Matched Pairs

Sales Lesson: Want more sales? Make more calls.

Working hard is working smart.  In a thirty-five year study of the most productive sales professionals in the world, the one common trait that all shared is that they made more calls and worked harder than anyone else.  Not only did they work harder than their competitors, but harder than anyone else in their organization.  Hard work pays off.

Sales is a person-to-person business.  A trust relationship must develop.  The more people you get to, the more chances you will have to develop these trust relationships and build your business.   Screen in suspects and prospects; don’t pre-qualify them out.  Business comes from the least likely place at the oddest of hours. Your chances of being at the right place at the right time are greatly increased if you are at a great many places every working hour of every business day, and a few non-business hours thrown in for extra measure.  Quality time is a myth.  Quantity counts.  “See a lot of people.”  If there were an easier or better way, it would have been discovered by now.  There isn’t, and it hasn’t.  Make more calls.  More sales will result.

Sales Management Lesson:
Sales Lesson: Want more sales? Make more calls.

Planning days, paperwork, screen time and administration—are all sales killers.  Your job as a sales manager is to kill the sales killers.  Step one is to insist, require, and set the example of working full field days and full field weeks.  No need to run weekend sales meetings or crack-of-dawn or end-of-the-day gatherings, if you will just insist that from the first thing Monday morning until the last thing Friday afternoon your troops are face to face with customers. Time zones can extend this.  It is traditional to hold Monday morning sales meetings in some businesses.  That is permissible, but if they are every week, skip a week every now and then.  If they are once a month, skip a month.  Try not to be a part of the problem.  Don’t ask for things that take away from selling time.

New accounts, number of presentations, number of appointments, and average number of calls per day are all indicators of who is working hard.  Those hard workers must be held up as positive examples.  This must be done continuously.  (Weekly tallies are best!)  Whoever leads your group should get a personal call from you before close of business every Friday afternoon.  (Leave them a voice mail if they are still in the field selling!)

Be sure that all field training days are full field selling days.  You have to be there.  Numbers of calls count.  Once a standard is set, it is your job to see that the standard is met.  Market research is best done by those trained in the discipline.  Using field sales people this way is not only costly in lost productivity, but the resulting research data will be marginal at best.  You do not want your sales professionals being junior assistant office workers.

The analogy of a fighter pilot is applicable. They are highly trained and skilled.  They do not supervise the maintenance of their aircraft.  After-action reports are taken verbally by others trained to do so.  Everything is done for them to keep them in the air, face to face with the targets and objectives.  So be it with your sales producers.

Sales Lesson: Even superstars hit for average. Keep on swinging.

We are told not to take rejection personally.  No one has ever explained how not to take it personally.  A sports analogy is often used which says that a Hall of Fame baseball player fails to get a base hit seven out of ten times at bat.  You might wonder how they would handle going zero for fifty or a hundred, which is the norm in many selling fields.  Regardless of the numbers, there are tricks of the trade to help deal with the built-in adversity of the world of selling.

First, you can’t take things one at a time.  You have to get as much going on at once as is practical so that when your number-one situation goes down, you can shift to number two and transfer your positive attitude and action to where it will do the most good.  We all have a fight-or-flight instinct built into us.  Flight works best in sales when things go wrong.  Granted, on occasion you might have to fight things out, but that is not the preferred strategy.  What went wrong is interesting, but the sooner it can be put behind you, the better.  A clock only moves in one direction, and it keeps on moving.  No need to try to reverse the rules of time and space.  Keep on moving.  Do not report “ain’t it awful” stories.  Details don’t do any good.  What’s gone is gone.  Keep going.  Defeat comes with the territory—every territory.  There is nothing wrong with you, your product or service, your company, or the world.  The problem is with someone who doesn’t appreciate how good you are.  Feel sorry for them and go sell someone else.  Relive the victories endlessly.  Blow ’em all out of proportion.  Go into those details in depth.  Keep on going!

Sales Management Lesson:
Sales Lesson: Even superstars hit for average. Keep on swinging.

Sales is a “no” business.  One life insurance sales rep (they keep detailed activity records) said that he sold “1,200 individual customers,” and that to do so he “had to deal with 38,000 ‘no’s!”  How did he do that?  First, he was recruited for the business and gave every indication he had the “right stuff” to handle these types of ratios.

