professional sales

How to Run A Great National Sales Meeting

Over the years, the USR team has been involved in scores of national sales meetings. We’ve learned there is a simple formula for how to run a great national sales meeting, and it starts with a great plan.

If you are in sales for a large or mid-market organization, you’ve probably participated in, led, or organized a national or regional sales meeting at some point in your tenure. Members of the USR team have participated in hundreds of national sales meetings or regional ones as participants, sales leaders, and facilitators, and we have had a wide range of experiences from truly great to downright awful. Following are some common experiences that we and other salespeople have in national sales meetings:

  • You arrive at your national sales meeting, full of expectations for a lot of networking with your peers and some motivational talks, only to be locked in hotel conference rooms and flogged with PowerPoint slides for two days. You leave exhausted, unmotivated, and you don’t know your peers any better than when you arrived.
  • Your sales meeting is full of motivational, aspirational talk, but it lacks any connection to the mission you and your peers are paid to complete. While there is a lot of talk about the organization’s future vision, there is very little discussion of how you will get there, what your role will be, or what new resources will be made available to you. You leave somewhat motivated, but you haven’t a clue what you are supposed to do differently as a result of your participation in the national sales meeting.
  • You arrive at the event, and from the time you arrive at the hotel or meeting site, it is not clear where you are supposed to be, who you are supposed to spend time with, what you are supposed to do, and the meeting logistics have clearly not been well planned. You participate in the meeting to the best of your ability, but you leave the national sales meeting feeling disrespected and that your time has been wasted. Who arranged this disaster?
  • Well before the meeting, you receive clear communications about the meeting logistics and what is expected of you before, during, and after the meeting. You arrive at the meeting crystal clear about why you are here, and you leave the meeting with a clear call to action that makes total sense to you. You feel like an important part of the organization’s plan to achieve something great this year, and you are totally energized to do your part.

You may likely have experienced some or all of these types of meetings, and there are countless other examples that we could offer to illustrate just how great or downright awful a national sales meeting can be. Ultimately, the point of this post is that an organization has a choice every time it schedules a national sales meeting or a regional event. That choice boils down to, “How thoughtful will we be about this event?”

Over the years, we’ve helped dozens of clients plan and execute great national sales meetings. When helping our clients plan national sales meetings, we challenge their thinking with important questions like…

  1. What is the really important business outcome you have to achieve this coming year?
  2. What is your strategy for achieving that outcome, and how are you planning to explain that strategy to your salespeople?
  3. What new information do you plan to share with your audience? What do they really need to know, and how do you want them to experience that message?
  4. What conclusions do you want sales people to draw? What new or different actions do you want them to take?
  5. What kinds of speakers or facilitators will you need to ensure your people draw the right conclusions and commit to the right actions?

Are you planning a national sales meeting in the coming months? Are you concerned at all about the possibility of giving your salespeople a less-than-excellent experience at your upcoming national sales meeting? Would it help to have a conversation with someone who knows how to plan and execute a great national sales meeting?

If so, then please either contact us by visiting our “Contact Us” page, or email greatsalesmeetings@usr-llc.com for a consultation. We will prepare a plan for you that you can carry out on your own or with our help. Together, we can put an end to bad national sales meetings!

 

Sales Depend On Two Things


Successful sales depend on two things, conclusions and invitations.

 

I think we all know that buying behavior has changed over the last several years, mainly driven by advances in technology and the relative ease with which a buyer can investigate potential solutions and suppliers.  The result is that buyers interact with sellers less frequently and later in their decision making process than they once did.  Depending on whose research you read, it appears that buyers are getting through anywhere from half to three-quarters of their buying process without speaking with a salesperson.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

There are two things that have not changed about the buying process, though, and they are vitally important to understand if you want to succeed at selling in the current era of buying behavior.  First, buyers still find value in the process of gathering information that helps them draw conclusions about their businesses.  Those conclusions might be about problems they haven’t fully recognized, opportunities they haven’t identified before, or new or different ways to address issues of importance to their business.

Second, when they are ready, buyers will still offer invitations to those who appear to fully understand the issues and opportunities that exist within their business.  They will invite those others to share information, to talk, to meet, to present, to discuss capabilities, depending on what is most useful to the buyer in that moment.

The challenge for sellers (and all those responsible for a company’s revenue generation, for that matter) is to find new and appropriate ways to help buyers draw meaningful conclusions about their businesses and to elicit invitations from them.

