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Cutting through the Digital Noise (aka: Differentiation in 2023)

April 20th, 2023

As an entrepreneur, you’re likely bombarded each day with information from various digital sources, emails, form-letters, Linkedin, social media notifications, ads, and more.  This large, growing, and often annoying volume of Digital Noise is making it increasingly difficult for individuals and businesses to differentiate themselves.  While many owners seek technology solutions to stand out from the crowd, the fact is that differentiation via technology is fleeting.  In other words, if you happen to gain any significant advantage by discovering a new digital method earlier than your competition, it is only a short amount of time before others in your space will adopt the same technology (or a superior one) that will wipe out your advantage.

Tech is advancing at lightning speed.  New creative solutions, web-scrapers, and AI-assisted technologies are being developed today at an unprecedented rate.  Some are fantastic and can improve presence, visibility, speed, and efficiency, but please don’t fall prey to the notion that you’ll be able to use any of these technologies to differentiate your company long term.  You will not.  Playing the leap-frog technology game can be expensive and exhausting.  Digital tools can occasionally gain you some advantage, but most gains made via tech will be short-lived and non-differentiated.

While selecting the right tech-stack to support your company business model and infrastructure is certainly important, it is far more essential to focus on a core set of marketing strategies if you are seeking to cut through the digital noise and truly differentiate your company in the marketplace.  Don’t overlook these basics…:

1.      Clearly define your brand and unique value proposition.  What really sets you apart from your competitors?  What truly unique benefits do you offer that no one else does?  Be honest here.  If you say “service”, “quality”, or “value”, what do you think your competitors might say?  Also, remember that all customers expect great service, quality, and value.

Once you have a clear understanding of your brand and value proposition, ensure that all of your digital content, from your website and profiles to social media posts, accurately reflects this messaging.

2.     Embrace the power of storytelling.  People connect with stories, so use your channels to tell your brand’s story in an engaging, compelling manner.  Share customer success stories, behind-the-scenes glimpses of your business, and your journey to success.  Sharing your story humanizes your brand, making it more relatable and memorable.

3.     Deliver only quality content.  Content is king in today’s world, and the internet is flooded with mediocre content.  Ensure that every piece of your content is of the highest quality, informative, and engaging.  Tactics may include blog posts, videos, podcasts, social media, and more.  By creating content that is both valuable and shareable, you can expand your reach and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

4.     Engage with your audience.  In the digital age, it’s essential to build and maintain a strong relationship with your targeted audience.  Respond to comments and messages, ask for feedback, and provide value whenever possible. By engaging in this manner, you are building trust and loyalty, which can lead to long-term relationships and increased brand awareness.

5.     Be authentic.  The cyber-landscape is loaded with scam-artists, charlatans, and goofballs.   Authenticity is highly valued, and people can quickly spot poor actors and bots.  Ensure that your digital presence reflects who you are and what your brand represents.  Be transparent, honest, and genuine.  Avoid trying to be something you’re not.

Following these 5 steps, and executing your plan on a consistent, disciplined basis will help you cut through the digital noise, provide your company with a differentiated marketing foundation, and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.  But marketing is only half of the equation.   The other half is Sales—the manner in which your customer-facing representatives interact with prospects on a conversational basis.  

After all, the last thing you’ll want to do is to invest heavily in the creation of a wonderful, digital presence and generate an abundance of marketing qualified prospects, only to lose the majority of opportunities by commoditizing your company by using salesy scripts, inauthentic pitches, and manipulative, trust-busting, used-car-sales closing techniques.  People need to buy but hate to be sold.  In other words, the absolute best way to truly differentiate your company long-term is by differentiating the manner in which your people conversationally interact with your prospects, customers, and other stakeholders.   Unlike technology or marketing techniques, developing a truly consultative conversational approach and culture will provide you and your company with high-value, long lasting, differentiated advantages that your competitors will find almost impossible to replicate, and will never be able to leapfrog.  For more about this, see here…:   » REAL Consultative Selling: Don’t be fooled by what they say - z|three blog (zthree.com)

 Copyright © Joe Zente 2023. All Rights Reserved. 

A Simple, Step-by-Step Prescription for creating a Predictable, Visible, Scalable, EFFECTIVE Sales Organization

March 3rd, 2023

The vast majority of private business owners know that their Sales Team is not firing on all cylinders.  Owners are frustrated by a lack of productivity & consistency, unreliable forecasts, too many excuses, and mediocre results.   Many have never been part of a high-performance sales organization and don’t know what “good” even looks like, and most have no clue how to make things better (especially in a remote-selling, post-pandemic, budget-tightened environment).  If you’d like to transform your Team into an enviable sales machine that will produce dramatically improved effectiveness and predictable results, simply follow these steps…:

1.  Decide & Commit.  Deciding is the first step to transforming performance in any pursuit.  Don’t be intimidated if you think you don’t know how to get it done.  We’re not talking about rocket science here.  Upgrading a Sales Force is formulaic.   If you execute the prescription, results will follow.

