Enough Already! Stop the BAD Sales Approach!

I have just been called by a new magazine being launched soon and to quote the caller, “having spotted your ‘profile’ we think you would be ideal to write a column!” Ah, how nice I thought for a few moments before the penny dropped!

circle_of_trust_frontI’d heard this one before and having spotted the ‘ruse’ I asked some questions to discover this was not a call from the editorial department it was from the sales office. The column I was being asked to write would need to be supported by my PAID advertisement!

In my experience sales ‘tricks’ like this one are only used by organisations with little imagination and certainly NO modern selling skills. As you know, I talk a lot about TRUST in my tweets and blogs, how can it ever be a good idea build trust by lying?

The sad thing is it may well have been something of interest to me (the subject area was right up my street). Had the salesperson introduced themselves and the new magazine effectively and taken time to learn more about me and my organisation, they could have then built the potential value of it in my mind.

From my perspective getting poor sales calls are great to get for two reasons; I’m a sales trainer so this is a sales lead for me! It’s free research on what sales ‘practices’ are being used out there.

But they also frustrate me as; this type of poor selling drags down the professional image of the profession I am passionate about and proud of. The sales person has been told to use these outdated selling ‘tricks’ by their sales managers, who should know better!

“OK, clever clogs”, I hear some of you say, “you’re the expert what would you have said to the prospect under the same circumstances?” Well here goes…

After the usual pleasantries; “I’m calling today as I want to talk to you about entrepreneurship, having read your web site and blogs I am sure this is a subject very close to your heart. Is that correct?”

I answer “Yes it is!”

“We are launching a new magazine that I’m sure will be of interest to you but before I tell you more about that can I please take a few minutes to understand your own business in a bit more detail? That way I can focus on the features of the new magazine that will be most appropriate for you.”

Compare this with the ‘real’ example I was faced with and see what you think. Of course there is another key difference. The sales person could only have used these lines if they had done some research on me FIRST. This need not have taken long, a quick scan of my web site and my Twitter feed would have told them what they needed to know!

Hope that was useful and do let me know if you would like more formal help in training your sales force. Call me, Stuart Allen on 07557 919039 for a no obligation and confidential discussion.

Why sales targets are like batting in cricket!

The problem with batting in cricket is the fascination for scoring 50s & 100s! Did you know that if a player scores 300 it only counts on his career record as a 100! If they score 99 in two successive innings it would count as two 50s! Madness!

So what about sales targets?

Well statistically a player is more likely to get out just before scoring a 50 and even more likely to get out just before scoring a 100! They refer to the latter as “the nervous 90s”.  AND, wait for it……… they are even more likely to get out just after getting to a 50 or a 100 as well.

Sachin Tendulkar. He spent no fewer than 33 innings trying to reach the milestone since registering his 99th 100 against South Africa in March 2011.

Sachin Tendulkar. He spent no fewer than 33 innings trying to reach the 100 hundreds milestone since registering his 99th 100 against South Africa in March 2011.

I have observed the same with sales targets, you get some sales people that get so worked up about getting the last deal in to hit their target that they ‘over sell’ and lose the deal. Of course we all know what happens as soon as the target is reached, they relax.

So what’s the answer? Well in my opinion you should never set a sales revenue target for young or new sales people. Set minimum acceptable activity targets but tell them you expect more. Then let their skill and ability dictate how much revenue they produce.

Sales targets are usually based on what the ‘business’ needs to achieve (plus a stretch) and this will vary vastly from company to company and industry to industry. Some sales managers focus so much on the sales number that they lose sight of ‘how’ their people are selling. They sacrifice long term relationships for short term profit.

Sorry going off on a rant there! Back to targets and cricket.

So experienced sales people, how do we target them? Well I’m all for targets and goals but too many sales people see them as the finishing line each month. I see sales targets as merely an indication of average performance and look for people that set their own targets well above what they are set officially.

