Are you inheriting an orphan sales position?

You just started your new sales job. Your sales manager has introduced you to the rest of the sales team and maybe some key employees.

If you are lucky, your manager may even take you out to lunch on your first day. He may also have created an agenda outlining your training for the next week or two before you hit the phones.

orphan sales positionFinally, after your training, your day has come. It’s time to make sales calls and start generating some money. Like most new salespeople, you probably begin by reviewing your existing accounts or leads. You want to get the lay of the land, prioritize your top accounts, begin making introductory calls, and start building up your pipeline.

But as you review your accounts in your CRM (Customer Relationship Management), a sickening feeling begins to develop. At first you don’t see it, but as you start examining your accounts and leads more carefully, you begin to see a disturbing pattern. You discover that a lot of salespeople over the years have been contacting or managing the same accounts and leads. But where did they go?

Some are now working in more lucrative sales positions in your company. But most are no longer working with your employer at all. In fact, you notice that some sales people only worked your accounts or leads for a few months before moving on. Others a little longer, but not much. You go on LinkedIn, and track those former salespeople down. You discover they are now working in other companies, and that their tenure in your position was short.

Then it dawns on you. You have inherited an orphan sales position.

What is an orphan sales position? It’s a position that has been abandoned by several sales people over the years. In short, there has been a lot of turnover. It is also a position that is not well supported by the company for a variety of reasons. Maybe the company feels its sales and marketing budget should be allocated in more profitable positions. Maybe the company feels that sales will only pick up when they hire the “right” salesperson. Maybe the company feels it’s a “starter position,” i.e., one where they know little revenue will be generated, so there is no risk for the company to hire a new salesperson to season him up for greater challenges in the future. (We all have to crawl before we can walk). Or maybe the company is waiting for the sales fairy to come along, and wave her magic wand and the orders will magically appear.

abandoned sales positionSometimes an orphan sales position was created by accident. For example, a company may have bought another company, and then allocated most of the best accounts to senior salespeople, while giving less experienced salespeople smaller accounts. The thought may have been that the smaller accounts would eventually grow. But to date, that has not been the case, thus the cycle of high turnover and abandonment begins.

Frustrated, a company keeps hiring new salespeople to turn things around, but with no avail. Promises are made, but not kept. Prices are adjusted, but don’t work. Salespeople keep abandoning the position, and soon it becomes an orphan.

However, from your point of view, your greatest concern right now is should you even consider staying in an orphan sales position, or start seeking a better job.

After all, you would like to make a long-term commitment in your job. You don’t want to be seen as job hopper. But on the other hand, you don’t want to be seen as a loser either. There is nothing worse than starting a new sales job, only to have your colleagues taking pity on you, or avoiding eye contact because they feel you got a raw deal. Sure, your colleagues may be professional, and even downright friendly, but you can’t shake that “you’re a loser vibe” every time they glance your way. Hell, for all you know, some of your co-workers may be taking bets on the side on how long you still stay around. (This actually happened on a regular basis at one of my previous jobs).

Soon, you become a running joke in office, and you have to endure the daily facades of plastic smiles and chirpy “Good mornings” as you head towards your desk. When you arrive at your desk, all you want to do is hide underneath it.

You see, with an orphan sales position, your biggest challenge is convincing existing accounts and prospects to order from you. But from their point-of-view, why should they even bother? If you are the fourth or fifth salesperson to hold your position in two years, how confident are your accounts and prospects that you’re even going to be around long enough to care about them? How motivated do you think they are going to be in offering you referrals if they feel you’re going to leave the company soon? Why should they accept your phone calls or respond to your emails if they think you’re going to run when the first good opportunity comes along?

On the other hand, an orphan sales position may put you in the catbird seat. Unless you are working for an extremely conservative or stuck-up company, your employer may be more willing to listen to your suggestions. They may be more willing to go out on the limb and experiment with new sales or marketing methods. While your colleagues are sitting at their desks making sales calls, your employer (or sales manager) may invite you in the conference room, where you can sit with some of your company’s major players, and hash out a game plan to increase sales. In short, your employer may appreciate you more because they realize the challenges that you are facing.

So what should you do?

