Archive for the 'Sales relationships' Category

Corporate Guff

One of my joys each week is listening to Lucy kellaway on the radio. Her latest broadcast focusses onto corporate guff and how sick-making words have arrived in China.

Her examples of “management bullshit” had me listen to the broadcast twice. (though in itself not unusual I would love to tell her that I prefer to listen to her in bed instead of reading a book)

“Uplifting meaningful customer experience”
The examples that had me laugh most were Standard Life’s use of “Employee Journey” to describe, I think, a job. Then there was “Uplifting meaningful customer experience” which is so woolly as to be meaningless and finally the company that was sharing “Thoughtware”.

In my experience the problem with corporate guff is that too many that listen to such rubbish nod their head sagely as if they have complete understanding of what’s being said, when they don’t. A few years ago I came across a business consultant that was always desperate to use the latest corporate guff to his customers. He said that his clients were always impressed by his knowledge. As far as I knew most of his customers didn’t understand what he was talking about and he’s since ceased trading!
That’s what I call “A malfunctioned career experience”

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Massive increase in sales

I love working with new sales teams. In particular I enjoy planning how to to restructure a sales team to maximise sales.

Pertinent questions
Recently I was talking to a Sales Director that was concerned because his sales team, as a whole, wasn’t meeting target. Some of the team met their individual targets easily and exceeded them, others were average and some below average. The Sales Director was continually asking “Were the targets too high, Was the sales team capable of meeting the required results? or was the economy to blame?”. All very pertinent questions but ones that didn’t deliver the answers he was looking for.

Focussing on stars and passengers
In my experience a major reason why Sales Directors have problems with targets is because their focus is often confused by the stars and the passengers in their team (Stars are probably producing all they can and passengers simply reduce the good effect of the stars!).

Instead I persuaded him to focus on the group of people who are making “average Sales” and just below, which tends to be the larger number of people in any team. If this group could raise their sales by just 5% – 10% the effect can be to massively increase sales.
Action plan in the making!

email me: stephen@assimilating-talent if you would like a SKYPE call to discuss your sales team issues.


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Who will go topless?

My original work with teams was with sales teams and how to make them more productive. It’s an area that I’ve always enjoyed so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’m being asked to advise on this area of business more and more.

The last few weeks I’ve been talking to a very enthusiastic team about to open a couple of retail stores. A brave thing in these times but their product and their enthusiasm is such that you can’t fail be be drawn into the excitement.

Who will go topless?
One of the things we did is to visit other stores and websites to experience the “Buzz”, customer experience and see what can be replicated and what should be avoided.

A favourite visit, as voted by the group, was to the Abercrombie and Fitch store in London where I suspect the main attraction was the very fit looking topless male that greeted the girls and guys at the door. As you can imagine there was a lot of discussion and even a vote on which male member of the team should walk around the new stores topless. (Before you ask…I wasn’t even included in the list of candidates!)

Whilst the group agreed that the A&F visit was a great customer experience most stores failed to live up to the same standard and some didn’t even come off the starting blocks. So I’m being encouraged and helped by the group to make a couple short film for this blog on the topic and this should be completed this week. So keep an eye out on this blog


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Why is finding good salespeople so difficult?

A couple of days ago I was speaking with a Sales Director who asked “why is finding good salespeople is so difficult”. In the new economy creating and retaining a team of good salespeople is a major differentiator, yet too often a new hire fails to live up to expectation. The costs can be enormous and the Sales Director seemed at his wits end.

Road to Damascus
The new economy means that recruiting and integrating salespeople the way it’s always been done is no longer going to work. With constrained budgets salespeople have to have heightened awareness of different but related areas of their performance. 

To illustrate this I showed the Sales Director the Transition Maps that my colleagues and I have developed over the last few years. “Oh my goodness, now I see where we are going wrong!”

It’s always gratifying when Road to Damascus revelations happen and I had to restrain the Sales Director from taking part of the solution and applying it like a sticking plaster to all his sales hire problems.
Main problems
We were able to identify a number of the problems that are common to sales team recruitment and development. The first is accepting what a sales candidate says about their past achievements at the interview without probing their actual involvement. The second is trying to clone a “current success”.

Review of process
Finally we reviewed how the company integrated salespeople into his team. Dispensing with the “one week induction” and replacing it with a transition map dovetailing all the required competences identified for their success.

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Management guff awards

It’s great when someone comes along and pricks the bubble of management pomposity that is part of business today. It’s why I just love listening to Lucy Kellaway on the radio and on her blog and reading her regular column in the Financial Times. Lucy’s talent for stripping away and laying bare the stupidity of puffed up management makes her required reading and listening.

