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Why Typical Sales Reports Don’t Work & What Report to Use Instead

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Nov 17, 2016 4:40:00 PM

What’s the purpose of a sales activity report anyway?

Generally speaking, sales activity reports are meant to guide managers in tracking and understanding the productivity and progress of their sales team.

These reports enable managers to visualize how much time salespeople are spending on different sales activities, if they are meeting their productivity goals, and whether their efforts are translating into real sales.

But when your sales reps put together their report, are they really telling you an accurate story? If they are using a typical sales activity report, then don’t count on it and here’s why.

There are 3 reasons to avoid traditional activity reports and why you need to replace it with the 1 report that will truly paint a realistic sales picture.

sales activity report for managers

Motivation to Mislead

If I am a salesperson and I know that every week my boss is going to read my activity report, then I will end up writing a biased report for reasons that are intentional and unintentional.  Managers should consider this before asking their teams to submit activity reports. 

Intentional: Obviously, I would prefer that my boss concluded from my report that they should continue paying me and maybe even consider giving me a raise.  To the degree that I can persuade with a report, I will attempt to do so.  Often, I will use the quantity of activity as proof of how busy I am - and therefore doing my job!

Unintentional: If you believe that certain activities are valuable to your sales success (or you think your boss believes in those activities), then your weekly activity report to your boss will likely be biased by highlighting those activities.  Even if those activities can’t be linked to closing sales they will be described in a way that exaggerates their contribution to overall sales success.  Common activities like “following up” will be made to look like critical strategies instead of what it really is: calling people /sending emails to unengaged prospects who remained unengaged despite the activity of the salesperson.

Both forms of bias create a positive sounding but misleading picture of activity. And worse, all the activity is described as if happening in a vacuum; not influenced by current and forecasted sales. 

As a manager, I want to see my people choose activities that are specifically informed by the latest developments in their sales pipeline. 

Activity Reports Only Answer: Was There Activity? 

Even the most underperforming sales rep can usually boast of at least a little activity – usually exaggerating how long each “necessary” step took them to accomplish.  Most salespeople however, regardless of how badly they miss their goals, can make themselves very busy and their activity reports can mask real opportunities to improve. 

The activity report, which managers really want, is not an activity report at all. 

As a manager, I’m less concerned if my salespeople are busy and more concerned with making sure they are focused on the right sales coming in and delivering exceptional customer service. But what activities truly result in closing the right number of deals and maintaining customer satisfaction?

You could list every reasonable selling activity like prospecting, meeting preparation, customer service, you name it. The only activities managers really care about are the activities that will move the needle on sales for that week.

While understanding the gory details of various opportunities that didn’t progress through the sales process is important, that’s not the purpose of an activity report.

If your sellers are eager to give you a blow by blow account of their deals that didn’t close, then make sure you have that on your agenda for your next one-on-one coaching session. You can help each rep analyze their findings and then make recommendations for adjustments.

Activity Reports Glorify Activity

Glorifying activity just for the sake of it only confirms what underperforming reps think: as long as I show activity, I’m doing my job.

I beg to differ. While trying really hard is appreciated, it’s not effectively doing the job at hand. The job is selling, building relationships, adding value to the life of your buyer, and so much more.

As a manager, I’m interested in seeing the result of activity report. In other words, managers want to see what new sales are moving forward, are any existing clients up for renewal, and how much more will they be investing?

In fact, by looking at that report, I can more accurately determine what activities are necessary to optimize performance and scale results.

So, that brings us to the one report you need. But what would a “results-of-activity” report look like?

The Result-of-Activity Report

This reports identifies the activities that specifically contribute to sales in both the short term and long term. So, let’s take a look at the 4 kinds of activities that managers should want their salespeople to report on.

First Appointments

The first activity that managers should know about are First Appointments, that is:

  • New sales conversations with new leads
  • Restarted opportunities that were stalled
  • Existing account renewals
  • Account penetration sales

No matter how many types of activities a salesperson wants to describe in a conventional activity report, questions about first appointments get to the heart of the matter. And managers want to answer these questions:

  • How many new business conversations were scheduled?
  • How many were conducted?
  • Based on my (the sales rep’s) goals and YTD sales ratios, what is my target number of First Appointments?
  • Compared to last week, did I create more or fewer First Appointments?

As a manager, nothing makes me surer of future sales than First Appointments made this week. Why? Because First Appointments close at the end of your sales cycle. Therefore, if no First Appointments were conducted this week then we can’t forecast or expect to close any sales in the corresponding week at the end of the sales cycle.  

From a sales coaching and diagnostic stand point, do you know who needs more first appointments? Successful salespeople that just closed a deal as well as salespeople in a slump who need to make something happen. Only if a salesperson can continue to make First Appointments every week are they practicing effective time management principles. Because the definition of time management for salespeople is their ability to keep making first appointments even when they are busy.

