Infocusselling’s Blog

October 19, 2009

Hiring Salespeople: Much More Difficult in Down Times

Hiring quality salespeople has become very difficult. Not because they are hard to find, but because they are now mixed into a very large crowd of unemployed salespeople who range from mediocre to miserable.

 Only three years ago, great salespeople were employed and you had to recruit them. With so much downsizing in the past few years, great salespeople have been the victim of bigger problems.

The sheer volume of available salespeople has made us forget what hiring is all about. Hiring is about finding the best candidate you can afford to fill a tightly defined job description. Filling holes with bodies is not a strategy you can afford—the costs in missed sales opportunities and damaged client relationships is too great.

I had a client admit that a recent hire had been based on how well she got along with the person, how much she enjoyed the person, and that it was an emotional hire. There was only one glitch—the person was totally unqualified for the position and the result was a termination in less than 30 days. How terribly expensive and disruptive for both the company and the person.  Yet, had this person been allowed to stay in the organization, a tremendous statement would have been made regarding the level of expertise and performance allowed at all levels.

The main responsibility of a president is to set the standard for inflexible and absolute excellence.

If you are trying to grow, every hire is critical toward that goal. Hiring is about increasing the average quality level of your employee team. It is a no-compromise approach that mimics the way you expect your R&D department to innovate and your manufacturing line to produce. Commitment to excellence starts at the top and your commitment to hire only the best sets a tone that will resonate throughout the organization. Today’s compromised hire is tomorrow’s painful termination, and is the beginning of an uncontrollable slide to mediocrity. When we allow someone into our organization who does not fit our requirements, we dilute the power and productivity of all our other team members, and create a myriad of unpleasantries including loss of profit, reduction in quality, and increased employee terminations.

Do you want to shorten the list of unpleasantries as president? Be brutally and painfully honest in sales team hiring and you will have fewer terminations. Sales hiring should follow this process:

  • Consider the level of active sales management you are willing and able to perform and commit to on a regular basis
  • Know if you are looking for an internal salesperson (who will focus on account maintenance, growth, and retention) or an outside salesperson (who will focus on new account development)
  • Have a written set of expectations, objectives, duties, and minimum requirements and qualifications.
  • Interview without emotion remembering the risk in today’s terminations.
  • Consider all candidates for 48 hours–never hire on the spot.
  • Invest the time to have multiple people interview your top candidates, even if that means going to someone outside your organization who can be more objective since he or she does not feel the pain of an empty sales desk. Use people who have different goals, perspectives, and personalities so that you get different views on your candidates.
  • Invest in communication, style, and skills profiling to see if the person is as presented. A mediocre sales person can sell a non-salesperson doing the hiring an igloo when it is 95 degrees out.
  • Include the expectations and duties in the written offer letter and go through the letter line by line face to face.
  • Relentlessly stick to your written objectives and do not get caught up in hiring someone who looks good if you really need someone who looks great. Stay the course and get a great addition to your team
  • Look for bad trends on the first day. Anything that does not seem right will only get worse.

 Once a salesperson has been added to your team, it will be your responsibility to keep this person on track. Hiring a salesperson is an investment, not a cost. You are spending cash now to receive more cash later. And like any financial investment, it needs monitoring for trends and results. No matter how little sales management you want to do, every salesperson, even the best salesperson, needs a sales manager. A sales manager is a coach, confidant, motivator, consultant, and congratulator—sometimes all in the same day. You cannot hire a salesperson and expect him or her to tackle the world and bring in sales on the first day or even in the first year without your input. You know your company better than a new person and you know where you are strong or weak in your market. (If not, find out before you invest in a salesperson.)

 With our current unemployment and underemployment, there are probably 1000 qualified candidates within an hour of you. Follow the steps above to be sure you are ready to hire and ready to manage. If you are ready, then as you add people to your organization, don’t get a good one–get the best one.


September 27, 2009

Putting Our Mouth in front of Your Money

Filed under: ACTUM Group — Educated and Aware @ 4:23 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

23% Off is one thing. 23% In is quite another.

