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Oct 24 16

Are You Selling What Your Customer Is Buying?

by David Brock

I’ll jump to the bottom line, then retrace my steps.  “Customer buy holes in walls, not drills.”  Actually, they may not be buying holes in walls, they may actually be looking to attach something to the wall…..

Yeah, I know you’ve heard that old maxim or a variant for years, possibly decades.  Perhaps the reason the saying is constantly resurrected is we are constantly forgetting it.

Take a moment and reflect on the last dozen prospecting calls or emails you received.  What were they about?  Probably 80% of the legitimate ones (not those in your SPAM filter) were about a product or solution.  Opening my inbox this morning, I was inundated with prospecting emails:

  • 2 from separate companies telling me I need to buy their solutions/attend their webinar on the value of account planning (both of these companies I highly respect.).
  • 3 on various marketing automation programs, all saying “content is king” and I need to get on the content bandwagon,  creating more relevant content and leveraging it more effectively.
  • A couple saying I needed to improve my selling skills.  They went on to focus on specific skills, I’m apparently deficient in LinkedIn, Blogging, and Social Media.
  • Several promising me more and higher quality leads. (But if their “dear occupant or current resident” approach to me was indicative of their approach, I’ll pass.)

The list goes on, all presenting their products and capabilities, but none tapping into things that might be useful to me.

They focused on what they were interested in, their products/services and their desire to have me hear about them.

They didn’t even present problem or opportunity scenarios that I might be having–which their products addressed.

Customers and prospects don’t care about you, they care about themselves and their businesses.  They, like all of us, are drowning in complexity.  They struggle to get their jobs done, at the same time want to learn, improve, grow, and address new opportunities.  Most of all they want to be successful.

Engaging our customers can be so simple.  It’s just a matter of finding out what they want to do, engaging them in conversations about that, and demonstrating how you can help them.  But why don’t we do this?

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Oct 18 16

Encountering Resistance

by David Brock

My friend, Charles Green, wrote a stunning article:  Is Selling Too Hard, Maybe You’re Doing It Wrong.  Make sure you read it.

His article caused me to start thinking about Resistance.  We all encounter resistance from our customers, it seems the harder we push, the greater the customer’s resistance (for those students of physics, you will recognize the commercial application of Newton’s Third Law of Mechanics).

The more we want to sell, the more we want to reach out to pitch our products, the more it seems they resist.  We try everything we can–inundating them with emails, constant prospecting calls.  We employ the latest and greatest technologies to drive volume and velocity in our quest for someone to speak to.

Yet the resistance from customers continues to skyrocket!  Last week, in a discussion with a client’s customers, they continued to echo what we hear all the time:  “I won’t answer a phone call from anyone I don’t know, I leverage my email system and other tools to divert all the sales emails I get, All that sales people are interested in is pitching the products…….”

We all know the complaints, yet we are in an escalating battle for attention–all of which creates more and more resistance.

As I reflected on both Charlie’s article and the discussions about the skyrocketing resistance we face in reaching customers, my inner “Mr. Miyagi” emerged.  I remembered some of the lessons I’ve had in Tae Kwon Do and Tai Chi.

Any one who has done anything in any of the martial arts knows that we are much more effective when we use the momentum, motions, actions, and weight of the person to help us achieve our goal.  Rather than resisting or pushing, we leverage their flow and energy to more effectively beat the opponent.

While, I don’t like the imagery of thinking of customers as opponents, fighting with them and defeating them; the concept of using our customer our customers’ interests, actions, motions, strategies, and initiatives as means of more effectively engaging them is tremendously appealing.

Just like in the marital arts,  we know that brute force and strength doesn’t win, but brute force with our customers only drives resistance.

Instead, resistance is eliminated when we stop going “against” what the customer wants to do.  When we focus on the things they are interested in, the concerns they have, we engage them far more easily—having little or no resistance.

This shift is actually easier than one would think.  Our customers don’t care about our products, they don’t care about our long list of references and impressive accounts, they care about what they care about, their goals, opportunities to grow their business, opportunities to improve, even just getting more sanity in their lives.

If we engage customers in discussions about what they care about, there is no resistance.

Even more powerful is providing our customers the leadership, getting them to think about their businesses differently, helping them see new opportunities, is another opportunity to engage our customers differently.

The simple change in how we engage our customers is so powerful.

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Oct 17 16

First Impressions

by David Brock

I got one of those calls today.  Not dissimilar to some of the other calls I’ve described in past posts.

The sales person called wanting to talk about sales performance management.  I’m always interested in sales performance management and learning more, after all, the majority of Sales Manager Survival Guide is about sales performance management.

