May 192019
 

Several years ago I wrote about customers asking for information. This is often a way to blow off salespeople.

The post refers to the concept of activity versus result. We in sales can show activity, but it should always point to a result. Salespeople ought to want to move forward with their process, with their quota and with sales. Salespeople do not want to have activity for its own sake.

 

Collateral, documentation, etc. have their place. They bring a prospect to an educated point, they raise customer awareness and bring customers to salespeople. If the customer is already speaking to sales then it is time to move forward with our process. Collateral here makes sense only if it is in conjunction with a bona fide sales process, next steps that are time-bound (i.e. exactly when?) and speak to a comprehension of pain and issues.

Otherwise, a customer saying “send me a pdf” is akin to their saying “let me give you something to do so I avoid actually speaking with you or taking action.” Let us be frank. How many times is “send me information” a polite way to say “I am dismissing you.”

 

Customer: “send me information.”

Salesperson Good: “Great! Customer is interested. I will send them information.” Most of the time this leads to a customer disappearing on salesperson.

Salesperson Better: “Thanks for requesting information. However, what exactly are you looking to find out? I want to make sure it is exactly relevant to your need. I may also be able to answer it right now.” Most of the time this either leads to a serious sales prospect (because Better salesperson will dig out pain and make the information relevant and personalized) or disqualifying a false prospect.

 

Salespersons should ask themselves honestly: how many times have you sent “information” to customers and it has not only not resulted in sales, but also there has not even been a follow-through?

 

Sales happen when customers have a reason to act. The Salesperson has tallied the ROI, spoken to the decision-maker and made them know why they need the solution. In such cases, the very least one could do is couple the sending of the information with a Calendar to discuss it. Although, again, why send information that the customer can discuss with their Account Manager/Regional Sales Manager?

 

*Things that need to go away: Confusing activity with actually selling something

Photograph Credit: Geralt

 

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!
Feb 042019
 

Aha! Clickbait. Well, not intentionally, but it looked like it as soon as I typed it.

Someone asked ‘What would it be if there is one thing you would do or suggest in sales?’ Search these pages and you would see an emphasis on hard work, process and sympathy for customers. Otherwise, there are none no matter how many articles, books or advisors scream about the magical silver bullet.

With that said, the best answer this writer would come up with is to cross the t’s, dot the i’s and have a process. Notice that each of the below is several items in one.

1- Do a meticulous job of conducting discovery. There is no solution for a customer without one.

2- Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think in their terms.

3- Make sure that both internally (manager, salesperson and the supporting team) and externally (buyer and seller) the languages are the same and the lexicon is shared. Otherwise, the results of the questions asked from the customer and shared and thought about internally are not necessarily translated correctly.

4- Create a TCO

Is this as close to a silver bullet as sales could get? What do you think?

 

*Things that need to go away: Articles about that one top thing that accomplishes it all.

Photograph Credit: Viergacht

Be Sociable, Share!
Dec 282018
 

Photograph Credit: Geralt

 

Cold calling for an enterprise product or service is not the same as cold calling for a low cost item. A high value cold call is not a hit and run. It is not a quickie. Respectfully, it is not B2C. It is not to sell the product or service. Sellers should internalize the difference.

 

Let’s assume that sellers understand that a cold call should never be a cold call by now. So what is it for if enterprise prospecting is not to close a sale? It is to start a process. It is to understand the process. It is to go from cold to lukewarm. It is about a human connecting with a human and to lay the foundation for a relationship. Hard selling will not work.

 

This is not an easy process, which is why sellers must take the time to not make it any harder for both sides. The caller needs to garner enough interest to begin a conversation and a process. That is all. Let’s compare the process to a marriage (OK don’t get excited). No one begins the process by proposing and getting a ‘yes’ on the first date or meeting. With the obvious said how does the dance, which is the process to gain interest, show industry and role-based relevance and prove merit begin?

 

  • It begins with the above-mentioned research and relevance factors. Why and how can you be relatable to them because it is never about the caller. It is about the prospect.
  • Armed with those then comes the short, open-ended questions to obtain guidance for the next steps. Prospects are not stupid and do not need to be spoon-fed or have their time wasted. They are actively assessing if there is a reason they should stay on a call (or e-mail chain) with you.
  • It is up to the caller to set parameters however. Ask and be guided, but also have a reason for your call because you are the expert. As the publisher, creator, vendor or seller you have knowledge of what you can do for them and how it has tangibly helped persons and companies like them. This requires the caller to be confident and convey the same.
  • Stay away from jargon and product names. Assuming they mean something to someone will either lead to putting people off or asking them to potentially admit they are ignorant.
  • Know where you are going with it. To state the obvious the point is not to feel good about reaching somebody, adding connections on LinkedIn or following someone on Twitter. These are all means to an end. The point is to begin a relationship.

