Learn from Social Selling to make your e-mails hot

It has happened fast, the shift from using social media in your daily selling. Studies such as this from CEB and Google tells more than one-half of the sales process is gone. Or, more precisely, customers run their buying process at least 57% before they get in touch with a sales rep, in some cases much longer than that.

Conclusion: There’s not much time left to make some impact on your prospects’ decisions.

New social media techniques are therefore essential for your sales success. However, one part of your sales lead production is still left to be traditional, such as sending a prospecting e-mail. It may not be a great part of your sales work and it will definitely be decreasing. But you’d better not ignore it in a foreseeable future.

The challenge is though, partly because of the mentions above, it’s getting harder to create sales leads from traditional methods. So what to do?

Why not turn the knowledge transfer the other way round? Why not learn from recently learned social selling skills and apply those best practise on traditional prospecting as well?

Social selling to e-mail

To do so, you need to define what elements in your social selling that are key to your success and map them to traditional selling tasks. The very best experts in this area is Barbara Giamanco. My own key elements are these five:

  • Curiosity
  • Relevance
  • Value
  • Expertise
  • Ease

Curiosity. Most of us are crazy curious about things we are interested in. You might be interested in discussions in your specific marketplace and what your competitors are doing right now. Social media lets you see what they are discussing and bother about for the moment.

Relevance. In today’s overflow of information you need to be mega relevant when you discuss things. Don’t bother participate in social media discussions or write articles if you’re not relevant.

Value. Only pure customer value counts in social media. Value is measured by the customer, not you.

Expertise. Customers are doing a major part of their buying process without contacting you, but they still need information. They turn to their personal contacts and relevant public information to make their decisions. In social media, it’s easier than ever to be their “personal” contact and provide in depth relevant information.

Ease. In social media you cannot sell. Your only “sale” is a “like”, comment or an accepted invitation on LinkedIn. Easy actions from prospects are connected to a sort of “cost” for them, but it’s affordable low, such as “Yes, I can like this article”, “Well, I should comment on this” or “Fair enough, I can afford to be his friend or contact”.

OK, I will now try to apply my social selling key elements to a traditional prospecting e-mail that turns it from cold to really hot. For some years now I’ve been able to test a method using these social selling key elements in traditional prospecting e-mails with extraordinary results.

In 96% of the cases I’ve got contact and a booked meeting with the right people, access to the decision maker and a list of people that have an impact on my sale.

My method uses both phone and e-mail, and requires three prerequisites:

  1. Cell phone number to the most top manager you can get
  2. E-mail address to the same
  3. At least one success story this top manager can relate to (a competitor to his business is ultimate)

Prepare a short manuscript for leaving a short voicemail (because he will likely not answer your call) to the top manager when you call. Don’t forget to finish with: “…I will also send you an e-mail summarizing what I’ve said for your convenience”. This is just a heads-up when the e-mail arrives and connects to your first sentence in your e-mail.

Now it’s time to compose the e-mail.

Subject line. The only purpose of the subject line is to make the top manager to open your e-mail and should consist of two things and in this order: Relevance + Curiosity. The part of the subject line “Heat Exchangers” makes Relevance (if e-mail sent to top manager in a industrial construction company) and the part “Competitor X” stimulates Curiosity (“what have they done that makes relevance to us…?”).

Example: Heat Exchangers to Competitor X

First sentences in Body. The first sentences in the body will do two things; connect to your voicemail and pitch Value. These first sentences are maybe the only few the top manager will read, so plan your words very carefully. The sentences have to be short and describe the value generally so the top manager easily can understand it. The value has to be relevant to his role, challenges he may struggle with and in words such as money, bottom line, etc.

Example: “I was trying to reach you earlier today but didn’t succeed, so here’s a short summary of my voicemail. As you certainly are aware of, the Challenge B has become a major concern to companies in your industry. As I mentioned in my voicemail, we’ve been working together with Competitor X and by implementing our heat exchangers with our unique feature Y, Competitor X has decreased their total cost by 20% and improved their bottom line with more than 15%. I would like to discuss with you how we’ve been able to achieve these improvements related to your specific business environment”.

