Welcome to The Pipeline.

Reverse Prospecting – Guest Post21

The Pipeline Guest Post – Brian Jeffrey

I’ve just invented a new catch-phrase — Reverse Prospecting — and if you like the concept, you’re welcome to steal it from me.

Anyone who has been in B2B sales for any length of time appreciates the fact that no matter how great your selling skills are, if you don’t have someone to use them on, you don’t make a sale. Duh… talk about a blinding flash of the obvious!

The Good Old Days

Prospecting today is far more challenging than it used to be. Sales managers who are long in the tooth like me will remember the old days when we had to walk two miles to school, barefoot, uphill, both ways. They will also remember how prospecting used to be.

In those days, whenever we finished a call on a company, it was good form to do a cold call on one or two businesses on each side of the company we just had visited. In most cases, but not all, we actually got to talk to someone and often were granted an instant appointment. When the person didn’t have the time to talk right then, most were amenable to setting up a time for you to return.

Man oh man, how things have changed. It’s almost impossible to do a physical cold call anymore. And trying to get through the technological moat that people throw around their businesses and themselves presents a whole new set of challenges for our salespeople.

I don’t know about you but I’m dragging forty years of sales and sales management baggage behind me and what we face ahead in terms of prospecting is daunting.

Recent Changes

Here’s my take on what’s been happening over the past three to five years. There has been a growing tidal wave of information and technology that is simply overwhelming people.

Look at your own business life:

  • Are you finding that you just don’t have enough time to get things done?
  • Are people becoming an interruption?
  • Are too many people wanting too much of your resources?
  • Are there just too many emails and voice mails needing attention?
  • Are you spending more time fighting the alligators than draining the swamp?

If so, you’re not alone, your prospects feel the same. Compounding the situation, from your salespeople’s perspective, is that they are no longer needed as the primary source of information like they were in the past.

To a great extent, the Internet has replaced the salesperson as a source of technical and sales data. Salespeople can no longer be the exclusive providers of information. They have to find other ways to add value to the relationship.

Basically, we all have become so busy that we no longer have the time to deal with unsolicited personal visits, emails, or voice mails. Our prospects are shouting at the top of their lungs, “Don’t call me; I’ll call you!”

In other words, in today’s new sales world, you have to be findable when the prospect needs to find you. In addition to being findable, you need to be top of mind when the prospect goes looking. Hence, reverse prospecting.

There are two key elements of reverse prospecting:

1.    Be findable
2.    Be top of mind

Be Findable

Being findable means ensuring that your Internet presence is as good as it can be. You need to rank high in organic searches for the keywords that your prospects will use when they go looking for what you offer.

Sometimes, what you sell is just so generic or so competitive that it is all but impossible to rank high in the search engines. In this case, using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising may have merit.

Some companies still use more traditional media such as print and broadcast advertising to get the word out. And more and more companies are availing themselves of the social media platforms such as blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook, etc.

While your salespeople are unlikely to impact your findability, they can be instrumental in creating top-of-mind awareness.

Be Top of Mind

It’s important for your salespeople to maintain a presence with your prospects. When a busy prospect comes up for air and is looking for what you offer, you want him to remember you. Reverse prospecting at work.

The key to creating top-of-mind awareness is touch points, more specifically, value-added touch points (VATP).

Value-Added Touch Points

A touch point is any time you come in contact with the prospect, or any time the prospect comes in contact with you. It doesn’t matter who initiated the touch. It only matters that the touch occurred.

A value-added touch point is a bit different. This is where the prospect walks away from the experience with something that she considers of value. It might be something tangible like an article or a sample, etc, or it could be something intangible such as an idea that she feels she can use.

Reverse Prospecting at Work

Here’s a personal example of reverse prospecting at work.

The time has come for me to divest myself of an investment property. For the past number of years, a realtor has been sending me unsolicited quarterly updates of property sales in my investment neighbourhood. I’ve been using these reports to keep an eye on the value of my condo.

