May 192022
 

A Sales Process is a structured route for the salesperson to get from Point A (a customer is just a gleam in the salesperson’s eyes) to Point B (a sales has been made). For sales to succeed a repeatable and logical set of steps need to be taken. Otherwise, the salesperson and sales manager are relying on luck and we all know how that works.

Sales processes of course could be flexible; however, not having one is a first step to oblivion and not following one is arrogant, lazy and foolish. Customers have their own buying process and that needs to be respected and understood. However, merely and blindly following the customer’s process is a ticket to not realizing that serious customers will not buy unless a series of triggers and events are satisfied, which is the seller’s job.

Here is a high-level sales process cheat sheet:

 

Sales processes are typically depicted as a funnel with logical steps following one another or more recently as a flywheel or a circle. The idea behind the former is that one step follows another and it is logical to follow the steps from left to right. The idea behind the latter is that the process is repeatable and moreover customer is not dropped into a vacuum at the conclusion of the sale and account manager, customer success, cross-sell and up-sell follow. Both depictions have advantages and disadvantages. They both work. What does not work is not having a sales process.

 

Points for more detail:

 

  • Prospecting: Includes calling, e-mailing, LinkedIn, advertising, marketing events, referrals from existing customers and even inbound leads that would be assessed as qualified.
  • Qualification: Speaking of which, what is the problem that leads itself to your solution, who is responsible and is there a budget to do this?
  • Development: In-depth discovery of the situation and lay of the land. Is there an alignment between problem and your solution? If yes, time to have a mutual plan to move forward.
  • Presentation: An already discussed and semi-validated solution is presented. In-depth discussion about details ensues.
  • Discussion: Problems, objections and roadblocks are discussed and removed. Depending on the level of complexity and product/service legal, licensing and post-sale services teams are engaged.
  • Closing: Negotiation and paperwork. Signatures on contracts required.
  • Account Management: Delivering on promises and contractual obligations, exchange of funds and execution on promises/obligations.

 

*Things That Need to Go Away: Salespersons who skip steps thinking they got this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 302022
 

 

 

I posted an article on Sales Enablement recently. Much of the modern software used in that niche utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI). So let us focus on AI now.

 

What Is AI?

Firstly, let us understand what AI is. Most of us will think back (forward?) to Arnold, Terminator and Skynet and why not? Machine Learning is a subset of AI, but more precisely Artificial Intelligence is programming that teaches a system to mimic human behaviour and actions, but obviously at a faster and more effective manner that brings with it the consistency of a machine. More completely, AI is a series of networks that leverages statistics and instructions over and over to emulate humans. It is designed to improve overtime as well because the more ‘experiences’ (a.k.a. statistics) it has the more complete it becomes.

One more thing, AI may be all the rage now, but it is hardly new. This notion goes back to Alan Turing and the 1950s. For an early application look up ELIZA from the 1960s.

So What (For Sales)?

The end goal, however, remains somewhat elusive. Systems are not perfect. It is thought that perfection has been attained when humans cannot fathom whether they are dealing with a machine or a human being and results are impeccable. If AI, therefore, includes Machine Learning, analytics, natural language, simulation, learning and interaction then how can it help the profession of sales? Here the idea is to take all the information and transaction in sales – conversations, e-mails, responses or lack thereof, every CRM entry, every sale, every lost deal, et cetra – and put them into one place in order to help the seller. The goal is to identify the correct course of action, the next step, the way to help customers and sellers and to win business. Is it possible? To some extent the answer is yes. The hesitation, however, stems from the unpredictability of human psychology and of course different cultures and needs or wants. Yet, AI is supposed to learn those too because after all, it is all data translated to action.

 

So, Is AI Going To Take Over The World And Rid Us Of Our Jobs (And Sustenance)?

