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When it comes to selling technology, many sales people are trained or conditioned to sell the whistles and bells of their product or service (i.e. – the features), in an attempt to convince prospects of their offering being better than the competition’s.  They focus on the technical (often slight) differences and advantages that their technology brings to the table, rather than positioning value. One danger of that approach is that very often the discussion ends up to be price focused. You can imagine many technologies offer similar features and the differences, right? While these features are important to the company who sells the technology, they might not be seen immediately as of value to the prospect.

So, let’s start from here: It’s really NOT about the technology; it’s about what VALUE your specific technology solution can bring to your prospect’s business.

And how do we do that? Right! You guessed it! By asking the right questions at the right time AND actively listening AND positioning your solution as relevant to your customer’s goals. Just rattling of your pitch is NOT going to get you very far in this day and age of the educated and curious buyer.

The goal in every interaction with the prospect should be to discover what is of unique value to that particular individual and then provide a sensible solution accordingly.

Finding the Right Person to Target

Tailor your messages to the need of the person you are engaging with. Technology sales people tend to lead with technology, even when they talk to decision makers who are not tech savvy. This often leads to the prospects being overwhelmed and/or confused.

Technology details are only relevant to the person who is a tech buyer, the person who understands the differences and nuances when it comes to technology. That person is seldom the person who writes the checks. Economic buyers however are always interested in what the technology can do for their business, in other words how it can help them make or save money or time.

Why Not Start Prospecting from the Top?

It is very tempting for technology sales people to target technical buyers, but it’s not always the right approach. If you, as a sales person can identify how your prospect company could benefit from your solution, you might be better off targeting higher level executives, such as the CEO, the CTO, COO, etc. If your technology can help companies make or save money, then (and you can bet your money on this) you will get the attention from senior management. It’s all about doing your research and crafting the right message.  It’s also a lot easier to work your way down within an organization, than to climb up the organizational ladder.

Avoid Getting Stuck in the Middle (Mid-Level Management)

Mid-management is often protective of their turf and they very rarely have final decision-making power. So, if you engage with them (even if they are responsive), you will have to rely on them to communicate the value of your solution to their management, the people who will give final approval. Why would you want to risk that? If you, however, get buy-in from top management first, and they then involve the technical experts or management, you can be assured that your sales cycle will be shorter.

Lead with Value

Again, it’s not about the technology, but what the technology can do for that organization. That proposition might be different for every single company, so you will need to do your research. In the end it will pay off. If you offer a technology that can help companies stay connected to the internet without interruptions (like one of our clients), focus on the value that solution brings to this client. Losing internet connection these days can have devastating effects on companies, but the consequences might differ depending on the industry. In the public sector, it might mean that ambulances don’t get to an accident scene on time. In a retail environment the effects might be less drastic, but very costly. If your client’s employees can’t open hundreds or more of their cash registers due to a lost connection, it can result in lost revenue.

Higher Pricing Not an Issue? How To Do That?

Here is the lesson to learn for sales people who sell technology enabled solutions. Higher price might not be an issue, as long as the solution that you are offering is relevant to the individual who is buying it and they feel it’s worth it. Personally, I don’t mind paying more if I actually get more, but that’s up to the sales person to help me understand. Good sales people help clients understand the value of their solution and why the cheaper solution might have downfalls.

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I have been skiing a lot this year, because we have had decent amounts of snow and also because I am Austrian, and that’s what we do. I am also the Chief Sales Officer of my company, so sales success is equally important to me.

My son’s girlfriend started the sport two years ago, and while she is making a lot of progress, I am also aware how important it is for her to have a solid foundation. Skiing in New England is not always fun, because the level of other skiers’ expertise on the slopes is fairly basic. And it seems a great number of people haven’t learned proper skiing rules and etiquette (such as looking up the mountain before you push off), so it is more dangerous to ski in these areas – and that’s not because of the terrain (really not that challenging) but because accidents can be caused by inexperience.

This (of course!) reminded me of selling, and, as many of you know, I like comparisons. It reminded me that if you have never learned the basics, you won’t be able to build upon solid skills, or in the worst case scenario you will build upon bad habits. So while you might be able to ski downhill faster, you won’t ski better or safer.

The same holds true for sales. If sales people (especially in a consultative sale environment) don’t learn the fundamentals of a consultative sales process, they will just stay mediocre at best. So, what are some of the basics that are important to become a successful sales person?

  • Understanding the Process

Sales is a process and it’s important to establish one that reflects the reality of your environment. By that I mean that people in a B2B industry will need to set-up a different process than companies that target end-user consumers.

  • Identifying Best Targets – Most Profitable Markets & Decision-Makers/Influencers

Wouldn’t you rather get to the real decision-makers at an ideal prospect in a profitable market fast? So, it is also fundamental to understand who the decision-maker is within a prospect company as your first and, potentially, most important step. It is also fundamental to identify what industries are most profitable and which decision makers within prospect companies make up a good client profile.

