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How do you become a Successful Sales Manager? (Infographic)

By Comments & Opinion, Business Insights, Sales Advice, Foundations of Success No Comments

successful-sales-teamIt’s unfortunate, but there are sales managers who think that if their sales team is meeting all of their quotas, then there’s no possible way they can get any better. This, of course, couldn’t be any further from the truth. There are always steps that a sales manager can take to become more successful.

I found a great infographic (which you can find at the bottom of this post) from Level Eleven that looks at the secrets of a successful sales manager. The infographic offers valuable insights, and I was able to take three key lessons from it:

Train Your Sales Team to Manage Their Time Wisely – A large majority of sales people can dramatically increase their results with just a bit of direction on their time management skills.  Making sure that your sales team is focusing on important tasks and contacting prospects at the best times are just a few methods that you can instill within your team.

Take the Time to Mentor your Sales Team – Numerous stats on the internet show that it can take a sales person 9 to 12 months to become fully effective at their job. This means that you can’t give up on a member of your team just because they’re not as efficient as you expected they would be. If you take the time to nurture your sales team and ensure that they’re growing in the right direction, the long term pay off will be worth it.

Implement Incentive Programs – As Level Eleven shows, only 20% of sales people are organically motivated and engaged, meaning the other 80% need some kind of incentive to get them to reach their sales quota. Running an incentive program can bring out your team’s inner competitive spirit while boosting your company’s sales in the process. Keep in mind that the prizes of these programs don’t have to be anything completely over the top. Just like the infographic mentions, cash isn’t always the best option either. Tickets to an event, a special delivery of a fresh breakfast or even something as silly as an outdoor working station during nice weather are just a few ideas you could use.

Take a look at the infographic and let me know what you key lessons you took from it in the comments below.

What did you Learn from the NCAA Sweet Sixteen Match-Ups?

By Comments & Opinion, Entrepreneurial, Business Insights, Foundations of Success No Comments

march-madness-for-businessThe Final Four have been chosen and next Monday the Championship Game will wrap up March Madness. Brackets have been broken, heartbreaks have been plentiful, and overall the dedication has been impressive. Throughout all of my years of running a business, I’m always surprised by the lessons you can learn from watching athletes who have dedicated their lives to becoming the best at their sport. Even if you’re not a fan of basketball, you can still learn numerous lessons from March Madness that you can bring back to your business:

Don’t Dismiss the Underdog – The staggering amount of upsets this year just goes to show that the underdog always has a chance. Just because your business is smaller than some of the better known brands in your industry, that doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance. Innovative marketing strategies, outstanding public relations and stellar customer service are just some of the ways that your business can compete against larger brands.

Understand your Teammate’s Strengths – When you see a great team play in unison, it looks like they instinctively know where their other teammates will be ahead of time. This isn’t an accident; the players just make it look natural. After months and months of practice, every team member knows each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and they analyze their situation and make their decisions accordingly. This, of course, translates well to a business setting, but your team may be hesitant to admit that they have weaknesses. It’s imperative that you discuss this with your team, because if someone doesn’t understand their weaknesses, they’ll never be able to improve them.

Trust your Mentors – The advice offered by a mentor (or coach) can sometimes sound incredibly risky. They’re not the ones playing the game or running the business, so why should you listen to them? Well, a good mentor has years and years of expertise under their belt, and has experienced both the good and bad in their respected fields. Their triumphs and failures have given them a unique point of view. Don’t ever brush off advice that a mentor is willing to give you, but don’t blindly accept advice either.

You Can’t Predict The Future – This point has less to do with the athletes, but I still feel that entrepreneurs can learn from it. Warren Buffet had offered a $1 Billion to anyone who delivered a perfect bracket. Roughly 8.7 million entered the contest, even though Yahoo Sports said that there was a 1 in 128 billion chance of making a perfect bracket. And while all of the brackets had been called “un-perfect” by the Sweet Sixteen stage, it shows that no matter how astronomically impossible the odds may be, you have to at least try.

What lessons have you picked up while watching the tournament this year? More importantly, is your team still in the tourney? I look forward to chatting with you in the comments.

Don’t Neglect Your Existing Customers

By Business Insights, Sales Advice, Business Growth, Business Health, Foundations of Success One Comment

There’s no doubt that your sales team is always calling, sending
e-mails, following up and doing whatever they can to capture new customers, but during this process there is one critical point that gets lost in the shuffle – your existing clients. There’s a danger of your sales team putting so much focus on attracting new customers that your existing customers will start to feel neglected.

