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


Apr 202021

The Why And How Of A Marketing Plan















Whether the Marketing program of York University in Toronto, Canada ranks highly or not is beyond my knowledge, but reading Marketing Led Sales Driven it occurred to me multiple times that professor Ajay K. Sirsi who teaches/taught there is not just knowledgeable about marketing, but is also very passionate about marketing plans. In his opinion the Marketing department at a company leads and Sales follows. The Marketing department sets the plan, parameters and outlines the steps and Sales executes in tandem. That model is one Pandora’s Box that won’t be opened in this review! The author notes that Marketing and Sales are two sides of the same coin and the company needs to rally around this notion. Figure 2.1 depicts this simple connection. Speaking of which, and to be clear, the book’s title hints at a broader topic than the rather focused content of these pages.


A colleague of mine from work handed me this title as a gift and, despite it taking me a while to begin reading due to a backlog of books waiting on the shelf, it was something well worth reading not only because of my occupation or that one of my degrees is in Marketing, but because the author and his self-published book have attentively included multiple charts and graphs to explain the contents in detail. It is always beneficial when the book augments its text and information with samples of which there are three in this book in the form of three appendices; a complete Marketing Plan sample, a complete Sales Plan sample and a complete Key Account Plan example. The author provides the reader with templates. There are even time-lines and a calendar as well.

The book does occasionally become confusing layout and order-wise, but overall it is concise and easy to read and understand.


In seven chapters (200 pages fifty of which are the aforementioned appendices) Marketing Led Sales Driven describes the imperatives of a Marketing plan, the Sales execution that needs to follow including the necessary and mandatory components and the pitfalls to watch for step by step. Page 59 really kicks things off by posing the question we all need to pose, “what business are we in?” and relates and insists that the planning is a must and relevant to all manner of companies, namely from a solo endeavour to a multinational corporation. Examples abound. The question is key because everything one does is to benefit the customer and to do that one needs to segment our customers and markets. Once that is done, the winning company is one that serves its customers better and faster than the competition. Success, Sirsi reminds us, is not accidental and absolutely depends on developing and executing a strategy.


As the author describes the flow is as follows:

  1. Understand Your Market
  2. Create A Marketing Strategy
  3. Deliver And Manage It (including specific time-lines).

A successful enterprise is in alignment and does not work in silos. Successful companies implement at the customer level and the customer level is not the strategic plan level. Also, the author recommends taking the strategic plan one year at a time and implementing at the customer level. Then the team meets regularly to review the marketing activities. In fact, the professor is insistent that a good marketing plan is actionable on a daily basis. The qualities of a good one are outlined in page 66, including the most important one namely being ‘customer focused.’ Chapters 3 and 4 provide more details. All of this, importantly, hinges on data. It is the data that drives everything and without those the exercise is futile. Moreover, the author is of the mind that customers should not be asked regarding their interests, wants and needs. Any customer would ask for more at a lower cost. What the author wants the marketers to determine is what the customer segmentation’s value chain and benefits are. This information not only forms the basis for the annual plan, but should also be relayed to the customer segment as a form of service! An outline of questions to ask in the service of the customer segmentation is on page 56 as is a hi-level way of delivering a SWOT Analysis.

One more thing the author emphasizes is the simple fact that the marketing Plan is to make the company money. One that costs money has it backwards. This is an important point and one that does not get enough sunlight in the corporate world. Elsewhere, the author warns against benchmarking against the competition. It is something the author warns against and calls “a slippery slope.”

On a personal level, the contrasts between Exhibits 5.3 and 5.4 came across as whimsical. You will have to read it for yourself. Suffice to say that the author mocks overly complex and irrelevant customer Marketplace Analyses against simple and matter-of-fact ones.


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 102021

It was surprising to hear this question late last year. I had just met someone who had graduated with a degree in accounting and given her my business card on which it says, among the other information, “ERP.” Except she had no idea what this “ERP” is. “Not good,” I thought. Not good partly because such a large industry, that creates, distributes and supports, Enterprise Resource Management (ah, the cat is out of the bag as far as the acronym anyway) solutions is unfamiliar to most people and partly because an accounting degree holder, who very likely will have to work with ERP, has not heard of it.

