Check out today’s blog on CBS MoneyWatch on hunting for new business. Enjoy!
Latest "The Sales Hunt" Posts
New blog on Inc.com today! It’s part 2 of my recent interview with Keith Ferrazzi – check it out.
Strategy is often directly influenced by whom the enemy is.
Pricing is influenced, of course. Also, your approach to the deal is impacted, as well as whether you even continue the pursuit.
However, because of governance rules, procurement guidelines and the jerk-nature of some smug buyers it is getting harder and harder to know who your competitors are.
I was recently sent an email on this very topic just last week, and here is what I told him:
Thanks for your email- It’s really hard to get a list of competitors from prospects – often times because of governance requirements in their process. However, you can triangulate sometimes using these questions (that your prospects may still not answer, but you have a better shot with these than without them):
* How did you generate the list of candidates for this project/contract?
* What were the top 3-5 characteristics that you used to qualify the list?
* Have you worked in the past with any of the companies you are considering? Are you working with any of them now?
These questions, if answered, give you a lot of insight, not just into the competitors, but to the buyers as well.
Let me know your best ideas by posting up here so everyone can share the best practices.
Why is it that the least important person in a presentation can hijack the entire meeting? You have been in these sessions when you are in full presentation and a person in the meeting starts the “challenging question” interrogation. It can sound like this-
- “Don’t you think that your approach costs too much for a company our size?”
- “How do you expect to integrate with our proprietary system if you have never worked with it before?”
- “What real and direct background do you have working in our industry?”
You’ve heard your own examples, I’m sure. Regardless of the challenge, it often comes in the form of a challenging question, it happens before you have had a chance to complete your presentation and it could de-rail the entire conversation. These are pivotal points and if you handle them the wrong way you can burn through precious minutes in your allotted time, look defensive and weakened in the presentation or get trapped into elevating a trivial point into a major issue.
Here are a few strategies to deal with this:
- Defer – The easiest one is to defer answering the challenge until the end of the presentation by saying, “That’s a good question, I believe we address some of what you are asking in the balance of this presentation. I’ll make certain to circle back with you at the end of the presentation to make certain we address anything left unanswered.”
- Isolate – If you have a persistent provocateur, I encourage a different approach.
I have spent a lot of time this week preparing for a speech in Tucson next week. I am speaking at the NSGA (National Sporting Goods Association) annual convention. My audience is made up of owners of sporting goods dealers selling to teams/schools/school districts as well as manufacturers. I’m in a tough spot…I immediately precede Erin Andrews as the Celebrity keynote speaker for lunch. There may be a stampede at the end of my speech to get good seats…(I think it is bad form for me to lead the stampede, but I am an Erin Andrews fan and I may look for a back exit to get there first…I’m just sayin’).
The core idea of the speech is Relationship Selling vs. Organizationship Selling.
Relationship selling is about one-to-one selling. Very risky. In the buying world of today, everything is in flux, including:
- Buying processes
Developing just one relationship in a company or organization is a bad strategy because too many things are moving beyond that one person’s control. Organizationship selling means changing the key relationship dynamic from one-to-one to either one-to-many or even better, many-to-many.
Specifically, for my audience this coming week, as a manufacturer’s representative, a dealer or distributor, your number highest value is found in the dimensions of service, which include:
- Accuracy – Orders are right, on time, delivered correctly.
- Availability – What the customer wants they get.
- Accessibility – Customer can reach her rep when she needs too.
- Choice – Customer has options of brand, color, product and so on.
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.
It is tough to be in marketing these days. CMOs have the life expectancy in their position of less than 19 months….and that’s dropping. Most of them have their LinkedIn™ profile permanently up on their laptop and are updating it hourly in the hopes a headhunter will spot it. It’s not just CMOs because with every regime change, the rest of their team goes into job-security roulette, waiting to see whether the ball lands on black or red- keep your job or lose it.
