How to Protect Your Customers during a Merger or Acquisition

As a salesperson, going through a merger or acquisition is stressful enough without having to protect your customers too.

But like it or not, that’s what most of us must go through until the dust finally settles, and you know whether you have a job or not.

When a merger or acquisition occurs, many decisions are being made above your pay grade. Whether it is pricing, products, services, shipping or billing, you pretty much are out of the loop.

Sure, you can voice your objections about price increases, and sound the alarm if product quality is degraded, but really….is anyone going to care?

Is anyone really going to listen?

No.

Upper management has one goal in mind – complete the merger or acquisition as quickly and painlessly as possible so they can get back into the business of earning a profit.

And if that means cracking a few eggs along the way, well that’s the price of doing business.

Your goal? To make sure you’re not one of the eggs being cracked.

Yes, your compensation package may go up or down, and your benefits may be enhanced or reduced, but the one thing you need to always do is this – making damn sure your customers are protected.

So, how do you protect your customers?

1). Be honest – Well, be as sincere as possible without the risk of getting fired. Your customers depend on you to help them ride through the rough patch. It doesn’t matter whether you like some of your customers or not. It doesn’t matter if upper management is treating you like dirt or not. You’re a professional. You must rise above the pain, chaos, and uncertainty and help your clients.

For example, if prices will increase, let your customers know ASAP. If the new owners are planning to replace products or services, let your customers know that too.

It’s better your customers hear bad news from you than from upper management. By getting ahead of negative information, you can hopefully spin it to your advantage. At the bare minimum, you will prevent your customers from getting blindsided.

Better to be honest now with the hope that you might land on your feet somewhere else, then be dishonest and have your professional reputation destroyed.

2). Be a crisis manager – When your customers can’t get straight answers from the billing, shipping or other departments, you better be prepared to step in and resolve problems – quickly. If you do this, your customers will respect you, and hopefully, you will continue to see more orders from them in the future.

Yes, intervening in customer service problems may not be selling per se, but when the shit hits the fan (and it often does in mergers and acquisitions), you don’t have time to play “it’s not my job” games. That kind of attitude could get you fired — fast.

You need to step in quickly, resolve issues, and hope good Karma will rub off on you.

If not, you better be prepared to rub off a lot of lottery tickets to make up for the lost income you will receive walking the streets seeking a new job.

3). Be selling – don’t use the excuse of the chaos of an acquisition or merger to prevent you from doing your main job – selling. It’s easy to play the victim card and blame upper management for poor sales. But here’s the reality that you’re not going to like – you’re already a victim of an acquisition or merger. So, playing the additional victim card isn’t going to save you.

You need to stay focused. Sooner or later (and you hope sooner), things will begin to settle down, and upper management will take a hard look at who the winners and losers are. Make sure you don’t fall into the latter group.

Selling is tough. But it’s tougher when you are going through a merger and acquisition.  I know that from experience because I’ve gone through several mergers and acquisitions in my career. For example, I experienced so much anxiety during one acquisition, my hair was falling out, and I was losing sleep.

Don’t make the same mistake I made. Stay calm. Stay focused. Stay aware of what’s happening. And do whatever you can to protect your customers.

And if all else fails, leave. There are always other sales jobs. But there’s only one of you. Your health and mental state are more important than any job.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Guest Post: Sales Teams Have More to Worry About Than Just Losing Clients

If you conduct searches on Google and look at popular sales blogs, you will find plenty of articles about what it takes to locate the perfect sales representatives. You will also find information about how to write the best job description for a sales position and how to boost customer retention. Why is it easy to see all this stuff?

You could go to the  HubSpot Sales Blog and find articles about finding and hiring the best Sales Development Rep (SDR). There are two specific blog posts which perform better than any others on there. The titles are “10 Common Sales Job Interview Questions” and “40 Sales Interview Questions to Recruit the Best Reps.” If you were to check the analytics of these posts, you would see they have organic views in the thousands per month. Organic views are people who find the posts through search engine searches.