Initially you may think that new customers should be your primary focus as you’re trying to grow your business, but there are numerous statistics that show why keeping your current customers happy is important. Bain and Co.’s research shows that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%, and Gartner Group statistics reveal that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers.

The numbers sound nice, but what exactly does this mean for business owners? At the end of the day, you need to take a look at how you’re currently servicing your customers and see if there are ways you can improve the existing relationship. Here are a few tricks that I’ve learned over the years that will help make your current customers happy.

Go Above and Beyond – This first point goes without saying, but over time it’s easy to let your customer service levels drop. A lot of the time this drop is so gradual that you don’t notice it until it’s too late – which is when your customer decides to move on. Make sure that you reinforce the importance of top notch customer service to your team by sharing success stories or great examples that you’ve heard or experienced firsthand.

Appreciate Them When They Don’t Expect it – If I was to take a guess, I’d say that a majority of you send some form of appreciation to your customers during Christmas time. While that’s fine, what people don’t realize is that everyone expects something during the holidays, so in reality your gift that was supposed to make an emotional impact probably won’t be remembered for too long. Instead, why not take the gifts that you were supposed to send during the Christmas season and send them on March 24th, meaning no specific holiday or reason behind them. The gesture is sure to turn some heads, and will definitely leave a longer lasting impression.

Implement a Loyalty Program – A loyalty program is one of the best ways that you can keep your existing customers. An interesting article from Help Scout shows that if you want to get a customer heavily involved with a customer loyalty program, you should automatically get them started. Pick a relevant date (birthday, anniversary of contract, etc) and simply send them an e-mail telling them how much you appreciate their business and that you’ve enrolled them in your “VIP” program. There’s no doubt that they’ll appreciate the gesture and stay loyal to your brand.

The takeaway you should communicate to your team is that at the end of the day, keeping your current customers happy is equally as important as finding new customers, so make sure not to lack in either category. How are you currently making your current customers happy? I’d love to discuss some techniques in the comments.

Don’t Sell – Tell a Story

By Comments & Opinion, Entrepreneurial, Sales Advice, Foundations of Success 2 Comments

dont-sell-tell-a-story“I have an amazing product and I want to sell it to you!” If you ever want someone to hang-up on you immediately, just say that phrase and you’ll soon become best friends with the dial tone. Your sales team needs to understand that no one likes being sold to. In fact, it’s estimated that people are exposed to roughly 5,000 different advertisements per day, and thanks to this over-exposure of ads people will regularly tune out anything that begins to sound like a “sell” to them.

Your sales team has probably gotten comfortable telling their prospects that the product they’re selling is amazing, but probably haven’t considered using a story to back up their claims. A story will not only create a better emotional connection with your prospects, it will also leave a lasting impression with them and remind them not only of you, but of your product or service as well. Here are 3 advantages about story telling that I’ve learned over the years.

Stories Simplify Complicated Ideas – During a TED talk about storytelling, Andrew Stanton from Pixar delivered a great quote that really stuck with me: “Don’t give them 4, give them 2 + 2”.  People don’t want to hear the science of how your product will make their business run more efficiently, they simply want to know the results. Don’t get bogged down by the details of your strategy, just tell them a story that delivered concrete results, and explain that you’ll do the same for them.

Stories Leave An Impression –Most business owners and decision makers receive a large number of calls from salespeople every day, so having a memorable story in your arsenal can make a large difference between a meeting and a rejection. A decision maker will always remember an emotional story that meant something to them instead of a well-formulated sales pitch.

Stories Are Sharable – The best thing about a memorable story is that if you deliver it effectively, the listener will share that story with their peers. There’s nothing better than having an advocate of your product or service tell other people about it. Even if they don’t see any value in what you’re selling, they won’t mind sharing a story that stuck out in their mind.

Once your sales team is able to share stories with their prospects, they’ll have a creative way to be in their front of mind. If your team uses the age old “but I don’t have any stories” excuse, sit down with them and talk through some positive experiences they’ve had with past clients, and see if there are stories that they can adapt from that.

Does your team regularly use stories? What has their success been like? I would love to hear your successes and discuss more about this topic in the comments section.

