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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Train Your Team To "Listen," Not Just Wait Their Turn To Talk

"People don’t listen, they just wait for their turn to talk."
That is a saying many of us have heard before; many of us have also seen it in action when we are conversing and then the other party responds with something totally out of line with what you said and you think "you didn't listen to anything I said...!!"  
This happens all the time in sales.  You wouldn't immediately think it, but the culture within a sales organization contributes to the lack of listening skills. Many teams are pressed into results and are forced to quickly qualify or dump prospects in order to build their pipeline. Good relationship building and conversation skills aren't rewarded, revenue is.  Unfortunately, the thing that happens is the rush to qualify also misses many revenue opportunities because prospects aren't going to open up when they are being "sold" or told to come back later when they have money.
Here's an example....a company (the prospect) has a major problem collaborating with their partners and distributers, they have looked at a variety of options and they all weren't a fit. If someone can present something they will move on it as this is a critical need for their business. They haven't budgeted for it yet because they don't know what they need--is it technology? Process? A consultant? All of the above? They need something to get their head around the "How will we do it?"  The company talks to a senior level biz dev expert at a firm, and they love the approach and the creativity to make suggestions and create a vision for them of how to solve this...they want to talk more. The next call a rep is on the call....within 5 minutes the rep is asking if they have a budget...the rep loses interest when the VP says they need to figure it out first, and then the rep says once they are further along with their planning and know what they want to do, they can reconnect and talk about it. All the creative ideas, all the solutions options, all the helping them to envision working with them has been reduced to "if you have no money up front to tell me this is worth my time, I am not interested."  End of call, end of interest.
This happens all the isn't isolated incidents. It boils down to 2 things, 1) the mindset of the rep, and 2) what is reinforced as a culture. If the culture of a company is to discourage spending time with prospects before they have a clear budget, wait till they are "old-school BANT "qualified,  then they are only going to focus on later stage deals.   It is a punitive way to respond to prospects that want to engage at the time they are planning and choosing options.
It's a complex problem because there are some fantastic reps out there that intuitively know to spend time to help their prospects come to a decision. They invest in their relationships and genuinely care about what they do--you don't have to train them to listen because they do it anyway. There are also very selfish reps that really don't care about their prospects at all, and much of what they do that displays genuine concern for their prospects evaporates as soon as they don't see anything in it for them--you cannot transform them into people that  care. Unfortunately many buyers have experienced the latter and this is what has contributed to the initial pushback ALL reps get in the beginning. 
How can this be solved?
"Listening must become part of the sales cycle"
  1. Coaching your team to have a deeper discussion and truly understand the requirements..."this is what an early discussion needs to look like."
  2. Understand your buyer persona. Do they engage early? Do you know if this buyer profile generally will explore options, chose a vendor(s), and have a more developed plan before they have their budget defined?  Answer this honestly, not in the perfect world of everyone that calls has their budget and will buy within 60 days. If your buyers typically are early engagers, you need to have more invested in early discussions. 
  3. Hire people that understand this. It may change your interviewing model to more of a character vs. skills search. Ask them questions about their views of prospects, ask what is important in early conversations, ask how they go above and beyond for their customers, etc.
  4. Help your team(s) have a conversation template. Sometimes conversations aren't had because the reps don't know how to have them. Give them a list of questions, and a B List of questions if the prospects are chatty.
  5. Help the team understand the importance of documentation. Even if you listen and have the greatest conversation in the world; if no one documents it, you will backtrack over topics already covered every time.
The good thing is more and more companies understand this and are doing something about it. I'm interested to learn what you have done to modify your approach to implement better listening and early engagement best-practices!

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Would You Take a Call From YOU?

