SalesReformSchool

Today’s Lesson: “Social” Selling

No, this is not another post on using online sites like LinkedIn to build your pipeline. Rather, I want to talk about my friend Mitch (real person, fake name). Mitch is looking for love. He’s a good guy. Works hard, takes care of himself, and is a true mensch. Over the years, I’ve lived vicariously through the ups and downs of his love life, trying to support him.

Why am I telling you about Mitch? No, I’m not pivoting to match-making, but I do want to talk about your social life.

This year among other things, I’ve taken on two coaching clients who have the express goal of improving their business development efforts. These engagements have reminded me that the early stage dating scene which Mitch is not shy about going through is very similar to early business development conversations. The same goes for other areas of your social life, like making new friends. Read More

What’s your Dirty Dozen?

(reposting on request)

Here’s a frequent conversation I have with friends, colleagues, prospects, clients:

FRIEND: How do you get your clients?

ME: It’s a lot of conversations like this one.

FRIEND quizzical look on his face: What do you mean?

ME: Well, when I talk to people about what I do for a living, it’s my opening to inform them about my Dirty Dozen.

FRIEND: Your what?

ME: In any business, but especially Business to Business sales, the issues a company helps others overcome can be thought of as the more-than-annoying issues that your clients face every day or at least should worry about every day. If they don’t deal with them, they fester and can damage the whole enterprise. These pests remind me of the rag-tag delinquents and convicts Lee Marvin whipped into shape in the movie of the same name.

If everyone I know, knows the issues or concerns that my clients have that I help them address and overcome, then they become my advertising and marketing team. If they experience any of my Dirty Dozen or know of someone else who is, it’s my goal that they remember to think of me. If I just talk about my features or my “stuff” then I am leaving it up to my audience to figure out when they or one of their contacts would need what I have to offer.dirtydozen

FRIEND: So, what’s your “Dirty Dozen”?

ME: well, I’m not about to go into a solilloquy, instead I rattle off a few of the below concerns sales and marketing execs face –

  1. No process for ensuring that sellers are putting out the same message in sales conversations as the executive team is creating on a higher level – that is, marketing and sales are not integrated.
  2. Prospects attempt to treat what they sell as a commodity
  3. Sales cycles inexplicably long and expensive
  4. Salespeople find themselves having to unseat an incumbent’s product or service
  5. Maintaining the ‘status quo” one of their primary competitors
  6. It takes too long for new hires to make their first sale or management wants to insure a quicker time to first sale.
  7. Salespeople too often “Wing-it” and rely on the product too early in the sales cycle, instead of having well thought out conversations with the buyers about goals, objectives, challenges and needs
  8. The decision to purchase has to be approved by ‘multiple executives’ who have diverse business issues and who are typically risk averse
  9. Prospects require your product or service to demonstrate a quick and clear cost-versus-benefit analysis even to be considered
  10. What they sell requires a major change in thinking by your prospect
  11. The team is composed of veterans who each bring to the job their own way of selling with no unified dictionary of terms and processes or less seasoned folks with no process at all; It is hard to provide skill and opportunity coaching with everyone doing their own thing.
  12. Within the sales team, there is not a process for sharing information on opportunities

See, in any company, if you are a marketer, it’s your job to condition the market to think of your company when a particular goal, issue or concern arises. For me, my customer’s goal is usually to improve sales performance, but that is too general and broad. My Dirty Dozen, I hope, addresses everyday issues that trouble CEOs and their leadership teams. When they do, I want folks to think of me. By the way, many smart execs tell me that they want a corporate culture where EVERYONE wants to be at least helping drive sales and revenue. Loading up employees with the Dirty Dozen is a good first step.

FRIEND: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, but I am in sales; finding new prospects, that’s marketing’s job, you just said so.

ME: If you don’t hit your sales number, does your boss want to hear that marketing is not doing it’s job? Ultimately, your pipeline is your responsibility. Also, don’t your shortest sales cycles come from referrals!? They do for me. Arming your contacts with YOUR company’s DIRTY DOZEN will start the referral engine. Sorry for the mixed metaphor. Ms. Kelly – my High School English teacher would not be pleased.

Soooo, what is YOUR Dirty Dozen?

