Posts Tagged 'sales'

My Notifications of the “death of selling” may have been premature

There is an interesting debate going on in the sales industry blogosphere about whether selling is dying. What we are really discussing however is “will we need salespeople in the future and what will their role be”.

I used to publish a quarterly newsletter (Spare on Sales and Marketing) back in the early nineties… I was recently doing research for an article I am writing and came across the newsletter published in July 1993 in which my lead story was “Selling is Dying”.
newsletter00030001

From the Article…

There are essentially four elements that drive a salesperson’s success. These are a.) Selling Skills, b.) Knowledge (Product and Industry), c.) Time and Territory Management, and d.) Relationship Building. I used to hire salespeople based on their selling skills because that was the most important driver. That is no longer true. Today’s top salespeople are the ones who have knowledge. They fully understand the product or service they are selling. They fully understand the needs of the prospect and the marketplace.

The closing line in my article back then was “for selling in the nineties (1990’s) the name of the game is how do we deliver the most knowledge (added value) to our customer.”….

According to Selling Power Magazine, Gartner Research analyzed the market and projected that we will downsize from twenty million salespeople today to four million by 2020. This projection is based on industry trends and the growing sophistication of software applications (to deliver knowledge) and the continuing acceleration of computer power and social media.

At a Sales2.0 conference in 2010, Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher of Selling Power asked the audience to raise their hand if they have ever purchased anything from Amazon.com. Almost everyone raised their hand. Then he asked “How many of you have ever spoken to an Amazon salesperson?” Nobody raised their hand. The exercise demonstrates that a lot of products are being sold through automation.

I believe at some product levels, we don’t necessarily need outbound sales personnel, but at higher levels, we will always need them.

As technology improves, more and more products will be sold automatically in the Business to Business (B2B) arena. It’s already happening in many acquisition areas like office supplies and some forms of printing, computer purchases, etc. Many state governments and large corporations have initiated on line requisitioning where an RFQ is published and the best respondent (best price, highest quality) can win the bid and the buyer and seller never talk face to face.

So who will need the four million salespeople that are left? Many of them may be situated in call centers rather than outside sales positions. The balance will be working for companies where the buyer cannot capture the knowledge or comfort required to make a good buying decision.

There are a number of industries where the customer will need additional help in his research and decision making process and there will always be a role for the salesperson in these situations. The role may become that of the differentiator or negotiator.

Industries where you are selling professional services or highly technical products will always need salespeople. Often in these industries there is a technical consultant available to assist the salesperson and the customer in understanding what he is investing in.

So, ultimately, we are really discussing the question of “what’s the value the salesperson brings” I believe the salesperson’s task at hand is to be become much more informed about the prospect’s business and industry and their strategies. Then the salesperson needs a full understanding of the potential his product or service offers to assist those strategies.

To some extent very complex (highly engineered) products will require salespeople as well. I don’t see countries and companies buying Boeing aircraft on the web in the near future.
So the salesperson of the future will need to be a “knowledge broker” more than anything else.

The competencies (drivers) required for this position will include:
Knowledge of  
—General business 
—The Prospect’s business
—The industry
—The competition
Questioning and Listening Skills
Strategic Thinking
Conviction, Confidence and Integrity

So, perhaps selling (as we once knew it) is dying.

If a salesperson wants to be one of the remaining four million, he/she will need to grow the above skills, work continually to increase their education and begin looking for sales opportunities with companies whose products are complex and hard to sell.

Thoughtfully yours

Todd

Advertisements

Small Business Folks Don’t Understand the Value of “Likes” on FB

Are you interested in maximizing your sales revenue?

Every Summer I plant raise heirloom tomatoes.  I “like” doing that.  This past Sunday, Landreth Seeds, the oldest seed company in the US (and a company I “like”) held a sale of their tomato plants. Since it was only an hour drive I went down and picked up some plants.

When I went to pay, the clerk handed me two pieces of paper and suggested I read them. The information was not relevant  to this post, except for the page marked “Friends of Landreth. On it they asked us to visit their page on Facebook and “like” them.

They had one great sentence in the request that I believe sums up the small business  impression of the value of being “liked” It read…”Though we cannot pretend to understand why, the number of ‘LIKES’ a commercial Facebook Page has is a very very important indicator of how good the company is. Please ‘LIKE’ our page.

