photo courtesy of flickr Christopher S. Penn cc
Latest "Being the Hunter" Posts
In the 90’s and early 00’s Silicon Valley had convinced the world that IT should run the show. Remember how hard we worked to get a foosball table into the tech guy’s areas? Bean bag chairs in front of the big TV to play their video games? Special coffee makers? Because if we did not become the workplace of choice, well then we might not get the tech talent that we needed to be competitive…
Ah, how the mighty have fallen…or at least slipped.
With deep corporate cost cutting measures, the promised cost efficiencies of cloud-computing and aggressive off-shoring of tech jobs, IT is feeling a little less hitch in their giddy’up. I’m not preaching a comeuppance to anyone- these things all move in cycles and IT is in THAT cycle right now. What I think is important to understand is the context of how technology people are making decisions now. Make no mistake, IT drives many of the decisions, especially the NO decisions inside of companies. That means you need to know how to sell ideas to them in the current cycle.
- Why your “value proposition” pisses them off – The world of consumer technology is now the context for evaluating all technology. iPhone Apps, microwaves and cars that parallel park themselves have created the false impression that everything technology should now be “just add water and cook for 30 seconds” easy. It should also be free or darn cheap. If your approach is too expensive or complex, it will be impossible to get through their own company’s process.
“Congratulations, You’re My 11th Biggest Customer”
What’s it like to be someone’s “11th Biggest Customer”?
In the constant sales competition with bigger companies for bigger deals, at some point, if you are smaller, your size is going to become an issue. This can be in an obvious way or in a subtle way- even unstated. However, if you are competing with a company who is much bigger than you are, often that competitor looks like a safer bet than you. You have to turn their size against them- and that’s not easy, it takes a little magic.
Here is the magic trick -
Ask your prospect, “Who is your 11th biggest customer for your company?” As they fumble through the list in their mind, drop in this second question, “What’s it like to be somebody’s 11th biggest customer?”
You’ve set up the conversation about size, trust and promises. Be careful, it would be easy to swing on the point with an eight-pound sledgehammer when just a finishing hammer is necessary. Here’s how the rest of the conversation should go -
You: “Being out of the top 10 shows up in a lot of ways in a business relationship- not always up front, but over time, the bigger clients always get the first attention in any of our businesses. I would encourage you to ask anyone you are considering for this project/program/purchase/partnership where you will fall in the order of size of their clients. Just for reference, you will be my 3rd biggest customer, (fill in the blank with the correct number in the top 10 for your company or your personal book of business).”
It’s simple – we all know that being 11th sucks.
I once worked in telesales where the psychology of the “one-call close” is that you never say “No.” I worked hard on every call to get the customer into a series of “Yes” statements so that the natural final answer to the closing question was “Yes.” Guess what? It works for transactional sales…kinda. But it doesn’t work for large account selling.
The top sales people are not afraid of saying “no” to requests and challenges from prospects and clients. But the best sales people go further. They don’t allow a client’s requests to set the pace of the deal, for doing so may limit the sales person’s power in the deal. If the client is setting the pace, the sales person is not in the best position to tell a client what he or she can’t do, won’t do or what is not in the client’s best interest to do.
Now, just to be clear, I am not talking about combative selling or a “Dr. No” approach that I have sometimes seen. I am talking about the need to frame a value proposition clearly and with contrast so that it highlights what you bring to the table and what you do not.
There are lots of flavors of “no.” I would like to hear some of yours.
What is a sales team’s likely response when their buyer involves a bunch of people in a sale who don’t know much about what they’re buying?
“These people are IDIOTS!”
[Paraphrased from frustrated sales people the world over, dealing with “new” buyers at their big targets…]
When big companies lay people off, the functions of those people get stacked on top of the already-full desks of other people. These new responsibilities most often don’t come with training, a manual, or any relevant experience on the part of the recipient. And these new job requirements just show up. Often times, one of these responsibilities is to be the buyer of products and services with which the “new” buyer is very unfamiliar.
So, what do these people do with their new responsibility? Most of the time they choose one of the following:
1. Do nothing. They don’t buy anything- they just put it off
2. Stick with the incumbent.
3. Buy from the lowest-priced vendor.
In the rapidly-shifting organizational charts of companies dealing with downsizing, ignorant buyers can be dangerous to your sales process for new accounts. Face it—there are a lot of options that are easier and safer than going with a new provider like you.
