Is what you are doing REALLY productive?

Have you ever had someone on your team who is in your opinion extremely talented, but just does not seem to close as much business as someone who would appear to be significantly less talented? So have I, and I think what it boils down to is many extremely talented sales people do not close nearly as much business as they could because they stay busy, but they are not focusing on the correct things. It is not just the volume of activity that is important, it is the quality!

A few days ago, I wrote an article called Start With The End In Mind. In this article I explained how to use conversion data to plan your next week, month, or quarter. It’s a great tool, but if you remember I left out the part about dials to contact as a method to predict in this model.

The reason for that is because so many sales managers will tell their team “all you need is 100 dials a day and you will be successful!”  Frankly, I just don’t think it’s true! I have seen talented sales people making 30 good calls in a day run circles around “hard workers” who diligently get in their 100 (and sometimes more) dials. Does this mean less is more? No, or at least, not exactly.

What it means is it’s not the quantity of what you do; it is the quality that will influence your success. I Googled like crazy trying to find someone else willing to put this into print specific to sales and it seems I am the only person saying this, but that does not make it untrue. I think most consultants are just afraid to tell a company I think your people spend too much time looking busy making less than productive dials when they could be doing things that are actually lead to closing deals.

To emphasize this point I will share with you one of my own personal experiences and then I will leave you with something to think about. When I was a young new sales person I had a great start and everyone was sure I would be their next superstar after a few months. After about 6 months I was proving them right when I set a new record closing 12, 15, and 18 deals consecutively when most people in the company struggled to get 10. rolling into the 4th month my director came to me to share my conversion data and explained to me how I had done so well on somewhere between 30 – 40 dial per day, and that if I had done 100 per day like he had been telling me to I would have closed another 45 deals!

The dollar signs flashed before my eyes, and of course I diligently made my 100+ dials every day, but guess what… My production actually fell to only 8 deals the next month 100% MORE input got me 50% LESS output!

What was the problem? The real problem was my manager’s manager got in the way of my productivity. You see, I, like most great sales people was a bit lazy. I wasn’t achieving higher than average numbers because I worked harder than everyone else. I had learned to become extremely efficient. I was booking more appointments with 30 to 40 calls than the 100+ club because I was not focused on making dials. I was focused on making contact and having some quality conversations. When that focus shifted so did my productivity. Needless to say, I went back to my old program the next month and was in great shape again.

So what would the better advice have been? When I see someone like this, I sit down with them share their conversion data, and plan the next quarter, but I only talk about things that matter. For a sales process that begins on the phone that is getting a live voice or a “contact”. Without contacts you can make all the dials you want and you will be right where you are now.

Takeaways: Are you focused on the important things right now or are you keeping busy? What are the most important things you need to focus on to drive sales? Start measuring these things and setting goals based on that data and you will see your numbers climb.

Sales managers, are you overly focused on activity? Think about how you can help to re-focus your team on the most important things and set up goals and contests to reinforce those things.

Later this week I will talk about how I set up contests that drive production and not activity.

Carnival of Sales & Management Success

This post is to announce that on July 18th I will be hosting the first edition of a new blog carnival titled: “Carnival of Sales & Management Success”. This carnival was created to help give sales people and sales managers the tools they need to be successful. I would like to cover basic sales skills, values, leadership, management, coaching, and other areas of interest to people that would like to grow to the next level in sales or sales management, without having to memorize a bunch of cheesy lines or compromise there values or beliefs. To submit an article please use this submission tool:

Blog Carnival submission form - carnival of sales & management success

Thanks!

 -Brad

Start With The End In Mind

Do you know what your conversion data is and what it means? Most sales people don’t, and it is a shame. Understanding conversion data will help you identify training needs, and set realistic goals with a solid plan for achievement. This knowledge could, if used correctly give you a HUGE boost in income. In this article, I will explain how to use your conversion data to ensure you continue to grow your income year after year.

What conversion data will help you do is go from saying I am trying to close X deals this month and taking a WAG (Wild Ass Guess) to explain how; to using the best information available to estimate a SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess). It’s not a perfect system but it is far better than just tossing out a number and saying “I’ll close 20 deals this quarter” and having no idea how! Before I raise anyone’s hackles this is not a simple increase A input to get B outcome, but that may be part of what’s required! Here is how it works.

First you need to break down your sales process into logical steps. That should look something like this: Lead – Attempts to Contact (ATC) – Contacts – Scheduled – Appointment – Proposal – Contract. Your individual process may have more or less steps, what is important is that you understand your process and are able to measure what goes in the front and what comes out the other end.  

