• Sales Training cannot replace Sales Management

    11/08/2016 in Sales Management

    Good sales management comes first! And, sales training is not always the best or only solution. 

    Consider the following frustrations expressed by sales managers we've heard during sales management workshops and coaching sessions:

    • Spending too much time on the wrong accounts: "She calls too often on smaller accounts and hardly at all on new prospective accounts."  
    • Poor follow-up routines: "Sometimes he takes 1 to 2 weeks to get back to a customer with an answer, and the sales opportunity is gone.”
    • Sales call report deficits: "She learns great information about the market and our competitors but doesn’t share it with anyone.”

    Sales training could certainly help in each of the above three cases, but good management and coaching is even more necessary, with or without any training. Sales managers need to be sure to set and clearly communicate expectations and spend time coaching and developing their sales people. Utilize affordable resources like our one-on-one sales coaching packages and Sales Meeting Kits to improve sales skills.

  • French Sales Training - Formation de vente Français

    03/22/2016 in Sales Management

    French Sales Training (Formation de vente Français)In response to the increasing need for online sales training in French, we now offer our popular Sales Meeting Kit product line in French. Learn more about the kits by watching this video

    Each kit provides a manager with all the tools needed to conduct short, interactive skills improvement sessions for their entire sales team. The kits provide online access to a teaching outline and participant handout in French (the video is in English). French Sales Meeting topics include: Pre-Call Planning, Elevator Speeches,  Questioning SkillsSelling on Value Not PriceGiving and Getting Concessions when Negotiating, and Handling Objections.

     

  • Portuguese Sales Training - Treinamento de Vendas em Português

    03/22/2016 in Sales Management

    Portuguese Sales Training Treinamento de Vendas em Português: In response to the increasing need for online sales training in Portuguese, we now offer our popular Sales Meeting Kit product line in Portuguese. Learn more about the kits by watching this video

    Each kit provides a manager with all the tools needed to conduct short, interactive skills improvement sessions for their entire sales team. The kits provide online access to a teaching outline and participant handout in Portuguese (the video is in English). Portuguese Sales Meeting topics include: Pre-Call Planning Elevator Speeches,  Questioning SkillsSelling on Value Not PriceGiving and Getting Concessions when Negotiating, and Handling Objections.

     

  • Spanish Sales Training - Entrenamiento de Ventas en Español

    03/22/2016 in Sales Management

    Spanish Sales Training (Entrenamiento de Ventas en Español)In response to the increasing need for online sales training in Spanish, we now offer our popular Sales Meeting Kit product line in Spanish. Learn more about the kits by watching this video

    Need Sales Training or Coaching in Spanish? Schedule a time to talk with our Senior Bilingual Instructor. (English Bio) (Spanish Bio).

    Each kit provides a manager with all the tools needed to conduct short, interactive skills improvement sessions for their entire sales team. The kits provide online access to a teaching outline and participant handout in Spanish (the video is in English). Spanish Sales Meeting topics include: Pre-Call Planning, Elevator Speeches,  Questioning SkillsSelling on Value Not PriceGiving and Getting Concessions when Negotiating, and Handling Objections.

     

  • Coaching vs. Counseling

    09/29/2015 in Sales Management

    Most managers enjoy being a “coach” to their employees, but usually avoid the task of counseling when an employee isn’t performing as expected. There are motivation issues and competency issues to consider when diagnosing or assessing an employee’s performance. You might have an employee who is capable of performing a certain task but refuses to do it or continually avoids doing it. Determining the cause of the refusal or avoidance is key to understanding if this is a motivation or competency issue.

     

    Three Key Differences between Counseling and Coaching

    1. Expect more denial by the employee

    2. You (the manager) must be more directive

    3. Passivity by the employee is more likely; for example, no buy-in to the action

    The Skill of "Confronting"
    There is a difference between "confronting" and "aggression." We use confronting in a positive sense, meaning that you confront or deal with the problem rather than avoiding the situation. Aggression, however, is bad. Being assertive requires a “firm yet fair” approach. As a manager, you must be firm, yet fair when you counsel someone.

    Counseling Tips and Guidelines:

    • Be willing to face disagreement and denial
    • Who owns the problem? (don't let the employee throw it back on you!)
    • Be willing to invest the time necessary to reach a meaningful conclusion
    • You must establish a timeline for a turnaround
    • Don't personalize—focus on the expected tasks, behaviors, and level of performance

    Avoid Legal Issues
    When leaders need to take a more corrective action with staff, HR must be involved in order to avoid legal issues.

    For more helpful tips for sales managers visit our Sales Management Blogs and Sales Coaching Blogs. If you are a sales manager and would like help improving the skills of your sales team, visit our Sales Meeting Kits pages for more information.

     

  • How to be a Transformational Leader

    08/18/2015 in Sales Management

    How can you as a leader transform your organization to achieve top performance?  The most successful leaders excel at two primary tasks that engage and inspire everyone to make great things happen.

    Articulate your vision in a compelling way. How can you get everyone to work toward a common goal?  How do you energize your team to do great things?

