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Think of a time that you have had to sell something to someone. Describe the situation and outcome.
This is a standard interview question that Skywalk Group recruiters ask candidates applying for sales-related positions. Sometimes it feels like this is a question that every job candidate should have to answer. This may seem extreme but in reality, we are all responsible for selling something. For those of us who do not consider themselves salespeople, this may come as a surprise and even a little hard to take.
It starts at the job interview. Landing a job is a total sales job. You have to convince the employer that you are the best candidate for the position. If you have successfully been hired for a job at one point or another in your life, you have sold something.
Then you may have to convince your new boss that you are capable of tackling new challenges or to adopt a new process. Wow, you have just sold something else!
It may seem as though I am oversimplifying things but in my experience, some of the best, most respected salespeople I know aren’t “salespeople” at all. One of my favorite non-salespeople that I have worked with in my career happens to be a trainer. Here are a few skills and characteristics that made him a phenomenal non-salesperson:
- Knowledge. Knowing the products and/or services that your company sells and being able to succinctly answer questions can be a huge benefit.
- Expertise. In my mind, this is different than just being knowledgeable about the products and/or services. Expertise is about having applied and practiced the principles that are behind the products and/or services that your company sells.
- Passion. Generally, you can tell very quickly if the person you are speaking to is passionate about the products and/or services that they “sell.”
- Compassion. People usually buy products and/or services because they have a problem or need that the product or service will solve for them. Understanding and acknowledging the problem or need is beneficial.
- Questioning and listening skills. Please see above bullet. In case I wasn’t clear enough, it isn’t about you–it is about them. To find out what the real problem is, you have to ask questions and listen. The best salespeople help others identify the root cause of the problem or need and identify effective solutions.
- Authenticity. Trying too hard or trying to be something that you are not can be very visible to others. Focus on being who you and being comfortable with that. It tends to put others at ease around you.
Do you still have doubts about how you can be a successful non-salesperson in your organization? Consider joining us for Customer-Oriented Selling next month in Omaha, NE.
Professional Sales Trainers and Organizational Effectiveness Experts Now Available for NextGen Marketing Group Clients Nationwide
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa. – May 24, 2011 – Gregory S. Crosby, Founder and CEO of the innovative national marketing resource firm The NextGen Marketing Group™, announced today that Skywalk Group has joined the firm’s V-MARKET™ team as a Premier Affiliate partner.
Skywalk Group – based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa is a professional services organization specializing in sales training and organizational effectiveness strategies designed to increase sales revenue and improve the bottom line. Skywalk Group focuses heavily on human capital–helping clients leverage the strengths of their employees to successfully obtain key strategic objectives. Skywalk Group’s experienced
professionals have assisted hundreds of companies ranging in size from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies around the globe. Recently Skywalk Group has earned recognition as being one of the Fastest Growing Companies in the Eastern Iowa Corridor, sponsored by The Corridor Business Journal. Additionally, Skywalk Group is a Certified Targeted Small Business throughout the State of Iowa. A partial list of corporate clients includes Alliant Energy, LimoLink, T8 Webware, Rockwell Collins, YellowBook, and Datamark.
“We are excited to join the NextGen Marketing Groups’ V-MARKET resource team and offer our professional services and expertise to their clients across the country. The business model created by NextGen Marketing Group is truly a breakthrough concept and we look forward to adding our capabilities to the portfolio of services” said Lydia Brown, Skywalk Group Partner. “By teaming up together, we can offer our respective and mutual client’s additional capabilities that will help them effectively leverage their human capital.”
The NextGen Marketing Group is an innovative national organization of highly experienced and credentialed industry Marketing executives and affiliates that have united together across the country to help business clients develop and enhance their Go-to-Market strategies in order to maximize business results and market effectiveness. The firm specializes in providing real world solutions based on the practical experiences of the executives coupled with a complete turnkey set of innovative marketing services typically found in multiple marketing agencies or firms. Executives serve as advisors, project leaders, or outsourced Marketing managers for clients as needed—with services from V-MARKET affiliate partners that can be integrated into the execution of new client strategies. NextGen Marketing Group also leverages advanced communications and collaborations technologies to connect executives and affiliates to clients in a seamless manner, optimizing the talent working on their account and keeping expenses under control. Video, web, and audio conferencing tools are used to minimize travel, expedite work, and streamline project costs.
