You Have To Chose The Right Clients and Opportunities

About a dozen years ago my wife and I were seriously exploring IVF or In Vitro Fertilisation. We were finding it difficult to find a clinic that was prepared to accept our case at first.

My wife and I between us had some personal connections that enabled us to be put in touch with one of the foremost fertility consultants in the land.

That person had a phenomenal success rate, something very important to us, less from a cost perspective, and more from a risk to the mother perspective.

The disappointment we ran in to was simple. This consultant wouldn’t accept us because to do so would significantly impact their success statistics. They had such an exceptional success record because they were very careful about who they took on. What we needed was a consultant and clinic that had more experience and knowledge about our particular circumstances. In the end it was not to be, and in time we turned our love & resources to other needy causes.

And so it is with you and your business. You have to be choosy about who you do business with and/or what kinds of opportunities you invest your time, energy, resources and emotions in to. Getting it wrong can spell doom for your business.

For example, one company I have worked with deliberately stays clear of some very big business opportunities, because it has realized that those accounts are very difficult and demanding to work with, especially given the low levels of returns they generate. It would rather work a greater number of other accounts and opportunities, do a great job, as it always does, but get a reasonable reward for the effort.

So take time out to identify the best kind of accounts and opportunities to work on for you, that also align with where you want to take your business. A great place to start quickly, is to look at the best accounts and opportunities you’ve had over the last 2 years, write down what it is about them that you like and value, and use that as a starting point to help you target new accounts and opportunities going forward.

Do you or your sales people truly know how to sell? Honestly?

Do you really have the ability to sell? Does the top candidate for your new sales position have the ability to sell? Or is this ‘ability’ really the result of other factors, such as luck, wider economic factors, market demand greater than supply, etc?

Whether it is you that has to do the selling for your business, or somebody else, you have to be sure you, or they, really have the ability to sell. But how can you be sure?

Selling on a successful and sustained basis is truly about ability – not to persuade and manipulate, but the ability to connect with your client and find out what they really need & want, even if that means you can’t help them out this time, and then connect them with a solution.

Being able to do this on a sustained basis implies the need for some kind of system, or method, that is repeatable, and increases the chance of success with a client, to beyond simple luck and the impact of other factors.

Many sales people will tell you that a true sales person has no time, and no need for studying, adopting and using any kind of structured sales approach. They are wrong. That’s not just my opinion, but an assertion backed up by plenty of evidence.

This chart is pretty compelling! Note that ‘Level 1’ is where there is no discernible sales system in place, ‘Level 2’ is where there are informal sales systems in place and used, at least a little. ‘Level 3’ is where a formal system is in place and used most or all of the time by most or all sales people. CSO Insights, the author of this study, are at https://www.csoinsights.com/ (opens in new tab/window).

So if it is you to do the selling for your business, what is the sales system or approach you are going to use?

If you are going to hand this very critical task off to another, what is the sales system or approach he or she is going to use?

How can you tell it will be effective?

Whatever the system you or your sales people will use, consider the following:

  • Is it structured?
    • Can it be followed as an ordered process?
    • Can it be used again and again in different situations?
    • Can it be taught to other sales people?
  • Does it focus on the client and their buying decision process?
    • Does it really, or is this a cover for really focusing on sales activities?
    • Does it help clients navigate options?
    • Does it help clients avoid pitfalls?
    • Does it help clients get through their decision making process more quickly, and still be satisfied at the end?
  • Does it focus on business issues for the client, what I refer to as “The Big 3”?
    • Does it help the client grow profitable revenue? Does it help the client reduce their ‘time to money’ (the time it takes to make a positive return on any investment in improved products and/or processes)?
    • Does it help the client cuts costs?
    • Does it help the client manage or mitigate their business risks?
  • Is it easy to learn & use by the sales people?
  • Does it help them do their job better?

Lastly, be wary of people selling you sales systems! Look at how they engage with you, and work to help you solve your sales issues. In my role as Global Sales Training Manager for a major global tech company I received around 12,000 emails each year from people and companies trying to sell me sales systems and techniques. Yes, I actually measured it, but that’s another story! In a single 18 month period only 3 potential providers were able to show me they had something worth spending time on to explore further, and that resulted in us doing business together! Remember, this is from people and organisations who claim they know how to sell!

Are Your Sales People Skewing Your Funnel?

Picture the situation.

Your sales are not where they need to be – they may even be down…

So being the good sales people they are, your sales team gets on the phone – “dialling for dollars”…

It’s well intentioned.