2.  Evaluate your current Sales Organization.  You cannot fix what you cannot see.  If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there, and if you don’t know where you’re starting, you’ll waste a ton of time, money, and effort in trying to achieve your mission.  An objective sales team analysis will quantitatively inform you on the current state of your organization.  It will provide you with valuable intelligence, clearly outlining gaps in skills, strengths, and processes.  It will tell you how much more effective you can be, how long it will take, and what will specifically be required to reach your goals. 

3.  Raise Expectations (Yours and Theirs).  Start by pointing the finger at yourself.  Be courageous and own your part.  If your Sales Team has been delivering lackluster results, it is because you have tolerated some level of mediocrity.  Maybe even a lot of it.  Take responsibility for the current state-of-affairs, then declare to yourself and to everyone else that you are committed to creating a much more effective team and new, brighter future — one that will involve significant change, new processes, and massive growth on everyone’s part.  Tell everyone that you will be investing in creating the absolute best team in the business, and that the team will be composed exclusively of A-Players.  Inspire them.  Inform each one that you are confident in their ability to play a vital part on the upgraded team, and that you hope and expect that every one of them will do their respective part in contributing to the transformation.

The past is dry cement.  It is up to you and your team will create a new, better reality.  Every current employee deserves a seat on the new, improved bus, a chance to step up their game and become a high-performance contributor on your upgraded team.

4.  Formulate Your Plan.  The plan will directly address any root cause that may be producing unacceptable outcomes.  Your company plan will spell out strategies, processes, and priorities.  Individual action/development plans will also be created for each Salesperson and Sales Manager.   Finally, your plan will incorporate a 3-month quick-start bootcamp to quickly reverse unproductive habits and replace them with new, effective processes.

Your 90-Day Quick-Start Plan will include…:

a.  A crystal-clear Revenue Goals Plan tying company goals to individual personal goals.  Each individual rep plan will include a Success Recipe of activities–a leading indicator to ensure all issues and opportunities are addressed immediately and all goals are achieved.  The sum of all personal salesperson goals must exceed the company goal.

b.  A weekly, rhythmic, Consistent Coaching Program to ensure that each session will produce tangible growth.  Every session should conclude with a specific commitment and/or exercise to eliminate any weakness or oversight that might prevent the desired outcome.  Every coaching engagement should also include a Transparent Accountability component to ensure that Success Recipes are effectively executed.

Vital Note:  Any member of your Team (either Sales or Sales Management) who chooses to resist or ignore any component of the 90-Day transformation are demonstrating their lack of interest in adopting to your new Game Plan and in actively participating on your new, improved Team in accordance with your sales upgrade declaration.  They will therefore vote themselves off the island and must be replaced with A-players. 

5.  Replace Weak Players.  No team will win without great players, so all serious sports teams continually seek to upgrade the quality of their player roster.  A superior football team would not wait for their quarterback to break a leg before beginning to look for another excellent QB.  Never make the mistake of waiting to upgrade your Team and always be looking to add sales superstars, 365 days per year.  Begin recruiting A-players on Day One using an effective, time-tested process such as UnCommon Sense Locate, Land, & Launchä  to remove the guesswork.  A strong bench provides insurance against risk and a guarantee that your team, your sales, and your profits will continue to grow and thrive.  A rising tide floats all boats.  Peer pressure provides huge incentive to top performers.  A-players will always elevate the entire team and overall results.

6.  Train & Coach until forever.  All high-performance teams commit to on-going training and coaching.  Elite athletes, pilots, and orchestras train and practice constantly.  It simply comes with the territory and always pays huge dividends.  Superior performers want/demand training, coaching, and accountability.  They do so because they know it will help them grow.  Your weakest players and pot-stirrers may resist with BS excuses like “I don’t need coaching”, “I’m too busy”, “I’ve sold in this industry for years!”, or “I’ve made quota before without training”.  Don’t tolerate them.  This is your team, your rules, your processes, and your result producing game plan.  If a player chooses not to conform, they will covertly corrupt your team from within.   If you hear about any of this kind of behavior, address it immediately.  You’ll find the rest of the team will greatly appreciate your courage, directness, and swift action.

