Have Your Say: Tenders – Good or Bad45

Need your advice and input here:

Had an interesting discussion with an executive yesterday, he was lamenting the trend towards more and more tenders and RFP’s.  He understood and acknowledged their benefit and the importance of due diligence, especially in times where every expenditure scrutinized and re-examined in an effort to ensure maximum return on every investment.  He agreed that this was a plus for day to day items, that he defined as day to day staples, be that office supply, fuel, etc., but felt there was more harm than good when it came to more “important” decisions that had a broader impact on the company.  The example he used related to supply chain/logistics.

He felt that the way the process unfolds now did reduce costs, but with it reduced a number of others things that were not meant to be reduced.  He highlighted that in most instances it favoured the mediocre and punished creativity.  One example he gave related to questions submitted by vendors to clarify aspects of the tender document.  He did not understand why when one vendor submits a question, it is shared with everyone bidding.  His view is that those questions often allowed the creative stronger offerings to rise to the top, being able to demonstrate the tangible difference in approach, the product, and support after the decision is made.   If you were smart enough to ask a valid and relevant question, you should be able to benefit from that creativity, especially when it truly enhances the potential experience the buying organization could achieve.

Sharing these questions, the “differentiators”, allows the weaker vendors to submit and get back on what seems to be a level playing field, but is not.  There is a difference in being good at responding to tenders, and having a superior offering.  Sharing the questions with everyone, and then allowing them all to answer, just lowers the field to the lowest common denominator, and eliminates real value superior products/services can deliver.  His view was that if a vendor can demonstrate value through those questions; introduce aspect of the solution the creators of the tender may have missed.  Someone who has a superior product and implementation plan, but may not be as polished in responding to RFP’s, could be out done by an inferior product, but a better talent in writing responses.  He felt it punished creativity, and rewarded low price and creative writing.

Sure it is up to the buying company to do their work, and research and to ensure that they are examining the purchase thoroughly, but the tighter the bid process, the harder that is to do.

I didn’t know how to respond to him, especially given the fact that he was not an executive in an organization that lost a bid; he was an executive with the company that issued the tender.  His concern was that he would end up with the best product the process allowed for, not the best product for the job at hand.

How would you respond to him, especially if you issues RFP’s?

Next Step

  • Understand how bids were put together, who wrote them and why, this will help with the next two points
  • Make sure you demonstrate you value in all interactions, long before the bid process continues
  • Develop ways to push the envelope without pushing the wrong buttons

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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Sales eXchange – 2929

You are the Difference

One of the challenges many sales people face is the sheer volume of direct and indirect competition.   In some cases it is not the worst thing especially if you can differentiate yourself, your company and your product.  But it certainly a big challenge when you are part of an industry that has a lot of players and the reality is that you are fighting of the pressures of commoditization daily.  Consider, transport, telephony, hardware, office supply and others.  You can see how hard it can become to differentiate on the basis of product or company. Just look at Staples latest TV ad, where the guy is looking at the products on the shelf yelling his surprise about how low the prices are.  We think that’s just wrong, but I guess they feel they have run out of options.   Don’t worry you have not.

So if you can’t differentiate based on product, or company, it comes down that the differentiating factor needs to be you, and the way you sell.  Looking at one specific is how you handle proposals or quotes.  In many instances it has evolved in to a strange game that most are forced, even if begrudgingly, to play, not only competing based on price, but allowing the process to be “called in.”

Here is the scenario, you prospect a specific buyer, they tell you their all set, like a pro you persist and they finally give you the opportunity to “compete”, sort of.  “Listen, why don’t send me a quote, and I’ll take a look and I’ll let you know.”  Some see this as a win, an opportunity, “great, I’ll get it together and get it to you then follow up.”  They labour and prepare a quote, then either e-mail or fax it in, wait a day or two of six and then call the prospect, no answer, three voice mails, lots of frustration, then they finally connect;  only to be told that they were too high, or “it looks good, I’ll keep you in mind”, or variations there of.  While this may not be common in some industries, but it is in many others.

But you don’t have to do that, I understand the pull of the process, the opportunity to bid, that shot at some business.  But it also presents an opportunity to differentiate yourself by choosing either not to play the game or play it differently.  Making the choice not to play is straight forward, not easy, I understand that the choice not to play, leads to a clear conclusion, no business.  But if you play, then it is just a question of time before someone comes and undercuts you, then someone undercuts them, and if you want to get back in the game you undercut them, and it just spirals down from there.