    • Tell a relevant story.  Don’t rely solely on facts and data.  Emotional approaches win the day. People want to be inspired, challenged, and moved.  A relevant story will inspire people to buy in to the vision.
    • Be concise. You need to strike a balance between allowing enough time to communicate the vision clearly and completely yet avoid talking for too long.  
    • Tailor your presentation to your audience.  Make sure that the vision is presented in a way that pertains to the level and job of the audience.
    • Address any deviations that you observe in your organization. What if an employee doesn’t buy into the vision?  What message does it send to others if you don’t take action?
    • Repeat the vision often and throughout the organization.  Messages are more effective when repeated.  Repetition demonstrates your commitment and increases retention, understanding, and buy-in from the employees.  

    Communicate high-performance expectations.  What behaviors demonstrate your expectations for excellence and high performance by others?  How do you get and sustain higher performance from everyone?

    • High performance expectations leads to better results. Also known as the Pygmalion Effect or self-fulfilling prophecy.  Low performance expectations lead to lower performance and lower results. Managers who expect more of average employees consistently generate results comparable to teams of top performers.  
    • Set performance expectations high in the first year. Setting high-performance expectations of an employee in the first year is very critical.  Modify how you communicate expectations to each individual. Be clear about your expectations and express it appropriately for that individual.  What you say and do with top performers is often different than what you say and do with other employees. 
    • Modify how you communicate expectations to each individual. Be clear about your expectations and express it appropriately for that individual.  What you say and do with top performers is often different than what you say and do with other employees. 
    • Model the expectations yourself. Hold yourself to the same standards and expectations.  Indiscretions by you can have major consequences.
    • Provide individualized support to help your people achieve these high-performance expectations. 


       

       



  • How Skilled is Your Sales Team at Responding to Sales Objections?

    04/10/2015 in Sales Management

    The key difference between successful and average sales professionals is their skill and comfort level when handling objections. Price objections are common, and all salespeople need to be ready to respond. Salespeople need to have the confidence to express in a clear and compelling way why a higher price is justified.

    Sales Managers: Use STAR's online and on-demand Handling Objections Sales Meeting Kit to teach a 60-90 minute skills-building session to help your salespeople improve their ability to handle objections. 

  • Are Your Salespeople Making Too Many Concessions During Sales Negotiations?

    04/09/2015 in Sales Management

    Exchange, or give and take, is the essence of negotiation.

    Would you like your salespeople to improve their ability to explore for and exchange currencies that will satisfy the needs of both sides in a negotiation?  This is a topic that sales managers can and should be teaching to their salespeople.

    STAR's Sales Meeting Kits provide the online and on-demand tools needed to teach a 90 minute skills-building session to your sales team. Visit Giving and Getting Concessions When Negotiating Sales Meeting Kit to view an Introductory Video and Free Trial. 

  • Haggling Over Price... What Needs to Change?

    04/08/2015 in Sales Management

    When you sell on value, you create a clear and compelling reason for your customer to buy from you versus a competitor.  It is a constant challenge in sales to move the conversation away from haggling over price so you can talk about the value and solutions your product or service will provide to your customer. 

    Sales Managers: Take 60-90 minutes at your next sales meeting to teach your salespeople how to become better at selling on value rather than price. Visit Selling on Value Not Price Sales Meeting Kit to watch an Introductory Video and receive a Free Trial of this online and on-demand product for sales managers. 

  • How Do Your Salespeople Rate When it Comes to Asking Great Questions?

    04/08/2015 in Sales Management

    On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate the effectiveness of the questioning skills of your salespeople?  A skilled sales professional knows how to ask questions that will identify decision makers and influencers, explore for additional sales opportunities, uncover sales objections, and determine customer needs.

    The sales meeting is a perfect place for sales people to practice questioning skills in a safe and comfortable environment. Sales managers: Learn more about how to lead a skill-building session with the help of our online Sales Meeting Kits. Visit Questioning Skills Sales Meeting Kits for an Introductory Video and Free Trial. 

  • Do Your Salespeople Know How to Make Great Elevator Speeches?

    04/08/2015 in Sales Management

    You only have one chance to make that first impression! The saying is especially true for salespeople. All salespeople should have several great elevator speeches.

    Sales Managers: Do your salespeople know the four basic guidelines to help make an elevator speech more memorable and effective?  This is a topic you can easily teach to your salespeople. STAR online Sales Meeting Kits provide an easy guide for you to lead a skills-building session that includes elevator speech practice. Visit Elevator Speech Sales Meeting Kits for an Introductory Video and Free Trial. 

  • Sales Managers: Here's How to Teach Pre-Call Planning to Your Salespeople

    04/08/2015 in Sales Management

    Every sales call made should be purposeful!  You've heard the question asked in blogs here before - Are your sales people acting as sales professionals or as well-paid tourists?   This is a topic that sales managers can and should be addressing by leading skill-building sessions at sales meetings.  STAR online Sales Meeting Kits provide the tools to do just that.  Visit Pre-Call Planning Sales Meeting Kits to watch an Introductory Video and receive a Free Trial.   

     

     

     

  • Do You Know What Motivates Your Salespeople?

    06/11/2014 in Sales Management

    A key component of every sales manager’s job description is to coach, motivate, and provide the support and information needed to ensure their salespeople can meet and exceed their sales objectives.  

