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Mar 4 15

How Do You Stop A Sales Person From Talking?

by David Brock

Sales people love to talk. They want to talk about their company, their products, how their products and services help solve a customer problems. Turn them on, and they won’t stop, questions don’t deter them.

That’s probably not an inaccurate, but perhaps slightly unfair generalization of sales people.
But try an experiment with your team. Ask them to prepare a prospecting call with a senior executive, giving them the following instructions: You can’t talk about products and services, you can’t take any brochures or catalogs with you, you can’t do a Powerpoint presentation.

Then role play the call.

Once you get past the greetings, too often an awkward silence sets in.

There may be a few questions about the business, maybe some hopeful questions about needs that would enable the sales person to immediately start talking about products.

Maybe to cut the awkward silences, the sales person might ask, “How are things going,” “Sure great weather we’ve been having (unless you are in the US Northeast),” “How’s your golf game.”
But the most uncomfortable conversation, yet the one the customer is most interested in is their business. To be fair, most sales people know just enough questions to ask to be in a position to transition the conversation to be about them, their products and their company.

But to get into a deep conversation about the business, about the challenges, about the priorities, about their dreams or opportunities. To then drill down understanding what these issues really mean. How the issues impact personal and business performance. How the issues impact the perception of customers, how the issues impact positioning in markets and with competition is a huge challenge for sales people.

Then drilling down further in to the customer’s metrics, financial operational performance. Discussing the implications of what’s happening, exploring ideas of how performance and the customer’s numbers might be improved.

All these put too many sales people in a difficult place. They don’t know how to carry on these discussions, they don’t know how to understand what’s going on in the business and the implications on the customer. They struggle to connect the dots to, “How can we help them?”

But these are the conversations that matter most to customers.  These are the conversations customers are hungry to have.  They are struggling with difficult issues, their views of what others are doing, new innovations, disruptions in their industry are limited or far outside their experience base. They are eager to learn and understand.

When you look at this issue, it’s not really the sales person’s fault.  Look at how we train sales people, look at how we introduce products, look at the call scripts we develop.  All of them focus on us, our capabilities, our products, and our solutions.

We don’t train people on our customer’s businesses.  We don’t train people in critical thinking or problem solving.  To us, “problem solving” is suggesting our products when we find a customer that has the right needs or requirements.

I was looking at a client’s plan to introduce a major new product line.  They had lots of collateral, lots of training, lots of marketing programs focusing on the product and how “revolutionary” it was.  They had materials on what it could help the customer do, as long as the customer recognized they had a problem.  But they provided nothing to help the sales person guide the customer to recognizing they might have the problem.

They provided no guidance to  “how do we connect the dots from the organization’s top 3 priorities to where we might be able to help them address those.”  Everything depended on the customer doing that for themselves, recognizing they had a need, then researching the web, ultimately calling on the sales person.

I was doing an account review with an outstanding sales person.  He had done a fantastic job of trying to understand what was really driving his customer’s strategies and priorities.  He’d identified a specific issue that was driving the customer to transform their approach to business.

The challenge was, connecting the dots to how his company’s solutions could help the customer address the issue.  Initially, it wasn’t really obvious.

We had start peeling back the layers this particular strategic priority, brainstorming the impact to the company, brainstorming the impact to the parts of the company this sales person’s solutions could impact.

After a little discussion, we could see a clear and compelling path, both on the impact they could have with on the customer, but also on the discussions he could engage customers, at various levels, about how he could help them address these issues, contributing to the top initiatives of the company.

We don’t really want sales people to stop talking.  But we want them to talk about the things customers care about.  We want them to be able to understand their customers’ businesses.  We want to give them the tools to dissect the businesses, connecting the dots to where and how we can help.

Doing this drives a profound change in the conversations and relationships we have with our customers.  It increases our value, differentiation, and the impact in every conversation.

But we need marketing, product management, sales enablement to help equip the sales person to have those conversations with confidence.  We need to coach and develop sales people as business people who can relate to other business people.

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Feb 27 15

I Signed Up For An eBook……..

by David Brock
call center

I saw an intriguing eBook being promoted by a company known for providing Sales Acceleration/High Velocity selling tools.  It was on a topic that I have huge passion for.  I respect the company and wanted to learn more from their research.

I diligently filled out the form, hitting Submit, at 8:00 am.