Companies worry so much about interviewing to find the best sales representatives. Maybe this is not such a good thing to do. It might be wiser for them to spend more money and time on improving the performance of the sales representatives they currently have. Losing clients may not be as bad as losing fellow teammates and sales representatives of the company.

According to a Bridge Group report from 2018, the average sales representative will have a tenure of 1 ½ years. This is not that great because the average sales development representative will need 3.2 months to achieve maximum productivity. How to reach the highest level of productivity – you definitely should have a look at our tips.

In the year 2010, a survey was conducted on the average tenure for sales representatives, and it revealed that 44% of them had a 3-year tenure. In 2018, only 8% of sales representatives reportedly have this much tenure.

What Makes Sales Representatives Want to Leave?

The main reason they are leaving is that they have very little job satisfaction. According to a study in which Marc Wayshak conducted this year, merely 17.6% of the people surveyed had indicated they have “outstanding” job satisfaction. Another 47.1% of the respondents said they have “good” job satisfaction. The study also revealed that salespeople like their jobs more when they can devote more of their time to activities related to sales. The sales representatives who got to spend 4 hours or more on sales-related activities per day were more satisfied with their jobs than sales representatives who spend only 3 hours or less. The former gave their job satisfaction a 3.8 / 5 rating.

Big Expectations for Management and Culture 

Going further into this study, we found out that salespeople care a lot about the effectiveness of management and organizational culture. Sales representatives indicated these things are more important than job flexibility, commission, compensation, and job role.

There are still sales stereotypes in companies. Sales representatives already realize that people don’t like them. In the study by Wayshak, we saw that salespeople used the following words to describe how customers perceive them:

Greedy

Annoying

Untrustworthy

Pushy

The average salesperson’s tenure does not last if it takes to get a decent promotion. This is probably a big reason that sales representatives don’t stay very long.  Sales representatives will have an 18-month tenure on average. As a sales development representative, they will spend about 13 to 18 months before getting a promotion to an account executive position. Most sales representatives are too impatient to wait this long for a promotion. They will leave the company before their bosses consider them for it.

How Can Sales Managers Retain More Sales? The quick answer is to hire additional sales representatives who have a lot of experience.

In a report from Bridge Group, it revealed that hiring sales representatives with additional experience increased their average tenure. It also increased the amount of time they maintained full productivity on the job. Don’t make the mistake of hiring some new business development representative who just graduated from college because they will work for less money. It is smarter to invest more money in hiring an experienced sales representative. That way, they will know how to make you money faster without needing any on the job training.

Train Your Reps on Organizational Management and Culture

When Wayshak did his study, he discovered that sales representatives find the most value in having great managers to work with and a great organizational culture. Meanwhile, he saw that sales representatives were not concerned so much about compensation. Therefore, salespeople need to be trained in a way that makes them support the culture of the company and the sales team.

According to a CSO Insights survey, a sales leader will devote 20% of their day to assisting their sales team with closings. This is a no-win scenario because the sales representatives don’t feel like their careers will develop this way. The deals may not even work out either.

Promotion Communication

Your sales representatives must be regularly informed about their work performance and chances for promotion. The millennial generation makes up the current sales representatives out there right now. According to a survey by Deloitte, 25% of millennial sales representatives want to quit their current sales position within 12 months. Another 44% indicated they want to quit within 24 months.

You need to try to retain your sales representatives. Always let them know how they’re doing so they don’t wonder about it. Talk to them in person and give them feedback on a regular basis. If they know you’re considering them for a promotion, they will want to stay.

Managing the Performance of Sales Reps

According to a sales executive named Norman Behar, sales performance management is more important than leadership and sales coaching skills.

Most companies assume that their managers can manage sales performance effectively. This is not a good thing for them to do, though.