Bonus: Measure, Review, Track. Assess your success rate by number of ‘touches’ and over specific lengths of time to know what works and what does not, how you are doing over a comparable measure of time and adopt what works and change what does not. This includes not only assessing the first touch, but also the continuous process of working with prospects no matter which stage of the process and relationship one is in. Bottom-line: if the first approach content does not work it needs to be changed.

Photograph Credit: Mohamed Hassan

 

Practice and know the reason behind the cold call and prospecting. One never knows when the connection is the one and only opportunity to begin the process. As always, the fundamentals apply. The foundation for success is asking, doing and doing both more and often.

 

PS: And for goodness’ sake if you cannot feel genuinely good about your product or service, cannot stand behind it or know it is not helpful to the potential customer run, don’t walk, to your boss/engineering/manufacturing/programming/whatever department to get the item changed and improved or a new job or back to school.

 

*Things That Need to go away: Cold Calling And Not Knowing Target Industry And Role

Be Sociable, Share!
Jan 312018
 

Not every sale requires a presentation, but most do and that has led to an abundance of wasted time. And boredom. And the audience checking e-mails and messages. And even more subsequent presentations.

Sales presentations are both over and under-rated. They are over-rated because most of them are about the seller and are the software equivalent of the “don’t hesitate to phone or e-mail me if you have any questions” line all salespeople use at the end of all calls with all customers (doh, you bet the customer already knows the obvious). Sales presentations, on the other hand, could be under-rated for their sheer efficiency and effectiveness to excite, motivate and move things along. The latter variety is the exception and needs preparation.

Photo Credit: Hans

How to do so? First and foremost a presentation is about the buyer. I repeat, a presentation is not about you the salesperson, your company or your way of selling it. It is about them, the prospect. The problem typically starts with the marketing and product management groups. Nothing against these important departments, but the stock presentations they generate violate the abovementioned rule. Then sales plays tag using the templated presentations and carries on with slide after slide of ‘who we are’ and ‘where we are’ et cetra.

Sales must resist the urge to dole out this information in favour of information relevant to the customer, its process, its buying habits and specific needs. Customers care about the seller’s information only insofar as it concerns their needs. The problem, however, often is that the correct information to be included in a pertinent presentation is not known to the salesperson. Either the salesperson has not asked/not dug enough in advance or the buyer has resisted giving the information out and the seller has copped out and not persisted. This is to the detriment of both the buyer and seller.

It is the job of the salesperson to ask the ‘why’ questions, understand the need, understand the customer’s buying process including MAN (Money, Authority, Need). This information should then be used in the subsequent customized presentation that speaks to the information the buyer would find valuable.

  1. Gather the information that is relevant to what the customer finds important (it is fair if as an expert you have data that similar customers have found useful and relevant).
  2. Know the ideal outcome (based on the concept of the buyer) that should follow the presentation.
  3. Create the presentation based on the above. Keep it pertinent, do not be copy-heavy and focus on the customer.
  4. Practice your presentation in advance of delivering it.
  5. Delete or shorten what is unnecessary. The less complex and the smaller the solution/product/service the more focused and succinct the presentation should be.

 

Addendum: in all cases do not think the ‘what’ is sufficient. Think ‘why.’ Why is this point important, why is this information offered and why did you decide to leave this text in your presentation when others did not make the final cut. Let the audience know. Do not assume they know or understand why you included something. Again, hint: you collected the context from the audience. As you can see the majority of the work was done in advance of the presentation itself. Explain to them that this text/bullet/page is there because as the expert in the product/service/pitch it is what you picked up from them and know it is important. Explain and elaborate the ‘why’ before you make your point so the context is clear before the actual point is given.

Here is an example: “Jane, Tammy and Joe you had mentioned that ten percent of employees use your current dispenser. I have included a point about adoption of our dispensers because their ease-of-use makes for a much wider adoption than what you currently see. We see this at all our customers and wanted to share the number with you. So here goes, as you see on the second bullet you will see eighty-percent adoption with our dispensers, which is key for you.”

