For my birthday, Mrs. SalesReformSchool suggested I take a couple days off and tag along with her at a retail software conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Hmmm, a few days in the desert: I could work some, hike some, enjoy the scenery, get some reading in at the pool with a nice adult beverage. Sounds like a great idea. Alas, it’s raining like a tropical rain forest. Might as well get some work done and write a blog post.

I guess some might see rain in the desert as a gift to all living things in this habitat. Similarly, I heard about an unexpected gift from a tech buyer attendee.

This software conference is unique in that there is no real exhibitors hall. Instead, execs from retailers sign up to listen to “Boardroom” pitches, and if they like what they hear, they can request one-on-ones. The retailers are given free admission and they seem to love the format. Stories abound about them coming back year after year and actually kicking off buying processes.

I’m told that at the conference kickoff presentation a shoe retailer exec instructed the solution providers to focus their time in the boardroom presentations on two things: Tell us stories about how you can help us and give us metrics. Don’t get caught up in vague high-level explanations about how the world will be a better place if only the retailers bought into your technology.   Keep it real, and show us the numbers. While self-serving in a good way, this advice was a gift to the sellers.

I imagined some sellers furiously editing their PowerPoint slides and speeches that night. SalesReformSchool clients, instead, would have been sleeping soundly. They know that to build trust fast they need to arm themselves with 30-60 second Success Stories and Plausible Emergencies that show how prospects can use offerings to achieve an objective. They also know that they should avoid making statements unless they are

  1. ascribed to someone else such as a client or an industry observer or
  2. metric driven (#$%E!).

They also know that their stories and metrics should be weaved into one of two conversation choreographies:

  1. Getting to Know You/Show and Tell, or
  2. The Challenger model

Bonus – The shoe exec’s advice is universal: In any situation in life where you want to win over someone to your way of thinking tells stories and provide data. Otherwise, you’re just talking.

SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought

At the same conference, I heard Jeff Ma urge business people to invest in data analysis to make better decisions. Using blackjack basic strategy as a good example of using data and math, he described how group-think and loss aversion irrationally damage decision making.

Never heard of Jeff Ma? Ever read Bringing Down the House, by Ben Mezrich or watch the movie “21”? Ma was on the blackjack team. I highly recommend both and, of course, following basic strategy.


SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular

Looking for some fun entertainment? We recently discovered Drop the Mic on TBS. Enjoy this Top Ten compilation.