But it’s also bad instincts…

“Hi. I’m Julie from XYZ Company. We are a 30 year old company with a gazillion customers, locations, products, awards, etc etc etc…blah blah blah blah….

…. would you like to see if we can do better than your current supplier?”

Now, some prospects would just hang up, politely or otherwise.

Some would say “send me your details” just to be really polite and, well, you never know when you might want to change your supplier…

And some would agree, perhaps reluctantly, to a bigger call or even a meeting.

And what has the sales person done? Put the details of those who didn’t hang up, in to their sales funnel… because the customer hadn’t said “No!”

But was the customer really looking at that time to buy? Probably not.

So you now have a funnel that’s filling up.

And initially you get excited because you know your conversion rates historically… so you’re now forecasting 25% of these opportunities just added to the funnel, will close. Hooray.

Except your conversion rate is about to drop through the floor…

Why?

Because unwittingly, your sales people have MANUFACTURED a sales cycle by forcing an event!

Many of these opportunities will just stall – sales people are reluctant to call any opportunity as lost, so they’ll languish in your funnel, not going anywhere. And if you ask about any of them, you’ll get the standard “they’re just waiting on budget approval” or some other excuse… and the trouble is, the sales person may be right, up to a point.

So now YOU begin to look a little ropey because you forecasted an upturn, which isn’t materialising, your funnel data is contaminated, and you can no longer be sure what’s really going on.

Many of these opportunities are stalled because they are FAKE! The prospect was nowhere near ready to buy, until your sales person came along. The prospect is perhaps still nowhere closer to buying, but your funnel is skewed, and your salespeople may be burning their reputation, or building the wrong one, as they push on an unready set of prospects…

What are you going to do about it? What directions and guidance are you going to give your sales people? Is your incentive programme actually contributing to this?

 

It Doesn’t Matter If You’ve Never Sold Before…

I’ve recently been working with people who are starting their own business. They’re smart, motivated, have great ideas, and so-on. They’ve just never sold before. And they’ve all been hung up by the voice in their heads telling them they can’t sell and they’re frauds. It’s getting in the way of their success – even leading some to disaster…

In helping them work through this, I had this insight – not new for many, but in this light, new for me. Perhaps it’ll help you as much as it helped these others, even if you’ve been selling all your life…

Until a prospect shifts out of their ‘Status Quo’ mindset or ‘mode’ as I like to call it, and moves in to ‘Change’ mode, there will be no sale.

Here’s why.

In ‘Status Quo’ or ‘SQ’ mode, the prospect is not going to do anything different, even if their current situation is very painful. Until they see the pain of staying in SQ mode is GREATER than the pain of change, they’ve insufficient motivation to change what they do and buy something from you or anybody else.

In getting them out of ‘SQ’ mode you’ll be delivering to them a new CONTEXT for them to use to make decisions in, and you’ll be bringing them a compelling CONTRAST between how things could be if they CHANGE versus how things ARE and WILL CONTINUE TO BE if they stay in SQ mode.

And you bring this context & contrast to them by telling them a powerful, simple, clear and compelling story – a story in which they are the hero in the end.

So this story – your messaging – is ALL ABOUT THEM – it doesn’t matter that you’ve never sold before. It doesn’t matter that every man and his dog is your competition, and that they’re all selling 100 times more than you – that’s all fluff and frankly just a pissy excuse to not take a risk and give it a go…

… and you know, when you get YOUR message, YOUR story right, because it is ABOUT THEM, you’ll deliver it with total conviction and confidence. AND THAT IS THE KEY TO WINNING THE SALE…

The CONGRUENCE between your message and your intent in helping them shines through to your Prospect. And in the end they’ll see how you helped them be the hero in their story, and be successful. And you’ll rightly feel truly great about that.

Tim & Erik’s Book

So you don’t need to worry anymore about your lack of confidence or the success of the competition.

I know – you’re wondering how you can find your message and then deliver it with confidence, passion, congruence and all the other good stuff I mentioned.

Well, you can make a great start by reading “Conversations That Win The Complex Sale” by Tim Reisterer and Erik Peterson.

And if you want to discuss it as you read it, let me know – I’d love to get your ‘take’ on it!

Email me or comment here – either works.

Cheers!

In Selling, Your Job Is To Make The Status Quo Unsafe!

In my post yesterday I said I’d expand on the ‘how’ of challenging a Prospect’s ‘status quo’. So here it is. But first things first…

The traditional perspective in sales & selling is to find out what your customer’s problem or challenge is, offer them the right solution, and keep them happy, all smiles and niceness.

For many, they see this as key to their core role as a sales person.