Qualifying

The second activity that managers should know about is qualifying, and here’s what to consider:

  • What type of activity and how much effort went toward moving recent First Appointments forward and keeping them as viable prospects?
  • How many first sales conversations as well as ongoing sales conversations resulted in a scheduled next step?

These considerations reveal critical insight about a salesperson’s ability to engage, qualify, and strategize solutions with prospects.

The importance of activities within this category is the fact that some of these prospects will refill the other prospects that fall off or fall back. When you have a constant flow of leads, you can avoid the ups and downs of selling.

Questioning sellers about this category of activity will help managers identify if their reps are spending too much time, or too little time, working with prospects at this stage. Good things take time, so remember that time spent developing prospects is time well spent.

Expected Decisions

The third activity that managers should know about has to do with expected decisions.

The questions managers want salespeople to answer each week are:

  • How many total decisions are we now expecting?
  • What was the number of decisions expected last week? Has that number changed?
  • Are we waiting for the same decisions that we were waiting for last week?

As a manager, you need to know how many prospects have advanced to the decision point where we now know we can expect a yes or no decision within the next one to eight weeks. This will depends on your normal sales cycle and could be more or less than eight weeks.

Getting to this point in the sales cycle can be challenging. If sales reps are having trouble reaching this stage, then perhaps it’s time to rethink and reframe their activity. It can be as simple as making sure they are aligned with your qualifying criteria and how to identify the right decision maker, or it might take a more in-depth assessment of their selling skills and techniques.

Changes: Last Week vs. This Week

The fourth activity that salespeople should report on may be the only one a busy manager really needs to understand: What has changed since last week?

Managers want to know:

  • How many closes (contracts) are expected in the next 1-8 weeks?
  • What was that number last week? Has the number changed?
  • Are we waiting for the same number of contracts from the same prospects?

Every contract is either closer or further from closing or aging out. Either way, these pending opportunities need to be replaced before we lose them. We either lose a prospect because the deal closes, or because they don’t move forward with the deal.

For this reason, salespeople need to re-evaluate their list of prospects every week with an eye toward replacing those that are aging out with newly developed deals from this week’s activities.

Conclusion

The goal in sales is to produce. Since sales come from prospects, the real goal becomes building a path to the goal with the right prospects.  It’s this path and not the underlying activity that matters most to managers.  They know the longer a sale or prospect goes beyond the normal sales cycle, then the less likely they are to advance to the next sales stage. The best reports help the manager quickly determine how they can help their salespeople build a stronger path.

Traditional activity reports are like a good novel: entertaining reading about something the author just made up. So I encourage you to start getting real and keep track of the four key activities mentioned above to truly understand the performance of your sales team and how to help them improve.

The Manager's Guide to Increasing Sales through Existing Customers

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Topics: sales manager, sales activity, sales reports, sales performance

Why Existing Customers are the Key to Increased Sales

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Nov 2, 2016 2:02:02 PM

Anyone who works in sales can appreciate how difficult it is to secure a new client.

If you think of acquiring a new customer in terms of the effort it takes to build new relationships with new people, prove your capabilities, establish credibility for yourself and your company as well as negotiate new agreements, then you can understand why your existing customers are your biggest assets.

When working with existing customers, the barriers of developing new relationships and proving the ROI of your product or service won’t necessarily apply since you’ve already established trust and have a direct connection with the client.

Prospecting within your current customer base offers many advantages and you can start maximizing your relationships with these 4 tips:Building relationships within exisiting accounts

Mapping the Account

There are usually very strong synergies between the needs of different departments and/or divisions within the same company. However, accessing them does not always come easily.

You have to research the structure of the organization and ask yourself: Is it silo’ed? De-centralized? Centralized? Run autocratically?

How do you figure this out? Well, this calls for a little investigative work. Consider using your current contacts within the company as well as getting help from other outside vendors and allies to piece together a map of the company’s structure.

You may have an organizational chart, which will give you a good starting point, but a company’s structure more often than not resembles a maze. You must figure out how everything is linked together so that you can eventually leverage the success you’ve had in one department or division and apply it to other parts of the organization.

Try this: Start mapping the structure of your major accounts. You can get started by creating a simple spreadsheet with column headers such as: Name of the department/division you’re targeting, how you know if they have budget authority, and how the department/division is connected to the part of the company where you currently have credibility and presence. Your goal is to learn as much as you can about the decision making process and what players are involved. This way, you can more easily penetrate the other divisions. 

Visualize the Sale

When you have a presence within an account, you are no longer starting from scratch. You can leverage your contacts and your company’s history to generate and accelerate new sales.

Now that you have mapped the account and have a better understanding of the structure, you can be more effective in scoping out sales possibilities by using your contacts and insights to look at each department/division in order to interact with key players to determine (1) if a sale is on the horizon, (2) if it matches your capabilities and strengths, and (3) how you would approach the sale if doing so differently from your previous sale(s) makes sense.

