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Stuck in the Gap? Lead Your Sales Team to Greatness!

Posted by on April 11, 2012

Sales TeamAre you stuck in the gap between truly great sales and the reality that your sales and leadership team is struggling?

Most of the data on sales success and sales best practices in the field inevitably leads to the conclusion that your sales force is only as strong as the sales leadership they get. Any lasting change has to start with the Vice President and roll like a wave all the way through the often-overlooked Regional/District Managers.

Not sure your team needs outside help? Some indicators that your sales leadership may need some intensive work on alignment and performance enhancement are:

  1. You have a high number of Region Managers that are recent field promotions, i.e. very successful sales reps that you have promoted to Region Manager positions.
  2. You have a high level of turnover at the Region/District Manager level.
  3. You get very good results on a certain set of products from one region and completely different results from another region (inconsistent execution on your product portfolio).
  4. You have too many Territory Managers/Sales Reps that underperform to their sales plan and are not engaged in an aggressive developmental plan to correct the issue.

You need a proven process for sales leadership development that will help your organization achieve better numbers on the following metrics:

  1. Percent achievement of sales plan
  2. Full product portfolio sales execution
  3. Number of conversions during product launches
  4. Reduced undesired sales rep turnover

At CGWA, the journey from mediocre to great looks something like this:

  • We do a very careful analysis of the current state of your sales leadership performance
  • We ask you to define your vision for what great would look like for your business
  • We customize a solution and get it to the sales leadership team as quickly as possible, up to the standard of performance and execution that you would like to see

Our research indicates that a lot of our potential clients are spending literally hundreds of thousands of dollars training their sales force as a whole, but spending very little to train their Region Managers, which is a sadly misdirected allocation of funds. Repeated studies into how organizations invest in sales execution lead us to this conclusion: The most important investment you can make is to ensure that your sales leadership is aligned, motivated, and focused on the right best practices and disciplines to drive successful sales to your business.

Greg Wright founded CGWA in 1977 on the principle that customized, skill-based training provides the best learning experience for employees, as it incorporates a company’s culture, business trends, and “real life” situations into the structure of the training.


Great Territory Planning: Right on Target! [Week 6 of 6]

Posted by on February 15, 2012

Great Territory PlanningLast week, we discussed how sales reps can harness the power of Consultative Selling to make their client feel comfortable, earn their trust, and create a solid sales foundation. But what about the bigger picture? As a territory/region manager (TM), you are responsible for multiple sales reps and clients in your geographical area. How can you best manage your territory for maximum sales and long-term consultative relationships?

Well, first things first. The development of a sales territory may seem a daunting task. However, with a carefully researched plan and some tenacious implementation, great territory planning will help you meet—and exceed—your sales goals. What is great territory planning? There are four key areas where you as a TM should focus your attention to maximize your time and resources.

Detailed Preparation

Preparation involves knowledge. First, every sales rep in your territory should be totally knowledgeable about every item and service in their product line and intimately familiar with their strengths and weaknesses.

Similarly, they should also understand the advantages and disadvantages of the products offered by the competition. Most importantly, the expert sales rep will have a keen understanding of their clients’ needs. The TM and sales team should identify the top 5-10 clients for each sales rep and make sure reps fully understand each of their clients and the surrounding competitive environment. A competent sales dialogue gives clients full confidence in your sales rep and your company as a whole.

Focused Targeting

Effective selling is not accomplished through a “shotgun” approach, i.e. selling on a per-item, per-service basis as needs pop up. The sales team must concentrate on the most lucrative and easiest sales targets, creating a comprehensive sales plan and nurturing the relationship with each client. Expanding this method throughout your sales territory consistently yields the fastest and most rewarding business deals.

Consultative Selling

As we discussed in Consultative Selling, the expert sales rep must develop a trust-based relationship with their client. This trust is not developed in a single meeting. You must do more than just sell a product or service to develop trust, requiring multiple, meaningful encounters. Perfunctory, once-a-quarter visits simply don’t cut it. Planning, positioning, and closing are essential. Anticipating and offering proactive solutions to the customer is the fastest way to build a trust-based client relationship.

Win-Win Closing

A broad-based selling effort that doesn’t revolve around a single item or service is the only way for both buyer and seller to win. A single-issue deal may result in a sale but it does not push the rep further up the “relationship ladder.” The rep must always be thinking about what else they can offer the client, beyond price. When concessions are required in the course of the sale, the sales rep can agree and then counter with different products, services, or other added value unique to your company. Over time, if the sales team plans well, the client will benefit from the right mix of products and services, coming to view their sales rep as a trusted advisor.

