Who’s On Your Sales Team?

August 29th, 2017

whos-on-your-sales-teamThe size of your sales team is obviously dependent on the size of your company. A sole proprietor is going to have a smaller sales force than an international corporation. But in either case, the sales team is not what you might think.

It’s easy—and natural—to consider your sales team as being composed of your salespeople, sales managers, and possibly a Sales VP. In truth, however, your sales team is much, much larger. It includes your:

• Marketing team
• Customer service reps
• Receptionist
• Administrative assistants
• Cleaning people
• Shipping department
• Designers
• Service providers
• PR team
• CFO & COO
• Engineers
• Factory workers
• Maintenance staff
• Delivery people
• Social media team
• Checkout clerks
• Project managers
• IT department
• Service technicians
• Accountants
• Lawyers
• Interns
• HR department
• Trainers
• Meeting & event planners
• Security guards
• Board of directors
• Procurement department
• Contractors
• Vendors
• Spokespeople
• Ad agency

In short, everyone from the CEO to the janitor is part of your sales team. Because everyone in your organization—either directly or indirectly—impacts the customer experience and thus affects sales.

Keep that in mind as you budget for various departments, hire and fire people, and provide training and recognition.

And if you’re a salesperson, be sure to thank everyone who helps you do your job. They’re an integral part of your sales team. And your sales success.

The Most Important Sales Question You’re Not Asking

August 23rd, 2017

the-most-important-sales-question-youre-not-askingIf you’re a regular reader of this blog (You are, right? RIGHT?), you know that I’m a big fan of questions. Because if you ask your prospect enough of the right questions, they’ll tell you everything you need to know to make the sale.

Yet too many salespeople don’t ask anywhere near enough questions. And even those salespeople who do ask lots of question typically miss a critically important one.

Let me explain.

Throughout the sales process, prospects ask questions of all sorts:

• Will this product do X?
• Do you provide 24/7 service?
• What happens if we have a problem?
• How long does delivery take?
• Can it be configured to _________?
• What is the maximum capacity/output/speed?

Typically, salespeople answer the question and immediately move on. And in doing so, they miss the opportunity to ask an extremely powerful question:

“What makes you ask that?”

Whenever a prospect asks a question, there’s a reason for it. That reason is important for us to know. Asking their motivation for asking the question can give us insights into:

• What issues they’re dealing with
• What issues their customers are dealing with
• Challenges they’ve had with previous vendors
• The competitors they’re considering
• Who else should be involved in the buying process
• Their growth potential
• What else we can help them with

Note that you should ask “What makes you ask?” after you’ve answered their question. If you pose it before you answer, you come across as defensive or shifty. Also be sure to use the word “what” rather than “why.” Being asked “why” immediately puts prospects on the defensive, causing them to feel judged.

In sales, motivation is everything. And the more we know about the prospect’s motivations, the faster and easier the sale. Asking this key question whenever their reason for a question isn’t painfully obvious, will provide you with valuable insights that will produce more sales.

37 Ways to Unleash Your Creativity

August 15th, 2017

37-ways-to-unleash-your-creativity

 

“Be creative!”

It’s an admonition you’ve heard over and over again. You’ve come across it in countless books, articles, keynote speeches, training seminars, and mentoring sessions.

And the fact is, creativity is essential—in business in general and sales in particular. You have to determine your goals and come up with a plan to achieve them. You have to figure out solutions to ever-changing problems. You have to write brochures and e-mails. You have to produce sales presentations and videos.

But has anyone ever told you how to be creative?

Creativity isn’t a switch we can just flip on whenever we like. It’s a skill that—like any other—needs to be developed and honed.

And here are two pieces of good news:

First—You are creative! Even if you don’t believe you are. Because everyone is creative! Creativity manifests in all kinds of ways. If you don’t think you’re creative, you just haven’t found how you’re creative yet. Or you don’t appreciate your own creativity. (Which is common—I didn’t recognize my own creative abilities until my thirties.)