So, look for opportunities, but be ready to adjust your sales strategy based on a firm analysis of what would make the best selling proposition to the new contact.

Try this: Based on your experience within the account, visualize what solutions could apply to the other parts of the organization. For each different department or division, note what you think you might sell, how it aligns with the customer’s needs/situation, and any competitive threat. Once you’ve identified these things, consider how you would uniquely position yourself against the competition.

Go To the Top

When making an initial sale, you usually try to find the most logical person to whom your value proposition makes the most sense and to whom you have the easiest access.

However, once you are within an account, the conditions change.

Rather than starting all over again, calling at a lower level, you now go to the highest level of customer contact who would benefit most from your value proposition and who is in a position to approve your sale and accelerate the sales cycle.

When you do this, you capitalize on your past success and leverage it to gain better traction. The more adept you become at this, the greater your ability will be to sell within the account. But, the starting point is identifying these “top players” and determining their roles in a sale.

Try this: Review everything you know about the account. Then, note who the person at the top would be for your sale, their role in decision-making, and who you can work with (an existing contact) to gain access to the top player.

What will the Sale Be Worth?

Once you go through all the analytical and planning techniques covered above, you should be in a position to make an informed decision about which sale to pursue and with whom. When doing this, follow four criteria: (1)The highest revenue, (2) the greatest profit, (3) the lowest cost of sale (including resource, financial outlays, effort and time), (4) and the sale that best strengthens your overall position in the account.

Try this: Review your potential sales and select the one that best meets the four criteria above.

Remember...

Selling doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. You can increase revenue and sales momentum by staying focused on cultivating current accounts and relationships. Don’t make selling any harder than it has to be, just remember to utilize the assets right in front of you by mapping each of your accounts, visualizing the next sale to the next department/division, identifing the top players and proper decision makers, and finally, consider what the sale is worth in terms of relationship currency, resources, time, and profit.
The Manager's Guide to Increasing Sales through Existing Customers

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Topics: sales prospecting, sales manager, account manager, Penetrating existing customers

4 Sales Strategies to Help Managers Help their Sellers

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Oct 13, 2016 4:51:48 PM

Being a sales manager requires managing a lot of moving parts. When you manage, your role is to strategize, support, and sell the vision to your team. Every now and then, you need to take a step back and reassess where your sellers are focusing their time and effort.

Here are 4 best practice sales strategies for managers looking for ideas and strategies to implement with your team.

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Stories

BEST PRACTICE:  One of the most effective ways to ensure that you are using your questioning skills to uncover complete stories is to keep in mind the total context of a story – beginning, middle, and end. When asking questions, don’t just focus on the here and now. Look into the past, into the beginning, and trace how the story developed from the initial point of contact through today and, potentially, where it might go tomorrow. This will give you a firmer grasp on the logic and history of a customer’s decision. As a manager, it is important to encourage your sellers to question the entire context of a story.

TRY THIS: Think of several accounts that you think have not been explored as effectively as possible by your sellers. Note what questions you wish they had asked.

Patterns

BEST PRACTICESellers’ bad habits are the bane of the manager’s life. The reason those habits form is that sellers always find themselves in the same situations. So, they develop ways to deal with these situations and, over time, start applying these techniques to all situations, regardless of the specifics of each one. This means they stop thinking creatively and stop challenging themselves to do “something different” and become satisfied with the routine reaction so they can move on to the next sale. As a manager, your task is to look at the patterns of each seller and find ways to challenge them to think and act differently.

TRY THIS: Review your sellers and identify those who are in a pattern of passively waiting for a decision and who do nothing to accelerate the close. For each, note the questions you would have them ask to more actively get decisions.

You Make the Call

BEST PRACTICE:  Active involvement in accounts is a critical activity for the manager for several reasons:

  • It enables you (and the company) to “own” the account.
  • It establishes a pipeline for the customer to get back to you to discuss issues and concerns that the customer does not want to discuss with the seller.
  • It helps you monitor and assess likelihood of closure.

TRY THIS: Think of critical accounts where you think you should be more involved in the sales/relationship-building efforts. For each, note ways that you think would work when you make a relationship/thank you call post sale. Then, think of other accounts where you think the seller would benefit by your involvement. For these, note what topic you would introduce on a call you place with the seller’s agreement.

Age Bias

BEST PRACTICE:  An effective manager will periodically review all unclosed accounts in the sellers’ pipeline and determine which ones have been unclosed for the longest time. The effective manager will periodically update the metrics on what constitutes the normal length of time to gain closure on specific types of sales and will use these metrics to measure which sales are trending towards too much time. Using these metrics and activities, the manager can make critical decisions on either coaching the seller to improve closing performance or to move away from particular sales and move on to something more promising.

TRY THIS: Review the accounts in your pipeline against historical accounts that have closed. Determine the normal length of time it takes to close a sale. Then, apply this metric against all existing unclosed sales and see which accounts are trending too long.

