Archive for May, 2017
Last week we spent a day with a sales manager, so this week it is only appropriate that we spend that same day with a sales person. This will be a sales person who has a territory away from the company, so she is operating out of fully equipped home office where she has everything she needs to conduct her business. Her required reporting is a weekly status report of her activities during the week as well as her plan for the following week. She annually develops account plans for her key customers as well as an account by account, month by month forecast that is actually measured on a daily basis by the sales manager so that by the end of the day she knows exactly where she stands.
For a sales person to know critical numbers is a key ingredient to success. I don’t understand companies whose sales people not only are not responsible for their own territory forecasts, but also have no idea what the company’s overall forecast is. How can you successfully play any game without knowing what the score is? How can any sales person or company for that matter, operate without some very public (intracompany, anyway) goals for the year?
The sales person should also have some action goals made up of the required number of live sales calls they are expected to make during the week. The key word being “live”.
So then, here is how a successful sales person should be spending his day:
- Lead generation: A good sales person is always be acquiring new customers. He should develop an ideal customer profile and use that when deciding which companies in his territory to go after. He should use a good sales tool like ACT! or SALEFORCE.com to track his lead generation efforts. I that is not available there is nothing wrong with at least using an Excel spreadsheet. The important thing is to keep track of his progress.
- Planning for the next three weeks: Yes, I hear you crying about how hard it is to make appointments, but sorry, it is part of the job, it comes with the territory, as they say. So, figure it out. Get creative. There are literally scores of books out there on making cold calls, leaving effective phone messages and other ways to get to potential customers, buy some and read them. If you have a smart sales manager he will be happy to reimburse for any sales book you buy.
- Strategy for winning new accounts: Once you’ve sunk your teeth into an account don’t let go. Develop and implement a strategy for winning that account.
- Relationship management for current accounts: In terms of current accounts, the sales person is the relationship manager. She is the one who is in front of that customer, the face of the company to that customers. She has to make sure that everything is okay at all times and communicate back to her own company when things need attention. She should know more about that account than people who work there. She should know the type of products they buy, when they buy them and what they are going to be buying in the future. It is her responsibility to be an expert on her key accounts.
- Territory marketing and social media: Although the company probably has a marketing plan a sales person should have one for his territory as well. He should develop a value-added newsletter for his customers and potential customers and send it out on a regular a basis. He should find the right local technical publications and convince his company to invest in advertising or at the very least submit content to those publications. He should be involved in local organizations such as SMTA and he should go to all local functions related to his industry. He should also be active on social media, from Linkedin to Twitter to Instagram.
- Daily reporting for the weekly report: The very worst question I hear from sales people is, “Do you want me out there in front of customers or do you want me to spend my time writing reports?” My answer to that is,” I want both, you are a well-paid sales professional you can do both, sales is not a forty-hour a week gig, and by the way ask me that one more time and you’re fired!” Work on your written report every day and it will be done on time, no big deal.
- Communicating with the sales manager: Communicate with your sales manager on a regular basis. Make your calls brief, concise and to the point. Tell her what you are up to and what she needs to hear. Ask her for whatever it is you need and move on. Be professional, count on her to take care of your needs but remember she is not the complaint department
- Communicating with the company: The same thing goes here. If you have to talk to someone in the company. Be brief and concise. Tell whoever you have called what you need and move on. Do not badger, hound or nag no matter what the problem is it will only get worse if you badger. Always be professional.
We should remember that sales is a profession, it’s a career not a job and those sales people who treat it as such and invest the right amount of time and effort into that career will always succeed.
It’s only common sense.
Book Review – Career Courage: Discover Your Passion, Step out of Your Comfort Zone, and Create the Success You Want
A book review by Dan Beaulieu:
Career Courage: Discover Your Passion, Step out of Your Comfort Zone, and Create the Success You Want.
