Are you feeding the Sales Beast?

Are you feeding the beasts?If you want to keep a beast happy – feed him.

If you want to keep your salespeople happy – feed them too. But feed them with good leads and qualified prospects.

All too often, salespeople are told to find their own leads and prospects. There is nothing wrong with that. When times are slow, doing some research on the side is OK. But if your salespeople are spending too much prospecting, that means they are spending too little time selling.

Based on numerous studies, the average sales person only spends about 30 percent of his time actually selling. The rest of the time is spent on training, administrative work, account management and other tasks.

This is why it’s so important to have a marketing team on board to help your sales team. Using tools like KiteDesk, Data.com (formerly Jigsaw), RainKing, DiscoverOrg, Zoominfo, and others can help your sales team generate more business.

What’s worse than a bad salesperson? A bored one.  Why?  Because bored salespeople who are good in their profession start seeking other opportunities. And you don’t want that to happen.

So always feed the sales beast.

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

Five bad habits to break at Trade Shows

I just got back from large trade show and I notice five bad habits that I think all vendors should break.

don't be late for a trade show1). Tardiness – if the trade show starts at 9:00 a.m., then make sure you get your ass there on time. The last thing you want to do is come to a booth late, and find a note from a potential good prospect who writes that he may stop by later. We all know from experience that most prospects are not going to “stop by later” because they get busy visiting other booths, attending workshops…or meeting with your competitors!

2). Arrive early to set up your booth or table top display. I know. As much as we try to plan ahead, things happen. Your flight is delayed. Your hotel claims they don’t have your reservation. The taxi cab driver doesn’t know where the convention center is located. I get that. But try to get to the exhibit hall area ASAP. You never know what problems you are going to face, e.g., there are no chairs because your department didn’t know they had to rent them before the trade show, or there is no electricity because you didn’t know you had to purchase it for the booth, or the scanner you are renting isn’t working properly, etc. You get the drift.

I actually once worked for a company that required all salespeople to arrive one day in advance to set up the booth. However, I realize that some companies have tight budgets and depending on the location and flight availability, you may have to fly in the same day the trade show begins and quickly set things up a couple of hours before the doors open. I understand. Just do the best you can.

3). Don’t leave your leads out all night – I will sometimes arrive early to an exhibit hall to check out other exhibits and get ideas. This is especially true if I’m the only one managing the booth and I don’t have time during the day to walk around. I’m constantly surprised by the number of vendors who leave their leads out on the table all night long. Sure, we’re professionals. We don’t steal. But how can you be sure that some unscrupulous competitor isn’t going to come along and pinch your leads? This is especially true at large trade shows where there isn’t enough security. Either hide your leads in your booth (some trade shows rent locked cabinets) or take them to your hotel room.

BTW, the same goes with candy. I once left a candy bowl out on the display table and when I returned in the morning, most of my sweets were gone. So hide your candy too!

4). Don’t stand or sit like a statue – engage. It amazes me that companies will spend thousands of dollars sending salespeople to attend trade shows and they don’t engage with attendees. Instead, they sit on their butts working on their laptops (which only signals to prospects that are you too busy to be bothered), or read their own marketing literature that they should be handing out.

You need to engage.

That means if someone gives you eye contact or looks at your booth, you may ask them “does anything catch your eye?” or “have you heard of our company or product?” Hopefully, by asking those or other questions, attendees may approach your booth and you can engage them in a conversation to determine if they are good prospects or not.

engage with attendees at trade showsAlso, don’t trust that your booth display or table top will be enough to draw prospects to you. While your marketing department may do a good job developing interesting visuals, at the end of the day it’s up to you to bring home good leads. That means if someone walks by and starts avoiding eye contact with you, call them out by asking them a direct question. By doing so, they may come over and speak with you. This tactic is especially helpful at large trade shows of 100 plus vendors where attendees are overwhelmed, busy and tired. You have to think of attendees as cattle – you have to drive them home through the open range.

Attendees, like cattle, need direction.

5). Turn your frown upside down. I understand. Trade shows can be long and sometimes boring when walk-thru traffic is slow. You get tired. Your feet ache.

But put yourself in the place of the attendees – they are sometimes spending hours walking from booth to booth, listening to sales pitches, and having sales literature thrust among them.

The last thing an attendee wants to see is a sad or disappointed salesperson at a booth. So smile. Be enthusiastic. Show real interest. Be curious. Who knows, you made land a sale or two that could put you over the top when meeting quota.

There, you have it. Break those five bad habits and you should do well.

Now go sell!

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

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.

Three (3) ways to distribute leads to your Sales Teams

If you have been in sales for a while, you know that sales leads are usually distributed to sales teams in three ways. Each way has its advantages and disadvantages.