“We are excited to work with Skywalk Group and provide their expertise to our clients”, said Greg Crosby, Founder and CEO of the NextGen Marketing Group. “Skywalk Group has quickly become a leader in providing advanced sales training and organizational effectiveness programs for companies. We are delighted to now be able to offer their capabilities to our clients across the country”.
These programs are available immediately from both companies and more information can be obtained by visiting their websites at www.nextgenmktg.com or www.skywalkgroup.com.
About NextGen Marketing Group
The NextGen Marketing Group is a new nationally focused Marketing services firm led by highly credentialed senior Marketing executives offering clients a wide array of professional services such as the design of a Go-to-Market plan and/or also functioning as the implementation team for many of the marketing programs such as product development, pricing, branding, advertising, web or Internet creative, public relations, marketing collateral, or special marketing events. For more information, visit www.nextgenmktg.com.
About Skywalk Group
Skywalk Group is a professional services organization specializing in human resources management, recruiting, and training & development. The leadership team and professional staff at Skywalk Group have extensive human resources and executive experience providing critical human resources strategy and support for companies of all sizes. Find out more about Skywalk Group at www.skywalkgroup.com.
NextGen Marketing Group
319-887-5665 or (877) 5-NXTGEN (877-569-8436)
Click here to view email address
Click here to view email address
Every company I have worked for depended on customers to buy our products or services and on sales people to take an active role in growing our business. The main tool used to document our business: past, present, and future, was a customer relationship management (CRM) system. The purpose and use varied but their core was consistent.
This article will tackle five significant benefits of acquiring a sound customer relationship management strategy. Specifically, we will discuss how a CRM increases visibility to critical business intelligence, boosts productivity of staff (especially sales staff), impacts hiring decisions, assists in the alignment of resources, and identifies important trends in your relationship with your customer.
Think about a question you want answered about your business. Now think about a question your customer may have about your business. Who has the ability to arm themselves with the information to answer these questions?
Consider sitting in a leadership meeting and one of your investors wants to know how much business you have in the pipeline for next quarter or the next fiscal year. Situations like this happen everyday and not having an answer to a simple question about your business could kill an opportunity faster than you may think.
Spend some time and survey your clients to find out what they really want to know about your business so that you can sell your competitive advantages. Even if you never think you will need outside financing, still consider the types of information that potential investors consider important when making capital investment decisions. There is a very good chance that having this information readily available and accurate will still be helpful to you. Consider reports you want to review consistently like sales activity, forecasts, target and active customers, and other business intelligence critical to your business.
Increasing the quality and visibility of information specific to your business builds credibility with your customer, it arms your employees and leaders with knowledge that is critical to success, and will assist you in managing the overall performance of your business.
A CRM can help you gain valuable information about customer interaction through sales activity and marketing campaigns. It will provide you with the information that can help you manage employees. You still need to manage employees and implementing a CRM creates a new dynamic in performance management.
Salespeople can be reluctant to use a CRM for several reasons. It is critical for success to gain buy in from the users of the CRM. They are entering in customer interaction data so be sure to not overlook the importance of users having a full understanding of the purpose of the tool. If you sell it as sales activity tracker you may have a hard sell. If you focus on the other key drivers in this article you will likely have an easier time gaining acceptance.
Hiring projections require credible data if they are going to have any chance of being maximized. Something as important to your company as the talent acquisition process should not be left to guessing and chance.
There is significant amounts of data that can be captured through the effective implementation of a customer relationship management strategy that allows you to know what type of person you need to hire and when you need to hire them. For example, you may find that as you start to track sales activity that a lot of your salespeople’s time is spent on tasks that could easily be handled by administrative staff or a analyst. Instead of hiring more salespeople, you could uncover a more cost effective staffing strategy of hiring a sales support associate that assists multiple salespeople with these tasks.
