February 2014 | Click links (>>) below to read articles
  • Will You Survive as a Sales Professional? By Bill Lee >>
  • Changing a Sales Reps Behavior by Michael Nick >>
  • 3 Steps to Breaking A Sales Slump by Eric Slife >>


Will You Survive as a Sales Professional?
By Bill Lee

If you don't change your approach to selling in 2014, this year could very well be your last chance for survival.

I realize this kind of statement deserves some explanation, so if you'll continue reading, I'll try to explain why I believe this.

Beginning in 2008, our industry has lost hundreds of independent building supply businesses and branch yards belonging to the national chains…. and thousands of salespeople. I'm talking about family businesses that have been around for several generations and salespeople who just a few years ago were among the top earners in their respective communities.

Then almost without warning, salespeople who were earning into the high six figures in commission income were forced to begin devouring their retirement accounts just to survive financially as their incomes plummeted.

Then came 2013 and like the mythical phoenix the housing industry began trying to regenerate itself from its own ashes. For the first time in five years I began seeing salespeople walking around with a little swagger. Now that 2014 appears to be an even stronger year for housing than 2013, I am seeing the tendency among our industry's salespeople to fall back into their old habits.

Let's face it, there are a lot fewer custom homebuilders out there and the competition for the larger production builders is fierce, so salespeople who expect to survive this smaller ever changing housing market must offer prospects something their competition doesn't.

Authors Bob Burg and John David Mann in their book Go-Givers Sell More say, " Selling us giving: giving time, attention, counsel, education, empathy and value. In fact, the word sell comes from the Old English word sellan, which means ⎯ you guessed it ⎯ to give."

It's not about you it's about the customer. One of the primary ways decision makers are attracted to you is because of what you are able to give them in ways other than product and price. It's called creating value and if there's a guaranteed way to create value it's to do what you do as a salesperson in such a way that the customer perceives it to be over and above the call of duty.

Back when I had a day job, I spent five years as a commodities buyer. I had a parade of salespeople calling on me every week. The salespeople who had nothing more to offer than a quality product and a fair price almost invariably lost out to those who brought value to my organization and to me personally.

Value is the key word.

Value is what sets salespeople apart.

Ask yourselves these questions and please take your answers seriously because your answers will tell you a lot about your long term ability to survive as a professional salesperson in the construction supply industry.

  • What can my company and I do for my customers and prospects that my competitors cannot? This is a critical question.
  • Do I know as much about the business side of home building as I do the construction side?
  • Looking at me through my customers' and prospects' eyes, what value do they perceive in me they do not perceive in my competitors?
  • When I make service claims, am I able to substantiate them with facts and figures?
  • Name three reasons a customer or prospect should do business with my company and me that my competitors and their salespeople cannot duplicate.
  • How many books, sales seminars, DVD or CD programs have I participated in over the last 12 months?

To survive our customers and prospects must perceive that we are growing professionally to the extent we can add more value than can our competitors.

For more information about Bill Lee's books and seminar programs, visit www.BillLeeOnLine.com.

About The Author:

BILL LEE is a business expert. Starting out in 1965 as a field sales representative and then a sales manager with New York City-based GAF Corporation, he soon became a part owner of one of the fastest growing start-up companies in the US — Builder Marts of America, Inc. (BMA)

Bill and his partners grew BMA from a startup to sales of $640 million in just under 20 years. Bill served as a corporate officer at BMA with general management responsibility for the company’s largest division.

Today, Bill is a sought-after seminar leader and business consultant who works extensively throughout the US and Canada.

He is author of Gross Margin: 26 Factors Affecting Your Bottom Line, now in its third printing.

His most recent book, 30 Ways Managers Shoot Themselves in the Foot was released in October 2005.

Thousands of owners, managers and salespeople read Bill’s award winning ezines and magazine articles on sales and gross margin improvement and best management practices.

