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So far srlem has created 11 blog entries.

Don’t Lead a Team of Headless Chickens?

Have you ever wondered why some sales teams work a lot and produce near zero results while others over deliver with a lesser effort? Most of the underperforming sales teams are confused, disorganised or at worst utterly aimless. On top of this, they have no clue as to how to measure their progress.

You don’t need to be a Steve Jobs to figure out, that unless sales teams have clearly articulated and agreed on the success metrics, their activities will rarely lead to meaningful results. Now, according to me, metrics is more than the year-end numbers that the sales team needs to clock in, the best companies measure leading indicators and not the lagging indicators. 

To give you an example, At Platformax we don’t put a single revenue number for a sales manager, we break down the journey to a successful sale. As long he/she can replicate multiple journeys the sales number will happen, the month end sales number is an output only. We measure the input steps, and this leads to a predictable sales number.

We work with multiple clients and help them in accelerating their sales number, whenever we onboard a new customer, we look for these symptoms to figure out if there are headless chickens doing rounds in the company.

We are always active

Most of the teams believe that they have been hired to be busy, no that’s the fist stepping stone, you don’t hire people to come and sleep in your office (though I love to catch sleep in the office when I am in Japan). 

The first reaction is to do a lot of work, and the lack of measurement systems doesn’t help them see through these activities and figure out that they are not translating into results. So the sales team may brag about the number of roadshows, cold calls and mailers sent and yet they may be unable to show a clear linkage between what they are doing and the final results that you expect them to achieve. 

During one of our sales acceleration assignments, we found that a sales team member continued to make calls and sending emails during Chinese New Year to clients in Hong Kong.  He made sure that he left a voice message too because most of went to voice mail.

He told us that customers in Asia prefer personal meetings and he has to travel to Hong Kong, as they don’t respond to phone calls. And the best part he had data to prove his point. His manager was logical and got convinced with the data and analysis. As a result, he got a 20k USD approval to travel to Hong Kong!

They lack direction

Lack of well-designed metrics squanders the team’s energy and most of them spray and pray for results to happen. Resources are always scarce, and they need to be allocated efficiently, the metrics help you in funnelling these resources to the most important activities that will lead to results. One of the first things that I do when we work to accelerate a client’s sales is to ask them “what are you working towards” if the jaw drops I know there are headless chickens around.

Inability to recover from failures

My passion is Archery, and I have competed at the national level in Slovenia. I must admit that I was very raw when I first started practising the game, my archery coach Samo Medved ( Samo Bear) had told me “If you fall, it’s not about why you fell, it is about how fast you can get to your feet again. After that see why you fell.”

Even the best sales team will have bad days and encounter failure, the presence of a scorecard in such situations helps the team see that they have steadily improved on the metrics and the failure is just a blip. Teams that do not have such guiding stars find it difficult to adapt to such a long terms perspective and may feel demotivated in such situations.

Using these simple principles, I hope that you will be able to guide your sales team to success. In case you are struggling with your sales numbers, please do write to us at Platformax and we will use our sales Jedi to help you in turning the tide. We have helped numerous clients in increasing their sales by using our proprietary tools and would love to help you too.

17. 1. 2017|Categories: Productivity|

What is killing innovation in your company?

 

Innovation is a buzzword in corporate corridors, and millions of dollars are being spent to find the holy grail of innovation. If the culture in your company is not conducive to innovation, appointing consultants or rebranding will not yield tangible results. Here are the few things that kill innovation.

 

You are living in a capsule

Exposure to cutting-edge ideas and best practices within their industries allows teams to explore their limits and test new ways of working. Unfortunately, some organisations suffer from a silo mindset that insulates them from ideas and individuals that are not from their coterie. The most isolated teams are the ones with the greatest deficits in creative thinking. Not only are they cut off from the flow of new ideas; they also don’t have access to informational networks that can keep them apprised of new ways of working.

When such teams try to innovate, they end up reinventing the wheel, because they are not aware of the new solutions that have been already applied, tested and, improved by their peers or competitors.

 

You suffer from not invented here syndrome

The company and its incumbents may be valuing experience over creative thinking. In this type of work culture, ideas are often killed before receiving a fair hearing and team members are routinely criticised for suggesting solutions that represent a departure from status quo.

 

You punish taking risks

If your company has a trophy wall with headgears of people who made a mistake, you have successfully created a group whose members dread making a mistake. As a result, most of them will be checking and double-checking their actions, because errors are fatal and may lead to annihilation. With consequences of this sort in place, team members quickly learn that they are likely to suffer criticism for proposing new and untested approaches to problems. On the other hand, if they adopt or support solutions suggested by their team members, they avoid the risk of failure. As a result, they will always wait for others to march.