Personally, I am not one to thrust what I do for a living onto others. That’s just me, I am not comfortable doing that. I try not to force rapport. For me, rapport doesn’t work and can be a negative unless I have gained some amount of trust. And as I have said before, I agree with Covey that trust = sincerity + competence.

When asked, however, “So, what do you do for a living?” or specifically about my business, like above, I want to make sure I am prepared. Consider this: At a trade show, cocktail party, kid’s soccer tournament, if you or ANYONE in your company is asked “what you do for a living or what does your company do?”, can you answer in a way that could eventually generate a referral? Or would the listener have to figure out for themselves, when they would need it, whatever it is?

Your Dirty Dozen can be your best weapon to boost your pipeline!

Hubie, T.K., and the Ideal Prospect

When Hubie Brown and I were much younger, he was my favorite basketball coach.  I had just moved to Atlanta and adopted the hometown Hawks – his team.  He was smart and energetic.  In interviews, he seemed like a great guy.  Hubie is in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor due to his stellar coaching and ongoing broadcasting career.  Although nearly 80 years old, he is still top on top of the game.  I find his commentary spot on, educational, and engaging.  He makes NBA game broadcasts better.

I’m happy to remember that our paths have crossed in person. Years ago, while waiting for luggage early one summer Sunday morning at the Atlanta Airport baggage carousel, I spotted him.  I was returning from a business trip, and of course, could not pass up the chance for a short conversation with my favorite basketball guy.  I am 99.999% sure he has no recollection of this brief encounter, and guess it has happened 100s of times before and since.  He did not disappoint me.  Instead, he made the impression we all hope for.  It was the off season, so instead of bouncing around from city to city broadcasting basketball games, he was returning from a Russian basketball camp. We chatted amiably about basketball and travel.  Hubie Brown was a true gentleman, gracious and engaging even with a  fan for five minutes in a nearly empty airport early in the morning after a long flight.

I love the NBA, and this season has been a blast to follow.  Needless to say, Hubie has come across my consciousness more than once in the last few weeks.  SInce my day job is helping my clients improve sales and marketing, but my attention is getting drawn to this weekend’s beginning of the NBA playoffs, I thought I’d combine the two memes by channeling my inner Hubie Brown.  If you don’t know, Hubie has a sui generis talent for speaking in the second person, and yes, you can make a game of this during his broadcasts.

So here it goes.

You’re a successful CEO with an exit dream, but not necessarily a strategy. One of the biggest daily pressures you face is boosting bottom-line profits by spending most of your time, or more appropriately, your sellers’ time on more high-quality “A” prospects.  Or, you are a CEO of a small, but growing, entrepreneurial company that has started making sales but you are worried about how you are going to keep the funnel full. How are you not going to lose track of where the business is going or should be going?

In both cases, you may also be wary of today’s uncertain economy.  Privately, as either of these CEOs, you may stay up at night worrying about whether your sales people or sales agents are spending time on the right prospects – whomever those are.  In staff meetings, you may ask – or should be asking, “Out of the dozens of different lead-qualification techniques, how do you select the most effective one? (sic, still channeling Hubie). How do you hit the ‘bull’s-eye’, which represents the most profitable, most favorable prospects available? Are you ranking prospects or just going after whoever you can?  If you lose a lot of prospects, waste a lot of time, is it because you are shooting at “B” clients?   How can you take aim at – and score more – ‘A’ quality clients?”

Most of the time, when I help my clients with figuring out their prospects, it’s one layer down the process; more about understanding the individual buyer personas and architecting the sales conversations sellers should be having. But sometimes, leadership can’t articulate their ideal prospect. At this one layer up (or lay-up, groan, I know!) lies the expertise of T.K. Kieran, President of T.K. KIERAN & ASSOCIATES, Inc.

(T.K. and I had lunch this month at Alon’s Bakery in Dunwoody, GA. I think Hubie would say, “You go there for a nice business lunch, you can go rich with stuffed sandwiches or cross over to nice and healthy with veggies or salads.  Either way you can’t go wrong.  And you’ll notice it’s a great people watching spot.”  But I digress.)