Middle body. This part has to be written pretty complex. The reason is that when the top manager starts to read it, he may understand what it is about, but need to involve expertise to determine if it’s interesting enough to spend time on. What will he do?

Yes, of course the top manager will distribute the e-mail to whom it belongs to. And this is exactly what you want!

You want other people impacting your case to be engaged. Also, when anybody later on get in touch with you it might be by forwarding your own e-mail message. If so, you can just scroll down and see all relevant names by reading cc:s etc.

The body should further explain what you’ve done at Competitor X and what more value they’ve got by implementing your solution. You have to show your deep expertise. But please note, I don’t encourage you to reveal competitors’ business critical details and break non-disclosure agreements. Your text in the body should therefore consist of industry details that the internal experts or department managers can relate to and judge to be true and credible, without having you to reveal secrets.

Communication should be in context of “from one expert to another”. This part of your e-mail has to win those experts’ hearts. They don’t easily change their minds investing in new partners or technology, because they’re not embracing change and are definitely prioritizing low risk above most other things. But they also are pragmatists and may be convinced by market leaders. That’s reminds me of the most excellent book in marketing strategy I know, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A Moore. It tells the higher relevance you have to their needs and greater market leadership you may prove, the higher chance you’ll get. Maybe you’re not the well-known market leader, but nobody says how tiny markets should be defined…

Finish. The finish will call for action, but in bite size. It really should be “at no cost” to further engage with you. That makes the Ease for them to engage. “Why not, a meeting with this guy only cost us the time of one hour…?”

Example: “I’d like to schedule a one hour meeting at your premises, anytime that fits your schedules and of course entirely unconditionally, where I may further explain what we’ve done for Competitor X and other companies in your industry”. You see, you conclude your message with curiosity as well to improve your snakebite rate…

Now you have to wait. Don’t disturb the process for a while by calling them too early to follow up. My experience is that a minimum “radio silence” of three weeks are necessary for their process to execute. Think about it; there are lots of things you may have set in motion on the prospect’s side: e-mails that have to be forwarded, internal discussions, meetings etc.

So just wait. Your social selling boosted e-mail is hopefully just getting hotter than ever.

 

 

3 stories that reveal if your sales attitude is out of date

It’s not easy to cope with all dramatic changes now happening around how to sell. High performing sales reps do, but my following true stories tell many people within sales and SMB’s still have a long way to go before they would be able to compete in the future.

outofdate

Story #1

In my garden there was until recently a huge red leafed beech. It’s height was almost 60 feet and due to that we couldn’t leave it for another year. We had to take it down. In my former life I certainly was a monkey or such animal, so I went out climbing up to the top, taking down one branch at a time.

One day later I was satisfied with my work. However, the tree trunk was still left. I scanned the internet after firms that could help me taking the trunk down. I called a few local firms and selected one that already the coming Friday was able to finish the work. Being an experienced sales person, I appreciate if a buyer comes back to me, even if it’s just to tell me I lost the deal, so I went out texting those firms that lost my deal.

Here’s the text dialog with one of them:

Me: Sorry, but I have to tell I selected another firm for the job. Thanks for your time anyhow 🙂

The sales rep: Now you lost a lot of money! We’re always 30-40% below our competitors.

Me: (slightly sarcastic) Ooops, then it certainly was a lot of money, maybe several dollars? But you didn’t check all of my needs when you called – I wanted to get the job done already this week… By the way; care about what you’re texting – just a small tips.

The sales rep: I always stand up for what I write or say. I’ve been in business since the 90’s and last year we got 96% of all jobs in your town.

Me: (increasingly upset) Think about if I had another tree I needed to take down? Regarding your attitude, do you really think I would be contacting you again? Blaming a potential customer is not a good choice. I’ve been in sales for a long time and teach sales reps, it might be a good advice to join one of my sales training classes…?

The sales rep: You should consider a training class in Foresight to earn some money!

End of story.

Lesson learned. Always accept a lost deal with a smile and a “good luck”. Look at it as a new opportunity that starts. We all know prospecting takes time and even if you lost this deal, you got in touch and next time it’s a warm call.

