I am Joe’s Incentive Plan

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Hey.

How ya doin?

I am Joe’s Incentive Plan and I’m not very happy, so listen up.  I got something to say.

Don’t worry, Joe can’t hear us – he’s not thinking about me right now, which is an amazing and rare thing.  He’s in the system now trying to figure out how to add another contact with a different address cuz’ he needs to send the quote to yet another guy in the decision making process….

You probably don’t know this but….

Joe swears at me sometimes.  Like bad.  He does.   And that hurts.  We’re supposed to be close.

Usually it happens at the end of the week or the month when we’re walking down the hall together;   I’m computing away figuring out his paycheck in our head and all of a sudden he’s calling me this and that and how much I stink and how stupid I am and how I like other people more than him and that it’s not fair.  Except he really lets it fly with words I’ve never seen – even though I’m 13 pages long if you include the sign off page.

And then I get ticked off.  I gotta live with this guy and he freakin’ hates me.   I know some things though.  I really do.    And you guys got it wrong.

I’m too smart.  I’m too complex.  I’m too long.   And I knew it when you built me two years ago as you passed me around in all those Reply All’s picking me apart with everyone adding their drivel.   I knew it too when you made me sit for 40 days on that HR SharePoint site where I had nothing to do but look at my pathetic, drug out, butchered self until you’ll finished your Turkey dinners or something.

Then I sat in like 5 more meetings getting longer and longer and with as many asterisks as Barry Bonds will have (what you don’t think I read? His incentive plan is legend).

Let me just say what I know is in my DNA about the best Incentive Plans, before Joe gives up on the CRM and (I’ve seen him do this) jumps in the car and delivers the proposal himself;

Rule 1: A New Incentive Plans’ complexity should be of inverse proportion to the degree of change or results needed.  That’s a fancy way of saying that the bigger the degree of behavior/results changes you need Joe and his group to make – the simpler I must be.

Rule 2: Quit putting specific products/ qualifiers all over me.   Your products and focus aren’t going to stay the same.  Joe isn’t going to be asked to sell the same thing every month or in some cases even the same day.  Get Real!  Give me letter designations like  A, B, C, D.  That gives you and Joe the flexibility to change focus in the business on a dime.

Rule 3: I don’t want to be computing all the way down the darn hallway.  Make it as much as you can, something that  when Joe is done for the day or the week, he’s knows what $$ we made and doesn’t need a degree in calculus and blackmail photos to  use against the Reporting and Analytics guy to get him to run numbers .  Stock broker guys don’t have to do it, nor do the waiters or the brain surgeons.

I gotta go, Joe figured it out in the system.  Now he’s thinking about me again.  Do me a favor; help us enjoy our walks down the hallway.  I don’t want to fight anymore.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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The Most Important Question Never Asked

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Do you help small businesses in any way, shape or form?

If you do, my guess is you aren’t as helpful as you think you are – especially when that small business reaches out to you for help.

Let’s back up.   I’ve witnessed in the field (trade shows especially) and on the phones, thousands of interactions between small business owners and providers of everything from office vending services to website creation to customized printing over the years.  Nary do I hear the right kind of question asked when that glorious opportunity arises.

Usually I see or hear a face palming like fail (though few realize it till it is pointed out to them).

When that small business person inquires about a product: the sales/ service/ company rep will often say something like:

“That’s great, it’s a very popular widget as you know, is there a specific model you’ve been thinking about already?”  or  “Sure, let me fill you in – most clients choose from 1 of 3 types,  each with its set of services….”  Or  “OK – it’s time for a new vendor you’ve said – you are looking around and you are probably wondering what sets us apart…”

Ugh.  Even worse is that the above examples are trained still today as good things to say in some organizations.

Here’s how to stop doing that.  And actually help your small businesses better :)

When a small business owner calls you, emails you or stops by looking for some help, information or assistance, you must first ask:

“What’s happening in your business that is driving your interest in ________?”

There are variations of the above but here is the point:. Whether you represent payroll services, website development, custom printing, insurance products, widgets or trinkets;

Knowing the businesses’ motivations helps you match your product or service exactly to those motivations (improving immediate sales success) and can help you articulate any expanded portfolio ( now or in the future) of your products/services that truly help that small business. 

Here’s an example done right;

  • Prospect: – “I’m curious. I know you build widgets and I’m looking for some pricing and info..“
  • You: “Sure – let me ask you first, what’s happening in your business right now that is driving your interest in the widget?”
  • Prospect: “. Well we’ve added a whole new group of products nobody knows about yet and I’m breaking into 2 more states is the plan – so I’ve got to look a little more professional I think too…”
  • You: “Perfect.  Let’s take a look at some widgets that get your name out faster and wider and there’s a couple of widgets that give a customized look too..”

It sounds obvious.  It’s not.

It’s not about what product or service the prospect is interested in; it’s about what is driving that interest that matters.  The motivation, the challenges, the dreams and the drivers are what you must discover, remember and leverage in the selling process.

