Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do you Sell like Football or Football?

I have been watching the European Football championships.  I like soccer, which is what we in America call what the rest of the world calls Football. Fun game, lots of setting up and them flashes of action when headed to the goal, trying to put the ball in the twine. 

I also like Football, by that I mean American Football which is a cross between rugby and rollerball. Football is a sport of plans and plays to drive the length of the field for a score with the pigskin. So when you sell, do you sell like Football, or Football?

Everyone has a sales style. Created or evolved, you have one. So is it more like Football (Soccer) or Football? Let me see if I can help you understand. Oh, I know these are not all inclusive and I’m taking a lot of license here… 

Soccer is a game that many Americans find boring, they miss the fluid strategy and on the fly decision making (often called being clever by announcers) that setup exciting scoring opportunities. One on one a goalie has little chance in stopping a striker from scoring. There are few times when the other 10 players on the pitch allow a one on one opportunity. In order to score, a player must use his teammates to move the ball into position, sometimes passing it backwards, giving up distance to get a better angle. All of this happens on the fly, no time to stop and make a plan. You have to really know your teammates to make it work.

Trying a Clever move...

Football is a game that gets an Americans blood pumping. Baseball may be America’s Pastime, Football is America’s Lust. In Football, Plans are made to move the ball forward. You know you have 4 attempts to move the ball at least 10 yards to get another set of 4 downs to keep moving the ball forward. It is less important to make decisions on the fly, if the right play was called against the defense. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to get done. Pound the ball up the middle, as Ohio State Football coach Woody Hayes said, 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Football is a team sport, if you don’t do your assigned task, the play fails and you might lose the game.

This is a tackle..

So is your sales process well defined and documented? Do you have a plan when you start? Know how you are going to leverage your team and what roles they need to play? Looking to move the process forward each time you have a prospect touch? Are you able to project sales from your pipeline? If so, your sales process is like American Football.

If your process didn’t match the one above, is it less defined? Is your process ad hoc? Does everyone do everything? Do your sales linger a long time? Do you shy away from “hard” questions? Do you have a hard time generating sales projections? If these match, you sell more like Soccer.

Now I’m not saying one is better than another, they are two different sports and two different sales processes. If you sell like Football, you will maximize your time with the prospects and allow you to handle more sales. If you sell like Soccer, you will win deals that the Football salesperson would have given up on or lost due to their style. 

The most important thing is to know your style and to make the most of it so you don’t end up in a Nil to Nil game.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Old Dutch Open

We have an event in my family started by my uncle Jim 32 years ago called the Old Dutch Open. The Old Dutch is a Frisbee Golf tournament that is held every spring on my Great Grandparents farm in Southern Ohio. Every spring around 20 participants gather, along with many additional family and extended family members, to celebrate life.

Old Dutch Beer
Official Sponsor of The ODO

I have learned many life lessons at this event, and as I often do, I’ll share some of them with you here and explain how they make sense to me.

The first lesson I learned was give everyone a chance to join. There are a lot of different kinds of people who play, and that makes it more enjoyable. Some of them are family that I have known all my life. Some, friends of the family that I’ve know my whole life as well. Some went to college with my Uncle, I have known them since the start of the tournament 32 years ago and are now like family. Then there is everyone else, friends of friends, one time players, school friends of the children of the players, work friends, it goes on and on.
Why was this important? When I started working with salespeople, I found them like players at the Old Dutch. Some I were closer to, some not so much, but I had to play with all of them. Not only play with them, but compete at a high level. Learning coping skills for different personalities helps a lot. Everyone in your organization needs to be given the chance to join in and win.

Frisbee Golf
17th Green

The second lesson is truly a life lesson. Sometimes you are leading, sometimes in last. Some days things come easy, some days not. Luck may be with you, or playing against you. Guess what? You still have to play. Grip your Frisbee, look where you want to throw it, wind up and let it go, watch it fly, keeping your eyes on it because it rarely lands exactly where you aimed. Walk to the Frisbee and do it all over again. Sometimes you don’t have a good throw, or a good option to make the next throw so you have to make the best shot you can, because you do have to throw.

Just like life. Make a decision, see the results, make the next decision based on your options. After the game is over you can look back at the bad decisions or missed opportunities, while you are playing you have to think about the next shot. I have seen salespeople struggle with this as well. You have to do what you can with what you have in the sales process. You can visualize the perfect sales process, but you have to sell in the one you have.