T.K. calls this process identifying and implementing your “Ideal Prospect Criteria™”.  As a CEO, you need this Ideal Prospect Criteria™ to overcome some of your biggest head-bangers: keeping your sellers from wasting time on losing prospects and keeping marketing from wasting time, effort and money.   To grow revenue more predictably you need to be able to:

1.       Eliminate the pursuit of low potential prospects

2.      Build a common, effective lead qualification process

3.      More consistently pursue “highest potential, highest payoff” prospects

4.      Segment a prospect base into A, B, C, and D priorities

So, how do you do that?  T.K. shares a few hints:

  • Use no less than five, and no more than eight, criteria in your lead qualification process
  • Writing each criteria to reflect the behaviors, beliefs or abilities (with respect to buying/purchasing) of past clients who were “ideal”, who you want your future prospect to also possess/demonstrate
  • Be prepared to answer your criteria with a binary, “yes” or “no”, without further explanation, otherwise the criteria is too murky.

Strategically, executive leadership looking to grow exponentially or prepare for an exit, must consider constantly where future sales are going to come from.  If you are smart, you will figure out your Ideal Prospect Criteria™” and call T.K. She can help.

Oh, and one last thing.  You have to have the Heat over the Thunder in six games.  As Hubie might say, “You have to respect LeBron James athleticism and the Heat’s attention to detail defending the goal.”

Good Selling and Thanks Hubie.

Regarding Sponsors and Referrals

When inbound leads from marketing just aren’t cutting it, do you work with internal sponsors and trusted advisors for referrals to grow your business?  Or, do you do it the old-fashioned way and cold call and email blast your market?  My friend, social media extraordinaire Barbara Giamanco, recently posted correctly that the best two ways in b2b sales to “get to the right decision maker fast, shrink sales cycles and close business more quickly” is either through a sponsor at the target or a referral from a trusted third party.

Totally agree.  Fantastic advice.

One Question:

How do we do that?

Well, now the rest of the story. 

Sponsors at the Target Prospect

Sponsors at a target prospect fall into two categories: Business and Personal.

Business Sponsors

Business Sponsors are those who have enjoyed the benefits of your offering(s)’ capabilities already and are willing to sponsor you in another part of their organization.  These individuals are willing to sponsor you because you have helped them in the past with overcoming an issue or challenge or reaching a goal or objective.  These sponsors, however, may or may not have the clout to just suggest a meeting between you and the decision makers and make it happen.

To increase the probability that your sponsor gets you a meeting, you need to first collaboratively build the sponsor’s success story. The success story arms your sponsor with a rationale for pushing for the introduction – he helped me, he can help you. Since it will be based in fact and told by a co-worker, the story will help you build an emotional connection between you and the decision makers without you even being there.

This conversational success story should brief enough to be told in a five minute meeting between your sponsor and a decision maker perhaps over coffee, at lunch or during a more serious meeting.

To write it, come to agreement with your sponsor and draft the following:

1)    The sponsor’s goals or objectives before you started to work together.

“Back in 20–, we knew our company needed to improve/increase/decrease….”

2)    What was the business problem or issue prior to our working together? You should be able to describe in two or three sentences the crappy situation they were in.

3)    What capability or set of capabilities did they need to bring on board? Simply,

“when faced with … we needed to be able to ….”

4)    The tangible and intangible payoff or payback.

“Once we implemented or bought from xxx, we increased/decreased/improved ….” 

This puts the cost v. benefit on the table and implies that the decision maker would be smart to meet you.

Once the Business Sponsor has this story in hand, he can confidently make the introduction for you and ratchet up the probability of your getting a meeting with the decision maker.

Personal Sponsors

Personal sponsors are friends and loved ones with whom you have a personal relationship but have not yet helped in a business sense.  You are trying to get your personal sponsor to say to a decision maker,

“Hey, you should meet with Adam.  He is a bright guy, maybe he can help us.”

Will that be enough?  Maybe.

To turn that “maybe” into a probably, you still need to arm your Personal Sponsor with a story.  In fact, it may be more important. Personal relationships are great, but in today’s busy world, might not be enough to get you a meeting.  In fact, it may be a detriment.  Cynical decision makers may think your sponsor is solely trying to help because it’s personal.  Decision makers every day need to determine who they will or will not have conversations.  So, give your Personal Sponsor some help in the form of a success story fashioned like the one above only describing another similar company’s success. Alternatively, work with the personal sponsor to write a usage story for the sponsor’s company.  This will turn the personal sponsor into a business sponsor.