"What are the tricks you use to get people to talk to you?"
I get asked this question a lot; people struggle to find the answer on how they can engage and get people to talk to them. There must be a well-kept secret people are using that are successful at this.
"The secret to success in cold calling is actually the most well-known, transparent fact about sales there is. Prospects don't like to take sales calls....but they are constantly on business calls"
How is THAT a secret of success?
Because executives DO take business calls. That being the case, sales reps need to steer clear of the many things that people think of when they hear the term "sales rep." That means no tricks, no manipulating, no untruths, no forcing people to commit, no strong-arming, no word switcho-chango tactics, no insincere flattery, no cheesy gimmicks to get people to talk, etc. (the list goes on....)  That isn't executive behavior, that isn't "business call" behavior. 
Can you imagine the CFO of a F500 company calling the CFO of another F500 company and saying "I know you're very busy, I promise I won't waste your time, if you like what you hear in the next 20 seconds, can you give me 60 more seconds?"  Needless to say the one receiving the call would be like "Who the heck is this??? Weirdo..."
One of our clients recently said they could never cold call. I asked if they call people they don't know and have a business discussion...they said "of course, all the time."  That IS the quintessential cold call!  
It can be surprising because when you think of a "sales call," it conjures up scenarios of rejection, push back, getting screened, refusals, trying to get the appointment, barriers, and many other negative experiences associated with having to break through many obstacles to get to a "decision maker." There is a system of screening to block sales calls, but the screening is not designed to block normal business calls.
Executives call executives and have substantial conversations all the time without any trepidation. The key is to distance your methods from the typical "tricks of the trade."
When I am training teams, I often ask them to think about what they do as part of their engagement, and ask... "Would you talk to YOU if you called? Would you listen to a voicemail from YOU? Would you respond to the questions YOU ask?"
The answers are surprising after some reflection. And having them listen to their voicemails often surfaces they sound more "sales" than they think.  This includes being impatient. People are very difficult to reach in general, and often the difficulty in reaching people is interpreted as no interest or they need to turn up the volume to press their prospects into action, which comes across as pressure and makes them withdraw even more.
An example of what not to do, is recently I received an email from a rep I have known for years from a company I have worked with for almost 15 years. I already said we will renew closer to the renewal date. But a couple of weeks before that time, I get this:
"If it isn’t your intent to renew please let me know and I will stand down and direct my attentions elsewhere."
Of course this annoyed me a great deal and I said I didn't appreciated that, especially after so many years and especially after I already said I would renew. They realized how bad it sounded and apologized, all is good now (for a sales relationship.) But many people wouldn't have pushed back, they would have went away. There are many options for this solution today and companies need to be awesome at every stage to retain their customers.
More and more we have been working with companies on the process breakdowns around relationship management because it is the reason so many deals and long-time customer relationships fall apart. It is poor communication, taking customers for granted, trying to "sell" when really you need to "talk." 
"Relationships with customers and prospects fall apart from poor communication, taking customers for granted, trying to "sell" when really you need to "talk." 
I'm interested to hear how you have addressed continuous improvement with your teams!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Are Your Beliefs About B2B Sales Still True?

The power our beliefs have over decisions and actions in all aspects of life is immense.  Some of our "professional" or business-related beliefs (i.e. cold calling never works!!) may be based on past experience, some of them are considered industry standards, even opinions of trusted sources can get adopted into mainstream decision making.  Regardless of the origin of current beliefs, to stay present and effective in B2B sales requires ongoing self-examination. Doing that will make sure that dated theories and practices that can be a barrier to success are rooted out.   
"Reps don't do things with prospects because they were looking for the worst engagement option, they were doing what they believed to be the right thing."
Over the last 20+ years, needless to say the selling landscape has radically shifted; every stage of the sales cycle is different than it was pre-Y2K.  Successful professionals  and companies have acknowledged that and went on to adapt and align by modifying how they relate to prospects.  

