Friday, July 29, 2011

Demo Duck Walk

I break into a cold sweat every time I see it. That two hour Outlook meeting request for an intro demo to the whole team. You know it isn't productive, I know it isn't productive, the salesperson knows it isn't productive (God knows I've told them enough times), so why do we do it? The prospect requested it. So that begs the question, should we demo how we think the product best fits the needs, or the way the client wants to see it demoed?

The first school of thought is the customer is always right. If we don't follow their requirements, we will be excluded. They will get mad. We make it hard to sell to them. There is some truth to this statement. If you just do what you want, you will create a negative feeling, especially if you cause the facilitator to feel embarrassed in front of their superiors.

The second school of thought is who cares what they want? If I can't show my solution the way I need to, what's the point, I'm not likely to win anyway. I agree whole heartedly with this statement. You could have the easiest product in the world to use, and if you have to keep logging in and out to show different views, it will seem unusable.

Then there is the Steve school of thought. The Steve school of thought is to plan on demoing the way you need to demo to meet the client's needs and show your product at its smoothest, easiest, and simplest way. But before you launch into this demo, advise the customer you are going to do this. This can be done in the first few minutes of the demo, right after the introductions. I like to start with the following statement. "You have given a lot of thought to this process and have laid out an ambitious agenda. What we have found is people who are most successful in using our solution, first see us demo the product in a logical flow, highlighting all of their requirements."

I generally find a positive response to this approach as I am acknowledging their diligence, but weighing that against industry standards used by their peers. Who wants to seem like the odd duck out?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It is a Fish Eat Fish World

I know the normal saying is dog eat dog world, but for all my time on the farm, I have never seen a dog actually eat another dog. I have a fish tank in my office, and it happens all the time. I also have never seen a health active fish get eaten either. So are you fish food?

If you are an active Salesperson with healthy sales habits not likely to get eaten in your tank. There are some factors that can change that though. The rule they tell me at the fish store is an inch of fish per gallon of tank. Is your tank crowded with too many fish? Are there some sharks and some minnows, or do you have a nice community tank with a happy school of fish?

If you are a happy minnow with a bunch of sharks, you better get busy growing, or you may get eaten. If there are too many fish in the tank, you better stay active and visible, or you may get flushed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

PMS Symptoms

Do you suffer from PMS? Postponed Monthly Sales? You know, that irritable feeling you experience in the last week of the month when you haven’t hit quota and the pipeline is empty? There is no drug you can take to prevent it, but just like the other PMS, the best prevention is diet and exercise. A salesperson needs a steady diet of leads and a lot of exercise presenting solutions, this will prevent PMS.

In sales you are, or should be judged on one thing. Are you hitting your number? This is the one item you are responsible for. In order to be sure you can hit this number, you need to have a large enough pipeline to support this number. This should not be new to you, I am not explaining some brand new idea, never heard before. How does your pipeline look? I thought so.

A weak pipeline creates a weaker pipeline. As you have less and less deals, you have to give more and more concessions to get the smaller number of leads to close. The more you give, the less you have, so the more you have to close to hit your number. This is a sure way to drain the pipeline. So why do you do this? To hit your number. It is like eating chocolate covered potato chips to make you feel better about being overweight.

The best day to think about filling your pipeline was yesterday.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Play Like a Pro

I was at the MSPU boot camp in Charlotte last week and heard Rafael Sanguily instructing in the sales track. One of the things he said that made me think was, you are all professionals, and every professional needs to practice to stay at the top of their game. You know what else a professional needs? The ability to shrug off a loss and keep digging.

I like watching baseball, and every so often I will see a pitcher just gets lit up. Seems everything he throws is as big as a beach ball. So what happens? The pitcher gets pulled from that game, but his manager makes sure that the pitcher knows that as his manager, he still has faith in him. This allows the pitcher to take the mound on his next outing with attitude and confidence, not as a beaten man.

After you have lost a deal, how do you act? Not how you feel, but how do you act? If you manage a sales team, how do you act when a salesperson loses a deal? Have you done everything you can to make sure that they can perform at a high level next time, or have you shaken their confidence by making them think you no longer believe in them? Just because you have to take the ball, doesn’t mean you have to take their confidence.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Hot is Hot?

A heat wave has settled over the eastern part of the country, and it is hot. It made me think about what I wasn’t doing because of the heat. I haven’t gone for a walk. I haven’t hung out outside, and I run from the air conditioned building to an air conditioned car.  So I wondered, what don’t you do when you have a really hot lead?

Do you hurry pasts some sales steps if they are pushing really hard? Do you skip the assessment, your intro, the close? What part of the process is OK to skip? The answer is you cannot skip any steps in your sales process if you want to be successful.

