April 23, 2014 12:00 AM
No one likes a naysayer, but sometimes she can be the most valuable person in the room. Too many business teams shoot the messenger instead of listening to the message, Megan McArdle states in a recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek essay.
April 21, 2014 05:35 AM
Low performers, mid-level performers and even high performers need ongoing management. It does not assume high performance, and once high performing, does not assume it will always continue. Everyone needs to be managed on a consistent basis. In sales, the goal of ongoing management is participation rate.
Participation rate is the percentage of sales team members who are at or above plan. For a sales team, participation rate is easy to calculate. On a team of 10 people, where four are above their sales plan on a YTD basis, the participation rate is 40 percent.
April 18, 2014 12:00 AM
A lot of channel programs are still being managed with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. It’s far more common than you’d expect, even in some of the larger companies. There’s nothing wrong with using spreadsheets for managing a small program, incentive or campaign — or even analyzing a set of data. But ask for anything complex, and your spreadsheet is probably creating more work than it’s doing.
April 16, 2014 12:00 AM
Do you believe prospective buyers are generally rational? Do you assume that the more information and evidence you pile on them, the better your chances of winning the sale? This must be the case, or why else would there be so many hefty whitepapers with gobs of text, or PowerPoint decks with hundreds of slides, or complicated ROI calculators and spreadsheets out there?
April 14, 2014 12:00 AM
In the medical technology industry, there is no resting on your laurels. Even if you are a leading manufacturer of robotic-assisted, minimally invasive surgical platforms and your system is used in thousands of medical centers around the world, you always want your salespeople sharper, hungrier and one step ahead of the competition.
April 11, 2014 12:00 AM
Is it possible the most important training for your top-performing salespeople came before they closed their first deal — or even chose a career?
April 9, 2014 12:00 AM
It’s interesting to see how different people handle the discussion of money when it comes to designing their marketing collateral or a new website, for example. Some remain tight-lipped and protect that secret budget at all costs, while others are an open book on all kinds of numbers and the type of solutions they’re looking for. Being secretive with your creative partner is not a successful approach. Here’s why:
April 7, 2014 05:55 AM
What industry has had to change, adapt and overcome more in the last five or so years than the financial services industry? Maybe healthcare, but I would say they are a close second when you think about the regulation, fluctuations in the economy, consumer attitude, etc. that daily impacts our financial services world.
April 4, 2014 12:00 AM
Although we sometimes forget, the business-to-business (B2B) market is very different from the consumer market. For starters, most business purchases are rational rather than emotional, so your appeal needs to be more left-brained than right. Also, most B2B vendors aren’t dealing with a mass market, so it lends itself more to direct marketing than broadcasting – which is more appropriate when targeting consumer segments.
March 31, 2014 12:00 AM
Retail salespeople always seemed to have it a bit easier than B2B salespeople: the price is on the tag, take it or leave it. Traditionally, they haven’t had to experience an arduous sales process that entails the nerve-wracking procedure of coming up with a number based on the potential customer’s budget, obtaining the customer’s reaction, modifying the price on the spot, and then keeping fingers crossed that the customer accepts a price that not only closes the deal but also yields a profit for the vendor.
March 28, 2014 12:00 AM
Have you ever been asked to work on a pay-per-lead basis? Some potential clients call it a “performance basis.” Others euphemize it as “partnering.” But what they inevitably say is that, “If you’re so good, why not put some skin in the game?”
March 26, 2014 12:00 AM
Imagine this for a moment: your sales coach, instead of holding the usual meeting at his office or yours, picks you up and takes you to Barnes & Noble and once there, tells you something that prompts you to ask “Are we going to be thrown out?”
Let me tell you the story.
One day I had a coaching session with a student I’ll call Sales Sam. It was his birthday and I told him, “Instead of you coming by my office, I’ll pick you up at your office and we’ll do something special because it’s your birthday.”
March 24, 2014 05:41 AM
When you think of a sales pipeline, what shape begins to emerge in your mind? If you are like most sales leaders and executives, you will see a funnel. The conventional funnel-shaped pipeline has a large opening on one end where potential leads pour into the sales cycle and a gradually tapering funnel that ends with closed business. The idea of the sales funnel is to squeeze out candidates that are not a fit along the way.
