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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?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Is Your Sales Culture Predatory?

Working with as many sales organizations as I have over the last 25 years, I've had a very broad exposure to every possible scenario in B2B sales. Everything from relationship-based, super-engaged teams with high commitment of client success, to reps that are numbers-focused and couldn't care less about their prospects other than the revenue they represent. Some even referring to their prospects in hunting terms "can I kill it," "that are targets," go for the throat," and many other bloodthirsty terms.
The delta in quality of the customer-centric sales practices vs. typical old school sales tactics is becoming more and more visible. The permanent shifts in the selling landscape and the platforms to promote (and tell on) a company's self-centered culture are widely available and used by small and large sales organizations. Some of them include:
  • Social media. When you are a ME only focused person or company, everything you post and communicate is centered on "Buy our stuff" or "Come to our Booth" with little content that actually helps prospects. If you notice the companies that are very BUY OUR STUFF focused, they generally have low engagement and few followers. Even huge companies have just a few followers, and many are their employees or a few customers that took the time.
  • Marketing Automation. Marketing automation rocks when it is in the right hands...given to the wrong person, it is like giving an automatic weapon level of capacity to now produce gobs of communication focused on "buy our stuff." It also desensitizes prospects to your content.
  • Sales Reps. Now that buyers don't need reps as much to make a decision, there are 3 options for reps. 1) learn how to add value and become aligned with how your prospect is buying and how you can enhance that experience. 2) Become more manipulative and use fear, subtle intimidation, and passive aggressive tactics. Become more aggressive with who you have. 3) Talk to more prospects, just keep 'em coming and throw out the long-term prospects or ones that are high maintenance and get the good ones in a sales cycle that is about as fun as a root canal.
It's critical CXO's in companies look downstream to see what is happening on the front lines with customer engagement. Especially if they have been around long enough to go through a few era's of buyer profiles. Some companies had phones ringing off the hook 10 years ago with prospects that wanted what they have, selling was easy and the buyer was predictable. But today, there is a lot of tough competition with leaner, less expensive competitors. Buyers have a many options.
It's harder to get new customers, and even long-time customers are always at risk from staff changes, etc. Where does the predator sales culture prevent success?
  1. Your prospects and customers should have nothing but awesome experiences interacting with your company. From their first cold call to reaching out to their rep with an issue--they need to feel the love all the time. Outreach should be focused not on "Just checking in to see if it's time to buy more stuff" or "Is there something here for me?" but on experience. I remember a time when my ISP was down from a storm. I was annoyed enough that such a large company had such a poorly executed DR plan--but in the middle of all this turmoil I am having with email, site outages, etc., their rep called to sell more stuff. Their sales management should have been all over making sure existing customers were getting the best TLC ever during that crisis vs. making sales calls during that time.
  2. Sales reps need to make sure they address issues and reinforce to clients they are valued. I have a client that made a significant investment in a platform a few years ago, during the sales cycle the rep was all over it, their new best friend. After the deal was inked and it started rolling out, there were a lot of hiccups and problems. 45 days or so into it I asked the client when was the last time they heard from their rep, he said not since the day they signed the deal.
  3. Lack of thought leadership will become lack of engagement. If a company is generous with information on how customers can succeed and point them to resources and content, their engagement will be much more active. All of us have those companies we work with that we actually delete their emails when they come in, clicking on anything they send turns into a "buy our stuff" call from yet another rep you don't know. That isn't thought leadership.
Some of the sales breakdowns are rooted in lack of adopting innovation in sales best-practices. Reps often don't have a systematic way to get educated about who their buyers are today and what they are doing. They are selling to a buyer profile that has greatly evolved or may no longer exist in their traditional form, and they don't really understand that. Constantly aligning to your buyer profile will create agility and revenue growth.
The other fix is hiring people that "get it." Educate CSO's and Sales VP's on what is really happening out there and WHY they are losing deals and customers, and WHY their reps can clear a room when they walk in. Maybe the Marketing VP feels all meetings should be onsite, that was fine 10 years ago but today most meetings are virtual, shorter, more frequent, and have a distributed executive team. This is a completely different model that needs different processes and best-practices. Has your team examined how to best adapt to this?
Sales executives want to be cautious they are not mirroring their own personal preferences onto their prospects and therefore missing a greater opportunity. An example is making a statement "People don't like taking phone calls..." So they invent 15 different ways to approach their prospects when just calling them would have been the most effective way.
There's a carelessness associated with predatory sales tactics. One major one, is since the prospect only represents revenue--all of the personal aspects, i.e., factors that play into choices, the long-term relationship, the actual viability of success at this client and the exposure the prospect has if it fails, are secondary to the sale...the "kill."
Another careless action is just throwing information together to respond to inquiries. Just the other day, I got an email from a sales rep--I had a question so I took them up on the offer of information. The response back was in 4 different fonts, colors, sizes, and looked like some electronic ransom note. My assistant said "do you WANT their advice?" It was comical.
Some things companies can do to move away from a predatory approach to a customer centric approach:
  1. Make sure the CXO level at your company really understands what is happening on the front lines. Aligning with real-world sales practices makes the difference. Educate VP's, Directors, and reps on what is really happening and what your prospects think about it.
  2. Making sure customers have great experiences with you as much as possible. Put your best resources on the front lines to reach out and deal with them, not low-level people looking for appointments.
  3. Create a culture of customer value on the sales team. I know people are working bigger territories,lots of pressure, and don't have a lot of time to stay on top of everything. Tools like Squirro and Witty Parrot will help be responsive and optimize their communication. Squirro can help them by even pushing out content that tells you "hey your client so and so just got an award..." you can then send them a congrats note. Things like that go a long way.
Don't get stuck in the "Buy Our Stuff" engagement mode. You can break out of it and start giving to your prospect and customer community and THAT's what starts to create "sticky relationships" with loyalty that converts to revenue. The personal experience prospects and customers have with you and your firm goes a LONG way to keep and continue to secure new business.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How Your Thinking Affects Results

