Many sales reps struggle with lost deals, looooong sales cycles and/or opportunities stuck in their funnel that NEVER move forward. Ever.
In many cases it’s because they're rushing to the presentation and trying to close the deal at 80 mph. By speeding through the process, you aren’t building a sound foundation in the first steps of the sales process that allow you to best discover how you can help the customer.
By racing to the presentation, or ‘close’, what nuggets of goodness are you missing on the sales journey?
When I am out for a ride, I love to enjoy the journey - drive down a slow winding road, stop at an interesting site and maybe take a picture of my beautiful bike at the interesting site (and then post on social media!). Because I am curious, I might see another road that veers off that I haven't ridden before...so I follow that road and see where it goes. The ride is a journey and an adventure of potential discovery-if you're curious and patient enough, you'll see and learn something new every time. Something valuable and insightful. Riding a motorcycle (like sales) is most enjoyable when you make the effort to enjoy every moment of the journey, learn and discover new things and not rush 80 mph to my destination. No mater how hungry I am.
Another example would be taking the ‘main road’ (price?!?!) that everyone else is taking and getting stuck in traffic. If you were heading out for a prospective client visit and knew there were going to be obstacles – lots of traffic, construction, roadblocks and detours, you would likely PLAN to go another route to get to your destination, right? The sales journey requires the same type of ‘sales call’ planning ahead of time and a patient, thoughtful approach as well to prepare for or avoid obstacles and maximize the chance for success.
For your ‘sales journey’, commit to being curious and learning as much as you can during the process.
All of this will position you to be even better able to show how you can help clients solve problems and/or leverage opportunities. By going slower, you will likely get there faster
So treat the sales process like an enjoyable, scenic ride. Not only will you increase the chances of earning more business, you'll likely shorten your sales cycle. You will also get away from focusing solely on price as well since you will be better able to demonstrate how you can solve their problems with the information you learn along the way. Your value as a consultative sales professional goes up.
Enjoy the journey and see how what you learn along the way BETTER HELPS YOU help your customers!
How riding a motorcycle is like the sales journey:
Several weeks ago I had the good fortune of delivering a leadership/workplace wellness presentation called Living Above the Line for QNET as part of their Coffee with QNET series. I have delivered it many times in person as part of a 2 day Emerging Leader program offered by The Envision Group.
Although I am very familiar with the concept and the content, I am ALWAYS nervous about whether people will get value from the program and/or whether I will mess up somehow. Which is why I am always overwhelmed when the feedback is shared with me and it's overwhelmingly positive.
I often ask coaching clients questions like:
"What are you proud of"
"What's going well"
"What's a recent success you would like to share"
I am going to take my own advice and share what I am proud of!
Because it's a great topic and I am proud of the results of the webinar, I am going to share a summary of the feedback and the scores I received from the QNET session.
Attendee ratings of
My message: Many of us are good at what we do and need to give ourselves more credit. Regularly acknowledge what's going well and what you are strong at. Also, Living Above the Line is a great concept for working with and leading others.
Let me knw if you would like to learn more.
Today I want to write about Outsourced Sales Management (OSM) and why it’s so critical for many small and medium sized companies today who want and need to grow. This is especially relevant after taking a beating for the last year + due to Covid.
Let’s explore why this could work for you.
Sales likely aren’t great. Or maybe they are ok but it sure would be helpful if they were even better. Sales and sales growth has really suffered during Covid and you’re not sure what to do anymore to increase them. Because you’re not big enough for a full-time sales manager, sales is reporting to the owner or some other function within the organization. A typical approach is that sales people aren’t doing enough.
Often, when in doubt, sales are asked to do more:
Which closes more sales right???????
You either keep doing what you are doing (and hope for a better result) or you look to increase activity as the best way to grow sales revenue. Often sales either pushes back or it doesn’t work like you think it should.
What else can you do?
I have encountered this situation a lot over the years and can tell you from experience that doing More isn’t always the best solution. We can also do Better
There is a ‘Better’ way to increase sales. Sustainably.
There are a couple of approaches (or strategies) that SBD Growth Strategies provides that you should consider:
Why is Outsourced Sales Management (OSM) important and why should you consider this strategy to boost your sales and build internal capacity to grow business for the long term?
Consider the following indicators (symptoms) you could benefit from an Outsourced Sales Manager:
Imagine a scenario where your company isn’t big enough yet to have a CFO or a VP of Engineering. Or you’ve lost your VP of Operations and you need to replace them. Have you ever thought that you should have your accounting, engineering and/or operations team reporting to sales?