Territory Planning

In short, great territory planning incorporates every other aspect of sales. It requires diligent preparation on the part of the TM, sales team, and individual reps to gain thorough understanding of the clients’ needs and the competitive atmosphere.

At CGWA, our 5 targeted Sales Execution Workshops are each developed, tested, and refined in the field—in response to real sales execution issues faced by very successful commercial teams. We hope you’ve enjoyed and found value in our 6-part Sales Execution series!

Join us next week as we launch a new web page. What is it? You’ll be the first to know, so just wait and see!


Consultative Selling Skills: Be Indispensable! [Week 5 of 6]

Posted by on February 8, 2012

Selling SkillsLast week, we talked about how Sales Negotiation Skills really can create a win-win for both you and your client. Now that you have the beginning of that 4-stage Roadmap to sales success, it’s time to talk about the essentials of Consultative Selling Skills.

Consultative selling is more an art than a science. It requires you as a salesperson to make your client feel comfortable, and to earn their trust so your interactions can take place on a solid foundation. This process is arduous and time consumingand almost never yields immediate results. But your investment will be well worth it! Once a bond is established, consultative selling offers rare opportunities that are simply unattainable for salespeople who sell their products or piecemeal. 

There are two categories of consultative selling skills, each holding appeal for two distinctly different types of clients.

Benefits Selling

Benefits selling is the art of driving sales through the introduction and explanation of features and benefits. This technique is particularly well-suited to finessing those buyers who consider themselves experts. As such, this selling technique requires an absolute adherence to the concept that the customer is always right.” Be careful not to oversell, but do listen attentively—the buyer is usually intent on sharing their knowledge with you.

This type of buyer is strongly influenced by technical details and by on- or off-site demos. It is imperative that the salesperson understand every facet of the product. Be forewarned: This type of client will probe with questions and will attempt to demonstrate a superior grasp of the details of your product. Your selling skills and patience will be tested as you try to educate your client without appearing to patronize them.

Relationship Selling

In relationship selling, the client is far less aggressive but no less demanding. Instead of technical details, the client wants to fully trust you as their salesperson and completely depend on your expertise. Develop this type of bond through dedicated service, careful attention, and entertainment. Become their favorite sales rep!

It can be easy to establish this relationship and even to get a few small sales, but it is notoriously difficult to move up the relationship ladder from mere vendor to strategic partner. Many salespeople shrink from discussing long-term commitments or complex business issues for fear that they will damage the relationship. This is a huge mistake! Ignoring these important topics will ultimately damage your selling ability. Fortunately, once a strong relationship-based connection is established, your competition will face an uphill battle trying to dislodge your company as the vendor of choice.

Selling Skills

The selling skills necessary to succeed in a consultative vendor-client relationship may seem daunting, but they are the same skills required in any business setting. As always, your willingness to listen, understand the needs of the client, and then offer innovative, customized solutions will prove vital to your efforts.

Why CGWA?

We enlist yor own regional sales managers whom we have previously trained in Consultative Selling Skills and Coaching to help us drive results. Because of this, sales reps, region managers, and area sales directors consistently rate this workshop over 90% in the areas of applicability, relevance, and helping drive business in their territories better than ever.At CGWA, our 5 targeted Sales Execution Workshops are each developed, tested, and refined in the field—in response to real sales execution issues faced by very successful commercial teams. Next week, we’ll talk about the fifth and last in this suite of workshops: Great Territory Planning. Be sure to check it out!


Sales Negotiation: A Win-Win for Everyone! [Week 4 of 6]

Posted by on February 1, 2012

Sales Negotiation

Last week, we talked about Competitive Selling and its three distinct processes: Profiling, Converting, and Evaluating. So now you have an idea of the many layers that make up successful sales execution, which must be applied as a whole. Now it’s time to talk about what “win-win” sales negotiation looks like.

It may seem obvious, but the first step in the win-win sales negotiation process is simply believing in the process, not seeing it as some type of marketing technique. The goal is not to make a single sale but to institute and then maintain a progressively better and more mutually beneficial relationship with your clients.

You should not be simply selling a product. Instead you and your company should be selling innovative and creative problem solving abilities that will create value for your customer, well above and beyond the capabilities of the product or service you’re selling today.

It also important to remember that the goals of your company and of your client, while somewhat aligned, are not identical. This means that, to be effective, your sales negotiation must address several issues at once. This allows room to compromise on some issues while holding fast on others. Quite simply, a one-issue sales negotiation can only result in a no-sale or a poor deal for your company.

