Unpopular opinion – sales people are among the least capable people in your organization.
Whoa. Did I just write that?
Why would I say that? Because it’s true. Think about it. There are several reasons why I am suggesting that in many organizations, sales people may be the least capable people on your team. As a result, for the sales person it can feel like you’re pushing a big rock up a steep hill.
The good news? It doesn’t have to be that way and there are things we can do to help.
They typically have the least amount of formal education. I wrote about this a couple weeks ago but apparently I am not done ranting on this yet (https://www.linkedin.com/posts/scottdonaldwinnipeg_dailyscottism-salescoach-salesadvisor-activity-6879834839873277952-CNSF
Most so-called critical positions in a company are filled with formally trained, post-secondary education type professionals like accountants, lawyers, engineers, finance, HR etc.
Not so with sales. We learn on the job and from trial and error. No wonder ramping up sales people can take a long time. I am not saying that sales professionals need a formal education, but they sure could use a lot more ‘sales’ training.
Not really. Sure, we might give them a bunch of ‘product’ training and ‘learn’ them about the features and benefits of your product or service. Those are NOT ‘sales skills’. And if you’re thinking what do you mean by ‘sales skills’…we need to talk.
Sales skills are teachable. According to HubSpot, for 2022 there are 7 essential skills and include Leading with Empathy and Being a Compelling Storyteller https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/10-essential-selling-skills-2014-infographic
I would include skills like Communication (LISTENING!), Customer-focused Mindset, Empathy, Building Trust, Resilience and a Growth Mindset (willingness to learn new and better ways)
Support is not a monthly, quarterly or annual performance review.
In my experience, far to often sales ‘support’ looks like:
“Here are some new brochures”
“Check out this awesome new PowerPoint presentation!”
“You need to increase your activity”
“What do you think you need to do to hit your numbers”?
“Fill out this detailed, time-consuming activity report so I can see what you’re doing”
The other support area that is often lacking is having sales people report to someone can actually help them. Too often I see sales people reporting to individuals that either don’t have the experience to help them (too many people think they can do business development well) or to an individual who may have been successful at selling, but is ineffective or still learning how to best help other people to improve their sales effectiveness.
I am not going to pretend to be a compensation expert. But I have seen examples of what does not work.
One example: You hit your quota for the year, (Yay) and the company rewards you with an even higher quota. Every year.
The other negative compensation tactic I have seen is capping commissions as you don’t want sales people to make too much money. Why not? If the margin is there for the company, why cap the sales professional’s earning potential? It benefits the company as well doesn’t it?
What I can say is this – include your sales people in the quota discussion and make this a collaborative process based on trust and creating a win/win scenario.
Sales tools (CRM)
When I am coaching someone and ask them ‘hey what do you use for a CRM’ and they say something like ‘an Excel spread sheet’, part of me dies a little inside.
Sales enablement tools like a CRM are basic necessities. Like a computer or a phone. Yes, that basic. If there was a RSPCA for sales people (which I guess would be RSPCSP) I would report companies that don’t provide a CRM as being negligent. After my review, you might even lose your sales people to a better sales person ‘forever home’.
There are lots of really good, and even free, CRMs out there.
I could go on but you get the point. We can do better in supporting our sales professionals. So what do I suggest? Glad you asked…
I can help you better support your sales team.
Whether it’s working with your sales professionals directly and/or working with your sales leaders to help them to even better support your sales team, let’s work together to make 2022 a really successful year.
Let’s get that big rock rolling downhill for the benefit of everyone.
I have had a lot of fun developing and posting my SBD Growth Top 10 Sales tips. My hope is that you learned something or at the very least, were reminded of what you should be doing more consistently.
I want to give a shout out to the inspiration for this Top 10 Sales Tips project.
Initially I received some great advice from someone I really admire, Dean Karrell. He suggested my videos were good but could be better if they were shorter. Hence the original top 10 video: SBD Growth Top Ten Sales Tips in under 60 seconds
After that, I was treated to a real live conversation with the GOAT @simonhares. He came up with the idea of 'daily Scottisms' and combined with my Top 10 video, I had 10 days of posts to share.
Lastly, all of the videos that have any production or videography work on them was done by the talented @timphelan. He does good work right!?