    Sales Managers should be regularly revisiting two important questions about each member of their sales team.
    Do you know what motivates them?
    Do you know what de-motivates them?

    It is important to realize that money is NOT the primary motivator for most people. Different things motivate different salespeople, so you should use a combination of monetary and non-monetary rewards to motivate salespeople. 

    Non-Monetary Motivators come in many creative ways and can be very powerful.  Sales professionals work in a stressful environment, so rewards and recognition can regularly provide a much needed morale boost.  Below is a list of just a few suggestions for how to motivate your salespeople.

    Praise and recognition consistently are rated as effective motivators. 

    Delegate a task or project to the salesperson. Nothing communicates more strongly than delegation that you trust and believe in him or her.  One example is to allow your salesperson to lead a sales meeting skills building session. Visit our Sales Meeting Kits Webpage for more information. 

    Keep a visible list of wins such as new business generated this quarter, number of successful contract renewals, and so on.  

    Ask a senior manager to send a letter or thank you note to the person.

    Hold a celebration meeting if your sales team has done something well.

    Get successful sales professionals involved in mentoring others since sharing with and teaching others is a powerful skill and motivator. Visit our Sales Meeting Kits webpage for help. 

    The ultimate motivator is frequent coaching by the Sales Leader. You will inspire and motivate your sales team when you demonstrate through frequent coaching that you have a strong commitment to helping each sales professional improve.  

  • Sales Meetings with Substance

    06/04/2014 in Sales Management

    Are your sales meetings all about numbers?  Are they lacking in substance?  
    If you are like many sales managers we hear from what you really want is to add something that will help improve the bottom line and motivate every sales person in the room, right?

    Sales managers are challenged to find the time to plan and lead skill-building sales meetings. We now offer an online series of Sales Meeting Kits designed to help sales managers run more effective sales meetings.  STAR Sales Meeting Kits provide sales managers with everything needed to run focused, skills-building sessions at upcoming sales meetings. We now have a total of six kits to choose from:

    How can these sales meeting kits benefit you?  

    1.  Affordable and Easy to Use: You receive everything you need in order to do this yourself, and at a fraction of the cost of using an outside training company.

    2.  Scheduling Flexibility: Because each skill-building session takes 1.5 hours or less, you have tremendous scheduling flexibility. For example, as an energizer at the end of a full-day sales meeting, or as a stand-alone event such as a breakfast meeting or a lunch-and-learn.

    3.  Improve your sales results:  Each kit focuses on a particular skill set, designed to help salespeople  sharpen their ability to win new business, sell more to existing accounts, manage key accounts, and so on. 

    Watch our Sales Meeting Kit video to learn more.  We also provide a free Teaching Tips Webinar and handout, providing helpful tips on how adults, and in particular, salespeople, learn best.  

  • How to Improve your next Sales Meeting

    04/23/2014 in Sales Management

    After hearing many sales managers say how challenging it is to find the time to plan and lead skill-building sales meetings, we launched a series of Sales Meeting Kits.  STAR Sales Meeting Kits provide sales managers with everything needed to run focused, skills-building sessions at upcoming sales meetings.  Four topics are currently available and additional topics will be coming soon.  

    Unlike a typical sales meeting, where most of the time is spent reviewing sales figures and providing updates, these sales meeting kits will give you the tools to develop the skills of your salespeople, energize your sales meetings, and build a stronger sales team.

    Specifically, how can these sales meeting kits benefit you?
     Three ways. First, you receive everything you need in order to do this yourself, and at a fraction of the cost of using an outside training company.

    Second, because each skill-building session takes 1.5 hours or less, you have tremendous scheduling flexibility. For example, as an energizer at the end of a full-day sales meeting, or as a stand-alone event such as a breakfast meeting or a lunch-and-learn.

    Third, and most importantly, improve your sales results.  Each kit focuses on a particular skill set, designed to help salespeople  sharpen their ability to win new business, sell more to existing accounts, manage key accounts, and so on. 

    Watch our Sales Meeting Kit video to learn more.  We also provide a free Teaching Tips Webinar and handout, providing helpful tips on how adults, and in particular, salespeople, learn best.

  • How to Plan and Prepare Your Next Sales Meeting

    10/28/2013 in Sales Management

    Are Your Quarterly Sales Meetings a Snore? Does your typical quarterly sales meeting agenda look something like this:

    1. New product updates, company news, etc.

    2. Last Quarter Sales Results – Highlights, Lowlights

    3. Next Quarter Goals – Targets, Expected Challenges

    …. Socialize

    Items 1-3 do need to stay on your agenda, but most sales managers can condense and present it in a very short time frame. And don't worry, the socializing will ordinarily take care of itself. However, skills building should not be left off the agenda.  Don’t assume that you don’t have enough time. When you have your entire sales team together take advantage of the captive audience. You have an audience who can share experience and good ideas from another. All you have to do is carve out the time and lead the topic.

