Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fallen Leader

Another leader of a country is being hunted down like a rabbit. How does this happen? Large and in charge one minute, hiding in a hole the next. This can happen in your sales deals too. One minute you are in control, the next the process is shot and you are there are people running down the streets.

How can you stop this? Truth be told, you can’t always. A sale is a slippery thing that can slide away, and the harder you hold, the more likely it is to slip. Preparation, anticipation, and perspiration are the best preventative measures.

Preparation, know all the W items. (Who, What, When, Where, and Why) The more you know, the less surprised you should ever be.

Anticipation. If you have prepared, you will be able to know where the process is headed and keep it on track if it starts to stray.

Perspiration. The harder you work, the better you are able to know what is going on.

Work hard to stay ahead of where you know you are going.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Feeling In the Dark

You’re lost, it’s dark, you can’t see. Now what? You have several options. Eschew caution and plunge into the abyss hoping to find your way, or slowly, carefully, using all your senses, feel your way to safety, or freeze up like the first time you looked off the 10 foot diving board. You see which way I lean.

I have been on too many demos and sales calls where a slight curve ball becomes a major obstacle because “someone” plunged in head first without checking the depth first. If you don’t know ask, it is the only way to learn. There are several ways to ask that will get a better response.

First, never question their need. By this I mean don’t question the fact that they have expressed a need, or make them feel like you are challenging their need. “What do you need to do that for”? Is a bad question. “Help me understand your need”. Is a much better way.

Second, never get penned in. Don’t make a snap, knee jerk statement that defines the rest of the sales process. If you need to, slow down and get it right. If you are not sure, “oh yes we can handle that.” Is a bad response, “Let me get back to you with the correct answer.” Is much better.

I have never seen a blind man with a greyhound as a seeing eye dog, have you?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Plan B

What is your plan B? Either in your sales or demo process, what do you do when plan A fails? Hummmm….should not be plan B. If everything worked as expected, your car wouldn’t have an emergency brake.

So here is the reality. If you don’t have a plan B, whatever happens becomes yours. No internet, laptop dies, blue screen, now what? Prospect not returning calls, emails bounce, asks for unreasonable discount, are you ready?

This is called planning. We all want things to work as expected, but we must plan as if they will all fail. During your discovery process, you figure out the prospects needs and develop a solution. A solution, or several? Think good, better, best. The one you present should always be the better solution. Now you always have room to move up for more value, or down for better price.

Winter is coming, it pays to prepare…

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Sales

Yes, I know. You knew I would be using Irene in my post today. What do we know about hurricanes? They are big and scary, show up like clockwork every year, follow a path, do all kinds of damage and make people talk about them. I hope that isn’t your sales process, but there are some good things we can learn about sales from hurricanes.

First, consistent. Hurricanes are consistent. Unlike tornados that hit here and there never follow a pattern, hurricanes consistently follow the same path every year. This makes them more productive. If you consistently market and sell, you will be too.

Second, everyone talks about hurricanes. Get other people to talk about you and your company.(In a good way) Look at the all the free marketing Irene is getting. You can take advantage of this viral marketing as well.

Hurricanes are large, they cover a lot of territory. The further you spread your storm clouds them more area you can rain on. Want business to grow? Increase your reach.

If you consistently spread a large shadow, people will talk about you, and buy from you.
Oh, pick up some batteries and bottled water too.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

White Knight

Are you a crusader salesperson on a mission to save someone from their dragons? Time to lose the fantasy, you sell stuff. Hopefully stuff people need, but that doesn't make you a Good Samaritan.

I don’t know what motivates you as a salesperson, but I hope it is money, because that is how you are judged. One of the surest ways to lose a deal is to try and save a client. Don’t get me wrong, selling them a solution that helps them is great, but you have to sell it for the money, not that warm feeling you get when you drop money in the Red Kettle.

In my presales technical role I get to help people understand. You get to help them buy. Look for prospects that want to buy, not those who need to be saved.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One Question

Quick if you could only ask one question of your prospect before you demoed to them, what one question would you ask? Knowing their name might help. How big is their company is good. When they are planning to buy, not bad. What they need, very good. For me, it is one word. Why?