Now that it’s time to sell the property, which realtor do you think is going to have first crack at offering me their services? You got it, the one who has been touching me with useful information.

VATP Exercise

Here’s an exercise that will not only get your salespeople thinking about value-added touch points but is likely to produce a list of actionable items for both you and them. At your next sales meeting, explain the VATP concept and then ask your sales team for ideas.

I recently did this exercise with one of my sales management consulting clients. We quickly came up with a list of seventeen touch point ideas, most of which fell into the value-added category, and several that we realized we were already doing.

How many do you think your team could come up with?

The Bottom Line

If you want more prospects, move from cold calling to reverse prospecting. Being findable and getting people to remember to find you — reverse prospecting — is the way to go in today’s busy business world.

About Brian Brian Jeffrey

Brian Jeffrey, co-founder and president, Salesforce Assessments Ltd, works with organizations who want to make the right hiring decisions by assessing a person’s suitability for sales using his sales assessment test. After years of hiring as many losers as winners, Brian figured that there just had to be a better way to make the hiring decision. That’s when Brian started the research and testing that ultimately evolved into the Sales Temperament Assessment. For over 20 years, companies have used the Sales Temperament Assessment to assess thousands of salespeople and make even better hiring decisions.

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Who to Hire – Sales or Product Guy?19

Hiring the right people to sell your offering is trying at the best of times, it gets even more challenging when markets and resources are tight.  As products get more involved, clients getting more demanding and arming themselves with preconceptions about the solutions they want, all in an environment where managers are asked to deliver more with less headcount, managers are faced with tough hiring decisions.  Do they hire a someone who is a product expert, spending time, energy and opportunity teaching them to sell; or are they better off finding a proven sales expert and ramp them up on the product side?

Here is what I said, see if you agree.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgwjNJQ15dg

What’s inYour Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Toronto’s First Social Media Snow Storm – Sales eXchange – 8310

 

Last Wednesday Toronto experienced what has to be the first Social Media winter storm. When all was said and done, we really didn’t get a lot of snow, even by Toronto standards; certainly nowhere near the amount we were lead to believe based on forecasts, and way less than massive amounts one would think we were going to get if you were not in Toronto and were just tracking events in the social-sphere.

To be fair, the silliness was started by the main stream media, after a special bulletin from Environment Canada, they sprang into action, starting to hype the next Big Storm.  I guess they were not sure if the Egyptians would continue to provide sufficient sound bites, they decided to hedge their bets, and pile it on with the storm.  Some in fact created special graphics and even began to solicit suggestions from watchers as to what to call their special coverage.  “Snowmageden”, “Toronsnow”, because it is just that much more dramatic with a catchy name.

It didn’t take long for the socialites and “iReporters” to get into the swing things.  Tweeting and Facebooking about the storm, storm survival skills, white papers telling you how to profit from the storm on social media; man, some of the tweets for so good, 30 or 40 of the 140 characters were in  fact individual flakes of simulated storm flakes.  (To quote the Tubes, they had to simulate the flakes, as the storm had yet to arrive, and who knew it would be so small when it finally passed by).

Now I am not sure if the severity of the storm was tempered by global warming, or other factors such as the vibrations emanating from the echo chamber created by all the chatter about the “non-storm”.  But it seems typical where ever you have group think kick in, as soon as a few started to talk about it, a few retweets and it snow balls (sorry) from there.  People wanting to be part of the conversation, “hey I am in Toronto, I better get in on this”, and it builds from there.

Good thing this type of thing is limited to snow storms, and is not typical of the quality of reality of information available though the social-sphere; this was confirmed to me through a free e-book I got just for following someone after they tweeted about the ability to make $$$$$ at home during the storm.

This could never happen with other “social things”, certainly not in social selling, right?

