- Be a continuous learner – what got you into the CRO role won’t keep you there.
- Create a culture of innovation – willingness to try new things without the fear of failure.
- Demonstrate teamwork and camaraderie – people will watch and observe your behavior before they act.
- Focus on the people – this means getting to know your colleagues beyond their quotas.
- Be authentic – this equals consistency and predictability. Wild mood swings are often due to people transitioning from their “real” self to their created façade.
- Be vulnerable – show you’re human, it’s okay.
- Confront reality – denial wrecks your credibility. Quotas are huge, don’t act like they’re no big deal.
- Provide a path to success – it may be a difficult path but a path none the less. Remember, the leader’s job is to provide the vision…the possibilities.
- Be honest – shoot straight, share what you can, not only what you must.
- Always have an active ear – listen…actively. People want to know how much you care before caring about how much you know.
- Never surprise your boss – understand what’s important to the CEO and how/when to best communicate.
- Be deliberate in your actions – an environment of uncertainty is a byproduct of hedging bets. Your team will know if you’re not all in.
- Be kind – nothing in this job should justify taking someone’s dignity.
- Be gracious – say thank you. Give credit and recognize people consistently.
- Look for the good – every day find a good deed, or success from a colleague, and then share it.
- Know your numbers – where are you this month to quota, next month, and quarter standings.
- Know your business – what external factors may arise to get in the way of achieving your goals and those of your colleagues?
- Always be planning – “In preparing for battle I have always found plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Stay fit – CROs tend to be the heartbeat of a company. Work hard to have and maintain a healthy heartbeat.
- Always, always, remember (and thank) those who helped you arrive – family, friends, former bosses, mentors. No one gets to where they’re going totally alone
I recently had dinner with one of my top sales people in San Diego this week and the conversation got around to whether people are born as natural sales people, or leaders.
I’ve never been a believer that people are born into a specific life path. What I believe is that each of us is born with a set of talents, capabilities, and competencies. We are all born with a specific attitude as well. A mindset, a glass half full, versus half empty thinking. A skeptic, an optimist, or pragmatist.
Here’s where the conversation gets fun. Believe it or not there was an interesting life lesson that has stuck with me for years from a rather unexpected movie – RAMBO III. In the movie the character of Colonel Troutman gives a pep talk to John Rambo. He tells the story of a sculpture who finds a perfect stone. He drags it back to his workshop and creates an incredible statue. When his friends compliment him on his creation, he says, he didn’t create anything. The statue was always there…he just chipped away the small pieces.
We are all born with natural talents. Some are blessed with athletic abilities, others with analytical strengths, others with caregiver strengths. The difference between those that achieve their full potential versus those who don’t, is finding a mentor(s) who helps validate and provide direction for your unique set of skills.
What if there was no Earl to Tiger Woods? What if no Joe to Michael Jackson? What if no Kurt to Michael Douglas? There are thousands more of these examples of folks who are not in the limelight but succeeded because they benefited from someone who recognized their talents and provided direction and encouragement. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have had a number of bosses throughout my career who have guided, counseled, and encouraged me to embrace my skills, take chances, and stretch. Without them, I am certain I would not have accomplished what I have thus far. And while I’m now considered “middle age”, my need for their input, guidance, and counsel still remains strong. Being a continuous learner never stops…until the heart does.
So what if you don’t feel like you have a person like this in your life? What do you do to find someone to fill this gap? The answer is easy. Look around. That person is probably closer to you than you think. It could be a spouse, partner, boss, friend, someone at the gym, someone sitting next to you on a plane. In fact, my love for American history was born on a flight I was on in 2004 when I met a gentlemen who asked me what types of books were my favorite to read. Foolishly I said none. He said, how can you spend so much time on a plane and not read. He told me I was missing all kinds of opportunities to expand my thinking. When we landed he gave me a book that became the catalyst for creating my voracious appetite for reading. That book was called His Excellency on George Washington. I can’t count the number of books I’ve given away over the years to people who I just met in similar situations. You never know who, or how you can impact the life of a stranger for the better. It’s incredibly heartwarming and fulfilling.
