I joined Jason Stone from Frontline Selling for this video webinar, the first in a series –
I joined Jason Stone from Frontline Selling for this video webinar, the first in a series –
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.
How do we do that?
Sponsors at the Target Prospect
Sponsors at a target prospect fall into two categories: Business and Personal.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?”
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?
Hmm, seems like good advice for Valentine’s Day, too!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Devon Warwick nails it with this post. Hiring for Sales Teams: Think Outside the Box – BizDev.