Category Archives: Challenges

6 Tips for Saving While on a Variable Income

How long could you survive on your savings account alone?

When a friend asked me this question, it changed my life.  I had never truly thought about it before. After carefully calculating my budget and analyzing my monthly earnings and spending, I felt so much more in control of my life.

Let’s face it, life is tough and is always throwing us punches.  No matter how stable and secure we may think we are, at any given moment everything can change at the drop of a hat.

Whether it’s an emergency home repair, health issue or job loss, everyone should have some sort of emergency savings to cover these unanticipated costly events.

In sales, most of us are on a highly variable income. We are typically compensated by a base salary plus commission which may be paid out monthly, quarterly or only annually.  Some sales positions are 100% commission.  My monthly income used to vary by as much as 500%. Being on a variable income makes it significantly more challenging to save, however if you follow these tips, you will find yourself getting ahead much faster than you may think.

1. Analyze Your Income and Identify the Month with Your Lowest Earnings (AFTER TAX)

A quick way to figure out this number, is to simply look at your base salary and ignore commissions.  If you make monthly commission, look at the previous year and identify your lowest month and use that as your figure.  If you are on 100% commission, identify your lowest month and if that is zero, look at the frequency of your sales and you may have to develop a quarterly budget.

2. Create a Budget Based on that Number

Identify ALL of your current spending to have an idea of where you are at.  Firstly, begin with your non-variable income (i.e. mortgage/rent, property tax, utilities, etc.) and then your variable income (everything else ranging from food, entertainment, travel, etc.). Don’t forget all the small stuff that adds up like subscriptions, gifts, clothing, gym membership etc.  Be sure to include absolutely everything you can possibly think of because this is where you will be able to make some cut-backs.  Add up all of your variable and non-variable income separately and combined.  Then compare it to your lowest earning month and deduct that figure from your expenses.  What kind of deficit are you running? Where can you cut back? Can you be shopping for basic necessities elsewhere to save money?

3. Pay off High Interest Debt First

With some high interest debt, you may actually end up spending more money paying off interest than your actual debt.  If you can obtain a line of credit from your bank, usually those rates are significantly lower than credit cards and other debtors and you can use those to pay off your higher interest debt in the interim and then work towards paying off the line of credit.

4. Upon Paying off Debt, Automatically Transfer the Same Amount into a Savings Account

This is where I was able to save most of my money.  I had a car loan that was $750 per month. As soon as I paid it off, I set up the exact same amount of money to be automatically transferred to my savings account each month.  After all, I was used to that amount being withdrawn from my bank account each month, so why stop now?

5. Set up a Tiered Savings Plan

I have a variety of savings accounts, all of which have a different purpose and I use them in this precise order

  1. Chequing account– A basic account I use to pay all of my bills
  2. Savings account (low interest)-First line of savings which I use for mostly home repairs or vacation.
  3. High Interest Savings Account-Backup- Only withdraw funds if regular savings account is low.
  4. TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account)-This is similar to an investment account. Only accessed in case of emergency.
  5. Mutual Funds– Investment only accessed if all other accounts are limited which would be an extreme emergency.
  6. Line of Credit-Absolute last resort.

When I was not working, I always kept a base amount of money in my chequing account. I transferred my monthly requirement to that chequing account from my regular savings first, then my high-interest savings account after my regular savings was used up. Fortunately, after 7 months of unemployment, I never had to dip into any of my investments.

6. Invest in RRSPs

Very commonly in sales positions where we may be taxed at the rate of our base salary and not at a higher rate once commissions are included, we may end up not paying enough taxes and owe taxes back. In this case or if you anticipate that you may be earning less money the next year, then you should consider investing in RRSP’s. This will reduce your overall taxable income. The only disadvantage is that once you invest in RRSP’s, this money is no longer liquid.  Therefore if you plan on needing access to this cash, it may be better to simply pay taxes and keep your money in savings.

The Take-Home Message:

The saying “The more money you make, the more you spend” is so true.  My spending over the years got out of control. I used to be an entitled brat who felt that every time I received a paycheque or a bonus that I “deserved” something in return.  I used to spend almost every penny I made and would deny myself nothing.  If I woke up and thought I wanted something, I’d go out and buy it.

It wasn’t until I was facing a situation where I was no longer able to work,  that I actually sat down and ironed out the differences between what I really needed to get by in life, vs. the “things” I thought I needed.

