Category Archives: sales challenges

Is Technology Making us More or Less Efficient?

A day on the road without technology gave me the answer.

For the past 24 hours, I did not have text, email or internet access on my phone. My BlackBerry (yes, I know, it’s ancient!) did a recent software update which eliminated all of the “smart” out of my smartphone and left me with the sole capability of making and receiving phone calls. I couldn’t even see my call log, so if I missed a call and they didn’t leave a voicemail, I would have no clue anyone called me.

Normally while I’m on the road, I text and email clients and use the mobile hotspot on my account to access and input data from my CRM.  Today however was a very different story.  Even 13 years ago when I first started out in sales, I recall driving around “trolling for wifi” as I called it in order to check my emails and had offline access to my CRM which apparently doesn’t exist these days.  I would text my clients and coworkers throughout the day. Typically, I never could gain enough email access to accomplish my work tasks during the day and would have to attend to all of my emails before and after I hit the road and would average 15 hour days.

Today, I went back 20 years in time.  Initially, I thought that I would go and get a new phone ASAP before embarking on my calls, but instead I decided to take on the day as a sort of “experiment” and see how I could manage.

I committed to doing all of my calls and had an amazing experience!

This is what happened:

  1. I realized that I reach to check my phone almost every 2-5 minutes.

This sounds ridiculous but I’m certain I am not alone.  How bad is that? How neurotic is that making me? How is this impacting my overall stress level? Is this really making me a better salesperson?

 

 

2. I conducted a personal record number of cold calls (in person).

Without any means to access background info (aside from what I printed out the night before in advance to prep for the day), or input data into my CRM, or dick around on the internet, I was completely unhinged.  My only task at hand was to call on as many clinics as possible in my target area to invite them to a corporate event and/or book an official meeting with them and I achieved it.  I called on 31 clinics in 8 hours.  Mind you I really didn’t take any breaks at all and I meticulously planned out my route in advance with the help of old fashioned maps.

3. I was living in real life and interacting 100% with real human beings

I spent more time interacting with human beings face-to-face than I have in a really long time (aside from tradeshows that is).

 

 

 

4. My clients were concerned about me.

I received calls from my clients who were concerned that I didn’t answer their emails and text messages and decided to call me to see if I was OK.  I thought that was really sweet but I also look at that and note that I must be so neurotic and obsessive about responding to emails and texts that if I don’t within a matter of minutes or hours, that is a concern. I have always been focused on providing the best possible customer service that I can, but this set me back a little and made me think that perhaps I am being a little too overzealous in my approach.  Do I need to chill out a little or do I need to keep up my game in order to remain competitive?

So what were my stats?

At the end of the day, I got valuable face-to-face time with 31 clients with a maximum of 1 hour “homework” to log those calls. Surely I didn’t get to spend all the time in the world with each of those clients, but look at these stats:

3/31- Turned into a timely lead.  The clients were looking for a solution that I provided right at the time I walked in.

5/31- Reserved a space to a dinner meeting I invited them to (one of the purposes of my visit).

20/31- Booked a follow-up face-to-face meeting to discuss my products in more depth.

4/31-Got to see the decision maker and do a regular sales call.

If I would have spread out all of these meetings to log my calls in a “timely” manner (immediately after) versus logging them later, I’m certain I would have run out of time given that regular business hours are between 8-6pm. On the other hand, if I would have done these calls by phone, I most certainly wouldn’t have had the same level of penetration that I did in person. Meeting and talking to people face-to-face is far more impressionable than a strange voice over the phone.

So, back to my initial question: Technology has always been key to being functional as a sales rep on the road, much like it is to pretty much any other profession, but is it making us more or less effective?

Not necessarily. In the old days when we would have to do our homework pre and post calls, it lengthened our days. Now we can do emails, texts and calls while en route.   It all depends on the individual and how prone one is to distraction.  If you commit do only doing work during business hours and restricting social contact to outside of business hours, then yes, you will be more effective.  If not, then you will be working (and socializing and killing time on the internet) from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep and in that case, you are not more effective.

If you are in outside sales,  would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Please share.

 

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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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Cold Calling: How to Bypass the Gatekeeper

gatekeeperAn Approach that Will Guarantee You More Meetings with the Decision Makers!

It is typically in the salespersons best interest to befriend the gatekeeper and other staff in order to get to the decision maker.  But what if, as a salesperson, you need to get to the decision maker and their staff cannot know any details about your business venture? How do you access the decision maker without getting you butt kicked out the door by trying to go over the gatekeeper’s head?

The majority of sales gurus these days will tell you that cold calling is dead, especially face-to-face cold calling. If that describes your situation, be sure to read my previous article on The Do’s and Don’ts of Cold Calling.  So, although this may be the case for a variety of industries, there are some that do in fact require employing this brut methodology in order to access the decision maker.