Story #2

This story is recently shared from my brother. He had some problems with his chainsaw (I know; you may think we are all in forestry…) and went to a retail store to get it fixed. He asked for service and the sales rep took the chainsaw into his repair shop. The brand was one of those they were selling in the store and the sales rep promised to fix it. But this was what happened next:

The sales rep: OK, I know what’s wrong, we’ll fix it. By the way, where did you buy it?

My brother: (little embarrased) On the Internet…

The sales rep: ON THE INTERNET????? Just go away and take your worthless chainsaw with you! People buying things ON THE INTERNET are not welcome in my store!!!

Lesson learned. Not adjusting your attitude and business to modern buying processes where customers using the internet and social media to educate themselves, buy things and compare, are just out of date. It’s a major threat for SMB’s but not aligning to reality is only stupid. Such aligning might be: “Great, we have a special offer for those buying on the internet, it’s a service agreement for only 99 dollars per year and I can make this included as the first repair. Would you like to fill in this form, please?”

Story #3

This story is a short one, also shared from my brother. His mower was not starting, so he called a local shop to get it fixed. However, the shop was closing at 4 PM and he knew he was a little late calling 4.05 PM:

The sales rep: (first thing saying) Do you know what time it is???

My brother: Well yes, I actually do, but I took a chance and called anyhow; and lucky me, you answered.

The sales rep: We’re closing at 4.00 PM, you cannot call later. Come back tomorrow! Then he hung up.

Lesson learned. Nothing is closed anymore. Business is always open, 24/7. Opening hours are restricting in itself, but here’s the worst thing about the short conversation above: The sales rep was actually picking up the phone. It’s not just missing the call if he didn’t answer, he also damaged his brand and that may be unrepairable.

Recognize any of these stories by your own? Do you have any more examples of out of date sales attitudes? Please tell in the comment line below! Maybe we all as high performing sales reps would get a big laugh at least 🙂

 

The hidden time slot when buying decisions are made

We all make decisions. Everyday we decide things that have an impact on our lives. Some of those decisions are buying decisions, where you interact with companies that possibly may fulfill a need you have.

Many of you recognize that a major share of the sales process has disappeared. In my post The Death of the Cold Call I visualized the three earliest phases of the sales process being invisible from the sales rep’s perspective, leaving us sales people only with two more phases to work with.

buying-process-vs-sales-process-is-changed

That’s terrifying enough. Of course you can manage the first three phases, but in a totally different way and requiring entirely new set of skills and methods. There are some really experienced advisors out there to help – one of my favorites is Barbara Giamanco – visit her blog for great tips!

But even more scaring is that I noticed a glitch also between the two remaining phases – causing you losing control in that very moment you definitely don’t want to.

hidden-time-slotI call it “The Hidden Time Slot”, because it’s hidden to you and leaving customer to do his choice without your presence. The Glitch happens when you have had your sales meeting – you felt is was successful – and you did all things right. You asked all the questions; about their needs, the price level, the timings and you even got the customer giving you the list of your competitors. You are sure it was the decision maker you talked to and he also gave you a date for his buying decision and committed to get in touch by then.

I’m just asking; are there more of you out there in the sales arena, except me, with experience losing such deals? I believe so, when I’m talking to my friends in sales. The sky was clear, no clouds in sight, and you still lost that damn deal!

Let’s go into the psychology in this by giving you an example from the buyer’s side. Me and my wife was looking for a new car. We thought about a slightly smaller car (children are leaving home), we needed hitch for trailer, GPS and we thought price was important, but not most. We visited several car dealers, as well as where we bought our existing car.

Our existing car dealer sales rep had a great advantage since we really liked our car and we thought it would be easy for us to just change to a smaller one at the same dealer. The existing car dealer was pretty sure about the same.

I can assure you. He did all things right, but he lost the deal anyhow. Why? What exactly was the reason for us to dismiss our easiest way forward?

It wasn’t a single reason we selected another car. It was a process.