Recurrent training hones vital skills, develops new ones, motivates committed players, and consistently improves the ability to generate desired outcomes.  Videos, articles, and webinars may enhance learning, but only role-play and live interaction will improve selling effectiveness.  To know and not to do is not to know.  Never fool yourself into believing that short cuts will produce sales results.

7.   Develop your Sales Manager into a World Class Coach.  In today’s post-pandemic/remote selling world, coaching is more important than ever.  Consistent, excellent coaching is vital to continuous improvement.  Maximizing success requires two critical components–a Process for Sales Coaching and Process for Sales.  Without correct processes for both, ambiguity and excuses will replace clarity and results.  A formal, weekly coaching rhythm will reinforce correct behavior, creating predictable improvement and growth. 

An effective coaching methodology will identify where in the process the salesperson went off track.  It will also spotlight whether the problem’s root cause was a lack of understanding, lack of skill, or resistance to execution.  Independent of the cause, specific action plan remedies are available that will embed proper sales behaviors.   Every coaching session should conclude with a specific takeaway and action commitment. 

Despite the fact that most sales organizations surprisingly incorporate few, if any, effective processes and struggle every day with massive dysfunction and sales mediocrity, this 7-step process is not new, novel, or complex.   Nor should it be mysterious.  The prescription is time-tested and has been used to successfully transform many thousands of sales teams.

If all of this is brand new to you, it may seem like a lot, but potential ROI is gigantic.  The difference in results will be like replacing a stagecoach with a Ferrari – replacing stodgy inconsistency with a high-performance machine.  In addition to increasing sales effectiveness and results, you’ll also find that this methodology will actually save time in the long run (as well as tons of sleep and stress).   

Transforming the performance of your sales effort only requires a decision and commitment.  Anyone can do it.   

Copyright © Joe Zente 2023. All Rights Reserved.


One simple way to generate RECORD SALES in 2023

January 26th, 2023

There is a very simple, but rarely utilized method that, if implemented is guaranteed to have major positive impact on the sales and profit growth of any private business.

Before reading further, consider this question…:

Is your sales manager (or sales management function) effectively growing, leading, and directing a consistent, productive, high-performance sales team?  If so, congratulations!  You are part of a extremely small minority. 

If not, I have good news, and bad news.

The bad news is that you are recurrently missing out on many tens (or hundreds) of thousands of profit every quarter, and things will likely worsen if you have migrated to more of a remote selling model. 

The good news is that most of your competitors also lack effective sales management.  In other words, you are competing with pervasive mediocrity.    Many studies show that the vast majority of companies conduct “sales management” reactively (versus proactively).   For most SMB private companies, sales management is perceived as a necessary evil, or even worse, as an unnecessary pain-in-the-ass.   Consequently, management of sales is often conducted more as an afterthought than as a vital embedded organizational habit.   Group and individual sales meetings take place inconsistently, if at all.  Sales Management activities are conducted as a fly-by.  They only occur “when we have the time…” (aka:  rarely or never). 

For decades, companies that do employ effective sales management have consistently outperformed their competitors, but during times of rapid change and economic turmoil, a solid sales management process will have an even greater effect.  A good SM process can help you quickly capture market share, grow your bottom line, and strengthen your company — a unique and tremendous opportunity.

Here are a few facts…: 

Many private businesses do not have a dedicated manager of sales (or anyone who owns the sales management responsibility).

A huge percentage of private businesses do not manage sales at all.

In many instances the “sales management function” is conducted part-time (and quite poorly) by one of the company principals, who has little or no idea what they are doing.

The most Effective Sales Managers spend a minimum of 75% of their time coaching, developing, motivating, recruiting, and holding reps accountable.  These are the Critical Activities.

Most “sales managers” perform none of the Critical Activities.  Instead, they spend time reviewing accounts, generating reports, going on ride-alongs, and rescuing.

Less than 10% of salespeople have the skills and strengths to perform effectively working from home, including basic consultative-selling proficiencies.   This deficiency dramatically increases the importance of consistent coaching.

Remote sales teams require a much greater level of sales management engagement and direction to succeed.  Again, an increased level of proper coaching here is required.

Do any of these facts hit close to home? 

If so, you know you can do much better, but may also feel like getting a handle on things can appear daunting or overwhelming.  Not to worry — there is a massive silver lining and more good news. 

1.      There are simple, time tested processes available to quickly upgrade your sales management effectiveness and team performance. 

2.      Upgrading does not require a lot of time or money.  It simply requires using time differently (and more productively), making a few different commitments, and adopting a few new processes and habits. 