Why not? We do it to sales all the time! And I don’t want to hear you say ‘yah but sales is different’. Successful sales professionals and sales leaders have significant experience, education and training that directly contributes to their success. Companies that fail to appreciate this do so at their own peril-and likely less than desired sales results.
In my over 30 years of experience, I can help organizations with the following:
I have yet to encounter someone without a strong sales back ground and with responsibility for sales being effective at, or having the proper time, to do these effectively. Without experience and/or time, any one of these activities are difficult. Especially if you are also trying to manage sales off the side of your desk all while overseeing other mission critical responsibilities.
Ok then Scott, what are the primary benefits to hiring SBD Growth Strategies as your Outsourced Sales Manager?
Here are the main reasons to hire an OSM:
For many small to mid-sized businesses and start-ups, outsourced sales management has benefits that lead to sustainable sales success and revenue growth. This could be a long-term solution or an interim strategy until you either find the right person externally or build the capacity internally. Both of which SBD Growth can help with.
If you are looking to increase sales and build a sustainable sales engine at a lower cost than hiring someone full-time and, let’s chat.
Ok professional network I would like your input on something. Here’s the back ground.
As we often do in business, I recently asked a person in my network for an introduction to someone they knew as they used to work together and are connected on LinkedIn.
This is the response they received from requesting a warm introduction for me:
“Thanks. I don't know him. He's a sales person who has been trying to get business for years. I am not interested in pursuing that”
He is a sales person…
That felt like it was supposed to be derogatory and demeaning. Didn’t it?
I am not sure why but this really offended me. All morning I kept thinking about it. I have been ‘a sales person’ for over 30 years and am proud of this profession. As I have gained experience and gray hair, I now have an even better appreciation for the value of the ‘Noble Purpose’ (Lisa Earle McLeod) of putting the needs of the customers first. I am consistently looking for ways to help, not just sell something. Why can’t they figure it out?
I quickly checked my CRM and saw that I had reached out about 10 times over 30 months – several emails and a couple voice messages. Was that too much?
My first thought was that this was a poor reflection of the prospect I was trying to connect with and that they were being narrow minded.
Then, as my fragile old ego started to heal, another thought occurred to me. Maybe, just maybe, this is my fault? I must have come across as ‘salesy’, whatever that is. Clearly I have not effectively communicated my intent of exploring ways to help their organization.
I thought about it further and decided that there were a few things I could have done differently. Better. Y'know like the things I train and coach on??
Since we should always learn from setbacks and failure, what have I (re)learned here?
More research - is required prior to reaching out. A generic message likely won’t resonate with anyone. Instead, what will be of specific interest to them? Everything else is just noise. In Hope is Not a Strategy, Rick Page talks of the Arsenal of Competitive Advantage and Linking only what’s relevant to the client. In hindsight I was throwing ‘stuff’ out hoping something would stick. That was dumb.
Shorter emails - I am verbose at times and my subject lines more compelling. There is lots of research that shows short emails with specific messages and compelling subject lines are opened more, increasing the opportunity to connect.
Leverage your network - to learn more about the individual PROIR to reaching out. Spending time preparing better upfront is more effective than potentially wasting time later. Jill Konrath (More Sales Less Time) writes about the benefits of pushing the BETTER button in sales vs the MORE button. If your approach or process is sub optimal, why do even more of it? Figure out how to do it even better.
Negative perception of sales people is still quite prevalent - What can I/we do to help people understand we want to help? Sales is by definition helping, however some people still view sales people as yucky. As per Daniel Pink’s word cloud in To Sell is Human:
As I have written about before, my purpose or mission is to help evolve sales people into even more effective sales professionals through sales training and coaching. This unflattering email response reminded me that we are all a work in progress. Yes, even me. Maybe especially me. It’s easy to get complacent and then reality reminds you there is always room to improve and get ‘more better’.
What recent experience have you had that was a reminder that sales is hard and we need to always be looking to grow and improve professionally?
People chose to work with people. People they KNOW, LIKE and TRUST. Often we do this by researching people, asking them questions, asking other people about them etc. For those of you wondering what this Scott Donald character is all about, I am going to save you some trouble.
For your information and amusement, I present: 20 things you may have wanted to know about Scott (or maybe not)
There you go. The mystery of Scott. What do you want to share with me? Shoot me a note or let's chat live.
