Latest "Sales Strategy" Posts
The Oddsmaker – What’s Your Chance of Winning?
Vegas has its oddsmakers. These experts evaluate all sorts of data to determine the likely outcome of some event- usually a competitive sporting event. All sorts of information is considered in the calculation- health of the contestants, past win-loss records, positional match ups, even weather. Then they make their predictions.
The good ones have a secret formula that they use that, when combined with their experience and instincts, allows them a higher accuracy than their competitors. They call it their “system”.
For large account sales, I can give you my formula- the rest of the system you have to come to The Academy to learn.
- Start with zero
- Executive Sponsor: If you have a Executive Sponsor, add 30 points
- Buyer’s table: If you have established contact with three or more of the members of the prospect team’s buying group and have met with them face to face, add 10 points. If not, then subtract 15 points.
- The Eel: If you have identified the Eel and are engaged with them in the sales process, add 5 points. If you have not identified the eel, or if you cannot get their engagement, subtract 15 points.
- Hunt team connections: If you have introduced three or more people in a meeting or on-site visit for a period greater than 45 minutes to members of the prospect team’s buying group, add 10 points. If not, then subtract 15 points.
- Needs assessment: Add 15 points if you are able to perform an in-depth needs assessment as a part of the preparation of your proposal.
The reason that a customer made his or her original purchase is very different from why they continued to buy. The customer experience that you and your company provide is never fully understood until AFTER the prospect becomes a customer. When you survey customers why they buy from you, they are actually answering the question of why they stay and grow their business with you.
If you want to do a better job of reaching prospects and crafting your message to turn them into customers, ask customers different questions:
- What was the problem you were having when you decided to hire us?
- What about what we were offering moved you from “interested” to “purchasing?”
- What was your biggest concern about giving your business to us when we first got started?
- Was there anything in your past history with another company that you were watching us for when we first started?
These questions will give you a better sense of the reasons that prospects buy from you and what they are most concerned about when they make that first purchase.
Your company just lost out on a big deal. Now what? Don’t waste your time complaining. Here are five questions to ask to help you come out on top next time.
I recently spoke with a CEO who participated in a very big sales presentation, only to come in second to a competitor. As a courtesy, she was offered the opportunity to discuss the process and ask questions with a representative from the group to whom she and her team presented. Very often these calls can be frustrating because most buyers are reluctant to give any direct information. After all, they have made their decision and in their mind, this is just a formality. With that in mind, sometimes it pays to take a roundabout approach to getting more information as to why your company came in second. Here were some of the questions I recommended that she ask:
1) What caused other firms to be eliminated prior to the final round? Asking this question gives you insight on the disqualifying characteristics as well as some insight as to why you might have lost. Sometimes you are good enough in an area to be a finalist, but not good enough to win. Knowing what got someone else DQ’ed may give you that information.
2) What qualities put you in the finalist round? Sometimes knowing why you were preferred over other companies can also give you an insight into why another company was ultimately chosen over your’s.
3) What qualities were “a draw” between you and the winning company?
I was in a great business meeting the other day with a potential business partner and at one point he said, “I think there is an elephant in the room. Tom, why are you in this conversation, I don’t see the fit. Tell me what you are thinking.” Great approach – straight honesty.
Sometimes it feels like we are all playing pretend. We pretend:
- Competitor is not trying to steal our business when we meet with our customers
- Price increase won’t affect the business relationship
- Last month’s short-shipment isn’t making them mad
I like to get the elephant out on the table and open him up. Everyone knows he’s there, so let’s deal with it. I know, it can be risky. However, if I don’t know what the customer is thinking, it’s like flying blind at night without instruments – VERY RISKY.
A couple simple rules:
1) Open like my friend did and declare the elephant
2) Acknowledge what can and cannot be done about it
3) Ask, “What is the best way for us to proceed in this conversation and what do you want us to know so we can better serve you?”
It’s not easy, but it’s better than playing pretend.
I have heard that “culture trumps strategy every day.” I would tell you that momentum trumps all- including in landing large accounts. Athletes can feel the almost supernatural shift of momentum in a game. It is not just for athletic competitions. You can feel it in your interactions with prospects and customers. Have you lost momentum in an account? A few telltale signs:
- Response time – If their response to calls and emails is lengthening
- Talk time – If the calls are shortening and the interchange is transactional
- Depth of discussion – If all you are discussing is surface level with no real depth
Momentum is a relative value, so you need to compare how things are now to how they were. If you are not happy with the results, here are some fast fixes:
- Meet – If email and calls are not getting the speed or quality of connection, it may be time for a face to face meeting to tighten things up.
- Give a Reason to Engage – Maybe you are not creating a reason for a higher level of involvement or faster response time. Create a trigger based upon value, information or urgency for them to change their behavior.
- Ask – Sounds simple because it is. Ask, “It seems that we are losing some momentum and urgency on this project/deal, has something changed that I don’t know about?”
More often than not, time is not on our side. If it is not, you have to take it back by getting the momentum on your side.
You’ll have a much easier time selling to high-level decision makers if you establish a connection with them first. Here are six ways to do just that.