    It takes some planning on your part and STAR has developed some sales meeting kits to help you plan  

    Here’s some helpful advice on how to make your sales meetings more interactive and engaging:

    A typical quarterly sales meeting is short, at most 2-2.5 hours long. So, try to reserve 50% of your quarterly meeting for sales skills development. To do this in a time-efficient manner, create a Sales Skills Clinic Worksheet as a pre-assignment. The simple worksheet (one page usually suffices) serves to introduce the topic you choose, include instructions for the brainstorm, group activity, or role play session and give each salesperson a chance to do some preparation and leave space for notes. Depending upon the session, it can be helpful to collect the notes and type an anonymous summary of good ideas to email as a post-meeting reinforcement.  Be sure to let everyone know in advance if you plan to do this.

    There are plenty of sales topics that work well in this short format.  A few suggestions are listed below:

    How about a Questioning Clinic?  All salespeople need to ask effective questions and thoroughly listen to genuinely understand customer needs. A sales meeting is a super format for this short skill-building and idea-sharing session.  An earlier blog titled How Intelligent are your Sales Questions may be helpful. 

    Another great topic is a Value Statements Brainstorm. Are your salespeople prepared to communicate the quantifiable value you have to offer the customer?  Why not give them the chance to brainstorm some highly effective quantifiable value statements for each of the different types of customers you have? A one hour session gives time for small group brainstorm sessions and mini role play sessions with feedback.  A recent blog titled Are you Proficient at Selling Value in Both Tangible and Intangible Terms? may be helpful.

    Another option to consider is a Referrals Clinic. Your salespeople most likely avoid asking for referrals (most do!), so why not have them practice what to say in a comfortable format? A recent blog titled Does Customer Satisfaction Guarantee Referrals? may be helpful.

    The topics are endless – Sales Call Planning, Objections, Identifying Key Accounts, Prospecting Methods, Upselling and Cross-Selling and many more.  If you need help digging deeper into any of these sales skills topics for your team, please visit our Sales Meeting Kits pages or contact us to discuss our workshops,online training and coaching services.

  • Writing RFPs That Will Win More Sales (part 2)

    06/20/2013 in Sales Management

    "Win the ones worth winning.” - John Czepiel

    Our new workshop titled Writing a Winning RFP teaches the skills and concepts on how to write a customized Request For Proposal (RFP) that will increase your likelihood of winning more business.  The workshop highlights critical success factors that should be addressed when you respond to RFPs, as well as common mistakes such as writing RFPs that are too lengthy and not client-focused.

    What Are the Most Common Mistakes When Writing and Responding to RFPs?  

    The three most mistakes made when writing an RFP can be summarized as follows:

    1. The RFP is not tailored for the client, which creates the impression that this client’s key issues and concerns are not understood.
    2. The RFP is too lengthy, which makes it less likely that it will be read in its entirety or understood by the client.
    3. You (or your sales force) are being shopped, and consequently are wasting your time writing an RFP for which you have no chance of success.

    Let’s talk briefly about each of these three mistakes.

    The RFP is not tailored for the client. You can avoid this mistake by asking questions such as these when you write and review your RFP before sending it to the client:

    • Have we summarized this client’s critical needs and demonstrated how we will meet those needs? If your RFP doesn’t do this, you will not win the business.
    • How well does your RFP pass the "you/us” test? This is something that we teach in the workshop. For simplicity in today’s newsletter, a good rule of thumb is that your RFP should contain more "you-language” (the you refers to the client) and less "us-language” (the us refers to your organization).

    Since this is such a common mistake, you will definitely set yourself apart by writing a tailored RFP for each client. Don’t submit an RFP that looks like it is a scripted and canned document.  It sends a message to the client that you haven’t bothered to learn about them and that they aren’t that important.

    The RFP is too lengthy.  Most RFPs are too lengthy, which can result in a lot of problems such as: (1) the recipient won’t read the entire RFP; (2) critical information is missed by the client; and, (3) the client can’t remember the key points.  This is one of the reasons why last month’s newsletter recommended that the Executive Overview is so critical. Many decision-makers will not read your entire RFP but will at least read the overview.

    We teach in the workshop how to write a compelling Executive Overview.  You also will learn how to shorten the remaining sections of the RFP yet still retain the information that is most likely to help you win the business.  Less is more is a great guideline to follow, especially when paired with what the workshop teaches about the critical information that must be in your RFP, and what information can be eliminated without causing you any problems. 

    You (or your sales force) are being shopped.  This mistake is much more prevalent than many sales professionals think, which is well-documented in The Sales Manager’s Success Manual by Wayne Thomas (©2008, AMACOM).  For example, consider these two related points from that book:

    1. A detailed study on Proposal Win rate showed that sales reps are being shopped more than half the time.
    2. If you get an unexpected RFP, assume that you are being shopped. 

    The Writing a Winning RFP workshop teaches techniques to help you assess if you are being shopped and what to do about it. 

    To say this a little differently — since it takes so much time and effort to write a high-quality RFP, don’t waste your time on RFPs for which you have no chance of success.  As cited in the quotation at the start of this month’s newsletter, you should "…win the ones worth winning” and not waste your time on the others.

    Please click on this link to view more detail about the Writing a Winning RFP workshop.  Anyone who participates in the RFP process will benefit from this workshop, including sales professionals, managers, sales support personnel, and marketing.  STAR can also provide coaching to individuals who wish to improve their ability to write and respond to RFPs.

