Month: November 2014

The Glory of Goals: Define Your Future – Short Term and Long Term

By Todd Natenberg, Author, “I just got a job in sales. Now what?” and President of TBN Sales Solutions

Success comes from purpose. Until you recognize what it is you want to accomplish, you will lack the motivation necessary to accomplish anything. Sales reps burn out easily because they repeatedly ask themselves, “What does it all mean? Why am I doing this?” They lack vision. They can’t visualize the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, because they don’t know what the pot of gold looks like.

If you can’t define “living” clearly, how do you know if you’re successful at it?

Here’s a strategy for setting goals:

1. Write goals down and post them.
2. Make goals measurable.
3. Set deadlines for goals.
4. Make personal and professional goals.
5. Celebrate goals upon accomplishment.

1. Write goals down and post them

Do you know why people love e-mail? They can see the words. When people see things, they become real. Until a visual picture is created, it’s an idea open to interpretation. With email, there is no room for confusion. People know what the message is, when it was sent, who received the message and who sent the message. Even for those of us with bad memories, the information can be re-read by accessing a computer.

Goals are the same. When goals are written down, they magically become real. They remind salespeople why they endure constant abuse from angry prospects, the pressures of obtaining a monthly quota and continual bantering from managers to close deals. Writing down goals lets you see the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow. In addition to writing your goals, post them where you will see them regularly – in your office, your home and somewhere visible in the car.

2. Make goals measurable

Selling 150% of quota, running 10 new sales appointments a week, buying a $65,000 Lexus and owning a $500,000 house with 5-bedrooms and a 3-car garage are all legitimate goals.

“Being happy” is not a goal. “Enjoying life” is not a goal. “Selling a lot” is not a goal. How will you know when you are happy? How will you know when you are enjoying life? What is “a lot?” Selling is based on numbers. Salespeople succeed when they sell. They fail when they don’t. Even more specifically, salespeople achieve a certain level of success or failure based on an exact number. Personal goals must be established the same way.

The more specific your goals, the more achievable they become.

3. Set deadlines for your goals

When are you the most productive? When do you get the most amount of work done in the least amount of time? Usually it’s the day before you leave for vacation! Why? You have no choice. You have no time to think. You just act. You have to focus, so nothing holds you back. You remove all obstacles because of the urgency. Why is the urgency so great? It’s because the consequences are so severe.

How productive would you be in your job – in your life- if you treated every day like you were leaving for vacation the next day?

4. Make personal and professional goals

Enjoying what you do is important. Enjoying what you do because it enables you lead the life you want is even more important. For instance, it will be much easier to make 100 cold calls if those 100 cold calls are necessary to achieve the income needed to achieve your goal – a Lexus. Or perhaps your goal is to stay physically fit. Staying fit will result in a greater alertness, less irritability and make you more productive in your job which will enable you to make those 100 cold calls to achieve that income to buy that Lexus. It’s a never-ending circle – in a good way.

If you asked former NBA star Michael Jordan at the height of his career if he enjoyed lifting weights, he might have had to think about it. But because improving his overall fitness enabled him to be the best of the best, rarely would he miss a workout.

5. Celebrate your goals upon accomplishment

Too often, people let life pass them by. They try hard to achieve something, but when they do, they ask, “Is this all there is?” That’s because they never take a moment to enjoy how monumental their achievements are.

When you accomplish what you set out to do, be proud. Celebrate your success. Remind yourself that you accomplished your goal. The blood, the sweat and the tears were worth it. If you won an award, post the plaque. If you received that $50,000 commission check, frame it. (Cash it first!) Narcissism is acceptable in celebrating success situations. Whoever gave you those prizes thought highly of you. Think highly of yourself.

Brag to yourself. Take your significant other out to dinner. Buy a nice gift. Spoil yourself. You earned it. When you enjoy success again, you will want to repeat the feeling. Make it memorable.


Take a sheet of paper and list your goals based on the criteria we just discussed. Do the following: Make two columns – Personal Goals and Professional Goals. List under each column a timeframe: 1 month, 6 months, 1 year and 5 years. Under each timeframe list the numbers 1-5. There will be 40 items total. Write down your goals.

You can’t get where you are going if you don’t know where you want to be. If you don’t know where you want to be, no roadmap will get you there.


Successfully Installing a Sales Process

By Julie Thomas, President and CEO, ValueVision Associates, LLC

The key point in this paper is that training theories and practices that are successfully leveraged in the classroom setting are also required in the field application phase of the training initiative. If they are not continued after the classroom experience, learning is likely to be heavily diluted, or lost completely.