Maybe. Still, as of today the reality on the ground is that AI is here to assist, help, improve and enhance the seller’s efforts not replace it. Put that way, would anyone argue against help? Which salesperson would claim he or she does not need help? One issue, that one can foresee easily, is that AI may be trained to be biased to think like a seller or a vendor. To be successful, this writer supposes, AI needs to think like a customer or prospect. That is the way to successfully sell after all.

 

So Which Are The Tools?

Like any other category, AI solutions are bound to be comprised of the good, the bad and the so-so and trials, proofs of concept and honest assessments are a must. It is smart to gauge results, ask the user community (the sales team) honestly and measure revenue enhancement before committing. Randomly picked, because TNG and SugarCRM are as good or bad as any other to keep an eye on, I have bookmarked this in order to track the revenue for my ‘proof is in the pudding’ hobby tracking, but truthfully the market will speak sooner or later.

 

One last thing. Candidly put whether effective or not, the reality is that the market for AI-driven solutions in sales is going to expand. Just keep in mind how much salespeople have traditionally disliked using CRM and yet the parallel expansion and growth of the sector! One factor that speaks to my hypothesis is the growth of AI in other niches. With increased adoption of AI in healthcare, customer service, arts and more the concept is becoming mainstream, which means more revenue for the sector to enable improvement and also for more people to become more comfortable with the notion.

 

Here goes a list of vendors and providers in the Sales AI space:

 

  • Affinity (including Nudge.ai) – A tracking CRM for industries where relationships are important.
  • Conversica – Provider of a conversational AI. Claims that all its AI Assistants are more accurate than a human. Suited for business development and marketing.
  • Clari – An opportunity management and forecasting tool to offer better visibility to sales teams.
  • Drift – Sales and Marketing conversation at the right time with the appropriate content plus insights especially for inbounds.
  • Exceed.AI (Part of Genesys) – Similar to drift geared towards inbound prospects and leads for sales and marketing, it automatically picks up the conversation, sets appointments and updates Calendars.
  • Gong.AI – Captures and analyzes customer interactions for insights and next steps.
  • Heyday – Tuned for retail, Heyday’s AI connects inventory and catalogue to customer search results and nudges sales to connect with customers when most appropriate.
  • Introhive – Relationship intelligence that leverages CRM to reveal ones network and relationships with customers.
  • Kixie – Automates calling and texting of the names in CRM and records and tracks the events.
  • People.ai – Provides persona-specific productivity tools and provides insights.
  • SalesDirector.ai – Offers predictive insights into sales team’s pipeline and customer interactions.
  • Salesforce – Salesforce, the leader in CRM, has embedded AI in much of its solutions for insights and automation.
  • Saleswhale (Part Of 6Sense) – An AI assistant to engage with and follow-up with leads.
  • VeloxyIO – A platform that integrates e-mail, CRM and calling into one solution and view.
  • Zendesk – Engage with and support customers across a myriad of channels and keep all interactions in one place.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: AI technology companies that are made to be acquired as opposed to being there long-term to help customers.

Apr 182022
 

 

Sales Enablement has been quite an oft-discussed concept in sales circles for the last decade or so. As the name suggests the concept should be simple. Sales Enablement is the who, what, where, when and how of enabling sales (defined here broadly as inside, outside, SME, enterprise, BDR, etc.) to achieve its goals in general and quota targets specifically. Simple enough. Yet, there is a lot more to helping sales, and indeed the whole company, deliver the value message to customers.

Personally, Sales Enablement for me is anything and everything that enables sales. As such, and for me, marketing is sales enablement. A company executive travelling or getting on the telephone with a salesperson to aid his or her effort is sales enablement. Training is sales enablement, et cetra.

However, there is a niche and segment for Sales Enablement all to its own in the marketplace. The segment is large given how the addressable market is vast. The number of vendors vying for a piece of the pie is large because sales is so crucial to everything everybody does. These vendors and suppliers define the market more narrowly than my definition and seek to inhabit the more focused and accepted definition of what the marketplace for their solutions is.

