The No 1 Reason Losing Your Customer

(the blog post also available as a podcast here)

Recently one of my friends Richard told me he got a new customer, barely without efforts. He was served the customer with a golden spoon – he didn’t even searched for the prospect first.

Most of us wouldn’t believe in such luck. We know the hard work to set up the selection criterias, search for potential customers that fit the criterias, cold calling to book the meeting, be lucky they’ve got need and budget for you stuff, get rid of competitors and, if you’ve passed the needle’s eye so far, negotiate and win the deal.

Richard told me he got the lead qualified: the potential client got the need, the budget and he was also invited to exactly the right decision maker when the timing was perfect. He just closed it straight away.

How could that be?

And, if you think about it a little further; he replaced an existing vendor before they had any chance to stop it! Could the same happen also to you?

chains

Of course it can. If I explain what happened, you may get some clues to prevent it happening with your customers.

So, it all started with a friend to my friend. Let’s call this person Joe. Joe was just about to change job when Richard met him. Politely, Richard asked Joe where, and Joe told him. Nothing more, until Joe really started his new job.

Joe saw, as most of do when we come into new situations, needs and problems at his new job with new fresh eyes. Quickly he increased his credibility and gained confidence from the bosses.

Most of us make business with people we trust. Joe’s bosses were listening to Joe’s ideas and trusted him when he told them he got a friend – guess who – that could solve exactly their problems.

Richard became invited just in time to meet with Joe and his bosses. Of course Joe had told Richard every little details about their needs, problems and decision makers he needed. The win was almost ready when the meeting started.

I don’t say this will be true in all cases, but if you don’t take control over such potential situations, you’ll be out before you may react. And vice versa, may this be a strategy to gain new sales as well?

Good luck,

Stefan

(BTW: Richard and Joe have another names in the real world)

The Sales War Room

Many times the sales rep is left alone to build his case, what products to sell, set the strategy to win, decide on how to communicate and how tough he should be in contract negotiations. And it’s often anticipated that these skills are mandatory for sales people to have. We all know there’s no such sales person available. The top ones may be close enough to make a success, but we all are a mix of congenital and trained skills. It’s like in every sport; the top performers are always those where optimal congenital skills are combined with the right sport, where these skills are utilized at the most. I other words, very seldom – Michael Jordan, the former Chicago Bulls basket ball star or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, soccer player for Manchester United, are such rare examples.

Still, there are ways to reach ultimate sales skills without invest a fortune in sales training of mediocre or even pretty good sales reps, to win large complex deals.

The Sales War Room.

Sales War Room

 

Shortly after the millenium shift, there was a huge dotcom death. Hyped IT companies valued billions of dollars just went bankrupt in a few months. I’d been successful in sales of IT for some years and was recently recruited by a large enterprise selling huge complex ERP systems to large companies. I was a young ambitious sales rep and it was a challenging business environment – nearly recession, but the most frightening thing was how I would be able to sell those complex systems?

But I managed. I was more successful than ever before. The secret was our Sales War Room.

When all other business units in our enterprise failed, my own unit won everything we decided to go for. The sales war room was a way of compress the very best experts available in one single place for one single day. The outcome was a sales case playbook for just that case: Exact what products or services to sell, how to sell, what to communicate to whom, how to get rid of competition, what to negotiate, what not to negotiate etc – simply all single details how to win the specific sales case.

A sales war room can surely be set up in many ways, but one of the keys for success is time. We gathered all the very best experts we could find in the entire business unit from all relevant areas. By doing that, the time was very limited. All best experts really have very limited time. So we decided pretty long time in advance what cases to go for and invited early – a month in advance was not unusual. We couldn’t book more than a day in total, just to keep it intense and efficient and the activities for the day were:

  • Brief introduction of the sales case by the sales rep (me)
  • Every expert then prepared a preliminary proposal or solution in his expert area
  • All experts were gathered without participation from the sales rep, to create a common solution together
  • Experts adjusted their proposals or solutions
  • The draft solution was presented to the sales rep
  • More adjustments were performed by the experts
  • The final presentation of common solution and proposal was done, where it was secured the sales rep did know exactly how to act and behave towards the potential customer.

I feel most sales reps are too lonely doing these steps, with the impact that less deals are won. A rep always need help, but in more complex cases there are no supermen available.

Having a Sales War Room at hand, you will win all your sales cases anyhow.

A New Customer Without Any Sales; That Isn’t Luck.

A couple of weeks ago a company just called me and said they will buy my product. I hadn’t heard of them before and, of course, I hadn’t done any activity at all to sell. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of their bare existence.

I thought; Ohh, that’s pure luck!

Luck

But it was not. I mean, I was happy having them as customer buying my product, but it was no “luck” involved in getting them.

Five years ago, I got in contact with – as I hoped – a new partner company. We were the perfect match; our products complement each other perfectly. One day they called me in to do an introduction for a couple of hours, so they would be able to understand my product better. Since my hope was that they would provide leads to me, I accepted.

How naive was that, on a scale? Instead of a short introduction, they really pumped out of me all my knowledge. I felt somewhat robbed, but nevertheless, I like to give, so that was not a problem, but after that session I didn’t hear from them. Not a single faint whisper for five years.

Until a couple of weeks ago when my customer told me where they got my name from. “Call Stefan, he’s awesome doing that type of stuff”.

