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Mamia. Daughter of the King. Leadership enthusiast. Family first. #MomBoss Proverbs 17:1

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Confessions of a Recovering Sales Rep: Don’t Stay Stuck – Beat the Slump!

Some say there is no such thing as a slump. Perhaps it depends on how you define the thing. It can show its ugly self in so many ways throughout your sales career. Maybe you can’t uncover new opportunities no matter how hard you try. Maybe you can’t expand your existing accounts no matter how much value you show your clients. Maybe you are shy of your quota and you have no idea how to drum up enough revenue to reach your goal. Maybe you’re just plain tired.

No matter what it is or how it looks for you, take a deep breath, pour yourself another cup of coffee and come along.

Know Your Why

We spend so much time as sales professionals trying to uncover the why with our customers and prospects, but you have one, too. And it’s time to revisit it. Maybe even change it. Give it a makeover.

Review your goals – not your company goals, but your personal goals. Remind yourself where you want to be next year, in five years, even in ten years. Break it down into three categories: personal, financial, and tangible (think toys, cars, new clothes, etc.).

Sit and dream about all that for a few minutes while you sip your coffee. Better yet, self-actualize all of it.

Get Basic

You are probably stretched so thin each and every day, feeling like you will never get everything accomplished. There are more and more fires to put out every time you think you have your day managed. But take some time to review the “simple” parts of your job and make them a priority.

You need to make x calls per week. You need to schedule x meetings per week. You need to do x demos per week. None of that happens without your initiative. Take it one piece at a time, one day at a time, one hour at a time. Small wins with the basics will propel you toward the other side of the doldrums.

When these simple tasks become a habit, you know that you are always working on your pipeline and your slumps will become fewer and farther between.

Lift the Weight

Yup, the phone is so heavy when you are slumping. But likely, it’s your only way out. Try this suggestion on for size: call someone else. If you feel like you are calling the same people over and over again from your lists, from your CRM, etc. and you are tired of hearing their voice on their outgoing message – call someone else!

Research contacts from within the same companies you’ve been calling on. Maybe they have a similar title. Maybe they are lower or higher on the food chain. Get into a dialogue with someone! Learn all you can about a target.

Research brand new companies. Branch out with your calling campaign an engage your brain while you do it. Expand your search to include competitors of your targets, other companies that touch the industry you sell into. Get creative and shake things up a bit. Slumps sometimes come with simply being bored.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison

Remember what gets you up in the morning, stick to daily habits, and pick up the phone. It won’t be heavy for long.

Confessions of a Recovering Sales Rep: Making the Most of the Monday Morning Meeting

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t happen on Monday. But you know what I’m talking about. That hour of your week where you have to explain to your manager everything you are working on, what you expect to close, and why you aren’t exactly hitting your numbers. (Even if you are hitting your numbers, this is still relevant. Keep reading!)

It’s something you all dread. No one likes to feel like they are being micro-managed or watched for any and every time they miss the mark. Why aren’t you prospecting for new business? Why aren’t you entering your notes into the CRM? Why isn’t your pipeline more robust?

What if, instead of viewing this hour of your week with dread and bated breath, you used it as an exercise for your own personal development? A roadmap for staying on task, thinking critically about your sales strategy, and filling your bank account with commission? Yup – sounds so good. Consider how awesome it would be if you were so proactive with your calendar and territory that your manager had nothing but praise for you on that Monday morning phone call.

Are you in?

The first thing you need to do, if you haven’t already done it, is take your annual goals and break them down by week. It will help to keep you focused and on track down to the granular details.

Review last week:

1.   Did you work towards getting additional business from any existing clients?

2.   Did you spend time prospecting in person or over the phone?

3.   Did you meet with anyone from your network to share referrals?

4.   Did you ask any of your clients for referrals?

5.   Did you use your time wisely to maintain your existing accounts and ensure your pipeline is full and moving?

Consider the new opportunities you uncovered last week and make sure you have a scheduled next step in place.

Consider both highlights from the week and things that were challenging as well.

Consider what you could have done better. Push yourself. Challenge yourself. (Imagine what you could do with an extra bonus…)

Prep next week:

1.   Decide which clients are ripe for additional business.

2.   Determine who you will target for new business development.

3.   Look through your network (LinkedIn) for people who sell something different into the same industries you do. Find time to buy them a cup of coffee…

4.   Plan for any upcoming meetings and sales calls. At a minimum, decide what you want to get out of those calls and ask questions to get you there.

5.   SCHEDULE YOUR TIME! Don’t go into your upcoming week without blocks of time for all critical activities.

Consider your overall goals for the upcoming week. Don’t limit yourself to number of dials, number of appointments, or number of orders. Think bigger. Do something that will make you a better sales professional.