Do your homework before accepting a sales job1). Do your homework before accepting a job offer. The best way to avoid landing in an orphan sales position, is to do your homework and ask the right questions during your interview. First, go on LinkedIn and find out how many past salespeople worked at the same position you are applying for. If you notice a large number, that should give you pause. Second, contact some of those previous sales people through LinkedIn and ask them why they left. You will be surprised – sometimes they will give you an honest answer. Third, go to  Glassdoor – do you see a pattern of negative reviews from anonymous current or former salespeople about the company? While not completely scientific, seeing a lot of negative reviews should also give you pause. And finally, ask the interviewer why the position is open. Sure, he may lie, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

2). You did your homework, but you still got screwed. OK, you did the above, you thought everything was alright, but to your astonishment, you still ended up in an orphan sales job. Now what? Don’t panic. If there is high turnover in your sales department, chances are you will land a better sales position within 6 months to one year in the company. If you can hang on that long, hunker down, be patient, go through the motions, and wait for your turn to move up the ladder.

3). Maybe things will turn around. The company may realize that they have created an orphan sales position, and not wanting to see more turnover, will invest more in your position. They could provide better leads, improve the marketing efforts, or if you are lucky, enhance the product or services that you are selling. And if you are extremely fortunate, the company may decide to increase your compensation plan in an effort to lure you to stay and stick it out.

4). The position was orphaned too soon or too much. The position may not be as bad as you think. It could be that due to a strange set of coincidences, the position was orphaned before anyone really had a chance to profitably work the accounts and leads. It’s not unusual for leads to remain dormant for a long time, and then suddenly, without warning, you start seeing a flood of orders. The trick is to ensure you continue to see a steady flow of orders.

talking to your sales manager5). Talk to your sales manager. Look, your sales manager may already know you are in an orphan sales position, and he is tired of seeing high turnover. Unless your sales manager is a wimp or idiot, if he’s a smart, he will bend over backwards to help you. Talk to him. Pick his brains. Get some ideas on how both of you can be successful. Notice I said “both of you” – that’s because your sales manager is also earning commission or bonus based on your success. Come up with a short list of ideas or reasonable requests. Brainstorm with him. Maybe together both of you can turn things around, and create a win-win situation for everyone.

An orphan sales position may not be as bad as you think. With a little nurture and care, your position may blossom. Be patient. Be persistent. Work smart. Work hard. But don’t be taken for a fool either. Give an orphan sales position your best shot, but after you have done all you can, if your still feel you are fighting a losing battle, quit and move on.

Life is too short to be a loser.

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

Are you selling vitamins or medicine?

One of the most common questions that salespeople ask their clients is “What are your pain points?”

Now, maybe you don’t actually ask the question in that matter. Maybe you phrase it differently. But the underlining goal of all salespeople is to determine what type of pain points your clients are suffering to see if what you are selling will solve his problems.

Let’s say you discover those pain points. What next?

Are you selling vitamins or medicine?

By vitamins, I mean are you selling a solution that is holistic and a “nice to have.”

By medicine, I mean are you selling a solution that is really necessary and a “must have.”

Let me give you some examples –

Are you selling vitamins or medicine?A good vitamin sales example is someone selling books, subscription courses or videos about enhancing professional development in your field. Of course, we all want to improve ourselves and do better in our careers. But is it an immediate need? Unless your boss or manager is demanding that you improve your skills or craft, chances are you don’t need to order any professional development tools right away. It’s something that you will put on your check list and consider when you have the time or money.

So a vitamin sale, based on the client’s view, may be way of preventing a future problem, but it’s a minor pain point that he can deal with for now. There is no sense of urgency.

Are you selling vitamins or medicine?A good medicine sales example is someone selling password security software to prevent hackers from breaking into your network. With all the news lately of hackers stealing credit card and Social Security numbers from major retailers, banks, government agencies and colleges, your software will probably be on the top of an IT director’s list. Sure, the IT director may negotiate the price with you, but in the end, he clearly understands the threat of security breaches and he will make a purchase. The only question is will he be buying your software or someone else’s.

So a medicine sale, based on the client’s view, will prevent an immediate problem, that’s becoming a major pain that he must deal with now. There is a sense of urgency.

There is nothing wrong with selling vitamins or medicine. But if you want to jumpstart your sales, reexamine what you are offering, and see if you can make your solution more of a medicine rather than a vitamin sale.

While Mary Poppins is right when she sung “that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” finding the right pain points and offering medicine instead of vitamins could be your best solution.

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

The Holiday Season is not a slow sales time

Unless you are working in retail, most salespeople consider the holiday season to be a slow sales time. And for good reason. Many key decision makers are taking a long holiday break. Some companies will close down between Christmas Day through New Year’s Day. And even if you are making a lot of sales calls, you are being told to “call back next year.”

But don’t be fooled.

lazy salesman during the holiday seasonHere are five reasons why you shouldn’t slow down during the holiday season –

1). Key Decision Makers may be working – Not all decision makers are taking a long holiday break. For some, the last couple weeks of December may be a quiet time for them to work. They assume that most salespeople are not going to call them, so they give their receptionist time off. Without the gatekeeper present, this is your chance to catch the decision maker off guard. Lonely and perhaps eager to speak with someone, the decision maker may actually take your call and engage in a good constructive conversation that could yield an order.

