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Facing Employee Retention Challenges in 2018

Jeff Cochran

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The U.S. unemployment rate is low, and companies are cranking up recruiting efforts. Organizations will face a challenge in the year ahead to keep current employees from being lured away by companies offering attractive benefits and innovative perks. Businesses can attract and keep employees by improving digital efficiency, providing relevant feedback and matching people with their passions for improved job satisfaction.

Intentionally Endorse Culture

When employees believe in what their organization stands for, they are more loyal and engaged. Make creating a positive culture top priority when it comes to employee retention. Define the values most important to your brand and seek ways to communicate and practice those ideals throughout your organization.

Analyze and tweak every step of onboarding to highlight those values in company policies and practices. Make sure training gives specific steps for how to incorporate them in workplace interactions, not just with outside clients.

Develop Leadership

Supervisors often obtain their position because they were effective as lower-level employees. While they might have been the strongest member of their team, they don’t necessarily have the skills to be effective management.

One of the biggest reasons employees leave their job is because of conflict with a supervisor. Offer leadership training to provide the communication skills necessary to effective relationships with employees.

Prioritize Growth

Some employees change jobs because they see another company as an opportunity to get ahead. If your staff feels stuck in their current positions, they are likely to experience frustration and defeat. Instead of losing your talent to the competition, keep them when you do the following:

  • Offer performance-based bonuses or other perks to top performers.
  • Provide training and staff development that gives employees skills they need to be promoted.
  • Let staff members know the career opportunities available and the ways your company can help them reach their goals.
  • Allow employees to cross-train so they learn a wide range of skills.
Make Your Offer Better

Money isn’t everything, but employees are lured away when they can make more with your competitor. Make your compensation package as attractive as possible. Salaries and bonuses are a major part of what attracts talent, but other factors can be just as important. Health insurance, flexible scheduling, vacation time and retirement packages also play into an employee’s decision to stay with your organization or go somewhere else.

Know what the competition offers so your staff isn’t lured away by a few dollars. When Glassdoor analyzed job transitions, they found base pay that is 10 percent higher makes it 1.5 percent less likely employees will leave.

Invest in retaining your current workforce by creating a positive place in which they thrive. The productive work environment that results will improve your bottom line and attract top talent to add to your team.

Why Sales Training Must Be a Continuous Process

Jeff Cochran

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No one likes to lose money. Organizations invest in training to make their teams more effective, but even the very best sales training can be useless if it only takes place once. Successful salespeople soak up a large amount of information at one-time events but oftentimes can only implement a small amount of it right away. Over time, knowledge fades, and learning slips away. Learn how regular, targeted training creates an increasingly effective team and gets results.

Update Knowledge

For many sales professionals, the products and services they sell are continually changing. If your organization invests a considerable amount of resources into product development or service refinement, you want to make sure your staff is armed with knowledge that is up to date. Training that is only sporadic leaves sales professionals in the dark.

Use training to offer updated product information and to provide tips for letting customers know of improved value or functionality. Staff who have the most current information best represent your brand.

Outperform Competition

Your organization’s products aren’t the only ones that change. Your competitor is constantly innovating as well. Your staff doesn’t just need to know the strengths of what your organization offers, but what else is available to potential clients.

Use regular training to inform sales professionals about how your product compares to that of the competition. Be transparent about strengths and weaknesses so sales staff can competently answer objections.

Understand Buyers

Most organizations gather data on their clients’ needs, goals, and wants. Regular training provides some of those insights to sales professionals. Team leaders that spend less time in direct contact with clients stay connected, and reps receive the information they need to communicate effectively. When they understand the buyer, they are better able to respond with empathy and employ active listening skills.

Measure Results

Infrequent training might cause a short spike in productivity that quickly wanes. It’s hard to tell if that spike came from the knowledge employees learned during the training or just from the brief surge of excitement that often follows intense, focused staff development.

Regular training provides an opportunity to measure the correlation between sales training and increased revenue. Organizations can choose objectives that are in line with their goals, then track performance after each session to see which specific sales strategies led to greater success. As they hire new employees, they quickly become integrated into the culture of learning to provide consistent results for all teams.

Regular sales training puts cutting-edge techniques at your sales staff’s fingertips. Make it a continual process for a team who is always improving.

Understanding Potential Barriers to Professional Development

Jeff Cochran

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Developing your workforce results in improved competence, production, and work satisfaction. It produces more well-rounded, experienced employees. However, some employees may be reluctant to take part in the training. Many widespread beliefs exist about training and development, which distorts your employees’ views and could lead to bad decisions. As the change agents in your company, your leaders need to understand these misconceptions, what truths they are founded on, and how best to educate your workforce and motivate them to take ownership of their training. Here are some of the most common training myths.