Second –There are lots of ways to explore, expand, and enhance your creativity. Here are 33 of them:

1. Draw
2. Paint
3. Sculpt—clay, wood, stone, etc.
4. Photograph whatever interests you
5. Shoot videos
6. Write—short stories, poetry, articles, jokes, etc.
7. Play a musical instrument
8. Make jewelry
9. Knit
10. Crochet
11. Make—or contribute to—a quilt
12. Take a class in any of the above
13. Hold a brainstorming session
14. Daydream
15. Buy a coloring book and colored pencils
16. Play with Legos
17. Reorganize your workspace
18. Practice origami
19. Join Toastmasters
20. Cook or bake
21. Explore woodworking
22. Explore metalworking
23. Make up stories about people in your head
24. Imitate an accent
25. Play with your kids
26. Join creative communities
27. Grow flowers, herbs, or vegetables
28. Doodle
29. Put together a scrapbook
30. Download a creativity app
31. Take an improv or stand-up comedy class
32. Carry a sketchpad with you and sketch
33. Make a collage
34. Buy flowers and arrange them in a vase
35. Imagine how to improve an existing product
36. Read to your kids and make up voices for each character
37. Attend a creativity workshop

It doesn’t matter how good you are at any of these things. The point is to enjoy yourself while stretching and strengthening your creativity muscles. The more you play with your creativity, the more creative you will be. And them more you will improve your business and your sales.

How NOT to Listen to Your Customers

August 8th, 2017

How-NOT-to-Listen-to-Your-CustomersThe legendary rock band U2 played a concert recently at the nearly-brand-new Levi’s Stadium in San Jose, California. And the fans complained.

Not about the band. By all accounts, U2 played a tremendous show.

What made the concert-goers furious was the venue—Levi’s Stadium itself.

On social media, fans complained vociferously about long security lines, interminable waits for food, an unclear—and seemingly inconsistent—policy on large purses, horrible parking lot traffic, and concession stands running out of food and drinks before the show even began. Some people said it was the worst concert experience they had ever had, with many saying they would never return to Levi’s Stadium.

The stadium management team immediately responded. In the worst way possible. By ignoring, downplaying, and arguing with the fans’ comments, telling the media that from their perspective, the event was a success.

“When we look at Twitter, we also understand you see feedback that isn’t necessarily representative of the entire population,” stated Bob Lange, a spokesman for the San Francisco 49ers, which owns Levi’s Stadium. “Fans had a great time overall.”

The tone-deafness of the response only adds to the Bay Area public’s negative perception of Levi’s Stadium, which has been controversial since before it was even built. Complaints have poured in since the first events were held in 2014, virtually none of which have been addressed or corrected. Responses like this one send the message that the stadium ownership couldn’t care less about their paying customers.

And those customers have responded, with attendance down dramatically at 49ers football games and season-ticket holders defaulting on their tickets.

The lesson here is that if you don’t pay heed to your customers’ words, they’ll start speaking with their wallets. Which message would you rather deal with?

The One Thing You Can Control

August 1st, 2017

the-one-thing-you-can-controlI was recently attending an aikido seminar led by world-renowned instructor, Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei. At one point, as most of the class was struggling with a particular technique, Ikeda Sensei uttered some extremely important words.

A quick note of explanation: Aikido is a Japanese martial art that focuses on redirecting an attacker’s energy and using it against them. Aikido takes advantage of momentum, gravity, leverage, and balance, rather than size or strength. For that reason, trying to out-muscle your training partner is typically counter-productive. And yet many of us were still doing it.

What Ikeda Sensei said to us was, “Don’t control your partner. Control yourself.”

And that was the key. Because most of us were trying to do something to our partner. The more we each focused on our own body, the more effective the technique was. Trying to force our partners into complying with our will was our mistake.

That principle applies to sales—and business in general—as well. Whether you’re a salesperson working with a prospect, a sales manager leading a team, or a business owner or CEO running an entire company, you can’t control anyone. And in fact, the harder you try to force your will on people, the faster they’ll run in the opposite direction.

What you can do is influence people. And the way you do that is through your own attitudes, words, and actions. The only person you can actually control is yourself. Which means if you want more compliance from the people you interact with, you need to work on you.

Depending on your role in the company, that might mean you need to:

• Become a better communicator
• Upgrade your leadership skills
• Learn more about your product or service
• Develop your coaching proficiency
• Be a better listener
• Discover how you’re sabotaging yourself
• Strengthen your presentation skills
• Ask more and better questions
• Be more supportive and encouraging
• Improve your responsiveness
• Get better at handling objections
• Be more generous with praise and appreciation
• Hone your negotiating skills
• Learn more about your competitors
• Invest more time in relationship-building
• Heighten your sensitivity and empathy
• Improve your follow-up
• Set better boundaries
• Work on overcoming your fears
• Sharpen your closing skills
• Provide more tools, budget, and training

What’s true in aikido is true in sales: If what you’re doing isn’t working, change what you’re doing. Instead of lamenting that your prospects are cheap, or your salespeople are lazy, or your customer service people are incompetent, focus on what actions you can take to improve things.

Don’t try to control other people. Control yourself.