The sponsor’s usage story goes something like this:

 “You know how we are struggling with …. We can’t stand it when….Well, my friend/relative Adam Shapiro says that when his clients are/have been in that situation, he provides then with…..He says they enjoy an increase/decrease/improvement in…. to the tune of …..Can I suggest he contact you to set up a conversation to see if our situation is similar?”

With either the similar success story or the usage story, you can turn your personal sponsor into a business sponsor.

Referral from a Trusted Third Party

Direct Referral

You know someone who not only knows your target’s decision maker, but is in a position of trust with that person.  We can call this person “TA”, for “Trusted Advisor.” You want TA to make a Direct Referral for you. In a very similar fashion to the sponsor scenario, the big question then is, “Can TA tell your story and get you that meeting?”  Just in case TA is not at a consigliere-Tom Hagen level, I suggest  arming him with as well with some of your conversational success stories or usage stories to re-tell during the referral. It will make it easy for the decision maker to agree with TA that he should talk to you.

Indirect Referral

But, what if instead of a direct referral, TA authorizes YOU to reach out to the decision maker and mention that TA suggested you contact them?  This is the Indirect Referral.

In your opening remarks, voice mail or email, offer a success story or usage story.

It should go something like this:

“TA heard about my success helping other companies overcome …. And felt you would want to learn more. In one such situation, they were struggling with ….needed…. we provided them with the capabilities they needed and now they’ve improved/increased/decreased….”

“After hearing this story, TA suggested I contact you.”

Careful, though.   In this situation, you also need to make sure TA is familiar with your success and usage stories because you have to anticipate that the decision maker will seek out TA for confirmation.  Help you and TA save face by having a preparatory conversation first before contacting the decision maker.

So, I agree. Follow Barb’s advice that if you want to sell more, faster, and to the right people, you will need sponsors and referrers.  Your sponsorships and referrals will be strongest and get you to decision makers faster, though, if you give create and deliver meaningful content in the form of success and usage stories as described above.

Good Selling.

Success Story: In-Boarding

reprint from 2006*

Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company is a leader in facilitation training and meeting facilitation. With a network of over 200 facilitators under contract, LSI provides organizations with dynamic, professional facilitators who facilitate executive strategy retreats and problem resolution sessions and lead training classes in facilitation, leadership and consulting skills.

Despite the organization’s high quality products and services and its strong competitive position, early in 2005 several factors led Wilkinson to conclude that the organization needed to transform its salesprocesses and approaches.

  • Year-over-year revenue was stagnant.
  • Most of LSI’s new business was coming from Internet inquiries and call-ins rather than from proactive contacts by the sales team.
  • Too often the sales teams “winged-it” on conversations, which made turning lookers into qualified leads, hit or miss.
  • Product and sales training focused merely on the features of the offerings and not sales process or tools to use when working through an opportunity. Salespeople were left to their own devices to figure out a sales process.
  • With everyone doing their own thing, coaching reps was difficult. For example, some reps had trouble identifying where opportunities were or what steps needed to occur for opportunities to close. They would have great meetings or calls, but the opportunity just seemed to peter out. Other reps, though, needed help with prospecting. They felt they lacked the credibility to make calls outside their comfort zone of HR professionals.

Wilkinson recognized that LSI’s fast growth had come from “early adopters” and that the organization sales had stagnated because they had not successfully penetrated the major market buyers. While the “wins” were usually buyers who understood intuitively how to use LSI offerings, the “misses” were often losses to either an internal training team or “No Decision, Inc.” With these misses, his client relationship managers either had trouble positioning offerings in ways the buyer would grasp or had trouble cost justifying the engagements.