Employees Want to Separate Work from Personal Lives

Employers worry if their workers don’t have a strong work-life balance, stress and pressure will lead to burnout. However, instead of expecting to keep the two aspects of their life separate and distinct, people increasingly expect them to blend. Mobile devices and technology advances allow employees to stay connected to work when they’re at home and interact with family members when they’re at work. Instead of balancing, they juggle.

Research by IBM’s Kenexa shows workers are energized by tight deadlines and hard-to-reach goals. Stress increases, but so does engagement. The greater the challenge, the greater the personal satisfaction. Workers are willing to access training at work and during personal time, because it helps them meet their goals.

Employees Will Learn and Leave

Often employers feel if they invest in high-quality, engaging training, their high-potential employees will use that knowledge to negotiate a higher salary with a competitor. Employees are less likely to do so when they can put what they learned into practice. Create an environment where learning is prioritized then funneled into innovation.

Online Courses Are Easier Than Live Training

A common misconception about online learning is that employees can just click through without paying much attention. Employers worry they’ll pay for training that doesn’t result in employees learning critical skills. Online learning environments encourage engagement with sophisticated learning tools. They enable teams to collaborate in real time to assimilate knowledge and immediately put it into practice. Employers can access data on where employees struggled and what modules resulted in the most engagement to plan future training.

Training Participation Will Cost Sales

Businesses fear taking their corporate sales teams out of the field will result in losses, but training equips teams for even greater success. Research shows every dollar invested in training results in improved ongoing revenue. Even the most experienced salespeople can refine skills to stay ahead of the competition.

 

Transform Your Upselling with These Persuasion Tips

Jeff Cochran

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Upselling is popular in many industries – like a waiter encouraging a patron to have one more drink or an extra appetizer – it can persuade a customer to spend more, driving up sales. Upgrades and add-ons form a positive upsell strategy that build on a customer’s desire to have something better. However, this strategy can backfire if used at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Help your salesforce transform its upsell strategy with these industry tips.

Deliver More Value

Upsells often make a customer’s life easier. Your job is to help them see it. Sometimes products complement each other, so frame offers with the idea that the combination of items is worth even more than their individual value. For example, a customer who buys a camera gets more use out of it if he or she also buys a tripod, additional lenses, and a bigger memory card. When purchasing or developing products, plan for upselling by making choices that enhance the value of your current product or service.

Highlight Convenience

Instacart delivers groceries from local retailers, and TaskRabbit does things like yard work and furniture assembly because people just don’t have time to do it themselves – they’re willing to pay for convenience. Subscription services flourish for everything from meal preparation to underwear. Upsell additional products that make life more convenient.

Offer Incentives

Entice customers to spend a little more for a lot more value. While some stores offer free shipping across the board, most only give it to customers who order above a set dollar amount. Customers keep adding to their cart to gain the incentive.

Bundle Items to Increase Perceived Value

When customers add an item to their cart, major online retailers often show them items that are frequently bought with it, along with the price for the bundle. Cell phone companies package a phone, a case, a charger, and add-on items like virtual reality goggles; customers who would not normally purchase each item separately are attracted to the bundle. People often feel several items sold together are more valuable than they would be sold separately.

Use Scarcity

If there’s a limited quantity of the add-on you’re promoting, let customers know the available quantity. Boost sales with time-sensitive offers, low stock notifications, and last chance emails. If you provide a service, you can still use scarcity by advertising the limited number of customers to whom you are offering your services.

Shapiro Negotiations Institute implements training around your sales processes to maximize your team’s effectiveness. Contact us to learn more about sales optimization.

 

Keep a Salesforce Fresh with These New Trends in Sales Training

Jeff Cochran

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To stay ahead in the industry, you need a strong salesforce. To ensure you have this, you need a sales training program that will enable your workforce to adapt to the ever-changing markets. In the last decade, we witnessed a revolution in training, with e-learning and virtual reality providing the kind of force multipliers that transform workforce development with an eye on the future. Read on to learn how to take advantage of what the latest workforce training offers your company.

Sales Manager Enablement

A ship’s captain doesn’t just need a handful of willing sailors. He or she needs a ship, an ocean, a destination, cargo and working knowledge that adapts to any challenge to keep the ship on course. A sales manager captains the sales team, interacting with them every day to motivate, counsel and train. In many companies, they receive minimal training when they reach their position, but after that they’re on their own.