Mental toughness and a positive mental attitude are best to be on board going in.  Some industries require more than others, but everyone must be able to take a punch.  Counterpunching is yet another desired skill.  The key word in sales management is “encouragement.”  No one gives enough and no one gets enough.  Don’t make a bad situation worse.  Bite your tongue and figure out how you can come up with some positive slant on any and all selling situations.  Root for the home team.

The customer is not always right.  Very often they are stupid.  It may not be profitable to take the time to “smarten ’em up.”   One sales manager said, “Those six hundred excuses are all valid. I will give you all of ’em.  Just bring in some business from somewhere.”  Maintaining momentum is what you are paid for.  It is always a good idea to remind everyone of the difficulties faced by your competition (not to be passed on to customers, but to reinforce the concept that we don’t live in a perfect world, and our grass—although brown around the edges on occasion—is still greener than the competitor’s turf).

If you have superstars who can live with a little humanizing humility, you can ask them if they could share a little of what happens to even the greatest of the great.  (Caution:  This should not be allowed to develop into an “ain’t it awful” contest.  Be careful, but take risks.  That makes you human as well.  “We can deal with this.  We have done it before.”)  When someone breaks out of a slump, be sure they get the headlines, even for small progress.  Feed the smallest forward motion.  It will build to great things in time, most of the time.  Move forward!  Move on.  Maintain momentum.

Sales Lesson: Impatience is a virtue. Push a little harder.

No one likes to be pushed, so we all try to be gentle with our prospects and customers. Unfortunately, that’s really not good for them—nor for us.  We are paid to help them move forward (with our product or service).  We have to move the question.  We have to do it politely, but persistently. We must do it with a smile, but we must keep the sales process moving.  “Give me a call when you are ready,” or “Let me just leave some information for you,” are not acceptable sales sentences.  We are paid as professionals to say things like: “When can we present this to your committee?”  “Let’s get a test program started before the contract is negotiated.”  “What should we do next to move this along?”  Push a little harder than you think you should.  Test the limits on every call.

Sales Management Lesson:
Sales Tip: Impatience is a virtue. Push a little harder.

One of the characteristics that propelled you from sales to sales management was your ability to get things done, to close the sale, to push the envelope.

The dichotomy in sales management is that you want your sales people to do all of these things, but the skills that you developed cannot be used on them. You, as a manager, must be patient with your sales professionals if you want them to develop the skill of impatience.  There is a natural instinct in selling to want to be liked, to want to build relationships, to want to be friends with customers—especially big accounts.  All that is well and good, but a balance must be struck between being “hale fellow well met” and being all business, all elbows, and all push and shove.

Most err on the side of being Mr. or Ms. Nice Guy!  Our job in management is to sharpen the edges so that our people can cut it.  Letting customers slide along through life is not in anyone’s best interest.

The questions you must constantly ask (also gently, with a smile) are:  “What do we hope to accomplish on this call?”  “Whom else should we be talking with?”  “Should I be meeting with this person’s Vice President?”  “What is the drop-dead date for the deal?”

As a manager, you must reward courage and recognize it publicly.  “And then she said….  Wow! What guts!  We actually didn’t get thrown out.”

It takes persistence to teach persistence.  That’s the job of sales management.  Customers can be pushed on every call. They can breathe between calls.  You can’t push your sales staff hard all the time or you will break them, but you have to use your management skills to help them maintain an impatient attitude with their developing accounts.  Constantly explain how others have done it.

Reward impatient behavior. Give permission to push.

Sales Lesson: Thick-skinned, thick-headed and stubborn are all good. Press on!

Letting things bounce off you is not easy.  It is human nature to internalize everything.  Not to worry; you can overcome that all-too-human trait with minimal effort.  Step one: consider the source.  Who says?  It may be a big account, but it isn’t the only account.  Truth is not the issue.  Forward momentum is the issue.  Keep on moving while under fire.  You take fewer casualties that way.  To stand still and be pounded is not a good strategy.

If you must take a few negative shots, so be it!  Take a couple of well-considered counter-shots.  Don’t offend anyone, but don’t roll over and play dead, either.  People respond to courage and strength.  Don’t be afraid to show a little aggression in adversity.  Don’t get into a fight, but stand up for who you are and then move on.

Persistence is a synonym for stubborn. Persistence is admired.  Calvin Coolidge said: Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not do it.