Why not take a different tact, first off before you quote get something in return, a meeting, a plant tour, something that will open up the discussion and lead to mutual discovery.  Go further, if pushed for a quote, say straight out that you don’t do things that way.  Tell the prospect “that my experience has taught me that in most instances, when we just send in a quote, it is rarely taken seriously and usually leads to a bidding war.  The customers we win and serve over time are the ones we sat down with, explored their requirements, and then propose something based on a clear understanding.”   I know that this will not fly every time or most of the time, but what happens when you throw that quote against the wall?  Exactly.

Even when you do things right and you find yourself having to send in the quote, do it differently.  Tell them you want to schedule time to submit and review it together.  If they say no, you have a choice to make.  If they agree, and enough will, let’s say to a call Wednesday at 11:00 (a meeting would be preferred, but let’s say you can only get a call), they will usually ask that you send it in advance, and you have no choice but to agree.    Tilt things in your favour, advance is a relative term, could mean a day before, a week before, but it also means 10:59 Wednesday, and that’s my choice.  Why give them the advantage to look at your quote without you having the benefit of heir immediate reaction.  If you send it in a day or two in advance, they may like your quote, but start thinking about how and what they want to bargain.  They may find you less costly and turn to their current supplier to match it, and in this environment they will.  Eliminate that by sending it in just as you are calling, if you have it in you as they get on the phone, you will get their first reaction and be able to work that rather than a delayed, rehearsed or other reaction.

One other thought, if they do go to their current supplier for a price to match yours, get ahead of that too, tell the prospect that the incumbent will offer a match price to keep their business, but where were they till now?

Sales Smack

Jim Keenan, sales blogger extraordinaire, who can be found at A Sales Guy, is taking it up a notch with Sales Smack at TalkShoe.  As Jim says “Sales Smack gets everyone’s opinions. Sales Smack throws down sales topics that never seem to get answered. Sales Smack brings together, sales dorks, entrepreneurs, marketing weenies and anyone else with an opinion on how to run a business better for a full on business, sales and marketing smack-down. Do you have an opinion? Come on now, don’t be shy. SAY IT!”

So join Jim, me and many more on the first of a series of Sales Smack, tomorrow at 7:00 pm eastern, everything you need to know is at Sales Smack.  You want to be there because your competition may be.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

Sales eXchange – 2813

Has CRM Failed?

Late in December I sat in on a webinar, as is obligatory that time of year, there was a lot of pontificating about Sales 2.0 and trends for the coming year. In today’s post as in a post later this week, I’ll be looking at a couple lines of discussion that caught my attention.

Specifically today I want to react to a statement a proponent of Sales 2.0 made. In trying to add some depth to this marketing term, they said something to the effect that Sales 2.0 is the technology that addresses the void left “now that CRM has failed.”

Nice one I thought, with one fell swoop, he has killed CRM, and anointed Sales 2.0 as the second coming. Ah, I get it, second coming, Sales 2.0, can’t be coincidence, ha? It was a great way to shift the discussion from examining the validity and promise of 2.0 to the frustration many feel with their CRM deployment. But there was no attempt to validate whether CRM has indeed failed, and if it did, would other technologies do better or suffer the same fate.  By the way, I would argue CRM has indeed not failed.

Yes it is true that many companies have not achieved all they had hoped for with their CRM roll out, but at the same time you can point to many that have.  So it is probably more accurate to say that some roll outs have failed, others have not. If that is the case, then I think it is fair to say that the success of Sales 2.0 will also depend on the quality of the roll out, and as such will face the same challenges in adoption and conversion, and will lead to some great success and some massive failures.

One underlying elements is how the technology is sold at the outset. Often CRM is sold to management as a great tool for increasing visibility and control.  The executive spends the money, they build some great dashboards, they “enforce compliance” and then they expect results. Time passes, very few results, what do we do now; “I know, let’s get some mouse pads out there and have some contests, that will get usage up, and we’ll have what we want.”  Well not really, the problem is the front line staff has not been sold on what’s in the CRM for them, and how to get the most out of it to help them sell and succeed.  The front line often sees it as just another project thrust on their already busy day by IT, Marketing or senior management.  What’s to say that the same thing won’t happen with Sales 2.0?  In fact you can see this already when you talk to reps and how they see Sales 2.0.