Our belief in our economy has been proven over the past year. We are clearly rebounding due to good old fashioned hard work. Some segments remain pretty tough but no industry has disappeared. As our economy turns around, those who plot the right course now will grow during this blip and come out geometrically stronger than their competition—some of whom will not make it out at all. To grow a business now means taking market share from the competition. It happens every day and you can be on the winning end or losing end—it’s your choice.

We believe in ourselves. We know the last thing people are doing right now is looking for places to spend money, regardless of how bad their sales trend is. But the bottom line is your sales skills have never been more important. The more competition you have, the more you have to out sell them. Our track record tells us that when our clients show up, pay attention, apply and integrate new behaviors and tactics, amazing things happen. We’re confident that record will continue.

We want to believe in you. We are looking for up to 20 sales people, teams or individuals, who want to be high earning sales professionals but right now are more like struggling sales workers. If you want to be a successful sales professional, or if you want your team to be successful, we’re willing to let you go 23% in and we’ll earn the rest. That’s right. You invest only 23% of our normal training fees, and we’ll get paid more only if we can change your sales results. Email us at to find out how to get started

I bet you and your team get paid for results, why shouldn’t your sales trainer?

August 11, 2009

Selling Today is Simple

I made this comment while speaking at a Rainmakers event and I got some raised eyebrows from some very tired salespeople. I said that selling involves three simple steps, and I believe that to be true. Here are the three steps.

First, meet more people. By meet, I don’t mean LinkedIn or Facebook friends. I mean meet more people face to face. When you are growing a business, you are the brand whether you are the owner or a salesperson. You are the face and your face needs to be everywhere. The more people you meet, the more people will know you and your company, and the more people who will be prospects for your offering.

Second, meet with more people. By meet with, I mean face to face, one on one, in a location where you can have a serious discussion without interruptions. You cannot have the type of discussions you need to grow your business in a room full of people, or over the telephone, and definitely not via email. Get out of your office—and your comfort zone—and have sales appointments. Sales is a contact sport so get make contact with your prospects.

Third, have simple conversations with the people you meet. Too many business owners and sales people talk about their business using techno-jargon that doesn’t mean anything to the prospect. Forget terms that mean something only to an expert like you. You must be able to break your business down to a simple result statement. “We help our clients become filthy, stinking, rich.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that! Ask simple questions and use examples that any high school graduate should be able to understand. “What about your computer bothers you the most?” I can’t tell you about DRAM and registry errors but I can sure tell you that taking five minutes to boot up is a real pain in my day. Build your credibility by asking questions that only an expert would know to ask, and by providing answers in a way that anyone can understand.

Selling today is simpler than ever. Let your competitors focus on being part of the noise. You need to take the path they have forgotten—meet people, meet with people, and have simple conversations.

March 4, 2009

Creating a Structure for Sales Success

It’s been said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Experience tells me it should be, “If you fail to have a good plan, you plan to fail.”

Do you have a good plan for what happens during a sales call? That plan is to have a structured question sequence that walks a contact from beginning to end, from the introductory opening to the final commitment in getting an order. Having that plan separates a Sales Leader from a sales rep.

The acronym to use for building an effective question sequence is INFOCUS—hence the name INFOCUS Selling™. The acronym reminds us of the best sequence for your questions, giving your questions a plan and a purpose. Let’s take a look at INFOCUS Selling™, letter by letter.

I for Introduction—This initial phase introduces who you are and who you represent so that you
are not talking with a stranger, stated in a way that the other person wants to talk with you.

N for Name Your Purpose—This defining phase sets the parameters for an open dialogue
between you and your contact, that you are there to ask questions and collect information to see
whether there is a match between their needs and your offerings at some time in the future–not
that you are going to ask them to make a decision today.

F for Find a Goal—At this phase you begin to discover the desired pressing goal or overall
objective of this contact, a goal that is important to them in their world, both personally and

O for Outline the Goal—Through this phase you help the prospect identify and explore the
details of the goal so that both you and the prospect have a full, complete, and comprehensive
understanding of the goal or objective.