I have talked with numerous small business folks regarding social media and many of them don’t understand what it is all about and where the value is. I don’t want to generalize, but often it appears  to me that, the older the company (and perhaps their management) the less they understand the process and the value.  They are often under the impression (as Landreth is) that “likes” are an indicator of goodness or value.. What they don’t seem to understand is the “social” part of social media. And so they ask…Why?

In my view “likes” are a kind of connection comment…..I enjoy doing business with this company or I love their products or…whatever. It is an indicator that they are willing to have a social interaction with your company, but the next step is up to the company being “liked” . The folk’s that “liked” you are really waiting for a next step in the process.

The next step can be an informational comment about the product or the industry. It may be an offer or a coupon response designed to engage the “liker” and to demonstrate that there was value in ‘liking” them. It should be the beginning of a continuing (2 way) conversation. If the next step does not take place, the liker will not be back to like you again. And so you will have lost an opportunity to have a social relationship that has value to both liker and likee…..

If you are a business leader and you are struggling with the value of social media, you may enjoy following Brian Solis (http://www.briansolis.com) . I believe he is one of the best thought leaders in this field today. He writes articulately and understands how all this stuff is supposed to provide value. His latest book “The End of Business as Usual” is a hard read, but if you read it, you will find the path to value in social media.

If I can be of assistance in simply helping you understand how social media can contribute to value and help in maximizing your sales revenue, please let me know.

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!

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

Maximizing Sales Revenue Through “Alignment” My Compliments to Christine Crandell

I assist companies who are trying to “maximize their sales revenue”. Every company I meet with is looking for help in this area and I am guessing yours may be as well.

During the last few years, I have been focusing on “Alignment”. I attempt to align the sales, marketing, and customer service organizations to the corporate strategies and then more importantly align them to each other.

The Aberdeen Group found that highly aligned achieved an average of 20% annual growth rate in the present economy. This is compared to a 4% decline with their non-aligned peers. CSO Insights found that aligned companies had an average of 10% more of their sales people on quota.

Because this is a fairly new approach to the business of maximizing sales revenue, I have looked to the thought leaders who are driving the alignment paradigm and more importantly ones who have actually done the work and generated outstanding results. Alignment is not for the feint of heart, but it works.

Although there are a number of bright people who have written and presented methods on the subject, none has demonstrated a higher level of thought leadership than Christine Crandell.

Christine is an excellent writer and consultant who has documented success stories, proven in real life that the theory actually works and has developed processes to help companies implement it.

Years ago Christine noticed and recently wrote that “Customer Acquisition is a Myth” “Companies do not acquire accounts; it’s actually the other way around. (http://christinecrandell.com/2011/06/customer-acquisition-is-a-myth/)

Because of the power of the web and social media, customers actually find out more about a product before engaging with a sales person now more than ever before. She may have coined the term “buyer’s journey” which describes the process they go through.

If the buyer’s journey takes them to the web, social media commentary, corporate web sites, and conversations with their peers before ever talking with a salesperson, it is marketing’s role to be certain they are publishing relevant content and understanding where the buyer’s journey takes them. As they take the journey, the marketer needs to build a base of information about the buyer and at a predefined moment determine that this buyer is a viable sellable “lead” and turn it over to sales for follow though to closure.

Christine believes (and it has been my experience) that Alignment is not possible without an active participation of the CEO in the process. The CEO needs to believe it will be profitable and has to become engaged in clearly defining the “corporate strategy and plan” to the sales and marketing and customer service teams. He has to make clear to his management team that this is his program for maximizing revenue and he has to be engaged with accessing the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are used as the metrics to measure the success of the process.

There is much more to the process of sales, marketing and customer service Alignment and we cannot cover it here. So I suggest that if you want to understand it, you become a student of Christine Crandell. I can help you implement it once you have learned the value and her thoughts on the procss.

 

 To learn more about Alignment and Christine Crandell, I suggest the following resources. She is President of New Business Strategies.

             Her web site is http://christinecrandell.com         

             She writes a column for Forbes Magazine on the subject twice a month.

             You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ChrisCrandell

She can also be found on Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook

I hope you find her work as insightful, thoughtful and well written as I do. She is the expert’s expert.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to let you know that my company has the knowledge, background and skill set to implement “alignment” and other strategies to help you “Maximize Your Sales Revenue”  You might look at our “No Risk Engagement” page and contact us to discuss your situation. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Thoughtfully yours,

Todd