If you are one of these, as I was not that long ago, well, that’s understandable.

BUT STOP IT!!!

As a ‘sales person’ (I’m not sure that label is even appropriate any more…!), your job is to

MAKE THE STATUS QUO UNSAFE!!!

How do you do this?Now it’s time to blow some myths up here!

Myth Bust #1:

The conventional approach in marketing is to start by creating an avatar or persona, a representation of the kind of person you are marketing to. It is often said by traditional marketing professionals that “personas are the best tool for creating messages.” One of my favourite and successful marketing professionals, Bernadette Doyle of ‘Client Magnets’ fame, uses this approach in her training classes. She’s had a lot of success, and so have her clients.

It’s not wrong. It’s just not the full picture, and can actually get in the way when you are specifically seeking to challenge somebody’s status quo.

Just so we’re clear – not every client or prospect wants their status quo challenged, or needs it challenged. There are plenty of sales opportunities where clients know exactly what they want & need. But for those other situations, that can represent more than double the value of your current revenue, ‘marketing personas’ get in the way.

How do they get in the way?

Simple. When you build a clear picture of the way somebody is – their current situation – it becomes difficult to unseat them from their status quo – your entire picture is built around how they currently are – not how they could be if their situation changed.

When you create a message for where the client/Prospect currently is, you are giving them little context for making any decision about changing things.

And you run the real risk and chance of sounding like all the other competitors you have who are also trying to sell to this client/Prospect.

Part of your challenge with beating the competition and differentiating yourself is that the very approach you may be taking – the conventional one – is actually building up barriers against your success, not taking them down!

INSTEAD…

Create for what Tim Reisterer calls ‘Status Quo Clusters’ – a cluster of people who have the same Status Quo, though in marketing persona terms might look very different.

Identify what they do and use today, and how they do and use these things.

Discover why they think they are ‘safe’ by staying with their Status Quo.

You now have the beginnings of a story – one that contrasts their current view, their status quo, with an alternative – one that is filled with pain and/or with opportunity – compelling enough that they’ll take notice and at least will want to learn more by talking with you…

You do this by finding gaps in their ‘safe assumptions’ they hold about their status quo.

Oh, and you’ll also need evidence for these gaps, otherwise you probably won’t have enough credibility to tip them enough out of their sense of safety to want to come talk to you…

The upside, the beauty of this approach, is that the Status Quo cluster is more diverse than the standard and conventional marketing persona – through this higher diversity you will find more paths to more potential customers – ones you’d never have uncovered so easily & quickly the conventional way…

Now for Myth Bust #2:

… and I think I’ll leave that for tomorrow…!!

 

Stop Pissing Off 99% Of Your Prospects!

Research by Forrester, a company with a significant Sales Enablement business, did some research with executives on the effectiveness of sales calls. here’s what they found:

15% of sales calls added enough value.

7% of the executives surveyed stated they would probably schedule a follow-up.

In addition, the frustration executives felt at having their time wasted actually created a level of hostility towards the company whose sales person had made the call or presentation in the first place… enough to have a material impact on decisions, including being let to pitch for future business.

So, ONLY 15% of sales calls add value.

And ONLY 7% of execs in the survey would follow up.

Now, 7% of 15% is about 1%, so only about 1% of calls will result in a follow up… I know I’m playing a little loose with the numbers here, but it strikes me that the 1% success rate with ‘dialling for dollars’ like this fits well with our perception of reality… so maybe there’s an explanation for the low hit rate for this type of sales activity…

And if only 1% follow up, and there’s real frustration at the lack of value added in as much as the other 99%, it could be that you are actually annoying, if not ‘pissing off’ ALL of this 99%…

OK, it’s far fetched for many of you – I can already hear the ‘but’ comments from many of you!

But let’s not lose sight of the point here – prospective clients HATE to have their limited and valuable time wasted by sales people, no matter how good the products & services on offer and no matter how well-intentioned the sales person.

And people wonder why prospects can be so hostile to these approaches, and not even want to consider a new product or service that could really help them out…

No wonder sales people struggle – and it’s magnified 10x in a down turn, like the one we’ve been stuck in for some 5 years now.

So what to do instead?

Well, change the messaging for a start.

Don’t lead WITH your products and services, lead TO them, starting with the prospect and the challenges they face. Challenge them to see their world and business differently, then provide them with a frame of reference against which they can make a decision. Leading WITH products & services means this frame of reference is missing for them – how can they make an informed and therefore lower risk (in their minds) decision without a frame of reference?