The fact of the matter is that nobody, I don’t care who you are or what you do “deserves” anything.  All of us owe it to ourselves and our families (where applicable) to be fiscally responsible and maintain a roof over our heads and be able to have food on our table.  It is only from there that we can build a foundation upon to live a happy, meaningful life.

So ask yourself, how long could you exist on your savings alone?

AND

If that time frame isn’t long enough, what are you going to do to change that?

Happy sales my friends and don’t forget to put those bonuses to good use.

Cheers

TSW

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How and When to Effectively Leverage the Power of Guilt to Close a Sale

judge hammer

…or at least lunch!

Let’s face it, not all clients are easy to deal with.  Some can be outright d!@$’s and sometimes as a salesperson that means you’ve got to play hard ball in order to close that deal.

Like most sales reps, I have had my fair share of moments where a client completely ticked me off, however it is definitely not always appropriate to react.

In sales, rejection is part of the game.  We all need to deal with it and be able to handle it. By handling it, I mean brushing it off and persisting and hence why my motto is “Suck it up Princess!”

But what happens when your client or potential client abuses your working relationship or acts unprofessionally?

In extreme cases which I have previously discussed, it may be more appropriate to simply fire your client.

In other situations however, it may be more appropriate to bring the clients bad behavior to their attention and try to leverage that into a sale.  Below are some examples from my personal experience where I did just that. They are in no particular order.

Problem Clients and How I Managed Them: 

Problem Client #1: The “No Show”

My “Guilt Trip”: Call them and outright tell them that I don’t appreciate being stood up and that they owe me a good order, or at the very least that the next time that I’m in town, they can buy me a meal.  90% of the time, I got a really good order. The other 10% of the time I got a meal or at least a drink out of the ordeal.


Problem Client #2: The “I Want to Have My Cake and Eat it Too”.  Not giving me the majority of their business after years of effort they asked me to pull strings to get them a good Christmas gift.

My “Guilt Trip”:You’re making me look bad in front of my boss”, which I said with my boss present when we were delivering their Christmas gift.  After that visit I acquired 80% of their business.


Problem Client #3: Returning My Product in My Competitors Packaging

My “Guilt Trip”: I mailed the box back to them and included an order form and a hand written note stating that it was rude of them to do that and I think they owe me one *wink* *wink*.  They faxed in a really good order and ended up being a very loyal client. 


Problem Client #4: The User Abuser: Exploited me for my knowledge but only ever bought one product from me.

My “Guilt Trip”: I barely had to say anything since he was fully aware of what he was doing and had a good idea that this was likely our last meeting. He looked at me and blurted out, “I’m an ass*^** aren’t I?”. I nodded my head in agreement and informed him that all of the free bits of information end here and now unless he starts to buy more products from me. It worked. That move got me over 90% of their business after that and they ended up being a very loyal client.


Problem Client #5: The Stuck-In-the Habit Excuse: Competitor programmed into speed dial.

My “Guilt Trip”: I told him that it was a lousy excuse and asked him to hand me his phone. I programmed my business number in the slot where my competitor was and moved my competitors phone number to a different slot.  I did the same thing with his fax machine. 100% Effective.  I acquired all of his business after that.

In reading my examples of when I thought it was appropriate to guilt trip a client and try to leverage that into a sale, I hope that you understand that this is by no means common practice. These client behaviors and my subsequent responses are rare and I would never suggest using guilt as a primary means to close your average deal. These situations are highly specific and apply when a qualified buyer has done something to blatantly disregard and waste your time and/or disrespect you.  As I  mentioned previously, rejection is integral to the sales process and by no means should you be putting a guilt trip on every potential client who refuses your product or service.

When you are a sales rep, your time is valuable too, so if you encounter someone who is blatantly wasting your time, perhaps you should move on or call them on it.

In the meantime, happy sales my friends and I hope you don’t encounter too many difficult clients.

Cheers,

TSW

 

 

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My Top 10 Airline Travel Fails

woman_embarassedTravelling isn’t easy.  Even if you are a frequent traveller like myself, it is almost inevitable that at some point you will experience some sort of hiccup along the way.  It may be a delayed, a cancelled flight or something else totally ridiculous entirely.

Below is a list of my top “fails” when travelling by air.

10. First Time “Priority” Status, Last One to Board Plane

aircanadapriorityboardingThe first time I was granted priority status, I was so excited.  I would get on the plane first and relax knowing I wouldn’t have to struggle to find overhead space for my carry-on baggage, however that isn’t what happened at all.  I was flying to Toronto from Orlando and what I clearly didn’t consider the fact was that EVERYONE BUT ME was travelling with small children and at that time the airline’s policy was that individuals with disabilities and families with small children under the age of 6 board first.  So, being the only solo traveller, I ended up being last to board the plane.

