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It’s not often I go to the gym at 6.30 in a morning, I usually prefer midday to give me a break during work.
But today I was up early, the sun was shining and I felt great. So a workout and a swim before work seemed a good idea.

I now regret not having been at this time before. The amount you learn about what’s happening in business is really interesting.
Makes the BBC’s Today programme look positively short of news.

For instance today’s headlines from the gym are:

“Kevin’s just not pulling his weight…
and as he’s responsible for increasing sales and as they are targeted on a team result it’s not pleasing the rest of his team. The boss won’t find out till it’s too late to meet target because if he’s so stupid that he can’t see it himself then it’s his look-out.

“The new sales push will knock the competition for six”
A company has come up with a new product and pricing structure to steal some of the competition’s major clients in September. By the time the competition has leant what’s happening it’ll be too late for them to do much.


Preparing for the future

Having listened to all this news I wondered if the boss did know about Kevin, or was he relying on monthly statistics. If he’s relying on the sales stats he will have little chance of reversing the situation before targets become impossible to be met.

More imporantly, does the competition not know that they are about to have their sales attacked? If the new product line and pricing structure is as effective and destructive as anticipated then there will be a panic and a rush to “Fix the problem” in September. In my experience this will always be a costly and time consuming exercise.

The gym’s news confirms that It’s always worth having an early warning system to identify what the future might bring and obviously the Gym at 6.30 is a place I will be going to more often.

As for my early warning system…I think the picture below shows my future

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How to make it impossible to buy

Readers of this blog will know that  have posted articles on businesses that make it difficult for customers to buy through ill-conceived processes. (See The Sales Assassins At Wickes)

Today my good friend Andy Lopata (The author of the International best selling book on networking “Recommended” posted this screen-save from his attempt to buy Olympoic tickets…Need I say more?

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Only the future can deliver results

Last week I was talking to a Sales Director about recruiting people for his sales team.

I looked through the job specification to see that almost every phrase was unrelated to sales.
“To submit monthly sales forecast”
“To attend weekly meeting”
and so on

Then there were the skills required:
“Good communicator”
“Five years sales experience”

I pointed out that top talented sales people would be turned off by the job descriptions because they were barriers to making sales.”Must be a good communicator” was a wasted phrase because to have become a top talent salesperson the individual must have excellent communication skills.The descriptions were bland and unexciting

“What you need is something that will draw in top talent, not put it off”
Was my advice and together we went about restructuring the documents. I was keen to show that job descriptions and specifications should be future focussed, attractive to the target candidate and avoid applications from candidates that were obviously NOT suited for the role.

Result:
Together we rejected the bland and unexciting language and replaced it with the following:
“The successful candidate will have penetrated two new clients and concluded half a million pounds worth of sales within twelve months of assuming the role”
Other phrases were designed to reflect the new focus and today he phoned me to say that a candidate had complimented him on having an “exciting and easily understood job role”.

For more info on effective job role design tel: (44) 01727 838321

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That Goldman Sachs Letter, Revenge or public service?

Greg Smith isn’t the first person to write an article about their past employer that is less than flattering and he won’t be the last. As a Goldman Sachs executive director
and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in
Europe, the Middle East and Africa he’s bound to be listened to and will cause more than a few intakes of breath in Goldman Sachs offices.

What Greg said in New York Times
The firm changed the way it thought about
leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and
doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and
are not currently an axe murderer) you will be promoted into a position
of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader?
a) Execute on the firm’s
“axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in
the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because
they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit.
b) “Hunt
Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are
sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring
the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like
selling my clients a product that is wrong for them.
c) Find yourself
sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque
product with a three-letter acronym.

Disgruntled or upset
It’s obvious that Greg is leaving Goldman Sachs a very disgruntled individual. Upset at how he’s been treated or genuinely upset at how customers are treated. Whatever the reason some will support him and others will be “appalled”.

Badly managed exit
Whatever you think of Greg and whether you agree with his point of view or not one can only assume that Goldman Sachs have mishandled his exit from the business. Here you have a senior executive that has potential to harm the business.

In my experience there will have been warning signs and these should have been picked up at an early stage.
Generally these include internal conflict, poor management of the individual, inappropriate blame, confusion over change programme, change in leadership that results in the individual being sidelined, change in corporate direction or values.

 

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Over extended limbs means conflict

Yesterday I had a meeting with a friend who was concerned that his sales department was in conflict with other departments in the business. Marketing, accounts and It were all finding the attitude of the sales team problematical and verging on the bullying.
“The sales team has had so much money and resource pumped into them” complained my friend who was at a loss to understand or accept that they needed more or how this had resulted in conflict between the sales team, accounts, marketing and IT!