8 areas that have changed:

  • The solutions and infrastructure have changed
  • The stakeholders involved have changed
  • The information about vendors available in the public domain has changed
  • The budgets and allocation of those budgets have changed
  • The way we communicate has changed
  • The way we market has changed
  • The way we engage has changed
  • Business culture has changed
"Have  your sales practices changed?" 
The entire terrain of B2B sales from the buyers perspective has changed; buyers are much more empowered and are more informed.  Something that has been slower to change are the methods used by many sales professionals, and sales management. The consequences of not modernizing processes are sales pipelines are not as healthy as they should be, conversions are below expectations, reps struggle to make numbers, management is pressured, marketing programs lack ROI, etc. (the list goes on....)
This isn't rooted in a deliberate choice of bad practices, it goes back to doing what they believe is the right thing in many different areas.  
What are some of the outdated beliefs that can hurt production?
  • BELIEFCold calling and cold emailing are dead FACT: Outbound calling is still the #1 best performing marketing activity per the DMA annual study.  The things that are dead, are bad calls and cheesy emails.  People don't take bad calls and they don't like emails that are manipulative; they dotake calls that are a good use of their time and will read and respond to emails that make sense.  
  • BELIEFSocial media doesn't make a difference closing deals on the front lines FACT: Social media is the best option to learn about your prospects before calls/meetings. In 10 minutes, you can learn more than ever via social media and social platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, InsideView, Hoovers, to align with your buyer and not waste time asking about areas they already disclosed publicly. Sales management often has the opinion that social media doesn't close deals, but it needs to be looked at as a tool not a sales channel. If you look at it as a highly valuable resource to "learn and listen," the results are very positive and make a difference in the sales cycle. 
  • BELIEFIf prospects don't call back after a couple of attempts they aren't interested FACT: Business leaders are more time constrained than ever. They are working 70+hours a week, in back-to-back meetings, dealing with hundreds of emails daily, and much more. Having to call prospects 8+ times is totally normal in today's busy work environments.  This is well-documented by many respected sources, yet the standard outreach is still 3x and then abandoned.  Deals never get traction when there is a lack of persistence. 
  • BELIEFLeads are only good a few days and go cold  FACT:  If you try to keep a conversation going by focusing on an event (webinar, email, white paper, etc.) then yes, interest in that goes cold. BUT interest and activity related to the topic likely hasn't changed. They are still working on what caught their attention in the first place. Follow up and subsequent discussions should stay focused on a topic, not a past event.  Their interest isn't a transaction with a limited shelf-life, it's a clue to a bigger picture.
  • BELIEFJunior people work on the front lines to support senior level reps in the field FACT: With the amount of complexity in today's selling landscape, the people on the front lines need to be more business savvy than ever to be able to mentally map real-time what prospects say (or do) to topics. They need to be able to engage in peer-level, situationally fluent discussions with senior management. It requires a highly-developed skillset to engage and maintain an open dialog with prospects at that level.  Putting junior people on the front lines leaves enormous amounts of revenue on the table from missed opportunities just from under-developed conversation skills.
  • BELIEFI'll spend time researching the prospects and companies when I know they are interested  FACT: Prospects go into meetings fully researched, and know what they want to talk about.  When sales reps put off learning about prospects until after the meeting, it leads to less productive early meetings having to cover ground that was available in the public domain, and risks missing big opportunities to progress their interest.  It seems like a small thing, but early meetings set the stage for the whole process and can accelerate success. 
  • BELIEFIn-person meetings are the way people buy FACT:  One thing I see is many times the people that believe this come from the "era of in-person, more formal meetings" (which they prefer themselves) and like the idea of coming to an onsite meeting. Which is great, I get it, I used to fly all over the country meeting prospects, and it was effective.  And in some cases an onsite meeting definitely is the way to go; however, it is very common, effective, expected, and well-received to have early meetings happen via WebEx, Skype, etc.  Millions of dollars of revenue happen from remote meetings,  don't let a personal preference obstruct the progress of a deal.
  • BELIEFCRM is a waste of time, I'm not sharing my information FACT:  A CRM will enable you to be in the right place at the right time. You can set yourself up for success by documenting where you have been, and where you need to go. It is an excellent tool to plan, collect, and review what needs to happen in an account. You can also collect and prepare content to go out to prospects based on areas of interest they have disclosed. Staging the right content at the right time makes an impact to fill white space between live conversations and goes a long way. You can set up tasks, alerts, etc. that enable you to pull it all together to take precise steps to progress deals.  
 "Maximizing impact at each interaction is what is needed with the new sales terrain"
More About B2B Sales:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Death of a Deal from a Free Download

