Hunting Big Sales with Tom Searcy

Weekly Tip: Is your opening line tired?

There are topics that are so tired to discuss when opening a conversation that they should be retired as starters. Let me give you my list of small talk snoozers, the kinds of things that start off conversations with low energy and from which you then have to recover:

  • Weather – “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.” – Mark Twain. Discussing the weather is a substitute for real conversation. You are either complaining about it or comparing it, but once that trite and over used opener has played out, you then have to move to the reason you are there. Not a very easy transition.
  • Travel – No one cares. Travel stinks – your delays, their delays, no delays – who cares? Starting off a conversation with travel digs a negative energy hole that really has little to with why the other person is there.
  • Sports – I know, a classic “go-to” for lots of sales people and small talkers. Here’s the challenge, you always have to make a hard pivot to get the conversation from the sports category to the business category. Everyone knows you are going to pivot, they just don’t know when. When it happens, it’s jarring to everyone in the discussion.
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Start off your conversation by asking the other person a question:

“I wanted to get your opinion on something I recently saw….”

If what you recently saw is relevant to the marketplace, competitors, customers, or industry, so much the better.

Posted by Katelyn Marando in Weekly Tips.

Weekly Tip: Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

Your mama taught you this, and you probably were like me and you spent a lot of time out past midnight before you figured out that she was right.

I have more sins than Saturday night confessions in my history on this topic, so when I tell you that there are seven rules for client entertaining, I know because I have broken a few.

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Here are my rules:

1)   Don’t go anywhere with a client that you wouldn’t take the person in your life you respect the most.

2)   Don’t set the fastest pace- whether it is drinking, dancing, eating, talking, karaoke-ing, or any other activity. When you set the fastest pace, things tend to spin out of control, and the focus becomes you rather than the client.

3)   Take the check, but don’t fight for it. Everyone’s on expense account, so this is just shadow boxing anyway.

4)   Lead, don’t follow. If a client is taking you somewhere that doesn’t fit your own beliefs, your company’s code or common sense, don’t go. Just because they are the client does not mean they have say on your values.

5)   Protect your company and its people. If someone on your team is making a bad decision, you have to take the responsibility for resolving the issue. Don’t watch the train wreck happen and then give a detailed report later. Stop the train wreck.

6)   Everyone is watching – How you treat the servers, the doormen, other patrons is all on display and your clients or prospects are watching.

Posted by Katelyn Marando in Weekly Tips.

7 Steps to Creating the Ultimate CEO Fortress of Solitude

I’m not sure if it was Peter Cetera or Kierkegaard who said, “Everybody needs a little time away.” Regardless of who said it, that statement is certainly true, especially for business leaders. In this 24/7, constantly-connected world we live and do business in, there will come a time that you have to find that spot that you can go to and be truly alone.

Even Superman had a place to go when the rigors of defending Metropolis got to him and made him feel less than super. For CEOs, there are a number of tasks that you will not be your most effective in solving if you attempt them working in a standard office environment. Maybe it’s annual reviews, terminating an employee, deciding whether or not to launch a new product, or even something as simple (yet, mind-numbingly complicated) as a customer issue. At some point, we all need our own Fortress of Solitude. You need to find a spot that will allow you to truly embrace the beauty that is complete solitude, a place that allows you to really focus on an issue, re-energize yourself, and go back to being super.

Here are 7 Steps to finding that perfect spot:

1. Embrace the beauty of being alone.

Even if you are the most gregarious person in your office, sometimes you want to enjoy your own company. In your fortress, one of the most important things is to be comfortable with yourself and only you. No Lois Lane, no Jimmy Olsen, and definitely no Lex Luthor.

7 Steps to Creating the Ultimate CEO Fortress of Solitude.

Posted by Tom Searcy in

Weekly Tip: Writing for Impact

You probably write proposals. You likely write quotes, and I know you write emails. If you think about it, you write a lot more than you ever thought you would when you were in school. I write as a part of my job now, but I did not go to school to become a writer, and if I had, I would not have been learning how to write the kinds of materials I write now. We are all writers because we are all communicators if we sell. Let me give you some tips on writing for more impact, regardless of whether it is a million dollar proposal or a two-sentence email.