Motivate Yourself and You’ll Motivate Your Team

By Comments & Opinion, Entrepreneurial, Foundations of Success, Leadership, Personal Accountability No Comments

motivation-for-entrepreneursThere was a recent meeting I attended with my leadership team that got me thinking about motivation. We were discussing sales numbers, and I encountered a typical problem – the numbers were good, but they could have been much better. This can be difficult to communicate to staff, because some think that “good” is enough, and simply don’t have the motivation to improve their methods.

There are countless articles online that discuss how to motivate your employees. In fact, I encountered one great article from that details three questions that you should ask your employees every few months to gauge their motivation. After reading this fantastic article, something occurred to me. At the end of the day, you need to make sure that you, yourself, are motivated to become a better worker, a better entrepreneur, and essentially a better person. Once you can keep yourself motivated to do better, you’ll understand how to motivate your team to do better. Here are three pieces of advice I can offer fellow entrepreneurs to help you motivate yourself:

Prioritize your Tasks: It’s easy to get bogged down by little tasks that may seem incredibly important to you at the time, but aren’t truly essential for day-to-day operations. If you keep getting distracted by little tasks, it will eventually drain you and leave you with little “juice” left to focus on the important items on your list. Take a step back and prioritize what tasks are truly essential to business operations, which will keep you focused and inspired to perform to the best of your abilities.

Realize That People Are Depending On You: They may not blatantly tell you to your face, but your team is depending on you in many different ways. They depend on you for guidance, mentorship and general leadership. Of course, it’s not just your team that is depending on you either – your family is depending on you too. When you realize that you have so many people counting on you, you’ll recognize that you have to become better in more ways than one.

Think about the Flip Side: As an entrepreneur, you ultimately decided to take the risk of running your own business for one central reason: you despise the idea of working for someone else. This one point alone is usually enough to motivate most entrepreneurs, but hectic days can make you lose sight of this. Remind yourself that you opened the doors of your business because you not only wanted to be your own boss – but you knew that you could do it better than anyone else.

What methods do you use to keep yourself motivated? Do you find that motivating yourself helps your team stay focused? I’d love to chat with you about this in the comments below.

Don’t Halt Creativity in Your Office – Let it Grow

By Comments & Opinion, Success & Inspiration, Entrepreneurial, Business Insights, Foundations of Success One Comment

fostering-creativityNo matter what type of industry you’re working in, creativity is the foundation of exceptional work. If you’re not fostering that creativity in your workplace, your team won’t produce the best work that they’re capable of. I touched this point briefly in one of my previous blog posts, but I decided that I should expand on this issue because of how important it is. Making sure that your work environment is a transparent and accessible space for ideas to flow will let your team reach new creative heights, allowing them to produce stimulating work at the same time.

Be a Mentor: I know I’ve discussed this point to no end in other blog posts, but I come back to it so often because I can’t stress how important it is to provide an avenue for creative growth. You simply can’t bring someone onto your team without providing constructive criticism and constant mentorship. However, you can’t micro-manage people either; you need to find a balance where you can give them a space to devise their ideas, and then see how you can help these ideas grow.

Have an Open Door Policy – and Mean it: Tying in with my last point, a phrase that is often tossed around by leaders when a new team member is brought in is “my door is always open”, yet this isn’t always the case. When you tell your team that your door is always open – mean it. Be available to them when they have ideas, suggestions or even just banter. Not only does this make you more human from your staff’s point of view, it also makes them more comfortable with you. This means that they’ll feel at ease when they suggest outlandish (and often creative) ideas.

Encourage Open Discussion: When you come together with your team for a brainstorming session, you should ask everyone present to throw an idea on the table, no matter how “bad” they feel the idea is. This open exchange of creativity often leads to some great ideas created from a thought that could have been discarded. A great idea is simply a bad idea that has been refined.

Reward Great Ideas: One of the simplest and most effective ways to foster creativity in your workplace is to reward great ideas. Of course, this doesn’t mean punish bad ones, but when there is a fantastic idea brought to the table you need to praise and reward these efforts. Don’t go overboard and give every admirable thought a new car – it can be something as simple as a cup of coffee or showing them praise in a companywide e-mail.

Do you feel like you’re doing enough to encourage creativity in your workplace? What methods do you use at your office? Do you feel like your team is comfortable sharing all of their creative thoughts? I would enjoy discussing this topic with everyone in the comments. 