At 8:01, I had an email with the following:

Thank you for downloading [Title Witheld] eBook. You can click here to access the eBook at anytime. (link deleted)   To see how companies like [Company A, Company B,  Company C] and others are using [Company Name] software to contact, qualify, and sell more, click here to see a live demo.(link deleted)

At 8:02 (actually earlier), my phone rings, I let it go into voicemail.  It’s a salesperson following up on my interest in the eBook and wanting to talk to me about their solution.

I haven’t had a chance to click on the link yet, I really wasn’t interested in a solution, I was just interested in the eBook.

At 8:02, I had an email with the following:

Hey Dave, I saw that you took a look at some of our research and wanted to see when you’d have about 30 minutes where we can show you how our software will increase your sales by 33% in 90 days. Our Video (link deleted)provides a brief intro to what we do. My Best,

I don’t see it for a while, but I’m intrigued.  He must know what we are doing wrong in our sales and marketing.  He already knows enough about our company to tell me that he can increase our sales by 33% in 90 days.  I’d be a fool not to learn the secret he knows about our company and take advantage of it,  So at 9:02, I respond:

[Name Withheld], Thank you for your very fast phone call and email.  I actually haven’t had a chance to review the research.  But I am curious, what is it about our company that makes you think your software can increase our sales by 33%.  I’m always looking to drive growth.  Thx, Dave

At 9:15, I get a response:

Dave,  Let me know when you got some time either today or earlier next week and I would love to get you to one of my Account Executives so you can see an on screen demo that would be customized to you. Regards,

“Hmmm,” I think.  He really is in pitch mode.  He wants me to see his software.  But I still don’t know what errors my company is making.  I don’t know why we are so screwed up that in his 2 minutes of research on our company, he was able to discern the problems we have and can increase our sales by 33% over the next 90 days.  I really want to understand that first, he must be onto something, because it was apparently so obvious to him……..

At 9:19, I respond:

But [Name Withheld], I really don’t care about a demo.  You seem to have some insight about how to improve my sales 33% in 90 days.  What is it about our company that makes you think that is achievable?  I’d really like to understand that before I commit to a demo.  Looking forward to hearing more, Hugs and Kisses, Dave [OK, I’m using a little literary license on the Hugs and Kisses part, I really just said “Regards.”]

At 9:31, I get a response.  It has the obligatory 3 product brochures that I’m supposed to open and read.  His response:

Hey Dave, Great question… Our software is directed towards inside sales teams. increasing contacts, contact ratios, and managing your leads so you get the most out of them. On average we see in increase of 33%. For your company personally I’m not sure but want to find out your sales process to see if we are a good fit.   In a recent case study with [Multi Billion $ Software Company], we increased their lead contact rate from 21% to 74% in just 3 months, and with that came a 33% spike in revenue.  We believe science trumps intuition; that sales growth is a matter of math, not magic. When you have had a chance to check out the documents I’ve attached, I would love to hear more about your sales process and show you how our software works.  Brief Overview Video  (link deleted)  I look forward to hearing from you.

I’m really confused at this point.  I thought he knew our company, perhaps he’d gone to our web site, or this blog, or even looked at my LinkedIn profile.  We aren’t a Multi Billions $ Software Company.  We are a Multi Millions $ Boutique Consulting company.  So our businesses are very different.  The majority of our “sales calls” are with very senior level executives of Global 1000 companies.  There aren’t 1000’s of them every year, possibly 100’s…..

Based on the brochures the sales person sent me, apparently we are missing out.  We should be using high velocity and “power dialing technologies.”  It’s a novel idea, in the past, since our prospects are very busy, we had worked with them by email or worked with their assistants in scheduling calls with them.  Sometimes, the calls are scheduled weeks in advance–base both on their calendars and ours.  Perhaps, that’s the reason we aren’t selling as much as we could, as fast as I could.  Perhaps power dialing will get us to talk to them much sooner.  I have to think on that one a little bit.