This narrower definition speaks to tools, solutions, programs, software and content that allow the Sales team to find prospects or take a top of the funnel prospect and convert it to a paying customer at the bottom of the funnel. Yes, it is still multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted, but defined more narrowly than my definition above. And with the advent of technology, Sales Enablement in the hands of its official suppliers and vendors has become more technical, more up-to-the-minute as pertains to the needs of the individual accessing it and more relevant for the type of sale it is accessed for and, notwithstanding the automation of much of it, has become more advanced and scientific. That automation piece is actually important because salespersons do not always have the will or time to engage with the technology proactively. it is a win for the sales team’s time and also insurance that the rights steps are being taken when the solution triggers events in an optimal sequence. Modern AI-powered solutions do wonders sometimes.

The more focused definition is fine and here you will find a list of the vendors in the space as of today. The sentence says ‘as of today’ because by the time this writer finishes this paragraph and hits the ‘publish’ button half a dozen vendors have sold themselves, merged or failed rendering the list dated. This is only half a joke. Another half a joke is how a company that is in Sales Enablement could not enable its sales team to take over the world (yet wants to help everyone else do the same). Yes, it is understood that many companies do not seek to remain or grow. Like any sector, half of the companies out there seek to be acquired and cash out. Here is another quip: it is said (by me) that any company with a a.ai domain is flashing a sign saying ‘buy me! buy me!!’

The list is coming shortly, but first a few bullet points on why Sales Enablement is seriously important and a comment on its integration with other departments.

 

Why are companies adopting formal Sales Enablement programs and solutions?

 

Sales is not an insular position. It needs and feeds everyone else at the company. From the management team to Marketing and Delivery sales needs to be hand in glove with everybody else. Sales and other departments need to be in sync. The right Sales Enablement environment enables this aspect. This is internal alignment.

Similarly, sales needs to be in sync with its prospects and customers. Sales needs to supply the right impetus, content and information to its customers – whether the two parties are speaking currently and directly with one another or not. Sales Enablement needs to ensure that the two sides (supply and demand) are related and relevant. This is external alignment.

Finally, all of this should be measurable and accountable. How many videos professionally filmed and uploaded by companies have you seen that despite clearly having cost time and a monetary bundle in preparation, lighting, filming and editing have a paltry one hundred views (half of which is the producing team)? Isn’t something amiss? Yes, there is. It is not serving the needs of sales or its customers obviously. How many leads from Marketing were garbage? How many quality leads were mishandled by Sales? Why are people not responding to content? These are mere examples of a mismatched Sales Enablement piece of the puzzle that is not performing and is screaming for a programmatic review, be it content-wise, consumption-wise or perhaps even forming an accessibility point-of-view challenge. Things need to be measurable so they can be manageable so we improve and consistently recaliber.

Finally, Sales Enablement should be integrated. The more all the sets of data, material and processes are integrated the more likely for them to actually work, to be leveraged by sales, to save the requisite time and ultimately to contribute rather than detract. Moreover, when all solutions are integrated the company can better measure the effectiveness and garner insight into what is working and what is not at scale.

Perhaps an ancillary reason to adopt these solutions is to recruit salespersons in the first place. Obviously, enablement tools help the team be successful, earn more and treat customers correctly, but what a recruitment tool? A company adopting the right tech can expect to have more successful sales teams and give people more reasons to work there, right? After all, this whole article is about adding value.

 

 

Is there a list of providers and vendors in this space?

 

With that said and without further ado, here is a list of companies in the space. As mentioned, this is narrowly defined and offerings such as marketing-only, training-only or CRM are omitted.  One further ado: Having not personally used all these solutions, inclusion does not equal warrantee that it does what it says. My experience is that several are quite useful and helpful. A few are a waste of time and have proven themselves to be a nuisance. The advice goes doubly for readers who are not in the USA. Contact data are more scarce internationally in many of these tools and process norms do differ from country to country. Review and analysis before buying are your friends.

