Checklists – By Ciaran McGuigan

The next time you have your car serviced look at the bill. Usually there will be a complete inventory of all the tasks, inspections and repairs that the garage conducted on your car. These are not the same for every car, each car will have a different procedure dependent on the brand of the vehicle, its age and the mileage.

When your car is brought in, the mechanic does not just look at it, pop the hood and guess what needs to be done. They have a series of diagnostic tests which are tailored for that vehicle at that moment in its life. These are essentially checklists, the right person doing the right thing, in the right order in the right way.

The most experienced mechanic will use the same system the apprentice uses. Checklists are the way to streamline and co-ordinate your sales activity so that it is more productive and profitable.

So if you find yourself or your team arriving at the office, looking at your desks and then figuring out what you should be doing you need to start putting when and what you do down on paper. These checklists don’t have to be very complex. Simple and clear is the way to go.

For instance, a key philosophy of mine when running a sales campaign is 10 x 10, that is ten prospecting calls every day by 10 a.m. I also compound this by having 5 after 5, that is five sales letters after five p.m. These tasks are part of my daily activity management and I have a checklist to follow my progress.

If you don’t know where to start, find the top sales person in your business and ask if you can ‘shadow’ them for a day or two. Observe what they do and when and write it down. You can use this as the foundation for your own series of pro forma checklists which will give you the freedom to grow your business sales.

The Market Clock is Ticking… – By Ciaran McGuigan

The Market Clock is Ticking

Tick, tick, tick….. if you listen carefully you can hear the market moving. It never stops – always moving, changing, finding the path of least resistance.

Often when the market changes – it comes as a surprise. You may find your infrastructure, setup, overheads, sales team skills and makeup are wrong for the current market. Tempus Fugit!

At this time of year a lot of businesses are planning or reviewing their performance. With this in mind I have included my guide / clock which may help you understand what behaviors to look for and what your focus should be for you and your team.

Here is how to read the model. Just like a clock it reads from 12 Midnight clockwise. Start in the center & chose the center quadrant which best describes your current business:

  • Peak: Business is booming and never been better,
  • Shrinking: Business is falling and very competitive,
  • Slump: Business is at best flat and it is even hard to find low margin work,
  • Expanding; Although not highly profitable, inquiries are increasing and demand seems to be growing.

The next circle represents the key activity the business owner / director needs to deploy to that market context;

  • Negotiating with your suppliers, employers and any contracted providers. Generating more competitive terms with clients and suppliers alike
  • Investing: Key infrastructure, software and support services. Investing in research, strategy product development management and planning.
  • Marketing: Communicating brand values internally and externally. Good public relations, media coverage, making news – being newsworthy & getting your value in-front of your prospects
  • Selling: Leaving no money on the table – maximizing your revenue & sustainably harvesting the market

The next (third) Circle represents your key focus with your sales team

  • Firing: Get rid of the non producers. If the bottom 20% of your team don’t even earn their own salary – I bet if you had to pay for them with your own salary you would let them go. So be nice but be firm.
  • Motivating: Now your team is smaller – although they have the skills – they need to be motivated and engaged with the challenge – so create incentives – make them short term and based on behaviors as well as results.
  • Hiring: Inquiries are coming in and demand seems to be growing although your margins are still low – now is the time to be recruiting and building your capability – although this will increase your short term overhead it will ensure you are well placed to profit from the next market cycle.
  • Training: Invest in the tactical selling skills and behaviors your team need to maximize every sales opportunity

The final – outside circle represents the ‘mindset’ of your team in relation to the prevalent market conditions. I encourage you to study the model and relate where your business is and then how your current strategies, tactics and behaviors relate back to the market and importantly what you are doing to prepare for the next stage.

Each quadrant of the clock is not balanced – ie if your market has been flat or in a slump for x2 years it does not mean the next period will be of the same length. Your particular business may go through the entire cycle on a monthly basis where others may spend years in each quadrant. The key thing is to adapt and change your strategy and tactics, find areas which are in expansion and growth and move into those asap.

Time for Coffee

In North Sydney up the road from my office is a small coffee shop. There is nothing particularly unusual about this shop – it looks like any one of the thousands of other cafes and restaurants littered across the country.

Each morning as I walk by on the way to my office there is a fantastic smell of freshly roasted coffee beans swirling around the pavement delighting pedestrians’ noses as they walk by. This fantastic, evocative aroma wakens my and all other commuters’ senses. Something they are doing works. Inside, groups of customers are seated on bentwood chairs, leaning in on small round tables holding their latte or flat white cupped in their hands deep in conversation. The working day has started and the buzz of laughter and conversation empowers the beginning of their day.