The call started well, she introduced herself, the company, and wanted to talk about issues I had with sales performance in my company.  I responded, “Actually, I don’t have issues.  The team is doing very well, we’re ahead of plan……”

She asked, “How do you measure and track performance?”

I responded, “There are two key sets of metrics that provide the leading indicators, and naturally we look at revenue attainment as a trailing indicator.”

She replied, “You may not be tracking enough things, you should probably be doing more.  Often customers struggle because they don’t have the right tools to make it easy to track performance…”

Curious, I asked, “Why do you think we aren’t tracking enough things?  We’ve studied they key drivers to our business, and the two that we track seem to be really good for us?”

She then started to talk about a whole bunch of metrics, number of calls per day, call duration, and more.

I responded, “We’ve looked at those metrics, and they really aren’t meaningful for our business.  Here’s why we’ve chosen what we’ve done….”

At this point, the call was going downhill very fast.  To the sales person’s credit, she understood.  She was trying to get out of the call, suggesting a follow up call from an account manager or a demo—I have to give her credit, she went for the demo.

She clearly recognized she was way over her head.  She wasn’t able to support her end of the conversation.

I asked her if she minded if I asked a few questions.  “How did you identify me to call, who do you typically target for your calls….”  She explained she was targeting CEO’s and VP’s of Sales for small to mid sized companies.

I asked, “How long have you been doing this?  How much sales management experience have you had, what kind of training have you had?”

She responded, “I’ve been doing this for a little over a year, I started in inbound, then a few months ago moved to outbound.  This is my first real job since graduating from college…”  She described the training–basically some scripting, some provocative questions and challenges to the customer, some qualification questions, some rudimentary objection handling.

I asked, “Have you ever had the opportunity to spend time with your manager or your VP of sales to understand what they do for sales performance management and the issues they face?”  She responded, “Wow, that’s a cool idea, but they never seem to have the time.  They just tell me to follow the playbook.”

We talked a little more, I felt a little bad that I had taken so much of her time, she probably could have made another 10 dials in the time we spoke.

As I reflected on the conversation, I thought, “Is her management being fair to her?  Are they making the best first impression they can make?  What opportunities do they loose because of their inability to engage the customer correctly?”

This poor sales person was doing the best job she could.  She was doing what she had been trained to do, she was following her playbook, but she was failing.  She didn’t have the experience base to engage the target prospects in the way these prospects would have wanted to be engaged.

It wasn’t her fault, but she had been set up to fail, and in doing so was creating a bad first impression of her company and their offerings.

I’m all for specialization.  I think there is a powerful role for SDR’s, but too often we set them up to do something they shouldn’t be expected to do.

In most organization, SDRs are entry level sales positions.  In the best of cases, they have been selected correctly, well trained and have good tools.  Then they are turned loose on customers.  Typically, they are calling customers who may be very experienced in their roles.  Whether it’s sales and marketing (if you sell sales and marketing tools), IT/Development, if you are selling IT tools, HR executives if you are selling HCM, and I can go on.  You get the point.

These new sales people are expected to engage experienced professionals in discussions about their business or functions.  They are expected to conduct conversations of sufficient quality to create a favorable first impression, and moving the customer to the next step.

Is that a reasonable or fair expectation?

Should we be expecting that of people in an entry level (or near entry level) sales role?  Are we positioning them and ourselves for success?

For example in the case of the sales person who called me, I’m not arrogant or naive enough to expect her to have the depth of experience I have in sales performance management.  After all, it’s taken me over 30 years of learning what I’ve learned so far, and I still need to learn more.

But it’s not unfair to expect a reasonable first level conversation.  It’s not unfair to expect them to have a reasonable grasp of the issues people in the roles they call  are facing.  It’s not unreasonable to expect them to go off script a little and to go at least one level deeper.

If these entry level sales people can’t, then they are not likely to get their customers interested.  If they can’t they risk creating a bad first impression of their company and offerings.

It’s no wonder so many SDR calls are calls focused on the product, “We have the hottest product to solve problems you face, are you interested in learning more, can I schedule a follow-up demo?”

They don’t have the experience base, training, support to engage the customer in discussions about their business, so they have to revert to “we have a product that solve problems that people like you have….”

In reality, we prepare them to intersect people that are well into their buying journey and are interested in discussing specifics about solutions.  But we miss huge numbers of opportunities for people that are very early in their cycle or haven’t even recognized the need to change.  While we may be contacting them, because we can’t engage them in meaningful conversations, we not only lose opportunity, but we create bad impressions.  How likely are they to re-engage later in their buying journey, when the initial impression was so bad?


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