Turning never closing to always closing

Hi there. How are you going? How do you feel? Wakening in the morning with a somewhat bad feeling, a kind of stress of not closing your deals as expected? You used to be the “closing machine” those days. But now, it’s seems like the “no-close-witch” has appeared and poured tons of syrup into your order book, broken all signing pens…

It’s may not be any consolations, but you’re not alone. Many sales people feel pressure making their quota and all are having times when deals aren’t closing that easy. But what makes a turn-around from a not-closing period to winning deals again?

The truth is it never turns. It’s about creating an environment where these period of Deals Sahara Desert never happen at all.

Sahara

Let me explain.

A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with a business friend when we came across this topic. I told her about my start as a salesman, driving around the surroundings trying to sell software to small and medium sized companies. It was really trying, since I sold nothing in two years and then, suddenly, I was appointed as the best Sales Rep in the country.

My friend asked me how come? What did you do to turn it around? Was it a single detail or circumstance that made the change from a non seller to a master salesman? What did you learn – tell me!

Well. The answer is pretty boring. It never turned around. Or, rather, my behavior didn’t change even if the results did.

When I started as a rookie sales rep I was full of energy which I poured into my job. I was making records of number of prospect meetings every week, I drove thousands of miles with my old car just to meet with them. I was calling hundreds of phone calls to just start new connections. I was always happy and positive, even if the prospects sometimes just hung up the phone in three seconds. It was a victory they answered after all, I thought!

And there, somewhere, is the secret. Think of it as if you pour sand into a plastic bag. You pour and pour and the bag just becoming more and more full. Nothing is really happening, until the bag breaks. Then it will flood over you, in a never ending flow of grains. Think of the grains as potential deals and every single grain as an activity on your way to close it.

Without the grains you wouldn’t be able to fill your bag or quota. So respect all those small activities, even if they don’t lead to an immediate deal. They haven’t need to lead to a hot lead either. But it may be a contact that leads to another contact that leads to a meeting. And if you listen really carefully, it may be a deal in one or two years from now.

Honestly. You can’t spend a lot time to all grains, but you can put your passion into every single activity. Since an activity may last only a few minutes, you can’t say you haven’t got time to put grains in your bag.

You don’t know what deal will mature first. That’s why you need to take control of them. That’s the reason you make those activities as well. To control no-one else will be there when it’s time for harvesting.

Actually, what you do is to check the prospect’s buying process. The single question you need to prepare (but don’t tell the prospect) is how their buying process has been proceeding since last time you talked to them. You shouldn’t ask that question, but if you listen carefully, they will probably tell you. If you are polite, they definitely will.

So many times I didn’t ever met my prospect until it was time for signing, but felt like we’ve been knowing each others for years. Try to come to that feeling with your prospect and you will become friends. And friends are doing business.

Respect the small grains, put thousands of activities in your bag of quota, and you will end up as a top sales performer.

Best Regards,

Stefan

The Ultimate Sales Boom – Have You Done Your Toothbrush Test?

All sales people are looking for easy sales. When the customer buys – not you selling. No matter what, the customers seem to flow into your order books without any effort at all.

You’re in the Tornado.

The term “Tornado” is perfectly defined by my favorite marketing author Geoffery A Moore; author of the bestselling book “Crossing The Chasm” and following “Inside The Tornado”. In the serie of books Moore dicusses how to bridge the chasm in the technology life cycle between visionaries and pragmatists by defining your smallest niche and buildning a bridge-head on the pragmatist’s “Tornado” shore of the chasm using a bowling pin strategy. In my blog post Niche Marketing Defeats Large Competitors I go a little deeper in this topic of how. Interesting though that’s a lot of efforts and may take good piece of time.

And – more important – that strategy was introduced long before the social medias were born.

Nowadays we have examples as King (Candy Crush Saga) and more companies that really take advantage of the social media technology for their success. I’m pretty sure Candy Crush hasn’t been that huge success without Facebook. What’s new is that King builds the social media into the business model itself.

In Candy Crush Saga, Facebook is not a fancy add-on, it’s literally the true salesman for aquiring new users, collaboration between them and of course building the loyal community that will continue to spend time and money in the product.

Well. You may say this would only apply for consumer products or services, not B2B. I think it can, at least for digitial services. And if you do your Toothbrush Test.

Toothbrush

A toothbrush test is a way of testing if your product is used frequently enough to change peoples lives. You’ll not gonna change somebody’s life if your product is used one or twice a week. But if your product is so compelling or desirable that people will use it as often they brush their teeth – in average two times per day and as a habit – then you will have a good starting point for a tornado.

