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Archive for July, 2012

Developing a Structured Learning Path

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 26, 2012 NO COMMENTS

One of the most effective ways to engage training participants and ensure retention is through the creation of structured learning paths. Using a structured approach gives participants an idea of what their learning will look like over a particular unit or time period, and also allows their learning to build naturally from one subject to the next.

There are several ways to create structured learning, but first and foremost remember that any learning path must be accurately recorded and communicated to participants.One of the first ways to create structured learning is to space classroom training alternately with “real-life” or on the job interventions.

For example, bank account representatives can attend classroom training on opening basic accounts, such as checking and savings accounts. After the classroom portions, participants can be allowed to go back to their offices to observe and open basic accounts – but no more. This type of controlled OTJ training can enhance the classroom experience and prepare participants for the next series of more advanced courses. Obviously this sequence can take place over a period of days or even hours, depending on the size of the class and the organization.

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What Determines Value in Training?

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 19, 2012 NO COMMENTS

How does one determine value when training? Does it seem possible that many of us have lost our ability to correctly assess the value of the programs that are delivered? I know, starting an article with two questions is not the ideal method for making an argument. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that the value of ‘questions’ is greater than the value of ‘answers’. Therefore, I submit these questions for review

A traditional method for determining value is in the ‘content’. Many programs are built around the training content. The belief is that the ‘content’ is of such great value that irrespective of the delivery, that the student will immediately absorb the material and be capable of mastery of the topic. (At least that is how many training departments are acting in today’s corporate environment.)

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Sales Forecasting

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 12, 2012 NO COMMENTS

Summary: Continuing with our series on Sales Cycle Management, we now move to the second component, Sales Forecasting. Now that you’ve identified opportunities, a good forecast will allow you to realistically plan future sales.

The second component of Sales Cycle Management (SCM) is Sales Forecasting. Many times, salespeople and sales managers do not take a realistic view of how many sales they can undertake during a particular time period. This view makes time spent on Opportunity Management less worthwhile, and makes a traditional sales pipeline stale. What are the benefits of Sales Forecasting?

When you take the time to forecast, you’ll be able to analyze past sales, annual growth, and sales and growth as opposed to industry competitors. In addition to this, forecasting allows you to more closely analyze your price and cost structure, which means you have a better idea of where profit starts to kick in. In other words, a realistic sales forecast can allow you to virtually guarantee profit. When you look at the numbers, sales forecasting is a great way to look at the future from an objective standpoint. But how do you go about creating a sales forecast?

The first piece is to have an accurate record of past sales. For some organizations, this is easy, but for others, record keeping may have been less than accurate. Collect the most solid past data you can, going back several years if possible. From the past and current standpoint, it’s a good idea to understand what factors, both internal and external, have acted on sales and continue to act on sales. Make a list of these factors, just to be sure they are understood. For example, external factors could range from seasonal demand for the product or service, general economic conditions, to the activity of competitors – and their product, as well as consumer conditions such as income and employment. But what about internal factors, such as labor conditions, the organization’s credit policy, and inventory? Are there changes in the manufacturing process, price, or production numbers at any point? Once you’ve determined what factors act upon your sales, you can ask further, more detailed questions about the sales forecast itself.

First, what products or services are you going to be forecasting? Are they grouped or separate? In most cases, it’s a good idea to create at least separate product or service groupings for the forecast – this way, your forecast will start out as precise as possible. Next, ask about the time frame of the forecast. How far in the future can you realistically go? Third, consider frequency. What is the frequency of actually creating the forecast, and what is the frequency of review and/or revision? Finally, it’s a good idea to come up with an acceptable margin of error based on cost, expense, and profit. The margin of error is also a good test of the realism of the forecast. At this point in sales forecasting, you may have to take an analytical look at account records, financial statements, sales reporting, and post sale activities. For example, you’ll want to look at all of the activity that occurred up to the point of sale and after to get a good idea of cost and expense. These sales records should be part of your Opportunity Management system, anyway.

As you move forward, you must finally determine if you’d like to see a qualitative or quantitative forecast. In simple terms, quantitative analysis takes into account all of the factors we’ve discussed and makes an estimation of sales based on those factors. The qualitative analysis will use a mathematical formula to create a numbers-based sales forecast. If your organization is smaller, you may want to try a quantitative approach first, as a realistic starting point. This is especially true if your financial staff is smaller. In larger organizations with a larger financial staff, a qualitative approach is possible. When looking at these approaches, keep in mind that a stable, consistent product can use a standard mathematical formula for forecasting. On the other hand, an unstable product may find a forecast in varied mathematical formulas.