  1. Question the status quo – and get them to recognise this, then…
  2. Redefine the situation – this is where the frame of reference is needed, built on contrast between how things currently are and why that’s painful, and how things could be and how that’s desirable & worth the risk of doing something about it, then…
  3. Present an alternative – and make sure they see the alternative in your offering, and that choosing you is in the end the lowest risk option for them.

I know this is easier said than done, but until this got said, it was unlikely it would get done!

So, you now have something to think on, AND act on. Get to it!

Oh… What’s that? You’re not sure HOW to move forward on that?

Well, give it a go, think about it – what is the status quo in your industry or target prospect, in relation to core business objectives? What benefits do your prospects get from staying with the status quo? What dangers lurk as a result of not changing?

Answer these initial questions and you’ll be well on your way.

And I’ll expand on the ‘how’ in my next post.

Do You Talk Price Or Value?

Price and value.

Value and price.

They are almost always not the same thing.

In these times of economic downturn, one of the most frequent questions sales people hear from customers is a request for a cost reduction.

One of the most frequent responses I hear of from sales people is “ok”.

It is NOT ok!

Not until you, the sales person has looked deeper in to what is going on with the customer.

If you give a cost reduction, several things are going to happen:

  1. Your revenue will drop, assuming all else stays unchanged. If you’re a company listed on the stock market, that means your share price, EPS and other key metrics will take a hit. The kind of hit that, if too big, or goes on for too long, tends to end in layoffs. I’m just saying…
  2. Your profit will drop even quicker – cost reductions all come out of your profits, if you have any left.
  3. The customer knows that you are their ‘go to person’ next time they need a cost reduction. Giving a cost reduction without getting something in return breeds – it breeds more cost reductions. And while you’re giving away your business (because that’s what it is), your competitors are potentially stealing your other customers…

So stop doing it!

I’m NOT saying you can’t give cost reductions.

What I AM saying is… Get something in return…

For example:

A customer comes to you asking for a cost reduction. You have a price agreement that matches volume to price – more volume means less unit price – standard stuff. So you could respond with something like this…

“Hmmm. I know the economy is tough, and your volumes are down like almost everybody else’s. I understand the situation you are in. With your lower volumes our pricing agreement calls for a price increase, and I was thinking about that. How about we keep the price as it is for the moment, even though your volumes are down?”

Or how about this:

A customer comes to you demanding improved/shorter delivery times. They’ve been ordering less so they carry less inventory during the down turn, and reduce the cash tied up in inventory – very common. Now they’re seeing the beginnings of an up turn, and are concerned they won’t have enough inventory on hand to meet demand, and they want to maximise their ‘take’ on this upturn to balance the bad few quarters they, like so many, have experienced.

A shorter delivery cycle clearly means something to them – they attach some value to it. So what are they prepared to pay for it? Are they willing to pay extra in revenue terms? Possibly, but usually not. AND it’s worth asking…

A shorter delivery cycle might mean challenges for you – it can mess with your own plans, schedules, raw material inventories and so on- there’s a knock on effect, and, frankly, why should you pay for the strategic decisions, good or bad, of even one of your customers? Don’t give shorter delivery cycles away for nothing – otherwise next time a customer needs something, they’ll come to you first, and get it from you, instead of your competition… and you get nothing out of it…

Oh sure, I can hear some of you saying “if I don’t, I’ll lose their business!” – well, maybe you should! Not all business is good business!

OK. So if the customer is unwilling to pay actual extra $ for speedier delivery, what can they give you in return? More backlog – advanced orders, would be good, incentivised through a price/volume agreement… this will help you with your forecasting and planning, which is something YOU value, and maybe enough to offset the hassle you may have of providing shorter delivery cycles.

Here’s a third example:

“We like your solution. If you can beat the solution offered by Competitor X, the business is yours.”

I know. It’s tempting to a lot of sales people.

But beware!

If the statement from the customer is accurate etc, that they really DO like yours over Competitor X, then find out what it is that they like more, before you even think about dropping your price.

Anytime a customer is telling you their selection is now to be decided on price alone, such as in this example, then either the customer…

  • … really is buying on price alone, meaning they have commoditized you, OR, more likely…
  • … you haven’t done a good enough sales job yet, and have failed to connect your solution with enough aspects of what they are trying to fix, achieve or avoid through this purchase. And this means they can’t tell the difference in value between your solution and the one from Competitor X.

Let’s assume it’s the second outcome.

In which case, go back to it, find out more about what it is the customer is trying to fix, achieve and/or avoid, and in the minds of the key decision makers, connect your new and deeper understanding of this with appropriate aspects (features, advantages & benefits) of your solution.