  • Adapt – Real-time customer data that integrates with your CRM
  • Apollo – Find prospects, segment them and connect with them
  • Bombora – Buyers’ intent data to understand who is looking to buy
  • CallMiner – Analyses your communication with your customers to drive your actions
  • Chorus – Conversation intelligence to analyse sales meetings and suggest improvements. Owned by Zoominfo since 2021
  • Cognism – Market and Sales intelligence including contact information and intent data
  • D&B Hoovers – Contact information including areas of responsibility and job titles
  • Datanyze – Contact information for businesses and which solutions they use
  • DealHub.io – Share information and quotations with customers, automate steps and track engagement
  • Demandbase – Connects first and third-party data for one view of accounts – now includes InsideView for CRM data management
  • DiscoverOrg – Contact information and profiles that is integrated with your CRM. Part of Zoominfo
  • Dooly – Organizes opportunity notes and fields and syncs them into Salesforce to share with others
  • Enablix – Connect Sales and Marketing content for data-driven decisions on what content is needed next. Also measures engagement
  • Enthu – Analyses team’s calls and collates them for management for intervention, training or other insights
  • ExecVision – Conversation intelligence and mining platform in multiple languages
  • Global Database – An international business directory
  • Gong – Captures and analyses customer interactions to determine best course of action and areas of hit and miss
  • Groove – Automates sales activities and lightens the administrative burden of sales. It also automates action items
  • Guru – Create, share and access data and within the sales workflow
  • Highspot – Combines content, customer engagement and knowledge sharing in multiple languages
  • InsideSales.com – Playbooks for sales to optimize sales interactions including appropriate contacts and triggers
  • Jiminny – A coaching tool to record, analyse, track and learn from your customer conversations to enable improvement and analytics
  • Klue – A competitor insight platform compiled from internal and external sources
  • Lead 411 – Company and employee contact information and triggers
  • Leadgenius – Scale your outbound by finding the right contacts and lists
  • LeadIQ – Targetted information on potential leads integrated with CRM
  • Lessonly – An eLearning solution including presentation, tracking and assignments. Purchased by Seismic in 2021
  • LinkedIn (Sales Navigator) – A professional networking and communication social media. LinkedIn is a part of Microsoft
  • Lusha – Identify a prospect’s e-mail and telephone number, especially in the USA. It acts as a browser extension
  • Mediafly – Create and enhance your presentations, including trackable links and analytics
  • MindTickle – Identify the right sales behaviour and train the team on it
  • Observe – An analysis of your customers’ audio calls and text communication to derive sentiment signals
  • Outreach – Helps create and manage sales workflows and track them
  • SalesHood – A Learning Management System (LMS) that includes testing and tracking
  • SalesIntel – Helps you identify your prospects with buying intent and provides contact information
  • Seamless – Finds your prospects’ contact and LinkedIn information
  • Seismic – A content management platform that allows Marketing to create and customize sales-related material and for the sales team to discover and brand it for a particular engagement
  • Showpad – Sales content management, training and coaching in one. Track content usage by the customers as well
  • 6Sense – Uncovers buying behaviour and information based on web activity, which triggers for ABM efforts
  • Slintel – A market intelligence and buyer intent. Part of 6Sense now
  • TechTarget – Identify target contacts and acquire their contact information
  • Uplead – Business and contact data including e-mail verification
  • Volley – Convert leads into customer using intent data and personalization
  • Zoominfo – 360 degree view of customers including intent data and hierarchies

 

Any names missing? Let me know.

One final important note: All applications should be tested for ease of use. Salespeople are busy and dislike spending time when a software is not user friendly. All purchase decisions should take this, as well as utility, into consideration. Need to heavily configure? Need to code? Need to wait minutes for it to load? Need to complete a curriculum to use the application? Need to become versed in boolean search parameters? Skip the tool.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Sales Enablement solutions that make the sales team neither more effective nor more efficient

 

May 132021
 

Photograph Credit: Stocksnap

 

Salespeople know the routine.