You may discover performance and productivity issues with your employees through the data aggregated through a CRM which you use to support the need for sales training or even support the need to address performance management.
Personally, I like the philosophy of showing a salesperson how to showcase their piece of the business and show them ways to map their own growth by opportunity size, win percentages, territory and account penetration, and help them uncover opportunities to support additional hires to support the business that they help to build. Using your CRM to motivate employees to strive for advancement opportunities translates to a significant ROI.
One of the many things made easier by credible information will be your ability to effectively create a resource plan. Resource planning expands beyond personnel and will include, at the very least, facilities and equipment.
Your business needs may be significant enough to warrant the need for a complete enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. For the purpose of this article, consider the data you collect should enable you to forecast skills and time required to complete your business. Mapping out project schedules helps you maximize the talent you have on board. Understanding the talent you have on board allows you to maximize the opportunities you take on because they will be better aligned with your core competencies.
My recommendation is that you invest the time required to fully understand what you want and need to know about your business, how you are going to acquire and document that information, and who will be responsible for building this knowledge bank.
Once you have really thought out how to maximize the use of this technology in your environment, focus on the processes and practices required to create consistent data that allows you to accurately track customer trends.
Think ahead to what you want your end result to be. We are using our CRM to generate one of the core reports used in our executive meeting each week and using several reports in our business development meeting. The professional services industry is not atypical: understanding our customers and our interactions with our customers drives our business everyday.
The next steps
Skywalk Group has helped many companies establish a winning strategy to grow their business by helping them uncover the knowledge needed to make better business decisions. We are also skilled in developing customized CRM’s that will fit with your overall business strategy and needs. If you are interested in setting up a consultation with us to explore what technology solutions best fit your business need, please contact us at Click here to view email address.
The effective implementation of a sound business strategy always has its challenges, if you are interested in discussing hiring forecasts, professional development, or sales and leadership training that is customized for your business, just let us know.
–David Tominsky, Director, IT Staffing
Once the sales competencies have been identified, it is time to recruit, select, and retain top sales talent for your organization. Research shows those organizations that spend more time recruiting high-caliber people earn 22% higher return to shareholders than their industry peers.
However, most employers do a miserable job recruiting sales people. Many companies rely on outdated and ineffective interviewing and hiring techniques. This critical responsibility sometimes gets the least attention. Hiring and interviewing is both art and science. Refusing to improve this vital process will almost always guarantee you will be spending money and time hiring the wrong people. Here are several reasons why traditional techniques are inadequate:
- The majority of candidates “exaggerate” to get a job
- Most hiring decisions are made by intuition during the first few minutes of the interview
- Two out of three hires prove to be a bad fit within the first year on the job
- Most interviewers are not properly trained nor do they like to interview candidates
- Excellent employees are misplaced and grow frustrated in jobs where they are unable to utilize their strengths
An effective selection and interviewing process follows these five steps:
- Prepare. Prior to the interview make sure you understand the key elements of the job. Develop a simple outline that covers the job duties. Possibly work with the incumbent or people familiar with the various responsibilities to understand what the job is about. Screen the resumes and applications to gain information for the interview. Standardize and prepare the questions you will ask each candidate.
- Purpose. Talented sales people have more choices and job opportunities to choose from. The interviewer creates the candidate’s first impression of the company. Not only are you trying to determine the best candidate, you also have to convince the candidate that your company is the best place for them to work.