9. Dropping Documents While Approaching Customs

womanholdingpassportdocsAs I was approaching the customs kiosk, I was fumbling with my documents trying to put my boarding pass and declaration sheet into the photo page of my passport when I dropped it all.  “Apparently” this makes you look suspicious and will pretty much guarantee you will end up in secondary screening. I obviously never did anything wrong besides accidentally drop my documents but from then on, whenever I have completed my customs declaration on the plane, I make sure to have everything organized together in my purse so that I don’t have to fumble with my documents last minute.

8. Driving the Wrong Way to Return my Rental Car

rentalcarreturnsIt was 4:30 or 5am and I was trying to return my rental car to the airport.  I missed the entrance to the rental car return area and drove into the next driveway which was barricaded and there was no exit other than to turn around and drive the wrong way. So, I did just that.  In order to get back to the main ring road I had to drive the wrong way and hope no other idiot like myself was making that very same mistake and would drive into me.  Fortunately, there was not another car in sight the entire time.  Pfewf!

7. “Buzzing” Carry-on Baggage

Baggage Screening_2.ashxUpon removing my liquids and gels from my carry-on baggage and placing it on the conveyor belt for X-Ray scanning at airport security, the TSA agents all gathered around the X-ray machine. I passed through the metal detector and they all gathered around my bag and asked me if it was mine.  When I saw it, I immediately knew what was drawing all of the attention- my bag was vibrating! And no, it’s not what you think! I had packed an electric toothbrush and it had accidentally been turned on as I put my bag on the conveyor belt.  Once they opened my bag, they all got a good laugh.  I think some of them were disappointed that it wasn’t something else.  Ever since then, I just pack a regular manual toothbrush!

6. Suitcase Goes on Wrong Plane

-While I was sitting at my gate, I was watching the baggage being loaded onto the plane at the neighboring gate and I noticed, that one of those bags was MY bag! I had a very unique bag so it was surely not to be confused with another and this plane was most definitely not my plane.  I ran up to the gate agent for that flight and alerted her immediately.  She initially assured me that it was fine but apparently second guessing herself, she made a call down to the baggage handlers and discovered that the wrong bags were in fact being loaded onto that plane! Fortunately, the ground crew was able to remove them in time and everyone on my flight all got their bags.

5. Broken Suitcase

stuckhandleNaturally, just as I approach the baggage drop kiosk, the handle on my suitcase refuses to go down. Talk about last minute stress! Since it is not possible to check a bag if the handle is locked in the open position, I had to get out of line and since I didn’t have the time to buy a new suitcase and figure out if all of my things would fit, I opted to take everything out of my suitcase, tear it apart and was able to locate the part that was jammed. Using a toothpick, I was able to temporarily fix the jam and lock the handle in the closed position so that the bag could be checked.  Throughout my trip, I didn’t mess with the handle but rather waited until I got home to purchase a new suitcase.  Dragging a 55lb suitcase with no handle in addition to a large briefcase and purse is no simple task!

4. Time for a “Quick” Cigarette Between Connections?

DEN security lineupWhen I was in DEN and had a 2-hour stop-over and I figured that this was more than sufficient time to go outside to have a cigarette, come back in through security and get to my gate but I was wrong! What I didn’t realize was that the ONLY way in and out of that airport is through a single entrance and that there are no exits in the individual terminals or concourses. It didn’t take me very long to exit the building, maybe 20 minutes or so but when I got back I realized there was ONLY ONE SECURITY CHECKPOINT for the entire airport and it was PACKED! I had my NEXUS pass but at that time the US airports only acknowledged that for international travel and I was travelling domestically.  Luckily, one of the agents let me into that line and I just made the last call to board my flight.

3.Leaving Valuables on the Plane

ipadonplaneI hate to admit that I have done this not once but twice and both times I forgot my items in the seat pocket in in front of me. The first time was my driver’s license. I had it tucked into my boarding pass and as I was getting seated, I placed it in the seat pocket in front of me and simply forgot about it.  It wasn’t until a month later when I got carded that I realized I had misplaced it.  The second time I forgot my iPad on the plane.  I was travelling for almost 24 hours and same thing, placed it in the seat pocket in front of me, fell asleep and forgot about it when deplaning.