Why are we talking? If I don’t know why, I don’t know how. How to sell them a solution, heck, what solution they need. It is hard enough to get people to buy when you know everything. So why should answer many of the other questions you may have asked. If I ask why, they may tell me they are growing and need a new solution by the end of next quarter.

Evaluate your discovery questions and make sure you are getting to the why of the sales engagement.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Online Hell

Will it ever end? Seems not. We have all be on online events that drone on and on and on. What is your first thought when you are stuck in this situation? Well mine is what a bad job they are doing. A presentation should be dynamic whether done in person or online. Don’t let the fact that you can’t see the people you are speaking to be a crutch to do a bad demo.

How do you fix this? Have dynamic content and plan an exciting demo then practice with the environment you will be using to do the demo, online or not. Nothing worse than having a great demo flow that get stopped because someone doesn’t know how the “pass the ball”.

A good plan properly executed is the key to any demo, face to face, online, or recorded.

Friday, August 19, 2011

More or Less

What do you give? More? Or Less? Let me ask this another way, on a demo, do you show more than you think they need to overwhelm them, or less than you think they need to make them want more? Nobody gets it exactly right, so that answer doesn't work.

The approach that I like to take is 20%. If I have a demo that is constructed to show 20% more than I have determined they need, I will be able to meet their expectations. Now just because I have built the demo to do that, doesn’t mean I have to show it all. When you are done, you are done. Stop selling when they start buying.

Aiming above your target helps hit it. Shoot too low and you may never get another chance.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mother’s Visit Sales

Mom is going to be here WHEN!?! Happens to all of us. We have known she is coming to visit for more than a month, yet it is always in the last couple of hours that sheets get changed and dishes get put away. So is your Mother the end of the month, quarter, or year?

To be blunt, it is on the calendar. It is coming, it is no surprise, why do we act like we are shocked? Generally it is lack of process. Most of us are good instinctive sales people. We get a lead, we see the need, we shoot, we score. Where is that next lead coming from? It should be coming from your process that says you need to make 20 calls a day to get 1 person to express interest, so you have 5 new deals in the pipeline a week. Your numbers may vary, but you know what I mean. Good sales process.

Knock knock, who’s there? Your Mother.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Community Effect

I don’t care how good a sales person you are, you can’t do it alone. I’m not even talking about your coworkers and support staff. I’m talking about your community. Those people who are your competitors and peers who teach you more in a conversation that hours of sales training.

I learned this lesson more than 5 years ago when I entered the software business. Before that I worked at a small VAR that didn’t get the concept of community and leadership, so we languished, a small fish in a small pond.

Working with partners, vendors, and competitors at an uncountable number of events has made me better in every way. As much as you learn at events put on by other companies, you learn more at your own events. I learned this with our Community Live event. Even as a small company you can plan an event to help your clients, vendors, and yourself. If you want to see how one of these can be run, look here, and think about attend one of these events coming to a city near you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Real Life Training, Real Life Results

Many of you know I go backpacking every September in the west. Every year I start training for this trip mid-summer and work hard to mold my desk riding body into a climbing machine. Every year…I fail. I fail, not because I’m not working hard, but because my workout isn’t the same as my task. That got me to thinking, does the same thing plague your sales team?

When you provide sales training to your staff, is it relevant customized training, or generic sales 101 stuff? I thought so. Ever wonder why it doesn’t pay off the way you wish it would? If you are giving basic sales training to entry level reps, the generic training may be fine. I might dispute why you think hiring and training new sales people is a good move, but that is another blog post. If you want high quality performance, you need high quality training.

Find a good sales coach who understands you industry and have them build a custom training program for you and your team, it will be worth every penny.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sales Decathlon

How do you judge your sales people? Do you want a sprinter, always first to the line? A hurdler, able to clear obstacles?  A pole-vaulter, able to hit the big number? All of those things are nice, but at what expense? Do you care how the come in first, clear obstacles and hit the big number? You should. If fact I think you need to hire salespeople who can compete in a decathlon. Yes, but forget the Kardashians, I’m talking about a Bruce Jenner type here…

Not familiar with the decathlon, just click here.  10 different events over 2 days. Take the scores form each event, add them up and see who is the best well rounded track and field athlete. This is an even where the best rise to the top. It isn’t enough to be strong, or fast, or coordinated. To win, you have to be all of these things, and have to be able to compete at a high level.