Naturally, the existing car dealer asked about our alternatives – his competitors – and he was aware of their price levels. But it stopped there. What he didn’t do was trying to control beyond the buying process – where several other sales processes were running at decent pace, other than his. In my post Beyond The Buying Process I mentioned the key mindset to win large deals is to be your customer. Understanding your customer is simply not enough to be a winner in the modern sales arena.

When starting to evaluate what car we would buy, we also started new sales processes at several different car dealers. They were aware of they had to step up to win this deal, since they weren’t our existing dealer. They were prepared for a battle and they were curious about us. We were impressed how fast they got to learn us; and being friends.

Maybe you think our existing car dealer wasn’t polite or missed things, wasn’t curious or…whatever. He was. He did all things right. But he didn’t make the investigation about how we think about the other dealers. He didn’t rise to the 3rd Level of Sales:

To make the customer buy, the sales rep not only has to understand the customer, he has to BE and ACT as a customer in all contexts.

That’s Beyond The Buying Process. And The Glitch – The Hidden Slot – is only the last checkpoint when all buying thoughts from the entire buying process comes together in a decision.

 

BTW: Sorry for using the worn-out sales example: “Buying a new car”, but it was simply the most recent example where a bit more detailed evaluation was needed for make a good buying decision. //Stefan

 

What is Lean sales? – Create a plan of execution!

Finaly I have managed to continue from my last post

As a recap, take a look at the Pictochart.

As you are creating your sales plan you need to look at how your organization can support your ambitions. Let’s say you want 100% delivery performance to be your lead argument in sales and you believe you can boost sales by 20%. Even if your company has a track record of 100%  on time delivery, a 20% increase could disrupt your current supply setup and you could potentially lose customers long term due to lack of living up to your promise.

To ensure that you have captured the capability of your company in the future and initializing necessary change you can use some of the following tools:

  • Value Chain Analysis
  • SIPOC
  • Competence Analysis
  • WorkshopsDefine how to work with Systems/Tools
  • Define Documents/Workmethods

Value Chain Analysis

Value Chain Analysis is a three-step process:

  • First, you identify the activities you undertake to deliver your product or service;
  • Second, for each activity, you think through what you would do to add the greatest value for your customer; and
  • Thirdly, you evaluate whether it is worth making changes, and then plan for action.

Step 1 – Activity Analysis

The first step to take is to brainstorm the activities that you, your team or your company undertakes that in some way contribute towards your customer’s experience.

At an organizational level, this will include the step-by-step business processes that you use to serve the customer. These will include marketing of your products or services; sales and order-taking; operational processes; delivery; support; and so on (this may also involve many other steps or processes specific to your industry).

At a personal or team level, it will involve the step-by-step flow of work that you carry out.

But this will also involve other things as well. For example:

  • How you recruit people with the skills to give the best service.
  • How you motivate yourself or your team to perform well.
  • How you keep up-to-date with the most efficient and effective techniques.
  • How you select and develop the technologies that give you the edge.
  • How you get feedback from your customer on how you’re doing, and how you can improve further.

Step 2 – Value Analysis

Now, for each activity you’ve identified, list the “Value Factors” – the things that your customers’ value in the way that each activity is conducted.

For example, if you’re thinking about a telephone order-taking process, your customer will value a quick answer to his or her call; a polite manner; efficient taking of order details; fast and knowledgeable answering of questions; and an efficient and quick resolution to any problems that arise.

If you’re thinking about delivery of a professional service, your customer will most likely value an accurate and correct solution; a solution based on completely up-to-date information; a solution that is clearly expressed and easily actionable; and so on.

Next to each activity you’ve identified, write down these Value Factors.

And next to these, write down what needs to be done or changed to provide great value for each Value Factor.

Step 3 – Evaluate Changes and Plan for Action

By the time you’ve completed your Value Analysis, you’ll probably be fired up for action: you’ll have generated plenty of ideas for increasing the value you deliver to customers. And if you could deliver all of these, your service could be fabulous!

Now be a bit careful at this stage: you could easily fritter your energy away on a hundred different jobs, and never really complete any of them.

So firstly, pick out the quick, easy, cheap wins – go for some of these, as this will improve your team’s spirits no end.

