Resolved: 2017 be in the 20%!

Well technically it is still 2016, but the truth is that 2017 is a “stones throw” away.  If you are like many sales professionals, you may need to change something…right now! Save your job and preserve your income! Focus high, or not at all! Here are some ways how you can be in the 20%! So many have used this compilation to change their status.

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If you are in sales you have most likely heard about the following phrase:

“80% of your production comes from 20% of your sales force”

You may also have heard this phrase:

“20% of your sales activities will generate 80% of your sales results”

I am quite sure that you have heard both of these.  More importantly you should figure out a way to make both of statements work for you.

Before we start examining that, we would like to recognize Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923) of Italy who started this all in 1906.  He used it initially to explain the fact that 80% of the wealth of his country was in the hands of 20% of the population, also known as the rich.  This is called Pareto’s Principle and you may also hear of it as the ’80-20 Rule’.  It is used in everything from sales, to sports, to personal relationships, and of course wealth.

I have found this principal to be correct for the most part and that is why I’d like to take some time to examine it. Stated simply, a small number of are responsible for a large percentage of the effect.  Most examples use a figure of 20 to 80 or 20:80.

It is exact?  Of course not, but it simple and easy to understand that the relationship between what we put in, and what we get out, is not balanced.

Be the Best!

Successful Black sales professionals stand out.  If you are able to perform at a level that makes you a valuable asset to your employer, you are to be commended, as the ‘environmental’ resistance (general economics, racial preference, and racial prejudice) that you encounter is omnipresent.

Being successful is not enough as your objective is to be the best, and that designation does not recognize race.  To be the best, you need to be in the top 20%.  If you are making money that is fine as well, but overall you still need to be in the top 20%.

Strategies to make it there are important.  Remember, whether you are struggling, or currently successful, if you want to change the result, you must change your behavior!

Here are a few activities that will help vault you to the top:

Read them and select one or two (or several) and give them a try.

Increase your Effectiveness

The second phrase at the beginning of this document illustrates the 80:20 rule of the Pareto Principle by indicating as stated earlier that what we put into something might not be what we eventually get out.  Put primary priority on the items that increase your effectiveness. Recognize that your efforts need to favor those activities that “make a significant difference”.

Author and self-effectiveness guru Steven Covey urges us to “Put first things first”.  Indicating that you should undertake your activities on the basis of importance rather than urgency.

This would mean that you would spend working hours doing some of your important prospecting, and move your expense account (something I was terrible at) preparation to the evening.  It would mean that you would spend valuable time doing customer problem solving first, relationship building next, then the various and sundry activities that are urgent, but not important.

Below I’ve listed some good suggestions with links to past BSJ posts that will make a difference in moving into or staying in the 20%.

There is a lot of information here, yet the most important part of the process is to recognize the importance of changing something.  If you want to change the results, you must change your behavior.  Remember, ‘you can lie about the numbers, but the numbers don’t lie.’

For 2017 change something! Be the best, and always be effective! You can reach me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.

Customer Gifts and Entertainment? Do It the Right Way!

BSJ - Business Gifts and Entertainment

Have you ever wondered what is appropriate when it comes to the proper holiday give when it comes to your valued customer.  It is that time again.  Read this one now, and master your entertainment and gift giving etiquette. Think ahead and do it right this time!

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The holidays are upon us, and it would  be wise for us to review entertainment and gift giving issues as all sales professionals know, or need to know these points.  Proper etiquette in the matters shown below are important.  As a matter of fact, you can display proper sales manners and move to the top of the list as many sales professionals do not employ them consistently.  Whether in business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-personal (B2P), the number of sales professionals that display proper sales etiquette is not where it should be.

Proper sales etiquette comes in many important theaters:

  • Business entertainment and business gifts
  • Prospecting
  • Sales presentations
  • Telephone solicitation and use
  • Other

This post of Black Sales Journal will cover proper sales etiquette in business entertainment and gift giving. We will cover the other sales etiquette categories in the next month or so.

Entertainment Should be Entertaining!

Business entertainment should have a purpose and be enjoyable, even when the meeting objective is not the most exciting.  Obviously, it gives you time and a way to build relationships, and in sales, relationships are everything.  This area is important as it is ‘your’ moment in the spotlight and as you spend this time focusing on the customer, the last thing you want to do is to strike the wrong cord and turn him or her off.