Next, you should record data on each stage for several weeks. In the previous model that data would probably look something like this:

Chart 1 sales data 

So from this model I can immediately extrapolate that 134 leads netted me 18 deals under contract, but what else could we do with it? The next step is to divide each step into the next and see what percentage moves forward in the process. That data should look like this:

Lead to Contact: 59% Contact to Scheduled: 52% Scheduled to Appointment: 90% Appointment to Proposal: 63% Proposal to Contract: 75%

I have purposely left out ATC to contact, but we will cover that in a minute.

Now I will plug this data into my model in Excel. This should only take you a few minutes to build, but if you need help, e-mail me or ask in the comments and I will happily help you out. This is my sample model:

 Sales model projection 1

In my model I assumed YOU control your lead flow, but you could just as easily start yours at contact to scheduled if you do not and the effect would be the same. I also recommend you always round a decimal up to ensure you do not come up short.

Now is the fun part. I built my model to auto calculate so as you change the red or blue numbers everything else changes with it. The weekly need number will also change if you change the 12 by weeks left to some other number to suit your time frame.

This is where the fun starts. I always build two models one with “Real” conversions and the other with my goal conversions. For this fictional sales person I may say what If I could increase my contact to scheduled to 55% and my appointment to proposal to 70%? My new model would look like this:

sales projection #3

We now have a theoretical 20 deals under contract in 12 weeks with no additional lead flow. The difficult part is figuring out HOW to increase those numbers, and that takes time, but at least now you know where to focus your training. The other route to 20 deals would be to some how put more leads in your funnel and that model would look like this:

sales projection Chart 4 

So you can see how you could achieve gains by either increasing your lead flow (assuming quality remains the same) or training to improve your conversion in some specific areas. More likely if I were this person I would work on both a little because more efficiency with more leads = bigger gains!  

I left out the ATC data, because the quality is so hard to measure. Is a call at 2AM as good as one at 9AM? Is the content of every e-mail and letter the same? I look at lead to contact as one big number to work on, but I do like to track my dials to contacts separately just to check for efficiency and test new scripts and e-mail or direct mail campaigns. But again that is another post!

Again, I want to reinforce that just saying if I generate 13 leads a week I will net 20 contracts. You have to take a strategic approach and make sure you actually hit your goal each week on all the other stages and update the model every week or so to ensure you stay on track. The primary function of this tool is to find training opportunities, and set manageable realistic goals with a solid plan to achieve them.

Please feel free to contact me with an e-mail or comment and I will be happy to assist you in building your model and coaching you on its implementation.

-Brad

A new kind of social networking site…

I was on LinkedIn tonight and I saw a post about TravelersTable.com a social networking site that encourages real time meetings between people over coffee. I did a bit more research and also found http://www.zoodango.com/ a competing site that seems to be a bit further along in the growth process. I have been on LinkedIn for quite a while, and have recently joined MyBlogLog; both of which have been very helpful to me despite the lack of real time interaction involved. Real time meeting perked my interest though because I am a true extrovert, and I love meeting new people, so I did a bit more research and found an interview with the CEO of ZooDango James Sun ( Apprentice Season 6 contestant).I think this is a compelling new way to go about social networking. It makes me a bit nervous because you never know who you will meet, but I guess that could also be the fun part of it. I am curious to see what others have to say about this and here stories from anyone who has tried it out. I am planning on signing up and will blog my own tale of adventure soon.

How will I ever get anything done?

We all ask ourself this questions from time to time… In the book The accidental Salesperson Chris Lytle said “Management is a series of interruptions constantly being interrupted by other interruptions.” And I can not possibly agree with him more. In fact, when I look at most organizations I sometimes wonder how anything gets done at all. Look at your week and add up the number of hours you spend putting out fires and sitting in meetings you would rather not be in, and suddenly it is clear why most managers put in way more that the normal 40 hours our companies say we should be working.

In order to get all of the things done in a week we need to complete there are two simple tasks we need to do. First, make a list, and second prioritize and stick to that list.

This is what I do:

First, I write a list of everything I need to get done this week. Then I break down that list by day. And finally I prioritize the daily list based on importance with the most important tasks on top.

The next step is the key. When I get blind sided by a fire, I look at what I am working on now and ask myself “Is this issue more important than the task I am working on?” If it is, I will take a break and try to solve that issue or at least cool down the fire enough to get back to the other task. If it is not I will properly prioritize it in my list of things I need to do and move forward with the current task at hand.

