• When Should We Respond to Request for Proposals (RFPs)?

    The RFP from a whale prospect lands in your in-box. What do you do next?

    Most salespeople get excited, tell their boss that all their hard work cosying up to this company’s middle management and procurement team has paid off. They’d spend a day or two reading through the tome that reminds them of War and Peace, written by an 8-year old lawyer. Then they’d get the team together to plan who was going to do what. Much resource would be thrown at meeting the unreasonable deadline set by the “prospect” … but not much actual thought.

    They wouldn’t ask some fundamentally important questions; questions to which answers are imperative to decide what we do next, because  NOT ALL RFPs ARE LEGITIMATE! In fact, most aren’t. Most are an attempt to get free consulting from vendors too scared, excited, lazy or stupid to check if the RFP is even real.

    Consider these questions…

    • How did we make the list for receiving this RFP?
    • How many RFPs were sent?
    • What do we know about the prospect’s history surrounding RFPs?
    • Do they have a preferred supplier list (PSL) and are we on it?
    • If not, do they always give the business to someone on the PSL?
    • If we decide to participate, what happens next?
    • What role, if any, will their incumbent supplier play?
    • Will the low bid be the one that wins?
    • What results is the prospect company hoping to achieve by implementing the contents of the RFP?
    • Why aren’t they doing it in-house?
    • Is the timescale realistic?
    • Do we understand what caused them to go to market with this RFP? DO we understand the different drivers and centres of dissatisfaction?
    • Do we have a sponsor, coach or advocate in the prospect company to whom we can submit a rough draft, have it critiqued to make sure we have identified their priorities and covered all the issues they consider most important?
    • Are they high enough in the company to be able to provide us with the answers we need or just the ones they are willing to give any vendor?
    • Should we involved our senior management?
    • Have we identified to whom the prospect’s decision-making committee already has allegiances by suing our personal networks, trawling through LinkedIn and the internet to see what connections they have to our competitors and the incumbent?
    • What is the likely cost of sale to participate in this bid, win or lose?
    • Is this even legitimate?
    • Can we win it?
    • Are there any conditions that we do not qualify against that will preclude us from winning this e.g not ISO9000 compliant, no sector experience and sector experience is a must have, we don’t have 3-years accounts, they want to use their T&Cs not ours, our non-negotiable payment terms are unacceptable to them?
    • Do we want to win it?
    • What opportunity cost will we incur if we plough time, money and resources into this bid and is there a better way to invest our scarce and valuable resources?
    • Is this RFP going to be profitable if we win it? By when?

    Once you have your questions clear in your mind, are you allowed to speak to someone, not in procurement or a technical buying capacity, at a high enough level to understand the business drivers behind this RFP invitation?

    Given that RFP responses are usually the second highest hidden cost in any selling organisation after wrong hires the killer question you need to answer for yourselves is:

    • What are our chances of winning it?
    • Should we participate in this RFP process?

    Take the emotion out of RFPs and never lift a finger until you have done your research and picked up the phone.

    A simple rule of thumb for management to eliminate wasted effort and falling into the free consulting trap is that selling the opportunity internally should be twice as hard as selling it to the prospect.

    Live by the principle that you should do less but better on purpose.

  • Top Traits of Successful Salespeople

    TraitsHigh-performing sales teams are led by strong sales managers who embody leadership skills that motivate and empower the team. Exceptional sales professionals display certain traits that allow them to stand out from the rest and achieve great sales success.

    Since 1967, Sandler Training has trained sales professionals to be mindful of their behaviours, attitudes and techniques when prospecting and negotiating. While Sandler witnessed many professionals transform, there were always certain characteristics that “the greats” possessed in addition to the skills learned through continuous training and reinforcement.

    Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether or not you have what it takes to be great.

