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Famous Quotations

You can\'t just ask customers what they want and try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they\'ll want something new. -Steve Jobs
 

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One of the most important abilities I’ve found most useful in both my personal and business life is the ability to read people accurately and to have a decent sense of their personalities and emotions.  For some people they have a natural instinct or sixth sense that allows them the uncanny ability to know if people are telling the truth, how they will react and what they will do. However, other than natural instincts, there are ways to increase one’s awareness and observations to a point where they too can read people accurately and predict how people will react and behave.  Basically, if you want to be able to understand people better, you must work at it and keep practicing.  Here are some simple guidelines I personally follow with great success over the years. With simple practice and determination, you too can better your instincts on reading people accurately and learn how to build sensitivity to gauge other people’s emotions and behaviors.

Before you can start reading other people at all, you must first have the correct frame of mind. If you do not have the right mind set, no matter what you do, you will not understand other people at all and you will actually become a very negative and irritating presence amongst others. First off, take a look at this list and see if you can honestly compare yourself to these concepts.  If most of them apply, then you are off to a good start and more than likely already are very good at reading people.  If not, see if you can apply these concepts to your own personality and force yourself to follow them for your own benefit.  Now let’s take a look at the list:

  • One must generally like people
  • One must have an open and aware mind (Try not to be stubborn and pig headed)
  • One must pay close attention to details of people (Physical & Emotional)
  • One must be sensitive to all these details of people
  • One must be patient to these details
  • One must care to have this correct frame of mind

Once you have begun with the correct frame of mind, we now need to go back and discuss about people’s general instincts. Of course some people have better natural instincts than others; however, you must understand that everybody still has natural instincts. It’s just the matter of honing & trusting your instincts, which can be done to a point. Once you have built up your experiences and know how through learned skills, then you will be better equipped to understand your own instincts and learn how to follow them. There are 3 basic principals about general instincts that one should consider for their own purpose of improving their abilities to read others.

  • One needs to have good Instincts! (Start to trust yours and learn to recognize them)
  • Unfortunately, Instincts are innate but learned skills can enhance your Instincts to better serve oneself
  • Trust ones 1st instinctual feeling not ones 1st superficial impression(difficult to do, due to the heavy influence of first superficial impression)

With the right mind set and understanding of how instincts come to play, you can now apply these learned skills to better hone your abilities to accurately read people. I have described a simple 3 step process to sharpen your instincts and experiences that will give you the learned skills needed to improve your abilities. Here are the 3 process needed to develop your learned skills:

  1. Training
  2. Categorizing (Physical, Mental, Environmental)
  3. Research and Analysis

The first step is training and it is the most straight forward process. You need to practice, practice, practice and then practice some more. You need to practice by interacting with different types of people through socializing, business interactions, observations, negotiations, arguments, etc (The more, the richer the experience, but it needs to be face to face and not electronically).  You need to read and observe as much as you can, so that you are knowledgeable about many different topics and have a broad understanding of different opinions.  Finally, the most important aspect of your training is to teach yourself, train yourself, beat yourself, do whatever it takes to make sure you, Listen! Make sure you listen carefully to examples, experiences and situations of others, so that you learn to advance yourself and observe more accurately. I can not stress enough about this point, if you don’t listen, you don’t see, and if you don’t see then you are just an idiot that stands there listening and seeing themselves only.

The second process which is actually a more detailed aspect of your general training is the understanding of categorizing and how it allows you to better sort out the differences and similarities of people. Once you can sort out and categorize people into a mental form or shape in your mind, then it becomes easier to figure them out and predict what, how, and why they will react in a certain way. Categorizing can be sorted into 3 distinct parts; Physical, Mental, and Environmental.

The physical aspect of Categorizing can be broken down into 3 key components, that one needs to be aware and keenly observant of:

  • Specific physical traits (Look and Appearance)
  • Specific movements or gestures (Body language)
  • Specific sounds or sayings (Verbal language style)

The Mental aspect of Categorizing can be focused on 4 areas of thought with the 5th one an extremely useful technique by “Wilson’s Learning (4 Quadrants of Personality)”.

