Tag Archives: sales leader

Important Differences Between Sales Leaders and Sales Managers

By Jeff Beals

A sales manager is the person responsible for making sure the sales staff is in place, equipped to succeed and motivated to compete. Good sales managers think quickly on their feet and take immediate, decisive actions to mitigate any threat to the organization’s ability to sell.

Sales managers facilitate the sales process and protect the organization’s ability to do deals. While the term “sales manager” is the typical, generally accepted title of the person in charge of sales, the term “sales leader” is more appropriate. A manager supervises details. He or she makes sure tactical work is accomplished in an efficient manner. A leader makes sure those tactical tasks are completed but sees the business from a broader, more global perspective.

Even if your company is a small one, with only one person in charge of the sales staff, sales leadership is more important than sales management. The sales leader empowers the sales staff to carry out their work and rewards them for deals completed. Anyone who serves as a company’s sales manager would be wise to see himself or herself as a leader and behave accordingly.

As the sales leader, you need to carefully analyze employees’ personalities and push the right buttons to help them succeed at the highest levels. Urge them to accomplish more while still setting them up for success.

“It’s putting people in stretch assignments,” said Joe Moglia, former CEO of TD Ameritrade.

Moglia believes two primary things are critically important when choosing people for a job and when assigning new goals to an existing employee: alignment and listening. You can’t succeed with one and not the other. The leader must thoroughly understand the assignment and the people being considered for it. The most talented people in the world will fail if their personalities and abilities are not in alignment with the job. When it comes to listening, the leader must ask the right questions and then focus on what employees say and what body language they exhibit. Listen to find out whether the staff member is really excited about the assignment.

Effective sales managers accept responsibility. They realize that they are in charge and accountable for what happens, but they don’t see themselves as bosses. A leader is not a foreman. As a leader, you must depend on the abilities and hard work of your staff members. A successful sales leader is one who establishes interdependence. He or she trusts and depends on the staff while the staff trusts the sales leader to guide, provide resources and create a safe, pro-selling atmosphere.

Sales leaders have so many responsibilities – recruiting reps, training them, keeping them motivated, forecasting/budgeting, working closely with marketing, etc. – but there is one area of a sales leader’s job that is crucially important but often underrated: resource acquisition.

The most effective sales leaders do what it takes to make sure their sales teams have the tools and budget they need to close deals.

Attracting new clients is so important that every organization should devote considerable resources. That said, not all do. Leaders of various organizational departments in a company jockey and position for resources. Some are better at it than others. If the sales leader isn’t good at playing corporate politics, the sales staff might be at a resource disadvantage against the competition.

If you’re a sales leader, do not let this happen. One of your most important duties is to provide your sales team with everything it needs to succeed. You don’t ever want to give your salespersons an excuse for not performing. Lack of resources is a convenient excuse for a sales person but should not be an excuse for a sales leader.

One of the best ways to ensure abundant sales resources is to establish your personal clout inside your organization. This is accomplished by doing good work and practicing good internal politics.

Clout is affected by timing. Make a pitch for greater sales resources right after you score a high-profile victory. Make the pitch when the higher-ups most value you and believe they could least afford to lose you.

ATTENTION SALES LEADERS:

If you hold a leadership position in sales, I have the perfect resource to help you become even more successful!

It’s called the “Sales Leader Mastermind Group,” and it kicks off this fall.  I will personally lead and facilitate this group along with my partner Beth Mastre.  I’m recruiting members for it right now.  There are four in-person meetings per year – All the other meetings are virtual, so you can join in no matter where in the world you might be.  My mastermind group members will also have their own personal discussion forum.

Sales leadership can be a lonely existence.  Joining this group will help you create a stronger sales culture, attract talented sales reps and drive more revenue while you better manage both your personal and professional life. Click here to see an info piece about this mastermind or contact me personally at (402) 510-7468.

Replying to RFPs Is a Waste of Time (Most of the Time)

By Jeff Beals

When I was in high school (circa 1986), I auditioned for a couple of Hollywood movies.  One of the movies was being filmed here in my hometown while the other one held auditions here in addition to several other cities. I tried out just for fun, and knowing the long odds, I never expected to be chosen.  Though I wasn’t offered a part in either film, the experiences were eye opening for a 17-year-old kid.