Author: Katie C. Kelley
This is a great book for all ages but particularly for those starting a career. If you have a son or daughter carving out a career path, this book is chock full of the right kind of advice for them. Or if you’re a person who started down one path, but are finding that it is just not you, this is a great book for you. If you’re middle aged and are looking to re-invent yourself, you’ll find this book especially helpful.
Writing with the insight of someone who has been there, Ms. Kelley offers a virtual handbook for finding yourself and what you want to do with your life. Not only will this book show you the way to get started it will also show you the way to accelerate your journey once you are on the right path. I especially appreciate the examples of real people that the author includes. Each chapter, on topics ranging from motivation and confidence to vision and harmony, expressively defines each step of the way, highlighting it with true life examples.
The book is filled with helpful, delectable little sections designed to allow the reader to participate in activities that drive the point of that chapter home. The book includes sections like “Coach’s Challenge,” which helps the reader to think things through by applying the challenges to his own situation; and “Game Time,” where the author wraps up each chapter with summaries of what we have learned in that chapter and applying them to our own situations.
This is one of those books that you don’t realize you need until you open it. This book stimulates your mind and makes you think about things you should be thinking about, from your career to your life. People of all ages can benefit greatly from reading Career Courage.
Yes, sales managers have to visit customers. In fact General Managers and Presidents and Quality Managers and yes, even owners need to visit customers whenever they get the opportunity. Why are we happy to just sit back and have our sales people do customer translations for us? Why are we happy or often unhappy with the information that our sales people bring back from our customers? Why are we okay with settling for communicating through our sales people?
Now don’t get me wrong sales people are very important, they are the face of your company, the front line if you will and yes it is vital that they act as the messenger between the customer and the management team. But that is not enough.
It’s not that the sales people don’t tell the truth about their customers because I believe that 99.9% of the time they do represent the customer in a clear and honest light. But often when their honest message is not to our liking we tend to shoot them they are after all the proverbial messenger. We tend to want to blame the sales person if she tells us that her customer is not happy or if she has to deliver some bad news from the customer. And by the way the biggest problem is that if the sales person is the only one to visit and talk to her customers they become exactly that, her customers. But as we all know they are not her customers or his customers, they are our customers and it is our duty as managers to have a good face to face relationship with our customers.
It is just too easy for a General Manager to rant about how unreasonable a customer is being for complaining that the boards got there a day late. It is just too easy for a Quality Manager to berate a sales person telling them that if they could sell they could get their customer to buy these perfectly usable boards even if they don’t exactly look great. It is just too easy for a company President to push his sales people into telling the customer he is going to raise the price even if the sales person tries to tell him that he will lose the business at this new price. It is just too easy for all of these “non-sales” people to live in a vacuum of customer ignorance and just push the sales people to get things done that well just are impossible to do.
But the most important reason for company leaders to get out and visit customers is to get to know them on a personal and first name basis. I love it when I talk to a company owner who has just come from visiting a customer for the first time; I am always amused to hear him suddenly become such a stalwart customer advocate. He comes away from that meeting enlightened and with a much better understanding of what customer is like, and what her specific needs are He goes back to the rest of his management team and uses his authority (authority that the front line sales people don’t have by the way) to make sure that the customer gets treated right, gets treated the way she needs to be treated.
The same applies to a GM or a Quality Manager for example. After even just one customers visit, the customers goes from being a hypothetical to a real life being. They learn what the customer actually needs and most importantly why he needs it that way. Once they have a better understanding of one another the relationship thickens and broadens and a long-term customer relationship is established.
All it takes is a little effort, a little time and a little patience to make sure you as managers develop a good understanding of your customers to the point of establishing a customer-vendor partner that will last a lifetime.
So Mr. President, Mr. GM, Mr. QA manager get out there. Hop in the car with your sales people and head out to your largest customer this afternoon and ask them what they need from you company and from you specifically. You’ll be amazed how that simple little act will improve everything between you and your customers.