I hadn’t, honestly considered inside sales as a solution to my revenue problem.  So I decided to do a quick customer survey.  I happened to have a short call scheduled with the CEO of a very large technology company.  It was a quick call on an issue we were working on with his company.  At conclusion of the conversation, I asked, “Would you mind if I asked you a question about our own selling?  Should we be using inside sales people to be prospecting with people like you?”  He reflected–he has great experience with inside selling because 30% of their sales team is inside sales people.  He reminded me of how we first connected, the depth of the conversations we had when we were assessing each other.  He concluded, “They have to be able to conduct the same level of conversation as you and I had.”  Then he said, “If they could conduct that kind of conversation, wouldn’t they be part of your consulting team?”  He has a point……

It’s 10:08, I’m still tantalized, yet confused by these emails.  Clearly, we are really screwing up.  We apparently aren’t using the science and math of selling.  We apparently aren’t using data the way we should.  I had thought the most relevant data was understanding the customer, their business, and potential triggers.   Somehow, we believe a prospecting call is about the customer, not about our products and services.

Somehow, we believe our initial conversations should also be about them and their business, about opportunities they might pursue, about things that may be disruptive to them and their customers.  About problems they are having…..

I know this sales person couldn’t be making a mistake.  When you read their website, when the CEO speaks, the focus is all about the customer and engaging them in conversations about the business.  They talk about knowing your customer and having relevant data and knowledge, leveraging that in high velocity conversations with the customer.

So, clearly I’m really missing something.  I guess I should read the brochures and commit to a demo.

I wonder if they will write 33% revenue growth in 90 days, into their contracts?

How could I have screwed up so badly?

Can you straighten me out?

It’s 10:43, I’m sitting by my phone……..

 

 

 

 

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Feb 27 15

Sales Must Own And Solve The Content Marketing Problem!

by David Brock
Content Marketing Cartoon

Now hold on, count to 10, take a deep breath.  For my marketing friends, I’m not betraying you and giving up on marketing.  For those of you who’ve read my posts railing against sales people blogging, I’m not changing my point of view.

I’m talking about a very specific marketing/content problem that no one other than the sales person can address.  It’s marketing content for an audience of 1–at this very moment.

It’s very unique.  It’s content, that addresses my specific problem, concerns, and priorities right now–because they may be slightly different from those I have tomorrow.  It’s content that captures my imagination, helps me understand opportunities for my organization, based on where we are and what we are doing right now.

It’s content that’s different from the person sitting at the desk next to me.  Yes, she’s involved in the project, but she has different concerns and priorities than I have.  So the content you deliver to her, may not be wholly relevant to me.

And I expect you to offer thought leadership–but not the same stuff you broadcast to everyone else, or even that stuff you talk about to the person sitting next to me.

I want your thought leadership about WIIFM–for me and my organization.  I want to know why you think I should care, what I am missing, how I might improve, and what specific results I’ll get.  And I want this for me personally and for the organization I lead.

That content won’t come from your brochures, or your data sheets, or your case studies, or your blog posts.  It won’t come from your capabilities guides, or corporate presentations–though all that stuff might help you in creating meaningful and relevant content for me.

The content I need comes from you engaging me in conversations and a discussion about what I do, what my people do, what my boss is expecting of me, what my customers and suppliers want.  In comes from understanding my dreams and goals.  It comes from understanding what does keep me awake at night (other than the cat using my body as a punching bag.).  It is specific to me and my priorities today.

What I believe in about the content with which you are engaging me depends on 1)what I believe in you, 2) what you know about me and is driving me right now, and 3)the relevance of what you are saying to my situation today.

It is less about your company, the rich content available to me and 1000’s of others, the 1000’s of likes, the RT’s, or any of the typical content or social metrics….. MEH.  It may have provoked an interest, but ultimately, it’s about how you make me feel and how I can feel certain that working with you won’t get me fired, but will help me and my organization learn, improve, do better—-and perhaps get my boss off my back.

It will help me understand why I must change, it will get me hot and lathered to drive the change.  At the same time it will help me, and you will help me manage the change and risks associated with it.

Sales people are the only people that can solve this content problem.  It’s not a marketing person, a content writer, or even another sales person blogging halfway around the world.  For those of you who’ve been in telecom, you will recognize it as the classic last mile problem.

Before, I go further, sales people must know it’s mandatory they solve this problem–that they focus specifically on personalization, relevance, engagement on specific issues.  That they are conducting a conversation, asking questions, listening, providing a point of view, listening, responding, engaging a customer on her specific journey through her part of the buying process.

Delivering the standard brochures, the corporate presentations, becoming a walking piece of collateral is meaningless and doesn’t help the customer with their last mile problem.  It’s further meaningless, because the customer has probably already seen it–at a website, through a download, or from some other sources.