What can Olympic Athletes teach Entrepreneurs?

By Comments & Opinion, Entrepreneurial, Business Growth, Planning for the future No Comments

OLY HKW Canada United States 20140220 TOPIXIf you’re like most Canadians I know, you were up on Sunday morning watching the Olympic men’s hockey team beat Sweden and earn their gold medal. Likewise, you were probably huddled around the computer in your office on Thursday afternoon watching the women’s hockey team defeat USA and earn their back-to-back gold medal as well.

It goes without saying that both of these teams got to the podium with determination, focus and training. Of course, they’ll take their well-earned rest, but after a few days they’ll be back to honing their skills because they know that they’ll have to prove they’re still the best during their next Olympic appearance. Entrepreneurs can learn many things from Olympic athletes and apply these lessons to their business operations. Here are three key lessons I’ve picked up from Olympic athletes this year:

Olympic Athletes Never Stop Training: Just because the teams have won the gold, do you think they’re going to lose their resolve? Olympians have to make sure they never lose the edge that got them their gold in the first place, which means they’re constantly looking for ways to maintain or improve their techniques for their next Olympic appearance.
Takeaway for Entrepreneurs: There should never be a time on your entrepreneurial path where you stop maintaining or improving skills that will help your business achieve growth. Sharpening old techniques and keeping up with new trends will ensure that your business continues to prosper.

Olympic Athletes Know They Didn’t get to the Podium on Their Own: When an Olympian receives their medal and talks to the media, they never say that they made it to where they are by themselves. The support they receive from their family, friends, and coaches is instrumental to getting them onto the podium.
Takeaway for Entrepreneurs: There isn’t a single entrepreneur that’s reached their level of success on their own. Support from family, friends, and mentors have helped entrepreneurs everywhere reach levels that they never thought were possible.

Olympic Athletes Know Their Goal, and Stop at Nothing to get it: For an Olympian, the goal is obvious – go for the gold. For these athletes, there is nothing more they want than to be on the podium accepting the gold medal for their country.
Takeaway for Entrepreneurs: As an entrepreneur, you should always have the gold in your sights. You need to have goals for your business, be it fiscal or personal. Having goals will give your business something to strive for, allowing your focus and resolve to influence your team.

You may feel like your business has reached the pinnacle of success, but there is no such thing when you’re an entrepreneur. The reality is, you can constantly grow your business, constantly learn new skills, and constantly try to take your business to the next level.

Follow Your Heart to Turn Passion Into Profit

By Success & Inspiration, Achieving Wealth, Foundations of Success, Planning for the future No Comments

turn-passion-into-profitWhen was the last time that you asked yourself if you love what you do? You might immediately give yourself an enthusiastic “yes”, while at the same time find yourself struggling to go into the office every morning. When you love what you do, others will take note and your passion will inspire and motivate them. You can easily spot businesses that are passionate about their craft. Their care and effort shows up in their work, which excites people to work with them.

It’s no secret that I love what I do. I feel like I was born to own a business and am grateful that I’ve been able to tap into my passion to thrust my entrepreneurial endeavours to the next level. Here are a few tips that I have for entrepreneurs that can help you turn your passion into profit.

Be honest with yourself: As I mentioned, you need to ask yourself if you love what you’re doing and actually take the time to think about your answer. If you realize that you really don’t love your work, you need to figure out what it is that you love and start on your path to get there. Of course this won’t be an easy task, especially if you’re a business owner, but in the end you will get much more satisfaction from finding your passion rather than slowly becoming bitter towards your own business.

Remind yourself about your passion: No matter how much you love what you do, everyone has their off-days. Tight deadlines, lackluster sales quarters, personal struggles… Overwhelming stress can make you doubt what you’re doing and that will slowly drain your love for your work. Remind yourself why you love what you do – hang an inspirational quote or image that resonates with you, talk with your team or simply take some time to reflect so you can reignite your passion.

Ignore the cynics: If you take a brief look online, you will find various articles written by business owners who say that doing what you love is the worst decision you can make when you’re in business. They claim that “career passions are rare” and not realistic. I strongly disagree with this notion, as everyone should be doing what they love. If you’re living your life doing something you have no passion for, you need to at least try to take the steps to go after your dreams.