And you know what? You’ll also have more respect for your sales people and the kind of issues they face out there on a regular basis. You get to know first-hand what your customers really think about your company, the good and the bad and yes the ugly. Remember what Bill Gates said, “You can learn a lot more from an unhappy customer than you can from a happy one.”
By visiting a customer you will also show him that you care about him. That you wanted to come in and meet her. That you took time out of your busy day to come to his office, sit down with him and ask him how you can help him. That is a very big deal. You’ll also be showing your sales person that you support her, that you respect him and that in the future you will have a better understanding of the support he needs from you and from the company, and that’s a good thing. It’s only common sense.
Okay, you’re the sales manager for a 15 million dollar board shop located in the Midwest. Your sales team consists of 6 direct regional sales people and five independent sales reps; together they cover the entire U.S. and Canada. Besides managing the sales team, you also handle the company’s marketing and yes, you are also starting to dabble into social media. In short, you have your hands full, so much so that you could easily be overwhelmed if you don’t have good scheduling skills. Since I work with sales teams and specifically sales mangers I thought it would be interesting to talk about how a good sales manager spends his days.
First, a sales manager must manage just like a baseball manager, he should make sure that he is fielding the best team possible, let’s assume that has happened and that these sales people are good. Now that we have established this let’s move on to what the sales manager should be doing with his day.
Make sure that you reporting system is set up. This should consist of:
- An annual forecast: month by month customer by customer
- A weekly sales status report from each sales person. (reps are handled differently we’ll talk about them later)
- A daily dashboard which shows the sales people what they book that day and where they stand in terms of their forecasts both monthly and annually. This report needs to go to the company’s other managers as well.
Touching base with your sales people daily. This is just a quick phone call to see what they are up to. Ask each sales person what they will be booking today, what challenges they are facing and what you can do to help them. This does not have to be a long phone call, just long enough to get an good understanding of what they are up to. This will also serve to keep them on their toes.
Work with the rest of the managers communicating with them and passing on what you learned from your sales people. Remember as the sales manager you are the company’s number one sales advocate with everything that entails. You are responsible for making sure that the customer is always present at the table.
Check in with your reps. I don’t recommend you call them every day but at least once a week. I would urge you to set up a weekly call with each of your independent sales reps to go over their accounts. This is also the time for you to communicate to them what is going on at the company. The true value of keeping in touch with the reps is to make sure they are working for you. Realizing that they have other principals and products to sell, you are competing for their time. The more time you invest in your sales reps the more you will get out of them.
Work on your marketing. This is more important now than it has ever been. A few years ago when we called someone a Manager of sales and marketing it meant that they spent 99% of their time on sales and 1% on marketing and what they were really doing is working on a new brochure every couple of years. Now that has changed drastically. Now a manager of sales and marketing has to spend as much time on marketing as she does on sales. Besides making sure that the literature is up to date, she also must make sure that the website is as well. She also has to work on a value-added newsletter that should go out at least one a month. She also has to be more involved in social media, keeping up the company’s LinkedIn page and sending out frequent pertinent attention-getting tweets as well.
Get in touch with some customers. This is the one that most sales managers skip and arguable the most important one. Make it a habit to call customers and ask how things are going? It’s a good way to create a one on one relationship with your customers. A great sales manager will try to develop relationships with the customers’ upper management. This will greatly benefit both parties.
And finally, cheerleader in chief. A great sales manager is also the person who talks about hope and talks about the future of the company. She will be the company’s strategist helping to set the direction of the company based on her knowledge of the customers and the market.
A great sales manager will keep these plates spinning making sure always that the company is delivering great customer service, keeping its’ customers happy and its’ revenue growing.
It’s only common sense.
A book review from Dan Beaulieu:
You’ve Got 00:00:08 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World
By Paul Hellman
Copyright: Amacon 2017
Pages: 169 with Index
Getting their attention and keeping it
This book is loaded with just the right tips and tools that you need to be an effective communicator. Okay you’ve work hard to get that appointment and it has paid off. There you are sitting directly in front of “the man” the guy you have been killing yourself to see for many months. The problem is that he is barely listening to you. He is fiddling with his phone, opening, and closing desk drawers and doing everything he can to let you know that he has no interest in what you must say. So, what do you do? You read Paul Hellman’s book and find out. The answer is in there.
