The Choice, or How a Millennial got Screwed

(Note: The following story is true. Real names are not used for obvious reasons.)

You are a sales manager of a 5 person sales team at a small conservative parochial company. It’s a slow growth business using limited marketing and social media programs to help generate qualified leads and prospects.

The office is crappy.

The plumbing is crappy.

The computer system is crappy.

The CRM is crappy.

The morale is….well, you get the drift.

What keeps most sales people working year after year is the compensation package, decent benefits and a no enforced sales quota policy.

After 4 months of interviews, you finally hire a new salesperson. She’s a recent graduate. This is her first real full-time job. She’s a millennial living at home with her parents.

good and bad choicesSix months into the job, you find that the millennial is doing a fair job. But you begin to detect that her head isn’t completely in the sales game. Sure, she goes through the motions of making sales calls, getting orders, entering sales notes, etc., but she’s not lighting any fires.

While you figure she should be grateful that she has a job, you feel she’s not very enthusiastic. But to be fair, no one on your sales team is very enthusiastic either. But at least you know they’re older, have major financial obligations, and can’t afford to move to another city anytime soon. Furthermore, because the other salespeople have been with the company for a long time, they are locked in, e.g., they have a high base salary, a large pipeline, and lots of vacation time. Unless someone comes along and makes them an offer they can’t refuse, you’re confident your sales team will stay put.

But you are not so sure about the millennial you hired. Since she’s living at home with her parents and has smaller financial obligations (except maybe student loans), she could turn on you like a dime and jump at another job offer – maybe even another city.

Along comes a former employee who used to work for you. He left the company a few years ago to do consulting work. But lately, times are hard he wants to return to his old stomping grounds for regular paychecks and benefits.

You know him. He has plenty of sales and marketing experience. He’s mature. He’s hard-working. And unlike the millennial, he has a mortgage and major financial responsbilities to deal with. You also know he’s not going to be a flight risk.

But you have a dilemma. You don’t have any openings in your sales department.

So what do you do?

Do you keep the millennial and hope that she grows with the job? Or, do you get rid of millennial and replace her with the more experienced sales person?

Before you answer, consider the following –

Further complicating your situation, you live in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C. You’re commute is long and terrible. And to top it off, you and your wife are raising two kids. And to make matters even worse, your wife is working a part-time job she hates. But because the bills are piling up, she has no choice but to work. At least once a week, your wife reminds you of this fact.  Your wife wants to know when your big commission checks will be rolling back in again so she can stop working.

Long commute, children, mortgage, bills, wife complaining. The financial pressures are accelerating.

Now, how would you answer the above questions?

Millennial sales personThe sales manager in this situation forced the millennial out of her job. He did so by writing her up on picayune issues like coming to work a few minutes late, and making minor errors on her orders. While petty issues, the sales manager was clearly trying to bully the millennial to leave. Unfortunately, the millennial was too naïve to understand what was happening to her. A more experienced salesperson would have seen the handwriting on the wall, and either a). work harder or b). jump ship.

As for the millennial, she eventually had enough “write-ups” in her file to get fired.

Was the millennial treated unfairly? Yes.

Were the sales manager’s tactics unethical and maybe even, illegal? Yes.

But from the sales manager’s point of view, his scheme worked. He got the new experienced sales person on board. And with that new person, the chance of generating more income for himself that would eventually get his wife off his back.

As for the millennial, she eventually landed a new sales job three months later. Did she learn any important lessons? Unsure.

Lessons:

1). Don’t take your job for granted. Living at home isn’t a crime. Hell, more millennials than ever are living at home until they can generate enough income to buy their first home. In fact, a Census report, “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975-2016,” states that about 34% of all young adults between ages 18 to 34 – are still living with their parents.

But from the sales manager’s point of view, living at home means you will find it easier to find a new job or relocate. Yes, you may eventually find a new job or relocate anyway. But you need to keep your head in the game and at a bare minimum, pretend that you’re taking your job seriously. You don’t want your manager to catch on that you are job hunting or bored with your job. Trust me, there will always be people waiting in the wings to take your position.