In my current role, I have been faced with this dilemma.  I have always been accustomed to being friendly and open with all staff and best utilize those relationships in order to ultimately reach the decision maker however, now my business is of an utmost confidential matter and it is crucial that I do not share the nature of my business with anyone but the decision maker.

After getting the door slammed on my ass on the way out of a business a handful of times, I decided that I needed to revamp my approach.

Empty ClinicOne prime example that stood out in my mind was when I went into a clinic that was clearly empty.  There were no cars out front, no patients in the waiting room and clearly no patients in the treatment area.  When I asked the receptionist if I could speak with the doctor for a minute, she hemmed and hawed and asked me if I had an appointment. When I told her no, she told me that he was VERY busy but she will check. She went out back and returned to inform me that he was so busy and doesn’t have any time this week.

This experience was akin to walking to an empty restaurant and the hostess asks you if you have a reservation.  In sales, having thick skin is a MUST!

So what did I decide to do?

The Strategy:

1. Write a handwritten note card in a sealed envelope addressed to the DM

Before my next round of cold calls, I picked up some blank note-cards and envelopes.  In each card I wrote a personal note:
“Dear ______

Sorry to have missed you today.  I was hoping to catch you to talk to you about a business opportunity. I will be in town (UNTIL DATE OR WILL BE BACK AT DATE) so you can call or email me anytime.  Talk soon. Sincerely,

TSW”

On the top flap of the card, I attached my business card with an adhesive  (double-sided sticky) so that the card can be easily removed.

The card is inserted into an envelope and the DM’s name is written on the front of the envelope.

2. Conduct cold call with envelope in hand and business card in back pocket

I show up at the clinic and approach the receptionist in a friendly manner and say “Hey I’m (NAME HERE). I have something for (DM NAME HERE).  Is he/she available for a quick minute? I have something for them”

If they check and the answer is YES (wohoo!):

I put the envelope away and ask to speak to the DM privately for a minute and then give them my business card that’s in my back pocket and try to arrange a private meeting.

If they check (or don’t ) and say NO:

Give them the sealed envelope and ask that they kindly pass it on to the DM addressed on your card and mention that you will be calling the DM soon to follow-up.

Since it is addressed to the DM personally and hand written, even if the receptionist does not know you. the way you presented yourself is as though the DM does.  For this reason, the receptionist or gatekeeper is highly unlikely to open the envelope or toss it out.  Furthermore, mentioning that you will be touching base with the DM  regarding what you have enclosed in this envelope will make it even more unlikely that it will be tampered with.

So far this approach has gotten me call-backs and appointments 75% of the time. 

Surely much more effective than a phone call or random email!

If you are in this type of sales, I would love for you to try this and let me know how it works out.

Also if you have any other tips, please share!

Happy sales my friends.

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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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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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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How to Pack a Healthy Lunch in Less than 10 Minutes

busineswomaneatinghealthyIn this day and age, it has become increasingly difficult to find time to spare, especially when it comes to making time for exercise and eating healthy.

What most people don’t realize is that packing your own lunch doesn’t take as much time as you may think.  We all know that packing a healthy lunch can save us inches on our waistline but a lesser known fact is that it will also save you money and time that you would have otherwise spent at a restaurant.

This “time constraint” is how most people rationalize the fact that they simply can’t be bothered to put the effort into eating healthy. This is especially the case for people who work on the road and travel frequently for business who also have the luxury of being able to expense their meals.

Contrary to popular belief, it actually takes less time to prepare a healthy lunch (snacks included) than to eat out, so quit using convenience as an excuse to eat out!

Let’s face it, most people believe that it is a lot more convenient to eat a restaurant than spend the time planning and preparing your meals for a day on the road but the fact of the matter is, you can spend less than 10 minutes making and packing a healthy lunch and snacks which is far less time than you would spend in a restaurant.

For example, if you stop for a coffee and a snack in the morning and the afternoon at a coffee shop, you will spend at least 5 minutes if not more at each shop. If you stop for lunch, this can take in excess of an hour if you go to a sit-down restaurant.  Even if you went to a fast food joint for lunch, that will likely take at least 10-15 minutes between lining up to place your order and actually receiving your food.  In the least, if you dine out all day long you will spend a minimum of 20 minutes of your day simply waiting for food.  That’s significantly more time than you need to prepare something much healthier at home!

I will share with you some examples of healthy snacks and meals that I would typically prepare and bring with me for my average day on the road.  They are all very quick and easy to prepare so there are no excuses!