  • Writing RFPs That Will Win More Sales - Announcing a New STAR Workshop

    06/20/2013 in Sales Management

    "Use the RFP process to create your own edge over the incumbent.” -Wayne Thomas,The Sales Manager's Success Manual, 2008  

    Sales Training And Results, Inc. (STAR) is excited to announce a new workshop titled Writing a Winning RFP.  This workshop teaches the skills and concepts on how to write a customized Request For Proposal (RFP) that will increase your likelihood of winning more business.  The workshop highlights critical success factors that should be addressed when you respond to RFPs, as well as common mistakes such as writing RFPs that are too lengthy and not client-focused.

    This month’s newsletter will summarize some of the critical success factors for RFPs. Next month’s newsletter will address the most common mistakes.

    What Are the Three Most Critical Success Factors When Writing RFPs?  

    There are many contributing factors that determine the success of an RFP, but the three most important success factors can be summarized by these questions:

    1. How can you write the most powerful executive overview?
    2. How can you set your company, service/product, and yourself apart?
    3. What information should you include, and what should you purposely leave out?

    Let’s talk briefly about each of these three success factors.

    The executive overview or the opening is a crucial section of the RFP. Many sales professionals don’t realize how important the opening section of the RFP can be.  The opening is when the customer is likely to be most attentive.  Anything you write in the opening is most likely to be remembered by the customer, and can make a huge difference in terms of your success rate in winning more RFPs.  Many decision makers will only read the executive overview, and will ignore the rest of your RFP.

    Because the opening is so important, we provide tips and guidelines about what to write and how to write it, so that you can capture the customer’s attention and communicate your message clearly and concisely.  For example, add a statement that quantifies what your product/service can do for this customer such as, "Our proposal will demonstrate how you can improve your process by 20% or more, which generates at least $250,000 per year in savings."

    The second success factor is to set yourself apart.  You need to do this in the opening and throughout the entire RFP. Strive to answer these two questions to the best of your ability: What differentiates you from other providers or suppliers?  How can you demonstrate to the customer that you will address their most critical issues? This sounds obvious, but many RFPs don’t provide any compelling differentiators.  There are numerous opportunities throughout the RFP to demonstrate to the customer why they should select you. State your differentiators as concisely as possible, for example, "The breadth and depth of our offerings allows you to reduce the number of your suppliers."

    The third and final success factor is to be selective about the information that you include in your RFP. Again, this may sound obvious, but be sure to include only the information the customer has asked for and respond specifically to the customer’s needs.  Many sellers believe that the best RFPs are informational. We disagree.  A common mistake is to write RFPs that are too lengthy. The best RFPs must be persuasive. You should purposely include only the most relevant information. If you’ve done your homework by talking to the customer prior to writing the proposal it should be clear what to include and what to leave out. A good rule of thumb is "…if in doubt, leave it out.” 

    For more details visit our Writing a Winning RFP workshop page..  Anyone who participates in the RFP process will benefit from this workshop, including sales professionals, managers, sales support personnel, and marketing.  STAR can also provide coaching to individuals who wish to improve their ability to write and respond to RFPs. 

  • How to Build Customer Loyalty and Reduce Customer Churn

    06/20/2013 in Sales Management

    The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer." - Peter Drucker 

    Last month’s newsletter touched on the direct link between employee loyalty and customer loyalty, and provided suggestions on how to build employee loyalty.  This month’s newsletter will highlight what you can do to increase customer loyalty and reduce customer churn. If you can do both of these things, profits will improve dramatically.

    Numerous books and studies support the connection between customer loyalty, employee loyalty and profitability.  Did you know that approximately 40 percent of the companies in the Top 100 Fortune "America’s Best Companies to Work For” list also appear on the Fortune 500 List? Visit the following links for more details.

    Can You Afford a Customer Churn Rate at 50%?

    Studies show that average companies tend to lose 50% of their customers within 5 years? We call this customer churn, for short.  By contrast, the best companies do a much better job at customer retention.

    Do you know how well your company currently does at customer retention? If not, make this your first action. You should gather data in two areas. First, what is the overall level of customer retention and customer attrition?  If you don’t know this information, how can you assess if you are improving?

    Second, to what extent do these metrics vary by individual salesperson and/or customer support personnel? The latter data will allow you to identify the employees who are naturally doing a good job at customer retention. You can use them to develop a list of best practices that everyone should follow.  STAR can provide consultation on how you can gather and use this type of information.

    What Can You Do to Build Customer Loyalty?

    1. Build employee loyalty! You can’t build a loyal base of customers if you don’t have loyal employees. If you can build loyalty with your sales force and customer support personnel, profits are guaranteed to improve.  This was the main theme in last month’s newsletter, titled The Link Between Loyalty and Profitability, where you can read about many suggestions on how to build employee loyalty.

    2. Select a positive customer action that every one of your sales and customer support personnel will follow. It is easy to say to your employees that "…we want to improve customer loyalty”, but the real challenge is to do something about it rather than just talk about it.

