One of my early mentors was my father, Ed Garrison. He has been successfully selling for nearly 50 years. One thing he has repeated to me and two of my brothers (all of us have been in sales nearly our entire adult lives) is that ...
If you will make sure to tell ten people a day about your business, you will always be successful.
Of course, this "formula" was pre-voicemail and pre-internet, thus actually speaking with ten people a day is perhaps unrealistic. nonetheless, the philosophy is still sound and even profound.
Let's break it down. When dad said "tell" people about your business, he meant to actually have a conversation. What he didn't mean was to send letters. Today he would say that most e-mails don't count. Leaving a voicemail message does not count. Twitter does not count. Facebook does not count. Connecting on Linked In does not count. Even this blog post does not count.
Here's the point. All of these things are important "marketing" tools and they are great for becoming known, creating familiarity, and even building a trusted brand. However, in B2B sales, most of this good activity will not convert into paid business until you talk to people in real life. Don't get bogged down, distracted, and fooled by all it all.
As Einstein put it, “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”
Finally, if you were to only track one sales metric. Only one number that would be a leading indicator of future sales. It would be ...
How many people did I TELL about my business today?
Keep the score, know the score, and the score will improve!
This is what my first mentor, Ray Johnson, used to say to me all the time. It was about this time back in the mid-90's that I was put through a full week of training on "metrics." Can you imagine, a full week with a consultant and a dozen other mid-level managers from around the country stuck in a hotel conference room doing simulations to learn management by numbers? (Fortunately for me, Denver was the host city and I could at least go home at night.)
Now we use terms like "scorecard" and "dashboard." No matter what you call it, if you are in business to make money, you need to have one.
Ask yourself this question. If you went on a year long vacation from your business and planned to return early only if you had to, would you be comfortable relying on the subjective verbal reports of those left behind? Or would you prefer to see a weekly report of five to fifteen measurements from which you could objectively determine whether or not things were running well?
Of course we prefer the hard data!
So... why do so many businesses operate without it? You tell me. What "scorecard" experiences (or lack thereof) have you had? Do they make a difference?
Tragically, Brian Klemmer of Klemmer & Associates passed away last week. He created an organization with an audacious mission. It was to "produce bold, ethical, compassionate leaders who will take action to create a world that works for everyone with no one left out." These were not just words on a page stuck in a three ring binder collecting dust on a shelf. On the contrary, these words were the foundation for SHARED behavioral expectations and are something to which people are held accountable.
One of the foundations of Brian's teaching is that if business owners and leadership teams share a compelling vision, they will figure out the "how to's" necessary to achieve their aim.
Creating a vision that is clear enough to guide your business takes some real effort. You can get started by making sure some basic questions are answered.
What are the core values of the business?
What is the core purpose?
What is the core focus/niche?
What will the business look like down the road (perhaps in 5-10 years)?
Who makes up your target market?
Why should those in your target market do business with you as opposed to your competitors?
Of course this is just a start, but the return on the investment of time required to create and share the vision can be extraordinary. I have seen it re-energize and refocus businesses such that they get unstuck. A business owner, leadership team, or a sales professional can become massively proactive while at the same time gaining the confidence to stop second-guessing and flip-flopping on strategy.
I have had clients find new purpose and clarity after forming a clear vision, which is exciting. Ironically (and just as exciting), one of my clients, a partnership with offices in Chicago and Des Moines, decided after spending some time trying to create a shared vision that they did not want to be on the same page. They could have struggled for years trying to reconcile two separate answers to the above questions, thus the way for them to get unstuck was to form separate companies.
Does your business feel stuck? Do your sales results feel flat? How might clarifying your vision clear the way for improvement?
Here we are at the end of the first quarter of 2011. Are you on pace to reach your business goals for this year?
Two disciplines that strong business leaders and sales professionals use are Focus and Clearing the Path.
Focus starts with a clear vision for the year. This consists of around three to five things that the business or sales professional must achieve by the end of the year. Imagine what would happen to a business or a sales career if three major objectives could be completed every year for five years. However, if the list of objectives is too big, or does not exist, then 2011 will be business as usual.