What you will need:

  1. Insulated lunch bag or coolerlunchbagw icepack
  2. Ice pack(s) if packing perishable items
  3. Utensils (Ideally an all-in-one fork/knife/spoon combo)ForkKnifeSpoon
  4. Napkin or paper towel

 

 

Snack Options:

snacks

 

Snacks with Zero Preparation:

  • Protein Bar
  • Can of tuna
  • Whole fruit (apple, orange, pear, etc.)
  • Protein Powder (single serving sample)

Snacks with Minimal Preparation (Hands-on Time <1 min):

  • Protein Powder: This can be mixed into a small bottle of water or milk. I will put a single serving of protein powder into a Ziploc bag and after I am finished my coffee in my thermos, I put the powder into the thermos and mix with water that I have brought or buy a small carton of milk at a convenience store to mix with it.
  • Boiled Eggs: As you prepare your things in the morning, boil some eggs. It takes a few seconds to put them on the stove and the same to remove them from the stove. If you’re concerned about time or forgetting them on the stove, simply boil them the night before. They will be safe to eat for several days after cooking.
  • Loose fruit and veggies (grapes, berries, carrots etc.): Simply rinse them and put them into a Ziploc bag. The Ziploc bag can later be used to dispose of your eggshells, protein bar wrapper or other small trash items.
  • Nuts: Grab a small handful or count out a single serving and place into a Ziploc bag.
  • Cheese slices: Can either be wrapped in saran wrap or placed in a Ziploc bag. Note that if you do pack cheese slices, don’t forget to include an ice pack.

Snacks/Meals Requiring a Moderate amount of Preparation (Hands-on Time: <5min):

YogurtParfait

  • Greek Yogurt Parfait: This is my staple snack in the morning! To make it, place your oatmeal in the microwave (2-5 minutes depending on the Oatmeal), add frozen berries and microwave for an additional 1-2 minutes, add 2-3 TBSP of 0% Fat Greek Yogurt and place into a Tupperware container.  Don’t forget to put on an ice pack and pack a spoon!
  • Salad: If you keep it simple (lettuce that you simply have to rinse, tomato, pepper, etc.) it will take under 5 minutes to prepare.  I usually make 2-3 at a time so I don’t  have to make a new one every day.  For dressing I put a small amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small Tupperware container that I place within the Tupperware containing the salad. Don’t forget to bring a fork!

Sandwiches: Try to make it as healthy as possible. Here are a few ideas:

Chicken/Turkey & Swiss:

  • 2 slices of multigrain/whole wheat bread
  • 3-4 slices of low-fat, low-sodium chicken or turkey breast
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese (regular Swiss is low fat)
  • Garnishes: tomato, lettuce, onion, peppers, etc.
  • Condiments: mustard, low-fat mayo- Only use small amounts (<1tsp each) not just because of calories but because if you eat in your car like me, the last thing you want is to get covered in mustard or mayo before your next meeting!

**Tip:  Place the meat on the bottom, the garnishes in the middle, topped by lettuce, then cheese slice in order to prevent your sandwich from getting soggy.

Tuna

tunasandwich

**TIP: This should be made on the spot in your car because if made in advance, the bread or wrap will become so soggy and fall apart by the time you go to eat it!

  • 2 slices of multigrain bread or 1 multigrain/whole wheat wrap prepared in advance with a layer of light mayo or light plain cream cheese.
  • 1 small can tuna (single serving with peel-off lid). Apply to prepared bread with your spoon and enjoy!

*Note: an alternative to preparing the bread in advance with low-fat mayo or cream cheese is to pack a single serving of low-fat cream cheese in a small Tupperware container and mix with the tuna. I thought it sounded gross at first but it is delicious, low in fat and an excellent source of protein!

Not sure how much and what specifically to pack?

Be sure to incorporate a protein source in EVERY snack and meal! Protein will keep you fuller longer and doing so will help stabilize your blood sugar levels. My personal trainer gave me this advice and it helped me reduce almost 1000 calories per day from my diet and I was less hungry than before!

As long as you’re eating some sort of protein, you can eat small snacks every 2-3 hours. Constantly fueling up on healthy foods throughout the day not only helps improve your energy levels, cognitive function and overall health but it also helps boost your metabolism.

So to answer the question, “How much to pack? If you will be gone the entire day, try to bring enough for at least 4 snacks ( 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon) as well as a lunch (if you don’t have a lunch meeting).

I hope that you found some of these ideas useful and that you will incorporate them into your next meal en route.

Unsure about how healthy your snack and lunch combo is? Need some tips on how to make your lunch healthier?

Subscribe to my blog and and contact me with all of your questions.

Travel safe my friends and don’t forget to eat healthy while you’re at it.  Time is on your side!

Cheers,

TSW

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