Each year she awards prizes for companies and managers who have butchered the English Language.
Like the Executive at Amazon who renamed books “Reading containers” and Toyota who now call cars “Sustainable mobility solutions”

Other awards go to HB Fuller coaching who state that they “invested in several key talent additions”

I don’t want to spoil Lucy’s adio blog for those who have yet to hear it but firmly believe that it should be required reading and listening for all executives, MBA students and Business school lecturers. Listen to it HERE and enjoy

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Motivating a sales team for the long haul

How to motivate the sales team to achieve target is a topic that keeps sales managers awake at night. Yesterday a group of sales managers in my network talked about retaining and motivating salespeople at one of our regular meetings.

Their insomnia was the thought of their top sales people leaving the team. In the past huge rewards could be given to top salespeople but in these times throwing money at saslespeople to retain their loyaly is more difficult and in any event in the long run it will fail as, one day, all the best salespeople will leave.

A lot of suggestions were made and the group asked if I could put some of the ideas on film for the one absent member of the group. Having made the first I think it’s worth sharing with everyone in my network and, if popular, then I’ll create a series on salesteams.

Motivating A Sales Team For The Long Haul

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Improving Sales with Away Days is a Waste of Time

Now that christmas is over and the snow’s melted many retailers are counting the costs of a poor trading season. Next, Waterstones and HMV have all announced fewer sales compared to the same time last year and store closures are expected. With families feeling the VAT rises and inflationary pressures sales are unlikely to improve quickly.

Many companies have been telling me that 2011 will be the year where sales will be vital to survival. The tactic to improve sales team results seems to be to increase targets and take the sales team on an away day to “align sales with core functions and client needs for the next twelve months”.

In my experience, away days where management sweeten a bitter pill of increased sales targets and restructured sales territories with “improved and innovative marketing initiatives” don’t increase motivation nor improve the way sales people approach potential customer’s needs and certainly don’t last more than a week, far less twelve months.

If one must have an away day then it needs to be linked with a measured programme of change that covers a long period and where changes in direction can be identified and implemented more easily.

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A Story of Sales Team Management

My electricity and telephone/broadband contacts are up for renewal and in the run-up to the festive season I was receiving three or four phone calls a day from salespeople who expected to be able to “move my account” after a brief and cursory quote promising to save me money.

However, I’m a buyer who takes the attitude that if it’s going to cost less then what am I going to have to “give up”. The salesperson phoning me often seemed aghast when I asked for more details such as proof of their after-sales service claims, websites so that I could check their boasts and a confused silence on the other end of the line when asked to email me details of the contract so that I could study them at my leisure.

I’m much more used to dealing with sophisticated sales-teams selling Banking, Financial Services and large ticket products and I’ve been thinking how these salesteams are changing. The coming year is going to be hard and will result in agreement times between sales proposal and acceptance or rejection being extended by twenty percent or more. This could mean that some sales may take many more months to complete than before.

Already I’ve observed Sales Directors being instructed by their Boards to reduce “Toxic costs” even more vigorously than before. These “Toxic costs”  include travel (car costs), telephone charges, training budgets, sales offices and even admin back-up. I know of three well known companies who are gearing up their HR Departments to advise them on processes for removing future “non-fertile salespeople”. (A description that’s likley to casue confusion at some futue occasion, I think!)

It’s wrong to suggest that all people believe that the less a product costs the more attractive it is. People want to buy reliability, after care service, consistency and results as promised as part of their purchase.

If a company is really planning to grow sales it’s hard to understand why it needs to reduce product quality.   

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Sales Management is Plate Spinning

Yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine who leads a sales team about his plans for the coming year. He outlined significant change for his team and quoted targets, market penetration and corporate expectations to cope with the difficuties that will befall all sales teams in 2011 with great ease and I will admit to being very impressed.

After a short time it seemed to me, however, that he was talking about the “Sales Team” as if it was one unit instead of a group of individuals with different attitudes, work expectations and personal goals. When I asked how the individuals in his team would react to the plans I was surprised by the answer. “Some won’t like it but there will be no choice”.

He was forgetting that a team isn’t like a machine with a series of machine cogs that when turned on rotate at the same pace and produce what’s required. Instead it’s ensuring that a group of spinning plates keep turning on their sticks and impress the audience at the dexterity of the man in charge. some of the plates will turn faster than others and possibly a couple will be in danger of falling off their sticks.

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More sales job questions

I’ve had so many comments on the first sales job interview film clip that I’ve decided to make another that includes some of the questions I’ve been asked to include. The popularity of the first film probably means that sales is an area that I should explore more in future video clips.

Thanks to Paul, Derek, and Sarah, thanks for supplying the questions:

“Do you enjoy working with people?”
“What is it about sales that you like?”
“How do you manage with different types of buying styles?”
“What’s your approach to selling?

Best wishes and contact me if you want a specific interview question answered.

If you are looking for tips on “Interviewing” visit my YouTube channel at stephenharvarddavis

More Sales Job Interview questions

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