2). Sales managers are human. problems faced by sales managersWhile a good manager is always professional, personal problems or other outside pressures may force him to take unethical actions to boost his income. This is especially true when the sales manager is not only earning commission on your sales, but his sales as well. While you don’t want to pry and participate in office gossip, keep your eyes and ears open to any issues your manager is facing that could jeopardize your job. Is he going through a divorce? Is his wife or one of his children requiring expensive medical attention? Is he more stressed than normal?

3). Look at the signs. If your sales manager’s attitude towards you suddenly changes for the worst, fairly or unfairly, he may view you as the weakness link on the sales team. Even if you are meeting or exceeding your quota, the sales manager may feel you can do better. It’s not unusually for sales managers to hire their friends or previous employees they know well. It’s not just a matter of earning more money, but it’s about having a comfort zone. Sales managers want to be surrounded by people they know and can trust.

To learn more if your boss hates you, please read the articles below –

“7 Signs Your Boss Hates you (And How to Handle it),” by Alison Green of Dailyworth

“Ten Signs Your Boss Hates You,” by Liz Ryan

Selling is an honorable profession. But like any profession, we all have to make choices. Make sure you don’t end on the wrong side of a bad choice.

If you were the sales manager discussed in this post, what would you have done?

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

The third photo is from photo credit: Rusty Russ Sea of Tears via photopin (license)

Should you send out Reminder Emails?

sending reminder emails to clientsAfter months of work, you finally scheduled an online tour or webinar with a large client. You sent him the meeting invite to his Outlook Calendar. He has accepted your invite.

The tour or webinar is tomorrow. Do you send your client an email reminder notice? Or do you just assume that he will be available tomorrow when you call and do the presentation?

There are two schools of thought about this issue –

1). Don’t send the reminder

The thought behind this is that if you send a reminder, the client may use that as an excuse to opt out. He may have second thoughts about viewing your tour. As a result, your client may send you a lame ass excuse about his cat being ill, or he has a conflict on his calendar, or he will suddenly be out-of-town tomorrow.

Not only are you a believer in the “assumption close,” but you also believe in the assumption meeting, i.e., you take the client’s word that he’s going to show up, so why give him an excuse to bail out on you. You call tomorrow and hope and pray he will pick up the phone and be available for your presentation.

2). Do send the reminder

The thought here is that by sending your client a reminder you are showing him that you a professional. Sure, you know that your meeting invite is on his Calendar. Sure, he accepted it a week ago. However, you know from experience that professionals like yourself are busy. So sending a reminder is your way of being polite.

What would I do?

I would send the reminder. Why? Because by sending him a reminder a day or so in advance you are showing professional courtesy to your client. But most important of all, you want to make sure your client is really serious about viewing your presentation. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be excited about your product or service as you are. Sure, they may tell you to send them a meeting invite to make you feel good, or to save face. But a few minutes before the presentation begins, you receive a last-minute cancellation, or without any advance warning, the client doesn’t appear at all.

In short, you have a “no show.”

We all know it takes time to prepare for a presentation. Like most salespeople,  you already have prepared a set of slides or screens shots in place, and you probably have customized your demo, e.g., adding certain benefits that you know the client will like, or addressing specific pain points that you know the client needs to resolve. But all that work takes time.

Better to know in advance if the client isn’t going to show up, so you can devote more time scheduling other appointments, prepare for other tours, or make sales calls.

And who knows – maybe your client is being honest and can’t view your presentation. No worries. You can always reschedule.

If you like my post, please check out my book Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Take the Sales Fool Test

Are you a Sales Fool?In celebration of April Fool’s Day, please take the Sales Fool Test. The purpose of the test is to determine whether you are a sales fool or not.

1). Do you forego doing any research on prospects or leads before contacting them?

2). Do you avoid planning your day and instead just start making a bunch of cold calls and sending out cold emails?