Over extended limb
This situation is not unusual where a specific part of a business becomes an “over extended limb” and eats up more money, resource and focus than the rest of the company. Exactly the same thing happens in counties that allow one industry or faction to become dominant. (Think of banking in the UK which has become such a dominant part the country’s GDP that it’s seen as too powerful, too demanding and increasingly unpopular).

Essential to the well being of the business
Having an over extended limb in an organisation will inevitably result in conflict. This is because as one part of the business is starved of funds it will blame the other for squandering resources. The over extended limb will justify it’s existence as being “essential to the well being of the business” and will blame other parts of the business for “lack of support”, “failing to understand the realities of the situation” and changes to the status-quo  will “harm the business”.

Results in casualties
The results of such infighting is that it distracts attention onto the mission critical results the business needs. Turning around this conflict takes time and in my experience always results in casualties where good talent leaves the business.

The way to avoid conflict is to avoid over-extended limbs

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2 ways to increase sales

I was delighted yesterday when I had an email asking if I would speak to a team of retail shop assistants on ways to increase their sales. Apparently I was contacted after one of the team had seen this film on YouTube and discussed it at their sales team meeting.

So here’s the film for you to see for yourself and if you have any ideas for another film on retail sales teams then give me a shout

2 ways to Increase Retail Sales

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25% of my team’s predicted sales end in “No Decision”

“Currently 25% of my team’s predicted sales stall in a NO DECISION”

Was the opening statement of a Skype call I had with a friend last month. He’s a sales manager with a large national firm and was asking me how to restructure his sales team’s working to increase effectiveness, increase sales funnel size and, despite the recession, meet increased revenue targets.

Main problem
With the economy becoming more difficult prospects have learned to distrust sales calls. In addition the prospect has become better informed and will use the internet to check the sales facts or even make the sale on-line. The conclusion we came to was that the sales team was pressing for a fast buying decision and this was a major contribution to a “No decision”.

Solution and result
One of the three solutions we discussed and implemented was that the next team briefing should discuss “time taken to sale”. The discussion produced a realistic expectation of the time taken to make a sale in various circumstances. The effect was to reduce the pressure felt by the sales team to make quick sales. The result was that the team prospected wider whilst ensuring that “No decision prospects” were kept warm for longer. The result is that overall sales have grown. New sales are being made with many of the predicted sales that previously ended in “No decision” and forgotten about being converted later rather than sooner! 


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How To Succeed… Start A Small War!

I was having a Skype video call to a good friend of mine today about the best way to unite a team. “Start a small war” I suggested.

I explained the objective was to focus the team on on threats, dangers, enemies and rivals that exist outside the team. In this instance suggesting that survival of the team might be at stake from an external threat meant that internal disputes would seem less significant as the team focussed on defeating the external enemy. (Think how united countries become when invaded, even when they don’t like the leader)

Sales team rivalry
It’s similar to increasing sales within a team: Split the salespeople into rival teams and have them compete against each other.

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Don’t blame salespeople for poor sales.

With sales margins being pushed south I was reminded, yesterday, by a sales Director of a statement that I made from a conference stage a few years ago “Sales teams are often blamed for poor sales when it’s not their fault”.

So who or what is to blame?
Too often sales teams limp along with undiagnosed problems when a “new process” is implemented in the hope that it will have immediate improvements. In my experience there are a number of issues that need to be considered before rushing into another and potentially expensive new sales process. These include:

  • There is little understanding how departments such as legal, accounts and IT impact on sales
  • Senior managers don’t appreciate how the existing sales process works
  • People don’t understand why the business makes sales and more importantly loses sales
  • Too few of the sales team contribute too much of the sales result
  • Sales forecasting is based on “Gut feeling” and “Hope”
  • Sales forecast is made on a short term basis (This month or next)

Take time
There are many actions that can be taken to solve the above list but “blaming the sales team” isn’t always one of them. Instead correctly diagnose where the business needs to look for improvements in the sales cycle. The other thing to remember is that there’s no pill that will provide instantaneous results. Time, good analysis and correct implementation needs to be taken when delivering sales improvements.

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Sales Teams Restructure

I’ve noticed over the past few months that many businesses are concentrating on restructuring their sales teams as part of their business strategy. The problem is that so mant sales appointments fail to deliver what was anticipated.

Sales teams have contacted me to advise on how to select good salespeople. The point I always make is that whilst the interview is useful always worth check on the information given by the candidate. Follow up references,  check sales statistics given for previous posts and so on.

The next step is to integrate the individual into the team. Relying on just past experience for the individual to succeed is a recipe for job failure too often. Remember that only 60% of new hire salespeople succeed.The 40% that fail cost huge amounts of management time and lost opportunity costs.

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