One of the least used features in Microsoft Outlook is the task manager. This tool will allow you to keep lists, prioritize them, and sort them by a variety of fields. It will even let you assign them to others and follow up on the status with a click of the button. I highly recommend you learn how to use this feature. You can get started by clicking here.

The key to this system is discipline. You must have the discipline to do what you say you will, when you say you will, and be willing to hold off on dealing with an urgent but unimportant issue if the thing you are currently working on is truly of a higher priority.

I will be doing more on time management over the next few weeks. Please feel free to share your own tips and tricks by leaving comments here.

The 10 Commandments For Leadership.

It is not very often you find a blog post that is so simple yet so completely covers a a topic that you have little more to say about it other than WOW! Thanks! Don Boykin achieved that with his post The 10 Commandments For Leadership. In this post he gives you 10 rules that if followed will, in my opinion, lead you to a highly successful career in management. Don has successfully covered in one paragraph what some have taken hundreds of pages to cover. Truly simple, to the point, effective writing.

Thanks Don!

Anatomy of a voice mail.

Many sales people blow off leaving voice mails because they believe they are a waste of time and no one returns voice mail. I would argue that it is not voice mails themselves that are ineffective, but rather the method in which they are left that causes the perceived ineffectiveness. The purpose of this article is to share with you the basics building blocks needed to craft highly effective voice mails.

The first and most important thing to remember when following up on an inquiry via voice mail is we usually do not know why a customer inquired or what will be important to them until we have done a needs analysis, so I compare leaving voice mail to trolling for fish. I write five to seven different voice mails each focused on a different feature / benefit statement and then cycle through them in a planned cycle until I get a response, much like a fisherman would troll a lure behind a boat.

Here is a bare bones picture of what a good voice mail looks like when following up on an inquiry:

1st        Introduce yourself

2nd        Reason why you are calling

3rd        Feature – hook

4th        Benefit – Bait

5th        When you call me back what will I do for you

6th        Urgency

To script this out more formally it should look something like this:

Hello, my name is _________ from the XYZ Company; my phone number is 555-555-5555.

I am giving you a call because you requested information from us earlier today.

My job as a YOUR JOB TITLE is to make sure that you receive all of the information and guidance you need in order to make an informed decision about… YOUR PRODUCT

 (Hook)  One of the great things about…(Bait) What that means to you is…  

CUSTOMER NAME what I can do for you is assist you in the process of exploring (Whatever it is you do). Give a compelling Value Statement, As well as give you all information you need in order for you to make an informed decisions.

Give me a call today.  I am in the office until ____ (time). Again, my name is ________ and my phone number is 555-555-5555.

Thanks again for contacting XYZ Company, and have a great day!

When you call, make sure to smile when you speak. Surprisingly, your customers can tell the difference. If you sound passionate and excited about what you can do for them, they are more likely to call you back.

This voice mail is ideal for following up on people who have inquired about your product. In a future post I will cover voice mails for the cold call, follow up calls, and general voice mail etiquette.

Are YOU LinkedIn?

It was probably 18 months ago when a good friend of mine Pete Wright, sent me an invite to join LinkedIn. My initial reaction was what a waste of time! How could anyone use a silly thing like this to advance a career or sell more widgets? I didn’t accept the invitation right away, but we talked a few days later and he was so excited. I had to join just to see what all the hype was about. You know what? I am REALLY glad I did! It turns out the MySpace for professionals is everywhere. If you are not familiar with LinkedIn here is a great introduction from Business 2.0 Magazine. In the last year and a half I have developed 83 quality first level connections giving me access to a network of over 1.7 million professionals. That’s right… 1.7 MILLION! From these people, I have been able to ask for professional advice, seek out hidden career opportunities, open up closed doors to advance sales, and help out a lot of friends.

I had not thought about LinkedIn for a while until today when I read this post on Web Worker Daily and it reminded me just what a gem this free service is. That led me to read to a big circle of blogs and now instead of implementing what I learned I am sharing it with all of you! Don’t think for a second that later this week I will not be implementing some of the changes I read about in this great article on Guy Kawasaki’s blog though. So, now that you know what LinkedIn is for, and how to create a good profile here is one last post on how to build your network.

Please feel free to let me know how linked in has worked for you! I truly believe if you want to be successful in sales this is one tool you can not live with out.  

On what level are you trying to compete?

Price and Value Are Not the Same Things.

I was on Warren Greshes’ blog today and I found a very compelling 60-second video about price as a model of product comparison. The short and sweet of it is this. It is easy to compete on price alone. That is why so many people do it. It takes very little effort to reduce the price. Legendary customer service, on the other hand, is easy to talk about but much more difficult to put into practice.  If you want to excel in sales, marketing, or any other business you need to find some way besides price to separate yourself from the pack. The four things he talks about are quality, service, convenience, and value.