 

While we are on the subject, and going back to the opening sentence, salespeople should not assume or insist on a presentation. If a sale can proceed without then by all means allow it to.

 

What are your thoughts? Click on ‘Comments’ and let me know.

*Things That Need To Go Away: We were founded in 1981, which makes us 37 years old and are located in more than 15 countries and over 20 cities. Let me tell you about our president and founders now…

Photo Credit: Robinsonk26

Be Sociable, Share!
Jan 082018
 

This article will not be two things. Those are:

1-      A customized sales process

2-      The mechanics of Market Identification and Prospecting, which are the beginning of the sales process, or existing customer Account Management and Reporting, which are at the continuation of a repeatable process.

These are outside the scope of this article.

Instead let’s examine how sales organizations set up their sales departments and configure salesperson positions from a responsibility and resource perspective.

If the reader would forgive a slight exaggeration, in order to stimulate the mind, there are as many sales department formations out there as there are sales teams and companies. Moreover, admittedly many of these salespeople and companies are doing well, achieving their objectives and making themselves, their stakeholders and hopefully customers successful.

The article is assuming the organization has more than one or two salespersons. The math obviously does not apply to the mom and pop business with a part-time seller or a lone full-time salesperson, but as you can imagine if the number of sales folk to the size of market is out of proportion this in itself is a recipe for sales collapse. For now, let us assume a sales team (plural) exists.

Many companies have too large of (what they perceive is) an addressable market or have deployed their salespeople inefficiently. This issue is so prevalent that it boggles the mind. It is something that happens far too commonly and is a function of the sales management having not truly sold in the past, forgetting what it is like to be an individual contributor, have personal experience in only one type of sales or being subjugated to a larger force within the company. This is not meant to be condescending. After all, what did you have for lunch last week, day before yesterday or even yesterday? It is easy to forget, isn’t it?

When assigning dedicated salespeople to accounts, territories or solutions and verticals companies tend to create a strict demarcation between the job descriptions and focus of

  • inside and outside or
  • SMB and enterprise/major public-sector or
  • Generalist and vertically/other specialized

representatives. The friction created as a result is one story. Much time and goodwill is expended mediating the issues that arise. Cooperation among team members is lessened and customer service suffers when service is slowed and coverage and responsiveness is decreased.

Photograph Credit: rawpixel

Challenge: Aside from the above, a bigger and more immediate issue is the inefficient deployment that results in what I have seen so often I have a term for it, namely inverage. It is ‘incomplete coverage.’ No account, territory or solution is completely covered. Instead, companies have spread their efforts in every step of the sales cycle/account management more thinly than is necessary. The employer is not even deriving complete value from its salespersons’ particular specialty and skills. What is meant by this?

  • Enterprise/field salespeople who are best at, and need to be establishing deep relationships with customers, are spending an inordinate part of their time hunting new business from scratch, making cold calls or booking transactional and low value business for their major and existing customers.
  • SMB sales reps are dialing into new accounts. Handling major accounts that the Enterprise team has not picked up and attempting to give C-levels at larger hierarchical accounts the same treatment as it does to smaller and SMB accounts. The truth, however, is that transactional activities do not leave room for an in-depth management of the customer. Yet, many customers need or demand that attention. The smaller accounts’ managers are also dialling/e-mailing for dollars and have more resources to canvass a larger set of customers’ employees.
  • Business developers whose task should be attracting new accounts and sales are covering the trenches because no one else is handling the account or is not allowed to step outside the pre-defined boundary.
  • At the aforementioned smaller companies, the (few) sellers have too large of a or practically undefined territory and are attempting to cover the proverbial phone book.

Anyone who steps outside his or her designated role and account does so voluntarily and may even be attracting the displeasure of management, which in many cases has its own immediate chain of command divided into outside/enterprise/major and inside/SMB/minor to begin with. There is likely an opportunity cost to doing so in terms of one’s own accounts and commission dollars for the seller.

Within this model no one is quite happy needing to go where they are least comfortable and less inclined. No one is truly exposed to anyone else’s business and professional life either furthering the segregation. Time is not utilized in optimal fashion.

As a manager of several sales teams at Microsoft several years ago I had instituted a variable pay system where a portion of the team members’ sales commission (20%) was based on team performance. The shared model made the comradery better, helped with cross territory and team cooperation and gave customers’ better coverage. It worked quite well. It was dismantled a fiscal year later when the senior management asked that the compensation be standardized to the global model.