For your viewing and learning pleasure, here are all Top 10 posts. Enjoy
Day 1 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: Work Hard, everyday
Day 2 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: Be Curious
Day 3 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN
Day 4 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: Follow the Process
Day 5 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: Be Prepared and Plan Ahead
Day 6 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: Use a CRM!
Day 7 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: Have a Professional Development Plan (Hire a coach!?)
Day 8 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: Take breaks to be more productive
Day 9 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: What is your Sales Purpose (Mission)?
Day 10 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: Be Honest (with your Customers AND yourself)
Bonus Day 11 of SBD Growth Strategies Top 10 Sales Tips: Work Smarter not Harder
These tips are designed to help with 3 main areas:
1) Sell More (with less effort)
2) Shorter Sales Cycle
3) Sell at higher margins
All this to say, to be even 'more better' at helping your customers.
Want to learn more? Check out www.sbdgrowth.ca or message me at email@example.com
Work with me here:
Think of your favourite (yes Canadian spelling) hockey team (GO Jets Go). You watch all the games and are a huge fan. Let’s say their 5 on 5 game is good, Penalty Killing is near the top of the league, but the Power Play is ineffective and not only doesn’t score, it takes momentum away from your team. The Power Play has sucked for a while now and nothing seems to work. But they keep doing. The same. Dam. Thing. Man that's frustrating, right?
As a fan are you may be screaming at the TV for the coach to ‘do something’? (I don’t do that by the way). Maybe fire the GM? Or change it up and put so and so in front of the net. If it’s not working, why don’t they do SOMETHING? Anything?
As the coach, if you knew the PP was hurting your success, wouldn’t you look to update and improve your power play?
Additionally, what if they didn’t track this part of their game (analytics/KPI’s) and don’t even realize the extent the Power Play and is hurting the team’s success? That would be irresponsible to the players and the fans. Especially the fans.....
Wait a minute - does this sound like your…….sales game plan?
While I have your attention, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is your sales strategy?
2. How do you measure your effectiveness?
4. What does your sales funnel look like? (Does it look like a funnel?)
If these questions were difficult to answer, or you didn’t like the answers, should we fire the coach?
Of course not. But it does drive home the fact that if we took a page from sports in terms of our approach to sales we could probably be even more successful.
Here’s another example to hopefully drive this point home: Think about the amount of time sports teams invest preparing and planning for their games. Football for example takes an entire week to review game film, devise a game plan specific to the next opponent, run drills at practice, more drills, pre-game preparation etc.
To maximize the opportunity for a successful outcome. In our case that may be a sale, but it may also be another meeting. It may be an opportunity to get in front of more decision makers to even better understand how you can help them. It may be the opportunity to submit a proposal for the first time with this account. Those are all wins that lead up to the big prize – a new client.
How many of us show up to our calls and meetings prepared with a well-defined sales game plan?
No? Ok that’s it! FIRE THE COACH!!!
Kidding again of course.
But, maybe you could hire a Sales Coach to work with your team. One that has the experience to guide team players and management on developing a sales game plan that will lead to increased success. Someone who could put processes and structure into place that will lead to building that capacity internally so that you can eventually run your own game plan.
Somebody who is funny, witty and with boyish good looks and charm for days. I know a guy…..
I am my own boss (well, Mrs Donald is) and I love what I do – Helping Organizations & People ACHIEVE More. Almost 6 years ago now someone suggested I go out on my own. It was scary, exciting, challenging, rewarding and scary (did I already say it was scary?).
When you are really challenged, you really grow.
You also learn a lot about yourself - especially what you are good at and what you need to keep working on. I have learned I am pretty good at helping others. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a work in progress - but at 55 years young I have some experience and a willingness to help and give back. Specifically, I am continuously improving at helping others learn about themselves (strengths and areas to improve) and figuring out what is most important to them.
But that’s not the point of this blog. I have written about myself enough (for now). This blog is about something else I have learned over the past several years: You can’t truly be successful without being surrounded by and working with other like-minded professionals.
For me there are a couple reasons for this:
Although I have written about this before (http://www.sbdgrowth.ca/blog-posts/story-of-scott-reminiscing-and-whats-around-the-corner-on-our-professional-journey) I want to do a bit of a deeper dive into these super-duper talented people I get to work with.
Here is the list of some of the friends and all-stars I get to work and collaborate with on a regular basis.
