Co-Written with Rachel Epstein
Salespeople often don't enjoy following imposed rules around selling. And we get it - it can seem more like a burden than a benefit. But companies without a formalized and documented sales process are more likely to have underperforming reps who generate less revenue.
We’ve had a lot of turbulence in the last three years. The pandemic, the Great Resignation, and most recently the war in Ukraine which has pushed the price of oil and gas to an all-time high. All this turmoil has increased prices of just about every consumer good and I’m now seeing an impact on business spending because of talk about a looming recession. The result for your sales team and the reps you manage is that companies are or will be delaying purchases or reducing spending in general until they better understand the economic impact of all these events on the next few months or years. This will make it harder to hit quota and get to OTE (on target earnings). So, the time to act is NOW.
We need to be preparing our reps for the next 7 month and make sure they can control what they can control…..the pipeline. Even though there’s inflation happening globally, a full-blown recession isn’t here yet. It is going to be easier for your sales team, that made ambitious 2022 sales goals in Q4, to achieve if not all, then decent percentage of those goals this year by overfilling the pipeline now.
For most of the startups I worked with, this is the first economic challenge they've faced so I’m helping them understand that when a recession starts, like in so many before, a lot of projects will be paused, and it will be much more difficult to put warm leads into your pipeline. So, let’s talk about actions you and your team can take now to try and mitigate any loss of revenue by filling the funnel.
Ever since the pandemic, we’ve seen increases in prices when it comes to the food and housing market. Combine that with the highest ever rate of resignations and career switching ever in the history of US (In November 2021, 4,510,000 people quit compared to 3,084,200 in November 2019) and you get a huge surge in salary increases and the hottest job market in decades. Great situation for employees, since everyone will get a raise by switching jobs, and horrible for companies, especially startups.
The last two years have been a challenging time for sales leaders as we’ve tried to navigate remote leadership, the Great Resignation, and a global pandemic. So, I hazard to guess that you might not have had professional development at the top of your radar. It’s your responsibility to ensure that you’re a better and more effective sales leader each year.
WARNING - If you found my last sports-related blog post 2 weeks ago boring and something you couldn’t relate to, I’m sorry, but I’m back with more leadership lessons from Big 12 Football.
Yesterday, Lincoln Riley, Head Football Coach at SEC-bound (not bitter) Oklahoma Sooners, announced that he was leaving OU for USC with NO warning, NO discussion, and NO explanation.
“We made the decision early. If we scored, we were going for two — going for the win.” - Coach Leipold
Something amazing and very unexpected happen last week. The Kansas Jayhawks beat The Texas Longhorns at DKR Texas Memorial Stadium. That’s right, we’re not talking about the top-ranked KU Men’s basketball team. No sir, y’all, we’re talking about the 1-8 Kansas Football team! The 31-point underdogs beat the SEC-bound (not bitter) Longhorns, in overtime, on their home turf.
I’ve written a series of blog posts to help you attract, screen, interview, and hire the best sales rep you can find on the market. I’m going to share successful strategies I’ve learned, developed, and implemented, in several companies over the past 20 years. Hiring the wrong sales representative is costly. I want to help ensure that you have the tools needed to make sure you’re placing the right bet on the right rep.
The Sales Acceleration Group blog was recently recognized among the 2021 Top Sales & Marketing Blogs featured on Top Sales World! Congratulations to my fellow contributors in the "Top 50". I invite you to review all of my blog posts.
4 million workers quit their jobs in April, according to the Labor Department, and only 740,000 of them worked in the leisure and hospitality industry. The Great Resignation is real, and startups should be jumping for joy!
The Pandemic has changed the way employees think about how, when, and where they want to work; along with what type of company they want to work for. Pre-Pandemic, they never questioned the 50–60-hour work week with an additional 45-minute commute one-way each day. Now, they understand there is a different way to live and that might also mean a different job and company to work for.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel to Bucharest, Romania to visit a client I’ve been working with for 6 months. I didn’t have expectations beyond strengthening the relationship with my client, by spending time together, and wanting to better understand the country and culture. Since I set the bar fairly low the trip far exceeded my expectations.
It has been over 30 years since I’d been to Europe, so some memories came flooding back to me, so many people are still smoking and there were things that weren’t in place when I had visited last, such as the Euro being the universal currency of Europe (Romania uses the Leu and not the Euro). I wanted to share with you some observations and feelings I had during my trip and after I returned.