Once you start skipping steps, you start making assumptions. These always have a way of coming back to bite you. Work the deal, follow the steps, and the money will follow you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hot Coffee @ 30,000 feet

How do you drink hot coffee at 30,000 feet? Very carefully. I realize that I do 100 different things all at the same time, without conscious thought to keep everyone burn and stain free. I also realized, this is how I demo too.

During a demo, what are you thinking, doing, saying? Where are you looking, at who, how, why? The reality is, we have to do all of these at the same time and remember to breathe too. So how do you master this? Just like learning to drinking hot coffee at 30,000 feet, start with water.

They are both liquids, and act much the same, just like demos. A demo for a $300 deal is not much different than one for $3000, except for the size of the stain if you mess up. So during your watered down demos, push yourself. How many things can you do and think at the same time?

Scan the room, note the facial expressions. Do you hear and comments under someone’s breath? What does the office look like, does the carpet need to be replaced (very important, read my last blog), how did the employees act as you walked in and does that fit with the discussion you are having with their management right now? What are the triggers to try to upsell, and what is that upsell solution?

Consciously think about the unconscious and watch the results.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do the Drapes Match the Curtains?

 Visiting an office a while ago I noticed how nothing matched. The carpet was warn and stained, the chairs in reception were new but uncomfortable, and the drapes looked like they could have been on the set of the Brady Bunch. All this meant one thing…Trouble.

So the trouble with any client that has this motif is they just don’t care. I mean if they don’t care what their clients and visitors think, then what do they care about? Money most likely and how not to spend it. Now not every client has a class A office space but there is down scale, and run down. You know the difference.

Now I have sold large deals in many a 1972 faux oak paneled conference room over a scared table. But I also made half the margin I could have. This is generally due to the customer’s lack of concern or care over, acceptable and superior solutions. It is very hard to sell the value of a solution that does more than meet the requirement with this type of customer. You can be sure this client will be sure to ask 2 or 3 others companies to show their solutions,” just to keep everyone honest”.

So would you buy from the people you are selling to?

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Not Lose Your World Cup

The USA Women’s Soccer Team was just handed a stunning defeat by the Japanese Team. How did that happen and can you learn a sales lesson from it? Read on, read on.

So the USA women made two fatal mistakes. First they pushed when they should have realized that had won, they just needed the match to end. So have you ever realized you had won the deal and decided to get it closed right now, only to have it slip away? Sometimes the best option is to know when you are ahead, and act like it. Don’t go into a full prevent defense, more on this in another blog, but don’t take any unnecessary chances either.

 Second, they missed the easy shots. Penalty shots should have a better than 60% chance for a goal. All you have to do is kick it into a big net where the one person isn’t. Sales can be like this too, deals can be lost by missing or not doing the simple things. Don’t lose the big one because you can’t add, spell, or return a phone call.

Don’t collapse, collect.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Phone Sex

Well, not sex really, but sales. All of us learned to sell face to face. Whether it was Girl Scout cookies or used cars, we learned to sell face to face. Learning to read your mark was important, no, critical. Which old lady on the block would by every type of cookie? We all knew her.

So when you sell face to face you can see tells, those eye movements, face twitches, nervous feet, everything you need to steer the sales pitch to keep them in their comfort zone. Most of us now do a lot of phone selling. So unless you are selling with Facetime or Skype, you’ll need another way to do this. So how do you know what your prospect thinks?

The easy answer? Ask. Sounds easier than it is, but not asking is disastrous. Now to be fair, I get called in to do targeted demos…most of the time J. I insist on a list of questions from the prospect, and I get that….most of the time J. This allows me to show an answer to one of the outstanding questions and then ask, “Does this meet your needs”? Really only 3 answers they can give, yes, no, maybe. All can be addressed.

Additionally I ask questions like, can you see yourself using what I showed you, does this match your expectations, will this match your workflows? All of these will not only give you an idea that your solution is on target, but that the prospect is thinking about using your product. Want to know what they think? Ask.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Meet Their Needs or Shock and Awe?

During your needs analysis with the client, you will, or should, discover what features in your solution will meet their needs, and which can blow them out of the water. So do you build your demo, to meet their needs or shock and awe?

This is a tricky point. If you overly shock the prospect they may shut down, too afraid to move. If you shoot too low, another vendor may sweep them away with an amazing presentation. What to do…what to do…

 My philosophy is to win the business then show them the promise land. So meet their needs, get acknowledgement that you have done this, and then discuss phase two. Phase two should start by setting the stage. Show the customer where they are, and where you can take them. Also explain how this is not an all or nothing choice (if it isn’t). The reason for this is change management.

Change Management, in this context, is you managing your customer’s anxiety. I have lost deals I thought were a slam dunk, because it was too much too quick, the owner wasn’t sure his staff could adapt. Managing this type of reaction is change management. Incremental changes, phases, levels, all of these words can help the prospect understand that this “shock and awe” solution can be slowly migrated to, if they wish.