Marketing cannot solve that problem–but they can help a huge amount.  Marketing can get groups of customers interested and motivated.  They can start the process, providing general information.  They can help shorten the gap between content for many and content for 1-at this very moment.  They can provide content specific to the personas we as sales people work with, specific to industries, the functions, the specific problems, companies and people most like the customer we are engaging (Me in the example above.

Marketing can use great technology and analytics to understand what might be most interesting to our customers right now, pushing it to them in their preferred channel(s).

Sales enablement can help too.  We sales people might be trained in how we bridge the gap of one to many, to one to few, to one to one–at this moment.

We sales people might be trained in what questions to ask, how analyze the responses to provide the right information.  Sales people might be trained in how to challenge perspectives, opinions and points of view, helping shift them.

We might have tools that enable us to use the customer’s specific data to analyze the results or ROI.  We might use demos, evaluations or benchmarks to show, specifically, how something might work in the customer’s environment.

Sales people have a critical role in developing and delivering compelling content.  It’s that ability to connect, personally, in terms meaningful and relevant to specific individuals at a moment in time.

No one else in the organization has this charter or ability.

So sales people have to solve the “last mile” content problem.  They have to own it, they have to deliver it, they cannot be diverted by anything else, or any more general, broader audience.

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Feb 26 15

Exceptional Pattern Recognition

by David Brock
pattern recognition

I wrote Obsessive Learning/Relentless Execution as a start of a series on what sets the very best performers apart from everyone else.  Periodically, I’ll be adding more articles, as well as video interviews of some of these people (so you can see what makes them tick.)

Amy Chang, CEO of Accompany**, is one of those exceptional performers. On reading the article, she sent me a comment describing much of what connects the learning–execution pieces.  She described it as Exceptional Pattern Recognition.

It’s an exceptional talent we see in the very top performers in any field.  They look at the same things everyone else is looking at, but see things differently.  They see patterns in markets, what people are doing, what’s happening.  They are able to connect what to many of us seem to be disparate, unrelated things, see them differently, add a spark of an idea and create something new.  They not only look for what’s there, but they also look for what’s not there, patterns in the voids, gaps, or holes give us opportunity to innovate, invent, and build entirely new things.

Pattern recognition is really a key concept–more important everyday with data/information/change overload.

One of the real challenges all of us face is knowing what’s important, what’s meaningful, what do we need to pay attention to?  Without the ability to sift through all the information we need to deal with or how to figure out when you are in the middle of executing, what’s the most important thing to do now.

Top performers seem blessed with the capability of absorbing huge amounts of information, constantly, and sorting though it, connecting the dots and focusing on what’s important to achieving their goals.  they excel at figuring things out, focusing on them and executing.