    • Do I build good rapport?This might go without saying but the best salespeople are people that can relate to other people. They come across as genuine, they’re natural and they put people at ease. As Sandler teaches, people want to do business with people that are like themselves.
    • Am I goal focused?Long-term goals are important, but what really drives salespeople is the focus on daily activities that are in direct relationship to the results in which they are in pursuit. They understand that it is the daily “behaviours” that are critical to delivering the results.
    • Am I curious?Sandler devotees know – a salesperson’s job is to find the compelling, emotional reason for the problem and match that “pain” to a solution. We discover the pain by asking questions and listening because sometimes the prospect hasn’t accurately identified their pain or are not yet comfortable sharing it.
    • Do I listen?A keystone to the Sandler Training methodology is listening. The Prospect should be doing 70% of the talking while the salesperson is actively listening and searching for the pain.
    • How motivated am I?Being self-motivated is essential to finding success as a sales professional. Since a salesperson’s income is largely based on their ability to find and close new business, success usually comes to those who are diligent and focused.
    • Do I seek out challenges?Sometimes in sales, it’s about being fearless and going after challenges. Whether it’s going after a prospect that’s been on your radar or taking on a vertical that’s completely new to you, having the ability to put yourself in new situations and enter unchartered waters will serve a salesperson well throughout their career. As Sandler teaches, no guts, no gain!

    Can you name more characteristics of successful salespeople that set them apart from mediocre salespeople? What are some traits of top salespeople that you wish you had to complement your sales approach?

     

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • Maintaining Sales Motivation: Why Do You Work?

    Why? Why do we get up every day and go to work?

    Because that’s what is expected: Really? In most companies, the last time you saw your job description was the day you interviewed and you don’t know what is really expected, do you?

    Because employees depend on us: Really? Management books say a great manager implements systems that will operate well when management is not there.

    Really it’s because Mum or Dad said so!

    Accountability is imprinted into our brains early in life. “Clean your room,” “Finish your homework,” and “Be home by 10″ are all part of our basic wiring. In secondary school, if you didn’t show up with your homework, you were publicly humiliated and punished with detention. Sounds bad, right? Actually, it works. We did the work because we run from pain before we run towards pleasure. Ever get that sickened feeling in your stomach before a big test? Well, that shouldn’t disappear entirely after school. What is that, exactly? Self-accountability.

    How are you accountable? You need to do 10 cold calls, get five referrals, and schedule two appointments daily. Who knows you didn’t do this? Only you and you can lie to yourself to justify your behaviours all day (the lawn really looked like it needed mowing and that two-hour lunch with a great client were to ensure the renewal next year!).

    Do the right things to be accountable:

    1. Have an accountability partner or coach- I call mine every day at 6 pm (yes). This person should not be your spouse or significant other.
    2. Keep a journal and do a debrief to yourself in writing every day.Rate everything with the standard “should you have been doing this activity at the time you were doing it?”
    3. Have clear behaviour goals in mind and know every day what you will accomplish!Who are your top 20 targets?
    4. Know why you are working- have a dream board near you during work hours. Want a Jeep? Have a picture nearby. Travel? Have a picture. Jewellery? Have a picture. House, wealth, etc? Have a picture. No college debt for your kids? School pictures work great. Make that dream or goal of yours ever-present and as tangible as possible, and you’ll have no problem staying on track.
    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • You Can’t Manage Time

    Can't Manage TimeSo much has been written in various sales training blogs about time management that you hardly have the time to read about it. There are numerous time management programs, processes, and tools, and even with all this help, you still can’t manage time no matter how hard you try.

    There are 24 hours in a day, 86,400 seconds ticking away second by second as you read this. You can’t save these seconds or store them up; when they are gone, they are gone! Never to be recovered. Never to be recycled and reused, and although you can’t manage time, you can manage your activities-what you do in the time that you have and that will be your most effective tool for getting the most out of your time. To be a really good time manager, you simply need a process to successfully manage your activities and to manage your activities, you only need to know two things:

    • What to do first.
    • What to do next.

    Step 1: To identify what to do, take a piece of paper and create a three column daily or weekly to do list. Label one column “Must Do,” the next column “Should Do,” and the third column “Stop Do.”

    Step 2: In the “Must Do” column, list all of the things that are imperative to accomplish, things that must be completed, things that are directly tied to your goals and responsibilities.

    Step 3: Review the “Must Do” list; prioritize the items in terms of importance and difficulty. It is imperative to do the most difficult first.

    Step 4: Next, plan carefully and assign each item an amount of time for completion.

    Step 5: In the “Should Do” column, list all of the things that you would like to do because they are important, although not essential.

    Step 6: In the “Stop Do” column, list those items which tend to use/kill time that are not productive. The “Stop Do” list is a daily and weekly reminder of things you should stop doing that are getting in your way. There should always be items on the “Stop Do” list.