Life lessons are everywhere. Sometimes you just need to put down your phone, take out your ear buds, and just be…be present. Take an inventory of all the things you’re good at. Jot down what you like to do. Assess the crowd you hang with and identify a few people to approach to help you clear away those stones. Remember, the statue is always there…it’s just how badly you want to chip away at the stones to show your uniqueness and value to the world.
In today’s rapidly advancing digital age, information has never been easier to access. We shop for clothes, cars, computers, and countless other consumables and services through the internet. We research our customers, competitors, future employers and employees, and bosses. We share our experiences and opinions about banks, hairdressers, mechanics, and restaurants on sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google. In fact, by the time you finish reading this blog, more than 1 million posts will have been made on Facebook (assuming you can finish this in 2 minutes or less).
With so much information, so quickly accessible, why do businesses still operate in silos? Why do management teams, and executives, feel compelled to withhold information from their teams? Are there still people that believe in Jack Nicholson’s position in A Few Good Men? Perhaps some might not be able to handle the truth but most are far more capable than you may think. In fact, if you consider real-life General Stanley McChrystal, in his book Team of Teams, he talks about transforming the U.S. Military from a command-and-control operation to a “shared consciousness” where there is an organization-wide “understanding of the whole.”
So why do executives hold back? Why do they covet information at all? The answer is FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Fear of embarrassment, uncertainty of reaction, doubt in the character and tenacity of the people on their teams. Harold MacMillian said, “A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.” This couldn’t be more true.
Sharing for the sake of sharing is a waste of time and effort, however, sharing for the sake of establishing trust is an accelerator of positive results. How do can you tell if sharing is real? If the information the leader is sharing is sensitive, in that it makes him vulnerable, he’s sharing. If the information is sensitive, in that it may make the company vulnerable, she’s sharing. If there is any level of personal, professional, or company risk, this qualifies for real sharing. When real sharing is being demonstrated, a culture of trust can begin to develop and teams begin to form. A leader who shares real stuff is confident, comfortable being vulnerable, and willing (and interested) in learning. Those are the leaders people seek to follow.
Still think sharing is a crock? If you need further evidence that sharing can accelerate growth, look no further than Berkshire Hathaway which currently holds the title as the highest priced stock on the NYSE at more than $320,000 for a BRK-A share as of this blog post. If you, like me, believe that sharing is a critical ingredient to building trust, consider the words of Berkshire’s Charlie Munger, “By the standards of the rest of the world, we over trust. So far it has worked very well for us.” It certainly has.
How much courage do you have to start sharing?
By definition a leader is a person who leads or commands a group – at least that’s what Professor Google says. My definition is a bit different. Who wants to be commanded? Sure there are times, situations, and circumstances when being in command is required. Directing, ordering, and controlling are verbs that often come to mind when we think of leaders.
Just about anyone can be taught to do these things. Just about anyone can dish orders, direct others, and attempt to control. Many “leaders” regardless of training can do this for some period of time before being discovered as ineffective. Great leaders however, take a different approach. These leaders must do all the directing, ordering, and controlling as previously mentioned but it’s how they accomplish these things that set them apart.
Great leaders are great because they:
- Understand how to empathize
- Effectively communicate their vision
- Ask great questions, deep questions that provide insight
- Act in their own authentic way, not trying to be someone else
- Adopt a beginners attitude
- Surround themselves with people smarter than they are
- Spend time on self-reflection, how they operate and the result produced
- Network and connect with others to learn
- Ask for, and accept help when needed
- Lean on mentor(s) for coaching and perspective
- Roll up their sleeves, never asking others to do something they haven’t or wouldn’t do themselves
- Inspire others through their words, actions, and behaviors
So start today with some self-reflection. What are you doing? What do you spend most of your time on? How do you interact with those around you? What’s the reaction of others when you walk in a room, speak during a meeting, engage with others in a break-room? Consider this list and strive to embrace each one in a genuine way and you’ll find your results improve in a timely manner.
In 2015 I took my first trip to Yellowstone National Park. To be honest it wasn’t my first choice, but it was solidly in my dad’s bucket list and so we made it a “guys” trip. Three generations of DeRosa’s (father, son, grandson) traveling to where the buffalo roam, to see exploding geysers, breath-taking views, and to take in the simple beauty of the land.
