Author Archives: The Struggling Sales Pro
Successful people are not casual about the things that must be done. They work hard, and smart, and focused to achieve what they want.
This is my biggest takeaway from the seminar Hyper Sales Growth with Jack Daly. Success doesn’t happen because of luck and well intentions alone, it is driven by obsessive learning and relentless executions. Successful people and organizations don’t just wing it, they have vision, allies, plans, purpose, and grit to make things happen.
1. Don’t Just Wing it. Have Vision.
Whatever you want to achieve in life, you need to have a clear vision of it. You need to imagine how everything looks like once all is in order. Your vision will serve as your compass and guide in decision making. Without this, you risk getting distracted by anything that catches your attention.
2. Don’t Just Wing it. Find Allies.
After having a clear vision for your goals, find the best people (and equip them with the resources and motivations) to help you make your vision a reality.
3. Don’t Just Wing it. Be Purposeful with Your Team Culture.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your team culture will take care of itself. If you do not actively shape the way your team interacts with one another and with external stakeholders, then someone else will. And it may not be how you envisioned it to be. A healthy team culture should have the following systems:
- Recognition System
- Communication System
- Personal and Professional Development System
- Empowerment System – In line with empowerment, each member of the team should be given the amount of authority needed to accomplish the amount of responsibility given to them. For example in an organization, sales people should be empowered to do the deal on their own. They shouldn’t have to go to management for approval on sales matters with clients.
4. Don’t Just Wing it. Create and Follow Your Playbook.
A playbook is a consolidation of your strategies and action plans on how to win. It’s a detailed map of how you will achieve your vision. Your allies should also know the playbook before you send them out to accomplish what you expect them to.
- People are different. Speak with them according to their personality styles.
- Your goals should be written, measured, evaluated, and reviewed. Only things that gets measured, gets done.
- Inspect what you expect, and have grit to pursue your goals. It takes 9 touches before your prospects know you exist. People usually stop after the 5th attempt.
4. Don’t Just Wing it. Build and Grow Your Sales Force.
- On Recruitment. It has always been a question among business owners how to motivate their sales team. The answer for this is that you hire them that way – self motivated! Other attributes that were highlighted are personal integrity, people skills, sense of urgency, discipline, and positive outlook.
- On Management. Sales people should have minimum standard performance that they need to achieve at the very least to be able to keep their job. This should be customized and negotiated per sales people to ensure that they have ownership when it comes to their targets.
With a good plan and disciplined follow through, luck would follow. That’s how you win. So don’t ever just wing it – it shows just how lazy you are if you do. Obsessive learning, and relentless execution. Obsessive learning, and relentless execution.
See you around!
In rock climbing, there is a push and pull strategy that works to your advantage – your feet push you up, and your hands pull you up as well. This implies that your hand is ahead of your feet, and that both your feet and hand are headed towards the same direction – up.
The same strategy can be applied between the sales team and operations team, but one must be careful in doing so because the push and pull strategy can easily be misunderstood and misused. Thus, wrecking havoc to the organization. For example, it can easily happen that a sales team pushes more clients (both dream clients and difficult clients) than what operations can handle. Understandably, the operations pull away from such unreasonable load of deliverables, hereby neglecting and losing customers along the way. Or it could also happen that operations team pushes their SOPs to sales team and its clients hereby pulling away the sales team from focusing on solving the clients problem which could then lead to turning off the clients and consequently losing its potential business. On both instances, the customer is lost, and the entire organization is put in jeopardy.
This push and pull approach led to disaster because the sales team and the operations team were in the same position, but going to different direction – one is pushing and one is pulling therefore cancelling each others’ efforts in effect! And really how often have we witnessed such a clash between the sales team and the operations team in any organization?
From a sales perspective, it is imperative that they listen and act based on what the customer needs and what the market demands. Otherwise, they would easily lose their significance as a business and the market altogether. From an operations perspective, it is a must that they put controls on each processes to ensure that delivering will not be problem.
Sometimes sales will enter into seemingly strategic partnerships by giving cut throat added service at unbelievable discount. In turn this will either make the operations bleed by working more while getting less, or not delivering the promise at all. This leads operations people to think that sales creates the problem by selling a service that is not worth it, while sales will think that the operations team just cannot deliver. Sometimes operations will say ‘no’ to all clients that have requests that are not exactly the same with their standards – making it more difficult for sales to actually sell. Such opposing idea is best shown through the diagram below by John Halter (2010) in his blog post Sales vs. Operations – The Epic Battle?
Now as an organization that wishes to thrive, this kind of conflict should be completely eliminated. There shouldn’t be any Sales vs Operations battle. There should only be ‘Us vs. Mediocrity’ or ‘Us vs Stagnation’ or ‘Us vs Bad Customer Service.’
If you’re from the sales team, you should take the time to understand how your operations team work. You need to know when a deal would be counterproductive for them, but you have to explain to operations as well how the market demands are changing and sit with them in planning a solution on how to address the customers’ needs. If you’re from the operations team, help the sales team say “yes” to a client. Go to client meetings with them and check how else the process can be improved or streamlined for both the customers and your team. Don’t entertain the word no at the onset – check all angles, possibilities, and available resources first. If you’re from the leadership team, make sure that collaboration and being customer centric are part of the actual culture of the company, and not just empty words to showcase in your company website or profile.
To do such, Boyer (2010) suggested a regular Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) wherein sales people describe what they believe will sell – based on data and previous experience, while operations people describe what the business will supply. The difference in the two will be the change in inventory investment. Being the forefront of any business, the sales team shall lead in terms of customer insights pulling the operations team forward. In turn the operations team, backed up by necessary resources, shall push itself towards the same direction. This way, both teams are able to support each other in delighting the customer and moving the company forward.
So you have to ask yourself collectively and as a team, where are you going and who are you with? Because at the end of the day you have to remember that “an organism at war with itself cannot survive.”
When you’ve earned a commitment, you are right to ask for it. When you haven’t earned the right, you are asking because you want what you want when you want it. This is what toddlers and bullies do (Iannarino, 2015).
A week ago, I was tasked to find an insurance partner for our new project. After not receiving feedback from one of the companies I emailed, I called them up and looked for the person in charge. When I got connected to the Business Development person, I explained what the project was and what the available information were. To my surprise, the BD person cut me, gave me her email address and just told me to email the information I was already giving. I told her that the project is already ongoing so I asked if there is anyone available right then to accommodate me. She said she was the only person in charge and that she’s busy at the moment – she didn’t even ask for my contact details.
I was flustered!
I never experienced such rude treatment from a BD professional before. Nonetheless, I still emailed her the general details to which I received a template reply asking for a list of accreditation requirements.
That’s it – I’m done with this company! The salesperson didn’t listen, didn’t care, was selfish, and lazy! She asked for too much without giving me anything in return – an important insight, a promise of helping me with my situation, and/or a commitment that their service will deliver.
Such a situation does not apply to sales people alone, everyone involved in the business of selling, providing service, or customer care must learn that we shouldn’t expect much from our stakeholders without showing them that we are willing to do as much, in fact, more for them! We have to be the one to do the work first – If you want commitment and sincerity, be committed and sincere with them. Do your due diligence. If you want them to give you information about their business, give them information about the market. If you want them to award you the business, give them reason to do so. You have to know what you want and pay it in advance.
When you’ve earned a commitment, you are right to ask for it. When you haven’t earned the right, you are asking because you want what you want when you want it. This is what toddlers and bullies do (Iannarino, 2015).
So tell me, are you a professional or a toddler?
I called Charles for the first time, and asked his feedback regarding the partnership that my previous incumbent (Vanessa) proposed. Charles was annoyed with my question, and told me that meeting Vanessa was a big waste of time.
“She went to my office without knowing a single thing about my company. I had to explain what we do, who our clients are, and everything else that can be easily seen in our website!” Charles exclaimed.
I apologized, and tried to press for more information about their requirements. Unfortunately, Charles was no longer in the mood to give me information other than, “the project is already ongoing.” Fortunately, I was able to secure another meeting with him to discuss the project.
I went to our project manager, James, and requested for him to join the meeting. Since the project is already ongoing, it would save a lot of time if James can get the operational concerns ready so that we can fast track the partnership. Unexpectedly, Charles didn’t attend the meeting and booked us with his subordinates instead.
It turns out that the project will be live 2-3 months from now. Most of the information that James needed were still being explored by management, and James had to do a report first on our potential operational capabilities for their segment for us to be given the business.
I saw James make face and lose interest in the discussion. After the meeting, he complained that I wasted his time on an exploratory meeting. I felt guilty for wasting his time on a meeting that I could have handled. However I felt that it was the right decision to be overly prepared this time than risk irking the client a second time and probably the last time. And until now, this is what I believe in. Nonetheless, after thinking about it deeply, there could have been nuances and actions that I could have done to ensure that everything is aligned:
When including people in a meeting, make them understand your goals for that meeting first, and then inform them why they are necessary in achieving those goals. Ask them for their own goals, and confirm that each are aligned. Otherwise, reconsider having them there.
What do you think? Are there other ways you know to avoid “wasting” the time of our operations people on sales calls, exploratory meetings, and basically tasks outside actual operations? Let me know!
When I was starting out, I came across a client who needed our services badly. I pitched in the idea and was called for a presentation meeting. I went to the client’s office and everything went well – or so I thought.
When I was following up, I couldn’t get a hold of the client anymore. She was always out, “in a meeting,” is “speaking with someone,” etc. She was being passive aggressive with me (the type I find the most frustrating – but that’s up for another story.)
Anyway in my head, I was so mad at her for wasting my time.
Weeks later, I found out that the client didn’t buy from our competitors either. And then months later, I found out that they still have the same problem. That’s when I felt silly for being mad. You see, we’re supposed to be here to help our clients. We shouldn’t get mad if they decide that they don’t want our help, and more so if they cannot decide at all.
Speaking of helping, make sure that you are there until the help is delivered – whether the delivery shall be done by you or by another team. You were the one who sold them the product, don’t be an asshole and tell them that it isn’t your problem anymore.
Remember that your client’s pains are your pains, and their triumphs are your triumphs as well. Anything less, and you should probably rethink the whole idea of being a sales professional for a service-oriented company.
I inevitably burned the bridge with my boss during my first job. He was very much against my resignation and was asking if I could stick around until the company’s transition was over. I declined and no word was ever spoken between us again.
More than a year later, the bridge is no longer there, but the people remain. The memory of good times and gratitude remains, but the unnecessary anger brought about by immaturity and ego faded with time. I now see my misguided judgment in the past. I was wrong, but it doesn’t mean that I have to keep it that way:
Dear Sir ABC,
How are you? I hope you’re doing well, and that you’re not too swamped with work just as before.
A year ago, I was very immature in leaving without regard. I deeply apologize for that. I wanted to travel, and I did – for around 6 months, but reality caught up with me. I had to make ends meet. I was forced to go back to Manila and enter the corporate world once again.
Now I’m working for another firm and living on my own. In doing so, I realized a lot of things.
I love ABC Company and I owe a lot to you.
I am so grateful to you for trusting me to deal with important clients, for making me feel that I matter, and that my suggestions matter. Working for a relatively bigger firm, I sometimes feel insignificant. Just recently, I thought of quitting (again,) but I remember regretting my decision to quit ABC Company so I’m trying to stick it out and find ways on how to maximize this opportunity better. I hope it works, haha.
Thanks for everything, Sir ABC! I am truly grateful to your mentorship and guidance. I wish you all the best!
My manager’s reply put an almost permanent smile on my face. Let’s just say, a new bridge with stronger foundation was built. What did I say before? Rejection (or anything else for that matter) is never final. As long as we are willing and decided, we can always do something to try and correct our mistakes.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, everyone!
I have never been rejected so many times in my life than in my first 3 months in sales.
I took it personally. I got depressed and questioned my ability to be a sales professional – maybe it was my manner, or my appearance, or my inexperience, or my knowledge or lack thereof, or perhaps I just wasn’t built for this. It was a difficult time. Fortunately, my manager then gave me an audio book of Brian Tracy. It was probably the most helpful material on sales that I’ve listened to.
Now I’ve come to understand that rejection is part of the sales process – from cold calling to closing. Hence, I don’t take it personally anymore. In fact I now believe that the more “no” I get, the closer I get to my next “yes.”
But remember this: even if you get a no, don’t go believing that it is final. Rejections are usually not final – perhaps there isn’t a need yet, or there are more pressing issues at the moment, or the person is just busy and not in the mood to talk yet, or you came off as assuming but ignorant of their needs. Ask the person if you can check with him or her some other time and do so.
Let me know what happens.
Is it called cold calling because people are cold to you?
“To leave something important to you unrefined, uniterated, first drafted is the laziest safety net you can deploy.”
A few weeks ago, I met two traditional Chinese honchos for possible partnership. I called their company way back and received feedback recently. I went to the meeting with little knowledge about the industry they are in – expecting that they will be sharing this detail with me during the probing stage. But the two gentlemen were different.
They refused to tell me anything unless I impress them with what I know about their industry. They saw through my lack of preparation quickly and asked me to leave.
It was one of the most embarrassing moments in my career. I was lazy. There was no other way to put it.
I apologized for my lack of preparation and admitted that I did a bad job today. Consequently, I asked them if I can go back to them at a later time when I have all the answers they need. They consented – but the second meeting is yet to materialize.
Their consent must probably to save me face only, but I’m glad I experienced such. I would have not woken up from such a shameful habit – sloth. After all, even the devil is into details.
I can’t afford to stop, and catch my breath.
And so, I ran.
And ran some more.
Until, I tripped.
It has been an exhausting and stressful 3 months. I kept running after what-seemed-like a moving goal. It’s been frustrating, and my only reward is that I can go home with my family at the end of the day, and relax. But that, too, changed.
On Bringing Work Issues at Home
Since I still don’t have a close friend in the office, I don’t talk about my sentiments to anyone. As a result, I ended up bringing work-related concerns of mine during dinner at home:
I’m not reaching my quota. In fact, I’m nowhere near in reaching it because it is such an unrealistic and unfair goal.
I look young so people don’t take me that seriously.
I can’t make meaningful connection with my colleagues because their group is too exclusive.
Blah blah blah blah blah
My family called my attention for this behavior. I understood their concern, but I was hurt. I had no allies, none yet in the office, and none anymore at home,
No one to tell my worries and troubles.
On Making Friends at Work
I am usually a friendly person, but for some reason I am not myself in the office. And so I cannot make a meaningful connection with anyone. Though making friends in the office is not part of my work, having some can make the work place less daunting – especially during lunch time.
On Looking Young
I look like a twelve year old kid. And this can be a problem when I am meeting potential clients. They don’t see me as someone who mean business. Their initial concern is if they can speak with someone more senior. I hate it.
On Not Reaching My Quota
This is my ultimate stressor. On my first month, I only achieved 14% of my target, and then 19% on my 2nd month, and 78% now on my 3rd month. As a business development executive, this is my main key performance index.
It won’t matter that much if I look young, or have no friends at work, etc, as long as I am continuously delivering what I am expected of. But I am not. Hence, the multiple frustrations.
But this is not the story of a victim.
I refuse to be the victim of any circumstance.
To avoid needlessly disturbing or annoying anyone (family or not), I decided that if a person cannot do anything to help me with my problems, then I have no business telling my problems to him/her. Hustle.
It will be awkward and uncomfortable, but I guess the only way to make friends in the office is to try. Hustle.
