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Anthony Iannarino
Updated: 2 min 17 sec ago

You’ve Got Millennials All Wrong

18 hours 26 min ago

As far as I have been able to discern, the composition of sales forces hasn’t really changed all that much. For all the bad press the Millennial generation suffers, I’m having a tough time understanding how they’re different when it comes to the deep stuff of sales and success.

There is a still a top 20 percent of every sales force, a 20 percent at the bottom, and the 60 percent that lies between the two poles. Some of that top 20 percent is made up of experienced, mature salespeople, and some of it is made up of folks from later generations, including the Millennials. The same is true for the rest of the bell curve, including the bottom 20 percent.

Some people in sales roles have fast rapport skills, are gregarious by nature, and make selling look easy. There are plenty of confident Millennials who have no trouble creating new relationships. There are also people of every generation who are introverts and take a little more time to warm-up, which reminds me of a joke: “You know how you can tell an engineer is an extrovert? They look at your shoes when they’re talking to you.” I’ve seen research that suggests that ambiverts produce the best results in sales, but I’ve seen both introverts and extroverts succeed. Millennials look a lot like the rest of us when it comes building relationships, some easy and familiar, some a little more awkward.

One of the more difficult deficiencies to coach in a salesperson is an aversion to conflict and difficult conversations. Being too deferential, or too fearful, eliminates the possibility of being a peer, and it is likely that person ends up being an order taker. That said, some people have a terrible time with conflict, some embrace it and use collaboration to defuse it, and some people relish a good fight, being sometimes too argumentative, and sometimes too combative. Millennials, as far as I can tell, seem to be spread across this spectrum, just like everyone else.

Every generation is somewhat of a mystery to the generations that came before them. Eventually, they trade their version of idealism for the pragmatism that allows them to work, to support themselves, to take of their family, and to have whatever kind of life they want, most of which will look a lot like the lives of the generations before them.

Millennials are going to be just fine. Remember the Baby Boomers grew up growing their hair, involved in all forms of shenanigans, and protesting against “the man.” Now they are “the man.”

The post You’ve Got Millennials All Wrong appeared first on The Sales Blog.

Can You Change Your Mind?

Sun, 2017-08-20 03:43

A few days ago, a reader of this blog made an observation. After reading the blog for years, he noticed that from time to time I have written that I have changed my mind about something that I no longer believe to be true. This reader thought that this was noteworthy because he believes it is rare for people to change their beliefs, and that it is more noteworthy that I would write it here, where other people could see it.

The truth of the matter is that if your beliefs aren’t changing, you aren’t growing.

Consistency and Inconsistency

Consistency is a critical attribute. It makes you trustworthy, reliable. If people know what they can expect from you, that predictability makes you someone who can be counted on. Having a core set of beliefs and values that are stable over time is also important.

Inconsistency in word and deed can make you look flaky, flighty, and sketchy. It’s difficult to put your trust in people who can’t be counted on from one day to the next. You are unreliable, and that makes you a risk.

But there is something worse than being inconsistent, and that is being consistent when it no longer serves you.

Turn and Face the Strange

You live in a time of constant, accelerating, disruptive change. Things that were once true, are no longer true, and some are just “no longer.” The beliefs that once served you are now dangerous beliefs to hold, and beliefs that would have at one time seemed reckless are now a safer bet. If you are unable—or unwilling—to change your mind, then you are not growing.

The reason I leave the archives up on this blog is because it is a record of my growth since 2008. My writing is much better, and you need only go back and read anything from 2010 to see just how true this is. But more important still, my ideas have gotten better.

As I have had new experiences and made new distinctions. I have changed what I believe to be good, and true, and beautiful. I have changed what I believe about what it takes to succeed in sales, and that belief continues to change over time. I have changed what I believe to be the right approach for prospecting. I have changed long held beliefs about money and success. I have changed my ideas about jobs and works, about the sales process, as well as a lot more personal beliefs.

I keep a running list of all of the beliefs I have changed over time. It’s a way to see the trajectory and the changes over time. It’s an exercise worth your time.

If you haven’t changed something you believed to be true and worth defending in the last couple of years, you are stagnating.

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The Leadership Playbook: What a Consultant Can’t Do For You

Sat, 2017-08-19 03:25

Even though a consultant can give you advice, show you where the pitfalls lie and help you see the trade-offs in the choices available to you, ultimately, you have to make a decision. Just because you paid someone for their advice in no way obliges you to take it, and following that advice just because you paid for it is a poor decision.