Now only a short walk, just some 10 meters away, I also regularly pass by another café – this one is noticeably quieter. Almost library like, a few silent customers are sitting alone reading the morning’s first edition. This bugs me – why is this so? Why is one café flat out and another struggling? I think the first coffee shop does actually sell better coffee but not that good. Not good enough to explain why their business is at least five times busier.

Prompted by this puzzle each day this question has been bouncing about my mind looking for resolution. Recently one Saturday afternoon while watching my son’s football team playing in their local league I started thinking about sport and winners and losers in relation to the café scenario.

Often the difference between coming first and second is very small in terms of actual technical performance [hundredths of a second in a 100m sprint] but vast in terms of reward for the athlete. Take golf for example. In golf the difference between the world’s best and players ranked much lower [around 150th down the list] is about one stroke for each round played. An average round of golf will take 72 shots. In his best year Tiger Woods earned over 115 million dollars – many times the revenue of those whose actual golfing ability is really not that far off.

My point is this; it is essential when you are starting out on any venture to aim to be the very best. Identify the characteristics of the current #1 business; create a measure and set targets and goals to exceed them. If your business is to be successful you can’t afford to be second in sales.

An excerpt from  ‘How to Build a World Class Sales Team’ by Ciaran McGuigan

Do you remember the first time you won a customer?

My first customer’s name was Marcello. I can’t remember his surname but I do recall his first name because of the way he pronounced it. It sounded like ‘March hello’. Marcello was in his fifties and was a small, grey haired first generation Italian. Although he had been in Australia for over twenty years his English still sounded as if he was just off the boat. He was a charming and personable man and together with his wife owned and operated a little pizza restaurant on Willoughby road in Crows Nest, Sydney.

All that morning I had been collecting ‘no’s’ and ‘not interested’s’ and I am sure I must have looked like the novice I was. All the other guys in the sales team had made their quota. I was the new guy and at this point hadn’t sold anything. Dejected and ready to give up, that winter morning the gods must have been smiling on me. Perhaps there was something about what I said or did when I knocked on their door that got me past the gate but that meeting gave me an opportunity that changed my life.

It was about 11:00am and the dining area of the restaurant was empty. I could hear the clatter of pots and pans as the kitchen staff [his wife] was preparing for the expected lunchtime crowd. Marcello had led me to the back and invited me to sit down in a small booth. It was dark with lots of wood and covered with red and white checked tablecloths. Marcello sat down opposite me and probably with too much enthusiasm I sat down and immediately started talking about the ‘features and benefits’ of our unique advertising plans. I thought I was doing rather well until near the middle of my memorized and rehearsed pitch he gently smiled and raised both of his hands as if he were surrendering to my attack.

He stood up and at that point I thought I had blown it. Speaking as he walked towards the bar he told me to slow down and take a breath, then, he suggested it might be a good idea to ask some questions. He continued walking and once at the bar he shouted something in his native Italian into the kitchen. A few moments later he returned to our table with two glasses and a few napkins. He sat down, looked at me and asked me to begin again.

Initially, slowing down my pitch wasn’t easy and my questions felt as if they came across awkward and constructed. What seemed like an hour in reality was only five minutes. His wife arrived with a large cheese pizza and a half carafe of red wine. Marcello smiled at me and said that if we were going to do business then we should have something to eat. It came as real relief that I could use this as a break.

Between sips of Lambrusco and mouthfuls of fresh crusty pizza I discovered that it is hard to speak when you are eating. Slowly my sales pitch became a conversation. Our conversation widened and we chatted about advertising, Italy, Ireland, pizza and politics. I found talking wasn’t hard and didn’t need to be engineered. As I relaxed my mind had the freedom to think about how his advertising would work better. There were many other moments – but the one that stands out for me was when I chose the moment and asked for his business.

Fifteen minutes later I walked out. I had a cheque for $2,000 in my jacket pocket. $400 of that would become my first commission payment. I am forever grateful to Marcello for teaching me that valuable sales lesson. The feeling of being on top of the world, winning a deal, truly engaging with a customer has been the bedrock of my career and every sale I have ever made.

I am passionate about helping sales people understand what they need to do to make a difference when it counts. I’m guessing that as you are reading this you probably need to lift either your business or your own sales team’s performance. Successful sales people know that their profession is both an art and a science. All too often however sales teams lack in the science department. This can be frustrating for everyone. While some businesses flounder and struggle to earn every dollar their neighbour can often be out performing them in ways they would consider impossible.

An excerpt from  ‘How to Build a World Class Sales Team’ by Ciaran McGuigan