  • Establishing/Management of Your Database/CRM system

The backbone of every organization is the health of their database/CRM system. Another fundamental if you want to achieve success. Consistency and transparency are key in managing the data and the process. For some companies it might be enough to work off a spreadsheet (wouldn’t recommend it, but it does work), but most companies will need a CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Personally, I am a big fan of Salesforce.com. It’s not perfect, but it’s intuitive and easy to handle.

  • Developing Effective Messaging

What you say and how you say it, is also fundamental when building relationships with prospects. There is nothing more annoying than sales people not owning their messages, being vague or at worst stumbling over their own words and being irrelevant.

And, if you work in an environment where the sales culture is focused on “making the numbers” rather than understanding HOW to make the numbers, it’s really hard to succeed, especially if you are new at what you’re doing.

  • Commitment to sales

One of the fundamentals of building an effective sales team is the commitment to sales and providing the resources necessary to succeed. Recently, we were hired by a client in Pennsylvania to train newly hired sales people with very limited or no experience in their profession. We spent an entire week with the new recruits. Our goal was to provide them with the fundamentals of a consultative approach to sales and prospecting and to help them understand how to create their sales process so they will be able to represent their organization in the utmost professional way.

When these sales people were being interviewed, their managers (our clients) explained the sales process to them and that they would be receiving intensive sales training. They had not received those messages in previous job interviews. So, as a suggestion for all those job-hunting, when you interview for sales positions, ask questions about the company’s sales cycle, if they have established a sales process and what fundamentals they expect or will train you on. It’s important. It’s fundamental!

In Austria, most children learn how to ski in skiing school. As kids in elementary and secondary schools, we are sent to skiing camps every year and the first couple of days we don’t even get to ski. We need to listen to ski rules, climb up the mountain (on skis- sideways!), master the (very challenging) T-Lifts. It is only mid-week, once we have gone through all the basics that we are allowed on the mountain to actually ski.

Maybe that should be a standard practice for companies. Before you have a sales person pick up the phone to prospect, have them work through the fundamentals (train them on the fundamentals) so they understand what sales is all about and how to create and follow a successful process.

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When you ask a sales person, their sales manager, or the CEO of the organization how long their sales cycles are, you usually get mixed responses. In some cases, you get blank stares, in other scenarios there is disagreement on the length of the actual cycle.

CEOs in general would like to see sales moving along at a healthy clip, while sales people often underestimate the time it really takes to close a sale.

You can only change what you know

Everybody wants to shorten the sales cycle, but in order to do that you need to first understand the length and the drivers. What do I mean by that?

There are reasons why some sales cycles are longer than others. Some of the areas are out of your control, others can be influenced.

For example, if you target larger organizations with various decision-makers and influencers, your sales cycle will automatically be longer. Sales cycles may be shorter when targeting smaller organizations, but you need to be aware of the payoffs and the trade-offs.

In other words, do those small organizations have budgets available? Are they even a good fit?

How can you control the sales cycle?

One way to control the length of your sales cycle is to be sure that sales team members have all received targeted training. First, sales professionals know what to look for in their ideal client profile, what industries to target, what messaging works or doesn’t, etc. Then, they need to be trained to ask the right questions to not only uncover needs and goals of their prospects, but just as importantly, what to ask to move the sale along.

Following are some questions to ask yourself to focus on drivers which can influence your sales cycle.

How well known is your company/brand?

If your company is well known and you are only introducing a new service or product, it will be easier to get results. However, if your company is not established in the market place, it will take longer to get traction.

Do you know who the decision maker for the offering will be?

If you don’t know who your decision-maker(s) will be, it will take longer to navigate through your prospect organization. Identifying the “influencers” within an organization is key to being successful. Too many sales people have lengthy conversations with people who are not in a position to buy or even influence the final decision-maker(s). So, asking the right questions upfront, making sure that you are talking to the right people, and establishing rapport with the real influencers will help you shorten the cycle.

Do you have a Unique Positioning for your service?

If you don’t know how to differentiate your service from others in your marketplace, it will also add time to your sales cycle. It is therefore of high important to have a Unique Selling Proposition and to craft messaging that will get people’s attention.

Are you adding Value?

Too many sales people focus on the features and benefits of their offering, rather than leading with value. It is important for a prospect to understand how your service/product offering will be of value to them (and remember, it’s different depending on the role of the person).

Are your sales people equipped to sell in a consultative environment?

If they are not, they will not ask the right questions, get stuck with the wrong decision maker and that will have a strong impact on your sales cycle. We have a Sales IQ assessment that helps management determine whether sales people are up to par, or not.

Does your company have a healthy sales culture?