March 21, 2014 12:00 AM
A successful sales professional has been trained in time management and will devote a portion of her week to prospecting for new clients. The methods vary but the results are the same. The primary goal is to enhance the client base with qualified accounts that produce revenues for the company. The inexperienced sales agent does not organize her day or week in advance and therefore does not allocate the critical time frame for prospecting.
March 20, 2014 12:00 AM
When he was 12, Mark Cuban sold garbage bags to pay for an expensive pair of basketball shoes. An entrepreneur was born and the business world hasn't been the same. Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association, Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures, and the chairman of AXS TV.
March 17, 2014 12:00 AM
Sales teams have multiple responsibilities over the course of their workdays, and it is inevitable that many of these tasks pose a significant challenge. Seeking out new leads, hustling between prospects and clients and attending meetings with marketing and management can get overwhelming. Because time management is integral to the success of a sales team, how can one better manage?
Tips for Time Management
March 14, 2014 12:00 AM
Tablets are helping to reinvent the sales profession. They’re making it possible for sales reps to be productive pretty much any time anywhere. Reps are using the devices to breeze through the humdrum tasks that need doing before and after the sales call – and make the calls themselves much more productive.
March 10, 2014 12:00 AM
Last October, Symantec’s stock took a beating after its new CEO, Steve Bennett, gave financial guidance that fell short of analyst expectations. As often happens, sales execution was proffered as the primary reason for the gloomy guidance.
Bennett explained in a Bloomberg article that he was going to fix the sales organization by training employees to be “hunters rather than farmers” – a paradigm as old as sales itself.
March 7, 2014 09:01 AM
We humans are emotional creatures. We make our purchase decisions based on how products promise to make us feel. That’s why great brands succeed by seeking intimate emotional connections with customers. Either the product satisfies an emotional need I have (“I want to feel healthy and successful”) or it offers me access to a self-identity that I want to experience and express (“I’m an athlete.”).
March 3, 2014 05:59 AM
Businesses often set aside a large budget to generate leads. But they don’t follow up with enough eagerness, vigor or persistence. That’s lead waste, and it’s preventable.
Consider a farmer who has gone to the trouble of tilling his soil and planting, watering and fertilizing his crops, but come harvest time, neglects to pick the crops. After all that time, energy and money, the produce is dead on the vine.
February 28, 2014 01:00 AM
For small businesses, using enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) is like trying to ride the Olympic mogul course at Sochi using a pair of skis designed for Yao Ming. Unless you’re 7’6”, those skis will not turn without a lot of effort. So you spend the run slamming into each mogul instead of turning your skis and absorbing the bumps.
February 26, 2014 01:00 AM
There’s that moment on so many initial sales calls when it becomes clear that the prospect is not a prospect at all (at least not for the next quarter or two). No budget. No timeline for implementation. No need or perceived urgency.
A clean exit is needed — something that allows for moving on while also leaving the door open for future contact.
February 24, 2014 06:35 AM
Over the past several years, Big Data has become a popular concept with a lot of excitement surrounding it. It’s hard to find a single definition of Big Data, but in essence it’s a super-sized collection of data that spans many unrelated data sources that are not easily aggregated and analyzed. The allure of Big Data is the ability to cull it for trends or insights that can’t be seen without a view across the vast data set from various data sources. In sum, it’s a very wide lens on the world. And it’s a good thing.
February 17, 2014 08:48 AM
Albert Johnson comes home from work exhausted. He hugs his wife and kids, and then he falls into his easy chair. Today was just another grinding day for him as the vice president of sales for The Magic Mirror Company. The tremendous pressure to achieve the corporate revenue budget number sits on his narrow shoulders. Things are tough right now and he is being squeezed by the CEO as well as his executive peers to drive sales.
February 14, 2014 01:00 AM
It’s frightening to admit it, but I’ve been writing about sales and the techniques companies use to improve sales performance for more than two decades now. It has always seemed somewhat ironic to me because sales is a job that I feel completely unsuited for.
Close a deal? You may as well ask me to draw up the blueprints for an office tower.
In putting this issue’s cover story together, however, it turns out that I just may have some essential sales skills after all.