People may perform well as sales representatives, but that doesn’t mean they will perform well as sales managers. It takes an extraordinary ability to motivate sales teams to generate more sales and revenue.

Companies spend too much time worrying about sales results instead of sales behaviors. It takes certain behaviors to make the results happen. In the survey by Wayshak, 81.6% of the best-earning sales representatives spent 4 hours or more doing activities related to sales. These activities included sales meetings, prospecting, follow-ups, and referrals. These are all behaviors, not results.

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are what drive this issue today. The systems conduct measurements in real-time, and the results get reported afterward. Majority of salespeople prefer a transformative way of using CRMs – automation tool, sales bots which regularly allow getting reports about sales deals closed, show which deals are the most promising and update any necessary information easily due to chat interface.

Closer bot can become a great assistant for you, so you can leave all routine work for it and focus on the most important – on closing deals.

It can be helpful to watch this data as it comes in. However, the information is based on things that have already happened. It doesn’t measure underlying behaviors which affect future outcomes.

Behavior Management

Sales representatives typically set goals for how many pitches to make in a given period. You should not track this behavior, though. The survey by Wayshak showed that a mere 7% of the best-performing sales representatives indicated they pitch often. Meanwhile, 19% of other lower performers reported they often pitch too. Therefore, pitching is not a behavior that will determine your level of success.

Sales organizations need to consider the primary objectives they should watch for and which behaviors will help achieve them. Just remember to monitor results while managing and monitoring behaviors. After all, the results are the lagging indicators, and the behaviors are the leading indicators.

To help you understand what makes behaviors and results differ from one another, consider the following example:

If the result that your company wants to achieve is “acquiring new customers,” then your key behaviors will be:

– Establishing meetings for the first time with potential customers.

– Providing the sales pipeline with more opportunities.

– Planning out the territory and making a thorough list of potential customers (for example Closer bot shows on who to focus, what the most promising deals are).

– Making plans for accounts which outline the primary influencers and decision makers.

Make sure you place limitations on the number of primary results that you wish to watch. If there are a lot of outcomes that you want to happen, that will cause many more behaviors. Let’s see an example of this. Suppose a sales company wants to watch 15 results. If each one of these results is connected to 4 behaviors, then sales managers must manage and monitor as many as 60 responses. This could never be maintainable.

If you want to be practical about this, direct your attention to 2 or 3 of the results that are most crucial. From there, you can manage the 8 or 12 behaviors that correspond with these results and drive them forward.

The 4 Ways to Practice Performance Management

After you have achieved the results you wanted and identified the behaviors which correspond with them, sales managers should focus on performance management.

Here are the four steps they need to do this:

1) Tell the salespeople what the expectations of their performance are.

2) All specific behaviors should be managed and monitored.

3) The results need to be monitored.

4) Standard feedback should be given.

Regarding the new customer acquisition example, the sales manager is now able to tell their salespeople how many customers they are expected to obtain, and which behaviors will allow them to achieve these results. And, of course, they will be told the timeframe in which they are supposed to do this.

Sales managers need to give feedback to their salespeople on a regular basis. The input should encourage the salespeople based on the key behaviors they have attained and/or the gaps which exist in their performance. For instance, a fundamental behavior could be something like setting 20 appointments for the first time in one week. Differences in performance might be failing to provide account plans to the sales manager.

In the end, sales managers still care about results. They need to realize that behavior management is how those results will be achieved. If you can tell the difference between results and behavior, then it will be easier for your sales team to succeed at keeping sales representatives happy.

Author: Vlad Goloshuk is a serial entrepreneur with a focus on B2B sales tech. He is the founder of Closer.bot (a slack bot designed to minimize sales reps time on CRM updates) and also a CEO at Brightestminds.io (a B2B lead generation agency).

Why do Customers Lie?

After several conversations, presenting an online tour or two, submitting a sales proposal or contract, and setting up a free trial, you’re now confident that your prospect is ready to become a buyer.

