We bring you the latest post from our favorite guest blogger. Readers ask the questions. He gives the answers. This is Sales Mailbag with the Apex Predator.

Hello again, sales pros. 

Rather than continue spelling out the 48 Laws of Power for you, I've decided that my commitment to the Ambition Blog would be better spent talking directly to the people. Welcome to my Mailbag.

Sales Mailbag

The Sales Mailbag is all about dialogue. So in each post, I'll be answering 5-6 specific questions that you, the adoring public, have posed to me over email.

And unlike that former boss of yours that was too nice about everything and ultimately got fired because no one respected him, I'll be answering each of your queries with hard blasts of brutal, honest truth. 

Sales Mailbag with the Apex Predator

Now that we've dispensed with the pleasantries, let's get to your questions.

Q: Dear Apex, my boss just came down on me really hard because I've been below quota 3 months in a row. It's killing my confidence. What should I do?" 

-- Betsy S., Milwaukee

Thanks for writing in, Betsy. Failure to hit quota is inexcusable. I suggest buying Bucks season tickets and diving into an ice pond.

Q: Hey Apex. Mike here, 2nd year sales rep, quota carrying. Got a question about qualifying leads on the phone - what's the quickest way to tell whether someone is actually the decision maker. 

-- Money Mike, Scottsdale, AZ. 

Congrats on carrying quota, Mike, and sorry that you have to live in Scottsdale. You ever meet a girl over there named Chastity?

Well, if you ever do, NEVER tell her your real address, Mike!!

Now, to your question. There's only one way to be sure that you're talking to a decision-maker, and that's going a few levels higher than the Director/VP/Manager you discovered on LinkedIn.

Example scenario: You're a sales rep for a company that sells enterprise software that automates payroll, benefits, timesheets, compliance and so forth. 

You, in all your naive wisdom, hop on the phone with a VP of Human Resources. Rejection. You call another VP. Rejection. You call 10 more.

Rejection. Rejection. Rejection.

Dazed and confused, you wonder where the issue is. Is it my pitch? My outreach channel? Maybe I should be sending an email instead?

And during this entire thought process, there's only one thing you don't question: Whether the VP of HR role is actually a viable decision-maker for your product.

decision maker

Pictured: The type of people Mike's been calling. 

One day, you happen across a presentation from Matt Epstein, the CMO of a little company called Zenefits (who sells the exact product I just described). 

About 6 or 7 minutes in, you hear the following words:

"HR people responded lower than average to our initial marketing emails. CEOs and other Chief Executives responded the most."

Moral of the story: Err high in your outreach. Don't give Chastity your real address. 

Q: Apex, my sales team is constantly b****ing at me about how bad our marketing is. It hurts to admit it, but they're absolutely right. There's not enough inbound leads to go around and 90 percent of the ones we do get don't fit our customer profile. What should I do?

-- Leadless in Los Angeles

Hi Leadless. 

First of all, I prefer sign-offs that don't leave my readers wondering how they wandered into a Dear Abby column.

Sleepless in Seattle was a terrible movie and I don't appreciate you bringing that hokey, family-friendly s*** into my Sales Mailbag.

Now that we've got that out of the way -- great question! 

First of all, yes, most marketing departments suck. There's nothing worse than a marketing department who consciously dissociates itself with sales numbers.

Never, ever trust a Marketing Leader who consistently, unironically uses the words "brand" or "viral" when talking strategy.

Sales Mailbag

Pictured: NOT UP IN HERE!

Now, in your specific situation, the real issue isn't that marketing is not feeding you leads. That's common. 

The issue is that you expect marketing to feed you leads when they appear fundamentally incapable of doing so barring a major overhaul. Something has to give.

You have three options.

Option 1. Request a summit with your Chief Executives and Marketing Leadership.

Air out your grievances and figure out a new plan of attack.

Option 2. Forget marketing altogether. 

Figure out how to segment your sales team into Sales Development Reps and Account Execs. Then, construct a plan to turn your new BDRs into ace lead generators.

Option 3. Start a Support Group. 

I've already got a name for it. S.P.A.S.M. As in, Salespeople Protesting Against S*** Marketing.      

Q:  Need help with closing, Apex. Last year, I lost a few deals because of last-minute objections from prospects on the verge of signing. Any advice? I'll hang up and listen. 

-- "Clutch" Clyde S., Wichita Falls

Hey, thanks for writing in, Clyde!

I see you used some self-deprecating, gallows humor in your sign-off. That means you've taken the first step to recovery, which is admitting that you have a clutch-ness problem.

Like your peers Rob Norwood, Nick Anderson and the 05-06 Gonzaga Bulldogs, you're not a bad performer. Just a choke artist who needs help. 

Pictured: R.I.P. Adam Morrisson's dignity.

The good news: Over time, clutchness levels can regenerate. By following this patented 6-Step program (and joining your local chapter of Chokers Anonymous), you'll be back to healthy clutchness levels in no time. 

Step 1. Admit you have a problem with clutchness.

Step 2. Accept that you are in control and that preparation is the path to overcoming your addiction to choking.

Step 3. Write down all the situations where you choked, and why they happened.

Ex. Prospective buyer(s) balked at your price. Didn't like the scope of your services or product functionality. Lacked consensus. Were uncertain of return-on-investment.

Step 4. Get help from your peers.

Ex. Talk to the guys who are crushing it. Walk through situations where they snuffed out last-minute objections. Understand what they did and why it worked.

Pictured: "Hi, Clyde!"

Step 5. Apologize to the the thing your choking addiction hurt most. (Your bank account)

Step 6. Practice.

Ex. Role-play last-minute objection scenarios over and over again, until you can start anticipating them before they even arrive.

There you go, Clyde. If you need a clutch-ness sponsor, let me know.

Q: Just got my first commission check. What should I do with it? 

-- Jenny from Philly.

Congratulations, Jenny from Philly. Three things:

1. Promise yourself you won't spend a dime of it on Eagles/76ers tickets. 

2. Give some of it back to your customers. Don't send gift cards or fruit baskets, though. You'll look like a goddamned rookie.

3. Provided you respect this person, ask your boss(es) how he/she invests commission checks. You'll look like a goddamned pro.

Last but not least, there's always your best option: Buy the first plane ticket out of Philadelphia and start over somewhere else.

sales mailbag

Pictured: Evacuate immediately, Jenny.

Send Apex Your Mailbag Questions!

Brilliant, free advice has a quota, too. And this post has just hit it. Time to wrap things up.

Thanks to all those who volunteered to be the guinea pigs for this first Sales Mailbag. We'll be doing another one next week, so send me your questions at apex@ambition.com

Thanks for your unwavering love and adulation, readers. See you next time.

Read More from the Apex Predator

The Apex Predator writes regularly for Ambition. He has a contractual obligation to recommend scheduling a demo to see Ambition's sales management platform. Read his previous articles below.

  1. Sales Motivation from the Apex Predator
  2. More Sales Motivation from the Apex Predator
  3. Sales Rescue with the Apex Predator
  4. The Return of the Apex Predator
  5. The Apex Predator's 5 Essential Sales Articles
  6. Sales Mailbag with the Apex Predator
  7. 15 Real Songs to Pump Up Your Sales Reps
  8. Why You're Losing the War for Talent
  9. The 50 Worst Things Happening in Sales Right Now
  10. The Apex Predator Explains the Laws of Power

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