The Sales Leader

Cutting Edge Strategies for Sales Leaders by Colleen Francis

Colleen Has a Screw Loose!


Day 3 of our bike trip was designed to be a rest day. We were going to hike, stay of the bikes and enjoy some rare non-riding time on our trip. Well that was the plan….

That morning we went out to do a bike check, something I had not done in a few days considering we were always in a rush to get our luggage loaded and hit the road. As luck would have it, we noticed my bike had lost 3 of the 4 screws required to support my backrest which supports my luggage. 1 more screw gone and it would have been bye-bye luggage on the highway somewhere in New York!

So much for our day of rest. Instead we spent the day riding through the backwoods of the Catskills looking for a screw that would fit the Harley part. Not easy. Harley makes a lot of money by using proprietary shapes and sizes on their bike parts. We got lucky, found something that would work, fixed the bike, and sat down to relax with a beer – it was 4pm. That’s the picture above….No time for a hike.

The lesson? Thank goodness we had scheduled in a rest day. Had we not had a chance to relax and look at the bike differently that morning we may not have ever noticed the problem, and I could have had a serious problem on the highway the next day.

In sales, how often do you rest? I mean really take a break from what you are doing, taking your mind off your customers, prospects and the office? Rest is integral to success. Most people think they have to take a holiday to rest. That’s not true at all. Of course a vacation is nice, but you can’t take one every week!

You can also rest by doing simple things in your day, or week. If you find you are having trouble solving a difficult problem, or you can’t find a creative solution to a client demand, take a walk, go to the gym, sit on your couch with your feet up, read a novel, or wlak the dog. Once you are in a different environment, or moving with a different intent than your usual, you will find that the ideas flow.

Make a point of resting, changing pace and taking your mind off sales. You will find that it leads to higher profits.

Think Your Sales Manager is a Psycho?

You might be right!

According to Paul Babiak and Robert Hare, authors of Snakes in Suits, although psychopaths make up about 1% of the general population, they account for 3.5% of all executives. Simply defined, a psychopath, or sociopath, is a human predator who uses charm to manipulate and disguise a complete lack of conscience and remorse.

I guess that when psychopathic bosses travel, they really are “snakes on a plane”!

Lesson’s from the Road Part 2: Always Have a Back up Plan

About 100 miles to our first destination I saw a paper fly off my husband’s bike in front of me. When I ran it over, I realized it was our map! “Well”, I thought, ” I guess we will have to wing it from here!”

We got to our location easily, and when I complimented Chris for his navigation skills (and teased him about losing the map) he said: “No problem, I have a back-up map in my pocket!” Considering that we were traveling on roads we had not ridden before, and that map books while riding are not an option, I thought that Chris’ backup plan was a smart one!

Smart sales professionals always have a back-up plan. Do you?

You should have a back-up plan for every sales situation. In fact, I encourage you think of your sales funnel as one large back-up plan. The larger and more qualified your sales funnel is, the more back up you have. Think of it like the insurance to want to help you hit your targets.

Why is this important? Remember that most sales people close about 1:3 qualified leads in their pipeline. Once you close 1 lead in your pipeline, you must have a back up prospect to close another sale! Realistically, you need to have 3. Three new prospects to get one more client. Who are you going to call? Who have you met lately that is in your target market? Who has called in recently? How are you going further qualify the suspects in your pipeline? Do you have anyone new to call?

Consider these facts when creating your sales pipeline or back up plan:

1. Most sales people close 1:3 qualified prospects
2. Most sales people need to make 25 attempts to find 1 qualified lead
3. It takes 75 attempts to make 1 sale on average

So…..If you need to make 10 sales a year to hit your target….You will need to qualify 30 prospects which will take 750 attempts (calls, emails, or letters). You can see how this works in more detail by checking out the goal settling section in our article library .

In the overwhelming majority of cases, sales people fail to achieve their goals because they do not have a detailed back-up plan. Without a back-up plan you don’t know where your next sale is going to come from. This sounds like grey hair and a heart attack from my perspective! Have a back -up plan, fill up your sales funnel – its the most profitable plan you can have in business.

If you missed the first lesson from the road check out the August 27th posting on my blog: Be Prepared!

Winning the Battle Against Burnout

Hard to believe its the end of the summer. Its been a busy one at Engage – I managed just 1 week of vacation this year. For most of us, fall is the crazy season. That’s why I thought this article by my friend Mike Staver was well timed.

Check out Winning the Battle Against Burnout in the New York Times and let me know what you think. I have already applied 2 the ideas Mike outlines for ensuring we stay passionate engaged and energized. I am also sure that many of you will love the tip on taking power naps…..In fact maybe its time for me to do that myself right now!

Have a super long weekend. I’ll be back next week with another “Lesson from the Road”

A Question From Annie

Today I’ll take a quick break from the “lessons from the road” series to answer a question from a blog reader:

Dear Colleen,

I have been told by my manager that I need to ask questions during a sales call. He thinks my sales performance will improve if I send more time questioning and less time explaining our product to the customer. I am willing to give this a try because I have not been as successful as I would have liked so far. Specifically I have been told to ask more expanding and clarifying questions. I am not sure what he means by this, can you help?

Thanks, Annie

Dear Annie,

First, congratulations on being willing to try something new! This is the first, and most critical step towards greater success.

Without knowing very much about your situation and product lines, I can tell you that I think your manager is on the right track. One of the most common mistakes sales people make is that, at the first sign that a customer has a problem we can solve, we stop asking questions and start pitching our product. What we should be doing instead is taking this as our cue to ask even more questions.

Expanding and clarifying questions are typically used to gather more information, once you’ve discovered an issue or problem that the customer wants to discuss. Learning how to use these questions effectively can make the difference between being an average performer, and a sales star.

Expanding questions encourage the customer to expand or elaborate on what they’ve already told you. Some sample expanding questions might include:

  • Tell me more about that?
  • Why are you interested in
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