Archive Page 2

Are your salespeople “knowledge brokers”?

As a businessman, would you say that “maximizing” your sales revenue important?

If it is, you need to make certain your sales (and marketing) folks are “knowledge brokers”.

I have been reading a lot lately about how sales people need to be “challengers” and that there is no time left for relationship building with buyer’s busy schedules. My perspective is slightly different, but I understand where others may be coming from.

The power of the internet has clearly changed the buyer-seller dynamic and a new approach to selling is required. The buyer suddenly does not need to rely on the salesperson for much of their information gathering. They simply go to the web and conduct research. They communicate with peers about solutions and ROI. By the time the salesperson gets engaged in the process, the buyer is often on their way to a final decision. For additional insight in the “buyer’s journey”, listen to Christine Crandell’s presentation (http://bit.ly/tvENtn)

So, what is the role of the salesperson on today’s marketplace? I believe it is one of maturing to a higher level of competence.

I have been selling for more years than I care to discuss and throughout my career, my position has always been to act as a “knowledge broker”. It was (and is) always important to have some amount of information about my product or service that the buyer could not get easily. In the early days, it was all about features, functions and benefits. Now it is much more about how the product or service fits into the buyer’s business, how it works for other industry leaders. It is about how to implement it quickly easily and with as little business interruption as possible. It is about value added partnering.

Additionally, the salesperson of today needs to have enough business background to demonstrate competence and make the buyer feel like he/she is working with someone who understands their business.

The competencies required to mature and become a “knowledge broker” include:

                        Knowledge

                                    Of general business process and strategies

                                    Of the prospect’s business process and strategies

                                    Of the industry’s needs and direction

                                    Of the competition’s offering and how it is different

                        Questioning and Listening Skills (selling – not telling)

                        Strategic Thinking

                        Conviction, Confidence and Integrity

                        A Higher Level of Relationship Skills

 

So, if you want to “maximize” your sales revenue, you can begin by assessing your sales organization’s qualifications based on the requirements above.  If you are not sure how to do that or don’t have the time, there are professionals available to guide you through the process and confirm your present impressions.

In my next BLOG we will discuss what the marketing department needs to do to become “knowledge brokers” as well.

Thanks!

Advertisements

Sometimes It Pays to be Negative -or- “How I sold a Computer to an Amishman”

I know I know……in sales you need to stay positive…the power of positive thinking….Yeah Yeah I know..and I get it, however once in a while it pays to be negative…..Let me tell you a story.

Years ago I was selling minicomputers to small to medium sized businesses. I represented a company known as DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation). I was working in Lancaster, PA which is the home of the Amish (or the Pennsylvania Dutch if you please).

Over lunch one day Bob, an acquaintance of mine, who sold a competitive product told me about a local company that was going to buy a computer from him and he was simply waiting for the order. It was an Amish company (EZ Manufacturing) and since they did not use electricity they were going to house it in their accountant’s office. I thought that was an interesting story, but frankly didn’t give it another thought.

Two weeks later I was demonstrating and selling computers at a business trade show in town and I see these three Amishmen coming down the aisle and Bob’s story of the computer came to mind.

As they approached the booth, I greeted them and they asked what I was selling and I told them the best minicomputer on the market. They asked me to tell them about it.

I said I would, but first I needed to know if they were from EZ Manufacturing… and they asked me why without confirming who they were.

“Well” I said…”I have a friend Bob in the computer business and he told me EZ was looking to buy a computer and he was expecting the order soon, so I would not feel right selling them anything, even though I had the best minicomputer on the market. I hope you will understand”

The leader of the group said they actually were looking for a computer and they had not made up their mind yet. That was why they were at the trade show and my friend certainly did not have an order coming. They wanted to see my machine.

Again, I said “well I can appreciate that, but I hoped they could appreciate that it simply would not be right for me to try and sell them because it would hurt Bob’s feelings”

They said they did not understand at all. “This is just business and we want to see your computer.”

I agreed with the caveat that even if they liked mine better, I probably could not sell it to them. They simply smiled and said “okay”

At that point I gave them one of the best demonstrations I ever gave and I told them about the service and the warranty information. I told them about other companies that had my system installed.

They then asked “how much does this cost?”

I told them that “I only provide pricing to prospects who were interested in buying and since I could not sell to them there was no point; and also, if I told them the price it might make my friend’s computer seem expensive”.

Long story shortened, they bought my computer. And I cannot help but think it may have been because I told them they could not buy it.

The moral of the story is that there is power in the use of negative selling tactics when used at the right time with the right prospect in the right way.