Bill is president of Lee Resources, Inc., a Greenville, SC-based consulting, training and publishing organization.

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Changing a Sales Reps Behavior
by Michael Nick

Here is your current situation: "Our sales team sells features...it's not working".  "Our sales professionals are great at demos, but they don't understand the real value we bring."  "We compete on price too often." "There must be a way for prospects to better understand our value.

Part of the problem with your sales professionals is there lack of discovery skills and sales tools to perform a proper discovery. The foundation for a successful sale lies in the quality of your discovery process. Each exchange with a prospect must educate, inform, and capture the information you need to determine the value you are capable of delivering. Too often a prospect will take the lead on the conversation and your sales professional is unable to perform the quality discovery needed to close the sale. 

The key to success during discovery is simple: Stay focused on the task at hand! That means you need to be well prepared, and drive the conversation where you want and need it to go. This is done by using a discovery sales tool you can share with your buyer. A quality discovery tool will not only keep you focused on the information you need, but it will serve as the guideline your prospect will use to question other vendors, compare solutions, and rely upon for additional learning opportunities. 

Let me put it this way, your odds of winning a sales opportunity improve exponentially when you do some simple things like:

  • Research trigger events (Sales Intelligence)
  • Prepare your discovery questions in advance (Discovery)
  • Have reference stories of companies like your prospect available (References)
  • Quality materials to return to your prospect after each discussion / exchange

If you show up with a note pad and a lame brochure, you will likely lose. Regardless of how good your product is. 

Sales tools help change behavior. This simple fact is based on the concept that if you provide your team with tools like an automated discovery product, they will use the tools to capture the right information, from the right stakeholder at the right time. You won't have to deal with partial data, wish I asked that question syndrome, or the dreaded "If I only..."

About The Author:

Michael Nick is considered to be one of the foremost authorities in the world on the subject of value estimation selling. Michael’s first book, ROI Selling (Dearborn Publishing ©2004) was a business best seller. In 2010, Simon & Schuster picked up the reprint rights giving ROI Selling another five years of availability in the market.

Over the past 13 years Michael has worked with Companies like, HP, Autodesk, Fiserv, Ingersol Rand, Trane, NEC, Checkfree, Bomgar, Rockwell Automation, Oracle, Great Plains,and more.

Visit him at: http://www.roi4sales.com

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3 Steps to Breaking A Sales Slump
By Eric Slife

Sales can be incredibly rewarding, bust because your performance directly effects your compensation and often influences your self-worth, it can prove extremely taxing. More often than not, at some point in your career you have experienced one or all of the following emotional and physical impacts of a sales slump.

  • You dread going to sales meetings because your low numbers are embarrassing.
  • Your thoughts continually drift to what else can possibly go wrong, and it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • You are moody, distant, and you aren’t sleeping because you are so stressed.

Getting into a sales slump didn’t occur overnight, so don’t expect it to turn around in 24 hours. However, implementing the following 3 steps will not only help you break free from your slump, but it will also help you maintain more consistent numbers henceforth.

  • Change your attitude
  • Focus on what you can control
  • Get a coach or accountability partner

Change Your Attitude
Changing a negative attitude isn’t as easy as it sounds. Unfortunately, when we get bogged down in a sales slump, the first thing we do is blame someone else – the economy, your company, your product, bad territory, etc. The first thing is to take ownership of your slump. This is actually great news, because if your slump is truly out of your control, then you need to look for another job.

Once you take personal responsibility, then you need to truly believe it is possible to be successful. Look around your office. Are there colleagues who are successful? If so, then you know it’s possible.

The final step is to commit to your trade.  Unfortunately, too many salespeople fall into 1 or 2 categories. First, they either know it all, or they are lazy when it comes to improving themselves.