Then screen the more difficult changes. Some may be impractical. Others will deliver only marginal improvements, but at great cost. Drop these.

And then prioritize the remaining tasks and plan to tackle them in an achievable, step-by-step way that delivers steady improvement at the same time that it keeps your team’s enthusiasm going.

SIPOC

SIPOC is a way to map your processes, use it to break down your value chain.

S (supplier): Entity that provides input(s) to a process

I (input): All that is used (mostly as variables) to produce one or more outputs from a process. It is worthwhile to note that infrastructure may not be considered as inputs to a steady-state process since any variability induced by such elements remains fixed over longer periods of time. (Exceptions include new infrastructure being introduced or a greenfield project.)

P (process): Steps or activities carried out to convert inputs to one or more outputs. In a SIPOC, the process steps are shown at a high level.

O (output): One or more outcomes or physical products emerging from a process.

C (customer): Entity that uses the output(s) of a process.

To explain SIPOC in good way will add too many pages to my blog. I found this site helpful in explaining how to use the model. It may seem complicated, but you do not have to follow it too 100%. Find a levelel that gives you an overviewof the process you want to define.

Competence Analysis

To be able to execute your sales plan what competence do you need. Not only in your sales force, but in the entire value chain. From a value chain perspective, you may demand change in competence from product development to new transportation methods.

Understand and identify opportunities (and limitations) in competence and companay capabilities end-to-end, that will impact your business’ development. Define what is needed to deliver to the wished position, growth and change drivers.

If you have structured your Value Chains (Customer processes), created SIPOC charts for each process, you now need to connect the competence you need and compare it to the competence you have.

  • What are our strengths to build on?
  • What necessary competence do we lack that have significant impact on our business forward? Competence gaps linked to business risks?
  • How do we create learning in the Business?
  • How to organize and lead for success?
  • Example of areas: competence needs end to end and competence needs both for generalist and specialist competence.

Workshops

These first tools work really well as workshop material.  Don’t do this on your own! Lean is about empowering the people performing the work, and involving them is crucial for your success! This can also be used when creating your sales plan…

Remember to have a clear goal with your workshops!

Workshops without clear goals is a coffee break. Nice to sit there chit chatting, but it is not productive.

Have you got the right scope of the workshop?

It is also important not to take on too big a topic. The group needs to be able to get a handle on the subject.

Be clear in the invitation!

If the people attending need to prepare, you need to tell them and you need to give them time to do so. This will also set how people prioritize your workshop. If the invitation is fuzzy, the turnout will probably not be that good.

Invite the right people!

If you have done your homework you will secure that the right competences, organizational levels and types of personalities are present.

Meet at place that suits your workshop/group!

Staying at the office is a great way to kill creativity and focus. Find a place where you have the amount of rooms you need, if you for instance plan to split the group in small groups

Create an Agenda!

Now that you know your primary objective and who will attend, you can start to develop an outline of how you’ll achieve the workshop’s goal.

  • Main points– Create a list of main points to discuss, and then break down each larger point into details that you want to communicate to your audience.
  • Visual aids– List the visual aids, if any, you’ll use for each point. If you need technical support, this helps the people providing it to determine where they need to focus their efforts.
  • Discussions and activities– Take time to list exactly which group discussions and activities you’ll have at which point in the workshop. How much time will you allow for each exercise?

Remember, the more detailed your plan, the more you’ll ensure that your workshop will run to schedule – and be successful

Make sure you have a Follow-up Plan

The only way to find out if your workshop was a success is to have an effective follow-up plan. Create a questionnaire to give to all participants at the end of the event, and give them plenty of opportunity to share their opinions on how well it went. Although this can be a bit scary, it’s the only way to learn – and improve – for the next time.

It’s also important to have a plan to communicate the decisions that were reached during the workshop. Will you send out a mass email to everyone with the details? Will you put it on your company’s intranet? People need to know that their hard work actually resulted in a decision or action, so keep them informed about what’s happening after the workshop has ended.