You may want to take a look at Black Sales Journal 4/4, Business Entertainment – Some Do’s and Don’ts, for some basics on purpose and cautions.    It would serve as a simple refresher to set up many of the points made in this post.

You can be in two different positions with respects to business entertainment, you can be the host, or you can be the guest.  We will touch on these two different levels of status, as they are different.  Regardless of which position that you are in, you are in control of your own actions.

The Host With the Most

As the host you want to be in control of the financial elements and the operation of the meal.  You have to be prepared to exercise control regarding:

  • Selecting the venue to match the occasion
  • Assuming control of the event
  • Setting the financial tone
  • Managing the wine and alcohol
  • “Managing” the conversations to include all parties

Match the venue to the importance of the occasion in terms of cost and atmosphere.  Good ‘business’ restaurants with favorable pricing are essential to sales professionals, and are usually a good venue, but the occasion should dictate.  Gentleman’s clubs and topless bars are a strict no-no, even if the client suggests it.  You are in control, and your ethics, appetites, and professionalism are at stake here.

Assume control by giving simple signals to the wait staff that you are hosting and expect the tab.  This gives immediate control.  The knowledgeable wait staff recognizes that when a guest orders something that will impact you, they will look to you for a ‘veto’. Remember to tip correctly as it is evidence that you are the professional.

Set the financial tone for the event.  Order first to set the tone.  If you order a sandwich, they will most likely all order a sandwich, yet if you order lobster, you will have a monster tab if the others in your party follow suit.  This means you may need to order a substantial meal even if you have a limited appetite to make sure that the group feels comfortable eating (if you are not hungry), yet that is the responsibility of the host.  Also, be discreet with the tab.  The guest(s) does not need to know the amount of the tab.

Manage the wine and alcohol by reviewing the wine list, ordering the selection, and inspecting the purchase.  If you do not drink, you need to delegate that but give some clear directives on cost, and you approve additional purchases.  Know when to cut it off.

Manage the conversation to include all parties.  From your vantage point as the host, be inclusive in your conversations, and get to know all of your guests

Are You a Guest?

As a guest, you have some simple rules that you should follow which will help you.  These rules are simple, and show good manners:

  • Let the host choose the seating
  • Order based on what the host orders
  • Let the host ‘manage’ the alcohol, appetizers, and the deserts
  • Offer to leave the tip
  • Say “thank you” when the host pays the bill

Your objective is to be entertained, and these simple points will get you there without going ‘south’ of what the host is doing.

The Art of Giving

Your company probably has a gift giving policy, and you should refer to it for some basic rules.  While the IRS Publication 463 (2010) covering gifts notes your employer or your company receives a deduction for gifts, the $25 deduction that is afforded simply means you should always be careful and discreet in your gift giving.

What is more important is that the gift should be matched to the importance of the relationship.  The government prefers that gifts be ‘nominal’ in value, yet we do know that some relationships deserve more than others.  When you decide to give, the memorable way is to give a well-composed note with the gift that explains the purpose of the gift.  There is a good possibility that the note will be around for a while.

A gift that is ‘out of proportion’ with the relationship will be recognized for that peculiarity, and may not have the desired effect that may be honorable.  An engraved pen is a fine gift, and signifies a business relationship.  It is a great gift for an important business relationship.  A gift of golf balls is a sound and affordable gift for golf lovers, and does not break any rules.  Giving elaborate gifts can give the appearance that you are manipulating the relationship.  Giving a putter is good, giving a ‘set of clubs’ does not look as innocent.

Many organizations require their employees to sign disclosures of all gifts over nominal value once a year.  The firm that is auditing the customer usually requires this.  Keeping in mind that many of the buyers that are courted are financial professionals and very much careful with this requirement.

Summary

When I was a sales manager I had a a responsibility to determine if gifts were appropriate or inappropriate, as well as question and consider approval of some interesting entertainment.  For a valued customer, returning a gift is an uncomfortable process; you would be wise not to put a customer in that position.   By the same token, finding out that you might be funding some of your business entertainment out of your pocket because you violated expense policy can be quite painful as well.

These areas of etiquette easily learned but also meet the ‘smell’ test.  If it does not feel right, don’t do it.  Knowledge is important, so know your company’s expense policy, and keep it handy.  Expose yourself to your company’s gift giving policies as well, and avoid errors up-front.

Knowledge is everything.

Write me at michael.parker@blacksalesjournal.com.