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Topics: sales strategies, sales manager, prospect management, pipeline management, steve bookbinder

3 Types of Sellers Who Need Coaching

Posted by Steve Bookbinder on Oct 5, 2016 11:46:29 AM

Coaching salespeople, like most things in life, does not favor a one-size-fits-all approach. 

In theory, all salespeople are motivated by money. But when it comes to motivating and coaching sales reps into action, it’s slightly more complicated.

If you’re a manager, then you’re already well aware that each seller on your team has their own unique personality and quirks, which can be challenging when it comes to managing and coaching these individuals.

Your goal as a manager is to build purposeful relationships that matter to your team so you better understand who they are, what drives them, and then find creative ways to help everyone feel personally motivated to succeed.

But, how do we properly coach to the most challenging types of salespeople?  

We’ve uncovered three of the most common types of sellers who may resist coaching, but who need it the most: The Defensive seller, the Yes-You-to-Death seller, and the Poisonous seller.

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Type #1: Defensive

You may already know the type.

You bring them into your office to talk about their prospecting, specifically their lack of consistent prospecting. And they immediately fire back with: “I don’t agree, just yesterday I called 20 people.”

To which you add “yes, but last month….” They cut you off with “last month I was busy closing that big sale –which would you rather I did, close or prospect?” 

My bald head is actually the result of yanking out all of my hair while having these kinds of conversations.

To solve this challenge, you first need to understand how this kind of person thinks.  They are convinced they are always right and feel under attack if anyone questions their decisions.

In this situation, the coach needs to move to the same side of the table as the seller, both figuratively and literally.  Direct the seller’s attention to the facts, ideally on a screen or piece of paper. Point out the data that led you to the conclusion that the seller’s problem is they are not prospecting enough.  

For instance, a manager once asked me to coach an extreme case of the defensive salesperson. This rep was consistently missing their goal and wasn’t open to getting advice. The manager and I walked into their office where the seller was waiting for the meeting to begin.  Their body language strongly suggested they were closed off and ready to attack.  Instead of sitting in the manager’s seat across the desk from this seller, I sat alongside the seller. Together, we looked at their pipeline. I asked them “If you were the manager and I was the seller and this was my pipeline what would you tell me?”  Even though they were trying to be defensive they couldn’t resist their overriding urge to be right – in this case, right about how clever they are at correctly diagnosing a pipeline that hardly had any prospects.  They told me “I would tell you to prospect more.” Bingo!

If you don’t start from the right point, there is no reason in having a coaching conversation. In the example above, I was able to reframe the situation because I knew what type of person I was dealing with and it allowed me to select a starting point that would ultimately lead to a more productive conversation.

Type #2: Yes-You-To-Death

While these people aren’t as infuriating as the Defensive type of salesperson, they are frequently underperforming. They always appear to be on the verge of success, but can never seem to win despite their willingness to do everything that is asked of them. That’s the curse. 

These types of people can be great to have around because they are so willing to help, but it becomes a hindrance when they don’t have a good handle on their capacity. Saying “yes” too quickly can lead to confusion about expectations and results.

While it’s important to keep the positive spirit alive, you must pay close attention to everything they do in order to make sure they fully understand what’s being asked of them.

For instance, I once had a “yes-you-to-death” seller who agreed to use a specific negotiation strategy. While at the moment it appeared they understood exactly what to do, it became clear they didn’t really know when I made them role play it out with another co-worker, while I observed. As I had expected, they either never really heard what I said or misunderstood, but judging from their role play we were not on the same page.

Similarly, if I ask a seller to send an email to an important account, especially an email that requires nuance and subtlety, I always ask to see their draft before sending.

As these examples show, you can overcome the challenge of coaching these types of “yes-you-to-death” sellers by positioning your coaching in a supportive way that emphasizes practice and repetition before “going live” to ensure the seller truly understands, and if they don’t, you’ve created a safe environment where they can ask questions to clarify the goal and expectations.

Type #3: Poisonous

These people have the ability to spread negativity throughout an organization like wildfire. They carry their pessimistic attitude wherever they go.

And in the worst cases, these people will even go as far as combining their negative attitude with the “know-it-all” syndrome. 

As you may already know, or can imagine, coaching this type of person is next to impossible. While you may have hired them for good reasons, the damage they are doing to the morale of the team is extremely detrimental.

While in some cases you may need to sever ties with this person, there are other cases where all hope might not be lost. There is a two-part strategy needed here. 

Part 1: Acknowledge the Obvious

Yes, that’s right, you have permission to directly address the “elephant in the room.” This is an obvious move, but not an easy one.

When we bring up the “elephant in the room” it usually revolves around addressing difficult people with hard-to-solve problems. It’s socially painful and can be a little stressful for people who aren’t comfortable with confrontation.

So, what usually happens is that everyone plays nice while never really identifying, discussing, or solving the issues at hand. Now the poisonous person, who knows meetings typically unfold this way, remains safe as no one ever confronts them. 