The Roadmap

The next step is understanding and controlling the “roadmap” to a successful sales negotiation. There are four identifiable stages:

Framing:The framing stage is extremely important as it shows that you understand your client and their business. You must assess your client’s needs and offer them real solutions.

Positioning: In this stage, you lay out your initial offer and listen to your clients best-case scenario. It’s important to determine which items are changeable and which are not—which leads us to the next segment.

Discovering:Now you have to really listen to discover the key needs and financial drivers of this negotiation. Anything that can be added or subtracted can be used to seal the deal.

Agreeing: With a solid framework, the details can be worked out. This is an excellent opportunity to uncover further needs that can be addressed in a future sales negotiation.

Sales Techniques

Business is not a game, but companies are out to win. To this end, they employ various techniques in order to secure the best possible deal. Being aware of these techniques is the first step to becoming “tactically bulletproof” to them. In order to establish a power base, veteran negotiators may use tactics like “good guy/bad guy,” or even make you wait for an hour to see them. But if you concentrate on the process to provide value for the clientand your deals with that client—these negotiations will get progressively easier to wrap up.

This is just the tip of the icebeg when it comes to Sales Negotiation Skills. Truly absorbing these concepts requires in-class coaching, practice, and finally real-world application. At CGWA, our 5 targeted Sales Execution Workshops are each developed, tested, and refined in the field—in response to real sales execution issues faced by very successful commercial teams. Next week, we’ll talk about the fourth of these workshops: Consultative Selling Skills. See you then!


Competitive Selling: Get a Leg Up! [Week 3 of 6]

Posted by on January 25, 2012


Competitive SellingLast week
, we talked about the important place Strategic Account Development holds in the world of sales execution. But once you’ve got your sales strategies in place and things are flowing smoothly, you may find yourself faced with a further challenge: convincing prospective clients to purchase from you instead of your competitor. Will you be able to prove that your product or service is superior? Is price the most important factor? Or is there something else you should be focusing on?

Selling is often described as a numbers game. Approach the right number of prospects and you will convert a certain proportion to clients and you will meet your sales goals. This is true to a certain extent, but what you really need is are skills and tools that will help you identify the best customers, convert them, and protect them against your competitors’ sales efforts.

Competitive targeting and selling is composed of three distinct processes:

  1. Profiling prospects
  2. Converting prospects to clients
  3. Evaluating your sales methodology

Profile Prospective Clients

In this stage of the process, you must examine business trends in your industry, identify potential clients, and determine their needs. Some of this profiling is done in the office but much of it is performed during the actual meeting with your prospective client.

When applied to the sales environment, the “Iceberg Theory” tells us that clients and prospects aren’t always 100% truthfulor may inadvertently leave out vital information that could significantly affect the decision-making process. To avoid this pitfall, you must ask probing questions to uncover their true needs. Although your prospect may seem to know exactly what those needs are, asking targeted questions can reveal a much clearer picture. We advocate pre-call planning: creating a customized list of questions for each prospect and client and having them on hand for every sales call.

In the end, you must understand your client’s business so that on subsequent sales calls, you can proceed immediately to the second stage of competitive selling.

Prospect Conversion Process

There are two important factors that influence a decision to choose one vendor over another. The first is perceived value. Selling value rather than just products and features differentiates you from your competition. Your client doesn’t just need a supplier of products or services. They need a real partner who can supply greater value by anticipating needs and supplying innovative solutions to meet those needs. Doing this will set your company apart from the competition.Secondly, as you scale the “strategic relationship ladder” with your client, you become an ever-more-valuable resource and are much harder for the competition to unseat. When you reach this stage, you are in the enviable position of not having to re-sell the product or service every single time. Instead, you are a trusted consultant who can “advance the sale” by offering better solutions to fit your client’s needs.

Evaluate

The final step is to use the “SMART” system we mentioned last week to evaluate and critique not only your selling skills, but also how effectively you have met your clients’ needs. Remember: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound goals are a must for everyone on the sales team. From this deeper level of understanding, you’ll watch your sales grow beyond anything you’ve achieved before.

In our customized Competitive Targeting and Selling workshop, we thoroughly explore these concepts, practice the skills until they are second nature, and send participants away with the tools to meet and exceed all their sales goals. At CGWA, our 5 targeted Sales Execution Workshops have each been developed, tested, and refined in the field—in response to real issues faced by even the most outstanding sales teams. Next week, we’ll talk about the third of these workshops: Sales Negotiation Skills. Be sure to come back then!


