3 stories that reveal if your sales attitude is out of date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

 

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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

 

 

What is Lean sales? – Identify your internal customers!

Continuing from my earlier blogs:

What is Lean sales?
Identify your external customers!

This is where I believe we all assume too much. Most people in an organization have their own networks and routines for communicating within the organization. This has been developed during a long period of time and is handed over from person to person as people change position in the company and as the company grows. It has not been put in place, it has just happened…how do you know that this is the best way to perform the tasks in your company?

Understanding is better than believing, so find out who in your organization you as a sales group hand over information to. Is there a secondary party within your organization that receives information that comes from your group? Should this information not be passed on directly?

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” ― Albert Einstein

Is there a white spot on the map? Is there a group within your organization that is seeking information that you could be providing, but you are not?

I heard a great example of a white spot. In a company working with industrial installations in the 80’s. In some cases the customer provided engines that were supposed to be used in the final product. Normally the purchase department was responsible for all the incoming goods and when they placed the orders, goods management was already planned and article numbers were in place. The customer unique engines would turn up out of the blue, the team handling the receiving would call the purchase department and ask about them, but since the purchasing department had nothing to do with these engines they had no information to provide. The result was that the engines would be stashed somewhere and many where lost on their way to production costing a bundle of money and irritated customers. If the sales department had seen the goods receiving department as a customer and understood their responsibility they would have set up a routine with the receiving group and communicated to the customer how engines need to be labeled and shipped in order for their company to manage them.

These days Big Data is widely discussed. The requirements to enter information are constantly increasing. A lot is probably rubbish, but some will definitely bring value to you or to some other part of your organization who is a customer of this information. Look through your entire business process and organization scheme and truly define who is a receiver from your sales department. It is better to do a few things well rather than trying do a lot and making a mess of it all…so find out where your input will have the biggest impact.

What is Lean sales? – Identify your external customers!

Continuing from my last blog

By “External Customers” I mean customers outside the boundaries of your own organization. In sales this is who you define as your lead/opportunity/customer.

I admit that this area is out of my depth, all I have is the theory about haow to define a market, but I know what you need to use this for, so the requirements are not a problem to define. You need to have a clear aim on what types of customers you will be targeting, what the markets that will supply you with leads are. This is probably not something you do very often and I brought it up because of the importance this step has for the rest of the work.

When working at IKEA I was part of the teams in development of new products. My role was to assist with the forecast information regarding the potential of the new product and gather knowledge about the product so that I could make a plan for how the forecast for the new product and other products in the range will change once we launched.

This was about understanding who our customers are and how they would react (e.g. cannibalization on other products). This was also about understanding what customers we did not have, how the offer potentially would create a new customer base and how we could reach as many potential customers as we could.

I don’t see that B2B sales can be any different. If you have a clear idea of who you are targeting, the rest of the work becomes so much easier.

Usually when I talk to people about the problems they are facing at work I can hear that the client base is so diverse you wonder how they managed to find the deals and if any of the deals made any money. “Selling all we can to everyone…” is not being fair on your organization.

Once you have decided on who your customers are you should write down your assumptions. You have assumed that this group is correct for your company because… (fill in the blank). If you write down your assumptions it will make it easier to see what you might have missed over time.

This customer description needs to be communicated throughout your organization. Everyone needs to be in line with who your customer is. Now there may be parts of your organization that views the customer different e.g. Customer Service, because they deal with another part of the customers organization, but marketing, product development, project teams, production, logistics, and so on, need to have a collective idea of who you talk about when you  “the customer”.

“Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.” ~ Kevin Stirtz

In the next step you will need to create a Sales Plan in order to reach these customers, so you need to put some real effort into getting this right, because if we get all the other steps right, it will be a waste of time if we don’t target the right customers. The perfect execution of a misdirected plan is not something you would want…

First, let us get look at your internal customers.

//The picture is from my infochart over Lean Sales