How do you sell to marketing organizations if there is this constant personnel rotation and job risk? Here are some recommendations:
1. Know the person’s history – Most people in marketing speak of their resume in campaign or brand successes rather than organizations or positions. They cite the program, product or new launch for which they can take credit and will do so early and often in your conversations. Do your homework, research the profiles of the marketing professionals you are meeting, reference their successes as they relate to the work you are proposing.
2. Talk the language of their discipline – Marketing is a big umbrella. Digital, direct, advertising, promotions, PR and so on, there are a lot of disciplines. Each discipline comes with its own language. Know what the measurement language is for success for each discipline and use it in your presentations, conversations and proposals. Marketers translate new approaches and technologies in their minds back into the languages of their past successes. Do the translation for them and you will be more successful.
“He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing.”
- Muad’Dib as quoted in Frank Herbert’s book, Dune
In the 90’s, geeks owned the world. The rise of the uber-nerd was embodied in the power given to all things tech. CIOs and CTOs were included in most high-level decisions and rightfully so- with the installation of enterprise management platforms like ERP, SCM and CRM systems, the point of constraint was with technology. In addition, the promised performance for reducing waste, managing Six-Sigma initiatives, just-in-time inventory models and so on all hinged upon IT people. They were absolutely the most powerful people at the decision-maker’s table.
Things have changed.
It’s now the time of the bean-counters. The finance people have all of the purchase power. To think otherwise is to deny the simple fact that the power to say “no” trumps the power to say “yes.” In the modern complex sale, “no” always wins over “yes” at the final hour of decision-making. The biggest, most powerful “no” out there today comes from the CFO.
An interesting point of reference: Boards of Directors hire 2 people who both report to the Board, the CEO and the CFO. Everyone else in the publicly traded companies reports to one of these two people. The CFO no longer typically reports to the CEO.
For this reason, I advocate starting all large account sales hunts with the strategy for landing the CFO. It does not matter if that is your first point of contact or your last, he or she is the only decision-maker when it comes to signing the deal who will matter.
Where’s our chance to brag? Those of us that are united by the desire to land that huge sale, compete against companies much bigger than ourselves and come out on top, to take the big swing rather than going for the easy single or double- where’s our parade? I want our awards show! We deserve a chance to showcase our biggest and best sales stories of 2010 and I am going provide that place right here-
The top 5 stories will receive full profiles in my future blogs – including deal details, company highlights and podcast interviews with the winners.
Here’s what I need you to do:
Post up, right here and now, your biggest deal profile from 2010. This is your chance to shine, so don’t be shy. Answer a few key pieces:
- What made the sale big?
- What did you do differently?
- What one tip would give someone else to land a big sale like you did?
I want to get this bragging opportunity to at least 1,000 people, so post this link into LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else you interact with people who are part of this community of hunters: http://tinyurl.com/beststoriesof2010
I want to get 200 comments from coast to coast. I can’t do this without you so post your comment below right now.
Do this fast- We’re already into 2011 and I want to make certain that we get your glory now so you can take the lessons from the stories for your next biggest deal.
Try this – Put a black dot in the middle of a whiteboard and ask people what they see. The most common response is “A black dot.” That’s an interesting response considering that 99.99% of what they are looking at is whiteboard, not black dot.
Sitting in a preparation meeting for a big presentation often feels like the focus is on the black dot instead of on the whiteboard.
The whiteboard in the pitch is not us, not our PowerPoint, not our samples or demonstrations. That’s black dot. The whiteboard is the audience- all the focus needs to be on the whiteboard. What I teach companies in their presentations to an audience includes the following:
- Breakdown the audience - I hear too often when I ask about the key meeting, “Who’s coming from their side?” The answer “Our champion, and the technical person we have been talking too and 2-3 other people.” You need to know who is coming, name/title/role/length of service. You can’t prepare adequately for the presentation if you are preparing for the company rather than preparing for the people, one by one.
- Pick 1 point per person - Each person who is coming will remember only one, (maybe two…but no more), points that you make. If you just present and don’t design the point you are making for each of the people individually, you are hoping that they “get it.” Focus on the point and then deliver it to that person in the meeting.
- Pull through the threads - In previous phone calls, emails and meetings there has been a lot of communication.