In the end the snow did melt as a result of all the hot air caused by all the discussion about the storm that wasn’t.  I submitted a suggestion to the local TV station that was looking for a name for their coverage: Snow Storm 2.0! You like it?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Tweet Of The Day:
Always have 5 targets in new prospect accounts #sales #B2B via @renbor

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

A Questionable Approach: Increase Your Sales By Asking the Right Questions17

The Pipeline Guest Post – Arthur Gould

Good salespeople are always on the lookout for new customers. Some of us may view this search as similar to looking for a needle in a haystack. Seeing that it always seems like election time, it might be useful to think about potential customers in the same way that a candidate thinks about potential voters; they are out there, there are plenty of them, and most of them are looking for a solution to a problem! The tricky part is to get them to realize that you are the solution.

In my business, maintaining customer relations is a very high priority. As a division manager for a busy self-storage company, I not only need to concern myself with my current client relationships but I am always looking for new ways to generate additional traffic and expand my customer base.

Like a candidate looking for voters, my sales staff is continually seeking out potential tenants. Although we want to build our client base as quickly as we can, we don’t have the same kind of short-fuse winner-take-all deadline imposed on us as an election. Even though we strive for a large market share, we generally don’t need as many new clients as a candidate needs voters in order to win. In sales, I can make these advantages work for me.

Based on my many years of experience as well as the advice of my mentors, I have come up with a strategy for locating and keeping customers. This “strategy” is simply based on asking questions. By realizing that all questions are not created equal and that there are such things as high-quality and low-quality questions (in terms of generating sales), I’ve devised a way of refining and optimizing my method of questioning.

Since I began using this approach I’ve gotten very positive results. Though we dont have the heavy duty time and volume constraints like a political candidate might, this method can certainly be applied to many types of business and political challenges beyond the sales realm. The key points to keep in mind are these:

  1. Ask “high quality” questions that generate descriptive answers from your potential customer. The keys here are generating dialogue and building trust. The most effective way of doing these things is to engage the customer with open-ended questions. These type of questions invite answers more elaborate than a simple yes or no. Of cource, the most important component is to listen and remember. Make sure that the other person does most of the talking. This is the only way you can find out enough about him/her to be able to win their “vote” later on. Also, when you do most of the listening, you are showing your customer that you have a real interest in who they are. This approach will yield future dividends in terms of confidence and loyalty.
  2. Follow up with questions that will continue to guide your customer into releavling more about themselves. Political
    candidates spend thousands of dollars to acquire this type of information about their voters. You can find out the same type of information from your potential customers by using the right questions. Sometimes the customer herself doesn’t know what she is
    looking for until your questions cause her to articulate it! For example, I had a client who needed to sell her house. When I questioned her about her conversations with her real estate agent, she mentioned that he stressed how important it was that her house be clutter-free. It was only then that she realized that she had to find a way of quickly hiding a lot of old items she had laying around (naturally, my storage units came to mind).
  3. Finally, ask questions that allow your customers see the solution. After my client and I both know his problem, I am in a position to “ride the white horse” to his rescue. The key is to avoid the heavy-handed sales pitch and instead communicate by asking questions that quide my customer into realizing this for himself.   By choosing my questions carefully and applying them with a gentle touch, I can implant an image in my client’s mind of a problem-free environment. As part of the question-asking, I can sprinkle in some
    information about my product which just happens be part of this image. Remember that there is no sales pitch, just questions!

Just like voters, there are hundreds of potential customers out there with problems to be solved. Winning their “vote” is often just a matter of finding out the right information. There is truly no other effective way of doing this than asking the right questions.

About Art Gould

Art Gould is an acting division manager with Self Storage Company, which operates a group of websites, including an Arizona self-storage locator. Though busy, Art enjoys meeting new people and clients whether traveling to sites in Texas or visiting the Colorado self-storage center.