But days, weeks and months go by, and all you are hearing are lame excuses, or worse, crickets.

No returned phone calls. No responses from your repeatedly sent emails. Your voicemails are getting deleted.

Then it dawns on you –

Your prospect lied to you.

I’m sure you have heard the old saying “All buyers are liars.”

Well, that’s not always true. Of course.

But enough customers do lie.

Why?

Several reasons –

First, your potential buyer was never a decision maker. Yes, we have all heard that you need to vet a prospect to ensure they are indeed a decision maker. If you are afraid to ask a potential buyer directly, you can always ask “Can you please explain to me your purchasing process?” or, “How does your company make purchasing decisions?”

And there’s always research. Check LinkedIn. Is the potential buyer a CEO or a summer intern? You see my point.

But no matter how well you think you determined who the key decision maker is, something always falls through the cracks. Maybe the key decision maker was demoted and he’s too embarrassed to tell you. Maybe there is more than one key decision maker, but your prospect is afraid to inform you.

Regardless, you wasted time speaking to the wrong person and got your hopes up high for nothing.

Second, your potential buyer can’t pay for your service or product. It happens. You’re told the budget is there. You think the budget is there. But then, when it comes time for the close, the budget isn’t there. Ouch. Maybe the potential buyer was interested in the beginning, but when he discovered he didn’t have the money, he was too ashamed to tell you.

Third, your potential buyer was never a serious customer. Sure, he gave you all the right signals and said all the right buzzwords. But in the end, he was just window shopping. Or, worst he was comparing your service and product with a competitor that he was more interested in. It’s like going to your local Best Buy to check out electronics, and then going on Amazon to buy the same electronics at a lower price.

Unfair? Of course. But it happens in sales all the time. Yes, I know the price isn’t everything, and you should focus on the value you are offering your prospect. Unfortunately, not all prospects read the same sales books you’re reading.

And finally, your potential buyer is too busy. Despite what you may think, you’re not the only vendor in town contacting your prospect. Depending on the industry you’re in, prospects are constantly being bombarded with sales calls. Or, maybe your potential buyer was interested when you spoke to him, but he got pulled away with more pressuring demands. It happens.

Like it or not, customers lie all the time. The key is not to take it personally. Move on. You can always circle back later.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Why are Start-ups Afraid to Publish their Phone Numbers?

One of the biggest challenges for salespeople is trying to contact start-ups. Why? Because many start-ups don’t publish their company phone numbers – if they have them at all.

But even those who do have phone numbers, they are very reluctant to put them on their websites.

There are two significant reasons for this

First, they don’t have the resources or time to answer the phone. Yes, most start-ups are bootstrapping it, and the idea of devoting precious human resources answering phones bothers them. And for a good reason – they are busy developing and fine-tuning their product or service offerings, and they don’t want to be disturbed by what they consider to be pesky salespeople.

And second, they think using phones is so passé in the internet age. Their attitude is that sending emails, using text messages or online chats are better than using the phone. After all, why deal with bothersome customers or prospects when responding to an email or chat will do. With email or chats, the thinking goes, you can keep track of correspondence.

But by not publishing phone numbers, start-ups are only hurting themselves by cutting their profits.

Here’s why –

First, credibility. When you are starting out with little or no name recognition, your biggest selling point is credibility. Without publishing your phone number on your site, many potential customers may be afraid or uncomfortable contacting you. And you may end up turning away potential customers who wouldn’t even call you but feel that you too shady to deal with if your phone number isn’t on your site. In an age when cybersecurity awareness is at an all-time high, credibility can make or break your business.

Second, knowledge. Having a phone and making it easier for customers and potential clients to contact you early will give you a better idea of the viability of your product or service before you hit the market big time. Many start-ups began their business with one idea, but then slowly decided to move to a new direction based on ideas and suggestions from clients.