Starbucks is a great example of a company that really takes these four principles to heart. They offer one of the most expensive cups of coffee you will buy anyplace, but they frequently have a line out the door. They have focused on very high-end coffee grown by socially responsible growers and are known the world wide for quality coffee. As for convenience… they are every place! On my way to work I pass one intersection with a Starbucks on three of the four corners! The service at Starbucks is outstanding. Have you ever spilled your drink? If you do they will replace it free! They will also do that if you do not enjoy what you ordered. And finally, value… Starbucks gets customers to pay three to five dollars for a .50 cup of coffee because they help their customers see greater value in what they sell and the experience that is Starbucks.

It is important to remember that we may not have the least expensive product on the market. If that is the case we need to find other ways to separate ourselves from the pack and place emphasis on other things that are more difficult to compete with, such as customer experience, quality, convenience or value.

Thank you, Warren for a reminder of what’s really important in business!  

Creating Feature / Benefit Statements That Work.

feature / benefitWhat is a Feature / Benefit Statement?

Do you know the difference between a feature and a benefit for your product and how feature / benefit statements build on one another? My experience has shown that most sales people are great at rattling off a list of features. However, they are relatively inept at describing how that feature actually benefits the client. In the next few minutes I will offer you a quick primer on how to turn your list of features into a series of statements used to turn shoppers into buyers. The 40,000 ft view is this: A feature tells your client what your product is, a benefit tells your client what your product does specifically for them, and the interest check makes sure they see value. Let’s take look at how you can pair features with benefits to create situations where you clients are excited to buy from you.

The difference between features and benifits

The first step is to summarize and clarify the need. This will show your client that you have listened, and will ensure that you truly understand what it is they are looking for. A good summary would be structured like this: Mr. Client, what I am hearing is… or am I correct in saying… if the answer is no, ask a few more probing questions until you are certain you understand.

The next step is to present your feature. A feature is the thing about your product that would prompt me to want to buy. It could be how your product would cut my costs, save me time, reduce my employee turnover, etc… This is where most sales people stop.

You however, being the stellar sales person you are will go one step further and give them the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). This is the statement that matches up your feature with their need thus establishing benefit. The easiest way to start a feature / benefit statement is to begin with: What this means to you, is…

Finally you end with a temperature check to make sure this item has been sufficiently dealt with. An example would be: How do you think this would be of benefit to you?

So a bare bones model would look like this:

  1. Summary

  2. Feature

  3. Benefit

  4. Interest check

1.  Mr. Client, Am I correct in saying you are having an issue with X?

Yes I am.

2.  Ok, I just wanted to make sure I was clear… One of the great things about (your product) is it produces Y outcome.

3.  What that means to you is you will spend less time focusing on x problem and have more free time to focus on other issues.

4.  How do you think this would be of benefit to you?

Let’s put it into a real scenario we are all familiar with…

use feature / benefit statements to sell results not product!

Summarize:

Mr. Client, what I am hearing is that you are frustrated with your current bank because you are paying high fees to get your money because you are currently working with a small bank that does not have an extensive network of ATM’s. However, you do enjoy the level of customer service you receive because you are with a small local bank that knows and understands your needs, is that correct?

Yes, in fact it drives me nuts! Last month I spent $75 on ATM fees, but I don’t want to get lost in the shuffle of a large national bank.

Feature:

One of the great things about working with XYZ Credit Union is you can not only use any of our 75 no fee ATM’s but you also have access to our co-op network of ATM’s giving you access to an additional 10,000 no fee ATM’s around the country.

Benefit:

This network allows us to give you big bank convenience and maintain the small credit union level of customer service you currently enjoy enjoy.

Interest check:

How do you think this would be of benefit to you?

Action Plan For Using Feature / Benefit statements:

  1. Create a list of as many features as you can think of for your product or service.

  2. Match that list of features to a benefit that makes your product or service worth buying.

  3. Practice this list until it become second nature.

Proper and appropriate use of feature / benefit statements is one of the basic skills of professional selling. In future postings we will discuss how to use feature and benefit statements in voice mail, overcoming objections, and closing situations to provide greater customer service, and increase sales and how to build value.

If you would like to learn more about selling based on value I recommend you take a look at Value-Added Selling: How to Sell More Profitably, Confidently, and Professionally by Competing on Value, Not Price by Tom Reilly. 

The Personal Blog of Brad Trnavsky

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