"Thoughts are Things" ~ Napoleon Hill
How you think of yourself as a sales rep will translate into how you communicate to your prospect. That is a universal truth for all things, if you believe something will probably will, i.e., the self fulfilling prophecy.  If you see prospects being annoyed at your calls, they will be.  Example: if you believe your cold call is a nuisance, you will project that through your voice gestures, your choice of words, and your overall interaction with your prospect.  Sales reps that assume their call is unwanted, often open up with statements like "am I calling at a bad time?" or "is it okay to talk for a minute?"  Or end their introduction with a question--like "Hi Barbara, this is Bill Smitherton over at Imagintech?" The tone sends a subconscious message of "do you know who we are?" Those kinds of statements also immediately create a class distinction of "you don't know me, you are better than me, your time is worth more, will you please talk to me...."  Those same sales reps will also say to themselves "Executives never call back, no reason to leave a voicemail." Or, "Executives don't take cold calls, I never call without a warm intro."

I do a lot of troubleshooting for sales teams, and one thing I continually see is the biggest obstacle to success is the belief systems reps have about engaging with prospects.  How we THINK about things designs the way we DO them, so sometimes what is needed is not coaching but changing a mindset.

What are some mindsets to examine?
  • "People don't take calls."  Ask if you are calling the right people? What are you saying? Would YOU take a call from YOU? Do you leave yourself messages to see how you sound on a voicemail?
  • "No one answers their phone." Are you calling the exact same person at the exact same time every day?   Are they on vacation?  Are they in the same job?  
  • "People cut me off."  What are you saying when they cut you off?  What is the stage of the conversation you generally lose people? Is there a pattern?(Hint: yes) 
The good thing about realizing that your beliefs are impacting your results, is the ability to change results opens up.