The other challenge facing CRM is that at times they are deployed to solve problems that it was not meant to solve.  Specifically, issues that persist when there is a lack of a sales process to begin with. Without a sales process, one runs the risk of the CRM becoming a fancy contact management system rather than a tool that drives the relationships with your customers.  That same lack of process will not only impact Sales 2.0, but be compounded by the nature of the technology, being primarily a social broadcast environment rather than a business intelligence tool. 

Remember that Managing Relationships with Customers was a smart way of doing business before the technology came a long.  What made it a solid business concept was that it was based on how to best interact with your prospect, and continue to enhance that interaction with them once they become your customers.  If you start and end with that premise, technology is an enabler, other wise it is just a cost.

When you start out with the wrong premise, no process to manage it, then throw some technology at it, and you will fall short, no matter if it is CRM, Sales 2.0 or even 3.0 now being cooked up somewhere I am sure.  So before one revels in the “failure” of one technology, it would make sense to ensure your technology doesn’t face the same potential pitfalls.

EXTRA: You will also want to check out Salesopedia.com for an exclusive piece I wrote for them titled “Plan Goals and Plan On The Means Of Hitting Them”, a look at hitting your goals not just planning.  Last year I had the #2 most read article on Salesopedia.com, let’s see if we can do better this year, enjoy and profit.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2713

Lessons Learned – Lessons Applied

On the cusp of the new year, and on what many believe is the turn away from the kind of market conditions that were dominant over the last 15 to 18 months, it is truly a unique time to reflect and capitalize on experiences and lessons.  During the last major recession that I had the pleasure of surviving, one of the key lessons I learned was to avoid debt.   Before the 1990 – 1991 downturn, I was happy go lucky, was liquid and really didn’t mind carrying a balance on those shinny credit cards.  Recession hit, fortunes turned and were amplified by the amount of debt I was carrying.  Lesson learned: no more debt.  So this time out as I was reading the papers about the rising amount of debt North Americans were carrying, I knew they weren’t talking about me.

This time there were different challenges, and now I am looking to understand what I can learn from this recession that will help me moving forward and during the next meltdown.  I know that there will be one or two things I learned this year that I will not be doing anymore, and with that not be held back by them during the next recession.

From a sales perspective the lesson learned is that selectivity is good.  It is more important to dance with the right partner than to dance with everyone.  Having resisted the call to specialize, and having stuck with working with B2B companies looking to improve the execution of their new business acquisition plans, there is a tendency to lose focus.  This is not that bad in fact may be good, during good times, but has some downside during difficult markets.  Focus during down times is much more important, and it took me a bit longer than it should have to bring focus to Renbor’s activities.  Having said that, once I was able to realize that, and more importantly step back and adjust for it, it made things much more manageable and as a result lucrative.  This lesson learned is one that will now pay dividends through the promised recovery, or any condition the market may serve up.

This is a great time to sit down and take a “real” look at what you faced not just in 2009, but since the start of the economic downturn.  By examining how you were impacted by the market; how clients and prospects reacted to the same market and your efforts; you should be able to identify significant things that help you overcome your challenges.  The key is to understand which can have a lasting and positive impact on your game in both good and questionable markets.

So here is the question to you, what lesson(s) did you learn that you can now leverage in the recovery to gain ground?  Share your thoughts, and as usual, we’ll share and award a small prize to a worthy entry.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

BTW, as of next week, New Year, new decade and all, we will be renaming this weekly piece from it’s current name of A Random Walk Up Sales Street, to Sales Exchange.

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2611

ARWUSS

Is The Customer Always Right?

Last week I presented a Masterclass webinar for the Top Sales Experts titled “An Inconvenient Truce”, dealing with the need to combine and use the best of Sales 2.0 and traditional selling.  During the webinar I was asked the following question:

“When it comes to Social Media and Sales 2.0 – is it not the case that we have to sell to our customers as they wish to be sold to? Isn’t it arrogant of us to make that decision for them?”