Manager enablement provides them with tools, resources and knowledge to be more successful. They develop existing skills and add new ones, like how to use analytics, successful hiring and presentation techniques, and more. Manager enablement allows them to accomplish performance KPIs like revenue plan attainment and win rates for ever-improving results.

Training Utilizes Augmented and Virtual Reality

As new equipment develops, companies are using virtual reality (VR) to expose new employees to real-world situations. Wal-Mart partnered with startup STRIVR to offer virtual reality training at 31 of its training academies, and expects to use it in all training facilities by the end of the year.

Oil companies have been using VR to train for oil rig positions, and hospitals use it to let physicians practice complex procedures. Job seekers use VR to bridge experience gaps and develop more marketable skills, and employers provide cost-effective training that keeps employees engaged for improved retention.

Companies Prioritize Teamwork

Industries across the board recognize teamwork makes them more competitive. More than 90% of companies place organizational design at the top of their priority list, restructuring to create high-performing teams. Teamwork training programs like workshops, seminars, and mentoring can turn individuals into an efficient unit with high levels of productivity.

Modern Learners Expect Modern Learning Experiences

With millennials making up over a third of the workforce, employers are embracing training methods they’re most comfortable with. High-quality, customized e-learning attracts millennial workers and keeps them productive and fulfilled.

Shapiro Negotiations Institute offers training, consulting, speakers, and e-learning. Contact us to find out how we can provide customized training solutions for your business.

Avoid These 3 Follow-Up Email Mistakes

Jeff Cochran

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A thoughtful, targeted email message can make all the difference when you follow up with a prospect. However, some mistakes could mean your good intentions will go unread or get your email marked as spam. In some cases, you must contact prospects multiple times before you see results. It can be hard to find the balance between being persistent and being irritating. Here are the top mistakes to avoid when you want to deliver content that prospects open, evaluate, and ultimately respond to favorably.

Sending Too Many Emails

Instead of sending mass emails to everyone you can find an address for, research your specific audience and target the needs, wants, and interests of that specific group. Write personalized messages as much as possible.

Be careful when sending a series of emails to the same person. If your email arrives with a long trail of “RE:RE:RE:RE,” it might indicate to your prospect how many times you have annoyed them. Only use bump emails if you’re adding information relevant to a previous one.

Sending Too Few Emails

It’s hard to find the balance between too much follow-up and not enough. When emails receive replies, it is normally within the first 24 hours of their being opened. If you haven’t heard back in the first few days, you probably won’t.

One study found that 70 percent of the time, sales people quit emailing after one failed attempt. Because 80 percent of sales take at least five follow-ups to close, quitting too soon means missed sales.

Ignoring Existing Data

Use tools to evaluate responses to messages you sent in the past. If you’re not getting the response you want, data might offer insight into where you’re going wrong. Look for these things.

  • The prospects never opened your message. If they didn’t open it at all, your subject line didn’t grab their attention. Your subject line should offer something of value or appeal to their curiosity.
  • They opened your message but you never heard back. It may be that your subject line intrigued them, but the information in the body of the email didn’t keep their attention or motivate them to act. Make sure your email content is specific, engaging, and concise.
  • They read your email but haven’t responded. Sometimes they’re interested; they just haven’t finished evaluating the information or had time to respond. Make your next email even more compelling.

Writing effective follow-up email provides a huge challenge for both new salespeople and seasoned veterans. They can be the simple solution for closing a sale or the roadblock to ever being able to make it happen. Take time to make sure your message targets your specific audience, offers valuable insight, and compels prospects toward taking immediate action.

 

What are the Sales Pipeline Stages

Jeff Cochran

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When you work in business and sales, one of the most effective tools you can develop is your sales pipeline. This is the sequence of stages that a sales team follows and takes customers through in order to convert them from prospective customer to actual customer and finally—in the most successful cases—to returning customer.

If you want to be successful, you can’t just sit back and wait for people to come to you. An effective sales pipeline is proactive, regularly going out and seeking qualified leads. To do that, you need to know how to talk to people, understand what exactly it is that they are looking for, and then find a way to meet those needs.

Like most successful negotiations,  a solid sales pipeline starts with PLEASE. And while manners are indeed important in every negotiation, in this case, PLEASE is an acronym that stands for the six sales pipeline stages:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Lead Qualification
  3. Engage
  4. Action
  5. Support
  6. Evaluate

Each of these stages is a key part of an efficient sales process, so we’re here to walk you through each one.

1. Prospecting

Before you can start sending leads through your sales funnel, you actually have to find and/or generate those leads. So where do these leads come from? How do they actually become a lead, rather than just a random stranger or company with whom you’ve never had any interaction?