Consider how many new opportunities you’d like to uncover and what it will take to make that happen.

Consider any challenges you might face and what you can do to plan for and mitigate them.

No sugar coating here. This takes some time. Especially the first time you sit down to do it. It does get easier. It will help you to think critically and be better positioned to build your network and fill your pipeline. Chances are you will close more deals and make more money.

And you know what else?

Those Monday morning meetings will be one of the best hours of your week.

Confessions of a Recovering Sales Rep: 5 Tips for a New Mindset

I’m not perfectly sure when it happened but it most certainly did. That moment when I decided that being just okay at a job was uncomfortable and not enough.

I have the need to sell. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. Whether it was peddling stationary door to door so I could save up and buy a bike, or selling grapefruit to raise money for a school trip, I’ve been in the business of filling a pipeline for many years. It was easy then; it’s gotten harder.

I have a firm handshake. I’m pretty likeable and can be outgoing. I don’t have much fear of rejection. I’m decent at overcoming objections. I’m not afraid to make a ton of phone calls. I like to think people trust me and buy from me because they know I’m not out to get them. I love commission checks. You know what all of this amounts to? A very average sales rep.

Anyone can establish rapport. Even if they’ve never read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

Anyone can learn enough about a product so that they can do the features & benefits show for a customer or prospect.

Anyone can take on the book of business that’s been handed to them, wait for the phone to ring, and take credit for orders that would have come in anyway.

Here’s what I wasn’t doing. And you probably aren’t either.

  1. Lose Your Ego – I know you have to be confident. But I promise, you don’t know it all. And you haven’t mastered the sale. You probably have some great skills! But you can learn more. You can do more. Sales is constantly evolving and so is business. In order to remain relevant, you have to be willing and open to change. Criticism isn’t always fun, but when it’s constructive, it can propel you forward in awesome ways.
  2. Get Coached – You aren’t an athlete. (Well, maybe you are…) But coaching is critical no matter what. When you are too involved in a situation, it can be nearly impossible to see the forest through the trees. Talk about your deals with someone else. Maybe it’s your manager. Maybe it’s your spouse. Maybe it’s another rep. But allowing someone else a view into your opportunities may just give them some vision into what you may be missing.
  3. Own Your Calendar – You get pulled in so many different directions! You have to take care of your customers. I get it. But if you aren’t setting aside time for activities that will pay you more than you are currently making, you’re doing it wrong. Set aside time in your calendar every single week to prospect for new business. (Yes, I’m talking about making cold calls.) And then DON’T LET ANYTHING STEAL THAT TIME. Even if it’s only an hour a week (shame on you), you have to do it.
  4. Have a Plan – I’m not going to preach the old adage “fail to plan, plan to fail,” but… I’ve only recently learned how to plan my days, weeks, and even months. Without a plan, I find myself staring at a computer screen with no one to call, no one to coach and nothing to do. Figure out what you need to accomplish. Make a list. Review what you did the week before and be sure to fill in the gaps. Get to things you didn’t finish. Prioritize. (Clearing out your email box is not as important as you think it is.) If it’s in your plan, it remains top of mind and you are more likely to work diligently.
  5. Be Uncomfortable – We call it avoiding the warmth of the sun. Get out of your own way and allow yourself to grow. Allow yourself to fail. Afraid to call a CEO? Do it anyway. Afraid to go to business networking events? Do it anyway. Afraid to actually ask your prospect what their budget is? Do it anyway. Afraid talk with your boss or manager about how you can get better at your job? Do it anyway. I think you get the point…. Be brave. Take chances. Be more than you are in this moment.

It takes the right attitude and the right mindset to make changes to the status quo. You have to be ready. You have to know what’s important to you. It’s not easy but it’s so incredibly worth it.

What’s Missing.

The following has been on my heart for quite some time but I’ve been so overwhelmingly angry and frustrated by it all that I haven’t found the words. After a discussion yesterday with one of my favorite people, I was comforted by the fact that I am not alone in this discouragement; yet I’m still unsure that there is now or ever will be a solution. Only in heaven is my guess…

I’d almost like to conduct a survey. A survey of professionals in business (or anything for that matter) regarding how they became successful and who has influenced their careers, lifestyles, etc. I’d just love to know how many people find that they thrive in a constantly negative and demotivating environment. Are people motivated by being beat up all the time? Do they really rise to the occasion and do their best work when they continually feel as though they are under duress? Everyone loves to be threatened by their employers, right? Told what the consequences will be if they don’t do better work? Know what everyone also loves? When they seek to learn and get better at what they do yet find that those in place to help them can’t, won’t, or just simply don’t. I have experienced this more often in my life than not, and you know what I say? Shame on you. Shame on those of you in management and/or leadership roles who are really very unfit to be there.

