Jun 072020
 

According to Gartner 100% of new market participants and 80% of current vendors will have a SAAS (Software As A Service) or Cloud offering by the end of this year. The market has spoken and no matter what the detractors say – and many of them have valid points – Cloud is where it is at.

This is a bona fide paradigm shift that, in the case of traditional providers, takes the whole of the company to pull off. Let us focus on sales and the available revenue streams for the purpose of this post.

1- Subscription: This is the monthly rent customers pay for use of the service. Sellers may charge by the month or for months or years in advance and make the cash flow more positive in exchange for a multi-term discount.

2- Higher Tiers: Which obviously are more expensive as they come with more features like customizations or customizations’ capability, synchronizations or integrations out of the box or higher ceilings for number of users, data and more. A higher tier may even allow a customer to work offline!

3- Resale: Your partners can resell your Cloud service just like they sold your traditional software or service. Think about all the providers for Microsoft 365 (Office 365).

4- Platform Sales: Think about Facebook’s platform that features so many third-party applications and affiliates that they easily dwarf the mothership. Google and Microsoft do a considerably worse job of this than Facebook and hence derive less revenue from third-party partners than do Salesforce via its AppExchange or Facebook. While it could be a category of its own I will throw in advertising a la Facebook or Google here too.

5- Fees: Set-up fees, support fees, data download fees, diagnostic fees, integration services fees, image fees… the list is endless.

Photograph Credit: Tumisu

SAAS may be low on margin and may offer customers the ability to churn, but you are not subsisting just on subscriptions, are you?

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Landlords Who Make Money From Monthly Rents Alone And Offering Sub-par Service

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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!

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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.

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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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Feb 192020
 

… What is the difference between Sales and Marketing? My last post discussed Social Selling and Marketing.

Well, what is the difference between Sales and Marketing? Most have a fairly good gut feeling regarding the difference between sales and the marketing fields, but defining the demarcation line is somewhat trickier. Most know, for example, that Marketing is a degree at universities and colleges while Sales is not (link to courses) and, perhaps just by sheer force of practice at this stage, Sales has become defined as customer facing while Marketing has managed itself into a back office role, but where does one end and the other begin? Is there a clearly defined border? Why do they often speak about the departments and professionals as separate and distinct? In order to contrast the two we can draw a distinction.

 

Think of Marketing and Sales as a linear process with Marketing at the beginning and Sales picking up in the middle. Marketing’s job is to create interest, obtain leads and turn these into prospects for the said goods and services. Sales has to take the baton of these leads and prospects and turn them into paying customers. Defined as such, salespeople running goods, services or territory campaigns are marketing. By extension, Marketing is focused on a market comprised of a larger audience than Sales focuses on. It is a funnel and Marketing is the top and Sales is the narrow bottom part. One can see how Sales is more intimate and closer to the customer, but reliant on Marketing.

Marketing and Sales have one goal, are the continuation of one another and cannot be successful without one another and yet it is amusing and amazing that at many companies they are separated, segregated and do not even know one another. A friend of mine who works at the Marketing department of a bigger company cannot even name a single salesperson at her company.

Marketing should bring prospects to Sales, which in turn, assists the lead to a transaction.

Both should measure and track their activities, but that is a different post.

The two share a common goal: to sell the organization’s goods or services and complement and complete each other, but they are two disciplines clearly practiced by two sets of people with differing skills and temperaments.