  • Look for patterns, people tend to show or develop signs or portray images subconsciously (Habits).
  • Pay attention to how they think, their thought process, the way they come to conclusions.
  • Specific emotions or reactions (Non-verbal language)
  • Know and understand their interests
  • Wilson’s Learning, 4 quadrants of personality (Amiable, Driver, Expressive, Analytical) . Note: This technique is very useful and if possible you should study it or take their seminars.

The Environmental aspect of Categorizing can be summarized through observing 7 types of environmental factors that distinguish the different types of people. Pay close attention to these factors to help you categorize the traits of the people you are reading by:

  • Understanding their culture and cultural preferences
  • Understanding their religious beliefs and backgrounds, and how it may affect them
  • Know where they live and come from
  • Know family backgrounds and Value systems
  • Understand how their Gender may be affected by their environment (Family, Culture, Tradition, etc)
  • Know their educational & professional backgrounds
  • Know and understand what type of Social or Business circles they come from

Finally, the third and last step is too continually do Research & Analysis of your results,  while you are training and categorizing the details of the people you are trying to read accurately.  By fine tuning these actions and results, you should also compare and asses the information with people you know of personally or compare with people of history, because, most likely they will behave similarly (remember; due to human nature, history repeats itself).  Remember, to listen carefully and learn from other people’s experiences, but most of all, learn to trust your own instincts and know that you can do it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Once you have set up your competitive strategy and sales management polices & rules, you need to start monitoring the progress of your sales force with an objective, easily accessible and accurate system. This Sales Forecast system should be a customizable and powerful software application component in an overall CRM (Customer Relationship Management) environment. The forecast system needs to be easily accessible by the sales force (ie: through the web by PC, laptop, smart phone) with a business process engine that allows for approvals and data reporting all in real time. However, one must understand that no matter how powerful or technologically advanced a system or process is; it is garbage if the management doesn’t drive for accuracy and timeliness of the data that goes into it. Remember, “Garbage in, means garbage out!”

It is extremely important to condition the Sales force to diligently update their Sales forecast data and have the Sales Management check the data weekly or bi-weekly for accuracy and confirmation. If any sales lags or deliberately falsifies, boosts, sandbags their forecasts, they need to be disciplined severely.  It should be one of the Sales management’s most important tasks to enforce and drive the Sales forecast system. Once the data that goes into the sales forecast has been screened carefully, the organization can now gauge their marketplace and predict their revenue pipeline with a certain degree of accuracy. With the confidence gained through the accurate forecasted data, management can also conduct their operational planning, marketing budgets, and continue to engage in their competitive strategy. Again, depending on the type of industry, size of organization, culture and mentality, the sales forecasting process will vary significantly. However, the basic concept for the Forecast system will remain the same in that it can be broken down into a process of categories and steps with assigned percentages of closing to each level of the completed process.

In creating this Sales Forecast system, the organization needs to customize the process to fit its own organizations industry and practices. Also the sales marketplace can be an important factor in dictating the types of processes in the Sales Forecasting System. Here is an example of the Sales Forecast process I have used in the past with great success. I have the whole process broken down into 6 categories:

1.    Get Prospect’s Information
2.    Get Customer Involved
3.    Get Customer Engaged
4.    Get Customer Committed
5.    Get Customer’s Purchase Order
6.    Get 100% of the Money

With these 6 categories in mind, the Sales forecasting process can now be divided into stages within these categories and finally steps completed to form a percentage of closing the deal for that customer.

Get Prospects Information

–    Assign territory, account, & salesperson                                             5 %
–    Qualify opportunity (Company & Contact Info Gathering)                10%

Get Customer Involved

–    Compelling Event / Motivation to Change / Value Proposition            15%

•    Is there any critical business issues, if so, explain?
•    Is there motivation and value for them to change, if so, explain?
•    What is the cost of the change?
•    Is this need strategic?
•    Is there a compelling event?
•    Why would they spend money?
•    What is their current way and how could they do differently?
•    What is the priority of this project?
•    How do we see the problem?
•    Do we have a vulnerability analysis?
•    Do we know their priority?

