Ali Ghaemi

Jun 272021
 

These pages have written about Sales Process, Sales Department Set-Up and Sales Coaching for the team and department.

What about the modern customer’s and seller’s journey however (yes, they somewhat follow one another). The sales team must be trained and acutely cognizant of how the buyer journey example works, control, facilitate and expedite every step of the way and the organization has to deliver on each in tandem (and expeditiously). If a step is to be skipped then every party needs to understand why and to what end.

How is your organization performing against the below buyer journey funnel and template?

 

Modern Customer Journey

 

Things That Need to Go Away: Salespersons who do not have discipline to cover every aspect. “I Don’t Need This Stuff. I know Better.”

Jun 172021
 

This should have grabbed your attention if you are either an ERP software watcher or run SAP ERP and, in turn, likely work for a larger enterprise company. SAP has announced the deadline for supporting its ERP S/3 6.0 ECC (and earlier products) is 2027. Good news is that this was quickly updated from the initial 2025 time-line mere days after the earlier deadline ostensibly due to adverse customer reaction. Installing, running and certainly upgrading or tossing SAP ERP is no simple matter. This is not to single out the SAP ERP system, as most ERP module providers have had their share of implementation challenges, but SAP is the market share leader and has had a few more publicized issues. Notably, in parallel SAP has committed to supporting S/4 HANA until 2040 only. That itself is less than twenty years only. History points to SAP extending that deadline however.

Companies depend on SAP ERP software to run everything at their companies and the decision to upgrade or change this all-encompassing software is a multi-year engagement either way that will certainly come with both user experience and process challenges.

Customer choices are:

  • To upgrade to SAP S/4 HANA, which utilizes SAP’s own HANA database or
  • Switch to another ERP.
  • A third, and perhaps more short-sighted, choice is to switch from SAP direct to a third party support organization beyond 2027. Third party providers certainly have their place and often offer good value, but the change has to happen sooner or later. It essentially delays the inevitable.

 

It is important to note that S/4 was rebuilt from the ground up and this is not a matter of a ‘simple’ upgrade. Moreover, the change in database requires that this large piece of the puzzle undergo its own transformation as well. SAP would remind customers of the upgraded architecture, capabilities and speed boost of its S/4 HANA product. Customers new and old should look at their SAP choices carefully and consider (right as they look at their numerous customizations) what to do soon as the SAP expertise out there is limited and one should not be caught shorthanded. SAP integrators would be delighted to help with what is surely not a mere software change, but a company transformation. A new implementation or upgrade is a multi-year effort and should be weighed against SAP’s 2027 deadline.

Frankly, springing into action last minute may give your company less leverage when speaking with SAP or others.

In short, the time to look at your current and future needs, processes and capacity for change is now.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: A Pound Of Cure Instead Of An Ounce Of Preparation

 

 

Jun 012021
 

Anyone who has read anything on these pages should know by now the emphasis on and advocacy for selling by role (role-based selling) and industry (selling by vertical KBR). It is the only way to sell an enterprise solution and software in particular.

 

While the Enterprise software market remains fragmented, SAP maintains the largest single share. That is why it was a surprise to see SAP pull back from the financial services’ sector and spin off much of its industry capital. SAP’s decision to spin off its vertical IP means the world’s biggest ERP provider could not effectively compete in one of the world’s biggest industries. Presumably, and this is the author’s speculation, the new entity can pick and choose which technologies and platforms it offers its customers and not be tied to HANA (platform and database of choice at SAP) or even SAP’s Cloud.

Photograph Credit: ArtisticOperations

 

SAP and a company called Dediq have formed a partnership using the FSI (Financial Services Industry) name, which was then branded SAP Fioneer (all indications are that this name is final). What do you make of this scheme by a company that counts Comerica, Deutsche Bank Italia, Bank Of India; et cetra as customers and yet cannot effectively compete in the arena? What is the contribution of Dediq to this venture aside from a multi-million dollar cash outlay? SAP and Accenture had an agreement regarding developing solutions for Financial Services previously. SAP was called “a leader… in retail banking” by Gartner among others in 2016.

Two points come to mind. Firstly, what hope do other ERP providers have in serving multiple industries when SAP and its €28 billion in annual revenue cannot? Secondly, does this serve as another reminder how important it is for enterprise service providers to focus vertically and do so in-depth?

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Horizontal Solutions With No Depth

Photograph Credit: DawnFu

 

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