3.      Today’s volatile economic and rapidly changing business environment has created a unique opportunity for you to capture massive market share and unrealized profit, for both the near and long term. 

4.      Embedding an Effective Sales Management Process into the fabric of your organization is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Few, if any, companies will maintain status quo over the next 18 months.  There will only be winners and losers.   Effective Sales Management will be a major differentiator and vital component of companies that end up in the Winner’s Circle. 

Copyright © Joe Zente 2023. All Rights Reserved.

Why your Sales Forecasts Suck, and what you can do today to fix them

December 5th, 2022

For good reason, business owners get extremely frustrated when their salespeople forecast sales that never close.

NO one wins when a sale that has been projected to close in the next quarter or two results in a goose egg.  In addition to a salesperson missing their quota or missing out on commission, projected sales that don’t convert can cause all sorts of damage to an organization.  The larger or more complex the “opportunity”, the greater the damage.

Why do most organizations tolerate this nonsense?  Let’s take a closer look at this issue and conduct a reality check…:

Approximately 80% of opportunities projected by salespeople in CRMs as “Hot Prospects” do NOT result in a sale.

Approximately two thirds of these “hot” prospects that do not convert are not lost to a competitor.   They are lost to status quo.   In many cases, the prospect never intended to make any decisions or changes.

In nearly all of these zero-result situations, the salesperson neglected to unearth much or all of the most relevant information, including (but not limited to) the decision maker’s true intentions, motivations, priorities, and buying criteria.   In many cases, they don’t even know who the decision maker really is…

According to most studies, less than 15% of salespeople generate more than 80% of new revenue.  The other reps (which make up the majority) battle over the remainder of the sales. When they do stumble upon a “win”, the purchase order is typically acquired at a much lower margin than the average sale generated by the Effective Fifteen.

The Mediocre Majority have very Happy Ears.  In the rare instances when a buyer begins to share a bit about what they are really thinking, a weak salesperson will listen through a filter of optimism, incorrect assumptions, and unrealistic hope (instead of probing further to reveal more important information).  The picture they consequently see (or want to believe) rarely resembles the picture that the buyer perceives (aka:  the TRUE picture).  So, before we know it, we have another forecast opportunity sitting in our CRM that has a snowball’s chance in hell of converting into real business.

Fortunately, all of this insanity is easily avoidable, and there is a ton that any business owner can do to improve their forecast reliability and sales team effectiveness.  There are time-tested, highly reliable, foundational best practices and processes to ensure that sales projections made by salespeople represent real opportunities.   This is GREAT news for any owner willing to implement them.

Here are just a few of the most important steps you can take today to ensure that you can dramatically improve and rely upon sales projections…:

Assess your salespeople:   The statistics described above indicate that it is likely that only one-fifth of your sales reps are operating with any level of effectiveness.  The skills, strengths, weaknesses, and key attributes required to forecast properly (and sell productively) can be easily and quickly identified.   You wouldn’t send an ineffective pilot out to fly a plane, so why would you send an ineffective sales rep out to try to sell?

Adopt a rigorous, transparent Sales Process:   Most companies, and even fewer salespeople, follow a sales process.  An effective sales process has many benefits, one of which is to gather critical information.  A Qualifier Checklist may be embedded into any process and can aid tremendously in Forecast Accuracy.  The process would force this checklist to be completed long before an opportunity could be forecast as a “Hot Prospect”.  If you have a salesperson that is incapable or unwilling to follow your sales process, it is highly unlikely they will return an ROI to your company.

Adjust your Team’s Mindset:   You cannot lose what you never had.   Since you, your products, and your services are great, but are NOT for everyone, it is important to understand that every buyer interaction should be managed exclusively to determine if there is enough mutual value to continue investing time.  A losing mindset creates feelings of rejection and deflation, making it tough for a rep to get back in the saddle.  The most successful salespeople understand that   there is no such thing as “losing a sale”.  Every sales interview can only result in WINNING or LEARNING, both of which are highly productive and inspirational.   The best salespeople spend the majority of their time listening, understanding, facilitating discovery and learning.  They gather critical intelligence, so are therefore able to forecast sales with much greater precision and accuracy than the unproductive, talkative, Mediocre Majority.

This Effective Mindset is not only based in TRUTH (versus hope), it is also much more energetic and motivational for any salesperson that embraces it.

Clearly Define each step in your Sales Process, then map each step to your Sales Pipeline:   Doing so will make your entire team far more effective, providing you with vital information about the productivity of each sales rep and your entire sales machine.  A correctly constructed Pipeline will also provide you with tons of forward-looking visibility and leading indicators about future sales; critical information required to make informed decisions regarding investments in personnel, infrastructure, inventory, and more.