There are many resources available to read about ERP software and what it does; however, stated as simply as possible Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is the collection of software that runs a company and its different departments. Most companies start modestly and need to track their revenue and profits/losses and pay taxes at first. This is where the accounting component comes in. From there the sky is the limit. For instance, when there is a Sales department companies buy software to track sales, when there are enough employees the Human Resources department needs a way to hire employees and assign them roles and privileges, Business Intelligence/Analytics is required to understand, report and plan, if there is a factory they need a method to track and plan things and so on. The combinations are varied and depend on what the company does and how it grows.

This takes us to the next point, which is that most ERP systems or solutions are modular. What does that mean? It means one could add required functionality as one goes along. It also points to another feature of ERP software. The different software and departments that use the software share a database, which means that everyone talks to everybody else and the data is shared (see diagram). This means the company could share its information, coordinates its various functions and collaborates as it should.

A good metaphor for ERP is a house with its occupants being like the company’s ERP users. A house is built on one foundation, where appropriate its residents have admittance rights to its different rooms and functions and the entrance, doors and corridors allow everyone to share and access it just like a database does. Moreover, a house has bedrooms, washrooms and a kitchen just like an ERP system has Accounting, Human Resources, Analytics, ET cetra functionalities. It is important that the corridors and doors connect every part to the other parts because otherwise it is not one unit. This is why whether all bought at the same time or added as time goes on ERP technology is made so all pieces talk to one another.


Things That Need To Go Away: So-Called ERP Software That Only Does One Thing.

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

Aug 302020

The saga that is the pressure by the administration of Donald Trump in the USA on Chinese app TikTok rages on. The app that is such a mystery to the older generation has 800 million users world-wide and, depending on which report being accurate, has between 50 to 100 million users in the USA alone. It has been downloaded 2 billion times. That is astounding statistics by any measure, but even more when one remembers that the app was launched in 2016.


Image Credit: Priyampatel4

More recently, several countries have banned or threatened to ban the application citing national security concerns. It may come across as bizarre that an app designed to record short video bursts used mainly by teenagers to dance or lip sync to popular tunes would be a national security concern, but the Americans, and others, who make the argument point out that an app that is designed to collect audio and video that is sitting on millions of smart devices is dangerous. They also point out that a Chinese law compels all technology companies to submit data per government request. The thought process seems justifiable. TikTok, and its parent company ByteDance, in the meantime denies any such data transfer and insists that it would not comply were it requested to hand over users’ data. The Chinese government can barely claim moral or intellectual higher ground however. It has famously banned or restricted non-Chinese technologies for years itself.

There is another side to this story however. That side tells a tale of a cold war run amok and a world where the Presumption Of Innocence, which is a tenet of Western Liberal Democracy being subverted before our eyes. ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’ has been an accepted principle upon which Western democracies have been built since the Middle Ages. In fact, the principle has its roots in Roman, Islamic and English common laws.

This makes the TikTok issue is a concern beyond the fate of one app – no matter how popular it may be. TikTok is the rare non-American app that is in the top ten of most used social applications. It sits in the same pantheon as Facebook and YouTube and ahead of popular applications like Twitter. Imagine that. At the same time the US government has attacked TikTok it has also stated that the other popular Chinese app WeChat (Weixin in China) will also be banned. The same administration, and its allies, has been levelling accusations of security shortcomings or downright danger at other Chinese technology companies like Huawei. It also does not help the accusers of TikTok that it was banned by India the week after that country and China fought a skirmish along their borders.

Here is where things become problematic. There has been no proof offered. There have been a plethora of reports, accusations and assumed smoking guns, but no proof. It is difficult to rationally act on the reported dangers of these technologies when after years of investigation and scrutiny on nearly every continent and by so many pundits and experts no one has been able to show this data transfer or catch the dangerous behaviour. Were these technologies problematic based on data and privacy concerns would it not make sense for the Western governments to outright ban them immediately as opposed to giving them 90days to sell the product to an American company? Microsoft and Wal-Mart and even Oracle have expressed interest. Worse, American intelligence agencies were famously caught red-handed doing the same thing they accuse the Chinese company of doing.