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

The Science of Creative Selling30

Recently I was asked if I saw sales as a science or art, and as I have noted in this blog in the past, I tend to believe that it is a science, that once mastered, allows for creative delivery.  The challenge for some is that they focus entirely on the “art” or creative part and ignore the fundamentals of the science involved.   In the video below I make the case for focusing on the science aspect of sales to fully unleash the creative and artistic side.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcB_BqBmyGY

See the whole discussion here.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

When The Moment Comes – Sales eXchange – 8218

B2B sales unfold in a number of ways for different sales professionals, mostly dictated by skills, products, buyers’ habits, geography, style and experience.  The one commonality for most is the need to continuously grow revenue, which usually involves finding new companies to buy your product or new buying centres in existing accounts.  Either way it will involve the need to meet and engage with new people/prospects/buyers.

While most can agree on the above, there seems to be little agreement when it comes to how.   Some beat the drum for traditional prospecting, with a heavy emphasis on cold calling; while at the other end you have those who promise you’ll never have to cold call again.  I think neither is completely right (extremes rarely are).  Both have a vested and economic interest in their view rather than a moral conviction based on a repeatable “better way”; both have mastered the art of double talk that leaves the unsuspecting rep caught in a soup of words that rarely results in sustainable change.

Personally, I think you need to take a blended approach, which runs the gamut from old school cold calling to leveraging up to date marketing automation and other tools and related techniques made possible by the latest technology. I don’t like cold calling any more than the next person, it is god’s punishment to sales people, perhaps a rite of passage, in fact when god wanted to show he/she/it had a sense of humour, he/she/it (I’m so PC, eh), created voice mail. Along with cold calls, you also need to incorporate referrals, which include leveraging networking and the variety of tools offered by technology.

However, all referrals, like cold calls, are not created equal.  Loosely speaking you can put them in to one of three groups:

1.  Introduction – Someone you know, a client, supplier, or in your network, are aware of a potential buyer for something you can provide, and as a result sets up a meeting to specifically introduce you and by extension explicitly or implicitly recommends you and your solution. Let’s face it this is top of the pile for sales people.
2.  Direct – A person in your network lets you know of someone with a potential need, and at the same time tells the other party about you. It is left to you to reach out and connect.
3.  Indirect – This is when someone tells you that they are aware that Barney may be in the market for what you sell, but takes no further action and may even ask that you not mention that they referred you.

For the discussion here, which is not about cultivating referrals, but rather how to action them.  Point being that with the exception of the first type, Introduction, your first interaction is unscheduled and therefore an interruption, which makes it a cold call of sort.  Yes, you can send an e-mail, introduce yourself and the premise of your outreach, and if you do get a response, schedule a call, but that does not change the fact that the e-mail was not anticipated, agreed to or scheduled, and therefore cold.  If you don’t get a response, and decide to call, guess what sunshine, it is unscheduled, unanticipated, an interruption to their day and, yes you guessed it, a cold call.

The question then becomes how do you manage the moment when you make direct contact with them.  When the person you called is faced with the choice of moving on with their day as planned or changing it for you.  In most cases, if you have done any cold calling, you know their first inclination is to move on with their day as they planned it.  This is the “rejection” sales people hate most;  Especially because they were calling the person because they were told that there was an interest; and there may indeed be, but exploring that interest was not on that day’s ‘to-do’ list, in fact it was relegated to March, so you are back to being an unplanned interruption. 

The question becomes: What do you do When That Moment comes?  The moment when the person at the other end of the phone, or tweet, or e-mail, or smoke signal, decides that what they are in the middle of doing is more important than the interruption.  Remember, they don’t know, and care even less that they were a referral.  They politely tell you what they need to get back to their day, “send me some…”, “yes Henry said you’d call, but I told him I wasn’t ready yet”, “I am just in the middle of something, can you call me Tuesday”, and so on.

If you are not prepared to handle these reactions, and that’s what they are, not a considered responses based in ‘reason’, but a means of getting back to their day, you will suffer the fate of many cold callers. 

No matter the source or nature of a lead, if it was not a direct introduction, with the mutual understanding that you were there to engage them as a buyer, the moment will come when you have to convert them to being an engaged participant.  When that moment comes, it is almost certain that you will have to deal with transitioning from “interruption” to “open to discussion”. 