3). Do you forget to follow-up on prospects or leads that you spoken to?

4). Do you avoid entering sales notes and other critical information in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database?

5). Do you send out long and boring emails that scream “please delete me?”

6). Do you blame others because you don’t have enough leads or prospects to call on?

7).Do you conduct webinars or online tours without asking attendees what type of information they are seeking about your product or service, or what type of pain points or problems they are trying to solve?

are you a sales fool?8). Do you keep interrupting your clients while they are speaking rather than spending the time listening to their concerns?

9). Do you constantly bad mouth your competitors to your clients rather than focus on your strengths?

10). Do you avoid learning more about sales because you feel that you are already an “expert”, or you don’t need to read books, blogs, articles, or attend workshops or seminars to improve your craft?

If you answered yes to a couple of these questions, you are not a sales fool, but it would be a good idea if you brush up on your skills.

If you answered yes to half of these questions, you are a border-line sales fool who needs to seriously learn more about your craft.

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you have no business being in sales and I recommend that you find other employment.

There you have it! The Sales Fool Test. How did you do? Please let me know.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

10 Tips for Conducting Webinars

how to conduct webinarsWith most of us working from our offices these days, we are relying more on conducting webinars to our clients. The days of the traveling salesperson are slowly disappearing. While some of us are still regularly traveling to trade shows, most companies are trying to cut costs by using online tours.

Tools like ClearSlide, Anymeeting, GoToWebinar are making it easier to do online demos.

But what are the most effective ways of conducting those presentations?

1). Pre-Qualify – If possible, try to pre-qualify your prospect before conducting the tour. This can be done with a short phone call conversation or questionnaire that the customer fills out online. Your goal is to make sure that your service or product will be good fit. You should also try to find out why they are interested in your service or product now. Are they trying to solve an immediate problem, or are they just shopping for prices? And finally, try to find out if they have contacted any of your competitors. If they have already reviewed your competitor’s products or services, find out what they didn’t buy from them. This could give you an advantage of how your pitch your product during the presentation.

2). Research – Let’s say that you don’t have time to pre-qualify your prospect. The next best step is to do some research on your client’s company. With Google, LinkedIn and other search tools, this should be an easy process. You don’t have to spend hours doing research. Your goal is to learn enough about the company to determine if  they will be a good fit for what you are offering.

3). Confirm the appointment – Cancellations or postponements happen. It’s a given in sales. But one of the best ways of reducing cancellations and postponements is to send a confirmation email the day before the tour. Sure, some clients will use it as an excuse not to view your presentation, but at least you will not be wasting your time. And hopefully, you can schedule another appointment during that time slot. However, I wouldn’t give up so easily on a cancellation. Try to reschedule it, or dig deeply into why they are not really interested in speaking with you. Maybe you need to do a better job of outlining the benefits of your service or product. Maybe you’re not speaking to the right person. Maybe its bad timing. Whatever the reason, don’t give up so easily.

4). Know the attendees – If more than one person is joining you on the online tour, try to find that out in advance. In fact, the more advance information you have for all the attendees, the better. For example, if you know that your prospect’s boss is going to be joining the online tour, there may be some questions or comments that you don’t want to bring up during the presentation. This is especially true if your prospect is your advocate, but you know he has a lot of convincing to do with his boss. You don’t want to embarrass your advocate by making statements that could backfire on both of you.

5). Keep it short – Long webinars are boring as hell, no matter how exciting you think your product or service is. Keep it short. No more than 15 to 30 minutes at most. Unless the attendees are excited and are asking you a lot of questions (a good buying signal), better to cover the key points that interest your prospect, and then either schedule another more advanced online presentation, or a conference call to hash out the details. People are busy these days. If you tell them the online tour will be longer than 30 minutes, many will shy away from watching your presentation. The goal is to get the sale, not to be long-winded.

how to conduct a webinar6). Know your goal – is it to make a sale on the spot? Is it to move the sales process along? Is it to give a quick overview before scheduling a free trial period? Is it to find out more why the client is interested in buying your product or service?