Unfortunately, this subject presents a large complex problem set, while this white paper is designed for reading in less than 10 minutes. With that in mind, a simplification of the problem set will be presented. Readers who would like to understand more are urged to review commonly available resources on the subject of adult learning for more information.

Becoming successful at cold calling requires you to switch from the old ‘If I make enough calls, I’ll sell something’ to ‘If I speak with the person who has the authority and need to buy and if I have the right solution to fit their needs, then they will buy’ approach. This approach emphasizes finding the decision-maker(s), using exploratory questions and active listening to gather the information needed to understand who has the authority to buy, if there is a need to buy, and if so, what you should be presenting so the prospect will buy.

Why does Sales Training Go in One Ear and Out the Other?
There are two major contributors that answer the question: “Why does sales training go in one ear and out the other?”

ONE: Failure to leverage the learner’s long-term motivation to learn and apply something new.

TWO: Failure to supply the learner with a long-term growth and development environment in order to continually reinforce the original training experience.

Sales training initiatives fail because there is no plan to extend the classroom situation into the daily job for months or years, on all the subjects that are important to the initiative.

Adult Learning Behavior Theory
In order to illustrate this, we will visit the modern corporate training environment and explore why learning works in the classroom, but not in the field. The four traditionally accepted adult learning theories include behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, and social. Many modern training programs leverage all four learning theories to deliver high impact training. However, a problem manifests itself because the classroom experience is only one element of the training.

All the training theories and practices that are successfully leveraged in the classroom setting are also required in the field application phase of the training initiative.

The second element, the field application phase, is where the opportunity lies for ensuring that the training sticks and business impact is achieved. As you can anticipate, most training programs fail to design the field application phase with the four learning theories in mind.

In behaviorism, the learner is rewarded for changing his/her behavior, as in the case of Pavlov’s dog. The net result is a high likelihood that popular training programs reward positive learning behavior in the classroom setting. Unfortunately, if rewards are not extended to the job environment, learning achieved in the classroom can be short-lived, resulting in no long-term behavioral change.

In a cognitive setting, the environment, exercises, and other learning applications are designed to help the learner relate to the new information based on what they have already learned and experienced. In this case, as soon as the learner leaves the classroom, his/her previous environment will override the new learning experience. Once again, the field application phase is not leveraged as an extension of the classroom setting.

The humanistic learning environment depends on the learner’s desire for personal growth and development. Maslow’s classical hierarchy of needs is a significant foundation for humanistic learning. While the instructor may do a reasonable job of providing a curriculum that uncovers the learner’s personal motivation to learn, the field application phase can easily drop the focus, and the learner falls back to other more clearly present motivators, some of which can undermine the new behavior.

Consider the situation where a learner who comes out of the classroom is highly motivated to call at the executive level. This requires a significant investment in time and research, but the learner comes back to his/her job saddled with a tactical call activity report due the next day.

The requirement to perform many calls to meet a previous objective undermines the investment required to execute an executive call. In this common case, the field application phase of training failed to continue leveraging the learner’s motivation to learn and apply.

Finally, the social learning environment is highly dependent upon the instructor’s ability to model the learning and interaction between people in the business social context. You may look to role-plays, simulations and the trainer’s war stories as examples of social learning.

When the learner returns to his/her daily job, or field application phase of training, the classroom role model is gone, and the replacement role model, otherwise known as the sales manager, has not been required to pick up the responsibility.

To ensure that an investment in sales training does not fade away after a few short weeks and that it will yield business impact, you need to extend the four components of adult learning classroom success into the second phase of the training class – the field application phase of the training initiative. Anything short of integrating the four adult learning theories during the field application will result in a diluted internalization of the concepts delivered in the classroom.

Four Major Contributors to Success
In our studies of companies where sales process introductions have succeeded, we identified four common components. They are:

  • A clear connection to the business objective
  • A distinct initiative for applying the new behavior toward the business objective
  • Empowered sales management
  • Long-term curriculum reinforcement

As these components are examined, they do address the four adult learning environment requirements for success.

Clear Connection to the Business Objective

Successful sales training implementation programs provide the sales person with the connection between their training and the business objectives of the company. This needs to be communicated at the highest level.

The communication should originate from the office of the CEO or other high-level CXO and it needs to be reiterated by the key management ranks that connect the sales person with the CEO. In many cases the communication needs to describe the unresolved business challenges that were making revenue or profit growth difficult.

Additionally, the communication should describe the sales person’s role in overcoming the challenge and how the training would invest and build new skills to facilitate the business results. The communication can also describe how the learner’s contribution would be rewarded.