Define how to work with Systems/Tools

If you are making changes to your Sales Plan, or if there are effects on the organization, make sure your system users are up to date on how they enter or use system information.

Make sure you involve are your super users and system owners in the process of changing the way the organization works, the products you are selling and or the services you intend to introduce.

Remember that systems have limited flexibility and that though you may find a change insignificant, it can be close to impossible to do without changes to the system environment. Also remember that these changes can take a long time to implement and failing to bring the systems in early in the process is a sure way of failing before you even got started.

Define Documents / Work methods

If you are changing the way you work, make sure you have defined how you want the people in your organization should work in order to make the work easier, reduce errors and make the task repeatable with the same results every time. It may seem obvious when you just agreed that something should be done in a certain way, but down the line you will be glad you took the time to make the task clear.

The same goes for documents. Make sure templates are ready, certificates prepared, legal documents written and approved and agreements made with external parties.

The Plan of Execution

So I have listed all these tools, what are you supposed to do now? You need to look at what you want to do and what you can and write down what you will do. It is about finding the easy executions, the necissary and painful challenges and the ambitions you will need to put off for the future because they are just to damn difficult to pull off…this year. Remember that it does not end here, it begins here! Knowing your organizations limitations and possibilities is the only way to move forward. It is just a matter of putting a plan together and to set it in motion…

Don’t Ask The Customer: Do Your Homework

Today was the third day in a row a sales person called and made exactly the same mistakes, ended up too suddenly.

Hi, I’m Paul. I’m calling from The Company X. Can you tell me who is responsible for Marketing in your organization?

Just a short sentence. I heard some background noise as well, imaging he was in a room where many people were doing the same as him.

It wasn’t abnormal. It was a typical sales call, but ended up in the same way as the other recent calls I got this week. I hung up. I never do such otherwise, except if I’ve not having time at all. I learn from bad and good sales people, just spending a few minutes, to get a fresh experience of how sales reps are working nowadays, to get the stories of behavior and to perfect the advice I give to sales and business leaders.

research

This week wasn’t a bad one. And I wasn’t in a bad mood at all. Still; I couldn’t stand the way these sales persons called. It was so many faults.

So, can you “Find Five Faults”?

First.

When you call, go to a quiet place. If I hear other voices, I think of two scenarios – both are bad. Either the working environment is too bad for the person calling: “are they really so many employees so close to each other?” or – and more obvious: it’s a call center guy with a list to call. So my feeling is that I’m devalued, only being a row in a list. If he doesn’t catch me, it doesn’t matter, he’s just going on calling…

Second.

He didn’t know my name. Addressing by pronouncing the receivers name means he want to speak with me personally, not my role or position.

Third.

Don’t ask for anything if you’re not giving something first. The sales rep asked me to give him the name of my marketing manager. Why should I? What do I get in return? A ticket to the cinema or theater? It connects to the Third as well: He don’t want to talk to me, just my role. To bad for him, since I am the marketing manager…

Fourth.

Do your homework. You may find most information about my company on the internet. As a sales rep, if you don’t have the time to spend a couple of minutes scanning my web to get who is the marketing manager, you probably not are having time to help me either. You will take my money and go away. I understand, sometimes the information on the net can be somewhat scanty, but again, that’s no problem. There’s lists to buy. If you can’t afford buying a list of names – I recognize that as a not solid enterprise you’re calling from.

Fifth.

Begin your call by mentioning a pain you know – and I mean really know – the prospect has. Even if most of the sales process is gone nowadays, the buying process is still ongoing. Take part in your prospects’ searching for help and best practise, using social media channels. Learn to be a helping star and you will get close enough to hear their biggest pains.

Don’t take me wrong here. I really care about you sales reps out there. I’ve been a rep by myself and I know the hard work you have to do. But why are you walking a path full of thorns?

Good luck out there!

 

 

 

Get 100% Prospecting Response. How?

This post is also available on the Blog Radio.

Every sales rep is looking for maximal response on his actions taken. But much of his actions leaks out with no revenue. The result is higher sales costs per time unit and a lot bad buzz and frustration among sales people, stressing around trying to reaching quota by using quantity measures instead of quality in actions.