A positive sales culture is very important when it comes to understanding and managing the sales cycle. If you are a CEO, encourage your people to be honest. If you are a sales person, be pro-active in managing expectations.

Are your sales people supported with training?

If your sales people are struggling, provide them with training, but most importantly hire a training organization that you trust and then truly support that methodology.

What is the buying cycle of your prospects?

One area that is out of your control is the buying cycle and budget cycle of your prospects. Identify and understand their budget cycle and then manage your outreach accordingly.

Ideas for Sales Professionals & Sales Managers

All of these areas need to be carefully reviewed and discussed, but not only by sales professionals themselves. If your CEO is involved in these discussions, you will not only have buy-in from the top, but also a profound understanding as to why things might take longer. No sensible CEO will breathe down your neck if you can make a case as to why this process is not yielding immediate results. Keep your CEO engaged and informed and she/he will support your efforts.

If, however, you keep your CEO in the dark and un-informed on how you’ve established the process, she/he will rightfully be impatient.

When you are in a sales management position, invite your CEO to the last part or day of a sales meeting and present a clear and concise plan of action.

When you are a sales person, encourage your manager to provide metrics and results to your CEO.

Recommendations for CEOs

If you are a CEO, ask to be invited to the sales meetings, add your insights and then let your team work their “magic”. Resist the temptation to get involved on a daily basis

You’ll be happier and your team more successful for it!

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Posted in: CEOs, CEOs and Sales, CONSULTATIVE SALES, Sales, Sales IQ

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22 Jan

Better Sales Prospecting

by Monika

Sales Prospecting – How to avoid 5 Common Pitfalls

January always means new (or renewed) intentions, goals and looking at the year ahead. In sales that means we need to bring in new business, prospect and nurture. For many of our clients, prospecting is a challenge, so I wanted to share some insights to help everybody get off to a good start.

As a brief introduction, we experienced a really nice surprise this past December when a prospect decided to work with us, after I had been engaging with them for almost two years. It just shows that perseverance and following a process always pays off one way or another. (It can also mean that it’s time to move on to the next prospect. You can read more about that in my post on LinkedIn using the link below.)

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-owe-you-business-monika-d-agostino?trk=mp-author-card

Many of my clients ask me for advice about successful prospecting, especially when it’s something that their sales people are struggling with. Developing new business, prospecting, cold calling can certainly be the most challenging part of the sales process. After all, you are interrupting somebody’s day. It’s almost like being on a first date, testing the waters, making sure that there is alignment.

But, that’s exactly what’s missing in many situations when sales people are calling on prospects. I.e.: making sure that there is a potential fit.

Try to put yourself into your prospect’s shoes. What would you want to hear when you pick up the phone where somebody is interrupting your day? Would you want to hear a sales pitch, or would you want to listen to somebody who is potentially adding value to your life?

In this blog, I’d like to shine a light on 5 common pitfalls you can avoid when prospecting.

Getting the Right Fit

Just as in trying on a new suit – if it’s not the right fit you wouldn’t buy it. Right? The same holds true in sales – If there is no fit, there is no motivating reason to have a sales conversation. But in order for you, the sales person, to determine if this prospect could be a client, you need to do your homework first. Most sales representatives who call me don’t know my business, have never visited my website or my LinkedIn profile. They are just rattling off a sales pitch, in the worst case scenario using a bad script and in some cases they even stutter around trying to get to a point (leaving me to wonder: why they are using a script in the first place?).

So, don’t look for a fit if there is none. No matter how much research you do and how well you prepare for a call, sometimes it’s better to move on. Don’t push it, there is no sense in trying to find alignment if there is none. Reasons can be plentiful.

For my own business, I have found that some companies don’t want to commit to a long-term sales process, which means that they are not really committed to a consultative sales approach. I could push them, but it wouldn’t lead to a successful client engagement. Sometimes, it’s best to leave a good impression and to move on.

So, the first common pitfall to avoid is: Calling a potential prospect NOT knowing anything about them, their potential needs or even their name and looking for a fit if there is NONE!

A Script is a Guideline

There is nothing wrong with using a script, as long as it is used a guideline. The script or guideline also needs to include potential answers to questions that the prospect could possibly ask. It’s almost like envisioning a scenario and preparing to respond. A script should also be a living document rather than a static instrument. It needs to be changed on a regular basis, whenever the environment shifts, which in this business environment happens quite frequently. Your competitors can change, so can regulation and mandates.

Second common pitfall: Rattling off a pitch using a script that might not be suited for the prospect’s current needs.

Be Brief, Distinct and add VALUE!

People will appreciate it when you get to the point fast. And by that I mean that you need to have a value statement. Let me give you an example. When I call on organizations with a national or global presence to present our sales training, I always focus on the fact that we help companies increase revenue and profitability by helping them establish a common, customer-centric sales and service language across a large sales organization. That is something of importance and value for organizations with sales people widely spread around the country, or the globe for that matter. But this value statement works most accurately for companies with a large sales force in multiple locations!