2. Broken Shoe

sandalsRushing to make my connection, my sandal decided that it was the best time to fall apart and I mean fall apart in pieces (worse than in this photo-all the straps broke at the same time) . That day luck was on my side as I happened to have an extra pair of sandals in my carry-on so at least I didn’t have to run through the airport barefoot!

 

1. Asleep at the Gate

ManSleepingAtAirportI have never done this but a friend of mine did and I think this deserves the #1 spot.  He fell asleep at the gate while listening to his headphones and well, needless to say, he missed his flight. Ooops! The same thing happened other day when I was flying home when I couldn’t help but notice that the passenger behind me was asleep at the gate snoring like a madman and would not budge.  Take this as a warning folks, save the nap for when you’re ON the plane and if you can’t do that, be sure to set an alarm on your phone to wake you up at the boarding time indicated on your boarding pass.

To date, these are my top airline travel blunders and I’m sure there will be many, many more to come.   I would love to hear your stories, so please comment and share!

Happy travels my friends.

Cheers,

TSW

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To Email, to Call or to Text: That is the Question

Shakespeare_ComputerAre you sending emails to schedule simple phone calls? If so, you are wasting your time!

Do you often email your customers or prospects in order to set up a time to have a phone conversation? Have you sat down and calculated the efficiency of this approach?

I find myself increasingly frustrated with the number of people who instead of picking up the phone, will send an email to schedule a time for something that would be a very quick conversation. This commonly results in several back and forth email messages with alternate times and then ultimately one party may cease to respond.  Days if not entire weeks may pass and to no avail. All of this could have been avoided by simply picking up the phone and having a 1-2 minute phone conversation or the message could be relayed in the form of a text message.

Why Email is Ineffective?

study conducted by the Radicati Group in 2015, illustrated that the average business user sends and receives an average of 122 emails per day, a number that is expected to increase to 126 messages by the end of 2019.  As no surprise, the average email only has a 20% open rate and a shockingly low response rate of only 6%.  This means that for every 100 emails you send, only 20% (20 emails) are being opened and of those 20 emails, only 6% (1 email) are being replied to.  That works out to 1 email reply for every 100 emails sent, so essentially a response rate of 1.2%.

Alternatives: Phone Call or Text Message?

According to a study by eWeek, 80% of people are currently using texting for business however, studies have shown that only 2531%  of people prefer text messages to phone calls.

The most preferred business activities conducted by text messaging according to the Harris Poll are:

  1. Checking order status (38%)
  2. Scheduling or changing appointments (32%)
  3. Make or confirm reservations (31%)

It must be noted that all of the above imply that there is an existing or soon to be existing business relationship.

In the sales process, texting can lead to conversion gains in excess of 100% however texting a prospect prior to establishing contact with them can not only adversely effect contact and conversion rates, it may also be illegal depending on the state or province you reside in.

That being said, how do you know when the most effective means of communication is to call, text or send an email?

When to Send a Text Message:

  • You have an existing relationship with your client
  • Your client has directly provided you with their cell phone number
  • Your message is brief, uncomplicated and only requires 1 or 2 basic single-sentence responses (i.e. setting up, changing or confirming a meeting time, following up on an order, etc)

When to Make a Phone Call:

  • You do not have an existing relationship with a prospect
  • The prospect or client did not give you their cell phone number directly. If you received their cell phone number from a 3rd party, they likely have no idea who you are so call them and speak with them first.  If you simply do not have their cell phone number, call their office number.
  • The subject matter you would like to discuss is more involved than and exchange of 1 or 2 sentences

When to Send an Email:

  • You have had a conversation on the phone or via text message and the recipient has requested additional information and/or details in the form of an email. Although the response rate for email is still low, if the prospect or client has requested it and knows to look out for your email, your response rate will increase. Sending unsolicited email is illegal in Canada and can result in fines of up to $1M for individuals and up to $10M for corporations.

In this day and age, it is all too easy to hide behind a computer screen.  As a result we, are all constantly bombarding each other with online messages and emails and in my opinion, they have simply lost their effectiveness as a communication tool.

So let the take home message be, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make a call.  Since most people don’t do that anymore period, that act alone will make you stand out among your competition.  We are all human beings and require some sort of true human interaction and relationships whether they are personal or business in nature, require that interaction in order to grow and flourish.

Happy sales my friends and the next time you’re tempted to hide behind your computer screen and send an email, remember that there is only a 1% chance it will even be replied to, so suck it up Princess and pick up that phone!