Wouldn’t it be relaxing if you know that every action you take will lead to a certain goal? What would such actions be? Is there some sort of best practise?

I’m not sure if there is a sort of best practise. However, I’ve been using a technique that works every time with perfect results. But it’s like walking on the tightrope; if you do one detail wrong you will fall hard.

Tightrope

Some requirements are needed, but surprisingly few:

  • Cell phone and e-mail address to the prospect’s highest level top manager
  • At least one great success story describing a competitor to the prospect

See, it’s not much. If you don’t have sold exactly the same product or service to the prospect’s competitor, it’s not a big problem, but it will be a little easier later on. The important is, however, that you’ve sold anything to the competitor.

But maybe you say: “it’s a lot of work to get the cell phone and e-mail to a CEO…”. Well, it depends on how you see it. Is it better to waste a hell lot of more hours spent on actions that not lead to anything more than nothing, so go ahead…

OK, so you got the cell and e-mail? Good, now why. Here’s a common misunderstanding. That the CEO will answer when you call or reply to your e-mail. He will not. And why should you then spend much energy search for his number or e-mail? I’ll try to explain.

First of all, prepare a pretty detailed e-mail – but don’t sent it yet! Everything has to be in the exactly right order as I tell you!

The subject have to include your competitor’s name. This is really important, don’t miss that. The body text in the e-mail should in detail describe what you’ve been doing at the competitor’s side and the positive impacts they have got thanks to your solution. Write the text as it was targeted to the business user of your prospect. If you sell CRM systems, the detailed body text should be written for a sales manager, not the CEO. If you sell heat exchangers for industries, the text may be targeted to a maintenance manager. It’s important that the text describes advantages that helps that type of business user.

When you’re ready, save the e-mail (still do not send!). Now it’s time for preparing the phone call. Prepare it for a voice mail situation, because the CEO will not answer when you call. He’s too busy.

The phone call voice mail have to be informative. Not only who’s calling, your number and please call back. Remember, so far you’re a complete stranger to the CEO. You have to present what your reason is for contacting him and – for God’s sake – don’t forget to mention your competitor’s name! It’s also important to end with the phrase: “…to sum up, I will also put together an e-mail for you”. That will legitimates to send it and also, even if the CEO has thousands items in his inbox, in some sense makes him aware that “I haven’t got to remember all of what this stranger might say right now”. He will also have the feeling it’s so much info in your voice mail – and his competitor is mentioned – that he definitely will keep an eye on his inbox.

Easiest is to simply write down on paper what you’re intending to say, so you’re not having a black-out when it comes to “…please leave a message after the beep”.

So, after you’ve prepared the e-mail and the voice mail, it’s time for action. Pick up your phone and call the CEO, have your prepared voice mail text available. In 99% of the cases, the CEO will not answer, but if he against all odds does, don’t be afraid: You’re well prepared to say your message.

When the voice mail is recorded, don’t wait to send your prepared e-mail to the CEO.

But then you have to wait. My experience says about 2-3 weeks before any response. This is opposite to all other sales techniques that require pretty immediately contact. But I’m sure you have to wait much longer. Why?

Because this will happen: The CEO scans his unread e-mails, typically at least once a day. He reads the subject line only and most of the e-mails he just leave as unread or moves to trash. But when he comes to your e-mail it’s different. He stops because he read his competitor’s name in the subject line, which causes him to open the e-mail of two reasons; he is – as everybody else – curious and he is afraid to miss anything about his marketplace that would cause him to be left behind in the business race. He feels it’s worth the price to read your e-mail.

Since the e-mail is not written for him – it was written for the business user  – he may think the e-mail is too complex to understand or he will understand, but sees instant action is required. Both cases are good for you.

So. The CEO hasn’t got time to act himself, but he thinks it has to take action upon. The e-mail is therefore forwarded to the business user, sometimes with c/c to several more people in the CEO’s management team. Count on that you will be contacted within some weeks by the business user or somebody else in this group.

Congrats! Your topic is brought to awareness in the entire management team, the further contacts with your prospect is supported from the highest level and your name is presented to all of the people you need to talk getting your deal closer.