Then it’s a question of how large your target group is – how many people would change their lives using your product. It doesn’t matter if your product is even so amazing for your favorite customer, if it’s not applicable to more than them.

A couple of weeks ago I visited Singularity University in Silicon Valley. Their mission is to research in and inspire leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges. To change the lives of billions of people. I learned, if you want a massive tornado, start change your perspective: For how many can my product change their lives? And in what way?

Here’s the paradox; you need to narrow down your idea to a tiny vertical, but the customer need have to be valid for many more people than in this initial vertical to get a tornado in place. As it’s told in the book “Crossing The Chasm” you first become the market leader in one verical and then, maybe after years, the adjacent verticals will fall as bowling pins since they have identical needs, and at the end creating that tornado.

Of course you haven’t got that time. You want the tornado now. The toothbrush customer need is your key to very fast create your tornado.

To succeed, you need to switch your perspective looking more at customer need than features you have in your existing product. To start, ask the following questions to yourself:

  • Can you narrow your business idea to fulfill one single core need?
  • Would that fulfillment change the lives for many people you’re targeting?
  • Will your product be used (at least) twice a day?
  • Is it easy to make it a habit? Gamification has the potential to add stickiness to your product in a whole new way
  • Is your product easy to share or – better: is the social medias a part of your service and business model?

Happy to be with you today, we’ll keep in touch!

Stefan

The death of the Cold Call

I’m sooo tired of sales persons calling me. A completely unknown person steals my time. Since it’s working time it’s my most valuable asset! The cold call itself is a one-directional intention of contact. There are no possibilities knowing if there are mutual interests before the rep calls. How can those companies authorize the destroying of their own brand year after year? Are there more clever and modern tools to connect with prospects early in their buying process? The phone was invented over hundred years ago. It seems that using it as the major tool in prospecting has come to an end.

Dating for its own sake? 
Several years ago I met a client that told me they would totally focus on the “dating” part of the sales process. By the “dating part” he meant to segment a suitable number in the CRM database every Monday and book sales meetings for the coming week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were field days performing those sales meetings. Friday was the reporting day to management. And so the pace went on and on, for weeks, months and years.

At first, it was enough with 6 meetings a week for a rep to perform, but after a while the pressure from management and owners pushed the number up to the levels of 7, 8 or even 9 meetings per rep. Last time a spoke to them every rep has to perform 12 sales meetings every week to be on the gold side. The consequense is that the prospects are flooded by more and more stressed sales people just trying to keep the pace of booked meetings, not stressed helping you.

Getting first touch too late
Recent reports and my blog post Early Customer Buying Process… tell us the customer buying process has been ongoing much longer before the sales process even is started. That’s mean your sales process starts when the prospect already has done the major part of their homework before they get in touch with a sales rep.

Buying-Sales processes

The thing is: You don’t call the prospect; they call you. Or not. In other words; if they have found you, if they believe you’ve got an interesting product, if your brand is strong, if you already have any relationships and so on.

The risk not being contacted at all is huge. Can you afford that risk? And even if you would be one of the chosen ones, the only part left to shape would be negotiation of price and terms.

The new generation way of connecting
I sat down with my son last week. He studies international marketing and he needed my help filling in a form to the authorities. He smiled about the fact the form was in paper, not a web service on the net. It was so old-fashioned he told me all the time. When the form was filled in, he was roaring with laughter. The paper form must be put in an envelope, with a by hand written address (approximately in the right position of the front side of the envelope), he had to buy a stamp and, finally, he had to wait several days until he would get any feedback!

You may laugh, but this was the first time ever he posted an ordinary letter. You may think he’s too young or that my parental education is a joke? Well, think of the fact in just three years from now he would be influencing some decisions related to your business. Even using e-mail for communication is too old-fashioned in his mind. Instant action and reaction is essential for the new generation way of connecting. They are grown up with internet, fed with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in mother’s milk, are online-alltime and never installs a local program on their computer – they don’t own any. Softwares are services and they like to try instead of buy. They know exactly what products you sell, your weaknesses compared to your competitors and even got referrals long before you would ask to send your case studies of your most loyal customers to them.

Summary
First thing is to stop destroying your own brand. Discontinue using the phone as a tool if you don’t know the recipient. Second; start take part in industry forums, blogs and social networks. Try not to sell, try to help. Even if the buying process would be invisible you will increase the possiblility they will contact you later on. And last, but not least; be prepared of people like my son soon will be the decision maker of your deals.

