Monthly Archives: October 2017

Business Acumen – The Bridge Connecting Sales Pros and their Customers.

Business Acumen – The Bridge Connecting Sales Pros and their Customers.

How important is Business Acumen?

I recently read an article by Brian Hill that nicely describes what Business Acumen is.  He says….

“General business acumen involves the ability to effectively communicate with all functional areas in the organization. Individuals with acumen are always looking ahead, trying to gain insight into what opportunities will be coming and what competitive threats are likely to emerge. Acumen means having the ability to devise strategies to remain one step ahead of competitors, a quality sometimes called vision. Great quarterbacks are said to have an unusual ability to “see the whole field.” In business, individuals with acumen have this quality as well”

This description impacted me because it relates to the LACK of Business Acumen we often see in many salespeople.   Let me explain…..

We work with Senior Sales Leaders who want their salespeople to ask better questions and really DIG into customer business issues that drive urgency and help establish alignment and focus.

When we deliver our training workshops, we do a meaningful exercise where we take a sample of a product and list four features for that product. We then challenge participants to come up with questions that highlight the business issues, the benefits that the feature addresses.

Let’s assume that one of the features is around frequency of delivery.  The typical salesperson might say:

“One of the features of this product is that it is delivered twice a week instead of once a week.”  Most salespeople simply state the feature – twice weekly deliveries – without flushing out the benefit of the feature for the customer.

Instead of simply stating the feature, maybe asking a question would be better.  “What would be the impact to your business, Mr. Customer, if we can cut your inventory level in half, relieving you of some space, while doubling the number of turns in inventory?”

It’s amazing how challenging this exercise is for industry veterans with product expertise. I believe it’s challenging because many don’t truly understand their customers’ business. They don’t have the acumen that provides the confidence to talk about business issues. They focus on their products. And that does not differentiate.

We do a lot of sales training and I am passionate about continuous improvement. You want your sales people to be more effective?  Train them in industry business acumen as well.  The more your team understands what’s really going on in the world of their customer – the overall big picture, the better they’ll relate and offer meaningful solutions. The more solutions they have, the more value they bring. The more value they bring, the more valuable they become.

Are your sales managers coaching to process, strategy, skill and acumen?

I welcome your thoughts or a conversation.

Positively,

Brian Weiss

 

Sales Managers – Why you’re NOT creating value for your company by being a Super Closer.

Sales Managers – Why you’re NOT creating value for your company by being a Super Closer.

Allow me to explain. We work with large building industry manufacturing companies. When we explore how time is invested when managers travel with their teams, it’s almost always the case that managers travel with a sales person because an opportunity has surfaced and the sales person wants the manager to help “close the deal.”

Everybody wins, right? The sales person gets the commissionable benefit of the deal being won. The Sales Manager gets to feel the benefit of helping his team and the company – what sales manager doesn’t look forward to the chance to “close” a deal. That’s likely why you’re a sales manager in the first place, you were really good at sales. The company wins because sales revenue continues to grow…win.win.win. Is it really, though?

I recently had lunch with a VP of Sales for a division of one of our customers. His greatest accomplishment as a leader, as he put it, was that when he’s left a team via promotion or job change, that team has remained intact and high performing. He described the greatest benefit he could create for the companies and teams he’s led is to help develop his team into valuable contributors in their own right.

Every time you as a Sales Manager step in to “Close the Deal” you miss out on an opportunity to build confidence and ability in the sales people you lead.

Why is Sales Call Observation so important?

Let’s first get on the same page on what Sales Call Observation is. We suggest that while you’re in the field with your sales team, at least one call, each trip, if not more, should be done in observation. Sales Call Observation begins with a pre-call briefing (before you get in front of your prospect/customer).

Three Main Steps:

Assess: During assess you want to understand how much preparation your sales pro has done. How well do they know the customer? Who will be in the meeting? Where are we in the sales process? What opportunities exist? How much time have you planned for, with the customer, for this meeting?

While it’s helpful for you to understand the dynamics going into the meeting, the intent is for you to better understand what level of preparation your salesperson applies to meetings. By asking the right questions, you’ll begin to establish what’s expected of the salesperson and your team for every meeting. They’ll be better prepared for future meetings (that you’re not in) as a result of this step.

Strategize: During strategize, you’ll get some insight into their call objective and how they plan to accomplish it, particularly how strategic they plan to be in their conversations with your prospects and customers. Questions like: What’s your objective for the call? What do you want the customer to do as a result of this meeting? What are the most important questions you want to ask? Why? What do you want me to focus on to help you improve upon?

It’s often reported that having this strategy discussion is highly enjoyable and extremely valuable for the salesperson. It’s critical that they are comfortable trying new things in an effort to improve. If they feel you are supporting them in their effort, that goes a long way. You also get further perspective on what’s really happening when you’re not in the field. You get insight into how you can help your team get better, what training/development would be most impactful.

Encouragement: It’s very important that you salute the salesperson on the accomplishments or achievements with this customer/prospect thus far. You also want to envision/project a positive result for this meeting. You set the tone.

By establishing with your sales pro (and the customer/prospect) that you’re going to participate in this meeting in observation for the benefit of your sales pro and customer, you’ll get powerful insight into what’s really happening. You’ll demonstrate a desire to help your team grow and develop. You also have the opportunity, by asking great questions to help your sales pros discover where they can be better, in a supportive way.

Observation Call: During the meeting, let the customer know that you’ll be in observation. Observe for the customer’s responses, the salesperson’s behaviors and body language, the salesperson’s skill usage and their ability to execute the questions and call strategy. Observe for product knowledge and application also.

During the call, take notes. Focus on pluses and minuses that you observe. You should make note of selling opportunities that you become aware of, and the extent to which your sales person was able to “dig deeper” around those opportunities. Also make note of future growth opportunities.

Sales Call Observation ends with a Post Call Debrief: It’s also very important to take the time to debrief the meeting afterwards. This should also have three steps-

Sales Pro’s Summary: Always begin by asking the sales pro to summarize the call. “Tell me how you think that went?” What went well? What could you have done differently? Did we accomplish the objective? Dig into why or why not from their perspective. Highlight parts of the preparation that contributed to the outcome.

Sales Manager Summary: Use questions to maintain dialogue. Offer a summary from your perspective. Provide encouragement on the things that your salesperson did well. Suggest Opportunities to improve, but try to keep to no more than two opportunities. Your tone should stay positive and developmental. This is where you can focus on skill and meeting prep and get their commitment to improve upon something before the next time you do an observation call together.

Agree on Next Steps: What will be the focus of your next call with this customer/prospect? You can offer ideas or suggestions here (you could ask questions to get the salesperson to come up with your ideas or suggestions, if possible). What are your follow up steps? What can I do to help? Both agree on action items together.

This process if done consistently over time will be very rewarding for you as a manager. Once expectations are set, you’ll see the growth of your team and get great visibility into how you can help them become better sales pros. You’ll also get to see how different sales people handle similar conversations and you can share best practices across your team. Or, you could have your sales pros share how they handle specific challenges that you’ve observed as a way of saluting them and adding value to the rest of your team.

This straight forward approach to coaching and people development has been a significant step in team development for our customers. You can add value to this process by establishing a sales process and a common language for sales skills. It’s important for your team and your company that you help your team get better at planning and execution in sales meetings. You likely have a lot to offer your team from your experience. This is a great way to pass that experience down for the benefit of those you’re fortunate enough to lead.

I think you’ll be surprised by what you observe the next time you’re in the field.