Answer: What teams need is a sharing of account management duties.

  • The flexibility for the Enterprise seller to devote (say) 20% of his or her time to assist the SMB representative and the flexibility of the SMB seller to devote a congruent 20% of time to the enterprise account he or she shares in a minor fashion with the enterprise representative is key.
  • Both would be proportionally sharing in the variable rewards of their respective primary accounts as well thus rewarding them for their effort.
  • Each seller would also would focus on what his or her main job responsibility or forte is, while being exposed to the duties of his or her counterpart.
  • Most importantly perhaps, it is the customers who are most thankful for the coverage, responsiveness, deepness of expertise and teamwork.

Photograph Credit: anemone123

Again, and most importantly, the sellers would focus on what they do best most of time, but simultaneously there would be much less of a gap in selling and other necessary activity coverage.

This configuration addresses respective salespersons’ lack of time, lack of skillset, unwillingness, priorities and the quarterly nature of quota. Any company that can should pair sellers.

Account Type Major Role & Variable Compensation Minor Role & Variable Compensation
  F/M I/T G/U F/M I/T G/U
Small/Transactional No Yes No Yes No Yes
Large/Strategic Yes No No No Yes Yes
Unmanaged No No Yes Yes Yes No
 


F/M = Field/Major Salesperson

I/T = Inside/Transactional Salesperson

G/U = Generalist/Unmanaged Accounts

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: he does this, she does that, they do not mix and if they do it is to their personal detriment.

Credit: Geralt

 

Inverage

 

Be Sociable, Share!
Apr 102017
 

My friend Chris texted me a picture of the The Boss Baby from the movie of the same name that is in cinemas right now. The baby’s line “… Cookies are for closers.” is a reference to Alec Baldwin’s character from the seminal ‘sales’ film Glengarry Glen Ross of course. In that film Alec Baldwin and a host of sales characters interact in a real-estate sales office as the company goes about countering slumping sales with, er, leads and, cough cough, some motivation.

Boss baby

So, need some sales inspiration? Need to find the tip of the spear of materialism? Need to laugh at the exaggerations, salesmanship, hyperbole or incredible lines? Here is a list, in order of release, for you salespeople and observers of salespeople.

These films should mostly focus on the ‘sale’ rather than are about salesperson’s lives and other endeavours, but included are films that at least delivered a good line or two.

Now don’t go watching these! Instead, get out there and sell something!!
1. Tin Men (1987)
2. Cadillac Man (1990)
3. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
4. Jerry Maguire (1996)
5. Boiler Room (2000)
6. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
7. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009)
8. Love & Other Drugs (2010)
9. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
10. Unfinished Business (2015)

Let me know what I missed.

*Things That Need To Go Away: High-pressure aggressive sales (which thankfully is as obsolete as the cathode ray tube television).

Be Sociable, Share!
Mar 142017
 

Unless one is dealing with an invading army (whose soldiers have eyes that emit their version of LASER no less!), being ignored is rarely a nice experience. It makes one feel unwanted, rejected and base – all the qualities that evolution has taught humans to dislike. Some may be more immune to the negative reactions that come with it than others. Most persons, however, would regardless take it badly.

Every salesperson has experienced it time and time again. The customer who does not reply. The prospect who does not follow up subsequent to a first conversation. The follow-up call that does not happen. The e-mail goes unreturned.

It is a sad reality that whether out of carelessness, a lack of class, being busy, politeness or pressures at work many sales e-mails go unreturned. It is ironic because promptly responding or a firm ‘no’ would go a long way towards saving everyone time, but alas let’s not launch into a discussion of logic and illogic here.

Instead, let’s look at what to do in such situations.

First and foremost, you have read it here before. Make you communication relevant and personalized. If you have not already then read this. Spending time researching calls and e-mails is better and more conducive to success than the alternative. It is ultimately a time-saver to invest time to look for relevant and applicable information.

Secondly, every salesperson should be frank enough to disqualify as well as qualify his or her customers and pipeline. Time and resources need to be spent on productive work and not folk who are uninterested or inattentive. This is not an invitation to rely exclusively on inbound marketing, but rather insistence to deal in reality and productivity. If you have more good leads than bad or more leads than time then you are in a good situation to execute on this advice anyway.