2). Holiday Cheer – perhaps happy for having a good solid year, the decision maker may be more receptive to taking your call and speaking with you.

3). Your competitors are not calling – Your competitors are under the age-old assumption that the holidays are a “bad time” to make sales calls, so they are taking a long holiday vacation. With your competitors out-of-the-way, you will have a better shot at reaching the decision maker.

4). Build up your prospect list– OK, maybe you are in one of those industries where historically many of your clients are not going to be available during the holidays. So what are you going to do? Drink all the eggnog, pig out on all the Christmas cookies, and feel sorry for yourself? Hell no. Start building up your prospect list. Do some research and start uncovering some hidden gems that you didn’t see before. While you may be riding the gravy train receiving inbound leads, not all prospects are going to call you. Track them down, enter them in your CRM (Customer relationship management), do some research on them, and make plans to call them early next year.

5). Brush up – Now is the time to brush up on your product knowledge. Maybe read some industry newsletters or learn more about what your competitors are doing that could impact your sales. Sure, kick back and watch some classic Christmas movies, but don’t forget to read some classic sales books too.

The holiday season is a time to relax. A time to connect with your family and friends. I get that. But don’t be completely off your guard or do a brain slide. Because while you’re spending time ringing in the New Year, your competitors may be ringing the cash register with all the new sales that you should have received.

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

10 Tips for Working at a Trade Show Booth

I recently came back from a trade show in Charleston, S.C. It was my first trade show in nearly a year. Based on my observations, here are 10 tips on how to work at a trade show booth.

How to work at a trade show booth1). Stand, don’t sit. Yes, I know it’s tough to stand all day. But by standing, you are inviting attendees to approach you and engage in a conversation about your company. By sitting, you are signaling to attendees that you are not interested in speaking with them, or that you are tired. Look, if an attendee is spending most of their day walking, you should at least have the courtesy to stand. If you are tired, take a short break and sit down somewhere else.

If you only have a table top display, try to stand next to the table – not behind it. Why? When you stand behind a table, you are putting a defensive barrier between you and the attendee. By standing next to the table, you are signaling to the attendee that you are accessible and friendly, and are interested in engaging in a conversation.

Don’t stand in front of the table, because you want to give attendees a chance to look at your display to determine if your company is a good fit for them. Also, you don’t want to be a stalker and pounce on attendees while they are walking by. Remain calm, compose and inviting.

2). Don’t read your laptop or smart phone. Yes, I know it’s tough to be away from the office. And there may be times during the day when you have to respond to an emergency e-mail, or make an important phone call. But try to do it away from your booth. Again, your focus should be on the attendees, not your work or personal life. And if you are still reading print newspapers (remember those), now is not the time to catch up on sports or the latest news. Put all print material that is not related to your company away.

don't eat at a trade show booth3). Don’t eat at the booth. If you are working with a group, take breaks to eat. It’s discourteous to eat at a booth while others are walking by. However, if you are working at a booth myself, wait until traffic is slow to take a break or eat. By reviewing the conference agenda, you should know when to time traffic flow during a trade show. (And don’t raid the candy bowl at your booth – it’s for the attendees to attract them to you).

4). Limit your conversations with your colleagues. I know. Working at a trade show can be boring at times, especially when traffic is slow. So you want to strike up a conversation with your co-workers. I understand. Just keep your eyes open for an approaching attendee. Most people are polite. If they see you talking to one of your co-workers, they may be less reluctant to approach you at the booth.

5). Be friendly. Nothing discourages an attendee from coming to your booth more than not seeing a friendly or inviting face. Sure, you don’t want to be a stalker or stare at attendees as they walk by your booth. But on the other hand, you don’t want to be looking down at the floor, or staring in space. Be casual and cool.

6). Speak to the right attendees. Don’t waste time speaking with attendees who obviously are not interested in your company, or are not good prospects. Be firm, polite and diplomatic, but steer an attendee away if he’s not a good fit for your company’s products or services. Remember – you only have a limited period of time to speak with people. Try to keep the booth open for the right prospects that you need to speak to. Attendees don’t want to hear about your vacation plans or your recent travels. While it’s nice to chit-chat, stay focus on the business at hand.

7). Keep plenty of marketing literature at your booth. Not everyone will want to speak with you. It’s nothing personal. Attendees are busy. So keep plenty of marketing literature, swag and business cards at your booth for quick retrieval by attendees.