If you have been a reader of my newsletter, you’ll know how much we stress NOT to focus on features and benefits solely. Features and benefits can be used to support your value statement at a later point in the conversation.

For example, the fact that our training programs use a blended e-Learning/customized coaching approach is something that supports the fact that we help our clients increase revenue and profitability by establishing a common, customer-centric sales and service language across a diverse, decentralized organization. It’s not something that needs to be mentioned first, especially since there are many other providers who claim to have effective on-line training. It’s not a differentiator and e-Learning might not be something that is attractive to a company at first. How you get to the results that are of value for your client is not something that you necessarily want to lead with.

Third common pitfall: Focusing on features and benefits, rather than focusing on the value that your solution provides to your prospect.

Know Who You Are Talking To

When calling on people, try to understand their role within the organization and their responsibilities. When I call on a CEO (which is always my first outreach, as I have found it’s more effective to work your way down, rather than up the ladder), I always focus on the overall business goals. Top line value statements. Increased revenue and higher profitability are messages that resonate with CEOs.

Once I get to the sales or training manager, my message shifts. Then it’s more about the nitty-gritty, the details, ins and outs of the program. Of course, increased revenue and higher profitability are also important to the sales manager, but they also want to make sure that their people don’t spend too much time away from their desks, so I talk about the fact that their sales people never have to leave their desk and they will still become more successful.

Fourth common pitfall: Not knowing what the purchasing motivations of each individual decision maker are.

Be Personal

In closing – people buy from people. Be personal. Don’t try to “sell them”. We all know that the goal of a sales person is to sell, and that is perfectly acceptable – nothing wrong with that. And in contrast to being “sold”, I prefer to buy from people who genuinely understand my business and approach me with a value proposition that will help me make my company more successful.

But, first you need to connect with me, figure out how best to communicate with me. Then you need to know my business and understand my challenges. Once you have established rapport (and there’s a science to that, and as with any communication skill, it can be learned!), it’s much easier to have a conversation and to build trust.

Fifth common pitfall: Moving from one prospect to the next, without taking the time to really connect and listen.

And yes, you can learn how to be a SuperSeller TM and become a top prospector. We invite you to explore our Consultative Sales Certification Program at: http://www.getsalescertified.com/index

And I wish you much success in your prospecting efforts!

Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Selling, Prospecting, Sales

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Reflecting on 2015 I would like to share some best practices and observations we have been so fortunate to experience, hoping that we will continue our journey together into a successful 2016.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sales people are measured by numbers and if we don’t put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us. Fear is not always an obstacle; it can also be a driver as long as we don’t become frantic in our attempts to make things happen. There is nothing more annoying or aggravating than an over-eager sales person. Once we become desperate, sound strategy usually goes out the window.

The best remedy is to develop a long-term and short term SMART objectives and to stick with them (and adjust to them if necessary). It will help with anxiety and it will also make for better business decisions.

Avoid Panic

While we are talking about fear, we should also talk about panic, which is usually a result of fear. Panic often sets in when sales don’t happen.  Then situations happen, for example when CEOs take over sales training, or attend sales calls and start micro-managing everything and anything that has to do with sales.

They fear for their company’s survival and that’s understandable. Fear is contagious and once the CEO panics, it often affects sales management and it can have a snowball effect on the sales team. Then sales people might fear that they could lose their job or that they won’t be making any money.

Then sales managers do both. They panic and fear, both for their team, for their compensation and for their reputation.

The best recipe is to stay calm and on-track. Again, if there is a plan in place, success will follow. Sometimes, it’s good to review the plan and maybe adjust it a bit, but to throw out the plan altogether once things don’t happen immediately is a poor choice and it can lead to disastrous results.  In a consultative sales environment, planning is an absolute essential.

Embrace Rejection

The best sales people are those who know that “no” is the second best answer. Rejection is part of our daily life and embracing it helps us understand our target audience better. In our many years of searching and observing sales professionals, we have seen far too many sales people chase good conversations rather than closing a sale.

We like to refer to those sales people as “professional visitors”, because they thrive on making connections and not on getting to the next step. The goal of every interaction in sales is to get one step closer to a sale, not to have better chats.

The best sales people are the ones who invite a “no thanks” to gauge a potential fit. There is no point in chasing after a prospect who is not a good fit. Finding out sooner rather than later that you can’t provide prospect real value gives you the freedom and time to move on to a better opportunity.

People Buy from People

That’s really the bottom line. More and more articles, posts and blogs are about the fact that it’s still people who are involved in the decision making process.