7). Outline the ground rules – let the attendees know upfront what the ground rules of the presentation are. For example, is it OK to ask questions during the presentation or wait until after you are finish? Is it OK to record the presentation so that the people who couldn’t attend will be able to view it later (which could save you time from doing multiple presentations).

8). Customize it – don’t use generic terms to title your presentation like “Password Security” or “Higher Ed” – instead, customized your presentation by using the client’s company’s name like “ABC Company Password Security Presentation” or “The University of Delaware Presentation.” Even if you are only copying the generic presentation and slapping your client’s name on it, you are still giving  the impression that you spent time putting together the demo and showed some real effort.

9). After the presentation – when the tour is over, what’s next? Besides answering questions, make sure you schedule a follow-up phone call. Your goal is always to move the sales process forward until you get the sale.

10). Review it – if you recorded your presentation, have your manager or someone else review it. It’s always good to get feedback.

For more advice on how to conduct webinars, please check out these books

Deliver Webinars Like a Pro: An Essential Guide for Business Owners. Tips and Strategies to Setting Up and Using Webinars Effectively for Sales Presentations, Marketing Campaigns and Online Training, by Melodie Rush and Carl Stearns

Webinar Authority: The Step-By-Step Guide On How To Prepare, Present, Host, And Execute a Successful Webinar (AMC Book 5301), by Saifuddin Indorewala

For more information on where to find webinar tools, please read –

“6 WebEx Alternatives for Hosting an Extraordinary Webinar,” by Caroline Malamut on the Capterra website.

“The 15 Best Webinar Software Products from Around the Web,” by Nathan B.Weller in Resources on the Elegant Themes, Inc. website.

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

What Salespeople can Learn from American Horror Story: Coven

Young Witch(Spoiler Alert: This post will have a lot of spoiler alerts from American Horror Story: Coven. If you haven’t seen this television program, I recommend that you stop reading right now, and return after you watch the show).

What can salespeople learn from watching American Horror Story: Coven?

Plenty.

If you are not familiar with the TV program, here is a quick summary

It is a modern-day story of a group of witches living at Miss Robichaux’s Academy in New Orleans. The academy is a boarding school where bad or confused young witches are sent to learn how to effectively use their dark powers. They learn to accept themselves and avoid being detected by outsiders. Once they master their skills, and don’t kill others (or themselves) in the process, they return to the real world and try to live normal lives.

The underlining theme of the 13-episode program is that Fiona Goode, the Coven’s “Supreme,” is running out of time. Fiona (played by Jessica Lange) is dying from cancer. To survive, she must find and kill the new Supreme. Powerful and selfish, she refuses to step aside and die with dignity. Rather than take the new Supreme under her arm and train her, Fiona hopes that by murdering the new Supreme she can return to her youth and cure herself.

But Fiona has a problem – she doesn’t know who the new Supreme will be. All she knows is that one of them is among the young witches living at the academy. So besides each witch vying for the prized position of being the new Supreme, each one of them must also watch their backs. Suspicion and fear take over. Loyalties change.

Let the story begin.

There are numerous subplots throughout the show, but for the sake of this blog, I will not discuss them.

Now, how can we learn to be better salespeople from watching the program?

1). Have a Clear line of succession:

History is filled with power struggles when it comes to succession. However, the sales department isn’t the place for that sort of drama. Every sales department should have a manager, an assistant manager, and some basic understanding of the line of succession. This avoids petty back stabbing and allows everyone to focus on doing what all sales teams should do best – sell.

In Coven, the young witches should be focusing on developing their skills and learning how to adjust in the outside world. They should prepare for the coming of the new Supreme and welcome her with open arms. Instead, they are distracted by fear of being knocked off by the Supreme who is hell-bent of maintaining control. In addition, some of the witches try to kill each other or refuse to revive a dead colleague, which only adds more anxiety and stress.