Telephone call goes out, no one picks up and you leave a message

You hit ‘send’ and the e-mail lands in the customer’s Inbox. No reply.

Third scenario: Customer asked to hear from you or you have a planned next call and the customer is AWOL.

 

What is going on? Should you try again? Should you keep trying to reach the customer? Should you knock it off and pack it in?

The answer is you need multiple follow-ups. There is research that an enterprise sale requires five follow-ups and most salespeople give up too early.  There is also valid research about how cold calling should be warm and messaging should be exciting. Putting those aside, for the moment, if you believe in your solution here is why you need to keep politely trying until you connect or the customer tells you otherwise.

 

10. Your message was just not exciting enough.

You are contacting humans after all.

 

9. You do not get to score/sell if you don’t take the repeat/follow-up shot as someone famously said.

Well, something like that. You don’t see quotation marks around that statement, do you?

 

8. Message was never received.

The electronic dog ate the electronic message.

 

7. Customer knows that he/she is the customer and you are the salesperson.

The customer expects you to put in the extra effort to get the business. The ball is in your court!

 

6. The project has been postponed or cancelled or been given to a competitor who adeptly followed up.

You did not follow-up adequately to either know this or get the business.

 

5. Customers are simply disorganized.

Help their lives by reaching out.

 

4. Customer means to call you (see below), but has lost your number or e-mail.

“What was the salesperson’s name/telephone number again?”

 

3. The e-mail or voice-mail was deleted or buried.

It could have been assigned to the ‘will take care of this later’ column, but time has not freed up yet.

 

2. Customers forget.

We all forget things especially if it is not in our Calendars.

 

1. Customers are at work.

They are busy and have many things on their mind.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Salespersons Who Have Better Things to Do Than Try And Try Again

 

Jan 032021
 

Who cares?

All too often sellers feel the urge and need to list, recap or summarize the list of functions and benefits their product or service offers. It sounds logical.

It is not.

Image Credit: Geralt

 

The impulse by the salesperson to rhyme off or ‘round up’ the features and functionalities of the offering, in a sales conversation or during a demo, could actually create an objection. The problem is the benefit offered is not one the customer wants or needs or that he or she currently identifies as key.

Sometimes the salesperson thinks he or she is proactively removing an objection. The objection being removed is not one the customer necessarily has. In this sense, the above question (‘who cares?’) takes on a literal meaning. In other words no matter how much the salesperson likes to think and say that something is a benefit, in this instance, the customer is king. It is only a benefit if the customer thinks it is a benefit. Salesperson need to ask, and then ask again, to understand what the customer wants and then actually listen.

Being the expert is still important, which means educating (telling) the customer remains a must. You should know your target audience and their needs. However, the customer has to truly think, and convey, that something is meaningful to them after the conversation/education and before the seller should pitch it. It is still not a meaningful feature or benefit if even after the educational conversation you do not hear the customer state it as something they desire.

A much better way is the obvious route of asking diagnostic questions and educating. This requires preparation by the salesperson. The salesperson can sell the customer the real or perceived benefit once the customer’s needs and pains are aligned and agreed to by both parties

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: “By the way, my solution also bla bla bla…” if the customer has not said he or she cares.

Image Credit: Mohamed Hassan

Oct 182020
 

Writing a Sales Territory Plan – as opposed to a Sales Account Plan – is conceptually not difficult. As a salesperson you are handed a territory and you would like to figure out where you are (point A) and like to get to a result (point B). How to get from point A to point B is the plan.

Below and attached (Scroll To The End Of This Article to find the link) is a cheat sheet for you. Please consider several items.

  • It is important that the plan is frank and realistic.
  • It is important that the plan has specifics and is time-bound.
  • It is most important that the plan is implemented with on-going action. One too many plans are make-work projects that are ignored or forgotten thirty seconds after they are presented. The plan is there to help you succeed so you would do well to take it seriously if you take your job seriously.

