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Last week I shared how sales management has changed. Today I am sharing the top three skills sales managers need to succeed in this new era of sales.
The “State of Sales Productivity 2015” study by Docurated found that only one-third of a sales rep’s day is actually spent selling, while 31% of their time is spent searching for or creating content, and 20% is spent on reporting, administrative and CRM-related tasks. Nowadays, 44% of B2B organizations do not verify if the business is valid before passing it to sales, and 50% of leads come from outside the standard process, according to a study by IKO System. This all adds up to a lot of wasted time and effort for both sellers and sales managers.
While companies may have been able to get away with wasting time in the past, companies that want to make it in this new fast-paced era of sales will have to have a laser focus on the activities that drive results. There is no room for dawdling. What’s the solution? Better sales management.
Below are three sales management skills necessary for thriving in the new era of sales.
1) Selecting targets.
There’s an adage that salespeople talk to whomever will talk to them. In the new world of selling, your responsibility is to make certain they are talking to the decision makers who can approve large opportunities that will come to fruition in the near future. Working with sales leadership, you must establish a filter that helps to define the most likely candidates for higher-opportunity sales efforts.
I met with a master of the relationship pitch recently. He is an artist. I’ll hit some highlights of what he did:
- Researched me and everyone on my team in advance of the meeting
- Dug deep on our website and the internet regarding our company
- Followed up his initial phone call with a detailed and specific email summarizing the phone call and the agenda for the next steps
When we met, he was friendly, charming, confident and engaging. This should have worked. We should have connected, built trust and we should have bought from him. In fact, he made friends, we did connect and all of us trust him- we just did not buy. Why? He was not relevant to our business, only to us as people.
This sales person came from the perspective that trust is the highest importance in building a sales relationship and being liked is a part of that. The current world wants those things along with relevance and value. That’s where he missed.
Here’s what he should have done in addition to connecting to the people:
- Determine what the problem is that we need to have solved. He did not know and he never asked.
- Research the competitors to our business and the threats that we face so as to position his offering in alignment with what we are trying to overcome.
- Offer us a clear picture of why his offering would fix our unique problem.
It is going to be hard to tell this sales person no, he is a real charmer and I like him.
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.
Hiring is Awful – So Get Better at It
We are doubling our staff right now. Sales people, customer service account managers, administrative support. Hiring is the worst – the amount of time it takes, the expense and of course the frequency with which a great process produces an unsustainable hire. I have hired thousands of people over my career and I can claim a success rate only a tiny bit higher than the national average. I have made a few lessons law for us at Hunt Big Sales:
- Avoid “projects” – There is a temptation to hire people with potential rather than proven talent. The price is better and then you can develop them your own way, right? Not as a small company. You need real producers from day one.
- Forget “market rate” compensation – If you are a growing company, you need to set your sights on real contributors and pay for it. One “great hire” will out perform two good hires.
- Take the time – I’m always in a rush when it comes to hiring. That’s like going to the grocery store hungry. It’s better to go with multiple interviews.
- Standardize – Currently, this is our biggest mistake. If you want to get good at something, then you standardize and modify from the standard as you learn. Right now, we are making up our questions for each interview as we are meeting with the candidate. We are going to move to a template approach so that all of the members of the hiring team can get better with experience.
Movie Quotes, Half-Stories and other Presentation Problems
I love movie quotes. They help connect people through a shared experience, even though the movie was watched separately. Magic. Except…when you use the movie quote in a meeting and there are people who did not see the movie or do not remember the quote.Then the opposite happens- people in the meeting feel left out and often annoyed.
Movies are not the only references. The same thing happens when you use expressions like-
- “I’m sure you all have heard the story…”
- “Like the old-joke goes…”
- “Sports legend (insert name here) was famous for…”
I can feel my age in the moments I try to use a reference to the movie “The Godfather” or make the statement “No one got fired for buying IBM.” I lose a chunk of the group to whom I am speaking because they don’t have the reference.
What to do:
- Tell the whole story – If you have a key story, which is critical for creating memorable points in a presentation, tell the whole story rather than assuming your audience has the same reference. To slim-down the story, prepare it and script it in advance.
- Frame the story – In your presentation, a good story is more meaningful when it illustrates a point. When you have told your story, summarize what it meant to the audience.
- Clean out the non-compelling references – Dropping lots of references to pop-culture and historical references can become distracting. Tell fewer stories and you will create a more memorable discussion.
The Power of a Sales Bucket List
I just turned 50. I know it’s just a number, still…. The day itself passed without much fanfare and I truly did not feel much different than the day before. Over the course of the next few days, however, I did start to consider what were my past milestones and what I want my future ones to be. Of course, a bucket list is bigger than your career. We do spend a lot of our time working, so having a few items from a sales career on the list makes sense.
I challenge you to make a bucket list for your sales career.
To help you get started, here are some challenges to consider:
- What is the size of the biggest sale you would like to land?
- Is there a company with whom you have always wanted to work?
- How many people would you like to successfully mentor?
- If you are a local or regional sales person, would you like to set a goal of closing a national or international customer?