    So start with the “Must Do” list and begin with the highest priority and most difficult item, or the item you least like to do, and do it NOW! Today, without exception. When the time for that activity is up, STOP! And move on to the next activity. If you continue to work beyond the predetermined time limit, you are stealing valuable time away from the next important “Must Do” task. If that project suffers because of insufficient time, you will soon be in debt to countless hours of time that will never come. When you complete the “Must Do” items, you can move on to the “Should Do” items, but not until the “Must Do” items are complete.

    As time goes on, some of the things on past “Should Do” lists will transfer to the “Must Do” list, but you will evaluate them and move them, not chance or pressure or unorganized time.

    Most people have trouble getting the most out of their time because not only do they not prioritize their “Must Do” and “Should Do” lists, but they actually have too many things on their list to begin with that are neither “should do” or ‘must do”… maybe the Stop Do will be as important for you as the Must Do!

    Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Finish each day and be done with it-tomorrow is a new day!”

    Blog Editor

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    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • How Sales Professional are like Shrinks

    We don’t ordinarily think of sales as one of the “helping professions,” but maybe we should. People tell their problems to psychologists. They pour out their hearts to their local hairdresser/barber. But they tell their troubles to sales professionals, too, so we should develop our “helping profession” skills.

    I have often noticed, when a sales pitch is going well, how the conversation resembles what I understand a therapeutic session to be like. That is the way it should be, if the salesperson knows what he or she is doing.

    For one thing, there are times when-acting as a counsellor might-it is best to answer a question with a question. It’s even important to pause thoughtfully after a question has been asked, which isn’t easy for salespeople. Many are fast talkers, eager to make their sale as quickly as possible. That’s a mistake.

    It’s important, before answering a question, to know why it’s being asked. The only way to find out is to follow with a question of your own.

    Let’s say you’re selling an ad agency’s services to a restaurant chain, and the potential client asks how much experience you have with restaurants. Too many salespersons, without bothering to find out why the client wants to know, immediately answer by quoting the huge number of restaurant accounts the agency has handled.

    When they are done, the prospect says, “Well, I hope you aren’t planning to present me with recycled ideas.”

    Now the salesperson is cooked. If he had asked why the prospect was asking about his experience, he might have learned how important it is for the restaurant to be seen as unique.

    Answering questions with questions allows you to learn as much as possible about the prospect’s needs so that when you do respond with definitive answers, they are the right ones.

    There’s at least one other reason to take a therapeutic approach to sales calls. They create an atmosphere in which the prospect is likely to talk about the problems their business faces-that is, their pain.

    Once you understand their pain, you can explain how your product or service will remove it.

    Approach your sales calls this way, and you’ll make friends and sales.

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • DIG DEEPER THAN MOST

    In Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich, R. U. Darby learned the secret of success. When all seemed hopeless in his search for gold, digging three more feet uncovered riches beyond Darby’s wildest dreams.

    People who want to give up on a goal because of some short-term discomfort or temporary circumstances are invariably discouraged. They are rarely involved fully in what they are doing or with whom they are doing it, and have no idea how to move forward. They are often resigned, passive people who suffer from profound inactivity. And continuous complaining changes nothing.

    People that want to escape uncomfortable territories often move away to imaginary places and the reality of real places often come up short in comparison. The problem is that they never make that imaginary place a reality so they end up nowhere, which is often dissatisfying and makes them feel empty and cheated their whole life.

    When fear, worry and self-doubt plague us, it’s going that three feet more that may uncover the riches and fulfilment you seek. It’s important to work through the grey areas, the set-backs along the way and get comfortable with the problems are often a set up for a comeback and are only ever temporary.

    Adversity is normal, it’s not something we can escape in life. When it messes with your goals and plans you have two choices. You can either complain till you can’t complain anymore which will not only make you feel worse about your situation but waste valuable time, or you can go back to the drawing board, readjust your goals and plans and take action. Disappointment should be our fuel, we all have to deal with it and some of the most successful actors, entrepreneurs and musicians have faced disappointment in some way or another.

    We always have a choice to make and the deeper you dig when life tries to throw you curve balls, the stronger your character and the closer you get to your success.

    And like famous actor Robin Williams says “Reality… what a concept, and it can be a barrier – if you let it.”