Sometimes it is a lack of empathy of what is happening on the prospects side.  For example, realizing what is happening with your buyers enables you to see a couple of things.  First, they may have heard your message and are interested, they have been too busy to call back.  Or maybe they didn't even get your message. Everyone isn't carefully micromanaging each voicemail like a precious piece of data to close the loop on, likely they are just busy and had good intentions but the reality is life happens, days go by, and it falls off their radar.
Also, pushing on the system is very important.  What do I mean by that?  If you are calling someone repeatedly and not reaching them--have you even determined they are there?  Many reps get angry and frustrated someone isn't calling them back only to realize they are out sick, or on vacation, or don't even work there anymore.  So instead of "air coverage" of contacts you haven't personally confirmed, zero out and ask if they are in this week. Are they the right person?

Another thing that happens is sales reps don't realize how they are communicating.  Sending a 700 word email will overwhelm someone that has about 4 seconds to read something is a sure way to lose their interest.  Keep your follow up short, concise, and fit it in what can be seen in the view window of Outlook without opening it.  That view space is how much real estate and attention span you have, more than that is asking too much on an initial contact.  What you want is for them to say "tell me more"  not "this is way more than what I asked for."

The good thing about owning your results, is you can now control your results. Conversations and engagements are predictable and measurable and you can change what you are doing to get to the right results.  This is why a person will get 2 calls from 2 different people about the same topic with the same talk track, they talk to one but not to the other--why?  Because it wasn't what they said as much as HOW they said it.

Here are a few things to do as a homework assignment.  If you aren't getting the results you want, ask yourself what is happening.  Do you introduce yourself in the form of a question? Do you believe prospects don't want to talk to you?  Do you need to change your beliefs about prospects?  Are you losing their attention at a certain stage of the sales cycle or conversations?  You'll find a slight adjustment will change your experience significantly.

What you can do:
  1. Leave yourself a voicemail of both your introduction on live calls and your voicemail message to see what you sound like, do it until you get it to the tone you want. Ask "would you would listen to YOU?"  Hearing yourself will surface if you are taking too long, or if you are saying things that could be stated a better way.
  2. Examine if there is some consistency to your unsuccessful calls--there may be a phrase or term(s) you use that aren't resonating. Use common industry terms, not acronyms or internal solution terms they may not know.
  3. Do you believe prospects don't want to take your calls?  Seek out successful models of how to connect, not negative industry fodder written by people that don't like to cold call.
Thoughts are things, so make them things that are working for you!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sales Can Be Rocket Science When You Aren't Current

To be effective in today's enterprise sales environment, reps need to have about 15 different skill sets firing at peak performance to make a difference. Why is it so hard for individuals, or entire teams, to grasp the complexity of what needs to happen?

Old School Thinking, Old School Training

Again and again we see the same skills training happening, which doesn't always map to what is really happening with prospects.

Some very interesting points are highlighted in the 2013 Accenture "Perspectives on Training" study (click here) which states 72% of executives identified training as one of the top ways for employees to develop new skills, only 52% of workers employed by the companies surveyed currently receive company-provided, formal training. This is a really interesting report I encourage all to read.

But what does lack of training mean for sales teams?

In the world of enterprise B2B sales, it means at best a little more than half of sales teams get any training at all. Many times training is done by internal product teams on new products, features, and functions. Or the team is brought offsite for a series of sessions from executives, sales, and marketing management on what is happening with the company.

What is often missing is the training on "it's 2014, what do we need to do to engage prospects and stakeholders...what does it take? How can we retain prospects in the pipeline?"

This is the depth of skills training that's often missing, the secret sauce that addresses:
  • How do I (or my team) reach prospects?
  • How do I get them to engage in a lengthy discussion with us?
  • How to write emails that get results?
  • How can social media factor into success?
  • What are the most effective trends in enterprise sales?
  • How is Marketing aligned with current engagement practices and how to best leverage that?
  • What is the best time to engage a prospect to get in front of the decision?
  • How to maintain full steam when there is rep turnover?
  • How to make the CRM a tool to increase success instead of a burden with adoption challenges?
  • How did companies end up with the infrastructure they have today?

To some it might sound simple, but a huge percentage of reps lack these very skills. A quick fix to get started is here where InsideView has published a guide to Social Selling you can download here (click to access.)