Stop giving them a pass. It’s time to ‘Acknowledging the Obvious’ by saying something like “…are you aware that every time I ask you to make a change you react in a way that makes it impossible for us to discuss the issue openly and honestly?”

Framing the issue in this way will allow you to start the conversation and bring the issue out into the open so that it can be discussed. However, don’t be surprised if the other person goes on the defensive. It’s a normal response when someone confronts an issue head on, because sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.  

Part 2: Remove the Poison

This is the part where we separate the poison from the other members of the team. 

The most obvious way of getting rid of this person is to fire them. But let’s say that’s not an option and we need to get creative. Here are two examples from my own experience:

At one point in my life I was managing a team of salespeople who were unionized and the poison person I wanted to get rid of was the shop-steward. Once I was determined to get this person off my team they dug in their heels and threatened to use the power of the union to stay put.  Rather than directly fight union, I found this woman a better job—one where should could excel.

In another instance, a manager told me he had a poisonous salesperson that was related to the owner of the company. Due to the circumstances, the manager felt he couldn’t fire the person. How did he deal with it? He “promoted” this person to what he called Group 2. The salesperson was stunned. They asked what this meant and if they were really fired. The manager assured them, “you aren’t fired, but you’ve been promoted to Group 2, which means you don’t have to attend meetings or training and no more paperwork. All that’s required of you is to try to sell, and if you close a deal, then you get commission.”  

This manager’s approach to preventing these negative, poisonous people from infiltrating the rest of the team was to keep them separated. While this may not work in your situation, the point is to consider your options before letting that person go.

Managers should strive towards having healthy, open relationships with every member of the team. In some cases it will be more challenging, while in other situations it will be effortless. Take the time to support your sellers, even the difficult ones, by remembering to reframe the situation and pick the right starting point, remain helpful while reinforcing your expectations of each seller, and finally, be patient and get resourceful when necessary.  

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Topics: sales, sales manager, coaching, sales coaching

4 Steps for Managers to Take When a Client Requests a New Salesperson

Posted by Buff Parham on Mar 16, 2016 8:55:00 AM

So one of your most valuable clients calls you requesting a new salesperson.

It happened to me and if you’re a sales manager long enough, it will probably happen to you. It’s nothing to look forward to, but what I learned from that episode was invaluable. And it helped me to avoid creating a similar one.

Sales managers are human beings and can’t be all seeing and all knowing in spite of their best efforts.

That phone call was a reminder to me of that very fact—just when I thought I was on top of everything, it was obvious that I wasn’t. I thought I had one of our best and most valuable accounts in the hands of a solid and reliable salesperson.

Unfortunately that client’s call shattered that assumption in less than two minutes.

Here are the 4 steps that I took to resolve the situation and my takeaways:

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1. Don’t hesitate to address the problem.

I promised the client that I would look into the situation right away and respond with a plan. It would not have been fair to the salesperson to fire him on that call without getting his point of view.

I also needed some time to get my own thoughts in order and not react simply out of emotion. Was I upset? Of course, but I couldn’t let my feelings either paralyze me or force me to make a snap decision.

2. Have a frank and open conversation with the salesperson that’s in jeopardy.

We had a one-on-one meeting where I simply repeated what the client had said to me during our call. I asked the salesperson for his side of the story.

I reminded him that he had us convinced that he was doing a great job with the account and that the numbers seemed to back that up. So what went so wrong that the client would call his boss with such a drastic request?

3. Inform the salesperson first of your decision.

After weighing what I had heard from both the client and my salesperson, I concluded that the post-sale service was the root of the problem.

My salesperson had done a good job securing the order, but had completely dropped the ball on follow up, which conveyed a negligent image in the mind of the client.

When I had pressed the client for “what went wrong”, I was hearing the same theme. So I told the salesperson that we were making a change based on his failure to provide good service after the sale.

4. Inform the client that the decision you made was based on your evaluation of the situation, not theirs.

It was really important for my client to understand that I wasn’t turning over my role and authority—that my decision was based on input from all parties and not just a capitulation to the client’s request.

Why?

Because not saying so would invite a repeat episode down the line. A complete non-starter.

I also told the client that I would name a replacement in a short period of time—once again, I bought myself some time to make a thoughtful decision as opposed to a knee jerk one.

The customer isn’t always right, but the customer is always the customer. I respect a customer’s point of view and try to work for a win-win situation whenever possible.

But simply agreeing with everything a client says and making them happy all the time doesn’t build much respect for you or your company in the process. And while it may sound cynical, kindness is often mistaken for weakness.

I never relished situations like this one, but I don’t run from them either. Smooth seas don’t build leaders. To grow as a leader, we all need to be tested by how we handle the difficult calls not just the easy ones.

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About the Author

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Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

Connect with Buff via LinkedIn 

Check out Buff’s Blog www.BuffParham.com

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Topics: sales management, sales manager

Feedback: Even Managers Need It

Posted by Buff Parham on Dec 10, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Managers are almost always reviewed by their superiors—and they get valuable feedback from that process. What’s even more valuable is getting that same kind of information and insight from those who work for them.