    Let me give a personal example from an experience that I had this past weekend while shopping at a major national retailer.  When I went to the checkout area, no other customers were in line so I was pleased to go immediately to the front of the line. I waited almost two minutes for the checkout person to finish some text messaging. When I walked directly to the employee’s station, he turned his back to me so that he could finish the text message with no distractions.

    The unexpected delay gave me plenty of time to read the written placard on their wall that stated in big, bold letters that "Customers are #1” at this store.  Imagine if customers weren’t that important there?

    Now, let me use this example to illustrate what I mean by selecting a positive customer action. Many companies will say that the solution to the above issue is to have a policy that states something like "employees will not use cell phones while on duty”. This is a negative action. It would be better instead to have a positive policy instead such as "Customer contact is the most important thing you do. Regardless of what else you are working on, if a customer needs help or attention, that should become your top priority.”

    Think of a positive customer action that applies to your business and make sure that the entire organization knows what it is and practices it.

    3. Learn from the worst companies.  This sounds backwards but it works. Think of some companies and industries that are doing a lousy job on customer loyalty and retention. These are the companies that tend to lose 50% or more of their customers within 5 years. 

    Without naming specific companies by name, I can certainly think of many airlines that have absolutely given up on customer satisfaction.  It is almost too easy to pick on the airlines, but let’s stay with this example. If I were to ask you one question — what negative experiences have you had this past year with an airline? — I’m sure that you could easily cite many examples.  Airlines are a perfect example of what NOT to do regarding customer satisfaction, and consequently customer loyalty for most airlines is almost zero. The same items that irritate you about airlines will irritate your customers if you fall into that same level of customer dis-service.

    Have a discussion on this topic with everyone at your company who interacts with customers, and then develop some actions to ensure that don’t make these same mistakes with your customers.

    STAR has two workshops that directly address the subjects of employee and customer loyalty. STAR’s Coaching for Sales Success Workshop is intended to help managers learn how to motivate and develop their employees and to build a loyal and effective workforce. STAR’s Customer Service and Support Workshop teaches the skills to wow customers and to build customer loyalty and retention.   

  • The Link Between Loyalty and Profitability

    06/20/2013 in Sales Management

    "Employee loyalty is linked to customer loyalty and retention, which leads to greater profitability”

    –Frederick Reichheld, The Loyalty Effect

    Customer Loyalty and Profitability

    You probably aren’t surprised to read that companies with superior levels of customer loyalty and retention have the highest profit and growth rates. Customer loyalty generates repeat sales, increased sales, and referrals.

    Numerous books and studies support the connection between customer loyalty, employee loyalty and profitability.  Did you know that approximately 40 percent of the companies in the Top 100 Fortune "America’s Best Companies to Work For” list also appear on the Fortune 500 List? For more details, please visit the following links:

    Employee Loyalty is Essential to Customer Loyalty

    You may be surprised, however, to learn that there is a direct link between customer loyalty and employee loyalty. You cannot maintain a loyal base of customers without a loyal base of employees!  Why is this true?  Your best and most loyal employees are more efficient than new employees, more empowered, more innovative, and more customer-focused, which improves the overall customer experience and satisfaction level.

    Customer and Employee Churn

    Consider these statistics from Reichheld’s book: 

    1. When looking at all industries, it was found that average companies tend to lose 50% of their customers in 5 years and 50% of their employees in 4 years. Let’s call this customer churn and employee churn, for short. Ask yourself these two questions:
    • What effect does customer churn have on your profits?
    • What effect does employee churn have on your profits?

    2. The best companies have dramatically lower employee and customer churn (as low as 5%, depending on the industry), and their profitability tends to be 2x to 10x higher than average companies.

    This month’s newsletter will provide some suggestions on how to build employee loyalty and reduce employee churn. Next month’s newsletter will highlight what you can do to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty and reduce customer churn.

    Building Employee Loyalty and Reducing Employee Churn

    Employee satisfaction was initially viewed by many studies (see the links cited in the second paragraph) as the way to build employee loyalty. On the surface, this seems straightforward.  If employees are satisfied with their current work situation, they have less reason to leave and consequently will be more loyal to the current employer.

    Yet, more recent research showed that employee commitment is a better measure than employee satisfaction. One example is the 2003 Institute for Employment Studies research, which cited that employee commitment had a higher correlation to customer satisfaction than employee satisfaction did.

    We agree with the recent research that employee commitment is the desired goal.  If you prefer, the phrase employee engagement is almost synonymous with employee commitment.  A long term STAR client did an extensive study of their work force a few years ago, and found that their main area for improvement was to increase the level of engagement of many of their employees. They wanted all their employees, especially newer hires, to feel and act as if the company was their own. In a phrase, to be "fully engaged" and committed to the company’s success.