Remember the old adage? Know – Like – Trust. Never forget that it is people you are targeting. Make your messages stand out. Personalize your emails, don’t mass market. Do research on the people you target so you can have meaningful conversations with them. Remember, that everybody has a personal life and sometimes things can go wrong, so be mindful of others.

A Lesson from my Dog

My dog Rhondo (whom we rescued 6 years ago) teaches me lessons every day. While he is super focused on getting food and attention, he is also mindful, compassionate and very often more considerate than some sales people I encounter.

Rhondo_MD

Unlike many sales people who call on me, Rhondo hardly ever interrupts my work day because he intuitively feels when I have time to play or when I am focused on something else. It’s the way I move and the way I sound that provides hints to my dog. (Intuitive behavioral adjusting)

My dog is in my office with me every single day. He never barks, never even makes a sound. He lies on the office couch (yes, he is spoiled!) and it is not until I put my headphones back into the holder, making a gentle click, signaling to him that I might be ready for a break. That’s when he starts moving. But it’s not until I get up and tell him that we are leaving the office that he actually leaves the couch to follow me.

Following gentle hints from our prospects, understanding when to talk and when to listen, identifying behavioral and communication styles and just simply paying attention can be a good recipe to making your contacts feel comfortable and to building trust. And you we all know, trust is essential when it comes to building solid, long-standing business relationships.

In this spirit, let’s stick with our plan (and if you don’t have one, this is the best time to develop a strategy) and focus on the positive. There is always something to be grateful for.

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy Holiday season and a Successful 2016!

 

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30 Oct

The Fear of Cold Calling

by Monika

It’s real. Cold Calling is scary to most sales people. BUT, contrary to popular belief and many articles written on that topic, Cold Calling is NOT dead. Just because social media can provide some (and the keyword here is some) valuable information and leads, doesn’t mean that we don’t need to pick up the phone any more.In a consultative sales environment, phone conversations are still a very effective way to develop new business. The good news is that Cold Calling has many benefits that you might not have thought of:

– It keeps us sharp!

– It requires that you are at your best.

– When cold calling, you can’t rely on the rapport that you have developed with your existing customers.

So your sales and service skills have to be on high alert.

The skills we use in Cold Calling help us with all of our sales and service interactions as well. It’s somewhat similar to an athlete’s world. The weight-lifting and drills they go through can be excruciating at times, but in the end their overall performance improves!

So, to be good at Cold-Calling, you need to Plan Ahead (= Pre-Call Planning) and Practice!

Have a Plan (or Plans) in Place!

The main motivating idea behind Pre-Call Planning is that customers will not always reveal needs, so we have to strategically ask questions to uncover them. We should always be thinking, “What next?” If you wait until the customer has a specific need, then the opportunity may come too late, or it may end up a bidding war with competition.

Sometimes customer needs are obvious and most often they need to be developed.  When you can uncover customer needs that they have not considered, you position yourself as a valued business partner.

Also, for all the times we arrive in someone’s voicemail box, be sure to have a plan for leaving a voice mail! Don’t ramble on, be natural and as conversational as possible, but convey your message sharply and concisely. You will find that thinking through the process and having a plan, rather than dialing for dollars will help you manage the fear. It will also help you anticipate objections. I am not recommending a script here, I am recommending a plan, and outline, or a cue card, because following an exact script might make you sound (you guessed it!) scripted.

Research, Research, and Research!
The better you are prepared before picking up the phone, the higher your chances that your prospect will listen. As long as you are targeted in your approach and you know who your ideal prospects are there is really nothing to fear than fear itself.

Be Personal and Professional
There is this common expectation that sales people should be aggressive. In my experience, the more gentle, consultative and professional you are, the higher your success rate will be. Never treat anybody in any way other than the way you would like to be treated. And respect your prospect’s time.

Lead with Value

Focus on the value your products or solutions might bring to your prospect. You will have time to talk about features and benefits of your offering, if your prospects show interest in details. Understand that not everyone wants to know or needs to know all the great features and benefits you have to offer if they see the value first.

People who have worked through our Consultative Sales Certification program know the difference. You only have a short period of time, perhaps 30 seconds (in New York maybe only 15 seconds!) to get your point across.

What is the value your prospect will gain when working with you? Is it saved time or money, or the ability to increase revenue? In the end, that’s what they care about most.

Be Relevant and Stay Honest
It doesn’t make sense to talk prospects into a need. Your product or solution has to be a fit, otherwise you will waste your time, and your prospect’s time. If you find out that there is no current need, leave a good impression, try to be helpful if possible (by maybe providing an alternative solution or referring to another organization = you’ll surely raise your reputation!) and get permission to stay in touch.

Let Your Prospects Do the Talking
Don’t rattle off a pitch, but start with an introduction and then shift into asking questions that relevant to your prospect’s business and industry. The more information you can extract from your prospects (personal and professional), the better equipped you will be to follow up and build a relationship. Use open-ended questions and try to avoid questions that will yield a “yes” or “no” answer.