It's an effective incentive to gain users by offering a free trial and download. I've used lots of free/trial apps myself and converted to a paying customer, it works. And it works for everything from mobile apps that are non-critcial, to apps that run a significant part of a business; the ability to test drive can make the difference. It's a great strategy that lets the product and subsequent results sell itself. 
A couple of things can get in the way of a deal though...Sales management can wonder why more aren't converting to revenue, and marketing teams are wondering what they need to do different.  There's a couple of things to look at to assess the issue.  First, there is a possibility of miscalculating the profile of the person downloading and test driving. Additionally, the non-supervised aspect of a free download/trial leaves a lot of room for things to happen that are a total blind spot to you.
That being said, a test drive where the user has a lot of independence can be a double-edged sword and end up being a deal killer.  What are the scenarios?
It's all about the user assumptions, the profile of the user, their expectations, and how far off that is from the actual activation/user experience.
To start, being able to test drive has a "fun" aspect to it, it's really interesting to get in there and see what an app can do. People enter into this with an anticipation of good results. 
But you have to take into account that:
  • People are impatient
  • Since it is a "free" test drive, they are often expecting an "easy" test drive setup
  • The user that is the "downloader" and "buyer" may not be the technical person that understands or would execute a complex setup
  • They are evaluating the experience immediately from when they start setting up
  • They have a way mentally they approach technology, and it is usually not in a way an engineer does (unless it is an engineering user profile)
What are the things that can go wrong?
  1. When a user gets stuck activating a feature, you lose them if they have to spend too much time on a single stage they feel should be simple
  2. If they misuse a feature, get confused, you lose them if it becomes a bad experience
  3. If they feel it is taking too long to become activated, need to go back and read directions too many times, you are losing them if they have to spend too much time figuring out what is wrong
  4. If the setup isn't intuitive, you are losing them. The average user expects a pretty easy set up without hiccups
  5. If the directions are hard to find, hard to read, assumes the user knows more than they do, you are losing them.  Many times the user that is doing the trial, is not a technical resource needed to set it up if it gets too complicated
I have seen many scenarios where it's clear a lot is assumed about a prospect doing a download. It is assumed they are very technical, and can figure out a lot on their own. 
This is what results in lots of downloads, fewer activations, fewer conversions. The secret sauce to success is addressing the above in scenarios that surface issues BEFORE they try to use the app.
What are some things you can do?
  1. Assess your user by asking "Are you the technical person that would implement this?" If not, then ask "Do you have resources to help?" and if they are a key prospect, you might want to ask "Do you need help?" Losing a F500 client on a free demo because the setup was botched is something that can be easily avoided, it is worth it to spend some time with them to make sure it is a success.
  2. If it is an app that will have a high number of users, discover that up front, "How many users would you have?" If they are a high value prospect, have someone assigned to walk them through a setup.
  3. If you see a big name company come in on a download, get on it immediately.  Unfortunately, what some companies do to address that is have a salesrep call them within 15 minutes of downloading a demo/trial which is highly annoying and is all about the sale and not about the experience. A BETTER option is to make that first outreach very non-sales, and the entire objective is to go live successfully. Schedule a time to activate them. This may not always be practical, but doing it for high value prospects ensures success.
  4. Don't leave them on their own. Have a video clip for every stage of the activation/setup. Don't assume it is easy to figure out, even the most simple apps can be misused or misinterpreted. Recently I activated an app that walked you through each stage and said "here is a video of what this looks like" with 60 second clips.  It was awesome and 100% success the first time. THAT is what you want.  
  5. Make sure your documentation speaks in the language of your user. A good way is to work with someone in an advisory capacity to go through the process and surface areas that are unclear. Expecting your new users to ask questions may not happen because 1) they don't want to look stupid so they keep trying on their own, 2) they set it up wrong and just run with it, or 3) they are busy, tried too many times, and lost interest in trying. Better to have someone not involved as a user to walk through it and surface anything that is not clear.
  6. Provide an activation map for what this should look like for them. "X activity takes 15 minutes..." If they are spending 30, they will know something is wrong and will call before they spend 2 hours on it and get infuriated.
  7. Ping them through the process via email. "You signed up 3 days ago, did you know you can now do this..." Keep them interested!  They might have downloaded on the whim, but you can prove value when you keep them engaged and interested.
There's a lot of additional aspects to free trials that need to be addressed, these are some of the obvious that sometimes slip through the cracks. In a conversation with Lynne Barker who heads up the Channels group over at Avention, "Death by Trial and Demo" is a term she threw out there early on having experienced it herself. Stay engaged, and proactive with new users to make sure it's a great experience!
I'm interested to hear what some of you have done with your own trial offers to help users succeed out of the gate. And if you are seeing these scenarios how you have fixed them!
Happy downloading! 
About Mari Anne Vanella:
Mari Anne is an award-winning author of the Best Seller "42 Rules of Cold Calling Executives" and CEO of The Vanella Group, Inc., a sales development firm working exclusively with enterprise tech firms from all over the world. She developed a proprietary Telesales 2.0™ formula which produces 5x above the DMA industry standard for tele-based lead generation.
The Vanella Group, Inc. is featured on many industry channels such as Selling Power, The Sales Lead Management Association, and many others. Mari Anne has been a speaker in featured sessions at Dreamforce where her unique approach to Social Selling was showcased.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Everything Matters In Early Engagement