8). Don’t scan and spam. Don’t waste time scanning every attendee who approaches your booth. Most of them probably are not going to be good prospects anyway. Take your time and engage in a conversation with attendees to determine if they are worth pursuing after the conference. I would rather return from a trade show with 50 good leads than 100 bad ones.

9). The last hour can be the most critical.  When the closing bell goes up, don’t be like everyone else and visit other booths for free (and better) drinks and food. Stay at your post. Some of the best orders I’ve received were from attendees who raced from booth to booth at the last-minute seeking information, and scheduling appointments after the show.

10). Collaborate with neighboring vendors. Right before the trade show begins, talk to neighboring vendors and see what they are offering. If they are not a competitor, form a quick alliance – if an attendees arrives at either of your booths that are not a good fit for you, but could be a good fit for the other vendor, encourage the attendee to visit the other booth. This could increase more traffic and sales for you. Plus it’s just good business.

Note: Like my post? Then please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

pcruciatti / Shutterstock.com (top photo credit).

The 10 spookiest things about Selling

spooky things about sellingWhat keeps you up at night? Is it the imaginary monster you remember from your childhood that is still hiding underneath your bed? Is it the ghostly sounds that you hear outside your window while you’re trying to sleep? Is it your black cat that’s scratching your bedroom door?

With Halloween fast approaching, what are the 10 spookiest things that scare you the most about selling?

1). Not getting enough qualified sales leads

You want leads? Sure, here’s the Yellow Pages – start calling! Seriously, most salespeople complain about the lack of leads or the quality of what they receive from their marketing team. But hey, thanks to the Internet, there are tons of free and paid sources now available. So stop complaining, and don’t be afraid of doing a little research.

Need help? Here are a couple of books you should consider –

New Sales. Simplified: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development, by Mike Weinberg and S. Anthony Iannarino.

Power Prospecting: Cold Calling Strategies For Modern Day Sales People – Build a B2B Pipeline. Teleprospecting, Lead Generation, Referrals, Executive Networking. Improve Selling Skills, by Patrick Henry Hansen.

2). Getting little or no training

You were told by your employer that you would receive training after you were hired. Instead, you were introduced to your work area and given a prospect list – now start selling. What should you do? Start reading. That’s right – start reading sales books, blogs and articles. Start watching YouTube videos about selling. Study your company’s products and services inside and out until you know them by heart. Do what you have to do to be successful – because while your employer may not care, you better give a damn about your job. After all, what’s even scarier than little or no training is standing in the unemployment line.

Don’t know where to begin? Here’s help –

Here is a link to a guest blog post I wrote for Will Reed Jobs, an Austin based job hunting agency for young salespeople –

Ten books that New Salespeople should Read

And HubSppot has a list of the 20 Most Highly-Rated Sales Books of All Time.

don't panic in sales3). The “no show” prospect

I know. The prospect accepted your meeting calendar invite to view your short webinar, but he disappeared. Where did he go? Did he fall down a pit? Are you going to curse the darkness? Of course not! Don’t panic. Just pick up the phone and try to reschedule the appointment. Things happen. Prospects get busy. Don’t take it personally.

4). Competitors who lie, cheat and steal

Hate them or respect them, competitors exist in every industry. You can either be afraid of them or fight them. The choice is yours. While you may want to boil your competitors in a cauldron of oil, the better approach is to stop worrying about your competitors and just do your job. In the long run you will succeed while your competitors fail.

5). Cold calling

A cold call isn’t cold unless you make it so. Do a little research first before you call a prospect. Is he the key decision maker? Do you feel you have a solution that will help him? Or better yet, try to get a referral.

6). The mysterious marketing department

You heard about the mysterious marketing department, but you’ll be damned if you know if it really exist or not. Is it a ghost department that only comes out at night when everyone else has left work? You were told that the marketing department was going to provide you qualified leads, but you haven’t seen any for a while. Did the leads end up in the quicksand?  (See number 1 about finding your own qualified leads). And if your company’s social media efforts are still in the dark ages, start your own blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn account, and become more active on social media yourself. While your marketing department may be invisible, you shouldn’t be.

salespeople pouncing on trade show attendees7). Trade Shows

So you’re afraid to stand at your exhibit booth during trade shows. Don’t be. Chances are, most of the attendees are just as scared as you are because salespeople are pouncing on them like vampires every time they near a booth. Rather than asking good qualified questions, those salespeople are sucking the life out of attendees. Don’t be like that. Act cool. Show some respect. Don’t scan and scam. Take a more consultative sales approach when meeting with attendees. Believe me, in the long run it will pay off.