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1)  Write tight – You want to use as few words as possible to communicate your idea. That is why editing is as important as authoring in the process of writing for business communication.

2)  10th Grade – If you are writing, communicate as if it were to someone who was in the 10th grade. This is not about dumbing-down, (I know some amazingly smart high-schoolers), it is about clarity. When you write at that level you already assume that you have to provide context, so you are more complete in your explanations. Remember, when you send a document digitally, it will travel to places you had not planned. You want all readers to understand with clarity your message, even the unintended ones.

3)  Write real – I read A LOT of proposals. Often I wonder, “Who does the author think is reading this, Peter Drucker?” Save the MBA-speak, buzz-word filled, and jargon laden language for your Harvard Business Review article.

Posted by Katelyn Marando in Weekly Tips.

Achieve Faster–Nobody Lives Forever!

Goals are great, in fact they are paramount to actual success. Every single successful business in the history of time started with a goal, achieved it, and went from there. The only problem is, why do they take so long?  Here’s a very simple, two-part process that will help you rocket to the finish line.

Part 1: Understanding the Path

  1. Declare the goal. The best definition of a goal is a dream with a deadline. So declare not only the dream, but the deadline as well. What do you want to do and when do you want to do it by? These two very simple questions can help you to measure progress along the way and to know when you’re winning.
  2.  Create the path. The major difference between most goals and dreams is that a goal not only has a deadline, but it has a plan. What’s your plan? How do you intend on reaching that finish line and achieving that goal? Do you have everything you need to get you there? Have you anticipated roadblocks and pitfalls along the way? Do you have a plan to sidestep the landmines that you won’t see until the last minute?
  3. Set mini-goals. Be sure you have measurable milestones–mini-goals along the path to let you know that you’re on the right road. The most important part is that they are three things: applicable, measurable, and attainable.
  4. Define winning. The mini-goals and the major goal have to be tangible, specific.
Achieve Faster–Nobody Lives Forever!.

Posted by Tom Searcy in

9 Ways to Have Better Vacations

I am not a great vacationer. I wish I was. I am not alone, a lot of CEOs and senior executives confess that they do not disconnect well. They think about business a lot when they are gone, check in, keep their phone and email available, and are not as “present” on their vacation as they would like to be. As a fellow sufferer, I have studied how to be a better vacationer.  I tested some guidelines on a recent break in Mexico and they worked really well.

  1. Be gone for enough time to disengage–It takes me 1-2 days to disengage my mind and my sense of urgency from work. A three-day weekend is usually fun, but not truly a vacation because it does not allow me to totally release my mind from work. You have to give yourself enough time to break your rhythms of office life. I know for me that six days is the very minimum.
  2. Unplugging may not be possible, so ration–All of the items I have studied about this topic have advocated a 100 percent disconnection. I know they are right and I know it is not happening. So I ration instead 20-30 minutes of email when I get up in the morning. I delegate or defer almost all responses to someone on my team back home or until I return. The “no contact” rule is better, but beyond my human capacity, so I ration.
  3. Avoid digital temptations–Shut down the email, texting, and voice as much as possible.
9 Ways to Have Better Vacations.

Posted by Tom Searcy in

Weekly Tip: How to Get Thrown Out of a Bar

It’s been my experience that this subject needs almost no training…if you have done it once, or even watched it happen, you know the formula. For the few who have not, here are the two most typical ways:

1. Say the wrong thing to the wrong person (add volume for impact)
2. Swing at someone

That’s it. If you don’t want to get thrown out of the bar, don’t do these things.

Yet, I watch sales people do the equivalent in sales meetings. Let’s make a quick list of the ways to get thrown out, or just as bad, your prospect shuts down and stops being engaged in the discussion:

  • Talk. If you are talking in the first 20 minutes, you are losing. This is listening time.
  • Miss cues. The customer is talking all of the time, even if he or she is not speaking. If you miss cues of interest, boredom or distraction you are losing.
  • Take a swing. Make a negative comment about one of your prospect’s co-workers, your competitors, or their company.
  • Be irrelevant. Your answers need to always be framed in context of the customer’s problem or situation, never just in relationship to your product or service.