This is why both ends of the spectrum only address and help with part of the challenge of engaging with new customers.  The cold calling crowd fails to help their followers source, evolve and nurture quality leads.  “Make enough calls and you’ll get enough prospects”, while factual, not always accurate, and certainly a painful way to make a living. 

The referral, never cold call again, SEO rules, Web 2.0 crowd, will help you find potential buyers who have indicated various degrees of interest, directly or indirectly.  But with the mantra of “the buyer is in charge”, or “ready to be responsive”, you often are left short when the buyer chooses to get back to their day.

You need take steps to manage the dynamics and flow of the conversation, as both camps will lead you to that singular moment where they are both the same; the moment the person you are targeting decides that you, at that moment, are an interruption.  If you are not prepared for that moment, neither method will help you get passed it.  If you do take the time to prepare, you will have more prospects.

Take a few minutes, mark down the most common things you have to deal with “when the moment comes”, and then practice ways of taking the obstacles away, be it that they are “busy”, “got it under control”, “oh, I just mentioned it to Harry, it’s no biggie”.  We have captured some and posted them here in the past, or you can grab the ebooklet of the series compiled by SalesMarks here.

If you are not ready for the inevitable, regardless of when it presents itself, you will not be able to cross from interruption to sales conversation when the moment comes. 

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

17 Pieces of Collateral Sales People Might Actually Use49

The Pipeline Guest Post – Nigel Edelshain

In a discussion over at Focus.com a couple of months ago various industry sources cited that sales people use between 10% and 50% of the content marketing develops.

Not really surprising to me as that’s exactly how I behaved when I carried a bag. My marketing department produced some nice looking stuff but it mostly had nothing to do with what I needed to close deals.

The best sales tool I ever had was a simple 20 page Power Point deck that I created. It showed very short case studies of the projects our firm had completed for banks. I would take that deck to other banks and “hey presto” instant credibility. I think that deck ended be worth well into the six figures to me.

Today the bar has been raised on what content sales people need to get their buyer’s attention. Buyer’s attention spans are shorter and the level of competition for their time more intense than ever.

In today’s Social Selling environment I believe it’s critical for sales people to take responsibility for the content we get to our prospects and customers. Assuming your ready to step-up-to-the-plate and take responsibility for having great content to help you sell (whether you just grab it from your content portal or you have to create the darn thing yourself) here’s an idea list of some content that you may need to help you crush your quota.

What are your favorite selling tools?

1. Testimonials – of everything on this list I think I love testimonials the best. Does it get better than clients saying nice things about you? Make it a habit to ask for testimonials whenever you can. Don’t leave those gold nuggets lying in the dust.

2. Case Studies – back to my old Power Point. Case studies rule when they show your prospect you‘ve done similar work before.

3. Scripts for voice mails – I’m in the “no reading from a script when prospecting club” but I’m also in the “better start with a script when you first start out” society. For a new campaign I personally find having a script a great place to start. When I’m attacking a new market I start with developing a voice mail script as I speak to that voice mail lady the most.

4. Scripts for assistants & colleagues – on the rare occasion when a human answers the phone it is probably an assistant or colleague so best have something to say. Again I’d go with a script to start

5. Scripts for actual decision maker – OK it happens sometimes (best research I’ve seen says 5% of the time) you get the actual prospect on the phone. Rather important you know what to say. Again I start with a script then go “natural”. You?

6. Q&A sheet for prospecting calls: so you need something handy to answer those pesky questions prospects ask. Actually you need to keep adding to this piece of content if you’re anything like me…those prospects are a creative bunch, coming up with new questions all the time.

7. Objection handling sheet for prospecting calls: similar to the last one but I tend to group objections in a different place to Q&A. Pretty darn important when you start out to have answers to common questions.

8. Email templates for prospecting: it’s pretty cool to have a bunch of email templates handy. Definitely saves time. Stick them in your CRM if you’re a “geeky rep” like me or just keep ‘em handy in a Word file for cut-and-paste.