I was looking for some funny sales cartoons last week and during my 'research' I was struck by a common theme – a negative perception of the profession of sales. Unfortunately, I get it and it’s our own fault.
Think about the old school way sales was taught (or not taught at all). Sure organizations often provide technical or product training, but what about actual sales skills? There was (is?) the common scenario of ever-increasing targets and misguided compensation plans that reward the wrong behavior. Given the lack of training and poor comp plans, is there any wonder why sales has a bad reputation? We were literally creating an environment where a collection of under skilled, unprepared sales people with intense pressure to ‘close’ were interacting YOUR clients. As a result, it’s not a surprise that we often see desperate or unethical behavior from sales people.
The often poor reputation of the role of sales, people in sales and the sales profession doesn’t sit well with me. Let’s change that.
Don’t believe me or think I may be exaggerating? Well, I will politely say you are wrong. As noted in my recent LinkedIn post, In his book "To sell is Human", Daniel Pink did a survey on the perception of sales people and 80% of the responses were NEGATIVE.
Based on my ‘research’, I see many top sales writers and influencers speaking about the evolution of sales, especially with the recent pandemic causing even more need to adapt.
The Modern Definition of Sales-Generally speaking, sales is a process of creating value and helping prospective customers fix their problems. Sales is all about ABH or Always Be Helping rather than an old school ABC which was all about Always Be Closing
I like that. I also saw this comment that resonated with me:
“What makes someone effective at sales? A genuine desire to help others solve problems”
Lisa Earle McLoed describes a concept of Noble Purpose. Her research has revealed that salespeople who's focus or purpose is to improve their customers' lives—rather than a metric assigned to them (quotas), actually sell more and are happier in their roles.
So then how do we help sales people evolve into sales professionals and shift the perception of sales?
Well, what elite athletes have in common is an intentional plan and time commitment to work on specific skills. Why don’t we do the same with Leadership and Sales skills? (I don’t know either- that’s why I am asking you!).
Organizations rely on sales to grow revenue. Always have. As we recover from the pandemic, we need effective, motivated and well-trained sales professionals to grow our organizations and our economies. This underlines how important it is to focus the appropriate investment, time and attention on our sales processes and our sales teams skills to increase the opportunity for success.
Proper training and coaching is more important than ever to help sales reps evolve into effective and fulfilled sales professionals. All of us can benefit from enhancing and updating our skills.
I am fortunate to be a Senior Partner with the Envision Group and work with many exceptionally talented people across North America. I am also fortunate to be collaborating with several other seasoned professionals closer to home. This diverse teams of business all-stars have helped me create a number of sales programs designed to help salespeople grow closer to their potential. The focus is very much on ‘new school’ skills we all need to learn, practice and incrementally improve on over time. Topics include skills such as:
These programs are available virtually and when appropriate, in-person.
Let's work together to professionalize sales by providing better training and coaching support for the people who chose to work in this incredibly important area of our organizations.
If you’re ready to grow your organization, or grow as a sales professional, let’s talk.
Think about the last time you were in a work situation where you were handed a new assignment or were given a promotion. Did you think to yourself ‘oh boy, I am in over my head on this one’. Or maybe ‘This is it – I can’t do this and now everyone’s going to know I’m a failure’.
And what happened?
My guess is, with some hard work, persistence, support etc., you did it. Right?
Why am I writing about this now? I have sense that if you’re reading this, we have had similar experiences and doubts in ourselves.
Imposter syndrome: The persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills.
In her article Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, author Gill Corkindale states that Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence
I have known for a long time that fear of failure is a HUGE motivator for me. I think it always has been. For example:
University – I wasn’t a great student. But in university I knew I couldn’t goof around anymore. Especially as my parents were paying for me. To make it even harder on myself, I took a Business minor. To avoid failure, I worked my butt off and studied all the time. I graduated with high marks and had way better marks than High School.
Sprint Canada – Everyone seemed smarter, more talented and better looking than me. Crap, I should have stayed where I was. Fast forward 15 years and I can look back on an extremely successful career and made many great friends along the way
KPMG – What am I doing?!?! These people are smart and established professionals. Those 3 years turned out to be extremely rewarding and I Iearned a lot about business and professional services. Most importantly, I started to get a sense that I was more capable, adaptable and resourceful than I gave myself credit.