Good Selling

Todd

So They’re saying “Selling is Not About Relationships”. I’m saying Bulls..t

 According to their new book “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” Matt Dixon and Bret Adamson tell us that “Selling is not about relationships”. The writers attempt to shock us with that headline in their Harvard Business Review synopsis so that we will read it and it works. http://bit.ly/nDVpkt

When I read the article (after being shocked by the headline) I realized that these two guys were not describing relationship selling in the same way the rest of the sales world does. They took the liberty of redefining sales types into five new categories including a.) Relationship Builders b.) Hard Workers c.) Lone Wolves d.) Reactive Problem Solvers e.) Challengers.  I have never heard of these profile types before and my impression is that they invented them to create a different perspective.

Their analysis shows that the group called “Challengers” is the most effective of the five types. But the sentence that grabs us is “Relationship Builders come in dead last, accounting for only 7% of all high performers”. They go on to say… “Why is this? It’s certainly not because relationships no longer matter in B2B sales–that would be a naïve conclusion. Rather, what the data tell us is that it is the nature of the relationships that matter”.  They contradict their own headline.

So what is the meat of the matter? They believe that sales people who rely solely on the value of the relationship to drive sales are not effective. I agree that the relationship is not enough to drive the sale and certainly you need additional skills to close business. But all sales begin with and depend on the building of relationships. Without relationships none of the other categories above would be successful.

In my mind relationships are at the heart of all sales strategies and processes. If you are not a relationship builder, you will not be successful in sales. In my own experience over the last forty years I am convinced that strong relationships with my clients has been key in delivering all of the sales I have made. More importantly, the relationships have allowed me to secure additional sales year after year from the same clients rather than delivering one sale and walking away.

I have seen tweets and BLOGs lauding these two writers for their insight and offering up a new present day perspective on selling. I have seen other articles and BLOGs lately questioning the value of relationships in selling. My advice to my clients is to be certain their sales personnel excel at relationship building, because in the end you can’t sell without that skill.

And of course my own view of the thought “Selling is not about relationships” is…..bullshit.

Thoughtfully yours

Todd

Dave Brock – The Personification of “Thoughtfulness”

As demands on our time continually increase, most of us are taking less time to be “thoughtful” and think things through.

Let me tell you about someone who has figured out how to remain “thoughtful”

I have been utilizing social media extensively for about a year and have found it a valuable medium to gain exposure, and to learn. I am active in LinkedIn and Twitter; and I dabble in Facebook and Google+.

As I began using these media, I found that there are a lot of folks out there with a lot of expertise. Sometimes the expertise is real and sometimes it is imagined. As I began sorting through the chatter and found folks who seemed to have real expertise, I started following them more closely and listening to what they had to say in their BLOGs and in responding to other’s questions.

I kept noticing this guy Dave Brock who popped up from time to time and his comments and BLOG posts always seemed to be  very “thoughtful” and well measured. He even answered questions that I had posted in the same thoughtful way and I began letting him know (in my responses to him) that I appreciated his thoughtfulness in thinking the question through and then answering in a well written response.

As I became more intrigued with him, I looked up his web site “Partner’s in EXCELLENCE” (http://excellenc.com) and found an almost staggering amount of services being offered and also that the company was truly global with offices around the world. The descriptions of the services were well written and again “thoughtful”. The client list will match those of the largest consulting organizations in the world. I think you would find solutions here that you might not find anywhere else.

From time to time I post testimonial BLOGs about folks who have impressed me and whom I have grown to admire for their expertise. So I decided to write one about David, however I had never met him except for exchanging comments on the web.

So I fired off an email asking him to send me some background information. He responded immediately, but suggested rather than send me a bunch of material; he thought it would be great to simply chat on the phone. He even offered up three potential times to talk and then said I have been hoping to meet you at some point and am so glad you reached out.

So here I am, thrilled and so appreciative of this guy running a world wide company and obviously very busy would take the time to connect with me personally.

When he and I talked earlier this week, he was everything I expected and more. As we talked he shared with me that it has always been his personal goal to provide “thoughtful” advice and guidance to his client’s, family and friends. I told him he had succeeded in reaching that goal because the word that I believed best described him was “thoughtful”.

I also asked him how he comes up with so many great (almost daily) BLOG posts (http://excellenc.com/Blog.htm ) and he told me they are often driven by some event that disturbed him (like an email addressed to “occupant”) or a comment he saw that was just flat out wrong.

I think you will find value in reading his posts and watching for his comments on the social media sites. And if you need help with any business issues, contact him to see if he can help.

So…..if you are ever looking for “thoughtful” advice and commentary from a terrific person, I highly recommend that you follow Dave Brock (http://twitter.com/davidabrock ) and listen to what he has to say. You will never be disappointed.

Thoughtfully yours,

Todd

Customer Intimacy – The Third Step to “Maximizing” Sales Revenue

Are you interested in “Maximizing” Your Sales Revenue?

If you are, the first thing to do is “optimize the sales force”. The second thing you need to do is create “alignment” between sales, marketing and customer service. Both of these were discussed in my two previous BLOGs. The third thing you need to do is take care of the customer.