The first engagement companies have with prospects is a critical one, and arguably the very least senior level stage in the prospect dialog. This is often the early stage of the dialog where the least experienced, least skilled, poorly constructed emails, and many junior people are often placed.  I can personally attest to this being a CxO that gets a steady fire-hose stream of bad engagement from companies that want us to "buy their stuff." 

While that approach is considered "cost effective," in reality it is one of the most expensive decisions companies make from being "thrifty" up front with resources. Taking that route enables:

• Ruining potential deals and alienating buyers
• Adding onboarding expense because the profile of the people generally placed there are a very high turnover type of resource.

History proves it's the way things have been done for eons, the big guns are saved for the big deals when they are ready to buy. But is this the order of how people still buy?

"Today the order and quality of engagement requires a deliberate and skilled approach on the front lines."

Why? First seconds matter...they matter A LOT. Buyers have no tolerance for bad calls, answering BANT questions to get a data sheet, or sit through a painful presentation looking at a logo slide of who bought this company's stuff and why they are so great. 15 years ago buyers had to suffer through it to get info, but not any more. Today, anyone can go online and get answers....why talk to a rep? They will if it is a better experience than doing it on their own, and the rep adds value bringing sincere thought leadership to the discussion.

In Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink," he refers to "Thin Slicing" and explains in layman terms where without realizing it we all take those "slices" of who we are interacting with, and draw conclusions. We do this constantly, without realizing it.  It's an excellent way to look at interaction with buyers and to examine the "thin slice" prospects take away from early engagement. They are automatically analyzing who they spoke with, what they got out of the discussion, what it felt like...all of it in a few seconds.

It's proven that people make a decision almost immediately based on all the information presented to them.  With first engagements, the decision could be whether they want to talk again or not. It could be a decision that costs deals because the wrong set of information was presented (the person, the outcome, the value-added,) and can be prevented by leveraging those moments up front to progress the engagement in the right direction.  

Many people still like to blame the method and promote the idea of "cold calling is dead" or "don't leave voicemails," "Don't bother calling them without an intro from someone..." The list of those soundbites are endless. But think of an executive, do you call companies you don't know to talk about business issues?  Of course you do, and those are the calls people take, not robot scripted calls that are there as a "cost saving measure" to identify the big deals to put the good reps on.Direct engagement it is still the most effective way to connect when you do it right.