That is how I want my salespeople. Not just hard closers, and not just good prospectors, and not just salespeople who are quick on their feet, I want all of that. I want a decathlete. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Follow the Yellow Brick Road Demo or Help me I’m Melting…

Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road, how many times have we heard that? Well, a lot, and I’m old enough to remember when they played it every Thanksgiving evening here in the States. The symbolism is great, follow the big clear as day marked path to your dreams. Yea, that happens every day. What happens when you are demoing and you try to follow the yellow brick road? You find out they are painted yellow and you find a mean old witch at the end of the path… I’ll explain.

The yellow brick road is a big shinny object that looks like it can’t miss. It is possible to focus on the road and not where it leads. If we had Google Maps of the yellow brick road, we would see the witch’s castle, the Emerald city, and those pesky apple trees. With this map it is easy to see our path and where we have to tread lightly and carefully. Without the map? Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road, that is all we have. Put one foot in front of the other and let’s watch what happens.

It is often tempting to go off script and follow that mile wide golden highway, don’t do it. There are flying monkeys and someone will be yelling that they are melting. Don’t let this happen to you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sales Riot

I like you have seen the devastation left by the rioters in England. I find it upsetting for several reasons, one of which is that it was preventable. Hindsight is always 20-20, and allows us to see what we could have done to prevent issues like that. So seeing that made me think, who are the potential rioters sitting in your demos?

I ask, because they don't wear a sign, or have membership cards, but they due share some traits. If you can spot them, you can stop them. They don't feel they have any power in the process, they aren't happy with their situation, they don't want things to get "better". They will do what they have to, until they see the first crack in the process, they will try to burn your demo down. Using hindsight, I'm sure you can point some of these people out to me now. Let me give you some tips to stop this from happening again.

Acknowledge everyone, don't just focus on your "key" contacts. You never know who might have more power than you think, and by including, you are empowering.

Look for people who only pay attention when negative questions are raised. After you address the question, look back at them and ask them if they have any additional questions. Putting them on the spot will limit any mumbled questions under their breath, just loud enough for everyone to hear.

If you falter in your demo or have a hiccup, look around the table and make eye contact with everyone there, don't blink, show fear, or back down. This is the surest way to stop one of these looters in their tracks, don't let them gain any momentum.

Don't let a small setback turn into a riot, because you didn't stand strong and face down the crowd.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What is your Demo Bond Rating?

Unless you have been dead for the past week, you know that the S & P has downgraded to United States Government from a AAA bond rating to a AA+ rating. Who knows what the end result will be, but the beginning of it stinks. This got me thinking, how does your rating agency rate your demos? Well I know we don't have a national demo rating agency, but your agency is the people who hold you in trust. The salespeople and managers who put their trust in you to deliver a quality demo. Are you AAA or junk bond status?

AAA. The gold standard, maximum trust. Do they trust you with their deal without question? If that is the case, great! You now need to know do they trust you to win the deal, or trust you not to lose the deal? Do they trust you so much, they stop giving you good preparation before the demo, "because you always nail it"? If you fail to "nail it", will they still give you a AAA rating when you lose a deal, or will they downgrade you? That is the downside of that trust.

If you want to have and keep a AAA rating, you have to push back and require a proper process. A proper process from and with the other team members will make sure there is an agreed upon approach. If a deal goes south with this process in place, you should be able to maintain a sterling AAA Rating.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mixed Drinks

Demos are like a mixed drink. Everyone has their favorite style. Everyone gets in a rut. A good drink makes you feel good, a bad one leaves a nasty taste in your mouth. Too many make you dizzy and a little nauseous. So, what is your favorite demo cocktail? Are you a fan of an Old Fashioned, or a Mojito, beer, or wine?

Basically I'm asking if you are a fan of the classic tried and true traditional demo, or do you like to stay on the cutting edge of demo technology. Are you a blue collar demo person, or do you stick with the brie and Chardonnay crowd? None of these are wrong, but it is helpful to know where you and your company, and more importantly your customers fall. Try to sell an appletini in a biker bar, not a lot of takers there.