Getting these new buyers to sway away from the three easy options listed above will require you to adjust your approach. Here are some recommendations…
“Trading up” is a term I’ve been hearing a lot lately in the marketplace. CXOs are looking to improve the quality of their talent, so they’re replacing low producers in every field with stronger people. And they can. There’s a lot of talent on the sidelines—good talent. However, other companies are doing the same thing, which means shedding their lowest producers and filling the job market with fodder.
Why is it that sometimes the best sales production you get out of a sales person is when he/she is selling himself/herself for a new job? I’ve often noticed that it’s not only the best sales production you get; it’s the ONLY sales production you get.
If you’re trading up, you’ll want to consider the questions you’re asking in the interview so that you truly do have the opportunity to trade up…and not just trade out. Here are a few questions that will help you guage candidates’ sales production and the type of sales cycle they’ll likely excel with…
I’m working on some big sales right now with my clients. I act as either a member of their team or as a key advisor. We’re aiming at accounts ranging from $500,000 to $100,000,000. This is a great part of my professional life. People hire me typically for one or more of three reasons:
- They’re looking to “double their double.” They want to double the speed with which they can double the size of their company and they believe that landing large accounts is the way to do it.
- They want a manageable and scalable approach to running their sales process, measuring it and improving their success rates.
- They have a mega-sale that they want to land and they want me to be their adviser and coach. I play the role of “deal-doctor” for lack of a better description.
I’m doing all of this work right now for a variety of clients, but it just so happens that in the area of mega-hunts, we’re in a very busy hunting season.
Every one of these deals is different – different size, industry, competitive landscape, personality mix… You get the idea.
But there are a few things that each of these mega-hunts has in common…
Connecting to the buyers of big deals is the forever frontier. I write on it, speak on it, read on it, worry about it, practice it… Figuring out how to get to the people who make the decision is evergreen in the minds of sales people and business owners.
From time to time I come across the anomaly—someone who simply doesn’t have this problem. People are beating down their door. They have more opportunities than they can process and they are working to control growth. How does this happen? Partly, they’re lucky bastards (and I’m jealous of them), but mostly I think they’re known for something specific, so people come to them.
For those of us who are not that lucky, I write about how to achieve this type of feedback extensively in my new e-book, “How to Get into Big Companies for Big Sales… and What to Do Once You Get There”.
In the meantime, the old way of creating this condition was based upon…
It occurred to me recently that we have a TON of free sales resources scattered throughout our site. From e-books to podcasts, and webinars to essays, we’ve definitely taken this thought leadership stuff to heart. And now we’ve gone one step further and wrapped it all up nicely into one lovely package we’ve aptly named our “Resource Center.”
So now, instead of registering for every e-book or download, you will simply register once for the Resource Center (it’s still free, of course), and you’ll never have to fill out another form again. (Registration is only required for e-books, webinars and podcasts.) Your email address will become your login, although our center should recognize you if you enter from a computer that you’ve previously used to login. I’m not one to brag (which is a trait that my marketing agency cites as a fatal weakness), but it is pretty snazzy…
In all seriousness, though, I invite you to check it out and take advantage of all of our free tools, including a brand NEW e-book that we just introduced today. (I’ll write about that separately later.) “How to Get into Big Companies for Big Sales… and What to Do Once You Get There” details a variety of new challenges that big sale hunters face and then provides extensive pointers, tips and insight that will allow them to greet those challenges head on.
I would love your feedback on the new resource center and e-book, so please feel free to email me or leave a comment if you have a chance.
My son keeps telling me about a new show called “Lie to Me.” Evidently the main character has the ability to tell when someone is lying and, often times, why he/she is lying. Facial clues, tone of voice, body language are all indicators for him. He’s a scientist with years of study behind his abilities, but he has a few “naturals” on his team. These are people who can come to similar conclusions with accuracy, but have no formal training. [An ex-girlfriend of mine used to say that she had the same ability—she could tell when men were lying because their lips were moving. (Sigh.)]
Anyway, it got me thinking about our abilities in the sales process to identify liars, half-truth-tellers, concealers and the most dangerous buyers of all (I think): the delusionally hopeful, whose greatest sin is that they lie to themselves first and then repeat it to us.
I don’t have science behind me and I’m wary of the pop-psychology world of body language interpretation, (“If he crosses his arms that means he is defensive”). I do, however, tend to think that there are some indicators when the conversation is not completely truthful and those hints are worth watching for…