–    Identify players, decision makers, sign-off process & draw political map        25%

•    How decisions made and what are are their criteria?
•    How many people are involved and who are they?
•    Who is the Decision Maker (DM) and are we connected?
•    Do we have a connection to the DM’s boss?
•    Who could be our champion and how do we develop them?
•    Why does he/she support us, if so are they actively selling for us?
•    What influence do he / she have with (DM)?
•    Who are our inside enemies and how do we counter them?
•    Who are the gatekeepers, beneficiaries, end-users, influencers and coaches?
•    Who else has impact on us?
•    Who signs off on this deal?

–    Account plan (including strategy of selling, influencing, & competitiveness)    30%

•    Which competitors are in this account?
•    What products do they use?
•    How can our capability and technology fit?
•    Can are vision fit with their needs?
•    Can we compete?
•    Why us and not the competition?
•    What are our strengths?
•    What are our weaknesses?
•    How will they be better off if they use our products?
•    What is the estimated closing time?
•    What economic changes can impact the deal?

Get Customer Engaged

–    Negotiate a sequence of events with customer                    35%

•    Have we negotiated sequence of events?
•    Has the proposal been defined?
•    Has implementation plan been developed and is it biased to us?
•    Are their configurations finalized?
•    Have we demonstrated the product?
•    Have we achieved the business proof?
•    Has risks been assessed and addressed and can it be minimized?
•    What is the total time frame?

–    Agree upon technical evaluation process                        40%

•    Are they willing to negotiate a process?
•    Has the technical proof been defined and addressed?
•    Are their resources adequate?
•    How long technical resources will be needed?
•    How long consulting services will be needed?
•    Has our relationship improved with them?

–    Obtain internal support & engineering resources                    45%

•    Do we have resources for evaluation?
•    Has responsibilities been assigned?
•    How much internal resources allocated?

–    Identify customer’s budget availability                        50%

•    Are they prepared to execute the sale?
•    Has funds been approved and allocated?
•    What is the ROI?
•    Has the sign-off been authorized?
•    Do they have budget and what is it?

Get Customer Committed

–    Complete technical evaluation                            55%

–    Obtain internal approval on business proposal                    60%

•    How big is the opportunity?
•    How much for product purchase?
•    How much for consulting & services?
•    What are other costs to them?
•    What are the list price and the discount level?
•    What are other add-ons?
•    What are sales terms & conditions?

–    Submit preliminary proposal & pricing quotation                    65%

Get Customer’s Purchase Order

–    Negotiate a win-win deal                            70%

•    Is “price” the only obstacle between us?
•    What’s most important to both of us?
•    What will constitute a “win-win”?

–    Achieve final agreement from customer                        80%

–    Obtain verbal commitment for PO                            90%

–    Obtain hard copy of purchase order                        99%

Get 100% of Money                                    100%

Note: For each step of the process, there are questions associated to make sure those steps have been reached. These questions only need to be answered by a “yes”, “no” or “no need” answer to move on to the next stage. You can decide on the actual qualifying amount of “Yes” to the questions to be considered completion of the stage.

 

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Many years ago, I heard a saying that “Sales is a form of art and Sales Management is science.” There are countless books, articles and seminars out there that teach methods and practices on the art of selling and even sales management. The true successful salesmen have a natural ability to sell which is innate to their personality, much like the natural artist that can paint, sculpture, and perform superbly. People can learn the mechanics & methods to sharpen their sales skills, but will never achieve the success of the natural artistic salesman in which selling comes as second nature. However, sales management is definitely a science in which you can follow successful guidelines and processes to manage an efficient winning salesforce. Unlike direct selling where the natural Salesman shines, Sales Management needs to be run extremely efficiently and methodically for grand success. Sales management does not need the artistic values to close deals, it needs to be stringent and effective for the organization, making sure sales are in line and revenue streams are constant and growing. Effective Sales Management needs structure and rules in order to keep Salesman in line and productive. The Sales Organization also needs a decisive strategic focus in which to rally the force and funnel all resources and efforts to one common goal which is to win deals and increase revenue. In coming up with a solid strategy for your sales organization, one must consider some basic aspects of competitive strategy, organizational & operational strategy, and good common business sense.