About seven years ago after a business venture went wrong I found myself in need of a job, and quick! Having been self-employed for 6 years I knew it would be hard to prove to a prospective employer that I could work for somebody other than myself. I did and joined a sales training business. Deal values were high and sales cycles typically around 3 to 4 months. I was set a sales target of just £150,000 for my first year!

Looking at the commission scheme I said to my Sales Director that I wouldn’t earn what I wanted and needed to earn based on the £150K target and would be setting myself a higher one! You can imagine the look he gave me. In that year I generated revenue of £500,000.

I spend a lot of my time with clients looking at their pay and reward structure for sales people. On many occasions have I been called in to work on a specific set of behaviour changes. When I do my research I discover that the commission scheme is rewarding the behaviours they are trying to get me to change!

So in summary, cricketers would score more if there wasn’t the fascination for 50s & 100s and sales people would sell more if they were less obsessed with their own target and more obsessed about their client’s targets!

Top Ten Twitter for Business Tips

I have been on Twitter for two years and tweet as @StuartAllenFCMI in that time I have tweeted 7,000 times and have amassed a following of  over 17,800 people (mainly business related).

Those of you that already know me know how passionate I am about Twitter and its use as a business attraction tool. I still speak to many business owners that just don’t ‘get it’ and in my mind they are missing a massive opportunity.

Stuart Allen on Twitter

Stuart Allen on Twitter

I should point out that I don’t do Facebook and from what I have seen its use for generating business is far less than Twitter.

I don’t claim to be a social media expert and I am not suggesting my ideas are right. All I am saying is that I get results for my business from Twitter using these rules & tips.

So here are my Top TEN Twitter Tips (NOT in order of importance)

1)      Tweet to give NOT to get! Too many businesses pump out advert after advert which doesn’t work. Tweet hints and tips about your industry sector or general business news. Add value to your Twitter following and it will grow! Having said that you can get away with (as a rule of thumb) one ‘advert’ in every ten Tweets.

2)      Tweet on a regular basis! “I’m too busy I hear you say!” Well so am I (very busy) and if I am teaching all day I do some tweets at breakfast time, a couple at lunch time and then a few in the evening! It takes as little as 30 minutes a day TOTAL!

3)      Always follow people back! Imagine going to a live networking event and someone hands you their business card but you don’t reciprocate. It is just common courtesy and okay, they may be outside your area but that’s not the point, it’s the ideas and potential referrals you can get that counts.

4)      Tweet original content NOT endless motivational quotes! Many Twitter accounts churn out famous quotes at the rate of 4 an hour! What a bore! Create original content relevant to your field and you will quickly become established as an expert!

5)      Tweet photographs! People love photos so use your smartphone to capture & tweet things like events, nature, your latest job installation etc. etc.

6)      Use Hash Tags (#)! People on Twitter that don’t follow you already can find you by searching a particular hash tag that is relevant to them. #bizitalk for example is a brilliant business hash tag that is followed and searched by thousands of SME businesses every day. Other examples are #Retail #News #Food #Leadership #Training Just insert a # in front of any word in your tweet that you think people might search by (don’t overdo it though,  max 2 per tweet).

7)      Follow people that follow accounts relevant to you! For example if you are based in Worcestershire and want to follow more local people then you could follow all the people that follow @WorcesterHour. IMPORTANT: If you find some people are not following you back you can unfollow them using free Twitter Tools like Tweepi BUT allow a few weeks in case people are on holiday.

8)      Always thank people for Follows/Retweets & Mentions! OK, I can’t physically do this anymore due to sheer numbers of daily followers and retweets I get BUT I always did it when my account was small enough to handle.

9)      Retweet relevant tweets! If you genuinely like a tweet then Retweet it to your followers if you think it is relevant!

10)   If you are tweeting as a business NEVER get involved in arguments!  Also avoid discussions that could be deemed racist, sexist or bring your business into disrepute!

Post Recession Blues!