My guess is it’s the inherent independent nature of salespeople. The thought of asking someone for help or admitting we don’t know it all, is somehow a sign of inferiority or weakness.  I recently had the privilege of working with an individual by the name of Peter. He routinely closes multi-million dollar sales, and was one of the sharpest sales people I’ve met. You would think this would be the one person who truly didn’t need additional help. However, he contacted us because he was looking to improve himself through one on one sales coaching.

Another similar individual, Neil, has for years subscribed to our eTraining program because he is just looking to make incremental improvements. Both Peter and Neil understand the value of investing time and money in their own career, which is why they are both top salespeople at their companies (each company has well over 100 salespeople).

Focus on What You Can Control
I am by no means suggesting that outside influences beyond your control can’t negatively impact your sales. However, they can be debilitating if you allow them to consume you. As a result, you can find yourself wasting time with mundane tasks, like reorganizing your desk.  That only results in digging even a deeper hole. To make matters worse, your prospects will sense your lack of confidence in what you’re selling, and they won’t buy from someone who isn’t confident in their product, service, company, or even themselves.

Needless to say, it’s extremely important that you shift your focus to break free from a sales slump. One of the best and most simple things you can do is a personal assessment. A personal assessment allows you to emotionally back away from your situation, so you can take the necessary steps to move you in a more productive direction. Here are just some questions you should ask and honestly answer in your assessment:

  • What am I doing during selling hours that could be done at a different time?
  • With 75% or greater confidence, how many sales do I project I’ll close in the next 30, 60, and 90 days? How does this compare to what my quota is?
  • On average how many sales do I need to make quota?
  • How many appointments do I need to have in order for me to close enough deals to make quota?
  • What do I need to do and/or how much time do I need to set aside each day or week, to ensure I get these appointments?
  • How much time do I spend at home watching television? What else could I be doing with my time?
  • In the last 3 months alone, what have I read or listened to that would improve my sales skills?

*Shameless plug – our eTraining tool is one of the most comprehensive, easy to use, and extremely affordable tools to get practical ideas to increase your sales immediately.

  • Why do I lose most of my sales and who do I lose most of my sales to?


The reality is this list could go on and on. If you’re a sales manager I would strongly encourage you to do this with every sales person. Once you’ve completed your assessment, don’t try to change everything overnight, but start by selecting 3 actions you can implement immediately. If you’re honest with yourself, 1 of these 3 probably will be devoted prospect on a more consistent basis. If this is the case, make it a point to prospect at least one hour every day without any distractions. This could come in the form of asking your current customers for referrals, contacting past prospects, or even making new calls. The bottom line is you need to be proactive. Again, the focus is on what you can control.

Get A Coach or Accountability Partner
I’m not suggesting you run out and spend thousands of dollars on a professional sales coach. Go to your sales manager or a respected colleague and simply ask if they will meet you for coffee every other week. Let them know you’re struggling, and you want them to help keep you accountable.

Take this time to show them your activity for the past couple of weeks, and your activity for the upcoming week. You should review:

  • Each appointment you had for the week.
  • The actions you’ve taken to improve upon your selling skills.
  • Your calendar and how you utilized your time.
  • Any other area you want to focus on from your personal assessment.

To be candid, this is the role of every sales manager.  Not every sales manager understands this, or you may not feel comfortable discussing this with your manager.  If this is the case, you need to be proactive in finding someone you respect and trust. Not only can your coach or accountability partner help you focus on the important tasks, but they can be a great source for support.

Finally, if you’re currently going through a sales slump, let me offer you this word of encouragement by sharing you my own personal testimony. The sales training industry, like many industries, was hit hard by the recent economy. Initially, I had an extremely negative reaction. I had to go through this very 3 step process. Although I’m not content with our current growth, we’ve managed to positively turn things around, and are excited about our future outlook.

About The Author: Eric Slife is president of Slife Sales Training, Inc. They specialize in providing a comprehensive online sales training program that can be customized to fit a businesses sales team’s specific needs regardless of size. Visit their website www.salestrainingcentral.com.

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