to understand their needs to provide the best solution for the appropriate patient.  My recommendation when you are selling anything is that you keep the end-user in mind, for me it’s the patient.  If I keep the patients best interest in mind and only try to solve an unmet medical need or improve their therapy to help reduce their risks or complications that come along with their disease I know I will be successful.

I believe this to be consultative selling.  What are your thoughts on consultative selling and what strategies have you used to connect with your customers?  Please leave a comment below and share your sales story.

Picture Credit

Posted in Sales | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sales Integrity, Oxymoron?

If you do not have integrity…your sales career won’t last very long.  I have witnessed what I think is one of the Top 10 Disciplines catapult or blunder a sales career.  It amazes me how some people are so short-sighted that they take, take, take as much from the customer as fast as they can only to have them wise up and revolt against their rep.

I’ve seen reps give gift cards and tickets to the game to get business.  I’ve seen reps sell their trusting customer inferior products because they could make a higher commission.  However, the reps that stay around the longest and make a career out of it are the ones that have integrity and follow the rules below.

For more information on integrity and sales click the link below.  Baylor University presents an interesting case about integrity in the workplace.

Here are my Top Rules of Integrity:

  • Think of your customers best interests
  • Your product must add value to their organization
  • You must be open and honest about your products capabilities.
  • Deliver on your promises.  You should never over promise.
  • Only speak the truth.
  • Never do anything you wouldn’t be proud of on the 6 o clock news.
  • Give credit inside and outside the organization where it is due. Don’t take credit that you don’t deserve.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Never talk negatively about competition just point out your differences and let the customer decide.
  • If others had full disclosure would they buy from you?
  • Is it legal?  Not Joking

So what nonsense have you been witness to?  Is integrity a trait  that top performers on your sales team emulate?  Please share by posting your comments below.

Picture credit

Posted in Sales | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Is It Time to Change Course?

It’s hard to believe that we are 1/4 through 2012.  Are your sales where you need them or is it time to change course?

Now is the time to analyze your sales and marketing reports to see if your efforts are producing fruit or putting your pay at risk.  Three months of work should show signs of what type of year you are having, whether you are an entrepreneur or work on a team if you don’t like the results you are seeing now’s the time for tweaking your strategy.

Top Things To Ask Yourself:

  • Are you spending your time wisely and with the right people?
  • Are you converting the low hanging fruit of unhappy customers from competitors?
  • Are you networking to make new contacts, and starting the conversation on how you can help them?
  • Are you utilizing everyone on your team to obtain your common goals?
  • Are you staying away from unproductive distractions during the “Golden Hours” of selling?
  • Have you sat down with your supervisor to see what their recommendations are?
  • Did you give up on your original plan too soon?  No plan works if your try it for only a few weeks, once you start something see it through.
  • Are you closing and asking for the business?  The timing must be right, but if you have taken a customer through the entire sales cycle of Prospecting, Consulting-Info Gathering, Demonstration, and Value Delivery, your next logical step is to close them for a trial, a commitment, or a delivery date.  Who knows they might surprise you and accept, but you will never know where your customer stands unless you ask them.

Are you sticking to your original business plan or do you need to change course?  Please share with me what you are doing to hit your sales goals in 2012.

Titanic Picture

Posted in Sales | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Plan B: The Recession Still Exists

The great recession that started in 2008 started a chain reaction that most Americans couldn’t imagine.  After living through some of our most affluent times in history we now live in neighborhoods where for-sale signs are hard to miss and having conversations with friends being laid off is far too common.

I’ve always worked for large corporations and up to this point I have been fortunate to leave on my own terms.  However, working for large corporations has taught me this, my network of co-workers care about me as I do them, but the larger organization has to be financially responsible.  What this means is that if things go bad, and as we’ve seen they do, good even great people get laid off.  The numbers have to make sense.  Do you know how much you are costing your company in salary and benefits?  If you work in an industry that has lagging sales because of poor product innovation or the recession you better know your worth.

I always figured that if I was selling $1,000,000, a year in product for my company then I was worth my expense as an employee.  Well 75% of us got laid off later that year so I was wrong.  The company felt $3,000,000 per territory was a better number.  No hard feelings here, I just didn’t calculate correctly and it was a tough time for a lot of my friends.  However, my numbers might have been wrong but I did see this big change coming.

I didn’t like the feeling of a being lame duck and wanted to have a Plan B. 
This was a great motivator to go out in the community and find out my worth.  You know what they say, ” It’s always best to look for a job when you currently have one”.  Recruiters have a nose for candidates who reek of being laid off and often there is a stigma to overcome, fair or not.  So, if you are getting that feeling that your current job is in jeopardy talk to your peer group and customers to see which companies are doing well and start building your network.

Top 10 Recommendations For Staying Employed

  1. Start looking while you have a job
  2. Great business people have a network in place, build yours today
  3. Build your brand – Get a professional photo of yourself for the online world to see
  4. Utilize Social Media to network
  5. Create a blog on what you are passionate about
  6. Twitter – Tweet content about your industry to your peers.  Industry news not what you had for breakfast
  7. LinkedIn – Have your resume posted here
  8. Google+ – Way to network and post content
  9. Facebook – Keep it professional.  Employers are looking at your profile
  10. Google yourself and see what the search finds.  If you don’t like it you may need to contact a professional service like Identity Guard.

Let me know what you’ve done during the recession to stay in the job market.

Picture Credit

Posted in Sales | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Who Is Your Modern Day Goliath?

Part 1:  How To Beat Your Goliath

Ford has Chevrolet, Coke has Pepsi, Apple had IBM and David had Goliath.  My point being successful companies (or biblical stories) have their very own adversaries that threaten their profits and existence.  Capitalism creates the marketplace that rewards innovation. Whoever makes their product or service better, faster, or cheaper than their competition wins.  Every morning these companies go to battle to grow their profits, execute their strategic plan, and  stay ahead of one another.

In actuality these companies are doing each other a service.  Competition is the hallmark sign of capitalism, the free and open markets are ruthless.  This forces companies to be “fit” by always looking forward, analyzing the changing business environment, customer needs, and your competition.

I drew the analogy of “who is your modern-day Goliath” because it is a healthy part of your sales career to have an adversary.  Nothing gets me up in the morning and makes me hungrier than knowing my competition is doing the same thing.  My goal is to outlast, outsell, out-learn, out-relationship build, out-work, out-demonstrate my product, and out-create value for their business than my competitor.

Another important point of You vs. your Goliath is have faith.  Create your business plan and stick to it.  As hard as it may seem in the battlefield of sales, things change quickly.  Your #1 competitor often gets promoted, moves out-of-town, or changes industries.  You never know what’s going on inside their personal or professional life that might create change.  I have been my customers #2 choice many times and that’s o.k. They are loyal to their current sales rep, but as I stated the rep won’t be around forever.

Part 2: How To Beat A Goliath Account

  1. Outlast:  See your plan though and outlast your competition
  2. Sow: Big accounts take time, hard work, and patience
  3. Build: Business relevent relationships
  4. Understand:   The customers needs
  5. Bread and Butter:  Hit your quota with prospects that are ready to buy or grow existing accounts.  This will allow you to be patient for the Goliath account.

Please share below an account or competitor that was a tough adversary in your sales career and what you did to beat the competition.

Goliath Picture

Posted in Sales | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment