Monthly Archives: January 2016

Damage Control in Business: A VW Scandal Update

sorry heart

VW Says “We’re Sorry” With Gift Package Valued at Over $1000.

Business is part of life, and with that comes ups and downs.  At the end of the day, we are all human beings and by nature, imperfect and make mistakes.  In business, a simple mistake or poor decision can affect hundreds, thousands or potentially millions of people.  Minimizing damage control can be an extremely difficult undertaking, especially if you or your company was unable to proactively prevent the transmission of and correct the mistake or poor decision to employees, clients or even worse, the media.

A perfect example of this is the VW Recall, later known as the “VW Scandal”.  The former CEO of VW Martin Winterkorn, had approved the decision to install software on over 480,000 “clean” diesel vehicles in the US between 2009-2015. This software only activated the cars’ pollution controls during emissions testing (while on a hoist) which prompted a world-wide recall of nearly 11 million vehicles. This was obviously a fraudulent means to pass the rigorous EPA standards in the US and will end up costing VW up to $18 billion.

Unfortunately for the sales force at VW, they had no idea this was happening behind the scenes until they literally heard it on the news before they came in to work that day.  For the full story of the immediate impact on the sales force, read my interview with Aaron Hansen, Sales Manager at Cambridge Volkswagen, “How Poor CEO Decisions Impact Sales Reps: The VW Recall”.

VWGiftCard

So now, 4 months later in an attempt to say “We are sorry”, VW has provided all affected TDI owners such as myself with a compensation package.  This includes a $500 credit at a VW dealership, a $500 MasterCard gift cart and 3 years of free road side assistance. Furthermore, the recall on my vehicle will be fixed at no charge or inconvenience to me.

As a loyal VW owner, I think this more than compensates for any wrong doings on their part.  As I have mentioned previously, I never bought my car so that I could drink water out of my tail pipe.  I bought my Passat TDI for comfort, safety and fuel economy among other reasons.

Do I accept VW’s apology?

I most certainly do.  And I must say, the timing couldn’t be better, being just after Christmas and before Valentine’s day.

Will I remain a loyal VW/Audi customer?

Absolutely.

Overall, although VW should have given their sales force a head’s up about all the negative press they were going to receive in the media and prepare them with how to handle customer inquiries and complaints, they made up for it after the fact.

In speaking with the reps at my local VW dealership, sales are back to normal.

Just goes to show that regardless of the severity of the “damage” a business succumbs to or has brought onto themselves, it is possible to recover with the implementation an aggressive damage control program.

If your business is in a similar situation, you should consult a PR expert and ideally one who specializes in your field of work.

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Micromanagement of Sales Representatives: Has it Gone Too Far?

EmployeeTracking

Micromanagement is the elephant in the room and it is destroying the salesperson-client relationship.

In this day and age, we rely on technology for almost all of our daily activities.  We are easily traceable and accessible to almost anyone, anytime thanks to the electronic devices that supposedly make our lives so much easier.  This can be seen as a huge advantage to an employer who wants to keep tabs on their employees, however in my opinion, Big Brother has gone too far.

BusinessmanRotaryPhoneNot very long ago, a typical salesman would have one “office day” where they used their home or office phone (since there were no cell phones) to schedule their calls for the week.  They would use paper files to keep notes and tabs on their customers and upon their return to the office they would place those orders for their clients.  Sales reports were generated as long paper printouts and filedIf a salesman didn’t meet his quota, he would simply be out of work.  That was the only form of accountability. Simple and effective.

Now, not only do salespeople have to meet their quota, be available from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep, but their every step can be now monitored by their employers.  

GPS-tracking-deviceI once met a sales representative who had been working for the same pharmaceutical company for over 10 years who informed me that her company had installed a GPS tracking device on her vehicle.  She told me that one day she had some time in-between appointments (3 hours to be precise) and had parked her car to do work on her computer. Over an hour into her “break”, she received a call from head office asking her why she was stationary for so long and not calling on nearby clients. They proceeded to advise her of whom she should call on in her downtime before her next appointment. Can you say creepy? And to the benefit of the rep, I am certain that she was catching up on paperwork that needed to be done and I don’t see anything wrong with that.  In my opinion, time can be better spent tackling your to-do list compared to wasting time cold calling on a client with whom you have minimal potential to do business with.

SignatureOniPadThink that is bad? Well some companies have gone to the next level which I learned in a recent visit to my family doctor.  He informed me that several of the pharmaceutical sales reps who call on his office are now provided with iPads that trace their locations throughout the day which are saved and uploaded to company cloud. Furthermore, the sales reps must acquire the doctors electronic signature on their iPad to prove that they physically met with the doctor!

I don’t’ know about you reading this but if I was a doctor, I would be quite put off by that.  I mean, doesn’t it seem like a ex-con checking in with his/her probation officer? I think forcing that into a sales call takes away any genuine connection or relationship between the sales rep and the doctor. All is it says to the doctor is, “I have to be here whether I like it or not. Please buy and sign here or I will get into trouble.” 

How does this help the doctor, the patient or any client for that matter? Nevermind the fact that It also puts extreme stress on the sales rep and to what avail? Why even bother sending a sales rep? Might as well just send and email or a fax!

And it doesn’t end there. Some companies have even gone as far as requiring access to their employees’ social media accounts such as Facebook and LinkedIn and guess what? It’s completely legal.

robot-businessmanMicromanagement as far as it has come, discourages the creation of value-based selling to the client. If a company wants to treat their reps like robots so they can keep tabs on them at all times and only allow them to say scripted messages, why not just replace your reps with a team of robots?

In terms of what is to come in the future, I am certain that cameras in company vehicles will be the next “thing”.  Just over 1 year ago, Hertz installed cameras and microphones in their “NeverLost” GPS systems and now police officers will be forced to wear body cameras, so why not watch your sales reps as they drive between calls?

Why not listen to all of their sales calls as well so you can interrupt them and provide them with feedback on where they need to improve?

So to all the companies out there who are spending so much time monitoring their sales representatives, why not just hire capable sales people and have faith in them to do what they do best?

How many employees are required to monitor an entire sales force? At what pay grade? For what result? Really.

Sure one could argue that if a sales rep is doing a great job, they shouldn’t be concerned about being monitored but as I mentioned previously, if the client is aware that their rep is being monitored in their meeting, this will damage the rep-client relationship and take away value from the message the rep is supposed to relay to the client.  It is an elephant in the room and it is ruining the sales rep-client relationship. 

So my friends, keep selling and well, you just never know who might be watching you. Or perhaps you do?

If you are in a situation where you are being monitored by an employer, I would love to hear your story and how you feel it impacts your work performance and client relations.

Cheers,

TSW

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6 Common Barriers to Sales Success

manfacingbrickwallIs there a brick wall impeding your path to sales success?

Most sales people experience some sort of struggle achieving targets at some point in their careers.  In many cases, this can be due to the company’s lack of proper management, support, or setting their reps up for failure by creating unrealistic targets however that is not always the case.  All too often, underachieving sales representatives may point the finger at their superiors as the reason for their failure and simply because it is easier to blame someone else than it is to accept one’s own weaknesses and take the steps necessary to improve.

Last month, I wrote about “5 Sure-fire Ways to Lose Your Best Sales Reps” which focused on common mistakes that companies make when managing their sales reps which typically cost them their best employees.  Today, I will be focusing on the other end of the spectrum and outlining some of the most common problems that salespeople face which can impede their performance.

Some common barriers to sales performance include:

1. Fear of rejection and Lack of Confidence (inability to execute):

RejectionThis is THE #1 obstacle that all sales people must overcome. In sales, you are confronted with the possibility of rejection more than almost any other profession and it takes many shapes and forms. For instance, one may fear that in spite of their efforts, clients may simply ignore their calls and emails, say “no” when asked for the order or just tell them to buzz off entirely. It’s easy to get bogged down by such negative results, but in sales, you have to pick up your head and move along to the next prospective client. So, as I always told myself,Suck it up princess” Move on and pick up that phone or get back to pounding the pavement and keep in mind that as the common saying goes, “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”.

The best thing you can do, is take the correct course of action.  The next best thing you can do, is to take the incorrect course of action. The worst thing you can do is nothing at all.

2. Difficulty prospecting and qualifying leads: 

CustomerSearchingSo many sales people say, “Get me in front of the client and I will close!” but how does one get this opportunity of they do not prospect properly or effectively and fill their pipeline with qualified leads? That’s right, it doesn’t happen.  In order to find new prospects, the easiest and most effective means is to obtain referrals from your existing client base. In the event that you have already exploited your existing network for new business referral, you will have to stick your neck out there and find new business and start cold calling. Yup, that’s right, I said cold calling, the biggest source of fear for sales reps fearing rejection.  I suppose that is why so many self-proclaimed sales experts who hide behind a computer all day are claiming that cold calling is dead. In my opinion, those people are just too chicken s%^& to pick up the phone and cold call! For tips on how to cold call with tact, read my post on “The Do’s and Don’ts of Cold Calling”. Once you have filled your pipeline full of new prospects, you must learn how to qualify those leads in order to ensure you are most effectively utilizing your time and resources.  For some tips on how to qualify leads, be sure to read “How to Qualify Leads and Not Get Lead Astray”.

3. Ineffective Communication:

confusedcustomerIn sales, it is absolutely essential to listen to your client more so than it is to pitch them your product or idea. You must understand your client’s business, their needs, wants and their language.  If you spend your entire sales call talking AT your client, you will never get the sale.  A two-way dialogue is essential to close a deal.  In addition, if you bombard your client with corporate jargon or industry buzzwords that only your company knows, you will never be able to communicate value to your client. You might as well be speaking another language.

4. Disorganization & Inefficient Work Process:

messypaperworkTime is money and money is time. Mismanage that and it will be detrimental to your success. Each day, sales people are bombarded with multiple emails, phone calls, meetings, follow-up requests, reports and if these tasks are not organized and prioritized in some fashion, most of those tasks will never be completed correctly or at all. I obviously can’t summarize this massive topic in one paragraph but in summary, in spite of how amazing your memory may be, be sure to always make a “to-do list” and block off areas in your calendar to complete all of your tasks even if that means seeing one less client each day or having a dedicated office day.

5. Too Much or too Little Information:

businessman-with-head-in-the-sandSome companies provide their sales representatives with far too much information and literature without any focus provided by management. I once worked for a company that had hundreds if not thousands of products. My entire trunk was full of literature.  There was a general focus, but even that limited it to a few hundred products. Sure there was always something to sell, but it was overwhelming. I eventually just picked a handful of products that I focused on exclusively. On the other hand, some companies provide close to zero information to their reps. This can be dangerous for the company because who knows what the rep will end up saying to their prospective clients?

6. Unhealthy lifestyle:

womaneatingwhiledrivingSurprised to see this make the list? You shouldn’t be. Most sales reps are on the road for the majority of the day which makes it very difficult to find time to eat healthy and exercise. Over time, these poor health choices will affect one’s physical and mental well being which will ultimately cost you in your personal and professional life.  For tips on how to improve your lifestyle en route, be sure to read my posts on How to Eat Healthy on the Road and How to Keep Fit on the Road.

Hopefully in reading this, if you are in sales, you are not impacted by any of these barriers to any significant extent.  If you are struggling and confronted with potential job loss, it may be time to hire a sales coach. Contact me and learn how I can help you improve your sales game!

Happy sales!

Cheers,

TSW

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The Parallels Between Divorce and Job Termination

DivorceSeparatingTiesMost adults have experienced one if not both of these extremely stressful, life-changing events. This past Monday, the first Monday of the New Year has recently been coined “Divorce Day”, since it is historically the day when the greatest number of divorces are filed each year. With that in mind, I found it most suitable to start the New Year with this somewhat dismal topic.

Ever heard of the term “work wife” or “work husband” ? If you have worked in an office environment within the last decade, most surely you have!