Challenge yourself, your business or your team to do better with these opportunities.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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The Most Interesting Sales Rep In The World

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The Most Interesting Sales Rep in The World

His commissions are greater than the GNP of Denmark and Finland combined.

His typical sales contest is winning first, second and 3rd prize.

He’s made The President’s Circle so often he may just run in 2016.

His Sales Manager cries softly just looking at him.

He has his own instance of Salesforce .com

He throws live objections into his sales pitches just for fun.

His business card simply says “You’re Welcome”

He is, the most interesting Sales Rep in the world.

*****

Let’s put aside the hyperbole and fun for a moment and think about what this sales person really looks like because you know he or she must exist somewhere!.  My guess is the following is true about the best sales person in the world.

She gets cold calls from prospects asking her what they need to worry about in their industry and if there’s any way she can help them.  And why shouldn’t she? She’s known for not solving problems buyers already know about but rather the one’s they don’t.

She hasn’t prospected since Thanksgiving; her customers flood her email with friends they want her to call on.  And why would she? If you are truly the best, your raving fans do so much of the prospecting for you.

She often tells clients to hold off signing an agreement because she wants to see the right infrastructure in place first to ensure the product will deliver.  And why shouldn’t she? She knows in today’s competitive global marketplace that selling often really begins after the sale.

She’s got a killer professional social media presence that is seen as a credible resource for evolving solutions and industry trends and dynamics.  Of course she does.  She gets that buyers are researching well ahead and she’ll not wait for the phone to ring or the email or lead come in.  She’s there right from the beginning.

I may not always post a blog inspired by a beer commercial but when I do, it makes you think, no?  Stay thirsty my friends.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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I Don’t Care What You Want

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I don’t care what you want.    What I do care about is why you want it.

In sales today, it is more important than ever to get after the why because it is so dang easy to skip it.

You see, buyers of all types today walk into your business, or ring your phone, or fill out that form online, or open a chat box, or saunter up to your trade show booth or  even drive onto your car lot and tell you what they want.

They do that because they’ve done so much advance research online that they know (or think they know) exactly what they want.

Some of us think that is so cool, that this internet thing is doing the selling for us and by the time the buyer comes to us in our office or in our store – it’s a done deal.

But it ain’t.  And you know it.  Never before have buyers come in droves telling you what widget they want and then walk away, don’t call back,  don’t take a sample, don’t take a test drive and just don’t buy – let alone become a long term fruitful customer.   And we throw up our hands and say “What the heck, they wanted this thing!”   Some of us think it’s because of fierce competition, or that the leads are weak, or that the same internet that drove the prospects to us is making them too choosey.

But I’m here to tell it’s because you’re so enamored that the customer knows what they want that you are likely forgetting to take the time to ask why.

  • If I know why you want this widget and what good it will do for you or what problem it solves, then I’m going to be better at articulating why my business will be the best at providing it today and in the future with additional products and services I can provide.
  • If I know why you want this widget and why you’ve chosen me to bring this request to and what inspired you to swing by my doors or ring my phone then I’ll have a better sense of what is important you in a partner or provider – not just today but in the future as I look to retain and enhance your business with me.
  • If I know why you want this widget and how comfortable you are with this technology or space and perhaps who you admire who uses this widget then I can tailor my language, my sales approach and tell stories a lot better not just today but in the future when we are working together to expand your services with me.

There’s a lot more and different why’s to get after based on what you do – take the time to think them through and apply in your buyer interactions.

The point is this: More than ever, the prospect has something specific in mind when they come to you but that does not lesson the need of figuring out, as all great sales people do, the why behind the request.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Why Don’t We Practice Enough at Work?

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On Saturday I got to hear something beautiful from one of the best saxophone players in the game.  Jaleel Shaw, a 2000 Berklee College of Music grad, came back to speak to accepted students for the fall semester but didn’t play a single note.  He didn’t even bring his saxophone.

Yet his contribution was as moving and inspirational to the hundreds of students and parents listening in Saturday as surely his music is when played.

Thoughtful, so very humble and endearing – he kept genuinely and transparently falling back on the value and need to “practice”.   He must have mentioned the word more than 20 times eventually having  said it so often he had the crowd laughing (and for sure learning).

He told of his days at Berklee being long and grueling yet each semester he would map out where and exactly when he would fit in at least 8 hours of practice each day between and around his full class load.

Surely his renowned teachers, the Berklee connections, the theory courses, the performances and the education degree he acquired were essential to his success today but practice, practice and more practice was his sincere message.

And the message is a great one far beyond the study of music. In fact practice should play a much bigger role for us in our business lives.    But what do we really do about it in our jobs today?  Do we really practice unless we are forced to?

  • How often in the cubicle aisle does a salesperson grab a colleague out of the blue and practice dealing with difficult objections or articulating better what problem the product really solves?
  • How often as trainers, do we really stand up in front of that mirror or virtually with a colleague, practice our messaging and presentation before delivering our training?
  • How often as managers and supervisors and coaches do we prepare and practice a difficult conversation with an employee or for that matter, practice a nurturing conversation to maximize the conversation’s potential?