As superficial as it sounds, I have to power dress and use make up to look the part. But more important than what I wear, is what I am aware of. Read. Read. Read. I must continuously learn the industry that I am in. Hustle.
Clearly my strategy is not enough, I have to pinpoint what works and what doesn’t, and then regroup. It is not enough that I work smart nor hard. I have to work hard and smart; there is no substitute at this moment. Hustle.
Because this is not the story of a victim, but that of a hustler.
One final word, don’t entertain the thought of quitting when things aren’t going your way or when situations are difficult. Only entertain such thoughts when everything is going well, because if you think of quitting when everything is fine, then you must be in a job you hate. But to quit when things are difficult (as it will often be) is not only shortsighted, but also detrimental to your maturity.
I absolutely dislike selling. I initially thought that not reaching your quota can be something out of your control no matter how hardworking, intelligent, and articulate you are.
But thinking about it deeply, I do like sales. I like meeting and discussing matters with people – especially those who are more experienced and mature than I am, because I have more to gain by listening to them. I like solving problems and ultimately being part of the solution. And more often than not, these are the things I have to do in sales. Hence, I do like sales.
Lessons I Learned after Entering the Sales Profession
- Everything counts. Anything you say or do is either moving you away or closer to the sale. Do not leave anything to chance.
- On General Reminders
- Visualize the meeting calmly and confidently before you go there. Visualize how you want it to go and end.
- Visualize your introduction and go to stories during networking events.
- Always dress for success. Look your best all the time because you never know when you will meet someone special.
- Ensure that you know what you want to get out of any conversation (cold calls, meetings, networking events, etc) and plan how you’ll get it.
- On prospecting
- Who is in charge of X? Make sure you’re talking with the person in charge. Delineate your prospects better to make sure that they are qualified before the initial meeting. This is to lessen opportunity costs of meeting them.Then, your next question should aim at what the person in charge wants.
- On closing
- Make a call to action if everything is understood and agreed upon. If not, get genuine feedback. You can try the following phrases: “Any questions? No. Well then, why don’t you give it a try? or the next steps are …” or “If you could just authorize this, then we can start right away.”
- You should have a USP
- Never be afraid to ask for what you want.
- On objection
- Make sure to get to the bottom of every objection. You can try the following phrases: “How do you mean exactly? or There seems to be a reason why you are hesitating, would you mind if I ask what is that? or What seems to be your concern?”
- Try to get all objections on the onset to lessen the back and forth discussion. You can try using the following phrases: “In addition to that, what else seems to be of concern to you, or Just suppose, I can get your request approve, are there other reasons?, or What would it take me to do to make you comfortable to go on ahead with our service?”
- On getting feedback
- Follow up is just as important as the initial proposal or the pitch. Do it. “You can try the following phrases: “Is this what you had in mind so far? or if ever you are going to try our service, what will be the key reason for you to try it? Last month, you decided to try our service, may I know why you did so?”
- On General Reminders
- Surround yourself with positive people. Spend time with people whom you want to be.
- Seek continuous learning and always stay up to date with current events across industries.
- Read/listen to audio book 1hr / day on selling/ self help books.
- Follow blogs and community on selling as a profession.
- Read 1hr / day on current events.
- You are always self-employed. Your service as sales professional is your own business. Hence, work doesn’t end after work hours, because you don’t stop being the owner of your own personal services business after work hours. Don’t feel bad for any “overtime work” as long as you are improving yourself.
- Manage your territory well. Set meetings that are in close proximity within each other. Cold calling should be geographically dependent to some extent.
- Know what you want, and resolve to pay the price for it in advance. Resolve to be the best, and do not give up until you have reached it.
- List your goals.
- List your reasons for why you need to close accounts.
- Plan your numbers and funnel (number of cold calls, meetings, new leads, and follow ups each day) – how will you achieve your sales target.
Do all this. Then make sure to never short sell yourself or your services. Always mean business.