- Performance. Identify the knowledge, attributes, and sales skills the candidate needs for success. If the job requires special education or licensing, be sure to include it on your list. Identify the top seven activities or competencies the job requires and structure the interview accordingly. Some of these activities might include:
–What authority the person has to discipline, hire, and/or fire others and establish performance objectives
–What financial responsibility, authority, and control the person has
–What decision-making authority the person has
–How this person is held accountable for performance objectives for their sales team, business unit, or organization
–The consequences they are responsible for when mistakes are made
- People Skills. The hardest to determine, as well as the most important part of the process, is identifying the people skills a person brings to the job. Each candidate wears a “mask.” A good interviewing and selecting process discovers who is behind that mask and determines if a match exists between the individual and the job. By understanding the candidate’s personality style, values, and motivations, you are guaranteed to improve your hiring and selecting process. Obviously many jobs, particularly sales jobs, require a high degree of people contact. By placing someone in this job who dislikes interaction with others would be a mismatch, affecting his or her job performance. Pre-employment profiles are an important aspect of the hiring process for a growing number of employers. By using behavioral assessments and personality profiles organizations can quickly know how the person will interact with their coworkers, their ability to sell and what kind of relationships they build with customers. They provide an accurate analysis of a candidate’s behaviors and attitudes, otherwise left to subjective judgment. The Sales Selec Sys, and D.I.S.C. Assessment are popular tools and used by many sales organizations.
- Process. The best interview follows a structured process. This doesn’t mean the entire process is inflexible without spontaneity. What it means is that each candidate is asked the same questions and scored with a consistent rating process. A structured approach helps avoid bias and gives all candidates a fair chance. The best way to accomplish this is by using behavioral-based questions and situational questions.
Behavioral-based questions help to evaluate the candidate’s past behavior, judgment, and initiative. Here are some examples:
- Give me an example when you . . .
- What makes you successful as a sales person?
- Tell me about the largest sales project you obtained and how you managed it.
- Tell me about the last time you broke the rules.
Situational-based questions evaluate the candidate’s judgment, ability, and knowledge. The interviewer first gives the candidate a hypothetical situation such as:
- “You are a sales manager, and one of your sales people are not making their goals.”
- What should you do?
- What additional information should you obtain?
- How many options do you have?
One final piece of information that can assist in making the best possible hiring decision for a sales position is the candidate’s current and previous sales activity/numbers.
–Elizabeth Trcka, Skywalk Group Partner
Are there certain sales competencies that really make a difference in terms of driving revenue? As the new year approaches, sales managers and organizational leaders are trying to uncover the mystery of increased revenue. One place to look for those extra dollars is in the competency level of the sales staff itself. If you have the right salespeople, and they are focused on the right things. The revenue should and will take care of itself.
Since Skywalk Group implemented the new Job Analysis process for determining critical job requirements a few months ago, we have profiled dozens of sales positions and have come to the conclusion that there are definitely competency patterns that distinguish the high performing sales professional from the one that is average.
Relationship Building and Communicating Effectively – These two go hand in hand. The ability to build relationships with and align to customer needs is an important part of any sales organization. In fact, when you take the competencies to the job activity level, there are two activities that are present in every single sales job we’ve profiled. The first is “asks questions to improve understanding”. The other is “earns the trust and respect of others”. This would indicate that if you are hiring a new sales person, you should ask for specific examples of those two items, each and every time.
Business Acumen – One of the characteristics that sets the high performer apart is the ability to understand their customer’s business. When you understand your client and what they are trying to accomplish, it’s much easier for you to put yourself into that environment and think about how your products or services will be able to help them reach their goals. Next the sales professional needs to build a business case before that customer will ever commit to purchasing. That business case only works if the salesperson understands what the client wants to hear.
Problem Solving and Analysis – There are many alternative solutions to help meet a customer need. The sales professional has to determine which solution, product, or service is the best. Being able to get to the root cause of a problem, flesh out all the possibilities, and select the best option, is a critical sales skill.
Developing Self and Others – The high performing sales professional is always trying to improve their skill set. This happens by seeking formal training. Customer Oriented Selling teaches a sales process, that combined with product knowledge, will provide a solid sales foundation. In addition, these people are always reading, listening to the latest sales or motivational podcast, and networking with other successful salespeople. As their career starts to flourish, they are also the ones that take less experienced staff aside and teach them the “tricks of the trade”.
By focusing on these four broad competencies and providing sales training to your staff, 2010 could very well be your breakout year.