I do a standard group demo of our product once a week. I find if I do not modify the demo every couple of weeks, I get bored. It can be nice to feel you have the "perfect" demo, with the perfect flow, but if your mind id drifting while you give it, you are not doing the best job for the prospect or your company. Practice your demo with different insertion points. Learn to tell the story with different beginnings and endings.

You have all the materials needed for your Demo Cocktail, you need to be the best Mixologist you can be to make it all work.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Best In Show

Ever watch a dog show and wonder what the judges were thinking? I like the cute dogs, and many breeds are not that cute to me. I understand that one of those ugly dogs has to be the best of the ugly dogs in the best of breeds, but not for best in show. How does that happen? I see this in sales all the time, the best looking solution doesn't win. Well here is why.

The judges in a dog show are like your prospects. Their job is to measure to dog based on the specifications, not the cuteness. Your prospect should be looking at their specifications for their solution, not getting side tracked by sales cuteness. So the Judge pokes and prods measures and feels to find the best dog. Expect you Prospects to do the same. Make sure you are presenting a solution that meets the client's requirements, if not, you better have a good story.

It should always be substance over show. So if the Greyhound wins when you had a Lab in the show, maybe there was an issue with your dog.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hair Band Sales

It is that time again….Hair Band revival tours. It made me think, are you just another 80s hair band? If you didn't look too close or listen too hard, most of them looked and sounded very much alike. How do you stand out in a crowded market?

Let's be real, whatever industry you are in, there are hundreds of people selling the same solutions that you are. That isn't a bad thing, unless you don't stand out from the crowd, and I mean stand out in a good way. A baby screaming on a plane stands out, but not in a way that makes you want to sit near them. There are generally three ways to stand out. Guitar solos, outfits, light show. I'll explain.

Guitar solos are all about talent. It is possible to stand out from the field based on your skill and talent. Quick, what was the best guitar player you ever saw? Right, you remember. Give the best sales solo of your career and they will remember you. Talent always shows

Outfits are about appearance. They look like a rock band, they must be good! Do you dress for success? Sales people in different industries are expected to dress differently, but do you fall into the top end of your expected dress? Why not? Hair cut? Shoes shined? People notice and remember, especially when compared to "the other guy". We are a Hair band, not a grunge band.

Light shows! Who doesn't love a great light show? Lots of flash and bang. It doesn't make the music sound any better, but wow, what a concert! It is possible to awe the crowd with an awesome demo. Play it right and they may not even hear what you are saying.

So it is time to take the stage, put on your best outfit, use your sales solo to lead right into the demo light show and wow that crowd.

Monday, August 1, 2011

DB Cooper Sales Strategy

I'm sure you have heard this too, they have new evidence in the DB Cooper case. If you don't know who that is you can read about him HERE. We'll all just wait for you….OK, now that we are all up to speed, do you sell like DB hijacks? Let me explain, a hijacker has a couple important things to do. He has to have a target to get the ransom from, a plan to get the ransom, and a plan to get away, and then execute all of them.

DB knew who to get the ransom from, had a plan to get the ransom, had a plan to get away, even executed all three, but the execution was weak on the last couple of items. So what did he do right? (Note, I'm not saying what he did was right J)

  1. First he had the guts to make the attempt. You need this for every deal too.
  2. He came up with a plan to get to the money person. You have to do this on every deal too. You can sell all day to the rank and file, but if they can't sign it doesn't matter.
  3. He had a plan to get away with the money. You need to do this too, this is called a signed contract.
So DB messed on the execution, but where?

  1. He had no idea how big a package of $200,000.00 was in $20.00 bills. Poor planning on the size of the deal, he had to make some choices in the middle of the deal he didn't expect. Don't let this happen to you. Think through deal size issues.
  2. He wasn't able to identify that that the parachute was a training chute. He didn't have the knowledge he needed to see issues that would prohibit him from getting away with the money. They threw him a curve ball. Do you know your product and solution well enough to avoid taking the defective chute?
  3. He jumped too soon. Even if his defective chute opened, he was in the big woods, hard to get out of there with 22 lbs. of money. Stay with the deal until it is to your advantage to bail out. I mean, he had the money, he just had to exit smoothly.
So what are our lessons? Don't be a hijacker for one. The others are basic sales. Find your prospect, do your research, present your offer, get the money, and don't end up on one of my blogs.