My brief answer was basically that this was not necessarily accurate, that it is a relationship among peers, and as such both the buyer and the seller need to be accommodated.  Having had a few days to think about it I would like to add a few things.

To expand on something I said then, as a professional sales person (as opposed to order taker), we are not only experts in sales but also experts in the field our product plays in.  The truly professional wireless sales person know as much if not more than most buyers of the service, be they IT or business buyers.  The same is true for a logistics/supply chain provider, they know more about trends, developments and opportunities in improving the movement of goods than most people buying their services.

I want to be clear, I am not saying better, but we are experts.  We are witnesses to best and worst practices and as such an invaluable resource for those trying to make a quality decision for their companies.  Conscientious buyers are actively seeking people with expertise of the level of top sales people.  Top sales professionals bring more knowledge and expertise to a given situation than many consultants; I am always reminded of the UPS commercial where two consultants had to admit their in ability to execute or go beyond advice.  Many of my customers rely on my expertise, opinion and direction long after there is a transaction involved, and I am happy to provide it.

As long as a buyer remembers that they are dealing with someone who is ultimately paid for selling, they can really benefit from the wisdom of top sales people.  Usually one of the things that make them tops in their field is that they are not mercenaries, but professionals delivering full value to their customers and employers; and buyers deserve to deal with experts.

So I don’t think you have to sell to “customers as they wish to be sold to.” Nor do I think it is “arrogant” to help the customer come to a decision in ways over and above they initially conceived, as long as sales people we keep mutual value the centre piece of the interaction. 

What do you think, how would you answer the question posed?

Tibor Shanto
What’s in Your Pipeline?

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2520

ARWUSS

Who Is Prospect 2.0?

Last week I posted a question on a number of LinkedIn groups, asking what Sales 2.0 really was? Many of the answers were predictable, some fresh, some repackaging old concepts in current wrap. A lot of it was about the use of up to date technology and tools, Web 2.0, with a new view to sales. Again, when one uses new in the context of sales, one must remember that sales is the second oldest vocation on the planet; could be the first if you believe the bit about Adam, Eve and the serpent playing the role of the sales person, man did he have a value prop and ROI story, and he too was all about the relationship wasn’t he?

What many seem to have lost sight of in the whole thing was the prospect. It’s all well and good to have Web 2.0, Sales 2.0, even Buyer 2.0, the one thing that hasn’t changed is that you still need prospects, and we do not mean leads or targets, but prospects, willing and engaged prospects. Which brings us to the naïve assumption behind Sales 2.0 (S2.0), who is Prospect 2.0 (P2.0)?

I suppose if P2.0 does exist, they are a very small part of your market. Here is why. According to the pundits, at any given time 7% to 12% of you market is actively in play, actively engaged in the buying process, these would be the Buyer 2.0 we read about. Let’s saw that off at 10%, that means 90% of your market is removed from the market, some, probably 70%, far removed, classic status quo (SQ). The 20% is in the middle, thinking not acting, pipeline fodder if you will. Some S2.0 types also set out to or try to engage with this group.

So the S2.0 types do a lot to capture the attention of the 10% active buyers, and some of the 20% in the middle, but leave the other 70% to slowly simmer till they are ready to enter their SEO and S2.0 wonderland. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

As a professional sales person, I probably know more about what I sell than most of my customers. I don’t just mean product and the competition, but the over all process, potential impact; I am exposed to best and worst practices every day, allowing my prospects and clients to benefit from not just my knowledge, but as a conduit to trends in the market. Because of that knowledge, I also know how to engage with the 70% in the status quo, the ones who have not gone to their browser to do a search on what I sell.

They do not have Twitter account, tweeting and following every subject matter expert. They have not started a discussion in a LinkedIn group, and even if they did, consider this. The Document Imaging Group has just fewer than 3,500 members, half of whom are sales people or suppliers trying to engage with Buyer 2.0.  The reality for many of the 70% Status Quo types is that some hardly have enough time to have lunch. As a result many are off the S2.0 radar, but can still be approached and engaged with knowledge and expertise, the old fashion way, the Sales minus 1.0 way.

The net effect is that while there is a whole bunch Sales 2.0 type chasing a small piece of the market, we traditional knuckle draggers get to forage around in the deep end of the pool. Imagine the difference in the size of things; even if I only engage with 5% of the 70% Status Quo, I am still ahead. More importantly not under pressure because the prospect may have other social network suitors.