Wilkinson needed the following capabilities to ramp up sales:

  • A customized best-practices LSI sales process, from first initiation, through customer success. This process had to contain pipeline milestones, deliverables and needed to be 100% auditable for sales management in coaching sessions.
  • Sales messaging that would give the client relationship managers the tools to have quality, consultative conversations which would be mapped to the pipeline milestones established in the sales process. Since the core of the sales process is the sales interactions (conversations between client relationship manager and buyer), the core of the conversational, consultative messaging included:
    • How to obtain targeted buyer’s business goals and explore needs;
    • Actual diagnostic questions for each targeted buyer, that would help the client relationship manager extract the buyer’s issues that are currently preventing them from achieving those goals;
    • How to help client relationship managers build value by architecting the questions for them that would uncover the financial impact of the issues; and
    • Then, product positioning that would help the buyer build a vision on how the use of Leadership Strategies’ offerings would help them achieve those goals.
  • Tools and know-how for managers to review each client relationship manager’s documentation of their selling efforts in the form of customer correspondence. In doing so, managers would have visibility into each sales process and could monitor activity levels and competence in key areas with development in specific areas as needed.

LSI contracted with consultant Adam Shapiro to gain the above capabilities. In June 2005, Shapiro worked closely with the company’s sales and marketing leaders to develop the sales-ready messaging for LSI key products and services. A month later, Shapiro taught a customized workshop to all customer-facing personnel at LSI, using the actual sales-ready messaging tools the reps would employ post-workshop.

Wilkinson has been thrilled with the results. “We had an incredible September – the best in the company’s history. September was followed by the best October and November in five years.” One customer relationship manager who was having a difficult time closing opportunities and having executive interactions, “has been lighting up the sales board,” says Wilkinson.

“LSI has terrific offerings for increasing the organizational effectiveness of employees and delighting customers,” Shapiro says. “Their customer relationship managers just needed a way that described the offerings in terms of usage so the mainstream market would get it.”

LSI now has a repeatable, auditable sales process that gives salespeople confidence during their sales interactions and a roadmap for success.

“Adam has done a terrific job for us,” says Wilkinson. “By taking the first month to customize our messaging, he was able to deliver training that was far more impactful then anything we had experienced before. He has superb consulting and training skills and diagnoses issues quickly. Because he lives the selling approach he espouses, he served as an excellent model for our customer relationship managers and sales manager. We were so impressed with Adam’s skills, we extended the contract to have him sit along side our sales manager during the first month of opportunity reviews. Through the value he continually delivers, he truly serves as a trusted advisor for our organization.”

*NOTE:  Admittedly, this success story is a re-post from a few years ago.  It was lost in the transition from Typepad to WordPress.  I continue to work with Leadership Strategies providing strategic and tactical sales and marketing consulting and training.

Asking and Listening Even Through Email

I am often asked, “So, what are your sales conversations like?” My response is that I ask questions and share successes around two related themes: 1) How are you doing with getting new hires, new partners, new investors, etc. on-board with your sales process and how do you want folks to behave, communicate within that process; and 2) How are you doing with getting your existing team understanding your desired sales processes, patterns, or some might say, sales rhythms?

Below is the content of an actual email conversation I am currently having with a prospect.

I hope you will notice that I ask specific diagnostic type questions that map to my offerings.  My prospect’s answers, if I am listening, will guide me on where to take the conversation. I know, for example, that it’s a recipe for disaster if a manager or executive is not asking tough questions about individual opportunities during sales forecasting meetings. I also know from my experience that forecasting disaster is something I can help my clients avoid.

Do you know what answers to your questions indicate a need for your product or service?  Have you socialized these questions and highly probable answers internally?  Do they map to real world example which you or your teammates can effortlessly and confidently describe?

Although this was an email conversation, we could have had the same conversation over the phone, in person, or even over twitter.  The key is that I have been thoughtful ahead of time with the questions I want to ask.

____________________

I have been talking you up big-time around here, Adam. “Get our sales act together” has made it into the top 3 priorities for 2012. Pipeline, account planning, you name it….

So, how do we make this happen – me helping [company] out?

The timing is perfect. It’s now recognized and internalized that we need to get a number of areas of our act in order. (Pipeline mgt, real forecasting, account planning in particular.) Everyone on the exec team (about seven-ten folks) recognizes this. What kinds of things could you do? The urgency is that we know/want to crush it in the first half of the year. We’ve got a handful of big accounts (~12) and a myriad of dogs-and-cats. We’re trying to consolidate to go deeper/broader (both in portfolio of our services purchased, as well as number of BUs across BigCo’s like XXX) rather than try to service a gazillion clients. Gimme an approach I can take in. [key player] is here today, and I’m having dinner with him this afternoon/evening. 