If you can’t do this, OR you really are in the first situation, where you have been commoditised, the customer is unable or unwilling to see your value, and all you do by giving in at the lower price is confirm their view of you – that you are not different and do not deserve a higher price… This is NOT a sustainable strategy!

 

OK, off my soap box! What price/value conversations have you come across, good or bad, and what happened? Let me know!

How To Determine If You Are In The Non-Sales Selling Game…

How you answer the following 3 questions will help you figure out if you are in the Non-Sales Selling (#NonSalesSelling) game…

It’s a question & concept I began to explore with you in my last blog “We’re All In Sales Now” (click here to read…)

For each question, answer YES or NO. Either answer will attract a score. Take all 4 scores and add them up at the end, where there is a simple score card to help you figure out if you are in the non-sales selling game… (see Daniel Pink’s book “To Sell Is Human“, page 42)

  1. Do you earn your living trying to convince others to purchase goods and/or services? (NO = 0, YES = 1)
  2. Do you work for yourself or run your own operation, even on the side? (NO = 0, YES = 2)
  3. Does your work require the ability to cross boundaries and functions, to work outside your speciality, and to do a variety of different things throughout the day? (NO = 0, YES = 2)

Interpretation:

Score = 0     => You are not in sales, or in non-sales selling.

Score = 1      => You are in traditional sales.

Score > 1      => You are in non-sales selling    AND…

IF your score is ALSO and ODD number, you are ALSO in traditional sales.

 

So, what is your score?

And what are you going to do about it, in light of what we explored in my previous blog here?

Write & let me know – leave a comment or email me!

We’re All In Sales Now

41%.

That’s about how much of their time people spend at work, doing non-sales selling… persuading, influencing and convincing others to do something… in ways that don’t involve anyone actually purchasing… So says Daniel H Pink, in his latest book “To Sell is Human” (Riverhead, NY, 2012).

Daniel H Pink: To Sell Is Human

Daniel H Pink: To Sell Is Human

Pink makes the case that as the World has changed in the last few decades, so has the way people buy. Much of this is because of the Internet… in the ‘old days’ the seller had the information advantage over the buyer – this was the value the seller added for the buyer.

Not now – the buyer has the Internet – and might even know more about the product or service they want to buy than the sales person who is trying to sell it to them… at least, they’ll know more about it in the context of what the buyer is trying to fix, achieve and/or avoid…

As organisations have adapted to the changing World, so they have demanded more flexibility and capability to work across multiple job roles or areas… using resources that don’t ‘belong’ to the  employee – that aren’t theirs to command…

So increasingly, more of us are having to get people we work with and for, to give us time, energy and other resources so we can achieve our goals. We can’t force this to happen. So we have to influence, persuade and convince.

That’s non-sales selling.

No money is changing hands.

It’s the same with traditional customers – we’re having to persuade, influence and convince contacts and prospects whose time is even more precious than it was a decade ago, and who are also under constant assault from emails and phone calls from others, often outside the company… all demanding the attention of the very people we need to engage with if we’re to actually end up eventually with an actual sale, where a purchase takes place…

To tackle this developing scenario requires a new way of looking at the World, at problems that people are tackling, and of looking at selling.

According to Pink, by 2020 the single biggest role in the US economy is forecast to be ‘salesperson’… most of that is likely to require non-sales selling.

So what to do, and how to do it, and where in the sales cycle or process?

These are just some of the questions we’ll be answering in the next few posts…

In the mean time, take a look at Pink’s book… http://www.danpink.com/books/to-sell-is-human

When you don’t know where you are financially…

I’ve just been down to the local CVS store to get some milk.

At the checkout, just in front of me, a young lady was having trouble paying for her shopping. She was using various credit/debit cards. None of her cards would let her pay, so in the end she had to leave without her shopping, and probably feeling just a little embarrassed, and worrying now about her financial situation.

I felt for her – I’ve been in that position before, admittedly some time ago.

And as she walked out of the store, shoulders slumped, head slightly down, I couldn’t help but think about parallels to sales situations.

How many times does a sales person (surely not you!?) go in to a discussion on price, delivery etc, and not really know what their situation is? Do they know what they can afford to do, business-wise? Do they know what aspects of a more complex proposal they can afford to do, or should afford to do?

Do they win the business at almost any cost, and then find it gets in the way of greater opportunities…?

So next time you, or one of your sales people is discussion the finer details of a deal, just spare a thought, ideally before hand, about just what you or they can and can not,sign up for.