When it comes to prospecting via outbound calling, the principle behind "thin slicing" applies to an even higher degree because the prospect has less data to work with. You only have your voice to make the impression. The content of the "slice" is limited. You can't utilize body language or gestures--you are accomplishing all of those things with your voice and choice of words.  Your voice is creating a mental picture, and you are compensating for in-person gestures with your dialog. Even without that in-person presence, you can still be just as effective when you have the right person in those roles.

Outbound calling today requires a very sophisticated skill set.  Since prospects are able to research you before they ever talk to you, reps need to be able to connect and converse on a "peer-to-peer" level and neutralize sales resistance to have an open dialog.

What that means:

• Situational fluency at CxO, and VP levels
• Industry expertise to help your prospect visualize the solution you offer in their specific environment
• Ability to steer a discussion real-time based on the topics of interest
• Instant processing of what is happening on the call and converting that to dialog
• Emotional intelligence to know when to speak, when to listen, and what to ask
• Complete understanding of corporate structure and an empathetic grasp of today's business and executive challenges

Companies invest millions of dollars into building their direct sales teams. But so many times those same companies will put the weakest links on the front lines to introduce the company. That same quality of presence the direct team needs, also needs to be on the initial call to a greater degree to have access to executives. You can be more effective with less people with the right profile.

SiriusDecisions reports that 40-70% of prospects that have interest do eventually buy. And many "Did You Buy" studies companies conduct on leads that fell out of the pipeline show that they did in fact make a purchase, from another provider. Many times it was just mismanagement of the early relationship (fell through the cracks,) and poor engagement that lost the deal just because another vendor did it better.  

Being in the right place at the right time with the right rep is how you win deals--and you can't do that reading a script or measuring how many dials are made as the main activity. 
"Effectiveness will increase when putting low level people and low impact efforts on the front lines decreases."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Magic Bullet for Enterprise Sales is Within Reach!