9. Email templates for nurturing: you’ll need something to use to “ping” those folks that did not invite you in (and yes I’m assuming you can’t just hand this to your marketing team). Build these up around good “excuses” to get-back-in-touch. Please just don’t send emails saying “just checking in” or “touching base” without adding some value.

10 Your Linkedin page: here’s my theory: buyers check you out personally now. They don’t stop at looking at your sanitized company website. They stick your name into Google and Linkedin. What do they see on your Linkedin page? What do they get from it in the first 10 seconds? Does it help or hinder you?

11. Other Linkedin page Stuff: do you ever update stuff on your Linkedin page? Your status, the books you’ve read, get a new recommendation, add a Slideshare anything? Static Linkedin pages are as interesting as static websites – not very. Want to stand out a little? Update.

12. Elevator pitch: “what do you do?” How well can you answer that question in one sentence and in a way your grandmother could understand? You may the answer for your next barbeque, networking event or even elevator ride. You never know if your next big prospect will be the bloke holding the red plastic cup next to the grill.

13. Invitations to stuff: excuses to reconnect are key to staying-in-touch and can often accelerate a sales cycle better than a targeted follow up. Many times I’ve sent someone an event invitation and they’ve respond “Thanks for that invite. It reminded me that I was meaning to update you on the status of our [deal]” Invite prospects to events, webinars, conferences, tradeshows etc.

14. Hand-written notes: the old-fashioned side of me just loves hand-written notes on the old ecru note cards. We don’t get enough of these any more so they really stand out. Write the address and name by hand and most of these will get opened and read. The ROI on those little guys is huge.

15. White papers/e-books: another great excuse to be in-touch. Just make sure they add value for your prospect.

16. Boring business letters: I don’t mean boring writing but I mean plain envelope no glitz, plain paper, no graphics. The plainer the envelope and paper the better. People hate the fancy marketing look as it says “I am trying to sell you something”. Plain business letters are back in vogue as like hand-written notes we don’t get so many any more.

17. Postcards: yes, you can. Sales people are allowed to send postcards. As part of a prospecting or nurturing campaign postcards are a nice element. There are online services like AmazingMail that allow you to design and mail postcards without ever having to leave your desk or lick a stamp.
……………………..

About Nigel Edelshain

Nigel is CEO of Sales 2.0. Sales 2.0 helps companies leverage Web 2.0 tools and social media to sell more. You may be interested in Nigel’s Social Selling Bootcamp happening in February, a two-day intensive for serious social sellers.
…………
Links

Focus Link: http://www.focus.com/questions/sales/why-does-sales-use-only-90-what-marketing-teams-make/

AmazingMail: www.amazingmail.com

Sales 2.0: www.sales2.com

Social Selling Bootcamp: http://budurl.com/t6au

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Turn Off to Turn Up32

The other day I met with a VP, and noticed an interesting sign on the door leading from reception to the rest of the office area: “All cell phone must be turned off past this door”. Due to the nature of the business, I know that it was not for security reasons, so I suspected that it was a productivity issue, she confirmed this during our conversation.  She explained that she didn’t want to encroach on their “personal space”, but at the same time they are there to do work, sell.  “When cell phones were allowed on the floor there was just too much texting and non-business related calls”; she added “you can’t be on both phones at the same time” and she did not want to put them in the position of having to decide (wrongly).

It does raise the question of where tools add to productivity and where they detract.  There is no arguing that cell phones have made reps more productive over the years, but the argument can also be made that they have impeded productivity when used wrong or over used.  Sales like most professions, is a game of discipline, and when it comes to some things, many sales people don’t display much of it. 

Having spent a lot of time with sales people over the years, you can see tools adding to performance, there is no denying that at the same time they distract reps, negatively impacting their output.   When you point out that not every call has to be answered, that is why there is voice mail, some get it, and some don’t.  Incoming calls from your friends are not like children, some can get left behind, especially when you have voice mail.  Even calls from clients, if I am on the phone with one client, I can’t be on with the other, although the multi-taskers tell me they can do it.  How does the prospect feel when they hear “Oh that’s an important call, can I put you on hold while I grab it”; then they tell the other party “I am just on another call, can I call you back?”