In an interview with Charlie Rose recently (http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11138 ), Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon.com) said that “our whole business effort is built around the customer experience”. They want their customers to know that they care about them, that they will treat them well and that they will fix any issues or misunderstandings that might happen now and long after the customer buys a product. They want to create an intimate and longstanding relationship.

You may not be as familiar with Zappos.com, but that same customer ethic is in place there. They have every brand and style and size of shoe you may want to buy and at reasonable prices. When they ship the shoes, they come with an automatic easy return process in the event you don’t like the shoes or they don’t fit and here is the best part…the return shipping is free. They stay in touch after the sale on an infrequent basis so that you remember them but are not annoyed.

Your business may or may not be an on-line one, but the lessons here are applicable to any business no matter what you sell or to whom you sell it. Put the customer first and let them know that you truly care about them and their experience in dealing with you.

Many businesses believe that customer intimacy begins once the customer makes a purchase and the delivery process begins. That simply is not the case.

Customer intimacy begins with the marketing effort to find those prospects that are best suited to utilize your product or service. The prospect will generate an early “good” or “cautious” attitude about the company very early on in the relationship. Once in the sales cycle, the level of intimacy should increase as the prospect moves from a prospect to a customer relationship.

This is sometimes a dangerous point in the intimacy process because the sales person may have set unreasonable expectations with the customer. Once the sale has been made, it is up to the delivery and support organization to meet the expectations set and also to keep the client happy, satisfied and engaged. Therefore the customer service organization needs to be aligned with and coached in the process of keeping the customer for life. It takes ten times as much effort to win a new customer as it does to sell a satisfied customer something else or to renew.

Customer intimacy is the responsibility of everyone who communicates with the client from the reception desk to the delivery specialist. Often the customer relationship grows warmer once in the hands of a caring and involved delivery and support organization, but it all starts when the prospect begins the buying journey.

If you can master the three key elements of 1.) Sales Force Optimization 2.) Marketing Alignment and 3.) Customer Intimacy, you will be well on your way to “maximizing sales revenue”. 

I love helping business grow their revenue. If you would like to discuss ways to “maximize your sales revenue” simply send me a comment below or contact me and I will be happy to spend some time talking with you and trying to assist you in any way that I can.

Thanks!

Marketing Alignment – The Second Step to “Maximizing” Sales Revenue

Are you interested in Maximizing Your Sales Revenue? …If you are, the first thing to do is “optimize the sales force” (discussed in my previous BLOG). The second thing you need to do is create “alignment” between sales, marketing and customer service.

Creating alignment is the hardest part of the process of maximizing your sales revenue. It requires that you actually change the culture of your organization. You need to take three disparate organizations and align them into one.

The sales and marketing organizations of most companies have been at odds with each other for years. They have lots of approaches, squabbles and stories about how what they do is not appreciated by the other side. At the end of the day it boils down to “the leads we get from marketing suck” and “they never follow up on the leads we give them”

The main reason for this disconnect is that each organization has a different objective and definition of a lead. Marketing is interested in influencing the buying decision and sales is interested in turning the buying prospect into sales revenue (i.e. a customer).

Having worked in and managed both sides of the argument, I get it. And I can confirm that I have found proof of both arguments over the years. But the times they are a changing…..

Probably the biggest thing driving this change is the internet along with some forms of social media. These elements have allowed the prospect to do a lot more investigating of solutions before ever contacting the sales force for a meeting or just to get a quote.  This process has been described aptly by Christine Crandell as the “Buyer’s Journey”.  http://christinecrandell.com/

If a prospect calls or writes that they are interested in your product or service and would like a price quote, you will have no time to sell unless the marketing process has done a lot of pre-selling with programs and in which case you would already have the lead.

There are three key elements to alignment. That may make the process sound easy, but it is not. It is hard and takes work and commitment from all involved. These elements include:

  • A clearly defined strategy and message
  • A newly defined process of helping the buyer
  • A new definition of success and measuring it

Clearly Defined Strategy and Message:

Without the assistance and participation of the senior executives you will never get your company aligned. The senior executives need to clearly define the strategic objectives of the corporation and everyone in the organization must demonstrate that they clearly understand the strategy. I have found that more times than not, most people have a vague understanding, but many differ in the definition. The strategy is usually defined after the senior executives have a few work sessions where they clearly articulate the strategy in writing and then disseminate it company wide.

From that strategy, the sales and marketing organizations (together) can begin to craft the message to the marketplace. The message relies on agreement by all parties on their definition of the buyer’s process, an agreement on an “ideal customer” profile and a very clear definition and understanding of what is a “qualified lead”. Once you are in agreement on these elements, you can construct a model of the buyer’s process and determine how your marketing and sales process blends with it.