Would you make a cold call to him? You’d rather wait…

Please download the Sales Scenario app for iPad, thanks.

Take care / Stefan

Who is doing the farming in new sales?

This is an old favourite of mine. Still I realize so many clients still struggling setting an organization and process for just a simple thing; Communication. Do we ever learn to be truly collaborative within our internal organizations? Not being that at first, how would we cope with the next challenge, approaching by very high speed: the external and social dimension in collaboration?

The Sales Process Blog

While New Business sales focus on signing the potential customer as quickly as possible, key account management’s target is to expand existing customer engagements. How can you combine these two opposite momentums for better profitability?

Hunting and Farming differences

When first finding a potential customer, obviously they have got some type of need or problem. The qualification process evaluates type of need, when the business may take place, if there is a budget, our type of solution to their problem, if we may identify decision makers and so on. If all goes well sales management keep pace pressure on to close the deal in line with defined KPI’s so the sales rep can start focus on the next opportunity.

Hold on for a sec. Two questions;

  1. Was it the right customer need the sales rep went for?
  2. Didn’t the potential customer have more than the initially identified need?

The point is if there was…

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Year To You All!

Our Best Regards,

Stefan & Håkan

2013 ends with a confession…

I have to admit, against my better judgment, I have fallen for some trends. Perhaps I’m getting to an age where I have surrendered my principles, but I am doing it to gain something else. Statistics! I love numbers and have found a couple of areas that are trendy right now that provide me with them. So, principle for numbers is my trade-off.

The first trend was to exercise. Not that I am lazy and against it, but in my past I have NEVER done anything without the goal to be best or accomplish something extraordinary (like my pipe dream to do an Ironman). If I started with an activity I would drive myself to be a winner or I would quit. But exercising just to stay in shape is new to me. So I got the App “Run keeper” to set goals, follow up my workouts and to stay motivated. It has been fantastic to push me to take that extra run in the week, just to maintain my numbers and to keep pushing my kilometer time.
The second is connected to another part of the health trend, losing weight. So I got a diet App called “ShapeUp”. It has been very helpful to log all my intake and my output. There is a database with all types of food and a bar scanner connecting the scanned product to the calorie input in pieces/slice/weight or volume. Really helpful for med to quickly add in my intake without any big effort, and therefore I do the work and I get my graph. I also track my weight and there are more great features. This helped me lose 8 Kg and kept it interesting!
Why is this relevant? Because the apps I used where tailored to theses specific areas, because they got me to do all the work no other person or software ever got me close to doing before and it delivered results!! I enjoyed doing it! Apart from me taking part of the information, it is now part of the Big Data cloud as information that can be used in a number of areas. I have provided structured data, packaged and ready to be analyzed and it only cost the companies the development cost of the apps to get it.

Why doesn’t this work within companies? Why do tools in companies have to be so complicated and general? Ok, I see that there is a cost, but as a company, can you afford to miss out on data because it is too complicated to collect? At what cost are you missing out on information? What usually happens is that the need is recognized, but the budget is set so that the solution only goes part way. And when people are not filling in the information it’s their fault things are not going the way management expected.

So, before you pack too much into your budgets for 2014 think about this. Find your key areas of change that really matter for your business and make them happen. Make them simple, user friendly and…fun.

Don’t assume where you should know…

How I learned about the grey in life, Part 4

When implementing change you can reach different results depending on how you go about putting the change in place. Change happens everywhere and all the time. I wrote a blog in Swedish about change on the topic that even if you are ready for change, other people around you could have lost a loved one or happened to get on the wrong bus this morning. See the individuals. There is no such thing as a factory worker, an economist, a stock broker, a sales rep, a demand planner, they are only individuals.

This time I am adressing the change process it self. Change can be small, like when your favourite restaurant changes the menu, or it could be a sales process implementation. It could be a short change cycle, like when you decide to cut your hair, or everlasting change like an S&OP implementation. Change is a part of life. For me change is the spice of life. I have small children and my life consists of a constant flow of small changes and therefore everything is a turmoil, in a fun/sucking the life out of me kind of way (people who have grown children often look back and say that these where the days). Without change we don’t challenge ourselves and we don’t learn. 

Change done in the wrong way or change just for the sake of change is a real energy drainer, for all parts involved. If you put alot of work (and money) into making change happen, it is a real waste if you don’t reach your destination. This is why it needs to be handled in a good way

When I learned how little I matter

It has been some years since this happened, and it still haunts me. I hate to fail, but I did. It was my lack of experience and spirit and wanting to do better that dug me a hole to fall into.