Very few companies require their managers to be reviewed by their staff—which means that really savvy managers take the initiative to do this on their own. It shouldn’t be just an ego boost. It’s about actually gathering important information to help improve your performance.

Don’t be afraid or hesitant to ask. Asking your team members speaks volumes about you in a very positive way. Many employees are pleasantly surprised (and impressed) when their respective boss asks, “How am I doing?”

Staff evaluation of your performance works on two levels, giving you valuable feedback and connecting you closer to your team at the same time.  

Managers need feedback too

Here are some critical tips that will help you get the most out of this endeavor:

1. Ask privately not publicly, and broaden your sample of respondents.

Doing a group review is a waste of time—there are always opinion leaders who will skew the feedback to their liking. One-on-one sessions is the way to go. It may take you a little longer, but you will get more and better information in that setting.

While you don’t need to meet with every member of the team, you should strive to have a diverse range of people in your “sample.” Picking only the people who are closest to you or those who never challenge you is a mistake.

2. Guarantee “immunity” and be prepared to listen proactively.

Make it very explicit that there will be no negative consequences for a staff member being candid, open, and honest with you through the review. Everyone should feel relaxed and not threatened if you want truly constructive feedback.

Your body language during each session should communicate that you are taking it all in and not being judgmental about what you’re hearing. Your questions should seek further clarification and/or amplification on a particular observation, nothing more and nothing less.

3. Structure the conversation and ask for balanced remarks.

You will also cover more ground if you tell each staff member what items you would like to cover before getting started. And stick to the agenda!

Don’t allow yourself or your reviewer to wander off the topic at hand. You should also ask (and ask again) for both the pros and cons.

Even though you’ve already established immunity, you will still need to prompt staff members to share insights that may be critical or not so positive about your performance.

4. Don’t be defensive and synthesize the feedback.

Pushing back against what’s being shared with you is a non-starter. If you do, your team will shut down and it will be even more difficult the next time (if ever) that you try to conduct a review. Additionally, word will travel fast that you’re not accepting the feedback being offered.

If you execute these reviews in a professional and forthright way, you will have gathered plenty of information that will point out obvious points about your performance. “The good, the bad, and the ugly” will present itself and give you a road map for further growth to becoming a first class manager.

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About the Author

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Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

Connect with Buff via LinkedIn 

Check out Buff’s Blog www.BuffParham.com

Follow @BuffParham

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Topics: sales manager, feedback

5 Ways to Make Your Sales Meetings Matter

Posted by Buff Parham on Aug 18, 2015 9:08:00 AM

If your sales team perceives the sales meeting as nothing more than a “necessary evil”, then they’re missing a major opportunity. Salespeople have the ability to “tune out” during a meeting and just go through the motions. Then there’s usually the “meeting after the meeting”, when salespeople will talk among themselves about what’s really important to them.

If the sales meeting isn’t actually addressing everyone’s issues and concerns then it’s not an effective use of anyone’s time. Sales managers need to make a serious and consistent effort to amp up the value of each and every sales meeting.

Here are 5 basic things to consider: 

1. Everyone should know what to expect

Publishing and distributing a written agenda makes for a much more productive meeting. It allows each member to prepare to contribute.

Every agenda item should also have a time value assigned to it. The amount of time devoted to a given item also signals its relative importance. It’s unrealistic to think that every single item to be covered in a sales meeting has the same stature. So make sure that the most important ones stand out—even before the meeting gets under way.

2. Routine kills

If the agenda never changes, the value of the meeting is seriously compromised. A sales meeting should never be perceived as drudgery.

It’s the manager’s job to mix up the topics, focus, and tone so that team members come away feeling energized and informed instead of just beaten down by another boring meeting. Managers who bring thought provoking material and unexpected topics to the meeting win big here.

3. Meetings are not emails

Is there anything worse than a sales meeting that is just a regurgitation of recent emails from the sales manager and other members of the staff?

The team’s time together is too valuable to waste it repeating what salespeople should have read on their own. It’s also insulting. When managers only focus on what should already be common knowledge they seem to be saying “I don’t trust you to read the important information that we send to you.” And if that’s the case, then why is any given salesperson even there in the first place?

It’s okay to allude to the contents of a recent email, or to use one as springboard to explore an issue in depth, but just re-stating it is a non-starter.

4. Always make time for high fives

high-five-in-office

Great salespeople work for money, but they thrive on recognition - usually public recognition. Being applauded by their peer group for a great sale, deal, etc. is what makes them go.

In the course of a sales meeting, the manager has several chances to point out the achievements of more than one salesperson, and offer them as an example for what can be done by others. It’s been proven that positive reinforcement of successful behavior promotes more of the same. So managers shouldn’t hesitate to publicly recognize great work whenever possible.