    Here are some suggestions on how to build employee commitment and engagement, which in turn will create a higher level of employee satisfaction and loyalty:

    1. Hire the right people. It is much easier to start with the right employees than it is to fix people who shouldn’t be in the job in the first place. A high performing work team becomes self-sustaining, and contributes greatly to each employee’s perception that this is a great place to work.
    2. Empower employees, especially for the parts of their job that require customer interaction.  Next month’s newsletter will provide several practical suggestions on what employees can and should do when they interact with customers.
    3. Keep your employees informed.  The old way of management was to keep employees in the dark. Yet, think about the positive effect if employees understood the consequences of certain business actions.  For example, do your employees know that profits will improve if customer satisfaction and retention improves?  If they don’t know this type of information, there is little likelihood that they will change their behavior.
    4. Ask for and use the employee’s suggestions.  It motivates and empowers employees to see that their suggestions are listened to and used. The Alpha Measure article referenced earlier uses a very memorable phrase for this concept, namely that "involvement equals commitment”.
    5. Reward employees for doing the right things. Remember, different people are motivated by different things. Use a wide range of motivators and incentives such as monetary benefits, recognition, praise, and opportunities for advancement.

    STAR has two workshops that directly address the subjects of employee and customer loyalty. STAR’s Coaching for Sales Success workshop is intended to help managers learn how to motivate and develop their employees and to build a loyal and effective workforce. STAR’s Customer Service and Support workshop teaches the skills to wow customers and to build customer loyalty and retention. 

  • How Can You Gain Access to Higher Level Decision-Makers?

    06/20/2013 in Sales Management

    One of the most popular topics in our Key Account Management and Selling On Value workshops is how to gain access to higher-level decision makers. This is a critical skill for sales professionals, especially when you need to build relationships with multiple decision makers and influencers at key accounts. The following are two related topics:

    • Guidelines on how to gain access
    • What to do if the gatekeeper blocks access

    Top 10 Methods on How to Gain Access to Decision Makers

    STAR has surveyed thousands of sales professionals and sales managers, and asked for their most practical and effective tips on how to gain access to higher-level decision makers. Here are the Top 10 responses: 

    1. Use an outside referral to get an initial meeting or phone conversation with the top level decision maker
    2. After you have the initial conversation (see above), use "top down” selling to gain access to the decision makers who report to the top person
    3. When you are speaking with a mid-level contact, ask some legitimate high-level questions that would normally be outside of his or her authority limits; then, ask follow-up questions such as "who would have this information?” and "would you be willing to help me contact this person?”
    4. If this is an existing customer, use your current contact as an ally to refer you to sales opportunities at other divisions or locations
    5. Use "indirect influence”, meaning that you let one of your internal allies become your advocate, and let this person sell your product/service/idea for you
    6. Offer training or informational workshop for which the topic would attract other decision makers
    7. Join a relevant trade or industry association, especially one that is likely to include higher level managers
    8. When you make a future appointment, schedule a joint sales call and bring one of your higher-level managers with you, and ensure that the customer will have a matching level person at the same meeting
    9. Although it isn’t as common as it once was, entertainment and outings can also be used
    10. Finally…be persistent! Average salespeople give up after two or fewer attempts, whereas successful sellers make 6 attempts (on average) to gain access to new and important customers.

    What If The Gatekeeper Blocks Access?

    For many of the above suggestions, you may find that a gatekeeper is blocking access to the higher-level decision maker. This is a common roadblock, for which some of these suggestions would then be appropriate: 

    • Don’t go around the gatekeeper, but do your best to cultivate this person as an ally.
    • Make a reasonable request, such as "I’d only like 5 minutes”, or "Can you forward this information to him or her?”
    • Telephone or visit either very early or very late in the day, in the hope that the gatekeeper isn’t there
    • Send an email directly to the decision maker
    • Cite a referral or internal ally (similar to the suggestions in the Top 10 list)

    STAR has two workshops that address the skills and concepts discussed above. Please visit our Sales Workshops page online to learn more about our workshops that teach the skills of gaining access to decision-makers: Key Account Management Workshop and Selling on Value Workshop. Managers may also be interested in visiting our Selling on Value Not Price Sales Meeting Kit page for help on how to lead a skills clinic on value selling at your next sales meeting.

  • The Ideal Sales Candidate

    06/14/2013 in Sales Management

    The Ideal Sales Candidate

    Interviewing Tips for Managers - Hiring Top Sales Performers

    On average, a sales manager hires two sales candidates each year. Yet, the hiring and selection process may be your most important decision for the entire year.   So how do you ensure that you are hiring the best sales candidate for the job? Before starting the interview process you should think of someone at your company who is one of the best sales performers. Make a list describing what this person does well and what distinguishes this person from other salespeople, essentially describing the capabilities of your ideal sales candidate. The key to success in sales management is to know how to effectively hire, retain and coach these top performers!   

    Continue to remind yourself throughout the interview process of that person who you think is the best sales performer. This will help guide you in this important sales management decision. Your job as a sales manager is to hire the best people you can find for the job. The wrong salesperson will end up wasting your time, will not generate the results you need, and will demotivate the rest of your sales team.

    We need a salesperson yesterday!

    If you only look for sales candidates during a crisis you are likely to settle for a less-than-ideal candidate and also resort to less productive ways to attract candidates. A good sales manager keeps a list of potential sales candidates in the selection and hiring pipeline. Customers, colleagues, suppliers, associations, colleges, and recruiters are all great resources for candidates.

    Interviewing: The Rule of Two

    Whenever possible, have two interviews with each candidate. The first interview is a screening interview, for which the purpose is to eliminate candidates that you do not wish to consider further. The second interview is for the purpose of selecting the best candidate from the remaining pool of candidates. A second interview balances out the good/bad day syndrome.