The person who you trust as an advisor may provide you with the lenses through which to see new possibilities, but you are responsible for the vision. If you are not on fire for something different, for something better, for something bigger, bolder, and more meaningful, no one else is going to catch fire.

A consultant cannot lead on your behalf. Even if they provide you with the ideas you need, you have to lead the execution of those ideas. Your team doesn’t work for the person that provides you counsel; you are responsible for leading them. If you aren’t willing to lead the change you want, you won’t have that change.

A consultant cannot hold your people accountable for anything for which you are not willing to hold them accountable. If you are not willing to ensure that something is done, it won’t be done. Real change comes from the will to break from the past and insist on a certain future. You have to hold people accountable for new beliefs, new behaviors, and new outcomes.

A consultant can provide you with new ideas, new possibilities, new strategies, new tactics, and the new beliefs you need to produce better results. The work to produce those results, from deciding to executing to making adjustments to producing new results belongs to you as a leader.

Ultimately, you are responsible for the future you are building.

The post The Leadership Playbook: What a Consultant Can’t Do For You appeared first on The Sales Blog.

I Can Help You Get Your Salespeople to Read Books

Fri, 2017-08-18 02:06

I have no idea how many salespeople read sales books. The number that is tossed around is that some number over 90 percent have never read a single sales book. If that’s true, it’s a sad statistic. It also may be an indictment of those of us who write books for not writing something salespeople want to read.

There is a reason I print workbooks and create videos to accompany my books: I want the salesperson and their sales manager to be able to use the book to improve their performance.

In both of my launches, we put packages together for teams. The idea was that the book should be a program. That program contains the ideas that shape the mind set, the strategies that build the skill sets, and come with the tools necessary to be able to execute the content between the pages of the book.

The first book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, is a competency model, containing the 9 attributes and behaviors that make up the mind set necessary to succeed in sales, as well as the 8 skills that are also required. That is 17 chapters, and the bulk preorder for teams included an editable PDF workbook and 17 videos for the sales manager to use to guide their team through the book. The people that used it this way raved about their results. So, we did it again.

The second book, The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, followed the same model. Why change something that worked so well the first time? The bulk buy orders for this book included an editable PDF workbook and 10 videos, one for each of the 10 commitments.

And here is the thing. I did this so that your salespeople would need to read the book to participate in the group meetings being led by their sales manager, with the sales manager using the videos as part of a weekly (or bi-weekly) meeting.

When I say that I pitched the book wrong, I mean it. I pitched these books wrong because I did not make a big enough deal about the ability to hold salespeople (and their managers) accountable for actually putting the content to use.

This is a big deal to me. I have given up reading books that don’t provide me with the ability to improve my life. I read slower. I take more notes. I listen to the audio book at the same time I am reading the book. I want a return on my investment.

To this end, look for an email from me offering a new program around these two books. If you are not on my email list, use the contact page to reach out, if you want to help your salespeople read, learn, and improve their results.

The post I Can Help You Get Your Salespeople to Read Books appeared first on The Sales Blog.

The Leadership Playbook: Building People In Your Image

Thu, 2017-08-17 03:00

If you are not willing to be accountable for holding people accountable, then you will not have a culture of accountability. Your lack of accountability becomes their lack of accountability.

If you are not client-focused, your people will follow your lead. If you don’t eat, sleep, and breath clients, neither will the people you need to take care of them. Your opinion about clients will become their opinion.

If you believe that your company only exists to create shareholder value, then your people will not believe that they are doing purposeful, meaningful work that makes a difference. Your focus will sap your people of their desire to give you their very best.

If you ignore or avoid new ideas that conflict with your view of your business and your models, you will kill the initiative and resourcefulness that spurs the ideas that turn into innovation. This shutting down of ideas leads to stagnation, irrelevance, and eventually, the dust heap.

If you are pessimistic, cynical, and negative, that infection will spread so deep into your company that you will have an easier time shutting the company down and starting over than changing the culture that you created—or allowed. This is the only cancer that spreads by contact.

If you believe that external events and circumstances dictate your future, your people will believe too that their future is determined by the hands of fate. Without meaning to, you can disempower your people, and you can prevent them from being their very best.

Your people are going to, by and large, become a reflection of your leadership. Your beliefs become their beliefs, your actions theirs. You are building them in your image, and that means that it is worth stopping to take a look at what kind of people—and company—you are building.