5. Draw a chart

Outline in some kind of diagram the amount of participation from each person attending the meeting. That graphic will show the amount of  “balance” in the meeting.

Is the manager doing all of the talking? How many team members are contributing or merely responding when asked a direct question? Which team members are fully engaged and which ones are just “sitting through the movie”?

This is a good tool to move toward the goal of total team involvement in the sales meeting.

The sales meeting may be the most neglected weapon in a sales manager’s arsenal. Using it as a positive activity instead of a routine chore can have an incredibly positive effect on the entire team. So managers, start making your sales meetings really matter.

How to Solve 5 Common Problems in Your Sales Team - Free eBook


About the Author

buff_parham-1

Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

Connect with Buff via LinkedIn 

Check out Buff’s Blog www.BuffParham.com

Follow @BuffParham

Read More

Topics: sales manager, sales meeting

Recognizing Real Opportunities: 4 Questions Sales Managers Should Ask

Posted by Anna Adamczyk on Jun 18, 2015 9:23:00 AM

As a sales manager, your role is broad. You have to ensure your sellers are focused with all their activities and you’re responsible for everyone hitting their numbers. You don’t want to micromanage, but you need to be able to help and lead your team efficiently. Hopefully you’re already doing a significant amount of measurement on selling activity to have an overview of everything that’s going on, but when you’re required to dive deeper into your sellers’ specific opportunities, how can you start a productive discussion?

Keeping your team on track with real sales and away from wasting their time with dead-ends is one aspect of being a great manager. What can you ask to ensure your team’s leads are worthwhile and actually qualified?

1. How have they expressed interest?

Make sure your seller knows exactly how and why their prospect is interested in the offering. Sometimes it’s just wishful thinking on the part of the salesperson about whether their contact is actually seriously considering buying. Knowing how the individual has explicitly indicated they have an interest and need for the product or service is crucial and the first step in classifying them as a serious prospect.

2. Are they the decision maker?

Who is the prospect? What’s their position? Are they an actual buying persona for the company? Do they have the authority to decide whether they’ll buy from you? If they’re not the ultimate decision maker, how can they help move the sale along? Are they an influential position with the final buyer? Knowing who exactly your seller is talking to is important in having insight into whether the deal will go anywhere.

3. What’s their budget?

In order to establish that any discussion with a prospect will yield a true opportunity, the seller needs to have a clear idea of what the budget is. Have they been wasting their time chasing someone who is interested, but has absolutely no budget? Is the budget so small that the time and effort spent trying to cultivate that sale could really be better spent somewhere else? Is the budget off the charts and your seller hasn’t been pursuing the opportunity with adequate vigor? Knowing the budget can help you assist your seller in formulating an effective approach.

calendar-dates-timeline4. What’s the timeline?

The timeline of a potential buyer’s process will help your salesperson forecast with greater accuracy and confidence. If a deadline for the buyer is quickly approaching, the seller should be acting with greater emphasis on moving the sale along. If no clear timeline is in sight, this could be a potential warning sign of the supposed interest, budget, or decision making authority. Having an idea about the timeframe is something you should stress to your team.

If your sellers aren’t capable of answering these questions, make sure they follow up with their contacts so that next time you ask, they have clear answers. Taking the time to ask these questions about any accounts you see stalling, will allow you to easily discuss action steps with your sellers for moving forward. Eventually your team will begin to ask these questions of themselves to continue to streamline their sales process  by recognizing when a discussion with a lead won’t go anywhere.

3 Questions to Ask Before Investing in Sales Training eBook

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Topics: sales manager, sales questions

5 Keys to Building a Cohesive Sales Team

Posted by Buff Parham on Jun 16, 2015 1:37:00 PM

In the digital age, selling is literally moving at the speed of light. Having a cohesive sales team is absolutely critical for success in this fast paced, high-pressure market environment. It’s just not OK to have a “collection of sellers” that do their own thing thereby missing the “force multiplier” of working as a team. Building a dynamic unit can’t be left to chance—there needs to be a blueprint and an action plan to make that happen!

Here are five critical keys to building that cohesive team:

1. There must be a shared sense of purpose.

soldiers-team-unitEveryone on board agrees on why they are there and has a clear idea of the mission at hand. In the military, officers are trained on articulating “the commander’s intent”—every member of a given unit, regardless of his/her function, can state the overall mission in two sentences or less. It is unrealistic to expect great team performance if the members of the team don’t agree and/or don’t know what the team’s purpose is. Managers should never assume that the members have figured it out on their own. Reinforcing that shared sense of purpose should also be done periodically to keep it top of mind

2. Mutual respect for all members of the team is mandatory.

Regardless of position, seniority, or any other factor, everyone involved is entitled to the respect of everyone else. Far too often, support people are taken for granted, or worse yet, taken advantage of. Managers must send a clear message, based on their own behavior, that mutual respect is the “glue” that holds the entire group together. In fighting, cliques, etc. typically arise when there’s a lack of respect within the group. “United we stand, divided we fall” remains a profound truth.