The best way to acquire leads is different in each industry, but there are certain steps that are useful no matter what industry you’re in. Train your team to recognize what makes a good lead in your industry and keep an open mind about coming up with a lead wherever you/they go. Identify your target demographic, then do market research to find out what companies and individuals within that demographic are looking for. Develop your marketing campaigns to target those demographics to bring them in.

2. Lead Qualification

In the context of your sales funnel, not all leads are created equal. There are some leads who are golden—eager to work with you, and almost ready to buy right out the gate. And, there are others who seem like, no matter what you do, they’re really just not interested in what you’re offering. One of the most important sales pipeline stages is determining which category each lead falls into so that you know how best to work with them and how to best manage your time.

In order to determine how to work with a lead, you should reach out to them. But, before making any contact, make sure you doo some outside research on that business to learn who they are and what they want. Then, put yourself in their shoes and think through what their challenges and interests might be. Remember, even the first communication is a “negotiation” so be strategic and treat it like one. Make a good impression, show genuine interest, and don’t just write anyone off immediately. Sometimes, leads that don’t seem promising at first can become some of your most loyal clients.

3. Engage

After you have qualified your lead and progressed them a bit farther down your sales pipeline, you need to actively engage with them. Ask thoughful open ended questions  and really listen to the answers. Find out what goal(s) they are trying to achieve. What problems are they trying to fix? What aspect of their business are they trying to improve? It is based on this information that you can position your product to meet those needs. They will almost inevitably have objections. You should be able to  anticipate many of those objections and have a solution already prepared. Ultimately it all comes down to, did you create a relationship, and how can you tie your product or service to the solution they are looking for?

4. Action

At some point in the negotiation, it will be time for your prospect to make a decision. While it seems like a “no” is your worst-case scenario, it’s actually worse if a prospect is stuck in a state of indecision and unwilling to make the call (or take your call). Your job is to get them to say yes, but, at some point, the objective becomes to force a decision, even if the answer is no. Do everything you can to get to a yes, but if a yes doesn’t seem likely, then the next best option isn’t “maybe”—it’s no.

5. Support

Every year, there are dozens of studies researching which companies provide the best—and worst—customer service. The best organizations realize that customer service starts with the salesperson. Not only does this lead customers to keep coming back, it often spurs them to to spread the word about your business. It’s much easier and more cost effective to sell to and develop already existing clients than it is to find new ones.So, the best salespeople do enough to get the sale but leave themselves with room to over-delive..

6. Evaluate

Evaluation is possibly one of the most often overlooked sales pipeline stages. In order to become the best sales person or team you can, you should be constantly evaluating your performance. Look for ways you can learn from every sales opportunity negotiation. What did you do right in your successful interactions? How were you able to provide what the customer wanted? And what did you do wrong in the unsuccessful interactions? Sometimes, failures provide the best learning experiences and reveal opportunities for improvement.

Take the information that you gather from each sales/negotiation your team enters and find a way to organize it so that you can correct weaknesses and develop strengths in the future. Use it to improve your entire sales team rather than just a single individual. You can use each success and failure as a way to make everyone on your team better.

Once you’ve set up your sales pipeline, keep an eye on it. You should constantly be looking for ways to improve each stage in the process. Recognize strengths and faults and work to hone it to a fine edge. Ultimately, it all comes down to generating more leads, managing your time, developing strong relationships, and over-delivering – that’s the secret sauce that keeps them coming back and providing referrals.

The Right Relationship With Your Sales Team

Jeff Cochran

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Managing a sales team is often rewarding, but it’s not without its stresses. There’s a fine line between your relationships with your team members – they need to trust you for support and feedback but should also feel comfortable enough to come to you for advice. Sales managers often struggle to toe the line between trusted professional confidante and friend. Here’s how to keep your relationship with your sales team professional while still instilling a sense of confidence and trust.

 

There’s No “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach

Your sales team is a group of diverse individuals. As such, they’re all motivated by different things. Some of your employees may be experienced and have honed their salesperson persona, while others are less experienced but hungrier to prove themselves. One of the biggest mistakes sales managers makes is treating everyone the same way. You’ll want to train people based on their own unique motivators. Some seek approval and praise, while others are focused on self-improvement. Find out what makes individual team members tick and work with the results.

 

Training’s No Such Things as “One-and-Done”

Sales training isn’t simply a matter of holding a bunch of exercises and calling it a day. It’s not enough for your team to simply hit the objectives; they should be constantly vying for the next goal. Encourage this attitude by viewing training as an ongoing process. There are several ways you can incorporate training into your sales team’s everyday lives. Consider periodic lessons on cold-calling and generating leads. Ask your top performers to lead a class on what they’ve learned during their years in the business.