What IS the magic bullet or "secret sauce" that gets prospects to engage, respond, stay on the path you put them on, and ultimately buy from you? Is there something that's missing in your process?  Everyone looks for that thing they can do that will take their close rates to new levels. Does it exist? IS there a short-cut?
The good news is...there is Magic Bullet. The bad news isn't just ONE thing.
The "Magic Bullet" involves synchrony. ALL cylinders firing at the same time, ALL the time. It's activating critical thinking with engagement so you deliberately do and plan the right things at the right time that make a difference for prospects...then document, plan, and review what is next.  
Some of the really basic challenges companies have that cause major breakdowns during sales cycles are often on the front lines, including:
  1. Relying too much on actions of the prospect, i.e., "they didn't respond so they aren't interested" 
  2. Poor documentation of prospect interactions and critical windows of engagement are missed.
  3. Not engaging when the prospect is "engagement ready" but waiting until they are "purchase ready." Example: "They don't have budget for 6 months, I'm not going to spend any time until they have a budget." 
  4. No established relationship management best-practices, i.e., Bill does a great job engaging, Tom doesn't, Ann does, etc. Everyone is doing something different with results all over the board. Marketing invests thousands (or millions) of dollars to get prospects to talk to them, to be handed off to unmanaged processes on the front lines.
  5. Blind spots exist at executive levels in the prospect/client relationship management process.  Management has no idea the large deal at XYZ company hasn't heard from us in 90 days. 
Honestly, this is a very small sample and the list goes on. But what is common is complete breakdowns of process with what happens with prospects. The search term for "B2B Sales Training" gets almost 4M hits. It is a HUGE topic, and the answers are being looked for constantly--but the answers aren't always what people want to hear. 
Sometimes a quick fix is purchasing tools that were designed to enhance the relationship as the replacement for the relationship. The result is windows of influence are missed, the connection deteriorates, and the prospect loses interest....their score drops, no one calls, they buy from a competitor. Not to mention the gobs of irrelevant email they get that is now considered "nurturing." 
On the other side of the spectrum of radio silence from a vendor, the other extreme is no one knows what is going on with an account and the prospect gets so much outreach they are completely annoyed. Example: We were in the process of acquiring an enterprise platform recently. I have received no less than 6 follow-up calls and additional emails from different people that had no idea we had already been talking to them. No one had shared information, the CRM didn't reflect anything (or no one looked,) and many cycles were wasted. Even last week we received a follow up call and we have already bought the product.....from them (no credit to the sales team.) But the point is, with that much effort being spent inefficiently, there is clearly much more in the bigger picture that's broken.
The Fix Can Start Here:
  1. Replicate success on the front lines. Build a formal engagement process and relationship management best-practice, and document it. The more you enable your reps with best practices the better. Where to find them? There are people within your own team likely having great success, use them as resources as much as you can. Analyze your pipeline and identify those areas where relationships break down. It isn't that simple (for sake of length of this post) but it can be done very successfully.
  2. Have documentation guidelines. It is not okay to refuse to use the CRM, but a lot of adoption issues are because a process doesn't exist and reps may think more is needed than really is, or they just don't know how to document. Often they haven't learned how to really put a CRM to work FOR them so they are closing more business. Highlighting the WIFM (What's In It For Me?) of using the CRM makes a huge difference.
  3. Monitor Engagements. Companies often focus on what will close and minimize the ongoing dialog. But companies that track and stay on top of activity within large deals are the ones that are closing them. Many times there is no reward, interest, or incentive to engage with long term deals; many teams have the mindset of "we're interested when there is a budget." But the teams that are personally involved while deals progress are the ones that are first in line when the budget is in.
  4. Reporting and Visibility. As you are transforming processes, keep track of them. Many Sales VP's have asked me how can they make sales training stick--the answer is monitoring and having visibility into what is going on. Laying down some best practices and hoping it makes a difference won't get you there. It takes time for new behaviors to become adopted as part of a team culture. The more involvement, the faster course corrections can be made to keep the progress moving.
The magic bullet isn't a short cut, and I have only touched on a small piece of it. But the point is there IS a way to tune the sales engine so it is a Ferrari, and the results are significant.  The teams that get that are measurably more successful and see a significantly higher conversion, close, and success rate at all stages.  
Share in the comments what you have done to help your organizations!
More About B2B Sales:
About Mari Anne Vanella:
Mari Anne is an award-winning author and CEO of The Vanella Group, Inc., a sales development firm working exclusively with enterprise tech firms from all over the world. She developed a proprietary Telesales 2.0™ formula which produces 5x above the DMA industry standard for tele-based lead generation. The Vanella Group, Inc. is featured on many industry channels such as Selling Power, The Sales Lead Management Association, and many others. Mari Anne has been a speaker in featured sessions at Dreamforce where her unique approach to Social Selling was showcased.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Do You Have an "Order Prevention Department?"

