Latest "Sales Strategy" Posts
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?
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.
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.
INSIDER TIP OF THE WEEK
As sales people, the following ideas have been fed to us as truths all of our lives. Maybe they were, but even truths can evolve and these definitely have:
- People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. People don’t care how much you care if you don’t know what you are talking about. Relevance is the sign of real value. You have to care enough to know their business, market, industry, competitors and customer. Skip the part about their kids, sports and next vacation. Be relevant and valuable.
- Always be closing. People quote this line from the movie “Glengarry, Glenn Ross” as a sales maxim. They forget the character who said it was a quintessential jerk. “Always be solving, always be valuable” is the replacement. Closing is an outcome of a process that solves the customer’s problem so clearly that they move at your speed or faster for purchase.
- Focus on the person in the room who controls the biggest budget. In the new world it is not the person with the biggest budget who makes things happen. Often times it is the person with the power to block. Focus on the “no” person and you will get further.
- Activity equals productivity. Just because inactivity equals stagnation does not mean the opposite is true. Activity just means activity. Productivity is a result of the right things being done at the right speed with the right people. Focus on that first and volume second.