And now. Your real sales work can be started.

The Safest Way To Implement CRM

Over 70% of all implementations of sales support systems like CRM go right to the trash. How come?

May it depend on the fact you actually can do business just by just shaking hands? Certainly. May it depend on the lack of an established sales process? Sure. May it depend on lack of management support? Of course. May it depend on weak compensation systems? On the spot. May it depend on the lack of comprehensive Sales theory and best practices? Oh, yeah.

The challenge is to master all these risks and several more in one project. And you only get one chance. No option to stumble or slip.

Caution implementing CRM

Over the last fifteen years I’ve been developing a safe way implementing CRM for a lot enterprises in various industries. I’d like to share my method, or what you would like to call it, to you. Here it is:

THE MANAGEMENT’S STATEMENT

The management has to clearly make a statement concerning older system support for the sales organization. This statement have to be in terms of that older system support no longer supports the Customer processes, organization or strategy, neither in the local sub-companies nor the holding company. This is to pronounce a visual “kick-off” to the organization that a change of new support for the sales organization is under way.

ESTABLISH VISION, GOAL AND PURPOSE OF THE NEW SYSTEM

Next step is to tell “why?” you should change or implement the new system. The answer to this question is the most important criteria for a successful implementation, because this answer would be the sword or tool to motivate the rest of the key employees and end-users in the organization why a replacement of old solutions is necessary. It will be needed to put both time and effort to be successful.

To be able to answer the “why?-question”, you have to describe the vision, goal and purpose regarding the sales process and belonging system support. But that may not be the easiest, without performing an analysis of what benefits the organization would get.

Therefore, I suggest a Business Benefits Analysis which is the foundation to state vision, goal and purpose.

BUSINESS BENEFITS ANALYSIS

The business benefits analysis is a sort of prestudy with the goal to describe the business benefits the organization sees with a new system support. These benefits are the “weapons” that makes the end-users to really use the new system and bridges the sales process and the system support.

The method for the analysis is interviews with key managers within the group. A suitable number is about ten, but may be lower or higher dependent on the your organization.
The analysis will deliver a number of described benefits in report form and will be the main key in the next step – the workshop for the management team.

THE WORKSHOP FOR THE MANAGEMENT TEAM

With the business benefits analysis as a start, the workshop’s goal is to prioritize and verify the described benefits so they will be in line with your overall business goals and strategy, but also that they are possible to implement and are reasonable.

The workshop is often led by a Project Manager, but the result is created together in the Management Team.  The delivery is a clear picture and a document describing the business benefits that will be the answer on the “why-question” and will represent the vision, goal and purpose of the implementation of the new system support.

With this clear delivery, the next step is to create an implementation plan.

CREATE AN IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

My experience tell me that to achieve success, the new system support has to be accepted and supported by both the management team and the end-users.
The acceptance from the management team you will get as early as in the earlier mentioned workshop, but the acceptance from the end-users you will get very late – not until the training of the new system. In this phase, most of the financial investment has been done. The risk is too high. Therefore the user acceptance is critical. There are no options to fail.

To secure a successful acceptance and support from the end-users you should use two “weapons”; the first is the answer on the “why-question” (the vision, goal and purpose – which in turn is connected to benefits experienced every day) and, two; the (local/regional) sales managers. Their management support is essential in this, because they will use the new system support on a daily basis to look at opportunities, sales-pipeline reports etc. If they use the system, why shouldn’t the end-users?

By that I mean the sales managers have to go in the front line ”showing the way to go”. They are your “hostage”.

Practically these sales managers don’t have to be experts in the system, they only have to use the system and answer the “why-question” over and over again. Some routines will also be much easier – such as sales pipeline reporting – and would be an excellent sales coaching tool.

The implementation plan will be described in detail – with project plan, consultant effort, software license need, hardware recommendations etc.

GO-DECISION AND SIGN CONTRACT

Next step is to use the business benefit analysis and the implementation plan to sign the contract for the implementation project and the investment of licenses and hardware.

That’s my experience. Good luck!

Stefan