Third, support. Not everyone feels comfortable or has the time to send emails, texts or use online chats. Sometimes people like doing things the old fashion way by making phone calls. They like the assurance there is a real live person on the other line who cares and hopefully will help them.

And finally, intelligence. Good salespeople don’t spam and ham their way into a start-up. Most take the time to do their research to determine if a start-up would be a good fit for their products and services. A good salesperson realizes that he’s not just selling you a product or service – but developing what hopefully will be an excellent long-term relationship with repeat sales and referrals. To completely block all salespeople out because of a few jerks is a bad idea. Publish your phone number. Take some time and risk to listen to what salespeople have to offer. You may be surprised by what they have to say.

In summary, yes, you will always receive cold calls from salespeople like me. That’s a given. But you can still screen your inbound calls from people you don’t want to speak to over the phone. By not publishing your phone number, you lose more than you will gain by not being more readily available to your clients, potential buyers, and salespeople who could help you.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book  — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

How to handle Post-Trade Show Trauma

You had a successful time at a trade show. You were able to attract a lot of attendees to your booth or tabletop display. You gathered several good leads. You had great conversations. Promises were made.

Then, a few weeks later, crickets.

Your phone calls and emails are not being returned.

And if you do reach a prospect, you are getting the brush off, or the famous “do I know you” attitude.

What happened?

You just experienced post-trade show trauma.

What is post-trade show trauma? It’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that all the time and money you invested in attending a trade show went right down the drain.

Here’s the problem with attending trade shows as a vendor – you and attendees get blinded by too much enthusiasm. After all, trade shows are high energy events. Lots of drinking. Lots of talking. Lots of partying. Lots of sharing war stories. Lots of exchanging business cards. Lots of doing sales pitches and presentations. Lots of back-slapping.

But when you return home, reality begins to set in.

Your prospects begin to develop cold feet about speaking with you.

Why?

Several reasons.

First, they don’t have the budget to make purchasing decisions. Sure, they may have told you that they are expecting a large grant or major bucks from an angel investor, but the money hasn’t shown up yet. At least, not right now.

Second, they are not the decision maker as they promised you. Now, they are too ashamed and embarrassed to admit it, so they duck your calls. He said he was a sales manager? Really!?! Then why does his LinkedIn profile say he’s a summer intern whose daddy paid his way to attend his first grown-up trade show. Oops, you didn’t see that coming, didn’t you?

Third, maybe they are the decision maker, but they can’t make a…..decision because they are too overwhelmed with pressing or urgent projects. When crises hit, it’s the decision maker to the rescue. As for you, you’re lucky if you end up on the proverbial back burner before he returns your phone calls.

Whatever the reason, you need to remain calm.

When you sell, especially enterprise products and services, you must be prepared to play the long game. You’re not the only vendor in town vying for the attention and business of your prospect.

Sure, you may have had a great conversation with your prospect at your booth, but a few booths down from you, that same prospect may have had a better discussion with your competitor.

Now, you’re screwed.

Or, maybe not.

Be patient. Keep your pipeline full. Set the right priorities.

Eventually, the post-trade show trauma will disappear once the orders start coming in.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

How to Turn Your Idea Into a Sales Machine (workshop)

If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, I want to encourage you to attend my friend’s workshop on “How to Turn Your Idea Into a Sales Machine.”

Richard Rothstein, a sales consultant, will be conducting the workshops twice next week. The first all-day workshop will be on Tuesday, July 24th from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST. The next workshop will be held on Saturday, July 28th from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST. Both workshops will be held at 1776, 1133 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005. View Map

The registration fee for either workshop is $500.00. The seminar is an excellent investment for any entrepreneur or start-up owner who is planning to start selling his products or services soon. It’s one thing to have a great idea and product or service; however, it quite another to begin selling it in the open market. Richard can help guide you through the pitfalls and challenges that all new business owners face in today’s hectic and fast-paced sales environment. I would encourage you to attend.