    Whenever possible, have two or more people from your company at the interview. There are many reasons for this, notably to ensure that you can confirm your impressions with one or more of your colleagues.

    The interview itself should be a dialogue, meaning that the two of you speak. The desired goal is to have the candidate do more of the talking than you. 

    The First Interview: Screen out the Worst 

    Prepare beforehand. Review any pertinent information from the candidate. Also send the candidate in advance any information about Your company that you think would be helpful. An exception to this latter step would be to assess what information the candidate gathers on his or her own initiative. 

    Put the candidate at ease. "Let’s make this very informal. This is your interview as much as mine. Tell me anything about yourself that I should know. Feel free to ask me any questions.”

    Let the candidate do most of the talking initially. You may need to seed this with some questions of your own. Listen carefully, and assess.

    Ask if the candidate has any questions, and then respond appropriately.

    Decision choice: If your reaction has been unfavorable, you should terminate the interview at this point by saying "You will hear from us later. Thank you for your time.” This will eliminate an unsatisfactory candidate with a minimum loss of your time. If your reaction has been favorable, then transition to a more detailed sales pitch about your company and recommend an appropriate next step, such as the second interview.

    The Second Interview: Select the Best

    One powerful way to improve the results of your interviewing process is to make your interviews as "action-oriented” as possible. This applies to all interviews, but is especially useful in the second interview. Keep in mind that the "action interview” takes more time, so you will want to eliminate some of the weaker candidates first. 

    Structure the "action orientation” of the upcoming interview so that the candidate knows how to prepare. For example: "At our next interview we want you to…”

    • Prepare a 15 minute PowerPoint presentation as if you were presenting technical information to a customer
    • Go through a simulated role play as if you were pre-qualifying a prospective new customer
    • Sell us something ("a product you know well” or "why we should hire you”)

    Prepare Great Questions

    Explore the candidate’s motivation, background, and "fit” for your company and the job. Prepare thoughtful questions and be sure to listen to the candidate’s answers. Some examples follow:

    • Why have you applied for this job?
    • Tell me how your past work experience would qualify you for this job.
    • What do you know about our company and our products?
    • What did you like and dislike about your previous job?
    • What motivates you as a salesperson?
    • What do you find most challenging about managing major accounts?
    • Give me some examples of how you have successfully prospected for new business.
    •  What questions do you typically ask a new customer?
    • Tell me some examples of how you have built relationships with key decision-makers?
    • Describe one of your most successful sales negotiations. 

    For more information please visit our Coaching for Sales Success Workshop.  

  • Writing a Winning Request for Proposal

    06/07/2013 in Sales Management

    What Are the Three Most Critical Success Factors When Writing RFPs? 

    Consider how much time and effort you and your sales team spend preparing RFPs (Requests For Proposals). What if you could do this faster and improve your success rate?

    I think that three of the most important success factors can be summarized by these questions:

    1. How can you write the most powerful executive overview? The executive overview can make a huge difference in terms of your success rate in winning more RFPs.  Many decision makers will only read the executive overview, and will ignore the rest of your RFP.
    2. How can you set your company, service/product, and yourself apart? In other words, what differentiates you? State your differentiators as concisely as possible, for example, "The breadth and depth of our offerings allows you to reduce the number of your suppliers."
    3. What information should you include, and what should you purposely leave out? A simple guideline to follow is "If in doubt, leave it out”.

    When writing and responding to RFPs, if you keep these three questions in mind, you’ll end up winning more RFPs and spending less time on actually writing them.  Win more, work less is a great outcome.

    If you’re interested in learning more about the RFP process, please visit our Writing a Winning Proposal workshop page.

     

  • Best Books for Sales Professionals

    06/07/2013 in Sales Management

    A recent issue of Fortune magazine focused on the "…deepest secrets of great selling” and had several valuable articles, one of which was featured on our most recent sales training blog.

    Another article in that same issue titled "Shelf Help" listed 8 books that Fortune feels should be in "…everyone’s briefcase”. I think you’ll enjoy skimming their entire list of recommended books, but I thought a couple things were very interesting about the list:

    - 2 of the 8 books were on influence skills, which matches STAR’s experience as a sales training provider
    - Getting To Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury, was another book on the list, and happens to be the book that we recommend the most in our sales and negotiation training workshops

    Many of you already know this, but STAR’s original two workshops for sales professionals were Influence Skills and Sales Negotiation Skills, so I was thrilled to see that Fortune magazine cited those same competencies in their list of best books for sales professionals.

    The two influence books mentioned by Fortune were the classic one from Dale Carnegie titled How to Win Friends and Influence People, as well as a newer book by Robert Cialdini titled Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I have read both books and like them both. After all, a sales professional must be influential to do his or her job well.

    I also agree with their recommendation about Getting To Yes, which cover to cover is the best single book that I’ve found in my 19 years as a sales training consultant. Sales professionals must excel at negotiation. Otherwise, they end up conceding too much to customers in their desire to make a deal.


Copyright © Sales Training & Results Responsive Web Design by InterCoastal Net Designs