One way that many sales organizations have chosen to address this challenge is to commit to a certain sales approach or set of sales methods that are meant to ensure that they engage with their customers in an appropriate and value-creating sort of way.  I encourage small to medium-sized companies to make that sort of commitment, but I won’t recommend any specific methodology here.

If your chosen sales methodology encourages your sales team to plan to help buyers draw conclusions about problems or opportunities that exist in their business and to elicit invitations from buyers before demonstrating your firm’s capabilities, then it is probably a sound methodology.  Call it what you want.  But you must be honest about your team’s ability to execute those methods if you want to run a successful selling organization.

There are a few questions that I would encourage every leader who is responsible for sales growth to consider right now.

  1. Does my team help buyers draw new or different conclusions about their businesses?  What evidence do I have of that?
  2. Do we recognize invitations from buyers when they are offered, or do we somehow misinterpret them?
  3. Do we approach every buyer interaction with a plan to help the buyer draw a conclusion and/or to earn an invitation to discuss our capabilities?

There is a fourth question to consider, particularly if your answer to any of the three questions above is “no” or “not sure.”

What can I do as a leader if my team struggles with these fundamental elements of successful selling?

If you have some sales leadership wisdom to offer in response to the challenge I’ve highlighted, please share it with others by offering a comment in response to this post.  We would all value your input.

If you have concerns about your team’s ability to drive conclusions and elicit buyer invitations and you’d like to invite me to have a conversation with you, I would love to take that step with you.  My email address is matt@usr-llc.com, and my direct phone number is 1-301-325-4851.  If you are not ready to take that step, then I would like to encourage you to please get to know our team a little bit better and check out our blog on the USR website.

Thank you very much, once again, for your time and attention.  I appreciate it, and I hope this last few minutes has been useful to you.

 

Sales Coaching Excellence

Sales coaching excellence may be difficult to achieve, but it is one of the fundamental elements that one finds in highly effective sales organizations.

 

[This article is the third in a series of five articles authored by Matt McDarby and John Golden, authors of the recently published white paper, “Five Fundamentals of Effective Sales Management​.” Look for the remaining articles in this series to be posted on the United Sales Resources and Focused Revenue Results websites in the coming weeks.]

If you think that being a great professional salesperson is challenging, try achieving sales coaching excellence.

Coaching isn’t easy, and not everyone can or should be a coach.  Coaching, whether you are the recipient or the provider, requires patience, self-awareness, humility, and a desire for improvement that exceeds one’s desire to maintain the status quo. Consider some of those traits and whether they are frequently found in professional salespeople.  Patience?  Humility?  Those are rare traits in human beings, let alone in professional salespeople.  Afraid of change?  You can forget about being a great sales coach.

What else can get in the way of being a great sales coach?

Image courtesy of Michael Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Image courtesy of Michael Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

In addition to my role as a professional sales leadership coach, I also coach youth football in my spare time.  There are a few parallels between coaching seven and eight-year old boys and coaching professional salespeople.  Certainly both forms of coaching require a great deal of patience.  Both forms of coaching require good planning, a focus on execution, and the ability to identify and capitalize on teachable moments.  I am torn as to which form of coaching is more challenging until I consider the one obvious way in which youth coaching is more challenging than sales coaching.  PARENTS!  (I have not yet had a Gen-Y salesperson or sales leader bring Mommy or Daddy to a coaching session, but based on what I’ve read about that generation, that may be coming soon.)

Sales coaching presents some of its own specific challenges and opportunities, as well.  Following are a few of them:

  • Avoiding the temptation to sell for the sales person – One of the greatest temptations for professional sales coaches is to step in and take over, to demonstrate what great looks like while the salesperson observes.  This is a big no-no.  If you have arranged with a salesperson to participate in a sales call as a coach, then sit back, be quiet, and observe.  Otherwise, you are not coaching… you’re selling.
  • Focusing on Planning, Execution, and Outcomes – One of the more challenging aspects of being a sales coach is to maintain a consistent rhythm with those you are coaching.  That rhythm comprises three basic elements… Planning, Execution, and Outcomes.  It stands to reason that if you help your team to plan effectively, pay attention to how they execute those plans, and measure their success according to the outcomes they achieve, then you will have a solid basis from which to help them improve their own performance.  That consistent rhythm is relatively simple to describe which implies that it is simple to execute.  Not so.  Factor in the normal distractions, customer related issues, and other responsibilities facing a sales manager on a day-to-day basis, and one will begin to understand why it can be so difficult to maintain such a simple rhythm.
  • Reinforcing Skills and Role-Playing – Have you ever played a round of golf without first visiting the driving range or the practice green?  Have you ever participated in a recital without warming up or walking through your music or your steps?  How did that work out for you?  In a similar way, professional selling without regular practice, reinforcement, and live walk-throughs or role-playing leaves a seller unprepared to perform at his or her best.  Skill reinforcement and role-playing are often sidelined by events…overtaken by the day-to-day tasks and reactivity that is often a part of selling.
  • Coaching versus Selling – Understanding the difference between Coaching and Selling is key.  So is understanding the similarities between the two.  [For more on the topic of Coaching vs. Selling, check out page 7 of the “Five Fundamentals of Effective Sales Management” white paper.]

Have you or others in your organization achieved sales coaching excellence?  What challenges did you face on the way to achieving excellence?  What barriers are you experiencing right now that prevent you (or others around you) from achieving excellence in this vital discipline?  Offer a comment in reply to this post.  You can also get in touch with me or a member of my team in a number of different ways by visiting our ‘Contact Us’ page.  Thank you very much, once again, for your time!

3 Things Great Salespeople Do to Win

There are far more than 3 things that great salespeople do to win new business, but I’ve isolated 3 that are particularly relevant in 2014.  As the traditional role of salespeople continues to evolve into a hybrid of selling and marketing, these three simple ideas may prove useful to you.

“Execution is king in professional sales.”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. It won’t make up for poor strategy, of course, but when sales execution is less than great; no strategy can cure the problem.

I spent time recently with a few customers who, with our help, have worked hard over the last few years to develop more effective sales organizations. While spending time with them, I observed several examples of great sales execution that offer some insight into what it will take to be a top performing seller in 2014. Following are the top 3:

Dig Into the Details
Image courtesy of phanlop88 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

1. The best salespeople today are also great micro-marketers. Micro-marketing is not a new term or phenomenon. The term first appeared in marketing trade press as far back as the late 1980s. Back then, micro-marketing was defined as: “Designing, creating, and manufacturing products, marketing strategies, and advertising campaigns for the benefit of very specific geographic, demographic, or psychographic segments of the consumer market.” In the context of today’s selling environment, in which traditional marketing and selling frequently and necessarily overlap, that definition may be rewritten as: “Developing and executing marketing and selling strategies for the potential benefit of specific customers that appear to have some of the problems one’s company can solve.” Put more simply, micro-marketing is the act of letting specific customers know that you understand their issues and that you might be someone worth speaking to when they are ready. The best sellers today know that micro-marketing is something that their average counterparts aren’t willing to do. (Note that I said “willing” and not “able.”)

2. The best salespeople (still) sweat the details. This is another area where top sellers trump their lesser-performing counterparts. They go to greater lengths to help their customers consider their problems and opportunities in detail, and they exert a great deal of effort to help customers realize where they might have some under-leveraged value in their operations. One example I heard recently came from a long-time, top performer with whom I’ve worked for a number of years, as she described her approach to differentiating herself from the competition. To boil her approach down to one sentence, she goes to great lengths to understand what her customers are trying to accomplish — much further than her competitors are willing to go. Why? Because she cares, AND she knows that will ultimately separate her from the pack of companies with whom she competes everyday. The details matter, and while investigating business issues and opportunities at a deep level with one’s customers, one will demonstrate not only competence but also the professional concern that is expected of professional salespeople today. Couple with that some unique insight into how a customer can address important issues and opportunities and achieve success, and you have a consistent formula for differentiating and winning in even the most competitive fields.

3. “How do you know?” is a question that top performers ask themselves every day. The best professional sellers today question what they really know about a customer’s issues, opportunities, and needs, and they constantly challenge themselves to verify what they believe. They know that assumptions kill sales, and they push themselves (and expect their sales managers to push them, as well) to fully understand what their customers are trying to accomplish.

Do any of these insights resonate with you?  If you’d like to chat about how one or more of them would play out in the context of your business, please drop me a line, or write a comment in reply to this post.  If you are not ready to engage in discussion quite yet, please continue to read our posts, taking as much value as you can from them.  Thank you again for reading!