Here is an outline of a Territory Plan:

Page 1: Title Page

  • Place Your Company Logo
  • Add Salesperson’s Name
  • Add Date

 

Page 2: Contents

  • Targets/Goals
  • Analysis
  • Existing Accounts
  • New/Prospect Accounts
  • Action Plan
  • Guide To Terms And Filling This Plan out

 

Page 3: Target And Target Breakdown

  • Numerical Targets/Goals
  • Break down into periods as needed
  • Existing Accounts
  • If applicable
  • Prospect Accounts
  • If applicable
  • Gap-To-Goal (based on above)

 

Page 4: Target Analysis And Insights

  • SWOT Analysis Of Territory
  • Priorities
  • How will you take advantage of the opportunities and counter the weaknesses

 

  • What works/what does not work
  • What will you do differently
  • What do you need to make it (i.e. your goals) happen?

 

Page 5: Existing Accounts

  • What does the territory look like?
  • Biggest accounts
  • Biggest account potentials
  • Break-down by size or geography or kind

 

  • Success Components
  • What needs to be done?
  • What tools are available and will work?
  • What is selling/what is not selling
  • What drives business?
  • Other

 

Page 6: New Accounts/Prospects

  • Prospect Names
  • Which industry, size or kind they are in?

 

  • Top # (insert a number here) Target Companies (Prospects)
  • Industry (if more than one applies)
  • What Do They Currently Own?
  • Have They Been Contacted by you? If not, when will you contact them, how often and in what intervals?

 

  • Other Prospects Contacted?
  • Industry?
  • Why Are They A Good Candidate for you?
  • Updates?
  • What is next and what do you need and by when?

 

Page 7: Action Plan

  • Consider SMART
  • Tactics
  • By When
  • Milestones
  • Resources Needed

 

Page 8: Guide

  • Consider SMART when thinking about the above
  • SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound: no vague inputs
  • Think in terms of milestones and break your actions down
  • Consider resources and input needed and think whether they adhere to the above concept

 

  • A Territory Plan has you starting at Point A (where you are today) and takes you to Point B (where you need to be).
  • Know your goals therefore
  • This is specific to your territory. There is not a universal formula that applies here

 

  • SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat

 

Feel free to download the attached and either use directly or copy/paste it into a slide deck of your choosing.

*Things That Need To Go Away: Planning That Occurs Only During The Presentation Session And Is Then Forgotten

May 032020
 

We are living in a different world. What was normal just three months ago is not any longer. Travel and tourism has ground to a halt. Restaurant sit-down meals are but a memory and I am only allowed one carton of egg at the supermarket (thankfully it is more than enough). The sales landscape has changed too. COVID-19 has transformed many things. What has not changed, however, are the fundamentals. The customer imperatives of managing operations, being productive and staying ahead of the competitors are all still valid and the executive who ignores these is displaying short-sightedness and ineffectiveness.

Equally, the fundamental way to conduct sales correctly has not changed. Sales needs rational thinking and avoidance of yielding to knee-jerk and silly decision-making. What has changed is that customers are prioritizing differently to respond to altered circumstances. Re-gear your emphasis on value (for the customer not for the sales’ org i.e. WIIFM), remote work, health, safety and customers remaining in control of themselves, their families, their suppliers and respective customers (supply chain imperatives), but stay away from haphazard reactions that smack of desperation because “circumstances have changed.” Double down on your process that is now retooled to focus on the aforementioned areas of focus.

You do have a rigorous sales process, don’t you? One that emphasizes understanding your own value, customer’s needs and aligning those two to one another.

I stuck with a disciplined sales methodology and during the 2008 and 2009 years my team managed to hit its numbers and remain busy. Many customers disappeared, but others appeared, albeit with a different set of expectations. The point is do not lose your belief in being methodological about sales and control what you can control.

remore video work

Photograph Credit: Mohamed Hassan

What To Do?

