• The definition of a fool is s/he repeats the same old mistakes

    Maybe it’s just me, but I have learned more when things don’t go well that when a meeting or sales call is really successful. It can be a tough way to learn what works. But it’s even tougher if you ignore your failures and repeat the same old mistakes.

    The simplest way to learn from mistakes is to take a few minutes at the end of each day to reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and to consider the lessons learnt. By writing down in a journal what you learnt and the alternative steps you’ll take next time, you capture that knowledge. You’re creating new plans for behaviours that will generate better returns for you & your company and more sales.

    At Sandler, we debrief after every sales call or meeting. It makes sense to do the same if you are out prospecting at an event (aka networking!) or on the phone, having quarterly meetings with clients or exhibiting at trade-shows and exhibitions – in fact anytime you interact with a suspect, prospect or customer. We follow a systematic debrief and ask ourselves questions like:

    • What did I do well?
    • What will I do differently next time?
    • What information didn’t I ask for?
    • What questions do I need to ask next time?
    • Are the next steps for my prospect or client and for me clear and in the diary?

    By making debriefing yourself a habit, it becomes easier to identify where you rocked, and where things went wrong, to recognise patterns of behaviour, and to decide what you’ll do next time. The key is to remember the Sandler Rule:  Every Unsuccessful Sales Call Earns Compound Interest. In other words…. There are no bad sales calls! Just calls you learn from – and improve your performance.

    If you want to increase your sales and your resilience, never ever miss debriefing your sales calls/meetings and start debriefing yourself at the end of each day. If you want to know how to debrief sales calls/meetings quickly and effectively, phone your local Sandler Trainer for an invitation to their next open briefing.

    Ermine Amies

    Ermine Amies

    Ermine Amies runs Sandler Training in East Anglia with monthly Master Classes in Norwich

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  • Courtship. Marriage. Divorce.

    Typically I hear from Business Owners that their problems are either ‘process’ or ‘people’ related. But a lot of time it’s their ‘process of attracting people’ that’s the real problem.

    What do I mean? Well, think of this. You want a business full of A-players. The people who get things done. Quickly, efficiently and effectively. These A-players excel and take responsibility for recruiting more staff into your business. But an A-player will only accept other A-players into the business. They won’t recruit B or C-players because their performance wouldn’t be up to scratch. But if your processes are wrong (or non-existent!) you might miss an A-player and recruit a B-player, but that’s OK right? Wrong. The B-player will never recruit an A-player into the business, because they’ll feel threatened. So B-players recruit C-players and the downward cycle continues.

    The cost of getting it wrong when recruiting isn’t just a few months’ wages to the person that didn’t work out. It’s the wages, recruitment fee’s, on-boarding, lost sales opportunities and so on.  So wouldn’t it be better to invest some time into getting the next hire right?

    So what to do? Well we all go on training courses – sales training, management training, tech training, communication training, presentation training etc etc – but we never go on ‘HIRING’ training!

    Traditional recruitment follows an all too familiar path; resignation of key member of staff, panic, quick job advert, interview applicants and take someone on because we can’t be without someone! Well firstly we need to consider attracting the A-players to our business even when we’re not recruiting. And so your management team needs to coach to a common process, giving you tangible results to evaluate current staff performance levels. This also allows you to see if you are happy (or not) with the performance of the team – most likely highlighting some skills-gaps that need addressing. If we see an A-player who we know can complement what we’ve already got and bring these skills – do we really need a vacancy to justify bringing them in?

    Before you hire anyone though you need to be clear about the behaviours you will measure and the tools to measure them. Utilising platforms such as Extended DISC and Devine allows you to take an objective view of a potential employee, not just throw caution to the wind because you liked them at interview!

    Talking about interviews … make sure you have a clear up-front contract with the interviewee about the agenda for the meeting; setting clearly defined objectives and outcomes at the start helps you to both decide if you want to pursue things at the end, and helps to eradicate the time-wasters. Use a mixture of direct, assumptive, situational and competency based questions to evaluate suitability and know exactly what behaviours and attitudes you’re looking for. Remember, no mind-reading and do not accept wishy-washy answers.