If you want to see change, you have to go first.

The post The Leadership Playbook: Building People In Your Image appeared first on The Sales Blog.

Nonlinearity and Your Forecast

Wed, 2017-08-16 04:38

One of the reasons so many sales forecasts end up wildly off base at the end of a quarter is because the interactions between salespeople and buyers are so complex and so dynamic as to make them nonlinear. There are more people engaged in the process and more variables being introduced in large, complex, strategic deals that come with a good deal of risk. The evidence that we use to determine whether to forecast a deal is no longer up to the task.

Set aside the fact that salespeople often use end of month or quarter end dates as placeholders instead of asking the client what date it would make sense to go live with a new solution. Also set aside that many of what are called “opportunities” in the pipeline are really still leads. Also set aside the fact that many prospective clients have not really committed but are simply engaged in conversations at the early stages of exploring.

None of this is to suggest that you should not have a forecast, or that you should accept the nonlinearity of the sales process without trying to create certainty and predictability in sales. But there are some factors that should now be given more weight.

The sales process is really a series of commitments that we make with the client to engage them in the process of change. The making and keeping of these commitments provide an indication as to the progress the salesperson and their prospective client has made towards deciding to change and executing that change.

When commitments have been made but not kept repeatedly over time, it is an indication that the organization the salesperson is working with will continue to struggle to keep commitments, and later to execute. The fact that the people in the organization are struggling to keep their commitments does not necessarily mean they won’t buy, but it does mean without further evidence that they are committed to a certain timeline, it will be difficult to include them in a forecast. No matter how well you try to control the process.

Other organizations have a greater willingness and capacity to make change inside their own organization when they are aligned with their goals, and when their communication allows for the tricky and sticky conversations around change, there’s a greater likelihood that the people inside the company keep the commitments they make, and things tend to stay on track.

The willingness to make and keep the commitments that make up the process of change and that result in a better future state is one factor you have to consider when assessing whether or not to forecast a deal in your pipeline. Kept commitments over time indicate that they are more likely to be kept in the future. Unkept conversations over time increase the likelihood more will be missed. This is a generalization, and all generalizations are lies, even when they prove useful.

The increasingly nonlinear nature of sales is going to require a deeper dive into the progress made around all the commitments necessary to make change. In order to understand where your opportunity lies, and how likely it is to close on or before the date it is being forecast, you’re going to have to consult the record of commitments made and kept.

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The Leadership Playbook: But They Made President’s Club Last Year

Tue, 2017-08-15 03:00

The salespeople that you are unhappy with now made President’s Club last year. Up until recently—very recently—they were doing what was required and expected of them. For years, what they are doing now was the right thing to do, and no one ever told them otherwise.

While you are busy being unhappy with the fact that your people haven’t changed to meet your new requirements and expectations, they’re busy trying to figure out why everything has to be different now. You were both successful just a year ago doing things the way you had always done them.

You Broke the Contract

You are struggling to help your people change because you broke the original contract. Even if you expected more in the past, your acceptance of the prior performance is part of that contract. I’m not talking about a formal, paper contract. I am talking about the real contract, the unspoken agreements that you made with your people.

If you don’t believe that your sales force has the right to unilaterally change the contract, then you don’t have an absolute right to unilaterally change the contract either. This means that transformation requires a new contract. This means you need consent.

New Terms and New Conditions

If you need a new contract, you are going to have to explain why the new contract is necessary. You need to share those reasons, and you need to share what is at stake. If you are breaking one contract and replacing it with another, there needs to be a compelling reason why.

If the conditions of employment and the requirements of the role need to be modified, you are establishing a new contract. The truth of the matter is that the individual members of your sales force are free to accept or reject the new terms and conditions. I’m not writing about compensation or other pecuniary matters here; I am talking about their deal when it comes to what is expected of them.

New terms and new conditions have to be shared, sold, and agreed to.

Some Will Refuse a New Contract

There are some who were comfortable with the old contract and have no interest in a new contract. They’d rather leave than change what they’ve always done—and often been rewarded for—in the past. There are some who will pretend to accept the contract, only to violate the letter and the spirit. This is part and parcel of transformations.

That said, it is important to remember that you broke the contract and it is your job to win hearts and minds. It also means you need to remember that 1 comes before 2, and that transformation is 1,000 conversations and 10,000 actions. It’s a long game, and you have to play.

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