Cheers,

TSW

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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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How to Keep Your Cool During a Heated Sales Call

womanyellingatman

Just because someone is having a bad day, it doesn’t give them the right to take it out on you!

When you walk in to meet with a client, you have absolutely no idea what kind of day they may be having.  Heck, you might be having a terrible day yourself.  Regardless, sometimes sales calls can get quite heated and escalate to the point where you could lose the business if you don’t handle yourself properly.

If you have been in sales for any length of time, you most certainly have encountered a client who is rude, belittling and/or who outright criticizes your company, product/service or even you personally.  There are a multitude of reasons why a client may act this way and it could range from anything such as problems at home, difficulties with other employees, issues with a supplier, legal troubles or they just saw your primary competitor in the hours or days prior who planted seeds of doubt in their mind.  The fact of the matter is, you won’t really know unless they feel comfortable enough sharing this with you. If they don’t, don’t ask.  If you don’t have a very well established rapport, don’t meddle in their business.  Do what you came to do, sell your product or service.

So what happens when your client gets out of hand and says or does something unacceptable?

In order to make sure you keep your cool and maintain professionalism, do the following:

1. Know Your Product/Service Inside Out

knowledgableThis should go without saying but before you go into any sales call, be sure you are an expert on whatever it is you are selling. If you can’t remember everything, be sure to contain supporting data or documentation in your detail binder and have it ready for demonstration.  Be sure to know exactly where each article is located in your binder in order to avoid fumbling around, wasting unnecessary time and looking like an unprepared fool.  Being prepared will enable you to keep calm and address your clients’ comments and concerns directly and precisely.  If they catch you off guard and say or ask you something that you don’t know how to reply to or don’t know the answer to, simply acknowledge that you don’t know and will have to get back to them.  If they get more irate by that answer, then reschedule the follow-up meeting immediately in order to diffuse the situation.

2. Do NOT React.

woman-covering-mouthThink, THEN React. It’s only human nature to snap back and lash out at someone who acts out at us in a negative way but you must control this urge.  It will get you nowhere besides kicked out the door and never welcomed back.  Think about what it is exactly that your client said that you found offensive or untrue and ask them why they said what they did.  Are they misinformed? Remembering details incorrectly? If they don’t provide you with a straight up answer, do not react or engage further. You can try to joke with them but I urge extreme caution in doing so, especially if you don’t have a well-established relationship with that particular client because you have no idea how they will react. If you are unsure, opt to redirect the conversation back to what you are selling.

3. Keep Focused on Your Product/Service

business chartAlthough it might be difficult, try to keep focused on what you are selling.  This will reduce the likelihood of any further provocation or outbursts from your client.  It also removes any emotional stimuli from the interaction.

4. Find a Reason to Follow-up (Take a Break and Reschedule)

Reschedule Word Circled Day Date Calendar Delay Cancel AppointmeIn the event that you are unable to keep the meeting focused on your product or service, you should end the meeting and reschedule for a later date.  You can directly inform your client that based on how they are acting or feeling, that perhaps it would be best if you met another day the following week to discuss.  An indirect approach would be to inform you client that you will be able to bring something of greater value to the next meeting (create an excuse to have a follow-up meeting) and would like to make arrangements to do so.

5. Smile and Try to Make a Joke

woman telling a jokeIf you do this right off the get-go, it can go 1 of 2 ways: Either it will totally piss off your client or it will make them laugh and relieve their tension.  Regardless, it’s a gamble.  If you’ve already ended the meeting and rescheduled, that would probably be the safest time to make a joke but again, only do so if you are pretty darn sure how your client will react.

Whether you are in sales or any customer service type of role, it is only inevitable that you will encounter difficult customers and how you react (or don’t react) will determine whether or not you will keep those customers.

Growing up, I worked for my father who owned his own business. He had always told me , “The customer is always right.”.

When I was 16 working as a receptionist at an animal hospital, the head receptionist told me “Just because someone is having a bad day, don’t EVER let them take it out on you! There is no excuse.  If someone is rude to you, you have my permission to kick them out. No questions asked.”

I never forgot that advice.  It was empowering to be able to stand up for myself and not have to be treated like a doormat.  Nobody should be treated that way.

That being said, you can use all of the tips in this article to try and diffuse a situation with a difficult client but that isn’t possible all of the time.  In a previous post, I discussed “When to Fire a Client”.

So, happy sales my friends and just remember, you don’t ever need to take abuse from anyone.