(I responded with a series of questions to understand my contact’s situation more specifically and to indicate the sort of capabilities I provide my clients.  He replied to my questions with in-line answers.  Check it out.)

Is there any concept of a pipeline?

Yes. 

Do you have the stomach for a pipeline and business review to see where you are with particular opportunities that you hope will contribute to “crushing” it in the first half.

To wit:

1) What deals are in the pipeline with new or existing customers that can get you to “crush it” status?

We have a list.

2) With the identified deals – a subset of these must close – why do you think they will close?

There is the big question…it’s “gut feel.”

3) Defend the realism of these ID’d deals by undergoing an opportunity review:

  • What has happened so far?
  • Who do you know will champion us with the selectors, funders, implementers?
  • Why should they? Have they agreed to the value, usage and implementation stories and what are they?
  • What are the steps to gaining a signed contract?

This would be a hugely valuable exercise.

4) If you do not have enough real deals to gain “crush it” status, what are you doing to get more into the pipeline?

Need a plan.

5) What is your business development process and within that process, how do you execute each step?

Not that structured.

6) Have you identified the conversations you want to have – with whom and what IN PARTICULAR you are going to say – to generate interest to the point of gaining trust and having your prospect kick off an evaluation of your skills and capabiiities?

Nope. Need this, too.

I can help with all of the above.

Valentine’s Day and Prospecting

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it seems appropriate to take a fresh look at prospecting.  After all, isn’t it sales and marketing’s constant function to ask others, “Will you be my Valentine?”

Darling Prospect, Will you be Mine?

The Valentine’s Day-Prospecting love connection light bulb went off in my head as I was listening to a terrific podcast from Dr. Bob Cialdini, best selling author and speaker on the science of influence.  In this podcast, Cialdini uses the pharmaceutlcal sales scenario as a backdrop for describing his thoughts on how sellers can get prospects interested faster.  I don’t have any drug firm clients, but I can easily see how his expertise can be applied to on-boarding or “in-boarding” sales and marketing teams in other verticals.

So, here are my notes.  Think of this as a modern day roadmap to winning the hearts and minds of your prospects.

1) To build trust quicker –

– Open with a negative or a drawback of your offering. Shows you are willing to be truthful and establishes yourself as both trustworthy (giving the straight scoop) and knowledgeable.  You are willing to share data that you understand.

– Frame what your stuff does in terms of what your prospect will miss out on, rather than what they will gain. The idea of losing benefits is more powerful than the idea of gaining the benefit in minds of buyers. People would rather protect what they have than work to achieve a gain.

– Use social proof – your offering’s popularity – to show it’s worthwhile. Below the surface, people actually make judgments based on what they perceive is going on around them. “Our most chosen dessert” attracts even more buyers. This is “social proof” of what constitutes proper conduct. So, if you have popularity – USE IT.

– Feature and benefit selling is important, but it’s old school. Today, science shows that we respond to what we perceive should be a better product based on price/popularity/other externalities. We experience things based on context. Prospects stop critiquing – actually turn off that portion of the brain – when they hear statements backed up by popular assent or experts.

2) People say yes to people they trust and like. So, how do we develop relationships quickly?

  • Find similarities.
  • Give honest praise, genuine compliments.
  • Come to like your customer, first. That’s when people feel safe, when they feel liked. They will feel their interests are protected, so they are more likely to follow your recommendations. Don’t try to first try to make someone like you until you’ve tried to like them.

Hmm, seems like good advice for Valentine’s Day, too!

Good Selling.

 

Unleashing Our “Inner Steve Jobs”

Carmine Gallo writing in Entrepreneur magazine last month offered up his seven principles that drove Steve Jobs success.  Gallo suggests that “any of us can adopt them to unleash our ‘inner Steve Jobs.'” So, to unleash your “Jobs-siness” in sales I suggest reading Gallo’s list and considering the following –

1) Do what you love.  I’ve never been someone who could sell ice to eskimos.  If I don’t believe in my product, love my product, I can’t sell it.  For me, life is too short to work on something dispassionately.  If you don’t love it, why should someone else?

2) Put a dent in the universe.  What’s the big vision for how your prospect’s world will look if you work together?  Consider whether you have created a vision big enough to excite others.