Don’t forget the fun: At the end of the day, you need to remember to have fun. Entrepreneurs that start a company spurred from their passion find their business fun, but they need to spread that positive energy to their team. A serious, grim and frigid work environment won’t allow your team’s creativity to fully flow, which leads to uninspired work from your company.

Do you still find passion in what you do? When was the last time seriously reflected on this topic? I would love to talk more about this topic with everyone in the comments.

The Difference between Being a “Boss” and Being a Leader

By Success & Inspiration, Entrepreneurial, Foundations of Success, Leadership No Comments

difference-between-a-boss-and-a-leaderWhen you’re an entrepreneur who runs their own business, you might find yourself questioning your leadership techniques from time to time. Being a leader is no easy task, and business owners should take the time to reassess how they’re influencing their co-workers and staff. Over the past 12 years of my entrepreneurship, I’ve had my share of triumphs and failures concerning leadership. I’m constantly trying to re-evaluate and change my methods to ensure that I’m not “bossing” my team around, but that I’m providing an avenue for personal and professional growth instead.

The terms “boss” and “leader” are often used interchangeably, but there is actually quite a big difference between the two. A boss watches and supervises workers to ensure that tasks and projects are getting delivered on time without any difficulties. A leader will give the same list of tasks, but also brings with them a level of inspiration and guidance. Leaders are there for their employees, and instead of telling their team to complete a task, they provide guidance and offer different methods to complete them.

Another quality that a boss possesses is that they only focus on their projects one at a time, and once those projects are complete they move on to the next item on their list without considering the big picture.  Leaders understand that every project your team completes should grow your company in some shape or form, be it financially or professionally. This isn’t limited to simply successes either – even a failed project or a lost client can help your team grow by realizing what mistakes you need to avoid in the future.

Lastly, a boss will examine their employee’s work and criticize their mistakes, while a leader will view these mistakes as coaching opportunities. It’s vital that instead of simply telling your staff why something is wrong, you coach them through their mistakes, tell them what they can do to avoid these mistakes in the future and how they can improve their work. There is nothing worse than having someone on your team who is too afraid to approach you with their best work because they’re concerned with how much you’ll dislike their efforts, instead of providing them with advice on how they can improve.

Of course, the transition from being a “boss” to becoming a leader takes time. I find myself struggling with these challenges almost every day, and even after 12 years I constantly remind myself to look for all of the coaching opportunities available for my team. It will take time and dedication, but the outcomes are well worth the effort.

Making goals is easy – Sticking to them is the challenge.

By Entrepreneurial, Foundations of Success, Planning for the future, Personal Accountability One Comment

The beginning of the year can be hectic for entrepreneurs. Once the year has settled in, it becomes far too easy to lose the focus and determination you had at the beginning of January. As I mentioned in one of my recent blog posts, I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, yet I still find myself being more focused at the beginning of the year. It takes dedication to keep that focus going, and it becomes more difficult as the months pass by. Anyone can stay determined for a month, but it takes a lot of strength and willpower to stay determined for an entire year.

There are many things you can do to stay focused on the goals you’ve set for yourself, and these are just a few things I do on a regular basis to stay focused.

Making sure that you have clear goals for yourself is very important, but it’s also important to be realistic about them. Instead of telling yourself “I’m going to reach a certain goal by the end of the year”, break them down to weekly or daily tasks. Doing this is an easier way to keep yourself accountable to your long-term goals, and it’s also easier to check things off when they come up instead of auditing yourself at the end of the year.

An important part of staying focused is also making sure that you’re taking the necessary time for yourself to unwind. I’ve been talking at length in the past few weeks about how I have been unwinding with some close friends on my beer league team of the Screaming Eagles. It’s important to find a past-time that you not only find entertaining, but that also lets you completely escape and forget about the stress that was brought about from your work.

Another way to de-stress is to simply unplug yourself from your smart phone and e-mail for about an hour or so before you go to bed. While that may seem challenging to those of us who are constantly checking our e-mails, and may also seem counter intuitive to staying focused, but no one can operate on a 24/7 basis and over-working yourself is one of the traps that entrepreneurs fall victim to that makes them lose sight of their goals.

These are just a few ways that you can stay focused this month and, in reality, for the rest of the year. Now that the first month of the year has passed by, this is the time where you can prove to yourself that those goals you made for yourself weren’t just for show – now it’s time to attain them.