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • The Success Code  

    People define success in different ways: some by money, some by job importance and others by work/life balance.  Whichever way we view it, do we have both the aptitude and the ability to succeed – ‘can’ we succeed versus ‘will’ we?  As business people, there are four key areas which must be in place to ensure that ‘can’ becomes ‘will’.

    1.Self-talk

    Opinion has it that over 70% of the thoughts in our head are negative or limiting.  Negative thoughts create fear and hesitation, which prevent us from taking the critical actions necessary for success.  Take the time to reframe your self-talk from negative to positive.  Every time you have a limiting thought, develop a positive one to neutralise it.

    2. Baggage

    We all carry baggage around with us which holds us back, such as wanting to be liked, struggling to ask for decisions or being uncomfortable talking about money.  We need to understand our own baggage and make a commitment to learn new skills which will help us overcome it.

    3. Risk

    We all have a risk quotient that guides our actions.  Somewhere between risk everything or risk nothing is the right choice for all of us.  Stretching comfort zones allows us to take appropriate risks and achieve growth as a result.  We must examine our comfort zones because they create a success trap and we must decide to take bolder actions.

    4. Beliefs

    These are thoughts that have either been programmed by others, originate from past experiences or are based on judgments made through observation.  We should regularly and systematically test our beliefs to ensure they are based in reality, not fiction.  We must challenge outdated beliefs and create higher performing ones to free ourselves from mediocrity.

    Here are some pointers to success:

    • Examine your level of self-awareness. How large is the gap between where you think you are and where you really are in terms of success? Be honest!
    • End each day with a review of lessons learned and create a plan to utilise them the following day.
    • Review your skills toolbox and make sure you have the right tools for success. Where are the gaps?
    • Understand your ‘killer’ weaknesses and make sure they’re not hiding in your blind spots.
    • Every morning, ask yourself, “What would I attempt today if I had no fear of failure?”

    Melissa Arnot- the 31 year old who has climbed Mount Everest three times said “Out here, we face the consequences of our decisions every day.”  In business, this statement is no less true.

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie is a critically-acclaimed coach and facilitator who excels at identifying core sales and management challenges and implementing transformative growth strategies. Before setting up Sandler Training in 2007 in the South West, Andy spent six years as a strategy consultant for Accenture, selling and delivering high profile consulting projects to blue chip companies. He then worked in direct sales – in London and Sydney, managing business development teams across a wide range of industry sectors.

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  • Who is defining your success?

    Each of us have different definitions of success, that point at which we say, enough, I’ve reached my target, or I’ve haven’t but I will redefine success to equal my attainment.

    Perhaps you are someone who uses each level of achievement to set your next target, to see how far you can go.  Adopting this mindset brings the possibility of failure, but you’re comfortable with that. Setting a personal target is one thing, setting targets for other people is almost a futile activity. If they don’t share your belief that it’s an achievable target or have the drive to work towards it then it’s likely the target will not be achieved.

    If we consider this in the context of employees, their personal definitions of success and their attitudes will have a huge effect on the outcomes they achieve and consequently the success your business achieves.

    Consider further what it is that delivers success – what are the key activities you require people to perform? How well do they do that? Why do some produce better outcomes than others?

    Levels of skill and knowledge will be a factor but what about their levels of ambition?  Is failure something they cannot contemplate?  Factors such as these can impact the most fundamental levels of their performance. For example will they look for opportunities for self-advancement in how well they perform their roles or does the scale of the task fill the time available?

    Ask yourself this question. Am I managing people who are bringing me opportunities or am I drained by people bringing me headaches? Do I constantly have to ‘motivate’ individuals, listen to excuses about why it didn’t happen and will never happen or do I see people who are continuously challenging themselves, failing and improving.  Possibly you think it’s perfectly reasonable to take four meetings with a prospect before securing business or even that it’s OK to take four meetings and then not secure business. You haven’t challenged this definition of success, therefore it is has become the norm, reflected in the performance of your employees.

    So what is your definition of success? Is it matched, or bettered by your employees? Are you taking the time to really understand them and what makes them tick? Helping them to become target setters and adopt a culture of improvement will bring a huge change to your experience as a manager and to the performance of your business.

    Gary McKinney

    Gary McKinney

    Gary McKinney runs Sandler Training in Yorkshire, based in Leeds, helping business owners regain control of sales and achieve significantly improved sales results.