Of course, the sales and marketing geek inside of me looks for every opportunity to observe, study, and ponder how each experience plays into how people make buying decisions. Yes, even at Yellowstone I was on the prowl for insights into how sales people can better connect with the buyers journey. Our Yellowstone tour guide unknowingly provided a powerful example in navigating the changing scenery of the buyers journey. But first a little context…
If you’re in Sales, or any position charged with hitting a revenue number, you’ve got to sell. You need to find buyers, and you need to sell them. Sell them as much as you can, as quickly as you can, to reach your number, celebrate briefly and move on to the next. Right?
Buyers have become increasingly sophisticated whether buying a pair of shoes, or selecting a payroll provider, or choosing Tom Ford over Hugo Boss. If you think selling hard, and selling fast is your best chance of success you may want to consider a different career. Today’s buyer wants to be courted. They want to feel special. They want to feel important. They want to believe the option they have chosen is the best option for their need. Notice I didn’t say the buyer wants to have confidence in the solution you sold them. No. They are not to be sold. They are doing the buyer. They want you to be their tour guide.
I watched as Kylie, our tour guide welcomed us to a small group tour setting out to see Yellowstone in all its majesty. Her welcome was warm and genuine. She was quick to point out the creature comforts we probably would need for this journey. Blankets, water, soft drinks, snacks, distance between rest stops. She had anticipated our questions and addressed them before they were asked.
As we started our journey from the Grand Teton’s into Yellowstone, Kylie provided a history of both parks in a way that only a master-storyteller could do. Her story was highly engaging, edge of your seat, filled with suspense. She educated us on the wildlife ecosystem and how everything was interconnected. I’m embarrassed to say I probably learned everything I know about biology and the circle of life from this tour. Up to this point in my life I hadn’t taken time to think about how life and nature were interconnected. She led us on this journey of enlightenment through her personal passion for the landscape and wildlife within these two parks. It was amazing. In fact, so much so, that we embarked on a second tour a couple of days later with a different focus, in a different part of the park.
I’ve often thought about my experience on this Yellowstone tour. I’ve thought about how I was educated in a way that allowed me to fully grasp the concept of a wildlife ecosystem. I think about how my interests in conservation have since grown as a direct result of this new knowledge. I ponder the impact personal passion has on the transfer of knowledge. I do believe that if Kylie simply read a script, or ran through the motions, I would have left Yellowstone feeling quite different…less connected. Her passion created questions of my own. Her stories have become remarkable memories for me, my father, and my son.
As a revenue leader it is important to have a true passion for what you do. It’s not enough to be a VP of Sales. Kylie could have been a tour operator for a double-decker bus in Manhattan, but it wouldn’t have served her passion. You’ve got to have passion for what it is you’re selling. What is the ultimate purpose for what you do, what your product does, what improvement it makes in the buyers life. Too many people are occupying positions for a paycheck, not really believing in what it is they are selling. We’ve all done it. The problem is, your buyers can spot a scripted seller miles away and today they vote with their shoes by either walking toward you or walking away.
View yourself as your buyer’s tour guide. Anticipate their questions and provide answers before they ask. Make the journey as comfortable as possible. Be warm, be kind, be generous with your time. Study and learn…I mean really learn about what it is you’re selling. If you can’t get excited or enthused about it find a new product to sell. Your goal is to help your buyer through this journey at their pace, not yours. Be the best sales tour guide you can be.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a start-up, or a business that’s been around for 50 years, your buyer has changed. He changed last month, last week…he even changed yesterday. Thanks in large part to Moore’s Law (technology doubles every two years), we know that his access and availability to information is endless. Today’s buyers are more connected, more savvy, more social than ever before. In fact, it’s likely your buyer will know more about you than you know about him before you ever meet one another. That is if you ever do meet one another.
We have all heard the statistic that 92% of all B2B purchases begin online. That means that 9 out of 10 prospects will be checking you out well before any meeting ever comes to fruition. We also know that many sources report that at least half of the buying process is complete before the buyer ever meets a sales person. For some companies like Amazon, Apple, and Tesla, they thrive on this disruptive buyer. The buyer who shops at her own pace, educates herself on what she wants, with the content she wants, and from the sources she wants it from. For other companies perhaps not as sophisticated in their understanding of this evolution…this buyers journey…the need to gain this understanding is critical. It’s urgent. It’s truly about survival.