High-level decision-makers are harder than ever to reach. If you are looking to develop strong connections to the most senior people in big companies, then consider NOT SELLING to them. Connect with them first. Bring them value on neutral ground and see if that opens the door for a business opportunity.
So, how do you do that? Well, every industry is looking for insight and best practices. Why not reach out to the marketplace leaders in your target-customer industry and ask for their opinions? It’s a good way to honor them and it lets you start off your relationship with greater parity.
Here are six techniques for reaching decision-makers. If they seem familiar, that’s because they are similar to the techniques used by top network producers, publicists, and event planners.
1. Interview–If your company or industry trade association has a newsletter, you have a great opportunity to be a guest journalist and interview someone for that publication. Perhaps you have a company blog, personal blog, podcast, or other outlet. The point is, ask them for an interview. Contact their marketing department or ask them directly. Ask for 15 minutes of their time to answer five questions. Getting their answers in person is a good way to establish a direct connection.
2. Advice–Call the decision-maker directly and ask his or her advice on a key industry matter.
Often times highly analytical people and companies over think data and decisions when what is needed is less speculation and more action. In the world of big sales, I am surprised at the frequency a hunt team will debate the meaning of a call or email instead of calling and asking. You are at risk if:
- You have had two or more internal meetings on a stuck prospect and still don’t have a course of action
- Sales leader has sent team members back more than once for key information
- You are in an “if-then” conditional scenario discussion trying to plan your next move
1. If it walks like a duck… – My biggest troubles have come when I did not listen to my intuition. Listen to your gut.
2. Information is the coin of the realm – Figure out the single thing you need to know to move one step forward. You are not getting everything you need for a final decision, so get one thing more to at least make progress.
3. Connect with someone…or someone else – Chances are you have tapped your Executive Sponsor. Have you tapped anyone else? If you don’t get new information, you will re-chew old data and make no progress.
Strategy can only take you so far…eventually you have to act.
INSIDER TIP OF THE WEEK
What if I told you that there are no villains, idiots or jerks in the world? (First, I’d be lying, so we can stop there…). Let me try again…
How about the idea that there are not nearly as many of those negative players as you think, but there are a lot of people who “don’t get it.” Part of this comes from YOUR assumptions. Let me give you three killer assumptions that may be damaging you:
- Your customer knows all you offer
- Your boss knows all your career aspirations
- Your company understands your contribution
For you to grow your company, customers and career, you must get clarity between you and the other side of the conversation on these three assumptions.
HOW TO TAKE ACTION
- Ask – Sounds simple. So try it. Ask the appropriate person the question and find out what that person or company knows.
- Clarify – If they are wrong or incomplete, don’t argue, explain.
- Get agreement – Once you have explained, make certain that they understand by asking them to tell you what they heard.
- Change – Now ask this question, “Now that we both have the same understanding, what do you think will change for us in the future?”
Before making the decision to downsize, you need to evaluate your sales efforts. Your real problem might just be a lackluster sales strategy.
Do you ever look around your office and ask yourself, “What are all of these people doing?” You look at your sales and revenues and they are flat or below projections. Your payroll, however, is still disproportionately robust. You start to wonder…Do we really need all of these people?
Before you grab a pencil and start plotting how to “right-size” your business, ask yourself a few questions first:
1) How does seasonality and business cycle affect your staff needs?
2) What does the backlog show the demand to be in the near future?
3) What does the pipeline show for the possible demand in the near future?
One of my great mentors once said, “All business problems are really sales problems.” An overstatement perhaps, but it is still something worth considering. Once you have looked at the fluctuations in your staffing demands based upon the questions above, you need to focus on ramping up your sales efforts.
Let me start with a confession–I have made almost all of the staffing mistakes you can make, some of them more than once. I have held onto staff when I should have trimmed. I have trimmed when I should have kept. It took me a while, but eventually I learned the lesson to hire slow and part ways fast when it is clear the relationship isn’t a good fit. Assuming you have done the same, that means you have a really strong staff who are underused.
The business-to-business market is tougher than ever. Here are three different approaches to improve your sales efforts. Choose the one that works best for your business.
A big shift has happened in the way large companies make decisions. I described it in my blog on “Zombie Apocalypse“. Big companies have taken away the purchase power of middle- and higher-level executives in favor of either senior executives or purchasing/procurement buyers. In order to set your growth strategy for this reality, you need to consider the three approaches below and then choose which one to bet on most heavily. Most businesses will need to take a diversified approach in order to cover all their current customers as well as attract new ones, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put more emphasis on the approach that seems to be your best bet.
Here are your options
1. Get good at selling lots of small sales to many customers.
Companies such as Amazon and UPS have figured out the ratio between volume-and-efficiency necessary to produce customers and profits. For B2B companies, the challenge is shifting your culture to handle service and sales to an efficiency model without losing the high-touch. Some companies have changed focus from high-touch to high-visibility by using online portals for order placing, tracking, and customer-satisfaction feedback. Others have created relationships that are demand-based, so that there are fewer interactions between customers and providers. This drives down service costs and the amount of time employees spend on each order.