This is not limited to cell phones; it applies to social media tools as well.  The up side of using LinkedIn, Facebook, even twitter to track clients/prospects, do research, become aware, and a whole bunch of other productive things is clear.  But I also see a lot of people updating their status in ways that do not relate to business, or add value to client/prospect communication.  Often these same people do not seem to find enough time in their day for other things like prospecting, client follow through or other core activities.

This lack of discipline, the inability to master the tools instead of tools mastering them, is not limited to B2B sales.  On the weekend I was in a supermarket, the fellow putting out the vegetables had a cell phone in one hand, clearly talking away to friend, I was amazed and told my wife I would catch up as I watched this guy talk for over 15 minutes.  Then at the cash, the cashier had a Bluetooth heads planted in her ear, looking like Uhura talking away, from what I overheard, again to a friend, planning her evening, in the process ignoring questions from the woman in front of me in line.

Some may read this as an old guy having a bad day, but I am past that, I am just amazed at the lack of discipline on the part of the workers, and the lack of structure or involvement by the employers.  The proof is in the fact that the “All cell phone must be turned off past this door” seems out of the ordinary rather than the norm, or even just the attitude without the sign.

Productivity tools are great and necessary, used in the way they were intended (or sold), they are a must; but in the end, productivity is a state of mind, an attitude rather than just a tool making it the responsibility of the sales rep.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Land Mine Questions – Sales eXchange – 8123

By now no one will argue that questions are the instrument of choice among sales “Artisans”.  They get the customer to think, they help you to mutually define requirements and value, and ultimately drive the impact you need to close the deal.  When it comes to fully engaging with a buyer, questions are indeed the way to go.  But while the buyer is the focus of the sale, there are other participants in the play who can impact the outcome who also need to be managed, not the least of these are your competitors.

Well those same questions you use to engage with the buyer and get them to openly discuss their objectives, frustrations etc.  The reality is no matter how god your product is, how great of a sales person you are, and what a great job you have done in the cycle to this point, few buyers will not also look at other potential providers of your product.  Knowing that, why not plant some questions with the buyer that will cause your competitors some real difficulty.

First step is to fully understand what is really important to the buyer, not features and specs, as much as the impact of your product on their objectives, the means of achieving them.  This is one reason to always utilize your “Right Client Profile”, it will help you understand what those critical factors are.  Based on your interview you will be able to focus in on the specific ones relating to the specific buyers in question.

Next, learn and understand your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the factors identified above.  You are now in a position to ask questions that allow you to highlight your understanding of the buyer’s requirements and in the process leave land mines for your competitors.  For instance, let’s say you knew that there three specific things that your product did that buyers demanded.  You know your competitor can only deliver on two.

Focus a lot more questions around the area you have the advantage in.  Build up the importance and benefit of that one.  Using questions, at the same time highlight the risks and downside of not having that one element in place.  Through this process you can solidify the importance and ensure that the buyer will ask related questions of your competitor.  When the buyer does ask and the competitor is unable to respond favourably, it will raise doubts in he buyer’s mind, and make your product more desirable as a result.  In effect you have used a question as a land mine that your competitor steps on.  The more areas of importance to buyers you can use this line of questions with, the more land mines and the more dangerous you can make the terrain for you competitors.

As with most things in sales, this is a two way street, and your competitors could do the same to you, leave mines for you to step on unless you are prepared.  I remember visiting prospects, and knowing that a specific competitor had been there recently just because of the questions the buyer was asking.  First couple of times I thought “gee I wonder why they keep asking this?”  But once I figured it out, and developed a response, I was back on track.