C for Crystallize Gains and Losses—During this phase you have the prospect determine the
good, positive, and pretty things that will happen personally and organizationally if this goal is
achieved, and the bad, negative, and ugly things that will happen personally and organizationally
if this goal is not achieved. Together you calculate positive and negative financial values for both
achieving and failing to achieve the objective.

U for Uncover Blocks and Obstacles—In this phase you dig for what is in the way of
accomplishing the goal; what must be overcome or at a minimum handled or addressed for the
project to be successful or the goal to be achieved. This may also be the reason the goal has not
already been accomplished or achieved in the past.

S for Secure Final Commitment—This last phase is where you get the last commitment you need
to start a client/vendor relationship. When the entire process is done correctly, this is a natural
outcome and a natural progression of the questions you have asked up to this point.

These letters that spell INFOCUS™ indicate the process and sequence to take your sales from
wherever they are today to above whatever chart or goal you and your boss have devised. We
will deal with all of the letters in future postings as we dissect each step of the INFOCUS
Selling™ process.

Click here to print this out as an article.

February 22, 2009

When Closing Seems Harder Than it Should Be

Salespeople love to close a deal. Making a sale is what you’re paid to do. Ever have trouble convincing someone to buy? No matter how hard you try, you can’t move them from “think it over” to “where do I sign?” Maybe you should stop trying to convince and close and go back to why you are there—to collect information and help them make a decision.

Sales is about a series of structured and intentional questions, not a canned pitch about features, advantages, and benefits. You cannot push your prospect to a close through talking, because you do not know what your contact needs nor do you know their value from your solution. You going in and giving a feature pitch is selling in the worst context of the word, and it will not help you gain the commitment you need to move forward.

And that is a much better word than closing—commitment. Forget about closing because closing is for doors and windows. More on that next week.

Before you go on your next call, have a plan for getting the necessary information on the table. Think about what you and your client both need to know to make sure that you are a good fit. You know your business but unless you own the other company, you don’t know their business. They are different from your last prospect and different from your next prospect. Instead of assuming what he or she wants and needs, start asking questions.

A structured question plan can help you guide the conversation so that your contact becomes a prospect at the highest dollar value and in the shortest amount of time. Your sequence walks a contact from beginning to end, from the introductory opening to the final commitment in getting an order. Having that plan separates a Sales Leader from a sales rep.

Stay tuned for more on how to create your powerful question structure using the INFOCUS Selling™ process.

October 14, 2008

Have You Decided to Participate in or Ignore the Media Fueled Economic Blip?

Here’s my solution to the economic “issue” and it times well with the changing seasons.

1.      We fire all members of the media who have made a snide, biased, or politically motivated comment about the economy in the last 90 days, unless they have a Ph.D. in economics. (Trust me, they will all be gone.)

2.      We go outside and rake the leaves in our yard, adding to our mulch pile, burning off a few calories, and providing some much needed oxygen to our brains before the cold weather sets in.

3.      After the leaves are up and we realize how nice it is to be alive and living free in America, we go to our favorite store and buy that one item that you have been putting off buying yourself or someone special.  Here’s mine:

Think it would work? I am 99.96% sure that if we did this, we would find the new newscasters on Thanksgiving would be telling of how thankful we are for rising retail sales, increased cash in the economy, lower unemployment, and a decrease in murders and drug use (that’s another whole topic…).

Ok, that is pretty idealistic isn’t it? Unfortunately, the few who might do it could not carry the load for those who don’t do it. Darn. So, my second solution is to come visit one of our sales classes between now and the holidays, free, just to get some ideas on how you can sell more hours, products, or services, at a higher price, to more people. Just let me know when you want to stop by, we’ll send you the material for that week, and you can come in and get some tips to help you battle the bad news that surrounds your prospects every day telling them why not to buy from you. Is this self serving? We might get a client or two out of it. But, bigger picture, I do know what everyone will get—a better attitude all around as everyone’s sales climb the last quarter of 2008 from new attitudes combined with new approaches, and that’s my early holiday gift to Rainmakers.