To map your buyer’s journey requires time, access to customers willing to participate and answer questions, and likely the most important requirement being the business’s willingness to listen and change based upon these findings. This is critical work, not easy, but certainly doable. The rewards of understanding your buyers are many. The risk of not understanding your buyer is simple…irrelevance that leads to extinction.
Here are 5 things you need to prepare yourself, and your company for as you begin to map your buyer’s journey:
- Open-mindedness. Start this work with a beginners attitude. If we were launching today, knowing what we know, what would we say to our buyers, how would we say it, when, and where would we say it?
- Honesty. If your brand promise is “fast and easy” but your delivery is slow and confusing be honest about it. Guess what, your buyers already know this about you. Resist the denial urge.
- Customer mindset. Our buying habits and expectations as consumers are gradually following us into our business lives. If I can buy a new computer fast and easy at home, I expect to be able to do the same thing at work no matter what product or service I’m shopping for. My expectations for speed and ease, transcend the business experience.
- Acknowledgement and Acceptance. All change requires acknowledging there’s a better way, and accepting the fact that we will have to do something(s) different to achieve that better way.
- Action. Be ready, willing, and able to act. Some people, and businesses, are ready for a different outcome, but are not willing or able to implement the change required to generate that better outcome. Change only happens when a different action is taken.
The age of the buyer is here. Those who decide to align their business around the buyer will survive and thrive while those who still believe they control the sale will slowly fade away. Your job is to understand how you can best facilitate your buyers process – their journey – not your sales process. Helping and serving have become the keys to success in the age of the buyer. Now you just need to know where to help, and how the buyer wants to be served.
Whether you are new to Sales, or have been selling for 30 years, a true Sales professional must always guard against these 13 deadly sins:
- Winging it. Don’t be too confident that just because you know your product inside-out, and may be working for a market leader, that the buyer will simply sign on the dotted line. Plan, focus, and prepare for each sales interaction.
- Judging a book by its cover. Never assume that you know the buyer before you’ve met her. Sure, you may have sold 100 buyers like her in the past but no two buyers are “just” like another. Take the time to learn what’s different.
- Careless. No one likes a careless person. It takes several forms from sloppy hand writing, to inappropriate dress, to bent presentations…just plain old messy. If you don’t care, why should your buyer? Be neat. Be presentable. How you present your whole self shows the buyer your respect for yourself and for him.
- Being late. Don’t be late…ever. Traffic isn’t an excuse. Sure there’s a late plane, train, or bus. The unexpected accident you get caught up in. But normal traffic is not a reason to be late. Plan accordingly. If you’re on time, you’re late.
- Being uninformed. Shallow? Ugh. People don’t want to interact with a sales person who brings nothing else to the table other than the product they’re selling. Take the time to be aware of your surroundings and world happenings.
- Relying too heavily on your company’s brand. Don’t assume because you’re the biggest you’ll get the business. No doubt some companies spend huge resources on building their brand. You can either leverage it and get the sale, or assume it, appear arrogant, and lose the sale. Earn the buyers trust…you + your brand.
- Not identifying all the contributors to a buying decision. Your contact may not have all the power. Too often I have seen mountains of effort placed in developing one relationship only to find there were others providing input to the buying decision I had not met, or invested in. Know those who will be a part of the buying decision.
- Unadaptable, inflexible. Don’t let your presentation, or agenda, become an anchor. Years ago my boss and I traveled together to do a presentation to a big prospective partner. Within the first 5 minutes the buyer changed directions. Much to my boss’s surprise I ditched the presentation, adapted, and won the business due to my ability to flex with my buyer’s changing needs. Have one, but don’t become married to your agenda.
- Stretching the truth. Just don’t do it. Don’t lie, embellish, exaggerate. Making promises you, your company, or your product can’t keep is a sure way to kill both your personal brand and your company’s.