Customer Experience is one of the hottest topics today. What people experience while dealing with a company is what will make or break a deal. It can ruin longtime relationships, stunt growth of existing client relationships, and prevent new ones from ever happening.
I have used this term for years to describe when a company creates their own obstacles to win new (or keep existing) business. It can be anything from "our software we run our business on won't let us do that deal" to sales engagement that is so painful it leaves nothing but wreckage.
Below are 4 mid-size, well-known tech firms. I am baffled at the experience companies are delivering to prospects with the amount of visibility into the topic that is available. All of these examples sell less than $20K size platforms so the level of hurdle to engage is absurd.
Firm #1 takes you through an auto attendant of choices which gets you to a call center person that knows nothing about the product. They will grill you with a bunch of questions that have nothing to do with the business other than to "qualify" you to BANT criteria. The reason a conversation is necessary is the website has many misleading links that SAY here is where you can see a demo, a video, download this or that...but when you click on it, you have to provide 15 different data points. You then get to the video link and it says "Stream not found"...a dead link. So while on the phone, you'll then get transferred to a pre-sales rep that repeats the questions the call center rep already asked, doesn't know the product, and then tells you it can take up to 2 days to get a rep to engage. They will send you a follow up email and misspell your name they asked you to spell several times.
Firm #2 has the same menu, and you will get to a pre-sales rep faster but also asks a lot of canned BANT questions. Although there is a deal with a budget, that rep is too busy to talk. They will also ask you if you researched the website, because they don't want to waste their time with you if there isn't something in it for them. WIFM. The website shows pricing that is 4x higher than what it really costs, which if you don't ask...they don't tell.
Firm #3 spent a considerable amount of budget for a booth at one of the tech industries top conferences. They are operating in a heavily saturated space (sales and marketing enablement) and have a lot of competition. They have a well designed site that offers a 30 day trial, no need to talk to anyone (yay!) But when you sign up and go to download it, the link is broken. Support doesn't respond. A few days later someone will call you as a follow up from the show to set up an appointment, and you can tell them you downloaded a trial already and are ready to test drive it. But they want to schedule a sales appointment (because they get paid by appointments) and are unable to help you get to anyone that can fix the tech support issue. You will ask them to escalate it, but there is nothing in it for them, so they move on and you never hear from them again and buy from a competitor.
Firm #4 has a lot of turnover. They market themselves as one of the slickest services yet for revenue growth. You will try to work with them because it makes sense, the customer stories are there. They will show you a demo and share their screen and won't be able to get the software to work. Then during the demo, someone you know in the industry that is working with them sends to them an IM that the system is performing very sub par and asks what the problem is. Although a priceless moment, not a great confidence builder. But don't worry, they will call you back every 6 months to work with them again and start over, literally because they never wrote down any information from the 5 hours of conversations you had with them.
All of this (poorly) designed engagement and training is to vet out non-prospects and engage real ones. But what it's doing is vetting out real prospects as well.
Companies can't afford to lose deals from bad up front engagement...they need to make sure the experience prospects have is somewhere between "great" and "awesome." The whole experience matters. Not long ago, I heard of one firm that a VP at a F500 company that tried to work with them said they couldn't engage with a rep ever and "it was like talking to a rock." No one would call them back, F500 brand name and all.
How can companies identify if they have an Order Prevention Department?
  1. Take the journey your customer takes. Go through all the links, the phone transfers, the conversations. Do this on a regular basis so you will know if something is broken, i.e., a video is down, etc. Surface all the things customers ask so you can have answers.
  2. Make sure you aren't asking customers to repeat information over and over. This is one of the purposes of a CRM. Every time a prospect has to repeat something, especially if it is during the same sales cycle, it adds a negative flavor to the discussion.
  3. Does your business software prevent you from doing viable deals because a transaction isn't supported? Have you turned away deals? (I know this sounds ridiculous but it honestly happens, one company wouldn't take a wire transfer.)
  4. Are your prospects able to get what they need online. Prospects don't want to talk to you either if they don't have to, so put something with substance online. Not a graphic that shows the end result in a ta-da picture, or marketing-speak, but something that answers HOW. Design it based on what they generally ask.
  5. Keep some content free without the prospect having to provide data, as soon as you start asking questions it becomes annoying. The less prospects have to do that, the more positive of an experience it is. Progressive profiling is great, but earn the right first.
  6. Who is taking front line calls? If you are outsourcing, understand who your buyers are and match them on the front lines. Incentivize reps to be customer centric and escalate issues to you. If they are too low level to do that, move on.
  7. Build a culture of appreciation. It isn't about you, it's about your customer. Your company exists because of them, build a culture that fosters that vantage point. When you get bigger, it will turn into a really positive trait you are known for. I read an article recently about you can create a culture, or it will be created for you...and it won't be from positive things if you just let it morph into "whatever."
What have some of you done to make sure you don't have an Order Prevention Department?