A New Sales Process Aligned to the Buyer’s Process

Many ‘aligned” organizations originally established a team approach to getting to agreement on these elements above. The team included members from the sales organization, the marketing team, often a customer service rep and a senior executive. The senior executive may be the sales manager or the marketing manager or both, but they must come to this leadership post committed to rewriting the process.

The sales organization needs to take marketing members along on sales calls. Sales team members must be brought into the marketing strategy and research sessions. The team members must also be the ones to carry the new messages to the entire (now transparent) organization.

As team members begin to understand each other’s area of focus and how it contributes, they can fairly easily craft a revenue funnel or process to capture the buyer’s attention up front when the buyer is looking but not talking. The message is distributed in the marketing literature, the PR campaigns, and the corporate web site and to some extent through social media arenas; although very few companies have learned how to use social media effectively.

The process definition needs to have a clear understanding of the point at which a suspect becomes a lead and then becomes a prospect. Often leads are passed to quickly and the resultant effect is that the sales organization feels that the leads are not valuable.

Prospects may change direction as well and when they do, it is imperative that they get handed back to the marketing process for continued nurturing.

New Definition of Success and Measuring It:

Finally, the entire organization needs to have a clear understanding of what constitutes success. Usually it is most clearly defined as winning a new customer or selling a new product or service to an existing customer. Because all parties worked the new process to generate this success, they need to be compensated for their efforts.

If marketing is going to be charged with bringing more profitable leads to the table, they need to be compensated in some way so that they share in the success. This means the compensation (often commission) model for generating sales revenue needs to be rewoven to include a share of the pay. This redesigned compensation plan will only work if the sales and marketing teams are fully aligned and agree that they all have contributed to the success.

In conclusion, if you can master these three key elements, you will be well on your way to “maximizing sales revenue”.  In my next post I will discuss the “Third Key” of this process which is “Customer Intimacy”.

Please stay tuned.

Sales Force Optimization – The First Step to Maximizing Sales Revenue

Are you interested in Maximizing Your Sales Revenue? …If you are, the first thing to do is “optimize the sales force”.

Your sales force is responsible delivering the majority of the revenue to your company. Therefore you need to be certain that your sales organization is competent, focused, and well managed and coached and they are spending their time in the area where they can make their maximum contribution. There is always room for improvement in any sales organization.

Assessments:

Before you can begin to optimize the sales force, you need to conduct an assessment of the team as a whole as well as each individual. If the team has been in place for some time and the sales manager is competent, the assessment is probably fairly complete already. Often however, the assessment resides in the manager’s head and not in any formal document. You need to get the assessments down on paper for use as you continue this process because they are important to use in developing a coaching plan.

If some or all of the team is new, or if you are experiencing high turnover, it will be wise to utilize some testing programs that are used for competence (skill) and attitude assessment. Some sales specialists believe that competence can be measured through “personality” testing. I disagree with that premise because I have regularly seen people with outgoing personalities do poorly and vice versa. I feel a better measure is how focused and tenacious they are given the objective laid out for them along with their attitude toward customer service.

These assessments will help you to create training and/or coaching plan. I have often seen situations where the testing served to convince the manager or owner that his gut instinct was right regarding the reps real capability.

Structure:

Following the assessment phase, you need to look at the “structure” of the sales organization to determine if the team is well organized to go to market. You should confirm that there is a specific (written and understood) sales process in place. You must confirm that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.

Different types of companies will have very different sales processes defined. These depend on the product or service they are selling, the customer makeup and if they are utilizing multiple channels to go to market. All processes however should clearly define the sales steps and how they are to interact with the marketing organization (See Alignment in next week’s post) and the customer’s buying process. The sales process is very dependent on the corporate strategy which needs to be defined by top management and understood by anyone in the company who touches the customer.

Sales Management:

The sales force needs to be well managed by providing specific goals along with the metrics that will be used to test their success. Often managers feel that the compensation plan drives performance, but again, I disagree to the extent that money is not usually the strongest motivator. Continual coaching is a better method for maximizing sales rather than intermittent sales training sessions and compensation plans.

The sales manager’s role is usually divided into four activities. These include:

  • Selling Time with Reps in the Field
  • Forecast Management and Sales Projections (Pipelines)
  • Internal Training, Coaching and Strategic Reviews
  • Internal Meetings with Management Peers

The sales manager’s needs to become deeply involved in each of these activities and I could develop several posts on sales management alone. I am simply working with a broad brush in this article to lay out the structure of sales optimization. If your sales manager is not spending time in these four areas and you are experiencing low revenue production, it may be time to conduct an assessment at this level.

In conclusion, if you can refine these three key elements, you will be well on your way to “maximizing sales revenue”.  In my next post I will discuss the “Second Key” of this process which is “Marketing Alignment”.

Please stay tuned.