  • Know your sales process, value statement and how it helps today and double down on it
  • Be ready to present, sell and fulfill remotely. Could you have video meetings or even send a video message? Google Meet (previously Hangouts Meet) has been made free and it supports up to 100 participants.
  • Focus on their immediate needs and feeling. To do that you have to ask, understand and care. Are they going through a crisis? Are they busy? Are they encountering an unexpected problem right now? Think about the focus at your local hospital. Elective surgery is relegated to the background and emergencies and COVID-19 are getting all the attention.
  • Sell where the demand is and do not swim against the stream. Consumer sales at the supermarket are surging if you are in the food and beverage industry even if your customary clients in the restaurant sector have vanished.
  • During the entire process do not forget that sales make the world go around. How is a client supposed to feel confident in a sales process if the salesperson does not convey confidence?

 

keep on trucking

Photograph Credit: Robson Hatsukami Morgan

Do you remember the 2008-2009 recession? Here is an older article.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Salespersons Winging It During Hard Times As They Have Done Before The Hard Times!

Apr 202020
 

Everyone in sales knows they have to speak to decision-makers. Everyone. I mean everybody. This explains why… so few people practice it!?!

That is one of the factors that differentiates a salesperson from someone whose business card says ‘salesperson.’ Please ignore the rest of this article if in your current sales process, or consistently, you do reach and engage with the decision-maker. Simply jump to the Comments’ section below and tell everybody how you do it!

Salespeople are always grateful for customer interaction and see any touch as progress so they often settle. It is the dichotomy of salespersons. They need someone to sell to and when the person they should speak with is unavailable they find recourse in anybody else. The second choice may in fact be an influencer or part of the process, but that does not take away from the fact that a decision-maker is not hearing from the seller. Speaking to non-decision-makers is not without merit. In today’s environment no one is able to make a decision on his or her own and increasingly the purchasing is done by the proverbial committee. More in defense of the salesperson, the pertinent point in not talking to the person they need to be speaking to the most. It is often the decision-maker who chooses not to engage with salespersons. The reason typically is a lack of time, which leads to salesperson being relegated or filtered.

With that said, there is a lot to be said about the professional salesperson who manages to speak with the decision-maker by making the case that the two need to communicate. Moreover, think about how much of the message and advantages of the good or service being offered is not reaching the ears of the person who needs to hear it the most because fact remains that no one can sell for you. No one can and no one will. If they could they would be in sales and they would work at your company. Sales cannot expect prospect company employees to know the selling company’s offering like they work at the vendor. Finally, think of the disadvantage a salesperson is in if his or her competitor has gained access to the person who needs to hear their message the most.

The above is reality.

 

Photograph Credit: Razvan Chisu

 

So what should a salesperson do?

Firstly, do not make demands. Remember, it is not about the needs of the salesperson. It is about the needs of the buyer. Instead follow a two-fold path as outlined below:

1- A good seller asks pertinent questions that go to the heart of the needs, wants and vision of the decision-maker. Not only good questions lead to the seller being considered an expert, but also the answers can best be supplied by the person in charge leading to contact between the two parties.

2- Instead of making demands, appeal to the better judgment of the middleman. If they, like you, see the benefit and if they, like you, want to do right then ask them how to go about it. In other words, recruit them to the cause. Just like the salesperson knows his or her products or services best, the contact knows his or her company and its staff better.

One more thing: please do not carry generic messages. Know your prospect, fine-tune a reason and make it non-generic.

Here is a bottom-line: if the salesperson believes in the reason for the call and believes the decision-maker’s company needs it and believes it is for the good of the prospect company then that conviction will carry the weight, power, presence and tonality to carry the salesperson through.

 

What do you think?

 

Things That Need To Go Away: sales pitches that generically claim to save time and money.