Adopt a simple, transparent, consistent Sales Management Process:   Sales Management may be the single biggest ingredient contributing to the success (or failure) of a private company. Unfortunately, many SMB owners think about sales management as an afterthought or conduct it “if we have time”.  They deploy sales management reactively versus proactively.  Big mistake.  IF you have implemented the steps I’ve described above, Sales Management can be a simple,

enjoyable exercise – an process that does not require much time, but one that will pay HUGE dividends.

Although perfection in the world of sales is unattainable, continuous improvement and growth are not.  Following these simple steps will not only massively improve the reliability of your sales forecasts, but will also dramatically improve your revenue and profit results.

Wishing you record growth and prosperity in 2023!

Copyright © Joe Zente 2022. All Rights Reserved. 

The ONE thing you need to fix on your Sales Team. Now.

November 1st, 2022

According to a recent survey of Executive Decision Makers by Forrester Research, 89% of sales meetings were considered to add no value to the Buyer. A complete failure…

In other words, nearly 9 out of 10 sales interviews do not only lack value, but they also diminish a company’s reputation by wasting the buyer’s time, actually INCREASING the chance of losing a sale!

You may be thinking…:

“How are MY salespeople, or my personal sales interactions, perceived by Decision Makers?”

“How can such a large percentage of salespeople consistently fail?”

and most importantly…:

“What can I do today to make sure MY salespeople add value during sales interviews?”  

Some of the more obvious and tactical reasons salespeople fail include trust-destroying behaviors like talking too much, not asking enough questions, not listening, the lack of a sales process, Happy Ears, and Premature Satisfaction™.  Each of these shortcomings must be eliminated in order to have effective buyer conversations. However, the most overlooked (and most essential) ingredient required to conduct a high-value, productive sales interview is a Salesperson’s Mindset & Beliefs. 

The conversation a salesperson has with his/herself is far more important than the conversation they are about to have with a Buyer. 

The data tells us that if you have 10 salespeople on your Team, 9 of them are likely to be turning off Decision Makers. It is also likely that these reps are making most, if not all, of the tactical mistakes I listed above.

Some of your salespeople may know it is important to ask more questions, talk less, and listen more, but they still do not do it.  They may know better, but they do not do better. This is because their words and behaviors live in conflict with their Self-Talk and their Mindset.  It ALL Starts here. Their Beliefs control their Behaviors, including how they listen, what they hear, what they miss, what they say, and their RESULTS.

Most salespeople are doomed before they even begin.  Buyers can sense intent. Even if you have the most incredible product or service in the market, most prospects will not buy from a person they don’t trust.

One cannot act Trustworthy. One can only BE Trustworthy. Prospects do not care what you know until they know that you care. If a sales rep believes that the goal of a conversation is to “Get the Order”, or to “Send a Proposal”, these Beliefs and Goals will pre-dispose them to acting, speaking and (not) listening in a way that will be counterproductive. Here is a list of more of the most common destructive beliefs that ineffective salespeople consistently tell themselves, making it difficult or impossible to facilitate effective sales interviews…:

  •  “It is more important to Educate the Prospect, than to Learn and Understand.”
  •  “It is more important to be Liked than to be Trusted.”
  •  “I really need this order.”
  •  “People who think things over will ultimately buy from me.”
  • “That sounds good” is a ‘buying signal.”
  •  “A great way to prove I am credible is by giving great presentations and demonstrating my expertise.”
  •  “I should always be Closing.”
  •  “Most of my prospects are being honest with me.”
  •  “If a prospect asks a good question, it is critical that I provide a comprehensive answer.”
  •  “If they need what I sell, they will ultimately buy from me.”

Every one of these beliefs will diminish a salesperson’s trustworthiness, reducing their selling effectiveness.

The Goal of every conversation should be simple.  In order to become a member of the Top 10%, a salesperson’s singular goal must be to remain in the conversation to facilitate mutual discovery only as long as it makes sense to do so for both the Buyer and Seller.  A salesperson should be stingy with their time, and generous with their questioning, understanding and empathy.

If a sales rep commits to any other objective (e.g: “getting the order” or “sending a proposal”), the buyer will sense their self-orientation. They may not throw you out of the office or hang up on you, but they will no longer trust you.   The conversation is essentially over.

All committed salespeople and sales teams can benefit greatly from training, coaching, and continuous improvement, and I would certainly encourage you to do it, but no aspect of training will have a bigger impact on growth and higher ROI than working on a salesperson’s mindset.

Copyright © Joe Zente 2022. All Rights Reserved.