- Would you challenge yourself to publish a book on your knowledge, participate in a nationally recognized panel on the topic or record a nationally distributed video on your insights?
Here are a few of my own:
- Close an 11-figure contract.
- Write a New York Times bestseller on selling.
- Speak to an audience of greater than 10,000 at one event.
Bucket lists are big items that challenge you. These ones challenge me. What is on your list?
It is hard for anyone to feel deterioration or appreciate prevention. You can only really feel relief or crisis. If you sell qualities such as reliability, your buyer can only truly understand it if they have experienced failure.
This is why inexperienced buyers are so dangerous in the buying process and why financially motivated buyers are risky for their companies. They do not have the context for evaluating the pitfalls of poor choices. Presenting the true benefits of the right partner to an inexperienced buyer often means little to them. They do not have relevant experience to evaluate the difference between an acceptable choice and the right choice.
What to do:
- Be relevant and specific in your examples. Your case studies must not be about market risks or disasters in general. It is too easy for the decision-maker to say, “We’re not like that.” Your examples must be business and industry relevant to create a true sense of risk.
- Define “good” versus “great.” Inexperienced buyers still have a general understanding of good versus bad when considering vendors. Their purchasing rubric has been defined to aid in that. What is missing is the rubric of good versus great. That comes with experience. Scare the buyers with the risks of bad choices, but also present what great choices offer.
- Bring a positional voice. I equate taking sales people to meet with finance people like taking a knife to a gunfight. Finance oriented decision-makers value someone who speaks his or her language. Take someone from your finance or purchasing department to the presentation or have him or her on a call to help financially oriented buyers to sort into their language the buying criteria
Holiday Gifts to Customer and Prospects
John Ruhlin from the Ruhlin Group is my gift-giving-guru, and here are a couple of his tips for what to give for the holidays:
5 Holiday Gift-Giving Tips
- Don’t give gifts at Christmas – Crazy, right? John’s point is that your gift will be lost in the other gifts. It is better to give in an off-season or 3-4 weeks after the holiday season.
- Skip the clothes and food – Apparel with your company’s logo on it, or consumable items like popcorn, wine or food baskets will not stick out or show any true thoughtfulness.
- Thoughtfulness isn’t an event – The sending of gifts, notes and tokens of appreciation should be built into your brand and approach if it is appropriate to your company’s culture, not just done once a year and on birthdays.
- Plan – General gifts receive little notice or appreciation. It is better to connect the gift to the relationship. If it is not your natural skill to design programs, then use a specialist to help you. We use John, but you may have someone you know who is good at this.
- Connect – There is something about the relationship with a customer that should be remembered or honored in the gift. The attached note should connect the dots between the gift and the memory.
For some companies, it is against their policies to give gifts. For other companies, it is against their policies to receive gifts. Be aware of the policies before starting the effort.
When you take people to meetings, magic or mayhem can happen. I’ve seen both and the magic is worth the risk if you can control the mayhem. Some of the mayhem is self-inflicted by avoidable mistakes.
5 Deadly Meeting Mistakes
- Pile On – When people add on to answers given by other members of the team it does not provide completeness. It creates a sense of lack of confidence in the members of your team to whoever else is attending.
- Fidget – Wiggling legs, tapping pencils, spinning chairs and so on are all fidgets. I have even seen members of a team get up mid-presentation to refresh their coffee while someone is presenting.
- Glancing – When a question is asked by their team, and we glance at each other to figure out who will answer, we look suspicious and unprepared.
- Digital Interrupts – Emails, texts, ringing smartphones in the middle of a meeting are unacceptable. You think everyone knows it until someone blows it.
- Double-talk – Over-talking anyone in the room happens because we anticipate the question, disagree with an answer, or are just focused on our own response.
What to Do:
- Assign the Host – During your preparation before the meeting you must assign a host from your team to manage the questions and interruptions. If anyone asks a question, the host’s responsibility is to confirm the question and then delegate it to one team member to answer. This helps to control Double-Talk, Glancing and Pile on.
- Agree on the guidelines – Set the expectations for the rules before the meeting with your team.
There is a simple test to understand your relevant power position as a trusted adviser with your clients. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do they call you first? Whether it be issues of opportunity, challenges, or a need for market insight – whom does your customer call first? In uncertain times, people look for certainty and authority – qualities provided by the most trusted. If you are not getting those calls, someone else has their trust.
- Do you get last look? When your customer wants to keep you as the preferred partner, they assist in the buying process. That shows up in the form of access to influential people within the prospect’s organization and information that will help you in winning the business. If you are not getting unique access or last look at scope, specs and price, you are not in the favored position.
- Do you receive a premium price? Competitive bidding will diminish the range of prices that can reasonably be considered on many of the commercial purchases in the marketplace. A premium is expressed as any amount over that of the next most credible provider’s price. When a customer wants to keep your insights and value, you will be able to keep your price premium.
Often with customers we believe that we have a great relationship. This can lead you to believe that you have a unique relationship or a powerful connection. The real measure is behavior. Ask the three questions to determine if you are really in a power position.