Cheers,

TSW

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When Your Product Demo Goes Horribly Wrong:

Epic-Fail-newspaper-stack

My Epic Failures Selling Capital Equipment

Back in the day, I used to sell medical devices and I have to admit that I hated it.   The only thing I liked about it was the hefty commission but even that was just a one time deal.

For those of you who have ever sold capital equipment, you know how exciting it is to finally get the opportunity to do a product demonstration because if your demonstration is a success, it is highly likely you will be able to close on the spot.

If you’re like me and slightly neurotic (ok maybe highly neurotic), the night before you spend countless time testing the heck out of your equipment to make sure it is working properly so that your demonstration goes smoothly the following day.  But even if you do that, there is always a chance that something can go wrong and not only ruin your potential to make that sale, but possibly to even be welcomed back down the road.

Product demonstration day is a make it or break it day.

When I was selling blood analyzers, I had to look professional and carry the following into a clinic in a single trip:

  • Analyzer #1 (50lbs) which was on wheels and 2ftx2ftx2ft in dimension. I secretly referred to this as “The Big Prick” although I never shared that with anyone of course
  • Analyzer #2 and #3 (35lbs in total) in a bag that went over my shoulder
  • A detail binder

Most of the time, nobody helped me with the door either. I tell you, it surely wasn’t easy to get all of that in the door on your own and try not to break a sweat or the equipment (if it gets jammed in the door as you enter)!.

I always envied the pharmaceutical reps who sat in the clinic waiting room beside me who held a simple piece of paper or detail binder alone.  Lucky bastards, I thought.  This was a huge reason I decided to go into pharmaceutical sales! Then at least I could go back to wearing heels. You just can’t wear high heels when you’re carrying that much gear. I digress.

After sitting in the waiting room comes the second most nerve wracking part, setting up the equipmentYou have to do it fast to make sure it doesn’t look to complicated and correctly on the first go.  This may take a lot of practice.

Then comes the most nerve wracking part, the actual demonstration!

My Epic Failures in Product Demonstration:

Epic Fail #1:

cbc analyzerOne time I had set up all 3 pieces of equipment and “The Big Prick” decided to leak all over the place!!! (Pun not intended but realized post-script) And I’m not talking about a small drip, the fluids (reagent solution) were just flowing out of the bottom of the machine as soon as I turned it on to prime it Of course this was the precise moment when my client and all of her staff walked into the room and saw everything!  I tried to explain that a small tube must have gotten loose during transport, so I opened the machine up to try and identify the location of the leak and well, my client saw how many tiny little tubes were inside this device and decided that it was all too easy for something to go wrong and regardless of what I said, they were no longer interested.  I packed up and left. Next!

Epic Fail #2

BLOOD WORK RESULTSOn another occasion where I had set up the equipment correctly, the client wanted to run some test samples on the device.  Although it was calibrated beforehand, for some reason the results on my machine were all completely out of range.  They even ran the same sample using two other testing methods (outside lab and their existing equipment) and those matched. But unfortunately, my equipment was off.  Way off. Since our main selling feature was the accuracy of the machine, I lost that sale and was not welcomed back.

 

 

Epic Fail #3

dental sprayI also used to sell dental equipment, which included electrical scalers and compression-powered polishers. At a dental seminar we were sponsoring, another rep and I set up all of the devices on a side table and while the speaker was presenting, one of the machines suddenly would not stop spraying water out of the tip!  We tried to maintain our cool (mostly trying not to burst into laughter!) and avoid attracting any attention so we had to take turns holding this leaking piece behind our backs during the presentation and during breaks when the attendees were visiting our station to view our equipment.  Fortunately nobody noticed!  Sweat, sweat, sweat!

Those are just a few examples but these types of things happened on a regular basis. Although I must say that in defense of the equipment, I’m sure I wasn’t always handling it in the most delicate manner at all times which didn’t help *ahem* *ahem* but what rep does???

I struggled with the fact that even though I may have been a good salesperson, if the equipment you are selling doesn’t do what it is supposed to and align with your sales presentation then the odds of you making the sale are slim to nil. I’m sure there is room to be creative and try to win the buyer back but if I test drove a new car that was malfunctioning, I most certainly wouldn’t buy it.

In the end, I decided that capital equipment sales were not for me, but it sure was a learning experience!

If you have sold capital equipment, I would love to hear your product demonstration failure stories and what you did to overcome it.

Happy Sales!

Cheers,

TSW

 

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