It’s obvious that a college like Berklee should be  a culture of ardent practice and it makes sense.   I’d contend that Practice Culture has a value far wider than just at a Music school and would do quite well where you work.

Till Next Time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

It Comes With What? “Well La-Dee Frickin’ Dah!”

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Gotta step it up a bit folks.

Your company (or maybe it’s you) likely spends a lot of time and effort adding values to products and services that you sell.  Try not to underwhelm your clients or prospects with your lack of focus and skill in articulating them.

If you don’t give enough attention here it’s a missed opportunity to impress or differentiate.  And worse, you can blather so boringly about some of this pretty cool stuff that the client does a mental Matt Foley (the iconic Chris Farley SNL character) and is so underwhelmed they say   “Well La-Dee Frickin’ Dah!  .  Your customers may not yell it like Matt Foley in the  5 second video but they sure as heck are saying it in their heads and all that work and investment in these added values goes wasted.

Fortunately there is a better way. 

Let’s pretend whatever it is you are selling comes with and added value of say  “One hour of free maintenance per month”. You could be like most people and just say it comes with “one hour of free maintenance per month” and then and have the client conjure up the image of Mr. Foley and “La-Dee Frickin’ Dah!”  or – wouldn’t it be better to put the client in the picture here?

  • “All we ask is that once a month, you force your busy self to sit down with one of our experts for an hour and make sure the (insert product here) is running perfectly for you.”

Now let’s pretend your product purchased comes with an added value of a “money back guarantee”.  A real snoozer because while awesome, we tend to think of it as an afterthought.   You could just say there is a “money back guarantee” (like almost everyone else does) and watch the client sleepily drool a little or – wouldn’t it be better to put the client in the picture here?

  • You expect this widget to bring in new business in and it will, but if in 3 months as you turn around and head back in from another long day on the water and you don’t feel it really has –just call me and I’ll put every dollar you spend today right back into your wallet; that’s how confident we are it’ll work.”

And finally, let’s pretend your product comes with “free fluid checks, tire rotation and oil changes for 1 year”.     In this case your product is likely a car (or a van one might park down by the river :)) .  You could just say it comes with “free fluid checks, tire rotations and oil changes for 1 year” and watch their eyes glaze over like mine do when any Friends rerun comes on or – wouldn’t it be better to put the client in the picture here?

  • Let me worry about the car maintenance – you have more important things to do.  Before you head off this summer up to Maine or NH for vacation, bring it in and we’ll check everything from rotating tires to fluids and even change the oil – all at no charge.  We’ll do that same thing before that first snow fall or just before we do the yearly inspection.  No worries and no cost to you from now till your first anniversary with this car. “

Think about added values that surround your primary products and services.  They mean something.  In fact, sometimes they are the differentiators from your competitors.  Work hard to help your clients see themselves leveraging these added values!  Use words and phrases that elicit images and mini – movies for them; it’ll elevate the value of all your stuff across the board.   And do it in a way that if you notice, compliments them as people, consumers or as business owners.  And of course,  avoid at all costs the lack of attention that results in “Well La-Dee Frickin’ Dah!”

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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What Is An A Cappella Leadership Team?

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Any parent knows the huge popularity of a cappella singing these days.   In fact, at a small  college we just visited Saturday, there are no less than 5 a cappella groups on campus ( one of which sang at the opening session of the visit).  For the uninitiated, a cappella singing is a small group of people using no instruments but their voices which blend into some amazing harmonies.

It’s not a new music art form of course (in fact I always say the original a cappella hit was written in the 1630’s- have a listen here to that).  But of late, we can thank super groups like Pentatonix and others for the surge in popularity.

And it’s fantastic.  I love people singing together without “a net” or in other words, the safety of instrumentals to fall on.  When done well, it is a glorious sound of a half dozen folks who are uniquely gifted in their own ways but listen, really listen to each other blend together perfectly.

I won’t beat the metaphor alluded to in the blog title too hard, but there’s a lesson in a cappella for the very best leadership teams.   Every day it seems we are surrounded by Executive Leadership teams, Division leadership teams and more.  You yourself may be on one of them.    In the best kind of environment these leadership teams aren’t awkward, faceless or sound like a soloist performing with a couple of backup singers.  Nope –these teams perform like an a cappella group.

The a cappella Leadership Team members aren’t the same cookie cutter images of each other.   They look different and sound different and each has his or her unique gift of range, talent and responsibility – and would never be confused with one another.  Yet each sings from the same strategic score and must listen to each other equally – for if just one of them is dissonant, the whole thing falls apart.

These a cappella Leadership Teams are genuine and transparent.  There’s little in the way of policy, history, or hiding behind “the way we always do things” that an a cappella Leadership Teams lean on.  They are open, exposed and work without the trappings of a score recorded years ago or being played today by someone other than themselves.

Done beautifully, the a cappella Leadership Team knows their sound and messages must stir the people who look to them for direction and guidance.  They know they have to work very hard to impress, retain and attract followers based on their performance.

Take a look (and a listen) at a cappella from every angle and consider the lessons throughout.  It makes perfect sense and perfect pitch to me.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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