3) Make connections.  If you are reading this blog post you probably already consider yourself a life long learner.  Why else read a blog on sales?  Good for you!  Now, think of all the meaningful events and activities in your life.  How can they contribute to and inform your next important client interaction? For Jobs, among other things, it was the connection between calligraphy, India and designing computers and electronics.

Me? I went to law school and practiced law for a few years.  Hated the career, but loved the education. Believe it or not, it helped me learn to empathize with my prospects.  Much the way a lawyer needs to analyze both sides of a negotiation or dispute, a good seller understands his prospect’s point of view. So, my law studies helps me be a “student” of my prospects.

You are the sum of your experiences.  So use them to relate to others.

4) Say no to 1,000 things.  Can you disqualify an opportunity and rationalize your pipeline?  Can you fire a customer who isn’t worth it?  Saying “no” and “No Way” can help clarify why you are working on the good opportunities and with the attractive clients.

5) Create insanely different experiences.  Are you offering up anything that differentiates you from your competition? Or, do your conversations, presentations and websites fill up a Buzzword Bingo card?

6) Master the message. Create and practice your personal and company stories and DON’T WING IT.

Your stories should seduce both sides of the brain – inform and inspire, educate and entertain your prospects.

7) Sell dreams, not products. The things or services you sell are only props that help your clients achieve some goal or objective.  So, talk with them about their goals, objectives, challenges, struggles.  Then show how using your stuff can help make the dream come true.

Good Selling.

Might I Suggest Some T & A: Trust and Alignment

“I’m trying to be consultative, asking all the right questions, but my prospects don’t seem interested.”

“I thought we had a great conversation, then he blew off our follow up call.”

“Sometimes, I feel like I’m leading an interrogation instead of being a good salesperson.”

At some point in your sales career, you have probably said or felt one of the above soon after a business development or prospecting call.  It’s a sinking feeling and it sucks. It steals your optimism.  It can make you question your self worth and wonder why you ever thought you should wear a sales hat.  It has happened to everyone.

But, don’t despair.  This is fixable. What likely happened is a connection failure: You failed to bond emotionally, and the prospect doesn’t feel any reason to get invested with you or your company.  All you need is some T & A.  Trust and Alignment, that is.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

Trust

Above all other things, people buy from people they trust.  So, it only follows that from the start of your initial sales interactions, you need to build a foundation of trust with your prospect.

Trust:  assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.

So, what does this definition mean for sellers?

1)    Assured Reliance – By your words and actions the prospect feels a guarantee on the rest of the definition’s elements

2)    Character – You are someone of good timber. The words out of your mouth are direct, sincere, unambiguous and confident.  They are not filled with vague promises or inscrutable industry-speak.  You are professional, prompt and concise. Since the stereotypical sales interaction is usually negative, the prospect is beginning to believe that you are different, better.

3)    Ability – You can describe how your company has helped solve problems and achieve goals for people in similar positions as the prospect.

4)    Strength – and you do it well.

5)    Truth – your stories and claims are both believable and verifiable.

To sum it up, you can begin to gain trust from a prospect by being sincere and describing your successes in a way that prospects can relate.   Gain trust and buyers will want to continue to interact with you.

Alignment

Along with trusting the seller, buyers or prospects want to work with sellers who understand them, who “get” it.  Think about that for a moment.  When you tell a loved one or a friend that you “get” it, isn’t that an emotional response?  It’s like you are saying, “I understand you viscerally, deep down. I can now take action or respond in a meaningful way.”

Alignment: the proper positioning of two things in relation to each other (slight paraphrase).

In sales, alignment shows you “get” it. In the prospect’s mind – consciously or unconsciously – a seller only deserves to take up the buyer’s time if she “gets” it, if she and the buyer are in alignment. Sellers will be more likely to “get” it, and enter into and maintain alignment if they do four things:

1)    Listen  – patiently and quietly. Don’t interrupt, you will get your turn.  And give your prospect a long runway to get it all out.

2)    Recap – takes notes and then show that you heard and understand.  Use the prospects own idioms to indicate that you were actively listening.  If they gave you metrics, give them back.  Your attention to detail will prove that you care.

3)    Relate – Once you have recapped, you can now describe what your company offers and how it works. Optimally, you will describe a success story or a course of action that is analogous to what you have learned from the buyer.