Account Development: Strategy you can’t live without [Week 2 of 6]

Posted by on January 18, 2012

Account Development

Last week, we talked about the world of sales execution. A focused, seasoned sales force can succeed on its own merits through sheer force of will. But that uphill push, with all the accompanying stress, too often leads to resignations, terminations and even total failure.

Truly strategic account development, on the other hand, will allow your team to constructively engage their clients, support each other’s efforts and—most importantly—achieve their sales goals.

So why is creating a sales strategy such a daunting task? The truth is, it doesnt need to be difficult or complicated, either in its creation or implementation. What it does require is thoughtfulness from all levels of the sales team. Strategic account development can be divided into four distinct stages:

1. Market Analysis

As in any undertaking of this sort, the process begins with data collection. Pertinent business trends, key accounts and their decision makers, plus company goals (yours and your clients’) must be identified and prioritized. Adequate time and effort must be given to this process of “account targeting” and must involve all levels of the sales team. It is the basis for everything to come.

2. Strategy Development

The development of the strategic plan requires some serious critical thinking. At the very least, it must incorporate company objectives, the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, and provide customer-centric solutions that will drive sales growth. In addition, as a sub-strategy, an account profile should be completed for every client. This profile details the tactics used and steps followed to retain and grow this specific client.

3. Solutions Presentation

Engagement is the key to success in account development. If you can prove that you understand the needs of the client, then you will inevitably move up the “strategic relationship ladder. As you do, your relationship with the client will advance from mere tolerance of your role as a salesperson to an intimate dependence on you as a solutions provider. This concept is fundamental to building and maintaining long term, lucrative clients. In addition, it’s imperative at this stage to gather further information to fine-tune solutions for your client.

4. Ongoing Evaluation

It can’t be said enough: Monthly and quarterly, critically-driven business reviews must be conducted and must include the entire sales team. Each member of the sales team has a unique perspective that bears on the whole. We apply the proven SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound) system to integrate new ideas, substrategies and goals.

All this is just a very small taste of what happens in the classroom and in the field during our Strategic Account Development workshop. At CGWA, our 5 targeted Sales Execution Workshops are each developed, tested, and refined in the field—in response to real sales execution issues faced by super-successful commercial teams. Next week, we’ll talk about the second of these workshops: Competitive Targeting and Selling. Meet me there!


Sales Execution: A World of Opportunity [Week 1 of 6]

Posted by on January 11, 2012

Sales Execution

At the risk of twisting a famous cliche, one could say that sales “make the business world go ’round.” The successful completion of business deals, also known as sales execution, is fundamental to the future of every business.

In a successful sales environment, titles are unimportant. Whether you are a freshly minted sales associate, the Senior V.P. of Sales, or anything in between, only results define success or failure.

At the lowest levels, sales is just selling, but as one progresses up the corporate ladder, sales strategy and employee development become the key priorities. The successful sales director focuses his attention on three distinct areas and on the key personnel who will implement his plans in those areas.

Business and Market Development

The first goal is to accurately identify trends, goals and sales opportunities in the sales market. With this information, a sales manager can align their area’s goals with the company’s national strategy. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel. Instead, a prudent sales manager uses the tools provided by corporate to detail the correct product and account mix to their team. This ensures optimal coverage of the area and the most efficient exploitation of its potential. Proper business planning and market development will always produce the best sales strategies.

Ensuring Sales Execution

The proper execution of the established sales strategies will always yield superior results. The sales manager’s focus should be on using proactive rather than reactive sales tools. Examining total salesafter the factyields information but allows for little further action. Instead, tracking such activities as cold calls, customer contacts and physical meetings allows a sales manager to ensure excellent sales execution while there is still time to correct any deficiencies.

Recruiting and Developing Talent

Attracting and hiring the best talent, and then implementing coaching, mentoring, and maintaining active day-to-day involvement also play a critical role in ensuring superior sales execution. As always, leading by example rather than just telling ingrains those best sales practices into the sales team. And don’t forget that consistent interaction with the sales force: It allows the sales manager to assess, coach and develop the future leaders of their team. Using this same method, the successful sales manager can identify and remove any weak links in the system.

It seems obvious that sales execution requires proper planning, active participation, and the superior talent to succeed. These three requirements should be at the forefront of the sales manager’s mind and create the foundation for all his other activities.

At CGWA, our 5 targeted Sales Execution Workshops are each developed, tested, and refined in the field—in response to real sales execution issues faced by very successful commercial teams. Next week, we’ll talk about the first of these workshops: Strategic Account Development. See you then!