Jan 312021
 

In the world of sales cross-selling and up-selling are known and accepted concepts. Or are they?

 

I surreptitiously questioned my acquaintances recently and the concept was unclear to a few. In fact, a couple of folks confused one with the other. So without further ado what is a cross-sell and what is an upsell?

 

Cross-selling is offering a customer additional and complementary products or services. A customer arrives at the local junk food joint and asks for a cheeseburger. The employee asks whether the customer would also like sauce for $1 extra. That is cross-selling. That is a dollar of revenue that the business would not have obtained without the particular act of offering something else for sale. Is it a useful service? It could be. For example, the customer may derive pleasure from the sauce or be further satisfied at home when finding out that sauce enhances the food. This could be a matter of convenience too.

Up-selling is selling a more expensive, larger, grander or fancier version of what is the standard offering or the customer is requesting. This more expensive offering has more functions, better features and is more enhanced. A prospective home owner enters a builder’s sales office and enquires regarding a certain model of the houses available. The salesperson steers the person towards a larger house with an extra bathroom, fireplace and a functional attic. This model costs more and brings in more revenue and profit. Is it a service to the customer? Potentially. The fireplace is handy if the transaction is taking place in a cold region.

 

Cross selling or up selling may work or not. They may be useful or not. It is up to the seller to make the suggestion and offer value in return for the higher price. The customer will decide if the value of the additional or high-end item is justified given the price differential.

Coincidentally, the best time to introduce these concepts to customers is not at the tail-end of a sale, but at its start. That is, inform the customer in advance of the availability of complementary or more enhanced offers. Then ask the question and explore the possibilities after the initial sale request has been discussed.

 

Image Credit: Geralt

 

The motions could certainly be value-enhancing and a simple way of increasing revenue. It goes without saying that the seller must have different items and categories in its arsenal to offer its customers for the concepts to be usable.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Greasy French Fries a.k.a. Selling Anyone Anything They Do not Need 

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

Sep 082020
 

Sometimes salespeople assume they know what matters instead of asking. Sometimes salespeople trip themselves up by creating objections. Occasionally, salespeople speak too much and when one speaks one is not listening.

 

There are several good reasons for salespersons to speak less. Yes, speak less. It is difficult to imagine, but it is true that salespersons speak too much. It is ingrained in their DNA. Yet, this trait goes back to an older time when the customer was less informed and could not educate him or herself. The balance of power has shifted and buyers have other avenues of educating themselves. Imagine a hiring manager who interviews a sales position candidate and decides to hire the candidate who speaks less. Sounds strange, right? It should not be. Let me explain.

1- Speaking less may be a sign that the salesperson has done his or her homework and is looking for more information and more insight because there is much that he or she has already discovered. It is also respectful and beats the heck out of lecturing a customer. To be clear, that is different from a salesperson who is quiet and rarely speaks.

2- Speaking less may coincide with a candidate who asks more questions and shows a keen ability to look at responding to the challenges of the buyer (could be an interviewer). The pitch has to align to the customer’s (could be hiring manager) needs. It should not be random or assumed to hit the bull’s eye. Who does not like a person who asks good questions anyway?

3- Speaking less also reduces objections. The more one speaks the more objections may pop up. Here is an exaggerated example to illustrate the point:

  • Salesperson: May I obtain the purchase order from you today?
  • Buyer: Yes, as a matter of fact I have it ready for you.
  • Salesperson: That is fantastic …
    • … I have not received a PO in a while and could sure use this sale or
    • … You have made the right choice. We are the number one provider of widgets in the country or
    • … That is superb. I will pass it on to your account manager right away and he will contact you in the next two days.

Literally anything the salesperson says could create an issue and become an obstacle. The examples are endless, but silence would have been golden to avoid, to use the above examples, making the customer think he should not award a PO to a company that does not win any business or may be too expensive because they are #1 and hence there may be a cheaper alternative out there since the customer does not need the highest quality or give the buyer cause for a halt because they were looking forward to working with that particular salesperson and not an account manager who would replace the original salesperson from here on in.

Perhaps the best response would have been ‘… Thank-you. I will wait in your reception area for you.’ Imagine that! Quite different from the salesperson who always needs to get in extra words.

None of the above suggests the salesperson should be silent, uncommunicative or refrain from opening his or her mouth. It simply means asking questions, understanding and being targeted are better strategies than being absorbed in one’s own world at the expense of potentially tripping oneself up.

 

Things That Need to Go Away: Assuming More Words Equal More Stature, Significance Or Sales

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

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

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

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