Envision Group & SBD Growth Strategies – What do I have to offer that could help others? What credibility do I have? This ‘experiment’ isn’t going to work and I will have to swallow my pride and get a real job again. I am not an expert….am I?
While I have been on my own for 5 years, just over 3 years ago Pat Lipovski, Founder & CEO of the Envision Group, invited me to come to Houston to help with leadership training for an oil and gas client. I am 51 years old and I am now having ‘holy shit’ moments constantly.
Um, I can’t co-facilitate leadership training!?!
Pat just called on me to say something!! @%$! Ok just relax
1 on 1 coaching!?! These poor people…
I am starting year 4 with Pat and the client in Texas and Pat’s probably now wondering if I will ever shut up (during the training anyway)! I REALLY enjoy facilitating workshops and I may enjoy 1 on 1 coaching even more. It is so energizing and rewarding. And while I cursed Pat for putting me in those situations (like A LOT), I wouldn’t have grown in my capabilities and confidence if that jack ass hadn’t basically MADE me do it. (Thanks Pat. And sorry for calling you a jack ass)
Stop beating yourself up and give yourself credit for your accomplishments.
Start, or continue, on your plan to get better. Not tomorrow…Today.
You got this!
I don’t know about you, but I am becoming more reflective and sentimental as I get older. Here’s my story, what I have learned and why it just may matter to you.
This weekend my wife and I were cleaning up the downstairs office. I came across some papers that reminded me about the weird and wonderful journey I’ve been on the past few years.
The papers were in a binder from the Province of Manitoba's Self-Employment Program (run by the YMCA) I completed about five years ago. It listed the various attendees, and coaches they were assigned to work with. I could have been assigned any of the coaches, but fortunately for me, I was paired with Frank Atnikov of Frank Growth Solutions. Before I go further and explain why this is so key, I want to go back in time.
In 1994 I joined a young group of professionals at a new company, Sprint Canada. Over the next many years, I learned a lot about sales and leadership while working with so many great people here in Winnipeg and across the country. One of those people was the Founder & CEO of Envision Group International, Pat Lipovski in Calgary.
Fast forward to 2009 and I am looking for a change. Well into my early 40’s, and after 15 years in the telecom industry, I sensed I needed to do something different if I was going to grow professionally. Pat knew that his former sales leader at Sprint Canada moved on to become the National Director of Sales at KPMG – one of the big four global accounting firms. Pat informed me that KPMG was looking for a Director of Business Development. I managed to land the position, but with it came LOTS of uncertainty and trepidation. I didn’t know if I had what it takes to be effective in this role and was pretty sure I was in over my head. Oh, and I hate failure… so there’s that.
I worked hard in this role for three years and came to realize that I could in fact be effective in the role. It was tough and challenging, and it stretched me way beyond my comfort zone. I figure I grew as much in three years at KPMG as I did in 15 years at Sprint Canada. In the process, I learned a great deal about different aspects of business and professional services. Again, I met a lot of terrific people, including TDS’ Director of Client Services Mark Howe. A couple of years later Mark and I started an informal business networking and referral group, meeting monthly with a great group of local professionals.
Now it’s late 2015 and I am trying to figure out what I want to do ‘when I grow up’. One of the people in our business group, President/Founder of 6P Marketing Paul Provost, suggested I go out on my own and look into Manitoba’s Self Employment Program. And that’s where I met Frank Atnikov. We both liked working with nonprofits and felt we could help some of them by providing foundational sales and marketing training. Together, we built 2 unique ½ day training programs to support non-profits by giving them valuable tools for improved sales and marketing results.
I was nervous, again, but with some hard work and support from Frank, it went well and I realized:
The last few years have been a fun, rewarding, challenging, nerve-wracking, humbling, exciting and an incredible learning experience. Further, if you would have told me five years ago that I would be doing leadership and sales training and coaching, primarily within the energy sector, while spending most of the last year working ‘virtually’ from home in a nice shirt and pj pants (ok you didn't need to know that part), I would have thought you were wildly misinformed.
If that wasn’t enough, kicking off my own local practice at SBD Growth Strategies has given me even more to be excited and nervous about. But y’know what? I know I am going to make it work out. Someway, somehow I always have and I have the confidence to do it again. I think...
You may be thinking ‘great story Scott but what’s your point’? The point is:
Enjoy the journey, learn from others, focus on YOUR professional development, don’t be afraid to seek help along the way and if you’re wondering if you can do it, you probably can.
Good luck and here’s to a great 2021.