Let your prospect do the talking.

Pick up the Phone!
Yes, that’s right – just do it! (After you’ve done your Pre-Call Planning!) There is just no way around it. Well scripted and written e-mails go a long way, but if you are selling in a consultative sales environment well-planned and executed phone calls will give you your biggest return on investment. It will pay off!

And finally, get help! There is many coaches out there who are able to help. Prospecting, cold calling, like all the other sales aspects can be learned. We teach sales professionals every day, even the ones who are very afraid.

And remember, practice not only makes perfect – Practice makes Permanent!

 

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Posted in: Cold Calling, CONSULTATIVE SALES, Prospecting

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Come on – Retain Me…….

…..should be the new acronym for CRM. Hardly any company that I am involved with as a consumer/customer actually uses their CRM, also known as Customer Relationship Management to have a relationship with me as a customer, unless the approach “don’t know who you really are but want to sell you stuff anyway”, falls into that category.

I see it over and over. Companies that have all my information, and I mean all my information (such as the company who manages my mortgage) – with the exception of my blood type – treat me like a prospect, NOT like a client.

My mortgage was sold (again!) to a company I had never heard of and they took the opportunity to (what else is new) sell me something. In this case it was a lower mortgage rate.

This would be a really intriguing concept if they would have actually reviewed my files, looked at my history and determined whether I was a good fit for such an offer.

Research is Essential – Even (or Especially) When You Call On an Existing Customer

But that would entail research and some upfront work, but instead the company decided to have sales people just dial for dollars and to call everybody who had been “switched” over to see if they were interested in a conversation.

It was very quickly apparent that the person who contacted me was using a list with probably thousands of names, rather than a CRM system that would indicate whether I was a good prospect or not.

Now, when it comes to cold calling on completely new prospects, it’s often very difficult to have high level conversations. The resources that we as sales people can use to determine a good fit are somehow limited. BUT when companies already have an existing client base and they are trying to up-sell, it should be mandatory to use all the information they have in their Customer Relationship Management system, shouldn’t it?

Not only do I find it a huge time-waster to speak with representatives of organizations who have all of my customer history and not use the information, it’s also insulting.

What Does It Say About Their Relationship to Me, The Customer?

It gives me the impression that I am just a number and they don’t really care.

If You Have a CRM System, Use It!

It feels like I have to write about this topic on a weekly basis – I’m thinking about my recent post about Salesforce.com – my experience with them NOT using their own product (!!) was a real shocker to me.

In the case of my mortgage company I don’t really have much choice, because I really don’t want to go through another refinancing scenario, whether it’s with this or another company. But, beware – all the other organizations who have my customer file (Cable, Wireless, Credit Cards, etc) – please do me the courtesy and Come on, Retain Me!

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….that is the line that was shared with me verbatim today by an account executive of the leading CRM organization, Salesforce.

Here is the situation. I love Salesforce – not only are they the market leader, it’s by far my favorite CRM and I not only use it for my own business, but also on behalf of all of my clients. I recommend it whenever clients are considering a change. If you aren’t using Salesforce these days, you’ll face additional challenges as so many of the apps are developed (and are being developed) for it.

Sales Training or Intriguing Entertainers?

Recently we were invited to their World Tour in New York. I happily attended the conference, not only to network, but also to find out what new developments might be a good addition for my business or for my clients. The sessions were good, so were the networking opportunities. During Happy Hour we were entertained by a scantily dressed female playing the violin (wonderfully), a great marketing accessory but, in my humble opinion, the money spent could have been allocated to sales training. In the end, every event is only as successful as revenues increase as a result.

Salesforce is undoubtedly a market leader – and herein lies a dangerous trap: To simply rely on your outstanding software/programming/product development/service/etc. alone and forget that you are actually selling to people.

So, getting back to the title, here is the essence of this blog (I’m sure you were wondering where this was heading).

Even Warm Leads Need Work

At the event we found out about a newly integrated Salesforce B2B marketing automation solution, Pardot, similar to our current solution. As I use Salesforce for my business, I thought I could consider their new software – integrating it with Salesforce would make more sense than two disjointed systems. We spoke to a specialist at the event who said she would have an “Expert” in our local area contact us.

After the event an Inside Sales person reached out and we had a 20 minute call. And we explained our situation, provided details on what we do (the sales person hadn’t looked at our websites – what else is new?) and what we were looking for. This person was NOT an expert. And, he hadn’t done any pre-call research, either.

The next step would be to speak to a “real” specialist – the Inside Sales person explained, referring to the internal workings of “their process”.