I started using #ownyourownshit about 5 or 6 years ago when I was in an environment where there were a lot of excuses flying around. The reality was, those individuals, the ones with all the excuses, could have controlled a lot more than they were taking responsibility for.
The majority of complaints I hear from sales reps revolve around things that they can control and either choose not to, don't know they need to, or don’t know how. Not knowing what the right thing to do is doesn’t absolve you from owning your own shit. If you are unsure of what the right thing to do is… ask someone who does know. When you choose not to take control of the things you can control and then outcomes don’t happen the way you want…..well #ownyourownshit.
There are few things as frustrating to me then when I discover a new client, who’s hired me to come in figure out why they are missing their revenue targets, has mis-hired. This is because most of my clients are small privately-owned startups that have either taken VC money or are bootstrapping, and regardless of how they are financing their startup, they can’t afford to waste the limited financial resources they have.
Hiring the wrong sales rep is frustrating, expensive, and could lead to you missing your revenue target as the sales leader. Repeatedly mis-hiring can literally make or break a business in its few couple of years, so as the founder, owner, or sales leader you need to make sure that you’re getting what you want and are expecting out of a “sales rep.” Most of my clients are looking for hunters and not gatherers, so let break down the differences and how you can spot a gatherer posing as a hunter!
"My 2nd favorite word is No!" That's what my former employee James was famous for saying. It's great when your prospect does you the favor of saying no, but most times their actions and words will sound more like, maybe. That puts the pressure on you to decide when a maybe is really a no. The trick is to be confident about when to pull the plug on a prospect and move 'em out. If you're not making forward progress with each call, email, or meeting then you need to stop and ask yourself, what are the chances this will close? Your confidence might wain at any time during the sales cycle from a cold outreach conversation to after you've sent a contract with Ts and Cs. You need to be able to identify the red flags that might pop up along the way and then take appropriate action to get the deal back on track or decide it's time to move on.
Visualize a stack of 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper 4 inches tall. This is what I think of when I begin to reach out to a group of "suspects" to see if I can turn them into a prospect. My goal with this stack of suspects is to move them from the 4-inch suspect pile into 2 smaller piles - the yes pile or no prospect pile.
When you begin to outbound prospect, I say that everyone is a suspect and I refer to your prospecting list as the "maybe pile." Maybe they are a fit. Maybe they will be interested in what you sell. Maybe they will even buy. But at this point those are all unknowns, and they are just a suspect, not yet a prospect. It's your job to play amateur detective and uncover clues to help you determine if they are masquerading as a suspect but are really a prospect in disguise.
I am so excited to announce that I’m a contributor to this month’s edition of Top Sales Magazine!
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Sixteen years ago, I sat in my office, door closed, stomach in knots. It wasn't even 9:30 in the morning and I’d just fired my top three sales reps, one by one, as they came in for the day.
They were completely unprepared for what was about to happen, and I watched the fear and disbelief creep over each of their faces as I ushered them into the conference room and broke the news that this would be their last day with the company.
After it was done, I retreated to my office with one burning question, “How the hell did we get to this point?” How had we become hostages to three women and the revenue they produced? Over the years I’ve unpacked that question and have come to a deep understanding of the answer.
I had failed to create a culture of accountability.
After spending 13 years playing racquetball competitively, at the open level, I decided to pick up tennis. I've always excelled at eye-hand coordination sports; racquetball, softball, and volleyball, so tennis seemed like a good choice. I felt like it was as important to pick the right sport just as it's important for you to choose the right sales job.
After a few months of group lessons, focusing on the basics, I learned that I had an unexpected secret weapon - my slice forehand. Thanks to my years of playing racquetball I have a natural and wicked forehand slice. It became obvious early on that what came naturally to me was not only a struggle for others to learn, but as an opponent, they had no idea how to handle a sliced ball coming at them. My slice forehand is my tennis secret weapon.
What's your sales secret weapon? The one skill or trait you count on to win the deal and outperform your co-workers and competitors?
2 to 3 times a month someone I know will come to me and say, "Hey, I've got a friend looking to find a new sale job, would you mind talking to her to see if you can help."
To which I always answer, "Sure, I've got 30 minutes for everyone, what kind of sales job is she looking for?"