Now once you are engaged you certainly can, in fact should use Sales 2.0 tools to foster, nurture and move the sales process along.  Using Sales 2.0 to provide air cover in ensuring that you can continue to have mind share with the buyer and win the sale. Once they become your client you can use S2.0 tools to manage and guide the relationship.

But until Sales 2.0 can proactively reach out and engage with the Status Quo, it remains reactionary.  There is still something to be said for the traditional proactive approach, unless you like being in small crowded and noisy places.

If you would like to learn more about the how to use traditional and Sales 2.0 tools together for greater results, join me for a FREE webinar AN INCONVENIENT TRUCE tomorrow December 15 at 1:00 pm EasternRegister her.

Have you had success engaging with the cocooned status quo using Sales 2.0?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2410

ARWUSS

Move On or Hang On?

A lot of the chatter on Sales St. this week was about year end, but not the expected banter about closing the year strong or planning for next year. It was more about which team individual sales professionals are looking to be on; and from sales leaders, who they plan to have on their team going into what most believe (hope) will be a better year.

In some ways these two sides of the coin illustrate the disconnect or difference in the way reps and leaders view the profession, their roles and resulting approach.

Many leaders realize that they have people on the bus who don’t belong there, but they are reluctant to let them off at the next stop, thinking that it is worst to have a vacant territory.  It is not. Coming from the “Hire slow, fire fast” camp, I have always believed there is greater risk in having someone who is either not capable or in whom I’ve lost confidence, in a territory than to have the territory vacant. This is why as a sales leader you should always be in interview and search mode; just like your pipeline, it easier to get rid of a dud, opportunity or rep, if you know you have other prospects, options or recruits ready.

So waiting for the new year to part company really doesn’t make sense if you are a sales leader. If the rep is so bad that you want him/her off the team, how much upside can they really provide in Q4?  If you wait for the first of the year, you are not only going to have to allow for ramp up time, no matter how little may be required, but you will also have turmoil when you most want to foster teams. It is likely that you are already introducing new targets, new comp plans, maybe even new territories, why take on more at that time. Seems to me the best time to initiate a departure strategy and related actions is as soon as you realize that the rep is not a fit anymore, not long after you know the situation is far beyond salvage.

Reps are indicating that they are hanging to realize any yearend closes, “having worked on the deal for ever, I want to at least close it before I move on”.  Others are waiting for yearend bonus, or some form of monetary reward they may (or may not) get.  While this may be sound in a few instances, it is not for most.  If you are basing your success on last minute deals based on budgetary cycles or other lunar driven events, you are truly “hanging on” rather than proactively driving business. 

On the other hand let’s say you are a good rep and feel you are limited by your current organization, or feel that you have more to offer and gain elsewhere, you should still make the move now, rather than waiting.  (There is the underlying assumption here that there is somewhere for you to move to.)  If there is, it must be true that you see more potential, then why wait, if you look at it from a 12 – 18 month perspective, in most cases yes, you may leave a few shekels behind, but you will also set yourself up to make a whole bunch more by better positioning yourself in your new gig.

If you make your move based on opportunity rather than “timing”, you will be able to get those yearend closes at your new place, and at the same time tee things up for a great start to next year, I bet this will allow you to make up for what you may feel you leave behind and then some.  So just as with the advice to the sales leaders, the time to make the move is when you know you can do better for you and your organization by moving on.

As with most thing in sales it is about the quality of the execution.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2315

ARWUSS

80 – 20 This!

“We will be geared towards the average rather than the exceptional”
Gerald Bostock/Ian Anderson (take your choice)
 
As we approach the home stretch in 2009, most of us are looking to 2010 as a fresh start in more ways than one.  But that also brings the challenge of what we will do differently, what will we take in to the New Year to help us move forward and win.  If we don’t change how we do things, we are not likely to change results.  With a month out, I am hearing some tepid optimism, but when pushed for strategy or plan of execution, there seems to be adherence (if not clinging) to the same old same old.  When I ask why not embrace change, we hear different reasons, one that comes up often is that no matter what you do, you can’t change the fact that in sales you have to live and deal with the 80/20 rule.  Really scary thing this passive acceptance of the 80/20 rule as the status quo; especially since the status quo is the mortal enemy of every sales pro. 
 