I have known Gord Dmytriw for over 20 years. In fact years ago I once interviewed for a job with him. He was later a client of mine and since then we have kept in touch for all these years. These are Gord’s areas of expertise:
Doug McCartney is someone I have gotten to know better more recently. His experience in both the public and private sector is ridiculously extensive. Doug helps in the following areas:
Gary Brownstone is a newer professional connection mine. His person’s back ground, experience and professional network are exceptional. His value for organizations is substantial and how he helps can be summed up simply as follows:
Catchfire Group’s website: https://catchfiregroup.ca/
I have known Tim Phelan for about a decade and more recently he has ventured out on his own (as per my recent LinkedIn post). Tim is really talented at helping organizations tell their story by providing:
Winnipeg ‘Hooligans’ business group –At one point someone playfully referred to all of us hooligans and the name stuck. I have been part of this Winnipeg based business networking group for about 10 years. This collection of local Winnipeg professionals provides services in a variety of areas and will be detailed in a future blog. Stay tuned
The Envision Group – I worked at Sprint Canada with Envision Founder & CEO Pat Lipovski waaaaay back in the 90’s. We reconnected to work together almost 4 years ago. The Envision Group (EVG) is a diverse team of professionals across North America focused on “helping People, Leaders and Teams achieve far more than they believed possible”. Solutions include:
As a Sales and Leadership Coach, I gain incredible value working with this diverse group of professionals. I am part of a team that helps me, challenges me and makes me better. They also allow me to better support my clients. Each of them are really good at what they do. Working together, we can do even great things (like saving the world from Thanos).
So while I may be my own boss, I have come to realize that working with other professionals is critical to my success in helping clients.
Need help? I know people (lots of people)…let’s talk.
How does confidence help you perform your role even better? Further, how does your team culture and leadership help create an environment where confidence can grow and team members perform even better?
I have played soccer most of my life. I am not a great player but I run hard, get exercise and like hanging with the guys. Last year I ‘came out of retirement’ at 54 years old to play in an over 45-year-old league here in Winnipeg. (Yes, there is an over 45 league and the soccer is pretty good.)
I had fun last year and it was a good group. I didn’t play as well as I would have liked to and I felt that in large part it was due to an overall lack of skill and a few years of rust. In hindsight though I now get a sense there was something more going on.
One not so positive aspect of playing last year was that a couple people on the team took it really seriously and as a result, they would get frustrated and yell at other players. You could tell that some players were uncomfortable and were playing to not make a mistake, including myself. This in turn made others play nervous and guys make more mistakes! Which resulted in more yelling…
In close games and in particular in the playoffs, it wouldn’t take much to have a couple guys yelling at other guys and also yelling at each other. The more yelling and stress there was, the less effective some guys were out on the pitch (by using the word ‘pitch’ you can tell I am a real ‘soccer’ player).
I made the decision to play with another team this summer. After a few games I noticed something – I wasn’t a better player (too late for that) but I was making less mistakes. Hmmm?
I realized that this was based on a couple factors.
First, this team seemed to have more fun as a group and did not take the game so serious. They played hard and wanted to win, but they didn’t point fingers and blame other guys for a bad play.
Second, there is much more of a tendency to say good play or after the game, tell someone they played well today. They actually took the time to provide some positive feedback to each other.
Lastly, there is a clear understanding of who ‘runs’ the team. One gent has the role and he takes very much a ‘play hard and have fun’ approach to the game. I have noted a couple times during games early in the season he would make a point in subtly reminding me to not be so tight or worry about making mistake. That simple supportive comment went a long way to reminding me to settle down and play my game (whatever that is). And further if I made a mistake, no big deal.
I thought about this and realized that while I am still not a great midfielder and my best days are about 25+ years behind me, I am having fun and playing better – primarily because I am not playing afraid to make a mistake.
What lessons are you taking away from this from a work perspective? Think about the environment you work in or that you are helping to maintain or create:
Working (or playing) afraid to make a mistake can negatively impact the performance of the team. Let’s be more intentional about creating an environment where everyone is comfortable trying new things, playing their game and not being afraid to make a mistake. The results can be super star performance, just like the outside midfielder for the Elmwood Rowdies. Or maybe, you will benefit from individuals on your team being even ‘more better’ at what they do and sharing their ideas more freely.
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.