When developing a competitive strategy, you need to know yourself really well and know your competition. Here are some fundamental values you should think about when developing your strategies:

• Know your market, customers & competitors real well (Research, Intelligence)

• Develop a solid plan based on your situation & strengths

• To win over customers, you must understand their needs first & always keep your commitments to them

• Continuously develop new products & improve on existing ones

• Use innovation to penetrate markets and then occupy & expand your market

• Maintain strong price/performance on all products

• Use service & support as additional strategic weapons

After establishing some of these fundamental values, there are also many types of tactics you can use to achieve your competitive strategy. Depending on your market environment, competition, market share and size of organization; will determine what type of successful tactics to incorporate into your strategy. I will describe some basic tactics that are universal in nature and quite effective when established correctly.

Competitive Tactics (Organizational Perspective)

• If your organization is weaker, attack your competition from their vulnerable spots, avoid head-on or direct confrontation; However, if you are stronger, surround your competition and destroy them completely, don’t ever give them a chance to recover or re-group

• When you attack or confront your competition, use a path which they are not watching for or protecting, move fast and hit hard; during attack, avoid their strengths and attack their weaknesses.

• By using a flanking strategy, identify vulnerable niches or leaking holes and conduct a surprise attack very swiftly

• Destroy your competition’s morale and fighting spirit from within, use (intelligence) extensively

• By using a relentless non-stop surprising attack on your competition, you will always be able to keep market leadership

• Be flexible in changing tactics, including position, packaging, price, promotion, selling, etc.

• Remember this “Attack First, Hit Hard, Move Fast, & Be Merciless!”

• Establish fear and respect among competitors

• Publicize winning accounts and success stories for the sales team

• Build a complete sales database and network on prospects and customers

– Sort, analyze

– Track inter-relationships and moves (jobs/companies)

– Know the people (position, background, family, schooling, hobbies)

• Develop and maintain sales-assisting activities

– Ads (Digital and/or Traditional)

– trade shows

– promotional events

– buy or trade customer lists

• Emphasize post-sales support

• Focus on Major Account Management

– Form special “tiger teams” (e.g., 10 person teams) to conquer certain major accounts

– Completely and systematically cover the entire market area

– While not ignoring any prospects, focus on the key target accounts making up the old “80/20” rule

– Use 1-to-many sales tactics to supplement the usual 1-to-1 sales techniques (e.g., prepare multiple pens for simultaneous PO signing — make it a ceremony)

Competitive Tactics (Individual Perspective)

• Always create a win-win situation in any deal

• Fully understand your prospect before launching your sales effort

– Conduct a systematic and thorough investigation on all prospects

– Find the key spot or vulnerable point and penetrate using it

• Build trust with customers

• Focus on prospects with high buying power

• Focus on prospects with high marketing value

• Express appreciation to your customers

– Give a Gift after concluding a sale

– Pass along positive comments especially to supportive individuals

• Know your Contacts well

– Pay attention to the greeters (e.g., receptionists, secretaries, security guards)

– Check out their internal publications (e.g., get yourselves and your team into their internal publications)

– Get involved with their trade associations

– Check out their signs, bulletin boards, websites, blogs, etc.

• Remember a great salesman never leaves a customer empty handed; he either gets the PO or sucks the customers brain dry (gathers important intelligence for future use)

After setting up a decisive competitive strategy, your organizational and operational strategies must align together to support and drive the organization to achieve those goals. In preparing the sales organization, you must envision your group as a vast solid Oak tree growing and deepening its roots laying down the solid foundation for a powerful effective sales force. As a leader you must understand that your people’s hearts become the core of the business and that you should learn how to leverage their strengths along with your management group’s wisdom to win over your competition. In order to build that strong sales organization, you need to take any necessary steps to formulate the organizational & operational strategies into a cohesive and effective organization. Here are some examples that will guide you in that direction.

Organizational & Operational Suggestions

• Make sure you hire good and strong leaders. Whether they are VP of Sales, Sales Directors, Sales Managers or even Senior Sales reps, successful strong leaders also attract and motivate great people.

• Make sure you hire more than enough Sales people (More feet on the Street, more area covered, however, make sure the sales are deep harvesting their territories and not just cherry picking low hanging fruit)

• Walk around and talk to employees directly

• Communicate with all managers

• Interview departing employees (Good source of internal information)

• Liberate middle management & empower them to improve productivity (source: GE)

• Spend at least 40% of your time on “people”

• Develop a strong Culture that focus on Sales and values it.