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  • Leaping Forwards

    I often ask myself: “why does business growth never follow a straight line curve on the graph?” Do you remember the (sometimes somewhat theoretical or idealised) business plan you wrote when you first set out on your business venture.  Perhaps the growth was modest, or perhaps wildly ambition, or perhaps something in but most probably in a straight line? And yet it never is in real life.

    For some, month to month sales look more like the chaotic line of a stock market. A roller coaster of sales success followed by sales drought.

    For other’s it looks more like “steps”. We seem to make “jumps” and then plateau a bit until the next “jump”.

    I don’t suppose these sound familiar?

    What cause those jumps or blips? Is it a big new client perhaps, new opportunities, new processes?  Possibly – More likely that jump was caused by something prior to the actual upward move. Your attitude or your beliefs.

    Self-limiting beliefs created downwards slides (to self-correct, since after all, I might be good, but not that good) and plateaus.  Moving off a plateau requires a belief that it is possible.  Sometimes the ‘rest’ gives you time for your attitude to catch up and then you are ready for the next step forward.

    Given this, it follows that if you want to smooth out the line and achieve consistent growth you need to focus on your attitude.

    Let’s test that theory. Given your current belief about yourself, your business or product or price and your market, can you succeed in your endeavour?

    Have you worked out why you do what you do? Do you know your real purpose?

    How will your life look like in 5 years’ time? Work, family, social, personal?

    Why cannot you have that life now? What stops you? What beliefs are holding you back?

    Now you can plan for the quantum jump.

    • Where do you need to be in business terms in say 3 years?
    • What do you need to change or do to hit that?
    • What are the markers along the way?
    • What do you need to do right now to start that journey now?

    Let your local Sandler trainer know if/when you made that jump. Or ask them for help to do so if you are still getting ready.

    Paul Glynn

    Paul Glynn

    Paul’s experience spans over twenty years of selling, sales management and training. He has worked in the financial services sector including accountancy and has been responsible for the commercial success of sales departments at director level in advertising. His clients report up to 300% increase in turnover by working with him. He is dedicated to helping businesses grow through assessments, training, coaching and mentoring. Tel: 01784 390623 Mobile: 07866 518848

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  • What do you want for tomorrow?

    Many business owners and CEOs are so immersed in today’s business challenges that they struggle to plan for tomorrow.  Their time is focused on resolving problems, fulfilling orders and keeping clients, often working long hours for little reward.  As a business owner myself, I know that running a company can feel like being on a perpetual hamster-wheel.  You’re running faster and faster but not necessarily moving the business forwards.

    As we approach the end of 2014, business owners and CEOs need to be thinking about tomorrow.  Have you worked out your company’s business goals for 2015?

    Many businesses – even successful ones, struggle to define where they want the company to be in one, three and five years’ time.  Yet it is essential that short and longer term strategic objectives are mapped out in order to drive the business forwards.

    If one of next year’s strategic objectives is to create business growth, you need to define where that growth will come from.  Is the focus centered on growing existing customers or winning new ones?  If it’s about growing existing customers, how will you grow those customers over the coming 12 months?

    Businesses can be overly reliant on one or two key clients, but their products may have application in other target companies – or even industries.  If your plan is about winning new clients, who are your target customers and how will you get in front of them? Do you have the skills and ability to show them a compelling argument for using your company?

    Answering these questions will help to provide a strategic plan for your business.  Seeing the ‘big picture’ helps you to understand and set out what the team needs to be doing on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. It keeps you ‘on-track’ with your goals and provides a sense of achievement as you move forward.

    Finally, consider how you plan to improve your work/life balance in 2015. The most effective business owners and CEOs set both business and personal goals to ensure they achieve balance across the different areas of their life.

    Before the end of December, block out time to set your business and personal goals and spend time with your board ensuring that your strategy for growth is well-defined.  Then put your efforts into the right places so that you don’t spend next year running hard but ending up feeling disappointed.

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie is a critically-acclaimed coach and facilitator who excels at identifying core sales and management challenges and implementing transformative growth strategies. Before setting up Sandler Training in 2007 in the South West, Andy spent six years as a strategy consultant for Accenture, selling and delivering high profile consulting projects to blue chip companies. He then worked in direct sales – in London and Sydney, managing business development teams across a wide range of industry sectors.

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