OK, we can do that. After all, we had been very specific about our situation and needs. We wanted to look into Salesforce Professional (an upgraded version), plus have a demo on their automated marketing software with a price quote. So, we scheduled a follow-up call for the next day with this “specialist”.

When Your Service is a CRM System, Use It! Right?

As we began our conference call the following day, it became clear that this so-called “specialist” had also NOT reviewed our website NOR did he check our status in their own CRM, didn’t read the other salesperson’s notes, and to top it off, was not aware that we are actually already an existing CUSTOMER!! Much to our astonishment and intense irritation.

Think about it – a company like Salesforce whose salespeople don’t use their own tools!

He began asking us the exact same questions as the Inside Sales Person. We tried to stop him politely, to no avail. And then to add insult to injury, he kept talking over us, seemingly trying to disguise the fact that he was unprepared.

Never, ever talk over people, especially not your prospects

When I very impatiently (patience is not always my forte!) said that we had already shared our needs the day before, the account executive said. Let me explain to you how our organization works“.

Oh boy! I didn’t reply in the way I was tempted to (“I don’t eff..ng care how your organization works”), but, as politely as I could, said that I have neither time or interest finding out about their inner workings, and would rather spend the time seeing a Demo of their professional upgrade and marketing software to find out what the investment would be. Though, I had to literally shout over his “waterfall of information” to be heard!

Honestly, it sounds even more ridiculous now putting this on paper, but that’s exactly what happened.

So, let’s look at the phrase: “Let me explain to you how our organization works”.

What’s More Effective? Good Sales Practices or Event Entertainment?

This is truly only and I mean ONLY, warranted when you sit on the other side of the table. When you’re the prospect – not the supplier. After all, as salespeople shouldn’t we be more interested in how our prospect’s organization works?

In closing, my recommendation to all salespeople, when developing new business is show interest in your prospect’s inner workings, do your research, be prepared for that call and PLEASE, under no circumstances, not even when you work for Salesforce, please don’t bore your prospects with details on why you are unprepared for a sales call.

So, I am asking you – Do you think a company like Salesforce, the market leader in their space, could use Consultative Sales training or should they keep hiring sexy entertainers at their event?

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Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Selling, Sales Effectiveness

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Very often I get the question from clients and sales people as to how many times one should reach out to a prospect before being viewed as a nuisance. The answer often surprises them.

Until They Respond!

 In a consultative sales environment, a prospect is a prospect as long as they don’t tell you to never contact them again, which rarely happens when you adhere to certain rules.

I still do high level prospecting for a select group of clients and have been very successful engaging C-Level and mid management decision makers in meaningful conversations.

Add Value

The key to successful prospecting is to add value and not to sell. Nobody wants to be sold to and once people think that the purpose of an outreach is to get them to buy something, the conversation is already off to a bad start.

Prospects don’t get upset when you target them frequently. They get upset when you are irrelevant, when you don’t know their business and when you pitch them.

Research

Being a business owner I get sales calls all the time and 9 out of 10 are not up to snuff. You can tell when someone is dialing for dollars: e.g. the sales person didn’t look up my company, doesn’t know what I do, and then pitches a service that is not a good fit for my business. And in addition, sometimes they are rude or inconsiderate.

But once in a blue moon there is this sales person who actually took the time to identify what my needs might be. That in combination with courtesy leads to a good first conversation and even if I am not in a position to buy immediately, I don’t mind them staying in touch with me as long as they add value.

Be Relevant & Timely

Every sensible business person knows that they will be called on by other companies that provide services. Nobody in business will hold that against you. What they will hold against you is offering a service that doesn’t meet their needs and then trying to push a sale where there is no fit.

You’re busy, I’m busy – so, keep in mind that people are busy. Just because they don’t respond right away doesn’t mean that they are not interested. They might be traveling, they might have pressing issues to deal with that are more important than responding to your outreach.

My Motto: Don’t give up, be relevant and stay on message.

Persistence Pays Off

Many, many times I have gotten replies from prospects acknowledging and thanking me for my persistence. People generally appreciate a professional outreach and sales people who are determined. It is expected that a good sales person will stay on course and try to engage. What is NOT expected and dreaded are messages that are about your product or service, rather than the value it could bring to their business.

For example, if somebody calls me telling me that they can provide leads for my business (which happens almost on a daily basis) I will probably not respond because the message seems very broad. If they however look at my client list and tell me that they are experts in the logistics or technology field (an industry that I target), they might get my attention.

Let Your Prospects Opt Out

Include an “opt out” message in your voice or email. Tell your prospect that you understand if they don’t have time, or of there is no interest and that they should call you back if that’s the case. This way you give them a graceful way out and very often (you will be surprised), the prospect will get back to you, one way or another. Many times I get a response from a prospect, almost apologizing for the lack of response.