The confused look on their face tells me all I need to know. My friend thinks a sales job is a sales job. So, the education begins. Inside or outside, hunting for net new business or taking on a book of business and growing and retaining it, and finally do they want to keep what they catch or give the fish over to someone else to clean and fry?
I laugh as their eyes get big and they respond with, "Uh, I have no idea. Can you just give them a call?"
"I'd be happy to," I say.
2020 is almost behind us and I’m sure you’re just as relieved as I am! No matter how you are leaving 2020, 2021 in upon us and now’s the time to do some reflecting and decide how you can make 2021 a year your team consistently hits revenue targets, is more accountability, and grows professionally.
I’ve put together a check list of actions to take NOW to ensure you’re ready to hit the ground running in 2021.
If you're interested in leveling up your game in 2021, building accountability into your culture, and working with a group of smart and talented founders to help you solve your problems then you should really check out the 80/20 Mastermind Groups Gv Freeman is putting together.
2020 will not be soon forgotten and despite the challenges that presented themselves this year there were plenty of opportunities for growth and connection.
I attended this webinar in October on compensation plans. It was the best, most data-driven conversation I’ve heard. Here’s what you can expect to learn:
Even though the economic recovery may take longer than they initially expected, there are strategies that organizations can adopt to rebound and rebuild momentum in the year ahead.
“Do the right things and the right things will happen.”
- Kristie Jones
I share this with founders, sales leaders, and reps on a regular basis. I truly believe that if each and every person does what they know to be the right thing then the universe will conspire to make sure the right things will happen. Things like financial security, success, promotions, work/life balance, and much more.
What’s the catch, you ask? Doing the right thing requires #Discipline!
It appears that there were enough deals in the pipeline and yet here you are again, a few days left in the quarter and you’re only at 52% of your Q3 goal. The quarter started out as it usually does; a “full” pipeline, reps confident they will hit quota this month, and you reporting the good news to the board. But with only a few days left neither you nor your reps feel good about how the quarter will end.
No one likes a selfish person, but that’s how a lot of sellers come across.
I tell sales reps and sales leaders daily:
“It has to be all about them before it can be all about you before it can be all about us.”
So why am I still getting emails, LI messages, and phone calls from marketing departments and sales reps only talking about the features of their product or service and not about how their product/service would help me increase revenue, reduce costs, or just make my life easier?
Let’s talk about how we can let a prospect know that’s it’s all about them.
Objections are born out of fear. Fear the prospect will spend money on something they won’t use or get value from, fear that they will look bad if it doesn’t go well, fear that others in the company won’t be open to switching vendors or spending money on some new strategy or vendor.
The best way to deal with that fear is to better understand it and get to the root cause of that fear. So put your therapist hat on and let’s go to work.
I teach my clients that you handle objections by asking questions. I call this peeling back the onion. You need to get through all the layers to figure out what’s really at the core of the fear.
“Chose Discomfort Over Resentment”
- Brené Brown
These are awkward times. You and your sales reps are still working from home. You’re being asked to think about equality and how that might change your leadership style. You and your team are under a lot of pressure to hit the revised (or not) revenue targets you’ve been given. AND the end of the quarter is just days away.
Like every company out there, start-ups and privately-owned companies are worried about the impact of the current economic situation. The #1 priority is figuring out how to keep the business afloat with limited people and financial resources.
Most owners or founders have not ever led a sales team during a crisis – and are unsure how to lead, motivate, and drive the activities necessary to capture new revenue. What made your team successful during the past 3 years will not work in the current economic climate. Do you have experienced Sales Reps? Are you positioned with the right strategy and process to effectively sell in a crisis?
Cutting costs will not address the lack of revenue. To survive, you are going to have to sell your way out or risk going out of business.
You were happy with your sales team. Most of your reps were hitting at least 62% of quota. They loved working for you and the company. Who wouldn’t? Free lunch on Fridays, beer in the fridge, and you weren’t really holding them accountable to performance metrics. Life and the economy were good; until they weren’t.
As you are finding out, what worked then, won’t work now and this might include your sales reps. You need experienced hunters, with a track record of success, to help you sell your way out of this economic challenge. I know you’re not sure now is the time to bring on a new employee, but a sales rep that can bring in net new revenue during this time is an investment in your company’s future.