So most of Europe’s economic KPIs are improving and real recovery is in sight but I for one will be sad to see the end of the recession! “Are you mad?” I hear you saying, so let me explain.

Before I do I should say that I am truly sorry for anyone that has been personally affected by the recession through redundancy or other factors. I have myself been made redundant in the past so appreciate exactly how you feel.

In my 30 plus year sales & business career I have lived & worked through the recessions of the early 80’s (rumours that I started this one are grossly exaggerated and are NOT to be believed) and the early 90’s as well as this biggest and latest one. In the years leading up to each recession we had periods of economic ‘boom’. During these times many businesses and their people became complacent, lazy and wasteful, some even arrogant. In general sales targets where hit with ease but at the expense of quality in terms of customer service and client experience.

roller coasterA recession changes the above scenario and businesses must either quickly adapt, or they die (and many did/have). It always reminds me of the Darwin quote “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Business focus in a recession is less on revenue and more on profit. Costs are examined and reduced as lazy practices are eliminated. Selling becomes more strategic, customer centric and based on solving client issues. It requires a deep understanding of business issues and sales people cannot survive on just product knowledge. Relationships are vital and the need for mutual trust rockets.

The big difference between the recessions of the 80’s and 90’s and the latest recession is this; In the past recessions one of the first budgets to be cut was always staff training but thankfully many businesses have now realised that at times of challenge, staff training & development is more important than ever. In the sales department people need to be taught how to turn from order taker into order maker and how to sell on value and not rely on being the cheapest.

Having said the above, do not let your learning be dictated to you by your employer’s training plans. Formal training is not something you can control but ‘your’ learning is! I hear people complain all the time that they get no training but when I quiz them on what development activities they have undertaken themselves I get blank looks!

At The Sales Performance Company (a business set up during the recession) we have seen demand for our services increase dramatically over the past few years. When I talk to quality sales training organisations, they are also busier than ever. Perhaps the tide has truly turned and the value of quality training and sales training in particular is no longer in doubt. I really hope so! Will we as a business become lazy & complacent now the economic tide has turned? Hell NO!

Ms Dynamite joins the client list of The Sales Performance Company Ltd

Ms Dynamite has joined the client list of The Sales Performance Company Ltd having spotted the business related inspirational tweets of Stuart Allen.

Ms. Dynamite is an English hip hop and R&B recording artist, rapper-songwriter, and record producer. She is the recipient of the Mercury Music Prize, two BRIT Awards and three MOBO Awards.

MS_DYNAMITE_Music_ID_72dpi

It would be wrong to divulge the scope of the services provided but Ms Dynamite is more  MsDynamitethan happy to recommend Stuart and the Sales Performance Company Ltd to anyone seeking advice and training on business & commercial matters.

Stuart Allen commented “I have always maintained that Twitter is a place where businesses should “give” rather than just advertise and if you do this clients will come to you based on your expertise. That is exactly what happened with Ms Dynamite and I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with her.”

BBC The Apprentice – Dubai or not Dubai, That is the Question!

Episode five of this year’s BBC The Apprentice saw the group head off to the Middle Eastern playground of Dubai for what is often referred to as “The Buying Task”.

The mere mention of an overseas trip sent Luisa into a packing frenzy which mainly consisted of bikinis, oh and a sparkly black number in case they get the chance to ‘do dinner’.

The task is to obtain several ‘items’ for display or use at a brand new hotel at the lowest possible price. Arrogant Zee who is “in” International Property and knows Dubai like the back of his hairy hand, declares he should be PM, despite protestations from Leah! Zee has not learned anything from previous series of the show. If he had he would have known that to declare “you’re an expert” in anything is just folly!

Myles is appointed PM of the opposing team and spends far too long in the planning stage before heading out.

Regular viewers will know that the list of items needed always contains some obscure items as well as the obvious. The troublesome ones this year are a Falcon Hood and a Mahogany Oud. Zee proudly tells his team that Oud is a perfume that no self-respecting Arab would be without! The team’s aren’t allowed to Google stuff (but I did), if they had they would have been presented with images of a guitar like stringed instrument, popularly made of wood! Yes, mahogany! Oud have thought it? Not Zee obviously!