I have had three different positions at three different companies that I feel have really shaped my career, or at least taught me the most about what and who I DO NOT want to be. They are also the companies that have done the most damage to my self-worth and my confidence that I can (or can’t, as the case may be) be successful in doing whatever I choose. Thank God my value on earth means absolutely nothing in the eyes of the Lord. Thank God all of this is only temporary.

I have essentially been in sales since I was 7 or 8 years old. As a kid, I sold cards and stationery to the grown-ups in my neighborhood. I actually made a killing for a little one. Most kids in the club chose prizes for what they sold. Not me; cash please. My parents supported and encouraged me with each and every sale. I’m sure they dreaded driving me around to deliver all of the products I sold, but if they minded they surely never showed me. You know what that does for a kid? Teaches them how to be responsible. To take pride in what they do. To work harder. To have faith in themselves. You know what happens when a kid has faith in themself? They achieve goals. And then exceed them. Because positive reinforcement is the best form of motivation out there. It makes people hungry for more.

It’s important that from here on out I choose my words wisely. I have no problem rocking the boat, but I also know that as much as I value people who speak up for what is right and good, not everyone else does…

Position Number One. I was promoted quickly. As a matter of fact, I became the first and only female department director of the company. Don’t be impressed, though. They certainly weren’t. My job as the director of this department was to take a group of customer service reps and turn them into sales people. In case you are unaware of how nearly impossible that is, I’ll use an analogy. It would be like asking a marathon runner to compete in the world’s strongest man competition. Not that either of these athletes lack skill, just that their skill sets are entirely different. So, not being sure how to take on this task, I asked my “managers” for help and/or suggestions. Well wouldn’t you know…they hadn’t a clue. I tried a variety of things. I even went as far as to bring in a professional sales trainer to work with my management team to teach them how to train our CSR’s to sell. That would have worked beautifully if my company allowed me a budget to have more than one session with the guy. I remember distinctly hitting my set goal in the first month it was laid out for me only to have my boss say, “if it’s that easy, I think I’ll make it harder to reach.” With that said, I didn’t collect my bonus and I was too young and green in business to know I should have called my attorney. I could write a book about how much went terribly wrong at this place. I quit after being demoted from Director of Customer Service to call center rep. I was told I was a terrible manager. Know that I never once received a verbal or written warning; I was just demoted without any idea that it was about to happen. I felt like a battered wife when I left that place.

Position Number Two. My very first outside sales job. Excellent training. Excellent experience. Horrible management. Nice people who wanted reps to do well, but they had NO idea how to encourage people or help them when their numbers started to slip. Instead they used the good old scare tactics. “If you don’t hit your goal this month, we’re cutting your salary.” Oh yes. Totally encouraging. Don’t you think? Imagine how much more money that company could make if they had some answers when people asked for help. No one wants to fail, of course they don’t. So if you want to manage people, learn how to be a mentor. A positive voice. I left this job after losing my requested transfer to another state  due to poor sales numbers. Again, no warning, just a haphazard piece of information given to me 6 weeks before my scheduled move date.

Before moving on, please know that I am not one to make excuses. If I’m weak in an area, I’m not too proud to admit it. I sincerely want to improve in every aspect of my life. Sometimes, you need help to do that. I am also not too proud to ask for help. I know my strengths, particularly when it comes to sales, and I believe that with the right guidance in the areas I’m not so great at I’m an asset to a sales department. People like me. I gain trust and develop rapport quickly. I don’t bullshit people. I’m upfront and honest…to a fault. I speak with confidence and I am unafraid of rejection. (At least on a professional level.) It would be very worth it for a person in a management role to invest in me at some point during my career. It hasn’t happened yet, and I’m willing to bet it won’t happen at any point during my current situation. Unless of course I really bust through the red tape. But that’s really exhausting and after being beat up and pushed down, who has the energy for that fight?

“Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé).” (Taken from Wikipedia.)

Position Number Three. You know what? I’m not going to share the details. All I will say is that I loved this job. It’s a position that matters. It’s with a company that does good, saves lives, and makes a difference. It’s one of the most difficult and stressful roles I have ever played. The challenge and stress is well worth it. What’s not worth it is the garbage that’s added to the stress that could be eliminated so easily. Changed so quickly. By even just one person. If only they had the courage to step off the pedestal, roll up their sleeves, learn some words that are encouraging, not think of themselves better than others, impart wisdom and positivity and actually help. I want to master what I do. I want to impact people’s lives. I have the ability to be the best, I know I do. But man is it tough to “keep on keeping on” when you feel like your working hours are spent being run over repeatedly by a Mack truck.

I guess I’ll know it’s time to move on when I’m completely defeated. I’m a fighter, though, and I’ve got a great deal of fight left.

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