Photograph Credit: Domeckopol

Things That Should Go Away: Sales And Marketing Employees Being Like Two Planets Orbiting One Another Without Ever Relating

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Feb 092020
 

 

The problem is many salespersons, or their managers, see the word ‘selling’ and mechanically assume certain behaviour has to follow. Social selling begins with social marketing and should be implemented as such. One cannot skip Baltic to get to Boardwalk. Social selling is undeniably a sales technique and one of the tools at the disposal of the modern sales organization; however, for it to function it should be treated as relationship building with a long tail. Given the tools of social media, the seller learns about the habits, likes and lives of the prospect and gets to work being helpful and relevant. For example, if the prospect is ‘liking’ a certain type of charitable action online then the seller can bring opportunities to be involved and help with the cause to the prospect’s attention. Perhaps the prospect shows a keen interest in a certain vertical or industry. Then it makes sense to share insights or experiences within that industry with the prospect. It is about bonding with the person. The salesperson can be on the lookout for questions the prospect poses and bring answers to the table. In other words, one is not selling a good or service initially; one is selling a relationship and connection by being relevant and helpful. It is by giving value that one hopes to elicit value. It is by showing expertise that one hopes to elicit a favourable picture of oneself as a worthwhile advisor.

 

Photograph Credit: Helloquence

The key here is that knowledge of the needs and wants of customers is finally available in such a way that the keen and observant salesperson can micro-target his or her efforts in a relevant way. It takes consistency of course, but customers are typically advanced in their buying cycles before contacting sales nowadays and, as such, their social activity may be providing an early view of their buying intentions. Listening and reading is learning and gaining a tactical advantage. It is a spectacular method of researching one’s prospects, targeting customers and customizing the approach to leads and potentially even monitoring prospects’ and competitors’ interactions.

Contrast this approach with what often passes as social selling: someone connects with or follows a prospect on social media. Then soon enough comes the request for a conversation or a demo or a meeting and that after one ‘like’ or whatever and nothing more. The sales pitch is crude and not taking advantage of the facilities of social media.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: The New LinkedIn Contact From Yesterday Has A Demo For You

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Dec 032019
 

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

 

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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

 

 

 

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May 052019
 

Many salespersons have heard the term ‘value proposition.’ What does it mean? Why don’t two people agree on the meaning and definition of the term? Is it because no one has bothered to define it? Is it because it means different things at different times? Is it that due to laziness everyone wants to think what they are doing in the name of ‘proposing value’ to customers is the way to do ‘value proposition’? Perhaps others believe it is all irrelevant.

In this instance and for the purpose of modern selling we are speaking about showing that the TCO (Total Cost Of Ownership) is less than the benefits gained. Let us think of TCO in terms of simple cost (the cost of the air conditioner, software, apparatus, whatever). As such, if we can prove to the customer that owning a solution saves them money (and maybe time and maybe number of errors and other factors) the salesperson has a decent shot at making the sale.

Photograph Credit: Lukas

For this to happen the salesperson must:

Have access to the customer and its processes and workflows. Incidentally, not being given access is a good indicator of where the sales process, and its likelihood of success, resides.
Be able to leverage this access to count, calculate and put a figure (value) against how things are happening now pre-automation, pre-efficiency gained, pre-effectiveness garnered. With me so far?
The mathematics begins now. The seller must quantify the existing workflow and contrast it with the (hopefully) lesser cost of the solution. In other words, if the solution costs $100,000 and the value gained is $200,000 then there is a net ROI of $100,000 or 100%.

Here is an example I shared elsewhere recently that I paste here to demonstrate the sample math:

 

  • Our software module costs $20,000. However, to take the minimum and smallest possible scenario, they have 1 person spending 2 hours/day doing something manually or inefficiently (say shuffling paper from the warehouse to the desk, reviewing it, approving it and then delivering it to their finance department…).
  • This person is paid $40/hour. That is $80/day, which is $1,760/month, which in turn is $21,120/year. So in one year they have broken even with our software (and we didn’t even place a value against the person doing other work once freed from this task or the elimination of potential human errors).
  • Over the 5 years they run this solution they could realize a 400% ROI!

 

This is but an example, but it should apply to any enterprise sale.
The above is important, but sellers need to remember that no matter what humans buy based on emotion and only justify against logic with either a formal process or against a set of data later.

 

*Things that need to go away: Thinking of selling as asking customers questions like ‘Is this a good time to move forward with project ABC’?

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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

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