- Competition bashing. Never badmouth your competition…even if the buyer tells you they said something bad about you. Defend it but end it. When working for Paychex, the founder, Tom Golisano, provided a stern warning for any sales person caught badmouthing its competition. He believed if someone had to sink to that level to win the business the company probably didn’t deserve to win it in the first place. Take the high road…always, win with respect.
- Knowing it all. Don’t be a know-it-all. Buyers don’t expect you to be omniscient. A little humility goes a long way in earning trust and respect.
- Knowing little or nothing. Invest your time to learn what it is you need to know about your company, product, and industry. Your company can’t, nor should, do it all. You’re responsible for your knowledge, and accountable for your results.
- Talking too much. You can learn a lot more about your buyer by asking great questions and sitting back and listening to them answer. We demonstrate respect, caring, and professionalism by listening. Remember, two ears and one mouth for a reason.
Let me know if you have a deadly sin to add to the list.
Sales training is one of the most important resources you can provide your team. With companies spending an average of $1,500 dollars per person each year on sales training, it’s no wonder sales managers continue to look for ways to justify the spend. Even more challenging, how do you measure the effectiveness of the training itself? How can you prove what, if any, lift was created by this training.
It is reported that less than 30% of the training sales people receive, is incorporated into their selling efforts. While sales leaders look for candidates who possess the ability to adapt and flex with changing circumstances, when it comes to how they sell, sales people tend to be quite resistant to change. Many believe, and operate, with the “what got me here…” mentality. If you’re the Sales leader, how do you decide what content you want your team to learn? What’s the best approach that aligns with your buyer’s journey? How will you distribute the training content? Online, classroom, a combination of both? Who will produce and deliver the sales training content to your team? These are just a few of the questions you’ll need to ask as you evaluate your options. Here are 4 tips to consider before selecting your training program:
- Your personal selling philosophy? What’s your background? How do you approach a sale? Are you a relationship builder? A challenger? Are you a scrappy, street brawler? Your own philosophy on selling, mixed with your ability to evolve and change, should be considerations as you select training for your team. After all, you’ll be accountable for your team’s results which will produce the ROI results you’ll be sharing with your CEO. A note of caution: it’s both challenging and frustrating to deploy a sales methodology that is in direct conflict with your abilities to teach it and support it. This misalignment will create frustration for your team and for you. Take the time to do some deep thinking relative your personal selling beliefs.
- Sales CRM. Are there tools and a process in place to reinforce the sales methodology you plan to deploy? Do you have a sales CRM? If so, is it capable of being customized enough to track and report on the key metrics required to execute your selected sales approach? What templates or frameworks have been created for your sales manager’s to assist them in reinforcing this training? Training can only be effective if it’s able to be reinforced, and results measured.
- Buyer’s Journey. Have you mapped out your buyer’s journey? Do you know the steps your buyer goes through on their purchasing journey? How do they educate themselves? Where do they do their research? Who are their trusted advisors? Is the sales training you’re considering aligned to this journey? I have been exposed to dozens of different sales training philosophies throughout my career. Some I have liked, others not so much. As I’ve grown and evolved as a sales leader I have learned how to customize sales training, taking some aspects of one method, and blending it with others in order to arrive at a solution that will work with my specific buyer. Note of caution: I do not believe there is a silver bullet for sales training. One method may work with a specific buying journey while others will not. I realize this statement may create some controversy but none the less I have found this to be true throughout my career. Whatever sales methodology you decide upon as the Sales leader be sure to consider your buyer FIRST and then your team’s capabilities second.
- Current Sales team composition. Are you building a sales team from the ground up? Are you focused on improving the production results of an existing team? Do your sales people sell face-to-face or via an Inside model? Are you in the B2B space? B2C? B2B2C space? Is your solution sold directly to the end user or is it through a channel, an influencer, or trusted advisor? Are your existed sales people and managers continuous learners? Are they consistently reading, sharing new ideas with the team? What traits do they possess that suggest they can absorb, assimilate and practice new ideas? Do you have access to profile tools and assessments like the Caliper, DiSC, Forte, Kolbe, or Myers Briggs? Once you understand how your buyer buys, understanding your team’s abilities to execute on a specific sales methodology is critical.