These are basic things, right? Not getting thrown out of a bar is not brain surgery either – yet, people do it all of the time. You can’t win if you are at the curb, so make certain you and your team members know how to stay in.

Posted by Katelyn Marando in Weekly Tips.

4 Ways to Manage Slippery Customers and Be Sticky

Nothing is more frustrating in this competitive, hyper-commoditized world in which we live as businesses than working with a customer and believing you have developed a value-based relationship with them only to be tossed into a bidding war every year to keep the business.

As I approach this idea of being “sticky”–which means not being so easily removed from a customer as a provider because of a lower priced competitor–let’s make a few assumptions:

  1. You provide a good product or service at a market-relevant price. Not necessarily the lowest, and maybe the highest, but logically justifiable.
  2. Your customers are regularly being approached by competitors who encourage your customers to “try them out” or switch entirely based upon promises of equal or better performance at same or lower prices.
  3. Your customers can switch with relative ease, (or what they perceive to be ease), from you to you competitors.

If these assumptions fit for you, and you have felt some “slippage” with your customers, here are some things you can do to become stickier.

Expand your connection net. Often in customer relationships, once the agreement has been made to work together, the management of the relationship thins. The sales person or account manager becomes the primary and often singular point of connection to the customer. On the customer’s side, they also thin their points of contact to only transaction processors. If you want to be sticky, you need more touchpoints in the relationship. We recommend that you look at a minimum of three connections that are occurring between your company and your customer’s company on at the bare minimum of once or more per month.

4 Ways to Manage Slippery Customers and Be Sticky.

Posted by Tom Searcy in

Why You Should Be Transparent With Your Employees

How much do we tell the employees about the money in the business? For small and mid-size business owners, there is often a lot of anxiety about sharing too much information. For employees, there is a strong desire to understand the business and its prospects for the future. If you are a privately held company, balancing this is tough. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Don’t give information without education. Providing any financial reports regardless of whether they are summaries, or complete traditional reports like your balance sheet, P/L and budget, should always be provided with a thorough education as to how the employee can read the data. It is possible that your employees do not have the background or training to fully understand these documents, so giving them the documents without education can be little more than distracting.
  • What’s it mean to them? When looking at the information that you provide, there needs to be a clear summary telling the employees what it means to them. They will likely have lots of relevant questions:
    • Is our company getting better or worse? More stable or vulnerable?
    • Is my job at risk?
    • What are we investing in to make us more successful in the future?

Employees look for context and relevance to the numbers.

  • What can I do? Along with providing context for the numbers themselves, it is also important to provide a road map for what you are doing as a company with the information and an ask for the employees. The ask during positive periods is simple–Keep doing your great work!

Posted by Tom Searcy in

Weekly Tip: Talking About Price, Made Easy

There is a baseline set of misconceptions about price in sales conversations that if left untreated, will diminish your effectiveness. Those misconceptions are:

1.  Money and price are synonymous.
2.  Because money has a set value, it is valued the same by all people.
3.  Money is static, non-changing and this causes price discussions to often be forced into haggling, because there are only three price choices; less, more, or same. Between two parties, any one of these three choices leaves one party disappointed.

Those three beliefs are inaccurate.

  • Money is only valued in relationship to other things, never alone. For this reason, if you are only talking about the money without its value relationship to what it represents, you will get stuck in the single dimension of price.
  • There is no such thing as “apples to apples” comparison, so there is no such thing as an exact price comparison. A pack of gum at the convenience store costs a nickel more than the one across the street at Walmart, yet it is purchased. It is not the gum that gets the premium, it is the convenience, here vs. there. I know people who will drive all over town to save that nickel, and others who never think twice. In business-to-business transactions, the dimensions are exponentially more complex as the offering increases in complexity.
  • If you want to be more successful in price discussions, only talk about money, not about price. Most of my clients pride themselves on not being the lowest-priced providers, yet they get defensive when discussing it.

Posted by Katelyn Marando in Weekly Tips.