 

In your company Managers call the shots

Newbies and less experienced team members tend to be influenced by the opinions and ideas of their senior and more experienced counterparts. These seniors censor and restrict the innovative ideas coming from juniors or fresher’s on the team. One of the most common tactics used by the seniors is to throw an aggressively timed challenge to the team members to come up with a complete solution when they are just beginning to formulate new ideas. Another commonly used approach is to take the team problem-solving discussion offline to influence the originator of the idea to get off the boat and tow the company line. As a result, the newcomers are reluctant to express new ideas and have great difficulty obtaining a fair hearing for their ideas.

 

Your company lacks drive

Innovation requires a work climate that compels teams to leap beyond barriers and explore new ways of solving the problem. If your business has little expectation from the team, which in turn discourages team members from testing and strengthening their abilities, innovation may be a distant dream. Lack of pressure puts the team at ease and complacency tends to set in such circumstances, which further erodes the drive.

 

Your company has limited or no interaction between teams

Innovation is a synergistic process that thrives in a work culture where team members learn from and build on each other’s ideas. This type of symbiotic learning may take many forms, from team members who exchange ideas on a particular project, to the team leader who shares an exciting research with the group. Innovation gets severely handicapped when team members lack ready access to one another or if team norms and practices discourage them from freely discussing their ideas without any humiliation.

12. 1. 2017|Categories: Productivity, Sales tips|

The Four Golden Rules of Improvement

 

I must admit that I am a bit cynical when I see my pet dog, Adi, chasing his tail and running in circles. Now that reminds me of the way most companies run sales improvement projects. They keep on going round and round in circles with no end in sight, and the management rewards them for their efforts too.

Over the years, we have helped multiple companies in structuring their sales process. And we were not the first ones to get these assignments; the companies on an average had changed the head of sales thrice before they came knocking on our door. In most of the cases they were doing the same mistakes time and again and expecting different results, changing people does not shoo away the problem, the problem just passes over to a new incumbent. From my experience, these are the four golden rules of improvement, if you follow these principles, you will increase your chances of success by multiple times.

 

Start with meaningful data

Collecting useful data is the foundation of success, and the irony is that too often, teams collect inappropriate data or make poor collection procedures. Since they have never been shown how to recognize such mistakes, they base their decisions on unreliable data and end up failing to bring about the desired improvement. They collect more data and make more improvement without realizing that they are looking for apples in an orange orchard.

Collecting meaningful data in the first place can save you months of effort, doing this is not too complicated either. The golden rule is first to know exactly what you want to collect, using standard definitions so that everyone takes the measures the same way.

 

Be a Badger, dig deeper for root-cause

It is easier to react to the visible symptoms rather than searching for the underlying cause. The best way is to use a fishbone diagram or the five why method to explore the potential sources of the problems. You should have patience and avoid zeroing on to the first possible solution, however, plausible and palatable that may look.

 

Develop relevant solutions

The curse of being intelligent is that it forces most of us to pre-empt solutions or root-cause of the problem even before starting the solutions or data gathering phase, sometimes we may be correct too. However, this can be an exception and not the norm. In my experience, the right solution that fixes the problem for once and all is never evident at the first stage.

 

Plan and make changes

There is an adage, which says, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail“. However, over the years we have got attuned to “Ready, Fire and aim” instead of “Ready, aim and fire.” This attitude is slippery and encourages people to act even if it is not the right thing to do. The key to making strides at work is to have your teams look ahead, anticipate resources needed for a successful project and think about the steps to take if they hit a wall.

6. 1. 2017|Categories: Productivity, Sales tips|

Is Your Sales Team Fit For Challenges?

It is not uncommon for a sales team to run into occasional unanticipated challenges. Considering the times in which we live, sales leaders cannot plan for every eventuality. On the other hand, if your team is often choked with unforeseen events, you may want to develop stronger early warning systems. The best sales leaders know that being successful is closely related to securing timely information about circumstances that can affect their performance. Having an early warning system is more than just looking ahead, your team must be ready to respond quickly and with flexibility to the changes in the environment.

A team that lacks foresight often miscalculates the impact of external and internal changes. The team members may see a variety of potential problems in an impending merger but never consider the growth opportunities that will accompany the change. They are obsessed with threats and miss to see the opportunities. And opportunities don’t lie dormant; they are frequently gobbled up by your competitors, who may be adept at profiting from team’s lack of foresight or preparedness.

Depending upon your team’s position about the agility of response and adjustability, they can be classified as Happy, Jumping Jack, Let’s do it or Platformax.