In the new type of sales process, which more or less doesn’t exists in the same way as before, the buyer is king. And in the new internet economy, most things of commodity are anticipated to be free. This means you cannot sell first. To sell, it’s anticipated you give first, to have a chance of any reward.

Lucky you, Sales Rep! In the new social world it’s easy to give. Of course you need to have some sort of skill, that may be sought after. Use that expertise to get into discussions, but be aware: DON’T SELL! Just provide your knowledge in a humble and confident manner, and you will leave a good aftertaste.

Lesson learned, your chances to be rewarded is much greater if you give first. It may take a long time, but sooner or later you will see the positive effects of giving are greater than the negative.

Happy Giving!

Stefan

 

 

 

Real Customer Need Is Not What They Are Telling You

I’ve just started to use my new Apple Watch. It was an unexpected gift on my recent birthday. My first thoughts was:

  • What will I do with such thing?
  • I don’t wear any watch at all
  • Actual time is always displayed on my mobile’s lock screen

Today, that little thing is one of my best friends. And that happened in about four weeks. How did that happen?

Watch

The answer is of course Apple showed me an alternate behavior I couldn’t resist. As I know Apple they are excellent of showing alternate behaviors. The best – and most discussed – example is of course the introduction of iPhone 2007.

At launch, most people said a lot about the iPhone – it’s was too expensive, too bad to make calls, too slow, etc… But when the war was over, it was named The Invention of The Year in 2007 by Time.

In 2007, the market for smart mobile phones was completely dominated by the Nordic companies Nokia and Ericsson. They made phones evolved from a history of making just that – phones. They hadn’t the culture to create anything but phones. Of course, there were some alternatives – but who remember Microsoft CE nowadays…? A compressed windows interface into a small screen, delivered along with a stylus pen. Microsoft claimed it’ll be the way to go, since people would like to have the user interface just like the same as in user’s PC.

In summary, the dominators’ proposal was either to use just phones or micro-sized computers on mobile devices. What Apple created instead, was a new behavior for a lot of people, ending up by taking  the computer into the streets.

Exactly the same happened 2010, when Apple launched the iPad. I remember my words of wisdom; “OK, I have an iPhone and a PC; why should I bother to buy an iPad?” We all know, Apple took the PC to the couch, giving internet surfing it’s natural place or to the kitchen creating a fast and convenient way of searching and reading baking recipes. Again, Apple changed our behavior.

To learn from this stories in your everyday selling, you have to stop think about the needs your prospect tells you about. To make you successful, you have to make your prospect successful – that’s the usual way to go in all sales. To accomplish that, you will have to investigate harder not what they tell you they need today based upon what they see in the near future. You have to propose to them where you think they have to go to change their customers’ behavior.

It’s not enough to make them successful today, to be the one they hold on to in the future. You need to visualize for them what they need tomorrow to get major competitive advantages.

Just as simple as that, Apple Watch changed my behavior in many ways, for example while running. I can follow my pulse, average pace, distance and at the same time discuss my new sale with a colleague. All data collected and summarized in nice presentations compared to my health and business goals.

Apple took my office into my running trails – and gave me additional productive time while keeping my body in good shape. That’s a success for me. Think of what successes you would like to provide to your prospect’s customers in the future.

Only then you will be successful as a salesman.

 

 

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.

Passion Makes Excellence In Sales, Too

Did you know one of the most successful songwriters and producers is Max Martin, the man behind numerous hits by Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Backstreet Boys (yes, I’m really so old…) and incredible twenty-one No 1 on the Billboard list?

What is his burning flame? What are his key success factors? If we can define them, may we translate them to a sales environment as well?

Passion in heart

Let’s give it a try.

Definition No 1. Learning the craftmanship.

Recently I read an interview with Max Martin in the swedish newspaper DI Weekend (interview is in swedish) by Jan Gradvall. Max Martin invited passionated young people to his studio to “get the right feeling” for years. The “pupil’s” work tasks included making coffee and other basic alternative boring tasks, not connected to music at all. But they consumed the atmosphere, the culture in the studio. They learned the details the hard way by just being there. Why would talented producer wannabes spend that enormous amount of time just making coffee? One reason is of course the fantastic opportunity to meet famous pop stars. Wouldn’t it feel nice serving a cup of coffee to  Bon Jovi ? But that’s not my point. To produce a song going to the top of the Billboard list, it requires craftmanship.

In sales, the craftmanship will start being a sales or marketing assistant to senior sales pros or learn from them by listening or reading their books.

Definition No 2. The fuel is Passion.

To learn to be a craftman it takes years – and blood, sweat and tears. If you like to be a famous producer, being in an environment like Max Martin Studio would be the perfect place learning perfection. To cope with daily coffee making I believe you have to have a lot passion for music. The passion is the fuel you will be putting into it, it’s your investment in your education.

What is passion in sales? Of course, it’s the love of talking to prospects and customers, but I think of it on a little higher level. It’s the every-day moments in your life. If you choose a crime novel before you go to bed in the night instead of a sales book by Dave Stein, you probably haven’t got the sales passion. But if the shoe size of your prospect’s CEO does matter to you, you’re on the right level. If you are taking classes in your spare time (instead of watching a movie or playing softball) to learn more about the prospect’s business environment, you are on track having sufficiently high content of passion in your blood.

Because there are no short cuts creating perfection. And you will need perfection to exist in a never ending increase of competition.

Take care / Stefan