Archive for March, 2009

BBC Fun – Better Buckle Up!

I was recently introduced to two shows on BBC America that I encourage anyone involved in sales to check into.  Gordon Ramsey’s “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Dragon’s Den” are both very insightful British creations that I’ve become addicted to.  Why?  As a self-employed sales professional, these may be the best and cheapest wake-up call you can get without hiring your own pro to put you through the coaching process.

On Dragon’s Den watch as people (just like us) pitch their businesses, products and ideas to a panel of England’s best entrepreneurial minds.  It reminds me of the quarterly business reviews that we’re all asked to do to show our owners/partners/bankers/senior executives our portfolio of business.  It never ceases to amaze me how most of these folks totally miss the basic points of selling and it is a great reminder to me of what we all need to focus on at all times.

  1. Focus on “What’s In It For Them.”
  2. Know your numbers.
  3. Forecast what’s real.
  4. Actively engage and interview prospective clients BEFORE you waste anybodies time.
  5. If you don’t know the answer simply say “I don’t know.  Let me do the homework and get back to you.”

Gordon Ramsey’s “Kitchen Nightmares” is a quite a bit more confrontational and because of that a real eye opener from a business perspective.  As much as you might feel initial pity for the particular restaurant owner that is being filleted on air, you quickly realize how inattentive these folks have been to the basic needs of their customers.  These episodes constantly remind me to repeat the mantra “It’s not about me.”  By this I mean that we need to set our own ego, desires, expectations and needs aside and replace all this with a customer focused approach.  Invariably I find myself admitting to the same errors as these poor blokes.  We can all learn lessons from their mistakes.  In the end you have to acknowledge these businesses that were brave enough to tackle the hard stuff in order to improve.

Some Homework

Are you brave enough to take this on?  Tune into BBC America yourself and record a few of these program episodes.  Better yet tap into YouTube and see them right now.  Put yourself in the shoes of the people pitching their ideas or having their restaurants being audited.  Ask yourself where you could apply this pressure on your own business and sales efforts.

For Gordon Ramsey’s “Kitchen Nightmares” pay close attention to the following concepts.

  • Simplification:  Don’t try to tackle more than you are capable of doing.  Focus on what you do best, what products are strongest for you, what services are of best value.  Gordon Ramsey points out in his show the fact that many of his clients offer to much variety (too broad a menu) and they end up doing nothing well.
  • Cleanliness:  In our world this relates to organization.  Sales people are often thinkers, dreamers and people who are best at the spoken  word.  Many of us are not adept at note taking, filing, details or process.  Gordon is emphatic about kitchen orderliness, cleanliness and process.  As sales professionals we can learn a thing or two about organizing our processes and procedures so we can serve up fresh and well planned briefs to our clients.
  • The Dining Experience:  It’s all about the customer.  Watch this carefully as this is a universal concept.  It’s not about your skill as a chef or the culinary school you went to.  In fact it’s not about you at all.  It’s all about the customer’s experience.  Listen to their wishes, needs and desires.  Prepare offers and proposals (menus and dishes) that appeal to their specific palate.

For Dragon’s Den look for these points.

  • Sales:  Have you actually made any sales calls?  Have you interviewed your client base?  In all the work I do, I must tell you that what I find most is that clients tend to be focused on their “widget.”  By this I mean that most businesses start out focusing on their product, their service or the thing they specialize in.  Rarely do I see business owners address their market fist.  Is there a need for my “widget?”  What do potential clients think about my “widget?”  What changes do I need to make to my “widget” to make it more appealing to my market?  In the end, you must go out and interview people about your product or service.  The feedback you receive will inform everything about your business and, in fact, may lead you to completely re-think your direction.
  • Forecasts:  What data do you have to back up your assumptions?  As a sales professional or business owner this part is key.  You need to take off the rose colored glasses and take a stark look at your financial reality.  Forecasts are not guesses.  They aren’t even educated guesses.  Forecasts are based on two things.

Leads or Candidates. These are potential leads based on actual interviews you have had with real people within your market.  Not guesses.  Not statistics.  Not market analysis from someone else.  These are actual measurements taken by you of the people you intend to market to.  These are clearly not people who are in your pipeline yet but are those that have given you significant feedback that has guided you to understand that you can sell to them successfully.

Actual client interactions. These fall into several specific categories.

Pipeline Lead – You’ve called on them and have completed a formal discovery of their needs.

Qualified Lead – Discovery is complete and we’ve defined an opportunity, a budget and a time frame.

Forecast Opportunity – Formal proposal delivered and accepted.  Date for purchase is defined and money is allocated.

Closed Deal - Order is in your hands and the invoice has been sent.  (Some companies require that the invoice be paid in order to qualify as closed).

  • Reality:  “What have you been smoking?”  You see this often in this series where the panel will turn to each other and utter this comment.  My favorite story about this relates to a round table forecast review I was involved in while I was still part of “Corporate America.”  The salesperson was done with their forecast review and clearly was not in control of their territory.  Instead of fessing up to that and telling our panel what they did know about their business, they proceeded to create this complete story about their territory, the direction they thought it was headed in and when they thought things would turn around for them.  After they were done and had left the room, the senior sales executive in attendance turned to the rest of the panel and said “That was certainly fiction with conviction!”  I’ll never forget this.  We all need to remember to take a candid look at our business and beware not to convince ourselves that we’re doing all the right things if we’re not really sure we are.

I hope you enjoy these shows as much as I do.  I’ll bet you’ll find that by inserting yourself into the situations explored by these shows, that you will end up seeing a lot of improvements you can make in your business life.

Happy Selling!

Sales Avoidance

Are You Guilty of Sales Avoidance?

I’ve been reading articles lately about all the things one can do to reduce business expenses in this weak economy.  Everything from saving a .45 cent stamp by paying your bills on-line to re-negotiating your long distance phone rates.  It got me to thinking about my fellow sales professionals who might see this as the perfect excuse to get distracted by these types of activities.

So here’s a personal confession.  I can get distracted with the best of them.  I mean, there are mornings when the last thing I want to do is talk to my customers.  I have a ton of “reasons” all of which sound totally sane as I’m waking up and before my morning latte has kicked in.  I organize my desk, update Quicken, open mail and generally avoid getting engaged with humanity – sales avoidance!  Sound familiar?  It’s called sales avoidance.

The truth is that is that this is a totally human reaction and one that we all need to face up to.  The reality is that as a sales professional there is nothing more important than moving the sales process forward with our clients.  So see your homework assignments (below) and use them on those days when you need to get in contact with your clients but aren’t ready to actually talk to anyone yet (my wife and my Yorkshire Terrier wisely avoid me for the first hour after I wake up).

Some Homework

Try logging into e-mail first.  Jump on those client e-mails and get your juices flowing.  Go after the easy stuff first and work your way up to the more challenging responses.  Next go and empty those voice mail boxes (I have two) and add callbacks to your favorite contact tracking tool (Outlook, Google Calendar, Act!,, etc.).  Are you feeling a little better now?  Perhaps you are ready now to pick up the phone and set that next meeting, follow up on that purchase order or head out the door and find that next new customer?

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s cool to save a few cents on stamps and long distance but the reality is that as sales professionals we are in charge of the big bucks.  As Tom Cruise’ character points out in the movie Jerry McGuire – “Follow the Money!”  To this I would add “Follow the BIG money.”

Happy Selling!