Apr 192020
 

Salesperson approaches a prospect. What happens soon, if the salesperson is fortunate to advance in sales discussions, is familiar to salespeople. A stereotypical request from the potential customer is to ask for a reference. It is hardly surprising. On the one hand, humans are moulded emotionally to follow the pack. Herd mentality has been ingrained in humans since the Stone Age when moving in groups offered protection and relative safety. On the other hand, the feeling of comfort we all get knowing that others have reached the same conclusion as us is also valid. The wisdom of the crowd is present in so much we all do. Trial by jury is one of the hallmarks of civil society and is a prime example of our society being organized around the concept of popularity and plurality. It comes with its own downfalls as group intelligence is often detrimental and leads to poor decision-making. After all, Hitler was voted in by a plurality of voters. More people dine at McDonalds than at the fruit stand. More people watch Roseanne than Masterpiece Theater. OK, I am becoming subjective. Let’s move on.

One response salesperson receive from customers is a request for information. The gleeful salesperson is happy to oblige and leaves information behind or sends it off and marks one task as complete. Is the sale any closer? Unlikely, it may even be a step backwards in the sales cycle.

Back to our prospects’ asking about references. They do so for all of the above reasons as either a part of a psychological need or as a step in their formal buying process and likely both. The salesperson feels progress is being made and is happy to oblige. Well, the junior salesperson anyway. As mentioned above, references have their place, but their place is as part of a process and when the customer is ready to buy. It is one of the final steps and often just before a contarct negotiation. Otherwise, the request is premature. Customers cannot be expected to provide references and testimonials to every potential customer of the seller. They have their day jobs and limited time. They will grow weary of such requests and soon enough not be available for well-timed reference checks.

 

How should a salesperson handle the request?

When reference check requests have been premature, my teams have acknowledged the customer’s wishes in this regard, agreed that it is a valid one and reminded the customer that such requests should be fulfilled once the seller and buyer are closer to a decision. The seller can also point out to the buyer that the seller will be protective of the prospect’s time when they too become a customer. ‘Could we move a little closer to the sale before I provide you with a reference?’

What else can help?

In the meantime, having canned written statements from existing customers and quotations testifying to the positive about the product and service are handy. Do not forget analysts’ opinions and related case studies helps. Is a Proof-Of-Concept or trial in progress or anticipated to happen soon? That is as powerful as a reference check.

Often the prospect is fine with such an approach. For one, they can identify with existing customers’ lack of time to answer premature questions. At other times, the request for reference is being done by rote and is not actually necessary or not crucial yet.

When is the right time?

References are for when a customer answers ‘yes’ when asked, “Would you be moving forward with the purchase should the reference check be successful?” As an aside, the same concept applies to job applicants and their potential employers.

What else should salespeople know?

Once the time and place is right, instead of spontaneously agreeing to a reference find out what the prospect wishes to find out in a reference check. Understanding the specific questions the prospect would ask helps direct them to the right reference. Having a ‘go-to’ reference is too generic for most needs and may demote the seller to the status of just another vendor.

Buyers should also remember that satisfied current customers’ may not automatically translate to the availability of references. Many companies find themselves either too busy or have policies against offering endorsements.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Reference Checks Without A Tangible Outcome

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We have often spoken about how closing a sale is less about closing techniques employed by the salesperson and more about doing the right things in a process-oriented fashion to move the buying journey along.

In this context, are you as a salesperson planning ahead hand-in-hand with the customer to move from speaking to finalizing the deal? Here is an article on this from one angle. It is natural for a buyer to covet the item being purchased as soon as possible when a sales process is advanced. The customer would like to take possession and begin enjoying the fruits of the purchase. The salesperson would also like to make the sale for revenue, for profit and for the satisfaction that comes with assisting.

However, time-lines and urgency are often not aligned.

Professional salespersons know that they need to anticipate and plan for the each of the next and final steps towards a sale and they need to do this with their customers. Planning alone is fine, but it is not as impactful without the participation of the customer and it being aligned to the customer’s real or perceived benefit.

Understand how you can help the customer buy and then what the itinerary is.

Things That Need To Go Away: Wishful Thinking

Photograph Credit: Nik Macmillan