The first audition was a positive experience. It was a comedy film written for a teenage audience. I tried out for the lead role, which was fittingly enough, a nerdy high school kid who was forced to fight an intimidating bully who had just transferred in from another school. I had an appointed time to show up and spent about 30 minutes with the casting director and his entourage. I read several scenes and then answered interview questions. I felt like I was actually being considered for the part.

The second audition was a “cattle call,” in which several hundred would-be movie stars showed up at a local hotel ballroom. After waiting a couple hours, I was brought into a separate room with a group of six other guys. They lined us up, looked at each of us in comparison to one another and then told half of us to go home. I was one of the guys told to leave.  That was it.  I waited for hours only to be sent packing having never said a word.

Do you want to know why I received so much more attention in the first audition than the second?  I was actually recommended for the first movie by a local talent agency that had been hired by the movie producers.  At the second audition, I was just one of 250 nameless, faceless unknowns.

Why do I tell you this story?

Because it reminds me of the Request-for-Proposal (RFP) process in the world of sales.  As a general rule, I hate RFPs and I only respond to them under rare circumstances.

I hate RFPs, because they are just like that cattle-call movie audition. Think about it this way:

  • A company decides it needs a new vendor, so several employees sit down and think of all the things they do and don’t want and then dream up a bunch of hoops for would-be vendors to jump through.
  • They send the RFP to every potential vendor they can think of.
  • Prospective vendors practically do backflips trying to meet all the RFP requirements and end up rushing to meet the deadline.
  • The company that issued the RFP then examines all the proposals that were submitted and compares them.  Ultimately, they decide that some of the proposals are basically offering the same products/services, so they choose the lowest-priced bid.
  • And it can get even worse.  The finalists are sometimes pitted against each other in a bidding war to see who is willing to discount their price to the lowest number. It’s a race to the bottom.
  • The “winner” ends up doing a lot of work for too little money.

This is not a recipe for high profitability.

Generally speaking, I recommend you respond to RFPs only when your relationship with the client is so strong that you are essentially guaranteed of winning.  Some companies have policies requiring that vendor relationships go out to bid periodically. If this is the case at one of your best client companies, tell them you will help write the RFP.  You can then write the RFP to favor you and the way you do business.

If you don’t write the RFP or at least have heavy influence on the RFP, it very well could be an expensive waste of your time replying to the RFP.  An exception would be when the RFP is a mere formality designed to make shareholders feel better and you are the pre-chosen winner.

Now, I realize that there are some industries where RFPs are a rooted part of the culture. In other words, they’re so common that there’s no getting around them.  That’s not the case in most industries.  When at all possible, avoid RFPs.  Just like the cattle-call audition, you have little chance of winning.  Meanwhile, you spend tons of time and money preparing a proposal and get no revenue in return. If by some miracle, you are chosen, you’re probably going to get skewered on price.

Just say “no” to RFPs!

By the way, that movie for which I was actually considered turned out to be a box-office flop, earning only $1.5 million during its opening weekend. But it did play on cable television for many years.  To this day, I’ve never watched the entire show but have seen bits and pieces of it.  I’ll never forget the first time I stumbled upon it. I was flipping through television channels and landed on something that looked mildly interesting.  As I started watching the show, it felt so familiar. Then I realized that I was watching the very scene I read during that audition.  It was fun to think what could have been…

How to Get People to Show Up for Your Sales Meetings

By Jeff Beals

Does this describe the sales meetings at your company?

It’s 10:06 a.m. on Tuesday and people are still strolling in for the start of your standing 10:00 sales meeting. Those who are already seated, including the vice president of sales, are chatting about what they did last weekend and in no apparent rush to get things underway. When the meeting finally does begin at 10:08, half the people are on their phones reading emails or playing games.  Several other attendees didn’t bother to show, claiming they had “important client meetings.” 