The third lesson I’ll share today is have fun, it is a game. This doesn’t mean don’t try, or don’t care, it means if trying and caring make you forget you are playing you need to reverse the order. I have been playing when I was near the top of the leader board and all of the sudden I get ultra-serious. The first thing that tends to happen when I do this is my game goes to hell. My shots get erratic. I then get even more serious and frustrated. I also stop having fun. If the game isn’t fun why are you playing?

Same with work. If it isn’t fun, why not? Why do it? Money is always the answer, but few of us have a position that pays so well we can’t get close to it doing something we like to do. Life should equal fun, if not, look at your life.

Frisbee Golf
So close...

So I’ll be throwing a Frisbee over the hills of Southern Ohio this week, having fun, with my extended family, hoping everyone else in the world gets to experience happiness like this.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I Don’t Think of Myself as a Writer

I said these words to a couple of friend of mine who are writers. Richard Tubb and Karl Palachuk. You can follow the links to their blogs. Richard looked at me and said, “But you are, and you need to feel that way”. I know what he is saying, I write, people read my stuff, I’m a writer. So how does my attitude affect my writing? Does it make me less serious or professional about it?

Karl, Richard and Steve.
I don't know what we were laughing about!
I need to do some thinking on this, but I think that I view my writing as just something I do, I don’t work on it. I don’t practice my craft. So I might be limiting how good I can get.

Well Richards comments made me think about all of the people who read my blog and wonder what things they are that they don’t think they are? What things aren’t they getting better at?

Many of my readers are in the IT Service industry, an industry that is dominated by technical people. In order to grow their business they have to sell stuff. Themselves, services, software and hardware. But do they think they are salespeople? No, anything but, and I’m sure this effects their sales.

  • You are what you eat.
  • It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.
  • Birds of a feather flock together.

We have all heard these types of comments, most likely from our Mom, and she wasn’t wrong. We may be more than the sum of what we do, but we are at least that. I recommend you make a list of all the things you do in your business. Now next to each one, write down what you do to learn more about, or get better at that function. Do you have some gaps? Me too.

So now, where ever you have a gap, let’s fill it in. Sales training, a tax or accounting course, technical training, whatever you need, because if you do it, you should understand you are it, and should do it well…

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rude Dude

We have all heard horror stories of rude French waiters. When people found out my wife and I were planning a trip to Europe they all seemed to have a war story of rude that they, or someone they knew, had to endure. Armed with a blanket of protection made out of hearsay and fear, we proceeded. Guess what? Not a single rude encounter across 3 European cities including Paris.

As a student of human interaction, (a people watcher), I have discovered three things I think have led to the rude waiter syndrome.

I'm Rude

1.       Different customs were the first thing I noticed. In Paris, if a seat is open, you can sit there. You don’t need to ask or check, just sit. If you ask, the waiter may seem dismissive as they point towards the open seats, that isn’t rude, just annoyance because you didn’t understand the custom.
2.       Taking care of repeat customers. The hotel we stayed at was in a semi-residential neighborhood. There were a lot of regular customers in the restaurants who lived in the area. Did they get preferential service over the tourists? Of course, and rightly so. They are a recurring source of income for the business. Again, not rude, just smart business.
3.       Being left in peace. The number of times an American waitress at an Applebee’s will ask you if you need anything over the course of a 30 minute meal, 37. The number of times a waiter in Paris will ask if you need anything over a 2.5 hour meal, 3. If you need something, just get their attention and it will be taken care of, don’t expect them to chew your food for you.

As a student of sales, I connected the dots and wondered how many of us lose sales because we are not understanding our customers, or they are not understanding us. Do we think they are rude, do they think we are? Is that rudeness really just misunderstanding or priorities?

I'm Rude too...

How do we solve this? Set expectations. If you are selling, tell the client how your process normally goes. We have a meeting, a demo, I present a contract if it looks like there is a fit, we have another meeting to get the signed contract. If you state this to the client, they will not be looking for pricing right away, they may ask for it, but they won’t be expecting it. If buying, do the same. Set expectations. This is how we buy. We want a proposal, then a demo, then you can meet the stakeholders, then we will expect a hands on trial, then we buy. If the salesman doesn’t want to sell that way, he can pass, if he does want to sell, he will know not to call the CEO on day 3.

Oh, the food and beer, were awesome…