Posh Jason, seen at the start in a beautifully pressed pair of pin striped pyjamas became the typical “Posh Brit Abroad”. If they don’t speak the Queen’s English then use over exaggerated arm gestures and talk English but with a foreign accent! The guy is hilarious and reminds me of Michael Mcintyre at his comedic best!

No show would be complete without an Alex moment and for me this came when, so delighted with his negotiated deal he shouts out “Sheikh on it!” Or something similar to the bemusement of the seller!

Myles and his team looked to be heading for disaster when Kurt ordered the National Flag they needed in centimetres instead of inches! Now men are not unknown to exaggerate size BUT Natalie was on hand to declare that “That’s not six foot” the moment she saw the napkin sized piece of silk! No shit, Ms Sherlock!

BBC The Apprentice

BBC The Apprentice

After all the totting up it was a win by Myles’ team (if you can call £90 a win by miles? More like a close shave!). This saw Zee in the firing line which meant survival depended on one thing, his choice of team mates to face the twitchy finger.

There were just two women in his team, Natalie, who was kept close to him (to look pretty apparently – Zee’s words) and whom he allowed to contribute nothing, and Leah, who fought against him throughout the task. What about Kurt? Not knowing the difference between a centimetre & inch had clearly contributed to the loss and he looked resigned and ready to take the taxi.

This is where Zee mad his fatal error! By taking Natalie and Leah into the board room he signed his own P45. Natalie was applauded for her fighting spirit but warned never to darken his boardroom final three again. Leah was accused of accusing Zee of sexism and Lord Sugar went very ‘frosty’ on that (see what I did there?).

I’m glad he’s gone! Zee is everything I hate about “sales people” (of which I am of course, one). He is a glory hunter who must win at any price, regardless of who gets hurt. His arrogance throughout the show was even greater than Stuart “the brand” Baggs, from a previous series.

More next week!

BBC The Apprentice – Down on the Farm

It’s a short and sweet blog for two reasons this week, one I have too little week left at the end of my work and two, I found last night’s show a bit bland!

It’s week four already and the task is to open a farm shop! I think that is all the candidates heard (or is that herd?) and missed the key element. The task is to make a PROFIT and they should have focused more on this fact than their individual egos!

The teams are unfairly mixed up as the two narrowly surviving girls from last week (Uzma & Natalie) are sent to the boys whilst some of the stronger boys; Miles, Jason & Jordan are sent in the opposite direction.

Luisa & Rebecca slug it out for PM and it is clear Luisa has the most relevant experience, Rebecca counter punches with “It’s not rocket science is it?” Despite this amazing deduction Luisa gets the vote and is determined to get Team Evolve their first win.

The team decides on Buffalo meat as their core product in the hope of creating a stampede to the door of their Buffalocal store! At £20 for a couple of steaks, it was never going to happen guys, even in London!

Meanwhile Neil is PM on the other team, not sure how they arrived at that one given he is a sales manager for a soccer school? Perhaps it was because the pitch is green and so are fields! After a short discussion it is decided that their core product would be milkshakes? Could have been worse though, Alex wanted it to be cheese on toast!

Uzma YakoobThe usual bumbling and incompetence ensued from both sides and it is clear many of these people have far too much faith in their own abilities. The lack of effective communication is clear and it would be more entertaining if it wasn’t so tragic.

Luisa delivered on her promise and Team Evolve is victorious by a winning margin of £91. Neil is left to ponder who will return to compete in the battle to avoid the Sugary Finger! He goes for Kurt (obviously sees his designer beard as too much competition for his own) and Uzma!

In the final shake up it was fairly obvious that Uzma would get the chop! She made her leopard print mark on the show and will be remembered as the “gobby one”.

More next week.