Nothing is more common than an unsuccessful man with talent.

Genius will not.

Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not.

The world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

The slogan “Press on” has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race.

Sales Management Lesson:
Sales Lesson: Thick-skinned, thick-headed and stubborn are all good. Press on!

Designing and building armor-plated sales professionals will be rewarded.  Mary Kay designed her Monday morning sales meetings around the strategy which said that, if you had a good week last week, we needed you there to help everyone who didn’t.  The net result was to make those who had been beaten down a little bit stronger, or at least courageous enough to go back out and go for it one more time.  And of course the best felt better about themselves for helping their less successful peers.  Selling the idea that you are leading a winning team gives even your lesser lights the idea that they are part of something bigger than themselves, and they often will rise to the occasion beyond their current talent level.

Jim Craig, the USA’s 1980 gold-medal-winning goalie, says that his team was not only not the best team in that year’s Olympic competition, but everyone knew it wasn’t even the best U.S. team possible.  Many of the superstars elected not to give up the time required to compete.  The result was that everyone on the team knew that they were not perfect, and helping each other out and minimizing the mistakes of others produced the “do you believe in miracles” finish that has become a TV sports classic (and a money maker for Jim Craig, who still markets his poster depicting him draped in the flag during the playing of the U.S. national anthem).

Persistence is, of economic necessity, a sales strategy of last resort.  A quick hit, a one- or two-call close, an order taker’s route call—all produce cash.  Hanging in costs money, but on the theory that something is better than nothing, it should not be disregarded.  It may be the nature of your marketplace, and it may be a good idea to let everyone know that, as the saying goes, “It isn’t recommended, but it can be done.” (“The Right Stuff,” T. Wolfe)  Send ’em back one more time every now and then just to prove the rule.

Sales Lesson: God loves you. It may seem like He is the only one.

It is often said that selling would be a lot of fun if everything worked as designed.  If it did, of course, the need for professionals like us would be diminished (and the big bucks would not come our way)!  We earn our living as shock absorbers.  We take the bumps out of the road.

We deal with power people all day long. Sometimes we question our own worth as we are squeezed by those who won’t see us and those who command us to get to see them.

It helps to recall our point of origin.  We are the highest quality, most complex, and blessedly most flexible and adaptable organism on earth.  We may be abused on occasion, but we are not junk.  We are privileged to earn our livings with the power of persuasion.  That beats a pick and shovel!  Say thanks for all this before you go to bed each night. Get a good night’s sleep, and then say it again at dawn each day. This will put everything in perspective.  Then put in one heck of a sales day.

Sales Management Lesson:
Sales Lesson: God loves you. It may seem like He is the only one.

We all take heat every business day.  The task is to try not to be a conductor and pass it on.  Your sales professionals not only have to contend with you, but they must deal with less-than-perfect customers in a less-than-perfect world.  Don’t make it worse than it already is.

Listening to disastrous tales from the field is the least you can do.  Sales people have to vent, and it is better done to you than to family and friends (who aren’t paid to absorb all this stuff; you are).  This gives you a chance to put whatever positive spin on things you can.  At the same time, listening with your management ear you well might pick up some valued perspective.

The temptation is great to say, “Have you thought of…” or “Have you tried…” or “Did you call….”  Don’t do any of these good things.  The timing is all wrong.  There is time for reactive responses and it is always later, at some future time.  Don’t combine steps one and two.  Listen first; react later.  Put breathing space in between.

There is no doubt we have been designed from all eternity to handle difficulties.  We all live inside great biological machines.  There is no need to push the design limitations of anyone.  We may think this is a good idea, just to get their attention on occasion—but remember, we selected and hired them for mental toughness, and that means they will turn a deaf ear to us as well.  There are better tools in your management bag than a hammer.  (There are exceptions to all rules!)

Everyone must acknowledge that all is not sweetness and light, and all this definitely comes with the territory—every territory in the past, and no doubt forever more.  Time heals all wounds (at least partially), so use it intelligently.  Deal with difficulty in measured steps. Resist cutting to the chase.  Use time as a management technique.  Make notes.  Call back.  Write a note after getting bad news. Use your brain to its best advantage. Sleep on it.  Let it process.  It will do great work, but it requires time to do so.

To get where you are going faster, slow down.

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