The quote at the top unfortunately rings true for many in sales and in many aspects of sales.  While many strive to improve and move the science and art form forward, all too many are quick to not only accept but preach the mediocrity so aptly and sadly captured by the quote and the 80/20 rule.  A rule that not only allows for but rationalizes the fact that many in sales are allowed, no, encouraged to wallow in the “average”. How else would you explain this casual acceptance of 80/20?  Even if it were true, you would think and want sale professionals and leaders to want to defeat and slay the beast, but instead it is used to deflect the accountability required to evolve and win.
 
I am for ever amazed at the how the 20% that “do”, those that are credited and recognized for driving 80% of the revenue, tolerate the fact that they have to carry the excess weight. I am almost as amazed that the “80%” is content playing the role of the paper weight in sales department. I am also at loss to understand why an organization carries the 80%, especially since they say salaries are one of the largest expenses a corporation has.  Seems to me that if you have a non-performing asset you get rid of it, yet sales managers and organizations are reluctant to deal with their non-performing assets.  I know it is a tough decision, I know we are dealing with human beings, but I think everyone would benefit from tough but clear decision. 
 
If in fact the 80/20 rule is prevalent, it would make more economic sense to just let 80% of the team go, adopt some Sales 2.0 or 3.07 tools and reap the margin improvements.  I don’t buy the BS that it is better to have someone in the territory than to have it neglected; better neglect than long term damage.  If you know they are not good enough, then so do your customers and that will reflect on you as the manager or the company.  I can see it if one is actively looking for a replacement, fine, but usually they are not.  I used to work with colleagues, directors, who would admit the ineptness of their team members, but insist that it was only a question of time before they improve or leave of their own volition.  Sure, they get a weekly check when they know that they are the 80%, and they are going to leave?  OK, and if I click my heels three times I will be in Kansas, and get frequent flying points to boot.
 
So this week I want to look at how the 80/20 rule continues to present itself in sales an a few small steps that can be considered, taken, to tilt things.  What if, and go with me here, in 2010 we change things to get to 70/30?  After all, all we need to do is impact 20% of the 80% and we could make great strides.  Over the next few posts I’ll look at some areas where we can take a bite out of the 80%.  It will not cover everything, but I will look at a few areas to consider and act, so as I do, I invite you to not only take inventory in your sales world, but share with us ideas where we can change the balance, so everyone can have a chance to abandon the 80%!
 
What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2210

ARWUSS

Liar Liar Deal’s On Fire

A few years back I was delivering a three day workshop in the States, a lively group of managers, fun to work with; there was no shortage of jokes and fun. One particularly animated fellow wasted no time on the first day to point out that “buyers are liars”, several times in fact.

Next day we were working on a different part of the process, same fellow this time informed us all that “sellers are liars”. We all laughed but no one seemed to be offended by either suggestion. In some ways I was afraid to come back on third day, as trainers were the only ones left in the equation that have not been accused of being liars.

In many ways it is not surprising to hear sales people say this in as much as they have to deal with untruths on a daily basis. While I am not sure you can call everything a lie, it doesn’t change the impact. At the same time sellers also mislead, lie, whatever you may call it, to buyers. While you could spend time trying to figure out where this vicious cycle got started, it really doesn’t make much of a difference since it goes on regularly, in equal measure by both side. The question really is why?

When sellers prospect a potential buyer very few set out with the intent to mislead or lie. I also have to believe that when a prospect accepts an appointment, they don’t do it to see how much they can mislead the seller in one meeting.  But that’s what it often deteriorates to and quickly. 

Being that sellers usually initiate the process we own the responsibility setting the flow, and as such avoiding this kind of activity.  We also want to give buyers the benefit of the doubt that if they mislead sellers, it is only a result of having had experience with inferior sellers (let’s not forget how easily many buy into and espouse the 80/20 rule).

So how do you prevent from being lied to, even if it is just a defensive manoeuvre by the buyer?  By fully engaging the prospect using a thorough questioning routine that achieves at the minimum three things.  First you will get a prospect who will be fully involved as result of considering and thinking through the questions in order to provide responses. Second, you will learn a number of things about the prospect, their buying process, their organization and their propensity to act on what you sell.  Third, you’ll be able to compare what you hear to previous experiences to see if you are being plaid, or you just need to do more work to get a sale. 