Lastly, cater your lessons to each individual on the team. Some may struggle with cold calling scripts, while others may have trouble with lead generation. With concentrated and individualized attention, your employees will feel more engaged in their work – and your sales will benefit.

 

Create a Team Attitude

In sales, sometimes workers feel more like they’re competing than working collaboratively. As sales lead, it’s your job to bring your workers together to drive success. Create a shared view of the competition and you’ll be rewarded with a boost in company morale and an increase in your company’s ability to sustain growth.

Managing a sales team isn’t for the faint of heart. If you follow these tips, you’ll set a healthy foundation and forge relationships based on mutual respect and team effort.

Increasing Sales For Your Product

Jeff Cochran

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Creating a new and innovative product is exciting, but it’s not without its challenges. One of the most difficult aspects of marketing an original product is convincing your target audience why they need it. Many businesses throughout history have prevailed in this effort, but even more have failed. Here’s what you need to know about selling new and unique products to your customers successfully.

 

Know the Product Inside and Out

Have you ever been in a sales interaction where you felt that you knew more than the salesperson? This might happen at an auto dealership, appliance wholesaler, or virtually anywhere you make a purchase. It’s also a red flag to a consumer.

If you’re marketing and selling a new or novel product, there’s no room for error. You must be prepared to answer any question and speak intelligently about every aspect of the product you’re selling. As a sales professional, it’s your job to be the expert and to tell people exactly how the product can help serve the customer.

 

Know Your Customer

You’ll also need to know to whom you’re selling your product. Define your market as accurately as possible. For example, your target market might not be Millennials, but Millennial moms with children under the age of 5. The more accurate your market, the better you’ll be able to target your efforts and learn about what makes your target market tick.

Once you really know your customer, you can develop a sales plan. These are comprised of several parts, including:

  • Sales goals. Specific, measureable sales goals will help you stay on track. A good example of a sales goal might be selling 50 units within the first 30 days, not simply “selling a million units.”
  • Channels. Are you going to sell directly to the consumer, or do you plan on partnering with local retail stores?
  • Timelines. Take these pieces and put them together in a timeline that’s realistic and manageable. In an ideal situation, these timelines are flexible – for example, if you’re struggling to meet one sales goal, you can take corrective action and move the timeline back.

 

Selling a new product may be exciting, but it’s also not easy. You face an uphill battle in helping customers understand the value in your product and how it will improve their lives and in meeting several quotas. With clearly defined goals and a strong knowledge foundation, however, you can win customers over and help them see what they’ve been missing all along.

Keeping Your Sales Team Motivated During Summer Months

Jeff Cochran

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As summer settles in for the season, you may have noticed a dip in employee engagement and motivation. Longer days and warmer weather may tempt your employees to take more days off and spend less time thinking about the company’s sales goals. Unfortunately, when several employees ramp up their sick leave, your productivity may suffer. Maintaining employee engagement can be difficult in the summer months, but there are several strategies businesses can leverage to beat the heat on their bottom line.

 

Encourage Vacation Time

Planned vacation time is always better to work around that absenteeism. That aside, even your most productive workers face burnout, especially if they haven’t taken a vacation in a long time. Summer is the best time for your employees to rest, recharge, and have fun with their families. If you encourage vacation time, they’ll come back well-rested and ready to take on new sales challenges.

 

Schedule Some Company Summertime Fun Activities

It’s natural to want to relax over the summer. There are a couple of ways that you, as a company, can also relax a little over the season without hurting your sales quotas. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Organize a summer company outing. This may be a picnic, potluck, or barbeque, or a competitive activity such as whirlyball or mini-golf. No matter the activity, summer outings can encourage team-building skills and make your employees more engaged in your company. Photo-based documentation of these activities also works well on your website to emphasize your employee-centric culture.
  • Consider an abbreviated schedule. Many companies use a shorter schedule during the summer – most notably a shorter day on Fridays. However, you’ll want to stress that a shorter deadline is contingent on meeting deadlines or other sales goals.
  • Incorporate casual Fridays. Allowing workers to wear informal attire on Fridays has been linked to higher productivity.

 

Be More Flexible

As long as your employees are being productive, allow them some more flexibility during the summer. This may mean letting them work from home a day or two each week or holding meetings outside with a catered picnic lunch. This will help your employees feel more engaged with the summer season – after all, no one likes sitting in the office on a beautiful day.

Follow these tips and you’ll see a boost in productivity from your summer employees. A little flexibility and fun in the sun do a lot to help even your most unmotivated workers.