What did 2020 force you to have to do better?
In speaking with many of my clients, I am reminded how 2020, while poopy on so many levels, forced many of us to rethink how we do business. What worked in the past didn't work so well now. Or, maybe what wasn't working great anyway was absolutely not going to work anymore. We were given little choice but to critically look at the ways were were comfortable doing business and serving our clients and exercise the part of our brain where we innovate and think of new ideas for old business.
Personally, I was forced to face what I already knew but hadn't acted on yet - I needed to diversify my client and revenue streams. The training work I was travelling to do was put on 'pause' in March and is beginning to start up again virtually. But.....the unwelcomed slow down in work for the past several months provided me with a great opportunity to rethink, rejig and revitalize how I engage with, and add value for, my current and future clients.
I am often guilty of spending too much time working 'IN' my business relative to the valuable time I need to spend working 'ON' my business. Since March I have spent quite a bit of time working on my business and you know what? It feels pretty good. The ongoing result of the hard work I am putting in, with a little help from my friends, has me now very excited about 2021.
In those quiet moments of walking the dog and convincing myself to get out of bed this past weekend, I started to take a mental inventory of what 2020 motivated me to do differently (better) that I likely would not have started, or even more likely not finished, if not for this past year of challenges.
Here is what I came up with (so far):
Further, as I will be creating and delivering more content from my home office, I have invested in some new technology:
That's a lot right?!
But really, I had to in order to survive/thrive beyond this year. That's what 2020 did - it presented many of us with the opportunity to adapt. To grow. To be even better at what we do. To be....MORE BETTER!
I would love to hear how 2020 encouraged you to be more better. Let's hear what you did or are working on!
Hey business leaders: Are people on your team comfortable putting their hand up so to speak and sharing ideas freely?
What are you doing to encourage them to offer up new ways of doing things?
Clients often tell me they wish their team was more creative and developed more innovative ways to solve problems or take advantage of new opportunities. Leaders I work with often feel like the responsibility of coming up with new ideas or solving a current problem rests primarily on their shoulders.
I recall a meeting I had in the fall of 2019 with a large Winnipeg company. They told me one of their biggest challenges was getting employees to share their ideas more openly. Too often in meetings people would shut down an idea by saying things like 'We tried this 10 years ago and it didn't work.'
How often do you hear people say something similar in your organization?
In that meeting we discussed the opportunity to promote an environment that encouraged:
In my research for this blog post I found a really good article called Good Questions Encourage Creative Thinking by Nagesh Belludi
Nagesh shares that creative thinkers ask open-ended, accommodating, and exploratory lead-in questions such as:
Wait – don’t these sound like the kind of questions we can ask when, as leaders, we are Living Above the Line? My associate @patlipovski would say these suggestions posed as questions are “Que’gesstions” designed to encourage thought, discussion and engagement.
In my quest to seem ‘more’ smarter (trademark), I am going to once again refer to the Harvard Business Review.
In the article, Rebecca Shambaugh refers to the need to ‘facilitate spaghetti throwing’ (I love the reference). She notes that research reveals that an overwhelming majority of executives — 94% — are unhappy with the innovative performance of their company. She further states that leaders need to facilitate experimentation and encourage people to see what sticks and what doesn’t. To do this, leaders not only have to ask people to share outside-of-box-thinking, but to also lead by example.
Lastly, I am going to refer once again to the Forbes article I noted last week (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/living-above-line-building-succession-plan-scott-donald/?trackingId=xKl1D8e0u04gH4B9naMjiQ%3D%3D).
In her article Three Reasons Why The Best Leaders Ask Rather Than Tell, author Sinive Seely notes that asking opens the door to new ideas and possibilities.
“Asking open-ended questions requires both the leader and their team to dig deep for answers to problems that have no obvious solutions.”
A common theme I see is organizations tending to rely on what worked in the past. This year has pretty clearly shown us that we can’t rely on what may have worked in the past. We are being dragged kicking and screaming into a new pandemic reality that demands we tackle these new challenges head on with new ideas and better ways of doing business. While 2020 has been horrible and devastating on so many levels, I am encouraged by the incredible amount of creativity and innovation we are seeing from people. I have read about and spoken with so many professionals who have come up with new and better ways to run their business, help customers, earn new customers, communicate their message and just do what they do, but do it even better.
Let’s make the best of what we can control. And we can control asking good questions and inviting our teams to share their ideas and suggestions.