But there are some tools that make this easier for the rest of us to sort through everything we face every day and doing those things that enable us to achieve our goals.  Too often, however, we ignore them, consequently making things more difficult for ourselves and our customers.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Our sales process:  Someone’s done all the heavy lifting for us, they’ve looked at our company’s collective experiences in winning and losing.  They’ve extracted the patterns that create success, outlining them in our sales process.
  2. Our sweet spot:  Like the sales process, our sweet spot represents the customers that have the problems our company is the best in the world at solving.  Clearly, focusing on those customers drives our success, selling outside our sweet spot causes our win rates to plummet.
  3. Leveraging personas:  Understanding the key personas involved in selecting our solutions, what drives them and how we most effectively engage them.  Fortunately, marketing has done the heavy lifting on this.  They’ve done the research, they understand the drivers, ideally, they’ve provided meaningful content to help us engage them.
  4. Facilitating our customer buying processes:  In complex B2B sales, our customers don’t often go through solving these problems, organizing themselves to buy, aligning priorities, agendas, defining the problem, evaluating alternative solutions, selecting, justifying, and selling the solution internally.  They struggle with doing this, which is why so many decisions result in no action or no decision made.  But we are involved with many customers every day.  We know what they should be doing, how they should be organizing and aligning ourselves.  Leveraging our experience of going through similar situations dozens of times every year, we know what they should focus on, what others do, and the things that lead customers to successful outcomes.
  5. Developing and delivering Insights to our customers:  Insights are nothing more than seeing things our customers may not see.  Possibly, because they are so busy, they don’t take the time to look around.  Possibly because it’s very far outside their experience base so they simply are unaware.  Possibly because they aren’t aware of new innovations and opportunities.  We can help them see and take advantage of these opportunities.  Help them recognize patterns, they may simply be blind to.
  6. Ideal partner profile/partner enablement programs:  If we deal with partners or channels, we have a long history of who our customers buy from, what types of partners produce the best results, what things we need to do with them to produce success.  If we haven’t taken the time to understand this, then our likelihood of success is very low, but if we analyze things, looking at the patterns, the combination of a number of sometimes disparate things, we can characterize the profiles of the partners that are most likely to be successful with us, as well as the things we need to do to help them be successful.
  7. Ideal sales candidate profile:  Understanding the characteristics of those people that perform the best, the backgrounds, experiences, attitudes, behaviors, competencies and so forth —the profile of our most successful performers help us recruit the people that are most likely to be successful.
  8. Well defined on boarding programs:  A well defined onboarding program is based on understanding what drives success in the shortest period of time.  We look at our top performers, we look at past errors and great things we’ve done to help people perform in the shortest time possible.  If we haven’t taken the time to do this, then we need to, so we maximize the probability of success and shorten ramp time for our people.
  9. Coaching and developing our people:  Each of us has certain patterns of behavior.  We have attitudes, views, ways we do our jobs every day.  Sometimes those patterns serve us well, sometimes they don’t–or we are missing things and can do better.  As coaches, it’s our job to help our people recognize those patterns.  We can help them recognize those things that create great outcomes, that cause us to learn and grow.  We can help them recognize those patterns that don’t serve them, our customers, or our organizations, changing them and improving.
  10. Understanding our relationships and the relationships our customers have:  Leveraging our networks, seeing what’s important to each person in our network, figuring out if there is something we can do for them.  Understanding who may be connected with who, how we might leverage those.  Connecting dots between people, what’s happening that impacts them, who they know.  Trying to figure out how we can enrich and create greater value in those relationships.  Figuring how we might leverage those for referrals to more effectively connect with others.  (For exceptional insight on this, see the note below on Amy’s company–Accompany.**)

I’ll stop here, I hope you are starting to see the pattern I’m developing here (sorry couldn’t resist).  Analyzing past performance, understanding what works, what doesn’t work.  Understanding our customers, our people, and our organizations— and how we create shared success–as well as those things that cause us or them to fail.  Looking not only at what they are doing, but also what they are not doing, or what they may be missing.  All of these are basically forms of looking at patterns, and designing our work to focus on those patterns that best serve us.

It doesn’t take the rare talents of exceptional pattern recognition.  All it takes is paying attention, being aware, being curious, leveraging the power and experience of everyone in our customers and our own organizations.

Pattern recognition/analysis serves to help us understand disruptive forces that adversely impact the results we are trying to achieve.  When the things that we do every day are no longer working, when those patterns that had been successful, no longer are, it’s a call to action.  Something’s changed!

Continuing to do those things, producing the wrong results is foolishness.  (Thanks Albert Einstein for helping us understand this.*)

This is what the truly outstanding performers, like Amy, tend to see.  They see the patterns, they tend to see the holes in the patterns that might be occupied (which could be very disruptive to others). see.  They do it in real time.  But the rest of us can do similar things, leveraging tools, processes, and data we already have.

But we can also do what Amy and others do, we can amp up our performance and our ability to see patterns where others see chaos or nothing by being obsessive about learning and discovering.  Whether we harness that, focusing on our customers and their markets, our companies and strategies, or simply what’s happening in the world around us.  Constant, obsessive learning, then taking action, learning from that is the secret to top performance.

Do you recognize the important patterns that impact your customers and your business?

Are you leveraging these patterns to consistently produce the outcomes you want?

Are you recognizing when the patterns are changing, or you need to break them?

* For those of you who don’t know Albert Einstein’s quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.”  Perhaps second to his general theory of relativity in terms of important contributions he’s made.

**  For those of you who don’t know Accompany you need to get on their Beta List.  Accompany is developing a game changing application to the market.  Part of it is really about pattern recognition and our relationships.  They are tackling the very challenging problem of “How do we recognize things that are happening to people most critical do us?”  “How do we recognize disruptions impacting those people we work with, leveraging them in our engagement process?”  It’s probably one of the most important tools I’ve seen in helping us connect with the right people, at the right time, engaging them in the most impactful conversations.  But, (truth in advertising time), I’m very biased, I’m on their advisory board.  I use their tool every day and couldn’t imagine not having it.

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