Letting go is difficult. I know that. But to grow and generate new ideas and perspectives, the old must step aside for the young.

Sales departments shouldn’t turn into medieval feuds, where various camps are pit against each other, fighting to determine the next sales manager.

Have a clear succession of leadership. If some people aren’t happy with the current or new leadership, they can always find new jobs.

2). Don’t underestimate your abilities:

To determine who will be the new Supreme, each witch must be tested to see who can master the “Seven Wonders of Witchcraft.” The tests include transmutation, where each witch must teleport from one place to another, and telekinesis, where each witch must move an object with magic.

During the tests, one middle-aged witch, Cordelia Foxx (played by Sarah Paulson), is encouraged to compete. At first, she is reluctant, because she doesn’t feel she has the same skill sets as the younger witches. Nevertheless, she accepts the challenge. After passing all the tests, she becomes the new Supreme.

The message is obvious – don’t underestimate your abilities. You know more than you think. Stretch your limits. Climb new heights. Don’t let self-doubt and fear discourage you from achieving your goals.

personal demons3). Overcome your personal demons:

As part of the test in the “Seven Wonders of Witchcraft,” each witch must send its spirit to hell and return by sunrise. If they don’t return, their bodies turn to dust and they are forever living in eternity in their own personal hell. All the witches pass the test except one. Misty Day (played by Lily Rabe) is forced to stay in a high school lab where she constantly revives and then dissects a frog, all the while being mocked by her fellow students and criticized by her teacher. Misty can’t let go of her personal demon. She is trapped in hell forever.

In sales, we all have to overcome our own personal demons. We all have self-doubts. We all are plagued by negative thoughts. We sometimes have bad attitudes. To become successful, we must break through our own hell through positive thinking, independent learning and ongoing training.

4). Don’t be ashamed of your profession:

In the last episode of the season, the new Supreme decides to come out to the rest of the world. She holds a TV interview and encourages all young witches to join the Coven, where they can find a safe place to develop their skills.

Witches are no longer hiding in the shadows. They can now become part of regular society.

As salespeople, don’t we sometimes feel ashamed of our profession? When someone asks you what you do for a living, what do you tell them? Do you reply “I’m a new business development manager,” or a “consultant”, or an “account manager.”

Do you ever say – I’m a salesperson.

Like the witches in Coven, don’t be ashamed of who you are. Be proud of your profession. Embrace it.

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

Is your Sales Team Locked and Loaded?

lock and load your sales teamIf you are a fan of the movie series Resident Evil, you may have heard the phrase “It’s time to lock and load” used right before the zombies attack.

Or if you are a fan of the film Sands of Iwo Jima, you may have heard John Wayne’s character say “Lock and load, boy, lock and load.”

There is some disagreement of what the term means. But according to Wiktionary, the phrase is used right “before loading the ammunition clip into the rifle, the operating rod handle is pulled to the rear until the bolt is securely locked open. According to the M1 Garand Manual, loading the clip without first locking the bolt could result in an accidental discharge of a round.”

Regardless of the definition, can the term apply to sales?

Yes it can.

Lock – are you locking your salespeople into a reasonable and fair compensation package so that you encourage them to stay, make a decent living and avoid high turnover? Are you locking them in to a reasonable quota? Are you locking them into other incentives like cash bonuses or extra vacation?

Load – are you loading your salespeople up on qualified leads and relevant prospects so that their pipelines are constantly full? Without a fully “loaded” pipeline, your salespeople could become easily bored and start seeking better jobs. Are you working closely with your marketing department to increase your company’s branding  and content offerings to help drive more traffic to your website?

training and coaching your sales teamI would also add this term –

Ready to go – which means are you giving your salespeople enough independence to spread their wings and seek new business opportunities without cramping their style, hurting their morale, and crippling their judgement. Are your coaching and training them on an ongoing basis to help sharpen their skills and increase their confidence?

There you have it. If you want a successful sales team, make sure everyone is “locked, loaded and ready to go.”

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