So go ahead, arm yourself with some killer questions, and go mine the field.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

Selling a Price Increase in a Soft Market14

The Pipeline Guest Post – Mark Hunter

Continuing our Guest Post series this week with Mark Hunter, who specifically want to thank for getting me to think about creating this series of posts by other leading thinkers on sales.

Enjoy,
TS

Selling a price increase can be difficult in nearly any type of situation, but trying to sell one in a soft market can be downright brutal.  Yet, as unpleasant as it can be, it is often essential.   The problem of selling a price increase in a soft market usually stems from the fact that the salesperson and the customer are coming at the situation from different perspectives.  Especially in times like this, it is imperative for the salesperson to understand that regardless of what the market or economy is doing, if a price increase needs to be sold, it needs to be sold.  This means that the salesperson can’t go into the sales process believing that the customer is going to reject the price increase unless the deal can be saved by offering some type of discount.  If they approach the meeting with this attitude, they almost guarantee failure because a customer will never pay more than a salesperson tells them to.

In these types of situations, the first thing that often happens is a comment from the customer about how soft the economy is, how prices are really going down, and therefore, how a price increase at this time doesn’t make any sense.  When the salesperson hears this, they usually agree because they hear and see the same thing.  However, as soon as they do this, the battle is lost and 9 times out of 10, the only thing that can save it is some type of discount.  To counteract this problem, when the salesperson hears the customer make this type of statement, they should ignore it.  Yes, ignore it.  The reason?  Many times the customer merely wants to get it off their chest and by telling it to you, they feel better.   The first response the salesperson should make is to ask the customer questions about how they intend to use what they’re buying and whether or not they’ve been able to achieve the results they’re looking for.

If the customer continues with their line of discussion about the economy and they can’t accept the price increase, then the salesperson should ask about the steps involved in their buying process.  The objective is really to get the customer talking.  Initially, this can be a little scary because the customer may begin ranting about how they always go for the low price.  After they get done explaining their process, the salesperson should question them about how their own customers decide to buy from them.  It’s in this part of the discussion that the customer begins to see how and why quality and confidence are such big items in any purchase decision.  A good salesperson will then pick up on these two items and reinforce them with follow-up questions that get the customer to further explain the importance of quality and confidence.   When the customer sees what they’re buying in this light, the price increase becomes a much smaller issue.

Sometimes even after this conversation, there will be customers or purchasing departments who will still not accept the price increase.  They usually comment that they will find another vendor to buy from.   This is often a veiled threat to get the weak-kneed salesperson to cave in with a discount.  For the salesperson, this type of discussion is best thwarted by ensuring the end-user fully understands the value and benefits they will receive from their product, as well as by clearly communicating the amount of pain the customer will go through should they decide to switch.  First, the cost of converting to a new vendor is always much higher than initially thought, so the discount the new vendor has to offer needs to be significant.  In addition, it might be easy for a customer to find a new vendor at a lower price, but on many occasions, the lower price vanishes after the initial order and, suddenly, the new vendor is at the same price as the original one.  Furthermore, the new vendor will not have nearly the knowledge or expertise as the original company about how to service the customer, so the switch often winds up costing more money in the long-run.

As a final line of protection, I strongly believe the salesperson communicating the price increase should not have the authority to make any price concessions.  When this power is taken away from the salesperson, it’s amazing how much tougher they are in executing a price increase.  By requiring the salesperson to get approval from someone else, it also takes the salesperson off of the hot seat and, many times, as soon as the customer is aware of this, they will stop badgering for a discount.

Selling a price increase in a soft economy is certainly harder than selling one in a booming market.  However, as professionals, salespeople need to take the time to know and understand how to sell a price increase in all types of markets.  It doesn’t require herculean skills.  It requires the diligence and patience to keep the discussion focused on the benefits the customer is looking for from both the product and from you, the salesperson.

About Mark Hunter

Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter works with salespeople and companies helping them maximize their profit by maximizing their price.  www.TheSalesHunter.com

Hey, if you liked this post, please subscribe so you don’t miss another post…Subscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. Go ahead, do it, click here now!

wordpress stat