Another important thing to remember is YOU need to invest in yourself. What does that mean? Companies spend $20 Billion a year in sales training, but the above numbers of it only happening in a segment of the companies is true. So reps need to have their own development plan and managers need to tap into resources to share with their teams. The key is not to wait for training to be delivered up, but find the right resources and bring them to yourself and your team.

A good way to design a personal plan is:
  • Set up Google Alerts for your industry or competitors, know what the industry is talking about outside of your company.
  • Set aside 30 minutes 2x a week to read industry publications. If you are in tech, staying up on what is happening that affects your customers is key--technical and situational fluency makes a difference in how much prospects trust you and will rely on your for answers.
  • Create a reading list. If you're having trouble deciding what to list, Amazon has a list of the Top 25 Sales Books you can pull some titles from
  • If you haven't read "The World is Flat" by T Friedman, you should. Many reps can benefit from knowing some of the history of how we got here from a vantage point of transformation.
  • Books like "Colossus-How the Corporation Changed America" by Jack Beatty is another good read for background on how enterprise companies developed into what we have today.
Many companies have an infrastructure that represents layers of technology from years of management eras. This will definitely impact how companies make decisions about new solutions. Reps need situational background to be the most effective, so getting that context is huge.

Bottom line is sales IS Rocket Science when you don't have the tools and skills to be effective. It is like looking at the most complex equation and having no idea what the solution is. The great thing is everything is at your fingertips to put into practice with some effort.

Happy selling!

Image Credit: Android Ghost

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Don Draper is an Expert at "Social Selling," Are You?

The art of "Social Selling" is sometimes considered an optional "extra-curricular" method of sales reps either do, or do not choose to adopt. Part of the reason is having the word "Social" in it causes people to map it to social media. Since many sales reps are not social media power users, and don't see it as a way to find "deals" they stick with what they know. In the end, it is dismissed as something to do with social media and doing things outside of their wheelhouse that take time with little return. Unfortunately, management may share this mindset as they also see little value in ROI from anything "social."

Let's dissect the topic and take an academic look at "social selling" and why it is not something extra-curricular but rather something that is intrinsic to taking you from little league to professional, from a sales associate (in appearance and reception) to a power player, a peer, and why it is something that has been around since sales became a profession.

On a side note--it is also a way to make yourself memorable to prospects, sets you apart from the other 30 reps that try to connect with them that week, make yourself more valuable to your employer, and build long-term relationships that stick. 

A fictional character that is master of social selling is Don Draper. Before computers or being online was even conceived, Don Draper knew the value of information, which includes when and how to use it. 

Don Draper's selling landscape in the 1960's looked like:
  • Some things clients want never change, they want to be the best option for their consumers (in perception at least.) 
  • They want to break into new markets, retain their existing customers and wow their audience. 
  • They want to be a household name, a fixture in their space that automatically is considered when a requirement comes up.
  • They want to feel safe with their vendors, they want to confirm they made the best choice.
  • They want an advocate with their vendor.
  • They want a vendor to grow and align with their plans.
  • They want you to know what they want even when they don't know what they want. They may have unrealistic goals.
How Don Draper did Social Selling in the 1960's:
  • He had people do research on companies to get information.  We have a meeting with a huge firm--so someone is in charge of researching the firm, their clients, their current vendors, and user preferences. 
  • Relationships often meant inside information, and valuing those resources.
  • He carefully observed his prospects, their habits, their style, who they are and their level of influence.
  • He put himself where his clients would be, but not overstaying his welcome.
  • He keenly observes people, and has a high amount of emotional intelligence in selling (we'll leave it at that.) NOTE: It has been observed by some, that people with dysfunctional backgrounds are very good at sales from their ability to have a high sensitivity to undercurrents and emotional tones. (Article "Dysfunctional Family? You'd Make a Great Entrepreneur")
NOTE: The above preparation and effort to learn this about prospects took a lot of time, multiple people, the time the client saw the final presentation, it was seamless and they had no clue what went into it.