Here is a good article from Jane Applegate on “How to Work a Trade Show.”

8). Conversions of your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system

You love your CRM. It helps you keep track of your sales notes, customer contact information and all of the records you need to do your job. But another salesperson came along and sold your employer on a better CRM. Now what? It’s conversion time – that long, lengthy, agonizing period of exporting all of your data into the new CRM. Scared? Hell, you should be. Because sometimes important data has a way of ending up in a dark hole that will never be found again. (I’ve gone through 5 conversions in my career. In one case, the programmers forgot to transfer our sales notes. In another case, they forgot to transfer all of our expired clients). But don’t be afraid – instead, download and save all your information or print it out. But whatever you do, protect your information or it may disappear.

Here a good article from Chuck Schaeffer on “Lessons Learned in CRM Data Conversions.”

bogeyman as a sales manager9). Bad sales managers

Yes, we’ve all been there, done that. But your sales manager may not be the bogeyman you think he is. Like you, he’s under pressure to make quota or achieve sales goals. The only difference is that he has to depend on you and the entire sales team to make it happen. That’s scary. There are a lot of books and articles on how to deal with difficult managers – here are a couple –

A Survival Guide for Working With Bad Bosses: Dealing With Bullies, Idiots, Back-stabbers, And Other Managers from Hell, by Gini Graham Scott Ph.D.

Dealing With Horrible Bosses: How To Handle Bad Managers at Work! (difficult managers,poor boss,difficult bosses,work bullies,bad bosses,bullying at workplace,bullying at work), by Damon Lundqvist.

And VorsightBP, a Northern Virginia based sales consulting firm, has an excellent webinar on “10 Tips to Transform Sales Leaders From Micromanagers into Great Coaches.” (You have to submit your contact information to watch it, but it’s worth it).

10). Slow sales periods

Every industry has its slow periods. You know, that time when most clients are not buying because it’s the holidays, or it’s the summer, or whatever lame excuse you are given. So does that mean you slow down? Hell no. Find other prospects to contact. When I once worked in the accounting industry, tax season was considered a slow time to call on CPAs, accountants and tax preparers. Unless you loved getting chewed out by stressed out accountants facing the April 15th tax deadline, you pretty much left them alone. While that made sense, we didn’t sit around and feel sorry for ourselves – instead, we contacted libraries, nonprofit organizations and financial institutions that we thought would be good candidates for our tax research program. You do what you have to do to hit your quota.

What scares you about selling? Please send me a comment.

5 reasons why Friday isn’t a Slow Sales Day

It’s Friday. The weekend is almost here. You’ve had a long week. You have secured some large orders. Now you are looking forward to receiving a large commission check soon.

Friday is not a slow sales dayWhile Friday is still a work day, you figure that you can relax and prepare for the weekend. So you’re kicking back and planning to see a movie, or visit friends, or go to that new hot restaurant you’ve been hearing about.  Maybe you have some administrative work to catch up on. Or maybe you want to catch up on your sales training by watching a video or two at your desk. Or maybe you want to take a long lunch.

After all, you’re thinking to yourself – “Fridays are slow sales days. Most of the key decision makers are taking an early weekend. I can relax.”

Wrong.

Fridays should never be considered a “slow sales day.”

Why?

1). Not all decision makers are the same – While you may think that all key decision makers are taking a long weekend, that’s not always the case. In fact, decision makers may be working harder to clean up their workload before they enjoy the weekend. Why? Well, because they’re decision makers and they have a lot of decisions to make.

2). The gatekeeper isn’t around – Chances are the gatekeeper is the real one taking a long weekend while her boss is working. That’s good news for you, because it means you may be able to reach the decision maker without the challenge of going through the gatekeeper.

3). The decision maker may be caught off his guard – Decision makers may think like you. They may feel that those “pesky salespeople” aren’t going to call them on a Friday, so they may end up answering the phone instead of the gatekeeper. And sometimes the decision maker, looking forward to the weekend, may be more relaxed and open to accepting your phone call.

4). Other salespeople aren’t calling  – Because they feel the decision maker isn’t around, so they make the common mistake of doing admin work, or leaving early for the weekend. With the competition out-of-the-way, that gives you a greater opportunity to reach and speak to the decision maker.

5). You’re more relaxed – After a long week, you may feel more relaxed and less anxious when making sales calls. Knowing that the weekend is upon you, you may actually find yourself being more consultative and conversational with your prospects. Which in turn means more sales for you.

So, the next time Friday rolls around, don’t be lazy. Pretend that Friday is like any other day of the week, and continue with your same high energy work flow.  You may be surprised by the results.