 

Happy team

“Happy teams” live in denial. When they face a significant change, they either ignore it or convince themselves that it’s just passing by the phenomenon. They firmly believe that the hiccup is a temporary aberration and soon enough things will return to normalcy. It goes without saying that such teams display an extreme degree of rigidness. Once they chart out on a course, they keep on marching ahead, irrespective of any new or adverse information that may suggest a need for midterm course correction.

 

Jumping Jack team

The second kind of team that you witness is the “Jumping Jack” team.   They are usually slow to respond and take action after the situation is obvious. While they believe that the situation warrants change, they demonstrate a minimum amount of adjustability. They make small changes to the original plans and are convinced that the original plan was robust enough to tackle this unforeseen event. Jumping Jack teams focus their energies on the past rather than the future. The team members subtly deflect questions about planning or future actions and are quick to explain that they are too busy putting out fires, which need immediate attention.

 

Let’s do it team

The third kind of team that you may have seen is the “Let’s do it” team, these teams go ahead with change and consider the possible implications of events as they unfold. However, they are myopic in nature and plan for events that are just beginning to appear on the horizon. Mostly, they miss the business implications of large-scale changes as they concentrate on an event that concerns their unit only.

 

Platformax team

The fourth and the best team to tackle unforeseen challenges is to build a “Platformax team”. Irrespective of their day-to-day work pressures, they continually scan the horizon to track trends and performance of their companies. They invest a considerable amount of effort in thinking through and preparing for all contingencies, and wherever possible they attempt to influence the course of business events. They anticipate and make an endeavour to shape the change, rather than waiting to be engulfed by it.

 

We have helped numerous entrepreneurs in structuring their sales process. In case you want to build a Platformax sales team, drop me a note and our Sales Jedi will conjure the best team for you.

3. 1. 2017|Categories: Productivity, Sales tips|

Five Signs That Your Sales Head Needs To be Fired

A long time ago, in the land of Persia, there was a small business selling nuts and dry fruits, the owner, Emir Saladin was happy that the sales were picking up and he looked forward to growing his business to prosperous cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Balkh, and Bamiyan.  To fulfill his dreams, he hired a sales manager called Zabala and started counting his chickens, hoping that the sales would increase and he would be the biggest fruit trader from his city of Isfahan. Time went past, winter came and went, and then the numbers started dipping, his old loyal employees were also unhappy, there was no passion left and customers had started complaining and not paying.

Emir Saladin had never tasted defeat and was known in the city of Isfahan as the best archer in the Persian Empire, so much so that the King of Persia wanted him to train his children on Archery. Emir Saladin, being a simple man with no love for power and fame, quietly concentrated on expanding his fruit business and moved to the city of Isfahan from Damghan, the capital of Persia in those days.

Things started going from bad to worse, and Emir Saladin became very depressed due to the turn of things, especially after Zabala had joined as the sales head. One day at midnight, he got up from his home and started walking towards The Maidan- The City Square.  It was a cold night, and he could barely see anyone else on the streets, as he got closer to the Maidan, he saw another person wearing a robe and walking at very slow pace; it seemed that he was an old man. Upon getting closer to him, Emir Saladin exchanged pleasantries and continued walking beside him.

Emir Saladin did not recognize him; he was Dann, the owner of best sales training firm in Persia, known to everyone as Platformax. After walking by his side for few minutes and as the light from the flames of minarets lit his face, Emir Saladin recognized him and burst into joy; he knew all his problems could be solved if Dann gave him his advice. His joy was short-lived as Dann’s charges were very high and he would not be able to pay it, considering the way his sales number were.

Emir Saladin’s teacher had taught that it’s always good to ask and see how the other side responds. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Emir Saladin decided to ask Dann for a favor and use that advice to improve his business.

Emir Saladin asked, “ What are the signs which tell you that a company should fire it’s sales head?” to Dann. Dann took a heavy breath and said that a Sales Yoda from another galaxy had once told him this answer.

He looked at Emir Saladin, and gave him an ear bud and asked him to clean his ears and then splashed water in his eyes and said, “now that your ears are clean of wax and eyes watered, look for these signs.”

Your sales head practices micromanagement

Micromanagement is a common symptom of poor member leader relationships. A leader who practices micromanagement treats highly experienced and skilled salespeople as if they were novices, double or triple checks work, or places rigid and excessive restraints on the decision making of team members. To someone looking at the team from the outside, it would appear that all decisions and information are being channelized through a very narrow managerial portal. As the team leader frantically attempts to maintain tight control over an ever-increasing array of projects and problems, workflow slows down significantly.