Thirdly, if the salesperson knows a game is being played the best advice is to not play. After all, one is not gamed if he or she is not playing. Focus should be on productive work. At the very least, one has detached himself from the negative effects of this behaviour.

With that said, here are several bullets based on my experience that will help with the response rate.

  • Be prompt. Respond right away to inbound calls, e-mails and leads. First, this in and out of itself increases one’s chances, but also if multiple follow-ups and attempts are needed the first one was the aforementioned. Importantly, per Insidesales.com, “the odds of qualifying a lead in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times and from 5 minutes to 10 minutes the dial to qualify odds decrease 4 times.”
  • Do leave a voice-mail. Voice-mails are likely retained whereas missed calls are not. Hearing your name and reason for call also begins the process of awareness.
  • Unanswered e-mails require follow-up. No, not of that kind. Of this kind: forward your last e-mail and keep it as short as possible. Exclude a salutation and signature and ask a simple follow-up question. The details and explanation are in the original e-mail that are being forwarded.

“Want to follow up in case this e-mail got buried.”

“What would be a good next step?”

“Is there some way to find out if this is a priority?”

That is it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Sales And Customers Working Against Each Others’ Interests. Collaboration, Service and Honesty Wins.

 

Be Sociable, Share!
Jun 112016
 

Fear sells. We know that much.

What else sells? You might think ‘competence sells’ or ‘return on investment sells’ or ‘likability sells’ or even ‘fun sells,’ et cetra. However, the question of the day is whether insulting a customer sells? What about boring a customer? Does that sell?

Take a look at the following videos. In the first, a man who appears to have been in business a number of years (success?) utilizes something he calls G.U.T.S.* Sales Training Method or the *Great Un-Orthodox-Un-Traditional Techniques Of Selling Success to insult the customer into buying from him.

In this video, the world’s most humanlike automaton cranks out calls at rates that would put those embarrassingly useless automated dialing computers to shame. Is he.. could he… be successful?

What do you think?

*Things That Need To Go Away: Calling Lying, Half-Truths, Fudging Or intimidating ‘Sales.’

Be Sociable, Share!
Jun 052016
 

Does anyone need reminding that when we say a successful salesperson should have attitude, we are not taking about bad attitude. We are talking about something else.

Sales is there to align customers’ stated or latent needs with goods or services.

Here comes another pushy, rude and annoying salesperson who is doing exactly what gives the worst of the profession a bad name.

Vacuum salesman stays until 1am, leaves pile of dust

Assertiveness and persistence win. They should be coupled with the abovementioned alignment. Stunts like the one pulled by the vacuum salesperson are a black mark and unfortunately hallmark of someone who does not have a good product and is not expecting to return or repeat business.

facts

*Things That Need To Go Away: Pushy Salesperson Who Lie

Be Sociable, Share!
Mar 202016
 

road construction fail

It is one of the biggest challenges in the sales world. The salesperson has a process with his or her customer and the customer goes dark. AWOL. MIA. Radio silence.

What is going on?

Manners, etiquette and social politesse aside, the sum of the situation is that the selling party has received his or her answer. The customer is either not interested in moving forward or is not quite ready yet.

These pages have written about the actions that need to transpire before this point:

  • Salespersons must ask the ‘why’ question
  • Salespersons must be well acquainted with their customer (and if your prospect does not allow for it then the action speaks for itself)
  • Salespersons must interact with at least three employees at the customer’s company.
  • Customer must have demonstrated the MAN acronym, which is comprised of Money, Authority and Need (Desire).

As it turns out humans like to succumb to inertia and dislike change (ironically, hence the million and one quotations about how change is normal). The customer has decided to stick with the status quo, do nothing and let inaction prevail. So, the question really becomes ‘what does it take for you/customer to undertake a change?’ and ‘do you/your employer want to change the situation?’

Either a customer can answer the question to both parties’ satisfaction or the answer comes indirectly through conversation, questions, change action and triangulation. Do not allow your sales pipeline resemble a menagerie of company names.

In addition, it is important to track the customer’s decisions and choices online in the same manner that one listens for indirect verbal cues. Which one of your marketing activities is engaging the customers? Which e-mail campaigns elicited clicks from your customers?  Which of your web pages or assets is the customer touching and in which other websites are they engaged? That is, hopefully, your marketing team is tracking the online world for you. Are they?

*Things That Need To Go Away: Lack of Bi-Directional Communication

standby

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!