You keep calling this prospect but all you get in voice mail, and the guy never calls you back. You call one more time and sure enough it goes to voice mail. What do you do? What kind of message to you leave? Easy go to pages 124 and 125 of this book and find out.
You have to give a presentation to a potential new account. There are millions of dollars on the line if everything goes well. You’re really sweating it because so much is counting on the next ten minutes of your life. What do you do? Okay enough mystery, this time I will tell you. From chapter 12 of this book titled, not coincidentally “Presentation Tricks you do these things:
- Treat each slide as a presentation
- Use three ways to capture attention
- Use less text
- Encourage interaction
And finally, and I love this one, fake it. That’s right if you are not a good presenter then just act like you are and you will be.
Heard enough yet. Look this is the kind of book that you might be tempted to overlook because if you’re anything like me you think that you’ve got this problem handled and don’t need any help…but you’re wrong, you need all the help you can get and this book will provide that help.
For years now I have been working with reps acting as the liaison between them and the circuit board shops I work with. During that time I have seen the interest the reps have in working with board shops diminish as quickly as the market for fax machines. Most reps seem to have lost it for our shops. They seem to want to work in other markets and sell connectors, or IC’s or sheet metal or cables or anything that is not a circuit board.
I have spent the past few months thinking about this; mulling over this dilemma and trying to figure out what to do about it. Look, the fact of the matter is that we need good reps now more than ever. Yes we can use direct people, actually that is my preferred method of developing a sales force, but alas direct sales people are expensive, especially when you are trying to cover the entire country. So in the end we always turn towards the reps as a good solution for at least expanding our sales coverage.
But now a days this is much easier said than done. There are a lot more veteran reps out there than there are newbies, and the vets for the most part have all had it with board shops, they are tired of being treated like third class citizens, they are sick of being the last person paid at the end of the month if they are paid at all. Heck I personally know companies who owe reps tens of thousands of dollars in back commissions and whose reps are actually being held hostage by them because they know if they resign they will never get their money.
In the past year I along with some of my partners have been working diligently looking for new reps for our customers and to tell the truth we might as well be standing on the corner signing “To Dream an Impossible Dream” for the all the good it has done us.
So what do we do about this? How can we turn things around? How can we develop a package that is going to be so appealing to independent sales reps that they will be calling us up to see if we are willing to take them on. That would be a welcome change wouldn’t it? The last time a rep called a circuit board shop to see if he could represent he used a rotary dial phone.
So here are my ideas for changing things, turning things around and developing an offer that a good rep will not be able to pass up.
- No house accounts. It’s as simple as that, no exceptions. If you are already doing business with a major account in his territory then work it out at reduced commissions until he can grow that account past the annual average bookings number and then take him to full commissions.
- Pay the rep, yes pay the rep. His is the most important payment you should be making. A happy rep means a strong sales effort. And here is one that is going to curl your hair, pay him weekly. Yes you hear me. Send him his money the next payroll after you have received payment from the customer.
- Provide all of the right paper work, all the backup that should go with that commission check. Also provide the rep with copies of the quotes and orders and invoices. In this electronic age this is easier than ever,
- Treat the rep like a member of the family. Treat her exactly like one of your direct sales people. This means access to your company information. Being copied on pertinent reports and included in pertinent company meetings and phone calls.
- Let the rep share in all of your marketing efforts, and yes you need to have marketing, sorry it is all part of the sales game. Market for the rep in her territory. Include her in all your marketing. If you send out newsletters create a special edition for each territory. Work side by side with your rep to develop the business in her territory. It will be a win/win.