One last consideration, that I’ll explore in a future blog post surrounds Sales Enablement. Your sales enablement capabilities, or lack there of, should also play into your selection process. There’s a lot to think about and consider. With both time, and money at stake, sale training is one of the most important decisions a Sales leader will make for the company.
For many companies January represents the start of a new year. A new beginning when all numbers are at zero and the uphill climb to reach the new year’s sales quota gets under way. And whether your company sells cars, computers, insurance, or consumer staples it’s likely its increased its goals in 2015 from the prior year, and to you that means a bigger sales quota.
How do you reach that new number when last year’s number seemed big enough? Where will you find the time to sell more and still have a chance to see your family, hit the gym, travel a bit, or simply sleep a little? The fact is, making more calls isn’t the answer. The more calls you make, prospects you talk to, emails you send, or LinkedIn invites you issue won’t be enough to hit a higher quota. You’ve got to operate differently. You’ve got to change your approach. The most effective way to increasing your sales results is by asking better questions…the right questions. Start with these 3 questions below when meeting with a prospect for the first time.
- In looking back on your results last year did you accomplish what you hoped? Asking this question provides insight into the prospects priorities and values. It also offers you a glimpse into how likely they are to provide you with the critical information you’ll need to construct a proposal or recommendation that adds tangible value to their business.
- What are your top goals or priorities for this year? If you don’t understand your prospect’s business you have little chance of doing business with them. Likewise, how much time, effort, and energy is wise to spend on a prospect who doesn’t know where he or she is headed? With limited hours in the day, and that big goal in front of you, your best chance of success lies in working with people who all have clear goals…grow revenue, reduce expenses, improve turnover, etc.
- How do you currently determine if you’ll buy again from one of your providers? It’s important to know up front if the prospect makes their decisions based solely on price, service, future product improvements, or ease of use. Whatever their criteria is in sending you more business, be sure to take note and not only build it into your proposal but more importantly deliver on that expectation. If innovation is important to the prospect don’t promise product changes if your product hasn’t changed in years or has no planned changes on the horizon. Once you lose trust and credibility your reputation becomes worthless.
If you’re not comfortable asking these questions there’s likely a good reason which most of the time will be due to the lack of rapport built immediately on the front end of your interaction with the prospect. Remember, if you approach a prospect like a typical sales person their natural defenses will be up, but if you approach them as a business person who has passion around your product and deep-rooted beliefs and experiences that showcase the value of that product you’ll find your prospect will be more open, more engaging, and inclined to forge a relationship with you. Authenticity is your key to success and its something that has to be real and heartfelt, it can’t be pretend.
Successful outcomes are the result of many different elements including preparation, practice, and skill. With every action comes a reaction and the intensity of that reaction can be linked to the effectiveness of the originating action. If you walk at a slow pace for exercise it will take longer to work up a sweat as opposed to a brisk walk or even a jog where you will sweat much quicker. Action versus reaction.
How often have you left a sales call wondering where things went wrong? You didn’t get the business. The prospect seemed on board but decided to go in a different direction. That reaction, whether we’d like to admit it or not is the direct result of an action we took at some point during the sales process. In fact, the primary action that results in lost sales is communication. Clarity of communication, followed by the ability to process that communication, is where many sales people fall flat.
In his book Exceptional Selling, Jeff Thull talks about “the last three feet” as being the distance that separates a prospect from a sales person sitting across a table from one another. How often have you felt you’ve done everything right and in your final meeting – in that last three feet – with the prospect, you learn they decided against doing business with you? It’s happened to us all at least once. If you have been selling for years it’s most likely happened hundreds of times. But why?
The main reason for this disconnect centers around a miss fire in communication. You either said something to the prospect that turned them off, or you said the right thing that disqualified them as a prospect but you were too stubborn to see it. We’ve all been taught to never walk away from a sales opportunity. Further we have been told for years that everyone is a prospect. These ideas are just flat-out false. Not everyone is a prospect and the quicker you find out who presents a real opportunity the better you’ll become at selling. Remember your time, money, and energy are only of value to you so protect them. The faster you can sort the real opportunities from the imaginary the better.
Watch for my next blog when I’ll present a sales strategy I have used with great success that eliminates the risk of the last three feet.