Your Sales head has communication problems
Troubled sales team members and sales head relationship are sometimes characterized by the opposite condition, where the team leaders provide insufficient direction to their teams. Team members may receive vague or ambitious instructions on projects. They may also discover that the team leader has failed to relay instructions or provide an overall context that enables them to understand the larger work issues involved. For their part, team members conceal mistakes and fail to disclose difficult situations. Eventually, these small failures in communication may result in unpleasant surprises for both the team leaders and its members.

Your sale head has increased team stress levels

Team members depend on their leader for feedback, coaching, guidance and recognition. Deteriorating sales head and sales team relationship produce a high degree of stress. A tense and hostile relationship between team members and their leader may cause some members to view the sales managers office as enemy territory. Also, the sales manager plays a major role in guiding members through times of volatile organization change. Members who lack strong bond with their leader are less prepared to deal with such change and will regard it as a stressful, unmanageable experience.

In time, team members will begin to display all the classic symptoms of work burnout, such as low energy level and the inability to concentrate on complicated tasks. When conversing with other groups, they may appear tense and curt. A concurrent symptom is a rise in absenteeism among team members, which is usually characterized by frequent one-two day absences.

Lack of trust within the team

Sales team member and their leaders may experience increased levels of mistrust. When this happens sales team members will respond to their sales head’s suggestions or explanations of altered requirements with lots of skepticism and suspicion, while the leader may be dissatisfied with the sales team’s justification of poor performance or missed milestones. Both the sides covertly hide behind each other’s defenses to try to find out the real story.  As time passes, the sales team members and their leader may respond to the worsening situation by curtailing all communication.

It is our camp versus their camp

Eventually, when the relationship is in its last round, sales team members and the sales head will separate into opposing camps. In discussions with other work groups, both the sides will complain to their respective peers about the difficulty they are experiencing with the other party. In some cases, team members begin to view their leader as no longer being a part of the team itself. So much so that when the sales leader walks into the room, informal conversations will cease or become guarded.

Armed with excellent advice from Dann who ran the most leading sales improvement platform, Platfromax, Emir Saladin breathed a sigh of relief. He had absolute clarity on what he needed to do. Zabala had to go and find another pasture.

This was in medieval ages; if you are still struggling with doing your sales number and keep on changing the sales team like diapers, give us a call. We will define and automate your sales process. I promise you, Dann, the Platformax guru will run it for you.

12. 10. 2016|Categories: Sales tips|

How to Avoid Giving Concessions in Negotiations

A skilful negotiator will try to trade a concession, which in fact costs him a little, but which has real or high-implied value to the buyer and brings a relatively more valuable concession from them. A great deal of skill is required on the part of the seller in raising the apparent cost to him and value to the buyer of a concession he is trading. Concessions must be traded carefully; this is to say you must not take your hands off your concession until the buyer has agreed on what he will do in return. Let’s look at the ways and tactics to achieve this end game.

Don’t harden your stance

In many respects, a negotiation is a vital game played for real results. Any unduly and early attempts by either side to harden its stand or dig in their heels by being inflexible will be met by reciprocal inflexibility from the other side, and the negotiation will break down. It is critical in these cases that at the conclusion of the negotiation both sides agree they cannot reasonably bridge the gap between them at this stage, or in this instance.  Having such a conclusion leaves open the possibility of further negotiation on the same subject or new negotiations in another area.

Keep the door open

A breakdown in negotiation caused by the unreasonable inflexibility of one party will not leave the possibility of new negotiations for the future so open.  At all times even when you have reached a point beyond which you are not prepared to go, you must appear to be reasonable.  Keep in mind that you are playing a ritual game, which is firmly rooted in hard financial reality. For many buyers, much of their sense of achievement comes from playing the game well.

Some quick tips

The definition of successful negotiation from the seller’s perspective is one which ends on your side of the point of need balance. However, the buyer believes that the deal favours him. You can use some of these hints to tilt the balance in your favours and avoid high concessions without getting anything in return.

  1. Allow the buyer to do most of the talking in the early stages, but do not frustrate him by not answering all his questions.
  2. Move the discussion from opening stances to a clear statement of actual stances, taking care to limit your losses; it is your responsibility to save face for the buyer.
  3. Avoid taking a premature stance at any point, which might result in reaching a point of no return too early in the negotiation. It is easier for the buyer to walk away then it is for you in most circumstances.
  4. Try to close on a clear statement of the actual gaps between you.
  5. Trade any concessions one at a time, ensuring that you raise the value of your concessions to him above their cost to you. You have to make a small concession on your side, seem very large gain to him. You can do this by
  • Implying that you really cannot give it.
  • Avoid emotional reactions but satisfy the buyer’s emotional needs. The good buyer/negotiator will try to put you under emotional pressure.
  • By referring to the main problem that will be solved by the concession.
  • Refer to the saving gained by the buyer.
  • Calculate the financial results of the concession.
  • Build up the notional cost or opportunity cost of giving the concession.
  • Start by implying that you are going to give a small concession and then give a large one, or enlarge the small concession.
  • Persuade the buyer that the benefits of the deal without the concession still justify acceptance.
  • Summarise the problem area and offer alternative concessions or a choice of alternatives
  • Show that the concession would put the buyer at a disadvantage, for example, you may not be able to support the product because of low margins.