This makes a case for TikTok being caught in the midst of a cold war as opposed to being a security risk. This may be about keeping American technological dominance and blocking competition. After all, let us remember what happened with the leading security software provider Kaspersky Labs.


Image Credit: Turnisu


Things That Need To Go Away: Attacking The Values That Make Our Society Great For Political Expediency

Jul 072020

COVID-19 has turned lives upside down with jobs and careers either temporarily lost or perhaps permanently rejiggered. Many have seen their hours cut back, furloughed or turned to the gig economy to make ends meet. In Canada three million jobs were lost in March and April and two and a half million more faced having to do with reduced hours. A Toronto Star article highlighted several cases.


I have had multiple talks with friends, acquaintances and former colleagues about the situation recently who are in the sales and management field. It may be time to think why a career in your most recent role may not be worth going back to. Let’s face it. To take our aforementioned examples, many salespeople do not hit their quotas and hate the targets to begin with. Many have been dragged into the career by winds of reflex and are not inspired by selling. Others may simply dislike the volatile nature of earnings or dislike travel if it is normally required. Unless your religion tells you otherwise, you are not going to be reborn and this is your one chance to live your life the way you want it to be lived. I spoke with Nissar Ahamed the founder of who did just that in 2019. He purposefully left a career in technology as a director of marketing to focus on CareerMetis, work on his vision to offer a resource for job-seekers, including this relevant article, and fulfil his dream of travelling as a digital nomad. His thoughts are, “You are never ready. Too many of us often delay the most important decisions of our lives (moving to a new city, asking for a raise, quitting your job, starting a business) until the ‘right time’. Here’s the truth. It’s never the ‘right time’ or the ‘optimal time’. The fear of making a mistake holds us back and this waiting for an opportune or auspicious time delays the pursuit of our goals. You will never be ready. As the Nike slogan says ‘Just Do it’.”

Photograph Credit: Cottonbro

Whatever the circumstance, and this may be insensitive, but there may be a silver lining to being laid off from a job and arena that was not what the heart desires. One study from 2013 suggests 47 percent of college graduates do not find jobs in their fields of study.

If that is the case it may be a good time to walk away and not look back. If you are looking for a career shift consider the following points.

  • Firstly, do not panic and become desperate. It simply does not help.
  • Secondly, start planning and be resolute. COVID-19 has handed you a lemon? Make lemonade and do not dilute your dreams. What do you really want to do and what does it take? Are you missing courses? Online courses are a good option. These are also available for those who are in sales and wish to improve themselves. Does your resume highlight relevant experiences or skills that could be leveraged in your coveted job? If you agree that you only live once and if you believe that those who enjoy doing something do it well then march forward. That is the type of conversation I have been having with a few people who have called after undergoing turbulence. It is a combination of comparing professional notes and discussing philosophy.
  • Thirdly, conduct a no-bias audit of your personal finances and understand where you are, where you will be next month and so forth. There are many free online, free community, low or no-cost governmental and paid professional services to help. Have you availed yourself of those services seriously and methodically? Research is important. Having a plan is important. Reviewing the plan with a professional and trusted source is important and implies you have created a strategy including understanding the deficit in resources and skills you need to overcome. Take account of your transferrable skills.
  • Finally, don’t forget to shift into a career and environment that inspires. Do not just drift into another job like flotsam and jetsam.

Photograph Credit: BezeVision

Ahamed adds, “The right time is now. You will make mistakes, sometimes fail miserably. But, you will only know that once you have launched. You will realize that there is always something new to learn. You will course-correct once you launch. So don’t wait. Just launch. Just do it. The right time is now.”

The bad news if you have lost your job is that keeping one foot in and one foot out of the door as you build, or reclaim, your career is not an option. The good news is that the situation should lead to more resolute actions and decisions. Remember, resiliency is one option. It is not the only option.


Things That Need To Go Away: A Life Wasted

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