In closing, if you are professional and you do your research, your response rate will increase. As long as you stay on message and you are courteous, your outreach will be appreciated. I share this with you based on years of experience. In my world, the average sales cycle is at least 6 months up to a couple of years. If I were to give up easily, my business wouldn’t survive.

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Posted in: Cold Calling, CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Sales Certification, Consultative Selling, Lead Generation, Prospecting, Prospecting Tool, Sales

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08 Jun

Not all Austrians yodel

by Monika

Doing business and doing it well is challenging to begin with, but widening your company’s footprint and breaking into new markets is a whole different story. It’s almost like starting from scratch, but with a twist. It really is and that is where the biggest mistakes happen. Some companies think that they can just use their proven “template” and apply it to other markets.

I have worked in Europe for half of a lifetime and then another half here in the U.S. While there are some similarities in the way we do business, the differences are vast and ignoring them can have devastating effects.

To start with, Europe is not as uniform as the US. Don’t get me wrong, selling in the Midwest area of the US is vastly different than selling in the Tri-state, New York area. Having done both, it’s important to understand that in New York you literally have a minute (ever wonder how the “New York minute” came about?) to get your point across while in the Midwest people are a bit more patient.

Europe on the other hand not only has a large number of different countries with greatly different languages. Within those countries there are also social and linguistic nuances, and prejudices that are older than the history of the U.S. coupled with a desire to stay authentic.

Below are some tips on how to be successful when venturing abroad or communicating with internal, international audiences.

Don’t Think You Can Go It Alone

The biggest mistake would be to think that you can do business in another region without local presence or, at least advice. Hire a local business person within your industry and ask that person for advice on what to do and what NOT to do. Once you have that person on board, take their advice, understand and adjust to the cultural differences.

Geography Alone Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

My home country Austria is located in the eastern central part of Europe, but don’t make the mistake to think that we are Eastern Europeans. We are by any means of the definition culturally situated in the West because of our history. A big American company made the mistake to divide Europe by geography and put Austria in the Eastern region (along with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, etc. – all countries with emerging economies) instead of aligning it with Germany, Italy, Switzerland where Austria has not only traditionally been part of but also has close economic ties. The results were pretty devastating. The very successful Austrian management team resented the change and it was difficult to manage Austria within a region where there was no history of an open market economy until the Iron Curtain came down in 1989. Big mistake!

Try to Understand the Way Business is Done

Go easy on the PowerPoint and have a Cappuccino instead. Many of my friends in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy tell me that to this day business is done by building relationships, taking prospects and clients out, drinking and eating. While we here in the U.S. still enjoy meeting client contacts in-person, it’s no longer essential to the success of a company. I have done business with clients that I didn’t meet until year 3 into the engagement, something that is still rare in Europe. Wining and dining are still essential ingredients to being successful in many markets. And so, if you do not or someone you hire doesn’t embrace that concept, it will be hard to build trust.

English is Standard, but Watch out for Communication Style Differences

Of course, English is the universal language and most companies that want to do business internationally will hire people who speak English quite well. That doesn’t mean that they can master all the facets of the language. Be careful in the way you communicate and make sure that what you are trying to say is something that is properly understood by your counterpart. Avoid idioms and explain your proposition in more than one way. I have sat in on many meetings with international companies and sometimes people try to translate certain terminology in a way where it doesn’t make sense in the other language. This can lead to confusion and mismanaged expectations

Be Patient, and then, Be Patient Again!

In the U.S., we are used to getting things done in a very timely manner. Either we like something and find that it makes sense or we don’t and then we are on to the next thing. In Europe people are not used to doing business that way. There is a lot more collaboration, consideration and weighing the facts. This will lead to the process taking longer, with more meetings and decision-making points. Very seldom will you walk away from a meeting with clear action points, but if you read the buying signs correctly (and culturally correctly as well) and you are patient, it will pay off. It might take a few more lunches, dinners or drinks, but then, who’s counting?

Understand Traditions and Heritage

Coming late to a meeting in Germany or Austria is really rather unacceptable. In Italy you will probably not leave a bad impression, only if you are late and a bad dresser, too! Don’t make the mistake to think that Germany, Austria and Switzerland have a lot in common just because we all speak German (at least in parts of Switzerland). While there are many similarities, the differences run deep and some animosities do as well. European countries are very proud of their heritage, their food and their traditions. When you make references, be sure that you really know what you are referring to. Austrians don’t yodel (as a matter of fact, most of us have never heard of, least of all watched “The Sound of Music”) and not all Germans are rigid.

In closing, my strongest suggestion is to keep an open mind and to not stereotype. Like in every sales situation, it’s best to observe, learn, ask questions, adjust and most importantly to listen. Humility goes a long way, especially when dealing with a different culture. Nobody likes to think that they are inferior and the best success can be achieved when we embrace rather than judge.

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Posted in: Uncategorized

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