There is no secret set of questions, but more a series, a sequence, with follow through questions to clarify and validate, and perhaps most important yet least executed, much like the follow through is part of every golf swing, the follow through question have to be utilized for each and every area explored with the prospect.

The questions, simple and generic, the art is in the execution, delivery if you will:

  • How are you addressing, dealing with, managing the process now?
    o Who, What, Which are you using now?
    o How long have you used had?
  • How did you go about choosing them?
  • Why did you choose them over the others?
  • What do you like most about them?
  • What would you be doing about this, the issue if I had not called?

Don’t let the simplicity fool you, the art is in the drill down, quantifying the answers, how they conclude the answers to the above, value attached or represented, emotional value, impact and potential length of impact.

By the time you patiently take them through this, not that it takes a long time, just that most sellers tend to rush is and lose the benefit in the process; again like golf, you can’t rush the shot and you have to follow through, you will know who is playing you or who is playing with you.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

A Random Walk Up Sales Street – 2116

ARWUSS

Ends versus Means

The age old moral dilemma, “does the end justify the means?”; who knows, who cares, and frankly does it matter most of the time?  Well in B2B sales it does but in a different context.  Specifically, it appears that in B2B sales, most sales people seem to focus on the means, and spend little time on the ends.

The ends in this case is the actual ultimate impact for the buyer, the tangible difference and advantage the buyer will have by virtue of buying, implementing and using the seller’s offering.  The means is the product itself, which while important to the seller and stakeholders in his company, is of little direct consequence to the economic buyer who is much more concerned about the outcome, hopefully improved in some ways by the seller’s offering.

This not that new of a concept, but by simplifying it in some ways we find many sales people are able to deal with it without many of the distractions they normally have to deal with in a sale.  The means here represent not only the product or solution, but the messaging Marketing wants you to deliver, which often the buyer does not appreciate.  Not because it is not a “work of art”, but rather it deals with the deliverable not the outcome.  Many marketing people, sales managers and sales people, get so enamoured with the product and it’s advancements over the last generation or the competition that they forget that the buyer really could care less about the “uniqueness” of the product/solution, and are much more driven by the impact it has on their end situation.

Research companies are forever trying to impress their buyers with their methodology, “proprietary process”, the thoroughness of their algorithm, and so on.  But they forget that the end user, the real economic buyer, the VP of Marketing, CIO, Product Manager, cares about how they will use the output of the research firm’s glorious process.  Sellers fail to realise that often the “end” user, the person using the processed information, not the person doing the processing, often only deals with aspects of the service, and usually in conjunction with other inputs, brought together in a way that allows the ultimate recipient to make decisions.  The measure of worth here is the impact and quality of that decision not the myriad of inputs and sources that went in to it.  Stated another way, what counts, no, the only thing that counts, is the end, not the means.

At times sales people embrace half this idea, they focus on their own ends, the sale, not the buyer’s ends which is the successful resolution of their issue, be that a problem or an opportunity.  First challenge is to fully understand who the real end buyer is.  A marketing manager may be making the purchase of a report or a subscription; an IT manager may be buying a solution, software/hardware or both.  In both cases these people may be the ones transacting and interfacing with the sales person, but they are not the end buyer.  Right away, it needs to be asked why the rep didn’t approach the end buyer.  Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, no access (we’ll deal with that another day), even then the approach should be based on the end goal of the ultimate users, not the specs of the intermediary.  The intermediary is (or should be) aware of the ultimate end of the project, not every detail but they know the end goal of the person or group benefiting from the work they will do with the goods or services you sold.  If they didn’t feel or know how they can serve that end with your product, they would not buy it, waste time talking to you.  But knowing how the game is played they get you to focus on price competition and other distractions, rather than allowing you to build value based on the end goal.  That is if you let them, do you?

You should be aware even and especially when they are not, this way you can lead the process and have the discussion at that level on the specs and views of an intermediary.

Executing the sale based on focusing on the end rather ha the means is straight forward, not easy but straight forward.  Use the discovery process to demonstrate your ability to positively impact their end goal in the buyer’s terms; conversely the risk to the end goal if they don’t buy from you.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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