4)    Confirm – Ask if what you’ve described makes sense, could help the buyer, and is a reason to talk further.

So, if you get that sinking feeling that your prospect is blowing you off or doesn’t care, ask yourself two questions:  Have I established trust?  Am I in alignment?

You see, it’s all about T & A.  Trust and Alignment.

Good Selling!

Adam

Intro to Intro Rocket

Many companies struggle with the opening, leading marketing piece.  If you have been in sales and marketing for any amount of time, you have received emails or seen brochures that describe offerings in the same tired, flowery language –  terms like robustdynamicseamless, and integrated are inserted haphazardly without explanation.  Many are just plain forgettable – the worst result you can get from a marketing effort.

How can marketers and lead developers create memorable emails and other pieces?  I have four tips:

  1. Lead with a story that includes a scenario with which the reader is familiar.
  2. Go for the heart by triggering an emotional response.
  3. Writing skills count.
  4. Forget the ambiguous, vague and overused words unless you include an explanation.

IntroRocket is one company I have been working with on its initial sales and marketing strategy. I’ve pasted one of IntroRocket’s email marketing piece below. I hope you agree it follows the above four tips.

__________

The Deal that Got Away

 

I have been part of sales organizations for almost 20 years, and have won and lost more deals than I can remember – but will never forget a particular lost sale.  As we reviewed the deal near the end of the sales cycle, I learned that our competitor’s salesperson had a personal connection with a major influencer at the prospect, and I understood immediately that the relationship had tipped the scales against us.  We hated losing this deal because it was an ideal customer for us.  And what we learned in an internal executive review made the loss even more painful: we had our own personal relationship with a key player at the prospect and one of our trusted channel partners knew the CEO.  We should have been aware of and leveraged those relationships to win the deal.

 

This is just one example of “the deal that got away”, and everyone reading this is likely to have similar stories.  Your “one that got away” experiences may involve co-worker connections with a product manager, developer, office manager, board member, or CEO.  The common denominator is that there are existing relationships in your company network that sales reps are unaware of or fail to leverage – and the result is lost sales.

 

Start every customer relationship with a personal introduction

We live in The Age of Networking: a time of unparalleled ability to connect with people across multiple networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Salesforce.com.  These connections provide businesses with entirely new opportunities to discover relationships that exist between companies and their prospective customers.

 

But even with these incredible opportunities, many companies struggle to break through traditional barriers to discovering relationships: not all co-workers are directly connected, co-workers rely on multiple networking services such as Facebook and LinkedIn, channel partners may not be part of your networks, etc.  Regardless of the specifics, there are trusted relationships and opportunities for personal introductions that exist right now to help build better customer relationships and to close more deals.

 

People buy from those they know and trust.  In today’s world where unsolicited communication is growing exponentially and the effectiveness of traditional marketing is at an all-time low, the value of trusted relationships is at an all-time high.  This decade’s most successful companies with be the ones that understand their network of relationships and take advantage of the opportunities for trusted introductions.

 

Social Networking for Sales

IntroRocket provides Instant “Social Networking for Sales” because we enable companies to tap the value of their company network.  We mesh multiple social graphs (LinkedIn now, Facebook soon, webmail later), add intelligence about the quality of relationships, and make it extremely simple to see and benefit from existing co-worker relationships regardless of who at the company has the most relevant and valuable connection.

 

We connect the dots between co-workers across a company, automatically display connection information inside salesforce.com, and enable employees to engage directly with current and prospective customers via trusted co-worker relationships.  The purpose is simple: IntroRocket gives sales people an advantage in their accounts and helps companies close more deals.

 

 

Start Ahead, Stay Ahead

If you would like to discuss how you could keep your deals from getting away, please contact me.  Until then, please feel free to try IntroRocket free at http://www.introrocket.com/install/.

 

Michael Leeds

CEO, Founder

Mike at IntroRocket dot com

1.650.468.6901

 

 

 

Hiring for Sales Teams: Think Outside the Box – BizDev

Devon Warwick nails it with this post.  Hiring for Sales Teams: Think Outside the Box – BizDev.

If you are not finding good candidates, maybe it’s time to re-define “good candidate.”