This clear communication and linkage to the business objective sets the foundation for the humanistic component because the contributors can understand their role and contribution to a critical cause. Without this communication, it is left up to the individual to make the connection himself/herself, most likely overlooking a chance to motivate his/her own self with a contribution to the overall organization. This connection will rarely be made by sales people on their own.

Distinct Initiative
In contrast to the successes, the case studies that failed revealed a critical missing piece – a simply defined initiative targeted at impacting the business objective through the application of the new learning.

The concept is to bite off a subset of the new learning with a defined initiative that has a direct link to the business objective. For example, one of our customers ended the initial training session with a simple but effective initiative. They chartered every sales person with calling on three executives in their customer base they had never met before. For the meeting, they were asked to simply communicate about their new service offerings and describe how they were intended to help that executive with his or her key objectives.

The results were phenomenal. On average, only one of three targeted executive meetings developed any follow-on activity. Of those, the sales team identified and closed almost $100 million in new opportunities. The by-product was a sales team that now had a great deal more confidence in calling high, and found success in the new behavior requests.

This same company went on to identify several new initiatives using additional incremental behavior change requests. They rolled them out one by one, careful not to overload the sales organization with activity, but conscious of finding a measurable return.

You might think of this in terms of physically developing the human body. A sales organization is like the human body; many of its muscles are well developed for the job, while some have atrophied or have never been developed. The application of the new behaviors is akin to isolating one muscle group and implementing an exercise regimen to develop only that muscle group. This focus develops the atrophied muscle faster with noticeable results.

The learning theory contribution identified is a cognitive basis for adding to what was already in practice rather than having to rewrite the entire customer engagement process. This provides a foundation of continued comfort while minimizing the discomfort on the subset of changes.

Empowered Sales Management
Successful implementations have also demonstrated a condition of empowered sales management. This means that a sales management team that is chartered with transforming the sales organization based on the business objective and the associated training, is measured on it, as well as rewarded or disciplined for the results.

Within this subject, we observed several management practices that facilitated the transition of the organization:

Lead by Example:
The best transitions occurred in teams where the first- and second-level sales managers were able to lead by example on a consistent and long-term basis. This means that the sales managers would personally apply the learning in selling situations to model the expected behavior for the sales people.

Inspect What You Expect:
They also applied this age-old management technique to speed up the transition. In most cases the sales manager would inspect a representative example of each sales person’s pipeline, confirmation letters and evaluation criteria for examples of the learning (or absence thereof). Positive examples were rewarded and lack of evidence generated appropriate feedback.

This behavior is best described as developing people by asking them good questions that uncover the risks to a sale, not by advising. The questions are aimed at reinforcing the learned material, and are open-ended in nature.
Here’s a coaching example:

  • Start with: “What is the value to the customer?”
  • Follow by: “What’s the impact to your opportunity if the customer does not recognize the value?”
  • And then followed with: “So what are you planning to do about it?”

This is in sharp contrast to the traditional advisor role of the sales manager that says: “Here’s what you should do next…” This robs the learner of the opportunity to develop the connection of the training to their challenges in everyday activities.

Measurable Initiatives:
Objectively measuring and reporting on the progressive improvement of key measurements tied to the business objective as a result of the training initiative was also observed. These were typically subset metrics to the overall objective. For example, in the case of revenue improvement as a critical objective, subset measurements included metrics such as average deal size, average discount level, pipeline numbers and close ratio, among others.

Incentives and Consequences:
Typically, there were examples of incentives and consequences for exhibiting or not exhibiting the new behaviors. These ranged from acknowledgment at meetings, prizes, and increased compensation plans for preferred behavior, written notification; ‘up or out’ plans, and reduced compensation on the lack of new behavior.

Careful to Avoid Demanding Too Much:
It was also noted that some of the best implementations were very careful not to burden the sales people with undue reporting requirements. Even though the level of inspection was increased, the written reporting requirement was minimized. In several of the case study examples, the management team consciously decided to minimize paperwork to avoid having the new behavior come across as a penalty.

In summary, the management’s long-term contributions in modeling the correct behavior and dishing out rewards and consequences were critical to the social and behavioral learning requirements.

Long-term Curriculum Reinforcement
 All of the successful case studies engineered a long-term curriculum design so that the learner was continually exposed to the material in regular intervals. Training is not an event, rather a process to develop the behaviors and processes that the organization deemed critical to success. The long-term curriculum reinforcement was typically designed around bite-sized reviews of previously covered material, or new complementary skills with deeper application opportunities. This follow-on approach supports the humanistic learning theory when the learner attends voluntarily.