    If you were going to spend £100,000 on new capital equipment you’d be pretty sure to do your due diligence. Hiring a new employee is no different, take references! Hire slowly but fire quickly.

    But if it is going to end in divorce don’t forget the Exit Interview. This is the time to learn what went wrong so you can avoid the mistakes next time.

    So ask yourself this: “Are you and your management team following a process to attract A-players, or are you winging it and hoping for the best?”

    Andrew Pickersgill

    Andrew Pickersgill

    Andrew is Managing Director for Sandler Training North East. A business development and sales coach with over 20 year’s practical experience giving advice to ambitious companies and individuals. Primarily Andrew has operated with owner-managed businesses who want to accelerate the growth of their business, or simply improve the results of their sales team. After a career selling everything from technology, financial services, logistics, recruitment and coaching Andrew is perfectly placed to help with your sales needs. Andrew is passionate about changing your attitudes to selling, allowing you to understand that a ‘no’ can be a good thing. He also plays an active role in increasing the employability of 16-24 year olds, attending a reception dinner at the House of Lords as recognition of his on-going work in this area.

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  • Networking is a prospecting activity.

    At its heart it is all about finding new clients, and growing our business.  Do not get me wrong, this does not meant that we should be pushy and salesy when we network.  Nor should be anticipate or behave as if we anticipate direct selling to the room.

    Let’s first define prospecting in the context of networking.  A prospect is a potential customer, client or purchaser or sales lead which has been qualified as fitting certain criteria.  Prospecting is therefore the search for and qualification of potential customers, clients and purchasers.  Prospecting is the act of finding prospects.

    We talk about cold, cool, warm and hot prospects.  At its simplest this defines both their degree of qualification and also the degree to which you have moved along the continuum from untrusted stranger to trusted adviser.

    The goal of networking is to increase our leads and convert them to prospects and ultimately to sales.  One of the reasons networking is such a preferred form of prospecting is that for the majority of participants it does not feel salesy.  It feels much ‘warmer’.  First we get to know people and build trust, then we share our contacts.  By definition and introduction to a prospect via a networking contact has already begun the journey along the continuum of untrusted stranger to known and trusted adviser.

    The problems people have when using networking as a prospecting vehicle lies in its very attraction, namely that it can be a social activity and not a sales activity.  This can be for a number of reasons but they divide into conceptual and technical.  Technical is that people do not know how to effectively network; conceptual is that they are uncomfortable with selling so avoid it and over play the social side of networking.

    The result is that networking does not deliver the anticipated benefits.  Additionally people can have overly high expectations of results from networking, especially in terms of the timescales and when they do not appear they blame the network or networking organisation rather than look at how realistic the expectations were or what they could be doing to improve results. The challenge – and strength – of networking is that it is the way we network that impacts on its effectiveness and this is pretty much within our control.

    At Sandler we use the idea of passive and active prospecting.  When applied to belonging to a regular networking group here are the results:

    Passive networking looks like this:

    • You attend most of the meetings but if something comes up you are not too worried
    • If you need a “sub” you are happy (potentially even expect) someone to find them for you
    • You do your 60 seconds or 2 minute introduction but do not speak to people at the beginning or the meeting
    • You are polite and if asked to do a to one to one you accept; you are not diligent in timekeeping so are sometimes a bit late for them
    • You do not actively follow up with people
    • If someone helps you, you thank them at the meeting but you do not spend time in advance of each meeting thinking about how you can help people

    Active networking looks something like:

    • Attending every meeting unless totally impossible
    • If you have to send a “sub”, ensuring you find one yourself (perhaps using someone within the network who has used your services or knows you well and can therefore combine your minute with a bit of a personal testimonial).  Even putting together a short list (2-3) of people who you have talked to in advance who would be willing to step in for you at short notice
    • Taking the time to talk to your “sub” before and after the meeting – they are your ambassador, after all
    • Preparing in advance of each meeting (your introduction, your testimonials, your referrals)
    • Researching other attendees and working out things that you can say to each of them which will demonstrate your credibility and position you as someone worth knowing
    • Setting and following a schedule of one to ones (or group one to ones)
    • Working hard on making introductions and nurturing them through to business and tracking this
    • Bringing visitors and starting to get known for someone who is well connected
    • Tracking your time and results from your networking activities

    You cannot control whether or not someone needs your services or product but you can absolutely control whether or not you are someone that people want to do business with.

    Lisette Howlett

    For twenty years Lisette Howlett lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA where she held senior positions running global programmes in some of the world’s leading companies. Since leaving corporate life Lisette has been successfully running her own consultancy for 8 years. Typically her sales training clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners – often these are people who don’t consider themselves as traditional sales people but are committed to growing their businesses and thus recognise the need to sell more effectively and more authentically. Visit her Huffington Post Blog Tel: 020 7484 5556

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  • New Light through Old Windows: a new approach to selling…that works!

    Selling has been going on since the beginning of mankind. The challenge remains the same: how do we cost effectively and efficiently find people to buy from us and not from our competitors.

    Thus the “window” is unchanged, and to be frank it is now slightly grubby.

    The image most of us have of a sales person is someone who is pushy, does not listen, interrupts what you are doing, does not understand your business, tells you what they can do for you and so on.

    The literature does not help us either.  I put ‘Define Sales’ into Google and found this:

    “Selling focuses on the needs of the seller and the need to convert product to cash….To put it another way, it’s sales’ job to influence the customer to buy what the company has produced.”

    Whilst I can’t say I agree with this definition it does support the idea that a salesperson is selfishly motivated, potentially manipulative and only interested in money.  Furthermore, they talk a lot, mostly about themselves, or their products or services and why people should buy; they rarely listen.

    Understanding the reasons for the generally negative perception of sales is critical to understanding how to fix the problem – selling and buying has been going on for hundreds of years and both sides have long established behaviour patterns and expectations.  At Sandler we have found that these do not serve the best interests of either the buyer or the seller.  Thus the need to shine “new light” through the old window of sales; to adopt a different approach where the expectations of both sides are openly shared thus allowing a genuine exploration of whether or not the buyer has a need and the seller can best meet that need.

    STOP START
    Doing what sales people do Doing the opposite
    Selling features and benefits.  People don’t buy them. Establishing rapport and continue to build rapport and trust throughout the entire selling relationship, not just during the first five minutes
    Acting like a salesperson Behaving as an equal and being authentic
    Playing games and withholding information Adopting a direct, no-nonsense approach to selling that frames the sales meeting as a business meeting between equals, where the sales person facilitates an honest, non-manipulative exchange of information
    Relying on your presentation skills to seal the deal; you can devote a lot of time and energy to a sales meeting only to discover that the necessary interest level was never there Focusing on qualifying the prospect; do they have a compelling reason to buy which is personal to them?  Are they willing and able to spend the necessary money, time and resources to fix the problem? What is their decision making process and is it acceptable to you?
    Focusing on handling objections.  By doing so you perpetuate a system of “positive selling” in which the sales person pitches and the prospect assumes a negative role. Accepting that only the prospect can handle their own objections.  Your role is to facilitate their doing this for themselves, not trying to do it for them.

    Lisette Howlett

    For twenty years Lisette Howlett lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the USA where she held senior positions running global programmes in some of the world’s leading companies. Since leaving corporate life Lisette has been successfully running her own consultancy for 8 years. Typically her sales training clients include entrepreneurs, CEOs, start-ups, Sales Directors, MDs, Senior Partners and business owners – often these are people who don’t consider themselves as traditional sales people but are committed to growing their businesses and thus recognise the need to sell more effectively and more authentically. Visit her Huffington Post Blog Tel: 020 7484 5556

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