However you decide to move forward with your sales forecast, you’ll be taking a less realistic pipeline and rooting it to more realistic sales possibilities. Once you’ve created your forecast, you’ll be ready to move to the next component of SCM, Account Planning.

Copyright 2009-2012 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management for executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

Learn more about Bryant at LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson

Bryant Nielson - EzineArticles Expert Author

 

 


Five Focuses For Sales

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 9, 2012 NO COMMENTS

Many of us believe the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” idea when it comes to our sales processes. Although this is a great way to keep a good thing going, there are some sales concepts you can focus on for the New Year that will not only keep your sales moving, but may improve them, as well. Some of these items may be part of your process already, but becoming aware of them and how you execute them can lead to progress. Make an effort to focus on these five sales elements in every customer interaction.

To begin with, always go for the benefits. This may be elementary to some salespeople, but it’s sometimes easy to forget. While preparing your sales presentation, remember to ask how your product or service will benefit your client – and answer the question. Remember, the client is not concerned about features as much as they are about how the product will improve their lives, their bottom line, or their business. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and determine why he or she might need your product or service. Your presentation should focus on that aspect.

Next, try spinning your sales language. The words and phrases you use every day become part of your rote usage, and it may be difficult to identify which ones could create a negative connotation for your potential client. And remember that clients are becoming more savvy, more aware, and more sophisticated every day, so words like sold, contract, and signature might be falling out of use. Instead, try words like acquire, agreement, and approve. So analyze your sales presentation for words that may not work anymore. The opposite side of this, of course, is to analyze your presentation for words that have a positive connotation – and use them where appropriate. To make this exercise work, you must again put yourself in your client’s shoes and think about the last experience you had as a client and not a salesperson. The simple act of redefining your language can bring new life to your presentation – and create a much more positive experience for your client.

Third, try to get the best out of your prospecting process this year. Determine what your best prospecting method is by analyzing your response ratio in various mediums. Be sure to count every medium you use, whether it’s phone, email, direct mail, networking or face-to-face. It may also be beneficial to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on your prospecting, as well. For example, do the costs of direct mail far outweigh its benefits? If so, is there a way to take your direct mail to email and eliminate a majority of the cost? While looking at your prospecting methods, be honest with yourself and determine if it’s time to make additions to those methods. For example, do you avoid email because it seems impersonal? Try writing an email in a conversational tone – there’s no need to be completely formal just because you’re writing instead of speaking. Keep in mind that more sophisticated clients may be found in newer locations, such as social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. The analysis of your prospecting methods requires you to take a hard look at yourself and your methods – and make additions and corrections as needed.

Next, regroup your referrals. Many of us know that referrals keep business going, maybe even more than prospecting. But look at your referral process to determine when customers respond best. In many instances, your customer may respond best right after the sale, when they are excited about the product or service. But, depending on the product or service, customers may need to try it out for a time before you ask them to refer. Once you’ve determined where referrals have the most “bang” in your sales process, try to add the referral request at that point every time.

Finally, make this year the time to discover your competition. In many cases, we’re all offering the same products and services, with minor changes in product and major changes in brand and delivery. That’s no excuse to ignore the competition. Find out who the competition is, what they offer, and what makes clients likely to use their product. What do you perceive as the competition’s strengths and weaknesses? Use this information to handle objections and to explain the difference between you and your competition. Taking the time to get to know them will help you improve sales.

Make these five activities a part of your regular sales review this year.

Copyright 2009-2012 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– offers 25+ years of training and talent management for executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.

Learn more about Bryant at LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson

Bryant Nielson - EzineArticles Expert Author

 

 


How To Get The Most From Your Employees

By Bryant Nielson, Managing Director On July 5, 2012 NO COMMENTS

Production is at the center of all business.  Knowing exactly how much you’re getting from your managerial staff and the employees working under is imperative.  Under-performing sectors of the office can shed light on quarterly gains/losses, and it’s here where you might determine how understaffed or overstaffed your company is once the accountant comes calling.

But sometimes it’s not about the size of the employees.  Sometimes it could be the structure of the business where, in some cases, it isn’t as uniformed as it should be.  Part of that could be from being a startup and not having immediate access to amenities such as a larger office space and/or top-of-the-line technology at their employees’ fingertips.  Mostly though, it’s a case of insufficient training for all parties involved…from the CEO on down to supervisors to entry-level employees.

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