Can You Succeed with Just One of the Contributors?

As mentioned earlier, any reduction in the application of the four learning theories into the field application phase will result in a dilution of the classroom success. Keep in mind, though, that a dilution doesn’t mean failure. In fact, in most of the case studies, not all of the best practices field applications were present. In most cases, a subset was noted, but even the subset made a significant difference in the long-term return on investment for the training objective.

The successful roll out of a new sales process must be accompanied by a thoughtful, well-designed implementation plan that leverages the four adult learning theories. Since every organization has different strengths, weaknesses, resources, and operational expertise, each plan should be customized for that organization.

For the best chances of a measurable return, all four learning theories should be implemented; however, a subset can also lead to a positive return. For planning purposes, we advise our customers to set aside half of the cost of the initial training for designing and implementing a successful implementation plan and ongoing reinforcement.

The Best Kept Secret of the Selling World

By Jeff Thull, CEO and President, Prime Resource Group

Problems cost money! However, the only cost that customers and salespeople focus on is the cost of the proposed solution. The most critical cost, the cost of the problem, remains to be the best-kept secret in the selling world and certainly the most overlooked.

The cost of the problem is the financial impact this situation has on your customer’s business due to the absence of the value your solution could bring to them. It includes the cost of staying the same and the cost of the pain of changing. When customers do not have a clear picture of these two cost groups, the timing and quality of their decision will be relegated to guesswork.

Sales professionals frequently ask two questions: “How can I speed up the sales cycle?” and “How can I protect my pricing from last minute negotiating pressures?” It’s amazing to see what happens to timetables and priorities once the customer truly understands the cost of their problem.

Here’s How it Works…
One of our clients provides management software to hospitals. They proposed a $700,000 solution to a hospital in August. The hospital had placed it into next year’s first quarter’s budget. This was accomplished without determining the cost of the problem the hospital was experiencing that this software could resolve. The decision to purchase the system was driven by the desire for the latest technology. We soon learned the purchase was delayed to second quarter and then to the following year.

When the second delay was announced, our client requested a meeting with the hospital’s CFO. The purpose: to determine if the CFO knew the cost implications of delaying the system until the following year. (Our client had just begun to work with the cost-of-the-problem concept.) The question asked was: “We understand there are financial considerations that have led to a decision to delay the new software system into next year. We will be pleased to work with you when you decide the timing is right. We are wondering if you are comfortable with the financial impact the delay will have on your reimbursement revenues?”

The CFO asked the salesperson what he felt that impact was. The salesperson replied that in the rush to get the project into the budget, it had not been calculated specifically. He asked if the CFO would like to work with him to put together the numbers, which would allow the CFO to judge if the delay was the correct course of action. The CFO agreed and they met the following week. During that meeting, using formulas suggested by our client, the cost of the problem was calculated to be about $220,000 lost revenue per month. The financial impact of delaying the decision was significantly more than the impact of the alternative project. Needless to say, priorities were changed and the hospital requested that the new system be installed within 90 days.

What Happens Once You Know the Cost of the Problem?
Once you have diagnosed a customer’s situation and defined the financial impact on their business, there are three possible outcomes:

  1. You could find that the financial impact is large enough to justify the investment and you move forward and do business.
  2. You could find that the financial impact of the problem is not as great as other issues the customer is facing. In this case you plan when it will move to the top of the list.
  3. You could find that the financial impact is not enough to justify your solution. Given this situation, you may have to scale back your proposed solution to match the financial impact, or it may be more lucrative to find a greater opportunity elsewhere.

The primary question most often in a customer’s mind is: “Why should I invest my limited resources in your solution?” If the only way you can answer that question is by talking about the features and the value of your solution, you will not answer the customer’s concerns. You must help your customer understand what it costs NOT to own your solution.

Ignoring the Cost of the Problem can be Fatal
This creates two critical errors in the seller’s judgment:

  1. The salesperson assumes that the client knows the cost of the problem and will use it in the decision-making process.
  2. The salesperson assumes that the prospective client has the ability to do a proper self-diagnosis of the problem. If that were true, then all the salesperson would have to do is present the solution.

Even if both of these assumptions are correct, the greatest error made by the salesperson is the failure to receive and verify the information from the customer. Here’s the point. The customer does not go through this justification process on a regular basis and will not be as thorough as you can be. As a trained professional, orchestrating the resources of your company, along with your client’s information, will enable you to bring more cost factors to the equation and thus enhance the quality of the decision process.