- Offer special incentives for the type of business you want. This can be a special incentive for new customers, or new technology, or a new service. Whatever, pay the rep extra for him to be specifically focused on selling the products, technologies and services you most want to sell.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: Hold a one on one update call with each of your sales rep firms every two weeks and then a general call at least once a month with the entire sales force. Do this religiously and track the progress. Do it and yes there will be progress!
- Invite them to your annual sales meeting, and yes have an annual sales meeting. It’s customary for you them to pay to get there and you to pay the rest of their expenses. This will go a long way towards making them part of the family…it will be money well spent I promise you.
- Treat them with respect. Respect your reps as you would want to be respected, it’s as simple as that.
- And finally make sure your product works. Make sure that your reps have a great product to sell. They can’t your light bulbs if the light bulbs don’t work. You want your reps out there selling…not apologizing.
So there you have it. Here are ten ways that will work to make reps want to come and work with your company. But there have to be others. Oh yes there is at least one more:
- Listen to your reps, talk to them; ask them what they want to see from you. Ask them who they consider a great principal. Work with them to develop a good working environment one that both of you want to exist in.
It’s only common sense
Albert Einstein once said that being curious is much more important than being smart. If you’re curious about something you are going to spend a lot of time and effort finding out everything you can about it. You are going to focus as much as you can on that subject. You are going to read books and magazines, watch documentaries, go on-line, and do research in short do everything that you can to learn all that you can on that subject.
If you think about it some of the biggest contributors to society have been people who were curious; Thomas Alva Edison was curious about everything from finding the right filament to make a light bulb work for longer than ten seconds to how to save sound on a wax disc to how to play that sound with a needle and a giant speaker horn. Henry Ford was curious enough to try to figure out how to make an affordable car by inventing the assembly line. Newton was curious enough to figure out why an apple fell on his head…or so they say, I have my doubts about that one. But anyway, he was curious enough to find out why things fell that he figured out gravity and how it works. Okay you get it curious people are people who move that great tin foil ball of civilization down the road to progress.
Now let’s apply it to our profession, let’s apply the quality of curiosity to sales. How can being curious help you to be a great sales person? How does being curious help you to win and keep customers? I just read a book where the author said that when he hires sales people the number one thing he looks for in those sales people is curiosity, their level of curiosity and if he sees that in a candidate he will hire that candidate whether or not that person knows anything at all about the product he is going to be selling. Because of course that person’s curiosity will drive him to find out everything he can about that product without anyone having to urge him to do so.
A curious person will want to know everything about the product she is selling. Not just what her company is selling today but everything else about the product from how it was developed in the first place which includes the history of the product, to how it is used, to who uses it, to why they use it. In the end that curious person will know much more about her product than people who have been dealing with the product for decades.
That person will be curious about the companies who use his product. The customers. He will study his customer base. He will, get this, ask his customers why they use this product, which type of product they prefer and how he can make his product or service so good that they will buy more from him than anyone else.
He will also talk to those people who are building the product he sells. Not only to find out what they are working on now but what they will be working on tomorrow. In short, he will be looking into the future of the product.
But even better than that her curiosity will drive her back to her customers to find out where their business is today and also where it is going in the future so that she can have her customer literally telling her what kinds of products they will need in the future so that she can go back to her own company and advise them on the types of products they should be developing in the future that will be the most useful and appealing to their customers.
And that curious person will also be constantly analyzing the way he does things, seeking a better way to do them. He will always be trying to find a better and more effective way to grow his customer base. He will always be developing new and innovative ways to make his customer sales calls more productive. He will invent better reports and matrices and he will be finding better strategies to sell his products.
The curious sales person will use her curiosity to find ways to be the best sales person in the industry. She will study other successful people to find out what makes them successful. And thus, she will use her curiosity to become as successful as they are.
A curious sales person will do everything, study everything and learn everything to be the best he can be. He just can’t help himself because he is driven by is overwhelming curiosity. Are you curious enough to be successful? Are you smart enough to hire curious people? You should be. It’s only common sense.