• Focus primarily on numbers: revenue, cost, and profit

• Don’t make money through political or government power circles, if possible (Unless that is your business)

• Tightly control costs but spend money wisely; right place, right way, right time

• Insist on cash, don’t make deals on credit

• Emphasize credit checks and background investigation BEFORE concluding deals.

• Know your customer inside and out: family, background, schooling, hobbies, and finances.

• Always be prepared for future downturns and surprises. Build backlog and have a savings cushion

• Treat your (sales organization) people well (Respect them, Promote them & their function, give them glory)

• Motivate, lead by example

• Manage using a military style

– You are either on the team or you are not.

– Team members must have the will to stay, fight, and win.

– Train your sales person as though you are in a real war.

• Set extremely high targets

– Give high financial reward

– Attract top-notch sales talent

– Set a high 3-year sales goal

– Drive sales

– Measure overall performance on a quarterly basis

• Objective performance evaluation

– Use numbers to evaluate, control, track, reward, and punish

– Must be as objective as possible

– It’s the only defensible position

• Stretch your people, challenge them

– Put each person into tough situations to stretch them

– Burn their bridges so there’s no retreat (e.g., checking into a luxury hotel without cash; the successful cash sale creates the cash for the hotel tab)

– Punish non-performers swiftly [give them one chance for redemption]

– Pass along positive comments between supervisors and subordinates

• Attitude

– Attitude is all important

– Know your product & competition

• Learn your product well before selling it (know the ins and outs)

– Persist

• Sales begins with rejection

• Be polite but be persistent

• Set high goals for number of contacts before giving up is acceptable

• American Sales Association Statistical results:

• 48% of sales people withdraw after the 1st rejection

• 25% withdraw after the 2nd

• 12% after the 3rd

• 5% after the 4th

• The remaining 10% of the total sales people account for 80% of the total sales deals

– Always be in selling mode

• You are not selling just a product

• You are selling hope, a bright future

• You are selling the ability to contribute to society

– Work hard

• Be dedicated to reaching your goals

• Sell day and night

• Sell in the prospect’s or customer’s office and home

• E.g., sleeping on the train at night to save time at home for selling

• Work efficiently

• Fight to the end

• Grasp opportunities as they appear

– Have an optimistic and aggressive attitude (e.g., selling ice in Antarctica, selling underarm deodorant in China)

– People will respect you only when you respect them

– Find solutions to seemingly hopeless situations; Be creative and innovative; Think out-of-the-box; Always try new tricks.

– Never quit until you’ve closed the deal

– Never quit until you’re #1 (e.g., Selling into New Year’s Eve)

– Never quit until you win

– Be #1 by a wide margin

Once your competitive strategy is decided upon and your basic organizational & operational strategies are locked in cohesion, you need to make sure that your sales organization understands these strategies and have clear and precise orders to follow. In order to make sure your salesforce complies and efficiently carries out your strategies, an organization needs to develop and publish a clear set of Sales Management policies, a strict rule book for the salesforce, and an organized accurate forecasting system to keep track of key data. These operational tools need to be strictly enforced and communicated regularly to make sure all important situations are covered and accounted for. Once these policies and rules are enforced, the Salesforce can now clearly focus on their tasks of generating income and revenue for their organization. Hopefully, once you have worked out the kinks of these operational tools, the salesforce will have no room to play any games or try to get creative in bypassing the system. Remember, these polices are for the best interest of the organization and not for the interest of the salesmen. I will go into more details about these operational tools in my following articles, where there will be examples on types of Sales management polices and Sales Rules to incorporate into your own organization.

One last thing, please remember that Salesman should be encouraged to be 100% selfish and greedy for their commission. Make sure they are extremely well compensated for their successes and then they will perform, but if they fail, punish without mercy as an example to others for failure. Sales Managers should be encouraged to be 50% greedy for commissions and 50% for the organization, whereas Sales executives should be expected to be 100% for the Organization. If you can achieve this type of mentality then you will see your revenues grow.

 

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