Resist the urge to “blow away” your prospects, or you may “blow up” your deal.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Demo Tourette Syndrome

Does your demo sound like you have DTS? That’s right, Demo Tourette Syndrome. You start out sounding fairly normal, then you start blurting out buzz words, features, and functions. Not pretty.

It has happened to all of us. We all know there are features that will have value to the prospect and may tip the scales in our favor, but… What is one of the keys to a successful technical demo? That’s right, tell a story. Blurting out features does not tell a story, in fact it ruins the flow of any story you may be telling.

So how do we do this, adding some disconnected features to a good demo flow? A little planning is a good start. The discussions you have with the prospect will let you know what features they need to see. If these can be aligned to tell a smooth story, great. But what about the flyers, those features outside of the story? Two stories can be better than one, but even that is sometimes not possible.

Tell your story and get agreement that you have met the primary need, and then say that in addition to all of that, they also will be able to do the following, listing the features and benefits. Hold them till the end, resist the urge to talk about items outside of your storyline while in the same area or module.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Heat Wave or Cold Front?

How are your sales calls treated? Do you come on too strong or too much? Both can cost you deals. So when you call, are you giving heat stroke or frostbite?

Sometimes when I get a sales call, it just feels like the dog days of summer are here. Like I took a wet blanket and wrapped it around my head and tried to breath inside a pizza oven. You know…hot, oppressive, and miserable. This can happen when you come on too much. One call an hour is more than enough. OK, I’m joking. There is a difference between attentive and humidity. What do we do when it gets too hot? That’s right, go to the beach. Heat equals vacation, vacation equals no sale.

Other times when I get a sales call, I swear I could lose my ear to frostbite. The sales jargon rushes out like the winds on top of Mt. Everest freezing everything it touches. Making me want to put on some insulation between me and the winter storm. If your sales contact wants to insulate themselves from you, this is a bad sign. What do we do on a cold winters night? Coat, mittens, hat and scarf. You can’t hear anything in a scarf. If you can’t be heard, they can’t be sold.

This may be a shock, but the prospect is not there for you, you exist for the prospect. When calling make sure say hello and ask how they are before asking about the contract. Maybe you could even call your customers once in a while when you aren’t trying to sell them anything. Think warm spring breeze….

Friday, July 8, 2011

We have liftoff!

What do you think of when you think about the Space Shuttle? Sadly, most people think about one of the tragedies. Not the 133 other successful missions. Not that gleaming white space plane riding a triumphant fire rocket into space. So how was your last demo?

That wasn’t meant to be a sucker punch. It is illustrative of the need to bring your A game every day. We all spend a lot of effort to get into a position where we can show our stuff. Once we are there we need to maximize our time. Even if we can’t sell our stuff this time, will we get considered next time? This demo may determine that.

I have ended up selling stuff to a company I never knew existed because someone sat through one of my demos at another company, remembered it, and call us. You need more than a plan, more than a game, you need your A game.

Thank you NASA for 30 years of amazing Shuttle launches.  

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Practicing spontaneity

We have all heard; over prepare to ensure we succeed. Practice, practice, practice. Have you ever felt your demo or sales pitch is stale? Maybe it is over preparation that makes it so. Have you ever had to demo “off the hip” and knocked it out of the park? Why do you think that is?

When was the last time you heard an exciting telemarketing pitch? Me too, never. Why? You were call number 5,432 for that person that day, and they read everyone from the same script. Shoot me now. A little originality and spontaneity goes a long way. Like a good paint, it covers a lot of blemishes and flaws with your demo.

So why don’t we practice spontaneity? Don’t laugh, why? Well I do, and here is how. Don’t practice your demo, learn your product. If you know your product you can deal with any sales demo question or wrinkle. If you know your demo, God help you if it goes off the rails.

Don’t fall into the trap of giving the best demo they never wanted to see.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Out of Market

Do you sell out of market? Come on, we can be honest here. So I guess the real question is, do you sell out of market on purpose or just because? In either case, stop it. Stop it now. Money is not equal to money. I’ll explain.

So every business has product(s) and service(s) they sell. These items can be used by certain types of customers. This is your target market. Because you are selling into this “perfect fit” market, a market that wants and needs what you are selling, your cost of sale should be lower. The time needed should be less. The custom work needed for implementation, less.

When you start selling into ancillary markets, you have to make your solutions fit. Your standard marketing won’t work, so you need to invest more. You have a longer sales cycle. You implementation will be longer. Retention will be harder.

So assuming you are selling the software and services for the same price in both cases, you will make much more money by selling into your target market. Even if you sell for 20% more outside of your target market, you still will not make as much as you would by selling exclusively into your target market.

So Money doesn’t equal money, no matter how you slice it.