April 24, 2008

How do seasons affect your selling?

How will the change from winter to spring to summer affect your selling? If you think it won’t, I think you are wrong. I don’t want to give out the answer but think about:

1) how you and your customers respond to longer days and more sunshine

2) how vacation time affects your selling and/or the business of your customers

3) what natural seasonality exists in your business and why (tax payment timing, impact of weather on your product, spending variation due to holidays, introduction of new products, etc.)

Every business is affected in some way by the summer. How will yours be impacted? More importantly, if it is not a good impact, what will you do this year to minimize the impact of it AND if you really think ahead, make it a competitive advantage for you over your competition who isn’t thinking enough about it?

Part of successful selling is thinking ahead. What are you thinking about now?

April 11, 2008




APRIL 2008

If you think you have it tough in your market, consider the auto dealer. Not only does he have to compete with other brands offering similar products, but also with other dealers who sell the exact same product with the same incentives and financing. Over a six-week period from early February to mid March, I visited 13 dealers and spoke with 14 salespeople. I had multiple telephone calls with 4 salespeople at another 3 dealerships, plus 5 dealers via the internet, for a total of 21 dealerships and 24 salespeople, representing three brands. I drove 15 different trucks. It started out as a search for a new truck, and ended up as a case study—in how NOT to sell a car!

What actually happened during my case study was astounding. Of the 14 salespeople I met face-to-face, and 3 more that I had multiple telephone conversations with, only 2 out of 17 (13%) asked more than 2 additional information questions to develop an understanding of my primary buying trigger. A surprisingly low 9 of the 14 face-to-face contacts and 4 of the 8 telephone and internet contacts (13 out of 22, 59% overall) asked, “What color would you like?” Only 6 of those 13 (27% overall) got into the color issue by asking more than one color related question. Had more people asked, “What about the white or gray do you like?” they would have found out that my intent was to put graphics on the truck to match my boat. If you want to help a buyer spend a lot of money with you, find out what is really driving his or her decision. If you are not in the car business, how does this relate to you? Because the core concepts of good selling transcend all industries. The good salespeople heard what I said, listened for what I did not say, and asked the appropriate digging questions to find out the rest of the story. Excellent questioning skills are critical for success in any sales position and the more competition in your market, the more important they become. How many times do you listen to the first thing a prospect says and think you know the rest of the story? You are either assuming the rest of the story or you don’t care. If it is the former, here’s a secret about buyers—they all play a little poker and never show their full hand. If you think your prospect has told you all of the details and factors in their decision in their answer to your first question and that it is now time for you to start pitching, you are seriously mistaken and must read the full case study which will be released soon at If it is the latter, that you don’t care, you need to get out of sales now before you ruin the reputation of your employer.

Another category was the salesperson’s ability to connect with me, to understand my buying style. The best salespeople quickly figured out my communication and decision making style and adapted to me right away. I am what is called a high-D or dominant on the DISC communication style model. I want broad discussions with minimal details, am going to make quick bottom line oriented decisions, and want to feel like I am in charge of the buying process. People who try to impress me with product knowledge are likely to irritate me by telling me things that I did not ask about. One salesperson asked me if I knew what a hemi was. Looking at his age, I replied that I remembered when hemis were out long before he was born. His next question was more insulting. “Do you know about the MDS system?” I responded, “Yes, I do know how it shuts down cylinders.” He then went on to explain how it worked and how it would make a big difference on fuel economy. I did not ask for any explanation and I never mentioned fuel economy as a buying criteria. A much better question would have been, “How important is fuel mileage in your new truck?” to see if it mattered at all. Keep your questions open to drive communication. If the question can be fully answered “yes” or “no” it is the wrong type of question to ask if you are looking for a complete understanding of your prospect’s wants and needs.


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