CLEAR THE PATH
Of course many businesses have an annual plan or a vision, but they get bogged down and stuck with the issues that arise every day. The strongest business leaders and sales professionals know how to quickly identify, discuss, and then SOLVE these issues. In other words, they don't merely talk about the issues day after day or week after week. They deal with the issues and move on.
Is your business moving forward? Are you narrowly focused on a few big objectives? Have you identified the issues and distractions that may be holding you back? Do you have a habit of dealing with these issues in order to stay on track for the year?
When it comes to getting extraordinary results in sales (or anything for that matter), the most important thing is to have faith that by taking action, you will achieve a successful outcome.
Of course it is important leverage your activities and resources by "working smart," but you don't need to wait until you are sure you know "how" to do something before you just ... well, do something!
After all, achieving great success is never a perfect, mistake-free, linear journey. Rather, the road to success is full of ups and downs, lefts, rights, and even going backwards. The journey includes learning, tweaking, reevaluating, and often times starting over.
So, back to sales. Don't get beaten by call reluctance because you are not sure just what to say to people. Dial the phone and have faith that you can't say the wrong things to the right prospect.
Go network beliving that when you do, you will sow seeds that will grow.
Don't cut prices or make deals in fear of losing opportunities. Have faith that you can help prospects pay for the full value of what they receive.
Don't debate in circles about what to do next or how to do it. Just agree to take action and have faith that you will make the right adjustments in order to move towards your goals.
Imagine watching someone making popcorn on the stove. They put oil in a skillet and put it on the hot stove. Once it gets hot, they throw into the skillet a single kernel of popcorn. When it pops, they gently pick it up, dip it in melted butter, sprinkle a pinch of salt on it, and finally they eat is slowly. When they are done, they throw another kernel of popcorn into the skillet and wait for it to pop.
As you continue to watch, you notice that some of the kernels don't pop. After watching and waiting (and occasionally shaking the skillet) this person gives up on the kernel and throws another one in.
How long will it take for this person to get full? Forever?
This is the way many business owners and sales people try to develop business. They find a few prospects that appear promising and they completely focus on them waiting for them to pop. As a few of them pop, they are well cared for by the business owner and sales professional. Once the deal is done, they look to throw in another prospect into the skillet to see what happens.
Obviously, the lesson here is to throw in a lot more kernels. How much? Well, how big is your skillet? Throw in as many as you can manage without having "popped" kernels spill out of the skillet onto the floor.
How do you know if you are one trying to develop business just "a few kernels at a time?"
Use a sheet of paper, a spreadsheet, or some sales/CRM software to track what you are doing. The low tech version is to list all of your prospects on a piece of paper and record the date they became a prospect.
Wait one week and review the list. Did you add a prospect? Wait another week. Did you add a prospect? If your list tends to stay the same, then you are waiting for just a few kernels to pop.
This week, set a realistic goal to add some new kernels. Over time, test the capacity of your skillet and you will find yourself getting closer to "full."
Of course, there is a whole lot more that one can track to help them manage their pipeline. What advice to you have? What has worked for you in the past?
Picture yourself in a meeting with a prospect. Perhaps it was someone you invited to meet you for coffee or maybe you are visiting them at their office. As you describe your company, products, services, benefits, etc., you notice that they don't seem to completely engaged.
In fact, your prospect is leaning back in their chair away from you. They are nodding as you talk, but otherwise they are generally expressionless. They haven't been asking any questions or making any comments. In fact, they have their hands on the table crossed at the wrists.
You realize, they are just waiting for me to finish so that they can directly or indirectly tell you they are not interested.
As you read this, are you getting a familiar feeling?
The fact is nobody likes to be sold. However, we like to buy. So how do you change the emotional state of the buyer from a defensive "I don't want to be sold" state to an open "I will evaluate this buying opportunity" state? The fix to this problem is easy.
Give your prospects permission to say "no."
Here is how. Sincerely say something like this to your prospect.
"I am going to share some information about my business (company, products, services, etc.). At some point I am going to ask you for your thoughts. At least three answers are good.
You are interested and want to move forward.
You may be interested, but need more information.
This does not appear to be a fit."
Just by giving someone permission to say no will cause them to stop thinking about how to say no and allow them to focus on what you are saying. If they believe you, they will get engaged in the conversation.
Have you used other ways to open conversations up? Have they changed your sales results?