The meeting bounces from one topic to another with a lot of interruptions and spontaneous, tangential conversations.  When the meeting finally ends – seventeen minutes past the scheduled time – attendees bolt out as fast as they can, grumbling to each other about how much time they just wasted.  One sales rep says to another, “That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back!”

Sadly, the above passage describes way too many sales meetings at way too many companies.  And that’s why attendance at sales meetings is often not so stellar, and those sales reps who do show up are often sitting back in their chairs, rolling their eyes and not engaging in the meeting.

Sales reps generally dislike their sales meetings, but that’s because meeting leaders typically don’t put enough effort into those meetings.  If you’re the sales leader, it’s up to you to make your meetings useful and desirable. That’s especially true if your sales reps are independent contractors and legally can’t be “forced” to attend.

Do you want people to attend your sales meetings?  Do you want sales reps to be more engaged and contribute more during the meetings?  If so, I have some help for you:

See It Through their Eyes – Always try to see your meetings through the attendees’ eyes.  When you view the agenda from the sales reps’ eyes, you can assess the meeting’s strengths and weaknesses. In order to increase the attendance at and participation in your sales meetings, make the meetings valuable to the attendees. As a sales leader, you don’t define what the attendees value; they do.

No B.S. Zone – Be as honest and transparent as possible regarding company policies, changes in the commission structure, and new product launches. Try to establish a “No B.S. Zone.” Sales reps hate hearing a bunch of politically correct corporate double-speak from their sales manager.  Sure, there are some things you are not at liberty to discuss with sales reps, but with everything else, be an open book.  The sales reps will trust you more and become more engaged in all facets of the company.  Too many organizations are unnecessarily tight-lipped about non-essential things.

Skillful Facilitation – The person who leads the sales meeting must have good facilitation skills, which means he or she is fully present and in charge of the meeting. A competent meeting facilitator is inclusive-but-assertive, meaning he or she makes sure all people are involved in the discussion but has the discipline necessary to keep the meeting on schedule.  The facilitator should always be on the lookout for an excuse to publicly praise individual sales reps in front of the whole group. A good sales leader sees the facilitation of sales meetings to be an art, carefully balancing the agenda/business side of the meeting with humor and light heartedness.

Free Stuff – Everyone likes to receive something for nothing.  Periodically give away some company swag, such as t-shirts or coffee cups with the company logo. Free food also helps.  Some companies provide coffee and doughnuts at their sales meetings. Other companies will periodically reserve a room at a nearby restaurant and provide breakfast or lunch for the whole sales team.

Rotating Facilitators – Once in a while, it might make sense to have one of the sales reps lead the weekly meeting.  Periodically offer one of the normal attendees to be guest facilitator. Let him or her design their own agenda.  Having one of the reps act as guest facilitator would be fun and a nice change of pace for everyone.

Outside Speakers – Meeting attendees tend to listen more intently when someone outside the company is presenting.  Just like the rotating facilitator advice above, it’s a change of pace. What’s more, high-quality speakers provide valuable information that will help sales reps be more effective and close deals faster.

Book Club – Find a well-written book about sales techniques or industry content and provide a copy to each rep.  Assign one chapter a week and then take a few minutes to discuss that chapter during the meeting.  Discuss how the book content relates to your company’s work.

Team Building – It might make sense a couple times a year to cancel the weekly sales meeting. In its stead, schedule a bonding activity such as an outing to a go-cart-racing track, golf course or game arcade.  You could also consider hiring a retreat leader and going through a structured team building exercise.  If you choose to do a facilitated team building exercise, it is better to do it off site rather than inside your office.

Welcome the Newbies – Always take time to introduce newcomers to the sales team.  Give rookies a chance to introduce themselves and give an overview of their career backgrounds.  Then go around the room and have all the existing sales reps share their name, work function and length of tenure at the company.

Recruitment Tool – If you have a well-organized sales meeting with engaged attendees, you have a nice recruitment tool.  If someone is thinking about joining your team, let them observe a sales meeting (assuming you are not going over confidential internal information that week).  Most existing sales reps will be even more alert and active in the meeting if they have a prospective colleague present.

