Sell

Client Referrals and Recommendations: Asking is a Good Thing!

I was recently involved in a sales discussion, where one of the folks posed a topic to discuss. “I hate asking customers for recommendations or referrals. It feels, well…pushy. It’s like I’m making it about me instead of about them.”

I get it. The most trusted salespeople focus on the needs of the client and not their personal agendas. It’s all about the client. As a result, asking for an endorsement can feel uncomfortable, as though it is in opposition to customer centricity.

Simply stated, the testimony of a happy customer is one of the best possible marketing tools. Seeking recommendations is not mutually exclusive from taking care of the customer.

A few tips:

  1. Start with your best clients—those with whom you have the best relationships and that you know are achieving their desired results.

  2. Shift your perspective. Remember, people like to help people. Typically, if you have a happy customer, they will want to help you.

  3. Begin the conversation by asking if they are pleased with your product, service, their results, etc. If they are happy, you are in an ideal position to ask “do you know of anyone else who would benefit?” or “Would you be willing to talk with a potential customer about your experience with me?”

Regularly asking questions about the customer’s experience is a smart practice overall. If you receive critical feedback, you’ve gained additional knowledge and an opportunity to make the client happier. When you hear positive comments, your efforts are affirmed. Asking for referrals/recommendations becomes increasingly natural, and everyone wins.

Promoting Your Superstar to Manager

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You are a business owner or leader, and you are looking to hire a sales leader. You might be thinking, “This is a no-brainer. I’ll promote my top performing sales rep. He’ll train everyone to do what he does, and sales will go through the roof!”

Not so fast. More often than not, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen, as the two positions require very different skill sets and motivators.

Over the years, I have known many highly successful salespeople who have jumped into a sales leadership role thinking it to be the “next logical step,” and quickly found it to be the wrong fit.

“All I do is deal with drama…I didn’t sign up to be HR.”

“Why don’t they just listen!”

“I’m tired of being a babysitter.”

“I just want to be responsible for myself.”

I’m not trying malign salespeople. I love the selling environment for many reasons and have surrounded myself with these folks my entire adult life. But let’s face it, many salespeople march to the beat of their own drum, like to create their own rules, and are a bit egocentric. Those qualities, while extremely helpful in sales, do not an effective sales leader make.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before making this jump and potentially putting the right talent into the wrong seat.

Does s/he find joy in helping others? A strong sales leader loves to teach and relishes in the success of his/her direct reports.

Is s/he a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person? I’m not looking for Pollyanna, but sales leaders must be optimistic and solution-oriented. No whining and no dwelling on problems.

Does s/he build genuine credibility with others? A foundation of trust is critical. This person tries to do what is best, and not just what is in his/her best interest. S/he is known for “having everyone’s backs.”

Is s/he self-aware and able to self-regulate? People are people and people have personal “stuff.” It’s essential for a leader to understand this notion and take things in stride without displaying frustration.

An effective sales leader learns how to amplify the employees’ strengths and mitigate their shortcomings. S/he wants the best for his/her people and makes them want to give their very best in return. Doing so requires advocacy, optimism, humility, and emotional intelligence. These words may or may not describe your sales superstar. Proceed judiciously.

Hiring in Sales? First, Some Dos and Don'ts

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Looking to hire a salesperson or sales team to grow your business?

Fantastic!

Hiring the right salesperson, even for the experienced hiring manager, can be tricky. After all, salespeople SELL….so it stands to reason that they should be pretty darned good at selling themselves.

When interviewing a candidate for a sales role, consider the following “Dos and Don’ts”:

DO ask questions about the following:

1.       Drive/Motivation—why does s/he get out of bed in the morning? Does s/he exude energy? How does s/he set goals and plan to achieve them? Consider using a high-quality assessment tool to measure drive and motivation.

2.       Work Ethic—does s/he do whatever it takes to get the job done, or do they take the easy road? Most candidates will tell you that they have what it takes to get the job done. Probe about difficult experiences and how they handle adversity.

3.       Curiosity—the easiest way to evaluate this is the caliber of the questions s/he asks YOU about the role and the company. If s/he does not ask thoughtful questions, s/he will not do so with a potential customer.  

DO ask about track record. Dig in. Check for missing data. If the performance includes a downturn, is there a solid explanation? How did s/he perform compared to peers?

DO ask for specifics and examples in every question. “Tell me about a time when….” is a great way to frame each question.

For example, use “tell me about your greatest sales achievement and what you did to secure the business,” instead of “why are you successful in sales?”

Listen for specificity and for “I” rather than “we” in the response.  If you hear “we” follow with “tell me about your individual contribution.”

 

DON’T gloss over the tough questions (or worse yet, hire) just because the person is “likable.”

DON’T rush the process because you want to get somebody in place. Hiring the wrong person is NEVER better than hiring no one. If you find yourself thinking “s/he will probably be fine,” it is not the right hire.

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DON’T forget to ask for references. By all means, call each source!  Does a former boss give a glowing testimonial? Awesome! Conversely, if the reference is vague, or if the person does not call you back, it is a bad sign.

Consider asking for references from their two most recent employers. Be sure to speak directly with their direct supervisor.

Finally, DON’T hire unless the candidate asks for the job, or closes you. If he/she does not ask for the job, s/he will not ask a potential customer for the business.

Making the wrong hire is costly. Consider the time lost in onboarding, training, recruiting, morale, etc. This can cost up to three times the annual salary.

For professional guidance in hiring top performers, I highly recommend Alec Broadfoot at VisionSpark.  http://visionsparksearch.com/

If you would like professional support in getting your salesperson off to a fast and $$$ start, give me a shout!

Good luck!