3. Recognize and share the strengths of every team member.

Managers should know what each person brings to the party. Any collection of humans has a range of talents and skills—identifying those that are valuable for the entire team is an example of that “force multiplier.”  Publicly recognizing those individual strengths promotes morale and invites other team members to tap into that respective person as a resource. In a short period of time, people begin to reciprocate, offering their own talents and tapping into those of others on board.

4. Open and unqualified communication at all times.

Every team member should feel comfortable sharing relevant information, ideas, suggestions, etc. with the rest of the team. There’s no monopoly on good ideas, and the team should be operating in an environment where no one should feel inhibited or hesitant to put relevant stuff on the table. This is especially true if someone has serious reservations about an action that the team is about to take. Fear of being ostracized for “raising one’s hand” is a non-starter. Quite often, the perspective of the “outlier” on a given issue can save the team a lot of wasted time and effort on a particular matter. Managers must encourage team members to do more than just “shake their heads” in agreement.

5. The ability to adapt to rapid change.

Even the best-laid plans must often change once the battle begins. Having a team that is flexible and doesn’t panic when conditions shift is essential in this new business environment. The four points we’ve already listed are the foundation for building this kind of team. A rapid change in business conditions will be an ample test of just how cohesive a sales team really is. Make sure that yours will pass with flying colors!

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About the Author

buff_parham-1

Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

Connect with Buff via LinkedIn 

Check out Buff’s Blog www.BuffParham.com

Follow @BuffParham

 

Read More

Topics: sales, sales manager, sales team

5 Tips for Managing Your Sales Manager

Posted by Buff Parham on Jun 9, 2015 9:06:00 AM

Consider yourself lucky if you and your sales manager have a great relationship. And if your relationship doesn’t fall into that category, then it’s your challenge to make it work to your advantage as much as possible. There are times when salespeople don’t get the quality of sales management that they need and/or deserve. Accepting that situation is actually unacceptable. Why? Because it’s going to be more difficult to grow and prosper if you “go along to get along.” Mediocre sales managers tend to breed mediocre salespeople. Since you aren’t in a position to get rid of your sales manager, you can either seek another sales position, or take steps to have a workable relationship with the one you have now.

Here are some of the key steps that you can and should take:

  1. Be clear and open with your communication. Any healthy relationship between two people requires two-way sharing of information, ideas, opinions, etc. It’s almost impossible to know what the other person is thinking unless you can share those thoughts and concerns with each other. Through some blend of email, meetings, phone calls, and texts, a savvy salesperson will build strong lines of communication with his or her sales manager. Obviously, the tone of your messages needs to respect the position, but the content of those messages should give your sales manager a clear understanding of whatever is on your mind.
  1. Make it clear that you take full responsibility for your actions. Taking charge of your business doesn’t mean that you’re a maverick or a renegade. It means that you “play by the rules” but that you hold yourself accountable for the results of your work. The “rules” are what they are and it’s a salesperson’s responsibility to figure out how to be successful without breaking them. Too often, salespeople will blame “the rules” for their failure to meet a goal or achieve a designated objective. Making it clear that the buck stops with you generates professional respect from any sales manager!
  1. Suggest your own goals for growth and revenue development. Don’t wait for your sales manager to start this process. It’s inevitable that you will be having periodic discussions about your growth and revenue targets, and taking the initiative is much to your advantage. It’s consistent with Tip #2, that you’re once again taking charge of your business instead of waiting for someone else to do so. Stepping up on this one also demonstrates your understanding of the “bigger picture” that your sales manager deals with on a regular basis. And would you rather have goals that you defined or ones that are defined for you?
  1. Anticipate and respond to requests in advance of them being made. This is a skill that applies to clients and sales managers alike. Being able to see where things are going before your sales manager gets there will make your professional life much simpler and more enjoyable. It’s being on the offensive in a positive and proactive way. It also shows your sales manager that you’re on top of your game, and not oblivious to the critical pieces of the mission. It’s worth the extra time and effort to “read the tea leaves” and act accordingly. 
  1. solution-ideaAlways present your sales manager with a solution and never a problem. Most sales managers, regardless of their own abilities, resent the idea of having to constantly solve their salespeople’s problems. Bringing nothing but problems to their attention also undermines any confidence and/or respect that sales manager may have had for a given salesperson. Having a conversation about your suggested solution is much more productive and once again shows that you, the salesperson, are taking charge of your business. 

Healthy business relationships are built on mutual respect. You don’t have to be “best friends” with your manager to be successful. Defining yourself as a reliable, creative, and productive salesperson is the winning combination!

Competitive Selling

 


 

About the Author

buff_parham-1

Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

Connect with Buff via LinkedIn 

Check out Buff’s Blog www.BuffParham.com

Follow @BuffParham

 

Read More

Topics: sales management, sales manager