If you have been working for a particular employer for many years and are debating on moving on, it is actually quite more similar to the divorce process than you may think.  Just as I have outlined the Parallels Between the Dating and Sales Processes, the divorce and job termination processes have just as much in common.

The average person spends more time at work then they do at home with their significant other, so there lies no mystery therein why terms such as “work wife” and “work husband” were coined and embraced.  Although those labels do not infer any sort of sexual relationship, it must be noted that a close working relationship with a superior (or inferior) can still be an intimate relationship even though it does not involve sexual activity.  As such, when those relationships begin to fall apart to a point that is beyond repair, regardless of whether the relationship is romantic or one of a platonic nature with a close colleague or superior, the separation process is remarkably similar as follows:

Stages of Divorce and Career Termination:

1. Dissatisfaction and Deliberation of Change

DissatisfactionCould the grass really be greener on the other side? Once the relationship enters into a phase where at least one of the individuals is not content and their issues are seemingly unable to be resolved, one if not both individuals may begin to seek alternative arrangements.

In a romantic relationship, the most dissatisfied party may begin to consider alternative mates or imagine life on their own.  They may open an online dating profile and begin to scope out prospective mates (not necessarily even replying to messages they have received) or begin to search for new housing accommodations and envision their new independence.

 In the working environment, the disgruntled employee may begin to brush up their resume, consider applying for other jobs, contemplate starting their own business and/or begin networking with other companies to jump-start their job search to see if there are better opportunities.

Similarly, the disgruntled employer may begin networking to seek out potential alternative candidates to replace the employee.

2. Enough is Enough

divorcemiddlefingerEventually the time may come where a partner in a relationship, an employee or employer may decide that they have simply had enough with the relationship/working agreement as it currently exists and that the time has come for it to end.  For whatever reason, it wasn’t working and there is no resolution except to decide to terminate the relationship.  BUT, in this day and age, that never comes without a price which leads us to stage #3.

3. The Legal Consult

DivorceLawyerClientMeetingWhether you are contemplating divorcing your significant other, suing your employer or are an employer who needs to know their rights and obligations before terminating an employee, you must seek legal advice.  This is an evil (and costly) necessity in any of these situations in order to ensure that you don’t end up getting the short end of the stick at the end of the process that you have already committed to proceeding with (or maybe not?).

4. Giving Notice: Filing for Divorce or Severance

DivorceFilingForThere is no escaping paperwork! Regardless of whether you are intent on notifying your significant other of the end of your marriage or the end of a working relationship in the case of an employee or employer, this intent must be submitted in writing to the other party.

5. Arbitration

Divorce ArbitrationThis is where things get messy.  In a divorce, this can take years and tens of thousands of dollars to resolve.  Similarly, if an employer or employee cannot come to an agreement about the severance of the employee’s agreement, it may end up in the hands of a lawyer or labor board and both parties may incur significant legal fees in addition to time in court.

6. Settlement

DivorceSettlementFollowing (hopefully not) extensive deliberation with a lawyer, partners, employees and employers will eventually come to a settlement agreement.  In the case of a divorce, this may involve alimony, child support and the dissolution of any other assets.  In the case of an employer/employee relationship, the settlement can involve termination pay (if the employee is fired) or severance ( if the employee is fired and the employer has 50 employees or more).  In either case, a unique settlement can be agreed upon by both parties.

7. The Aftermath and Moving On

DivorceMovingOnSo you got divorced, quit your job or fired your employee, now what? Hopefully you thought about this when you were at Stage 1: Dissatisfaction and Deliberation of Disloyalty, otherwise sorry to say but you’re kind of F@%$’d.

In reading this, before you engage in any of these steps, be sure to make sure that you are completely and utterly prepared to deal with the “aftermath” and consider all of the potential outcomes carefully. 

Nobody ever plans on getting divorced, getting fired, forced to quit their job or fire a long-term employee, but the reality is that it’s a fact of life and it happens to all of us.  We must always be prepared for these “hiccups” in life but in reality, none of us ever are.

If you are currently in the middle of either of these messes, keep your head up, be strong and persist because the grass will be greener on your side if you grow it and nurture it yourself.

Cheers,

TSW

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