On what she loves about SalesPOP! and sales, the importance of asking the right questions, on reaching executives early in the sales cycle, seeing through the customer’s eyes, and the most important sales challenge of 2018.
Janice Mars is a top contributor on SalesPOP! and truly enjoys it. “Your audience is very similar to mine – sales executives, sales managers and salespeople who strive to improve their craft to be the best they can be,” she says. “Additionally, I am honored to be part of this exclusive group of sales thought leaders who are all at the top of their game.”
As would be expected, sales is front and center in Janice’s career—and there are many things she loves about it. “I’m fascinated by how much sales has changed since I started my career,” she explains. “Technology has been the main driver of these changes—not just in making sales more efficient, but in fundamentally shifting the buying cycle forever. As a sales leader and now as a sales consultant, I also enjoy giving back. Helping sales teams work towards predictable growth by replicating their sales successes is extremely rewarding. At the end of the day, it’s all about sales helping their customers achieve their goals on a timely basis. And, similarly to when I was in management, I learn new things from sales teams every day!”
Asking the Right Questions
A major focus of Janice’s consulting is getting salespeople to ask the right questions in chasing down the deal. “Salespeople need to look at the bigger picture,” she says. “Each contact, each meeting, each phone call is part of a bigger picture, and the planning of such starts and ends with questions.
“Few plan thoroughly enough for meetings and calls. They must train themselves to think about the outcome they want from that meeting or call, what they know or don’t know about the client at any particular point in time, and what questions they should ask and to whom. Asking the right questions can tell you so much. The answers you get could tell you, for example, that you are speaking to people too low in the organizational hierarchy. Or, that the decision maker does not have a budget or a timeline, and/or that they are just using the salesperson as pure column fodder.
“Also, too many salespeople don’t press for specific types of information. If you get only a generic response to a question you asked, don’t take it at face value and move on. Press for more specificity. After all, you can only get so much time on the calendar with a busy executive these days, so you better make it count.”
Reaching the Executives
Janice consults her clients to reach for the executive level in a prospect company. “A quality pipeline should be linked to a prospect company’s priorities – where they are spending their time, money and resources,” she elaborates. “If you don’t talk to these executives or those on their executive team, you could risk spending a lot of time with others who are kicking tires or just plain doing research.
“For those massive customer organizations where the salespeople cannot get to that high executive level, when they’re talking to executives in a specific line of business, they should at least understand the linkage between the line of business goals and the high level executive goals. Most executives that have a need will take your meeting if they see you as relevant, able to speak in their channel, and/or see an opportunity to learn from you. This is typically where things go wrong. You may think your meeting was a ‘success’ but the executive pushed you down the line to someone who spoke more like you. Another opportunity lost.”
Seeing Through the Customer’s Eyes
Seeing through the customer’s eyes, according to Janice, is a topic of prime importance. “This is paramount to sales success and, in the end, to predictable growth,” she says. “Too many times, I see salespeople pushing boulders uphill, selling for their own reasons and not the buyer’s reasons. Management asks sales reps to sell products and services in their time frame, with little regard for the buyer’s time frame.
“I cannot tell you how many times I have reviewed pipelines only to find that all the close dates are their fiscal quarter end dates, and have nothing to do with the customers! Stop forecasting based on what sales tells you, and start forecasting based on what your customers tell you. Spend time understanding their business priorities, timelines and why they are important to them. More often than not, their timelines will not align with your close dates.
“But, have no fear about that. Just work diligently to get more in your pipeline ensuring you can make your quota based on your knowledge of the customer’s time frames and priorities. The more you know about your customer, the more you can truly help them to be successful. When they have a business problem that you can solve, they will engage. But, the truth is, they don’t care so much about the features and functions, yet sales people keep going down that road. Why? Because it’s easier. You must understand customer priorities and how they’ll be impacted if they do not achieve their goals. Then you can help them get to their business outcome with a minimal amount of risk, on time and on budget. Your success is their success.”
Most Important Sales Challenge This Year
Finally, Janice expresses what she sees as the most important sales challenge for the new year. “I cannot believe I am going to say this because it seems so obvious,” she says. “The most important sales challenge this year is making quota consistently, based on the knowledge of your territory. It doesn’t matter whether you manage one account or an entire territory. It’s typical for sales managers to ask their team to put together an account or territory plan.
“But guess what? It usually ends up in the trash. That’s because it’s not supposed to be a one-time, annual activity. It’s supposed to evolve, always be customer-focused, and be your navigation tool showing you where to spend your time. The key to making quota consistently is using this plan to help you fill the pipeline for years to come, not just for reaching this year’s sales quota.”
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