With each and every concession made, whether from you or the buyer, it is essential that you summarise the details agreed. This will prevent misinterpretations later.  Consider a negotiation successful, if both you as the seller and the buyer meet at the point of balance, wherein both you and the buyer are satisfied.

Srđan Mahmutović is an Entrepreneur and business developer. He has built Spletnik from scratch, starting with zero investment, taking it from barely making ends meet to becoming the highest growth company in the segment in Slovenia. He is an expert sales manager, at only 19 years of age, Srdan had built a sales network of 40 insurance reps for an insurance network.

1. 10. 2016|Categories: Sales tips|

How To Recruit A Great Sales Manager

Undoubtedly sales are the lifeline of any organization and a cure for most of its problems. Most of the startups die a premature death due to lack of sales and not marketing, contrary to what many would believe. Taking this forward, having a great sales manager is essential to building a successful business.

Having said that, finding a great salesperson is fraught with risk, as few know about the secret traits that make a good salesperson. Many people with the gift of gab masquerade as a salesperson; however, if you dig a bit deeper, the veil gets lifted. From my experience of starting an insurance sales company at the age of 19 in Slovenia, and building it up to the number one position in five years, I can say with conviction that a successful salesperson has unique traits. I believe these qualities and not the education background or fluency in English differentiate the good from the not so good ones. Now, I am going to spill the beans and tell you about the traits of a successful salesperson.

Great Sales Managers Have Solid Conviction

A good sales manager must be able to lead the team in an exemplary fashion; his personal behavior must be above board all the times. Most of the sales people join as trainees or cadets at a very young age. They are highly susceptible to their manager’s behaviors and unconsciously adapt it. They do so because for them the sales manager is the role model and most of them aspire to be there. A good sales manager must depict honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness in dealing with people so that his behavior inspires his team in the right way.

Great Sales Managers Have Unflinching Consistency

Elbert Hubbard, the famous American writer, says it very well, “Self-discipline is the ability to do what you should do when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”

Good sales managers loathe procrastination and prefer to do things rather than looking for excuses for not doing it. By using the power of self-discipline, great sales managers cultivate a mindset wherein they are controlled and ruled by their deliberate choices rather than by external circumstances, emotions or other’s whims and fancies. A good sales manager would instill the virtues of self-discipline in the team thereby making them singularly focused on generating leads and following the process to convert them to billing dollars.

Great Sales Managers Have Solid Conviction

Great sales manager do not feel the urge to defend their conviction and in the same spirit display the openness to accept contrary or others’ point of view, without slipping into the judgmental mode. Good sales manager have a strong conviction in what they want to achieve and script an action plan to achieve it in full, without getting swayed or distracted by other’s opinion.

If you want to build a great sales team, go and fund a sales leader with an “I must get it” mindset.

Great Sales Managers Have Emotional Maturity

Sales environment tend to be stressful; pressure tends to build up quickly and to top it up the billing counter resets to zero at the start of every financial year. When novice sales managers encounter stressful selling situations, their emotions come to the forefront and start running the sales meeting instead of using a combination of influence and selling skills to turn the tide.

Good sales managers have the emotional maturity to deal with sudden changes, uncontrollable circumstances and unexpected demands from customers, without losing their composure. Sales managers with emotional maturity tend to achieve their objectives faster than those who lack it, and at the same time, it helps them in building a great relationship with customers and their internal sales team.

By using these tips, I hope you will be able to find a good sales manager. In case you need any help or guidance in refining your sales process, don’t hesitate to contact me for help. I have coached hundreds of successful executives on sales and my company; Platformax is packaging these sweet little secrets in artificial intelligence software, thereby making it easier for people to close sales.

Srđan Mahmutović is an Entrepreneur and business developer. He has built Spletnik from scratch, starting with zero investment, taking it from barely making ends meet to becoming the highest growth company in the segment in Slovenia. He is an expert sales manager, at only 19 years of age, Srdan had built a sales network of 40 insurance reps for an insurance network

11. 9. 2016|Categories: Productivity, Sales tips|