Leave Them Wanting More – In the end, the meeting should be a positive, enjoyable experience filled with valuable information that helps attendees be more successful.  But don’t go too long. A great meeting is even better when it ends on time.

Next time, it will be Part II of “How Can You Get People to Show Up for Your Sales Meetings,” in which I will discuss what should actually be on your meeting agenda. Stay tuned!

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events in 2016. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events in 2017!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

+1-402-637-9300

info@jeffbeals.com

How to Navigate 7 Tricky Sales Conundrums

By Jeff Beals

More than 50% of sales reps do not make their annual quota, and most businesses produce revenue well below their production capacity.

What does this tell us?  We have a leadership void in the sales profession!

Good leadership is critical to success in any line of work.  Just this week, I sat through a speech by Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great.”  Collins argued that leadership is everything – that even in tough times and with scarce resources, great leaders can use dedication and fierce resolve to will their companies to success.

Sales departments are no different.  They need leaders with fierce resolve. Leading a sales team is not rocket science but it is not easy.  Great leaders are fixated on success and always finding ways to help their people be more successful.

Former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower once described leadership as “the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because (he or she) wants to do it.”

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done and his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”

But leaders also have to get results.  The acclaimed management theorist, Peter Drucker once said, “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.”

Effective sales leaders drive revenue by empowering those who work with them to make decisions at the lowest level possible, while gathering and basing decisions upon quantitative facts which are interpreted and applied according to the leader’s experience and intuition.

That’s a mouthful, but what does it really mean?  Sales leadership is a dichotomous endeavor.  It requires you to balance seemingly contradictory things.

The 7 Dichotomies of Sales Leadership

  1. Sales leadership is both an art and a science.
  2. You must empower your people while requiring results.
  3. You must provide support while demanding accountability.
  4. You can’t allow staff to take advantage of you, but you should never lead by fear or intimidation.
  5. You must be a provider of data and forecasts as well as a teacher and counselor.
  6. You must be strategic and big-picture oriented but still accountable if your department allows details to fall through the cracks.
  7. You must produce impressive results while maintaining ethical standards.

How do sales leaders wrestle with these dichotomies and ultimately enjoy successful careers?

Strategy vs. Tactics

Effective sales leaders focus on developing strategy and casting vision.  In order to do this, they must create rock-solid systems of organization within the sales department.  It makes sense to automate as much of the process as possible.  For that portion of the sales process that can’t be automated, you need talented, committed sales managers who can supervise daily tasks.

Hire the Right People

Speaking of Jim Collins, he is also known for saying, “Get the right people on the bus.”  When hiring sales professionals, always look at their frequent past behavior. It’s the number-one indicator of future performance.  Go deeper in your due diligence on each prospective employee.

Avoid being blinded by great talent.  Just because someone is smart, extroverted and good-looking doesn’t mean they will do a good job of focusing on client value.

Put People First

Too many sales leaders barricade themselves behind closed office doors and barely glance away from their CRM screens.  While keeping up a firm grasp on sales data is important, don’t be analytical at the expense of your people-oriented responsibilities.

Regarding CRMs, it is important to enforce policies and procedures requiring sales personnel to update client and account information.  Obviously, the reports generated by CRM programs are only as good as the data entered.  That said, sales leadership requires you to strike a balance – make sure your people use the CRM properly, but never make them feel that serving the CRM is more important than serving clients.

Power to the People

Great leaders never micro manage their people.  Sure, they set expectations and demand that people perform, but they leave the “how” to individual sales reps. Want to know one of the most common reasons why leaders micromanage people?  Managers feel intimidated.  Don’t let your ego get the best of you.  If your surround yourself with people who are smarter and more talented than you are, you will eventually succeed.

In the end, if you want to be a high-producing sales leader, find good people, figure out what motivates them, give them the preparation, tools and resources they need, stretch them beyond what they initially believe they can do and support them along the way.

If you do that, you will balance all the ambiguity and dichotomies that come with being a sales leader.

Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share.  Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”

Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:

“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events in 2016. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events in 2017!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY

“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil

I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here.  He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard.  Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA

“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team

+1-402-917-5730

info@jeffbeals.com