1). Geographic territory: States and/or countries are assigned to salespeople. You are responsible for prospecting any leads in your assigned area. In addition, any incoming leads from your location are handed over to you. Sometimes lead transfer can be a little sticky, especially if you are dealing with large corporations with several global locations. In most cases, where the corporation is headquartered is usually the determining factor in whether that lead is assigned to you or another sales person. In addition, I once worked for a small publishing company that actually assigned “fenced off” accounts, i.e., large national accounts would be assigned to other salespeople even if some of those accounts fell into your territory.

2). Market segmentation territory: Rather than assigned leads based on geography, you are assigned leads based on specific market segmentation. This type of distribution is common if you work for a large corporation. Examples would include law firms, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, federal and state governmental agencies, etc. Sometimes market segmentations may be broken down further by employee size or estimated revenue. For example, one group of sales people may be responsible for Fortune 500 companies, while others may be responsible for Fortune 100 companies, and so on.

3). Round Robin: This process appears to be most common in start-ups or small companies. Under Round Robin, leads are assigned to the sales team on a first come, first serve basis regardless of size or geographic territory. Usually the sales manager oversees the process to ensure fairness. Sometimes the sales manager may use his discretion to fall out of the Round Robin process and assign specific leads to salespeople he feels will have a better chance of closing the sale. For example, you may have someone who has experience working with financial institutions, or someone else who has experience working with automobile companies.round robin leads

During the Round Robin process, if your lead bucket is too full, a sales manager may temporarily suspend you receiving more leads until you close more sales, or put leads on a back burner to contact them later.

Lead distribution is always a touchy subject. While there is never a full proof way of handing out leads, salespeople need to be reassured that leads are being distributed fairly.

Please let me know if you have any comments or know of other ways leads are distributed.

5 Roadblocks preventing clients from receiving your emails

One of the biggest challenges of sending B2B (Business to Business) emails is ensuring that the prospect on the other end will actually receive it. With so many companies (and individuals for that matter) being flooded by emails on a daily basis, safeguards have been placed to prevent unsolicited emails from coming through.

As a marketing or sales person who wants to increase your bottom line, what are you supposed to do? Sure, you can make cold calls. Nothing wrong with that. But with voicemails, caller IDs and receptionists (gatekeepers) blocking your way, cold calling just isn’t your only option these days.

Yes, you could send direct marketing pieces. Maybe a nice card with a handwritten message enclosing your business card. Or, you could send swag like a mouse pad or magnet with your company’s contact information and logo. But there is no guarantee that your prospect will read your information much less open up the envelope.

So what to do? You must use a combination of tactics. Cold calls, Check. Leaving voicemail messages, Check. Sending direct marketing pieces, Check. And….also sending emails. Check.

Real Magnet, a marketing automation company, outlines several challenges that you face when sending emails to your prospects. In the video below, the Bethesda based company mentioned 4 hurdles we all have to overcome –

1). Too many domains – while B2C  (Business to Customers) clients only have a few major domains, e.g., aol.com or gmail.com, B2B clients have thousands of different domains. Making sure you have the right domain is a major task in itself.

2). Spam filters – even if you have the right email address with the correct domain, you still must break through spam filters. There are many spam filters on the market, including Microsoft Exchange, Barracuda and McAfee, to name just a few.

3). Capacity varies – While most B2C clients will accept emails quickly, B2B clients may have strict limitations on how many emails they will accept at a given time. This is especially true for large and popular companies that you are trying to target.

4). Message Placement – even if your email reaches the prospect, there is no guarantee that it will reach the inbox. In some cases, your email may end up in a spam or quarantine folder. I dealt with this situation firsthand; for example, even if both the prospect and I know each other, and have been speaking to one another, I would still find my emails ending up in his spam folder. After a few phone calls, the prospect would eventually adjust his server to accept my future emails.

And I will add one more problem below –

5). Using the wrong email address – It happens. We think we wrote down the correct email, but then we receive a bounce back. No worries. Just review your notes and resend the email again.

While Red Magnet is obviously promoting its own tool, I believe the video below does a great job discussing in more detail the problems we all face when sending emails.

Please watch the video below –

Would you send the same e-mail three times?

Would you send the same email to a prospect three times?

That is what one sales person suggested doing recently in a discussion on a sales LinkedIn discussion board.

My answer – no. Here’s why –

It makes you look lazy and unprofessional. Look, I know we are all busy. You have lots of calls to make. You may have a tight quota to achieve. But it only takes a few minutes to reword an e-mail. Maybe add something of value, like a white paper, case study or an interesting article that may apply to your prospect. But whatever you do, take a few extra minutes to make a few changes before sending out another email to the same prospect.

Related to this, recently someone sent me an e-mail to my LinkedIn profile asking me if I would be interested in a lead generation tool. I politely replied that this was something that I wouldn’t be interested in, but since we are both in sales, I requested that we connect with each other and stay in touch. She accepted my connection request.

And then – amazingly – she sent me the same e-mail again about the lead generation tool – after I already told her that I wasn’t interested in it. No change in the wording!

Was she lazy? Was she busy? Didn’t she even read my e-mail? Who knows. But it was all very improper.

Take a few minutes and reword your email. Your prospect will be grateful.