I was the in store logistic manager in a medium-sized IKEA store in Sweden. My staff consisted of 3 administrators and a warehouse manager. My warehouse manager had 7 contracted employees and 12 part-time employees under him. Our budget was tight and our goal was to secure that the store was filled to the brim and that it was neat and clean when we opened for our customers. So, no refilling, no empty pallets, no garbage and no forklifts when the first customers arrived. Great principle, a huge undertaking!

The decision to get this rolling was the start of the mess I later found myself in. My biggest problem was to get a schedule to balance how many heads we had, the total budget and the required amount of staff need in place at any given time during the 7 days of the week. If I took my 10 contracts and matched to the budget I barely had any extra hours left for the part-time employees. If I tried to create a schedule for the year using my 10 contracts, placing them to man all the positions, securing all the work that needed to get done, I could not make ends meet. I was missing about 4 heads in any given week, not to take in account our peak periods when I could easily need another 4 heads. I did not want to fire anyone (I could not really for legal reasons), but it was clear to me that we could not do this with so many full-time employees. At the same time, I had committed to make this work.

This required my warehouse manager to work every morning driving a forklift and later in the day was part of covering for coffee breaks and lunch. He was never available for any planning or to sit with the issues himself, so I helped him by stepping in and coming with excel sheets that would calculate schedules and they could even simulate changes (I’m good at excel). I also negotiated some contracts with the other departments creating two half time  from two fulltime employees. I stepped in and changed the layout of how the refilling would take place (where to put the pallets, how to unload more efficiently, how the cooperation to other teams worked, where to stack articles, you name it). I found lots of small changes and the schedule managed to squeeze a little bit more out of the team. We met with the team and presented my suggested changes and with only a few comments to the changes I said that we will start immediately. My warehouse manager was still fully occupied by the workload, so I even stepped in to support (and to show some solidarity) since I can handle a forklift. While I was active in the mornings I could monitor what was happening and I could comment on performance and support the staff in how the new way of working was supposed to work. I worked myself to the bone, from 5 am to 6 pm (8 pm some days).

During this period I lost sight of what I was trying to change. Operational issues, disgruntled employees, budget problems, quality issues, and so on, all landed on me. I had become the warehouse manager and in store logistic manager all rolled into one and it was getting us no ware. Finally I gave up, caved, chickened out, lost the game, call it what you want. It was not manageable. Did I mention that I hate losing?

Did I change anything? Yes, some of the routines stuck and there was improvement in some areas. Did I manage to meet the goals and hit the budget? No, I failed. And that’s just it I failed. I did not reach anyone to get acceptance of what I was trying to get done. It was basically my plan and I drove it.

Lesson learned

Since then I have been a part of successful change projects and I learned a lot of change management theory as well.

Stages you need to pass in order to reach acceptance. Your level of energy (regressed or acting out) is on the lateral scale and the stages you must pass or on the horizontal scale.

Change is driven by communication and motivation not good ideas alone. In order to achieve change you need to take the following into consideration:

  • Don’t change everything at once, no matter how tempting this is, that will only prolong the process and is a great recipe for failure
  • All managers need to be ahead in the change cycle, in acceptance, so they can support their people where they are (if both managers and co-workers are in the Immobilization phase, you’re in trouble)
  • Give people time to reflect on the idea of change (the pure fact that there will be change) before you start implementing it
  • Respect individuals, everyone handles change differently and will regress or act out differently (I have been yelled at a few times)
  • Never overstep managers, they have the responsibility to do the job and know their teams (connects to the previous point)
  • Involve people in the process, you need some early adopters that can speak within the ranks about the benefits of the change
  • Set goals that can be measured in order to provide feedback on the progress (KPI’s and OPI’s are great support, done right, we bloged on this earlier)
  • Ask for help, if the change is not going the way you expected, turn to your colleagues to find a way to move things along
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate! Tell people are we, where have we been and where are we going
  • Allow people to speak out and address their input, or you have to take care of rumors or bad seeds sown in your change project
  • Land one change before you throw in the next one

Another lesson I learned is that you can’t always fix a problem you did not cause. I do not consider a problem solved unless it never comes back again. My biggest problems kept coming back because they were created by central planning and I was sitting on the top of the iceberg, so I could only relieve the situation, not resolve it. This is a big reason why I later started to work at IKEA’s main office in Älmhult. By revealing the true nature of a problem you are much better at finding ways to deal with the issues.

If I could do it all over again, I would probably change everything I did, but that’s not a luxury we have in life, I’ll just have to live with my actions.