How Reps Today Execute Social Selling:
  • Companies can be researched online in about 15 minutes--not days with multiple people involved, or having to pay for information.
  • You can research your prospects fairly easily via their own user generated content, (i.e., LinkedIn, Twitter, Press Releases, etc.) and also looking at their peers and industry.
  • You can observe their habits and style by being able to discern their actions remotely in the online world. 
  • You want to make an appearance, not an entrance--so low touch and informal is the best way to keep the dialog going.
Social Selling is really just "selling" like the seasoned pro's do, it isn't some enhanced method for a select few. It is distilling everything about your prospect, such as live interactions, online, remote, with others, and observing their interests and actions in the public domain. From there you distill it down to carefully executed actions that make a difference.

Good sales reps have always been around, the amount of people and cycles to get things done has been greatly reduced thanks to the internet--so you can be incredibly effective on your own.  It is being the Ultimate Maverick to implement smart pre and post detective work into your relationships.

What Are YOU doing to step up in 2015 to a changing sales landscape?

Image credit: AMC

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How Many Calls Does It Take to Reach Executives?

A common topic among B2B sales teams is how difficult it can be to reach prospects. My team often makes (8-10+) attempts to reach prospects (more in some cases,) which is a reflection of the fact that people are extra busy in today's B2B environments. It takes a very developed level of skill, effort, and persistence to reach prospects and is much more than a "numbers game" as so many people believe. Rather, today's engagement requires an understanding of executive work environments, the psychology of engagement, and preparation.
What could you be doing right when prospects are apologizing?
Even though there is a requirement for a much higher level of persistence in today's B2B selling landscape, old habits die hard and the habit of '3 strikes and you're out' is still very alive on the sales side. What that means is a typical effort to reach a prospect is a couple of voicemails and an email, and if the prospect hasn't responded by then, the rep moves on thinking they weren't interested after all. I have heard reps say things like "if they were interested they would have called back" or "I don't have time to chase them" to "I'm not going to waste time leaving voicemails, I sent an email--if they don't respond they aren't interested." Right when a follow up engagement is starting to get on a prospects' radar, many reps gives up and it's two ships that passed in the night. Sound familiar?
Recently, I was talking with a client of ours who gave me an example of how he had to call one prospect more than 5 times. It was someone that initially was very interested but went quiet. My client said he felt sure there was something there and persisted, and to his surprise the prospect was very interested and nothing had changed, he was just busy. We agreed most sales reps would have given up by then. I asked "did your prospect apologize when you connected with him finally?" He said YES, how did I know? We have that happen all the time, it's an indicator of doing something right.
What does this mean to you when your prospect apologizes? It means they did get your messages, they had good intentions, and appreciate your persistence (This whole article is assuming this is happening with a professional peer-level outreach and not being a pest--which my next article covers.)
A few things to keep in mind:
  • Typically it takes around 3 discussions before relationships with prospects becomes reciprocal, which means those first 2 discussions may take extra effort to connect.
  • What is often interpreted as no-interest is really just "real life." It is important to put yourself in your prospect's shoes to understand what is really happening and not take it personal.
While reps give up trying to reach their prospects thinking they aren't interested, what really happens is maybe they were out of town, they were out sick, or things like their client called them ranting about a problem and they had to put out a fire, one of their staff had to leave on a family emergency, they had a key team member quit, because they get 300 emails and 15 vendor calls a day and there is a lot of competition for their attention, or because an enterprise platform they just bought crashed, or they have 200 sites offline right now because the network went down....the reasons are countless...but bottom line, the deal is still there and they are still interested.
The National Sales Executive Association had released some statistics a couple of years ago from a study that stated:
  • 2% of sales are closed from a single attempt,
  • 3% from two attempts,
  • 5% after 3 attempts,
  • 10% after 4 attempts,
but here is the whopper--
  • 80% of deals closed after making from 5-12 attempts.
Companies often do a "Did They Buy" Study on past leads that typically reveal that from 50%-70% of your prospects ended up buying something, but did they buy it from you?
Prospects tend to take the path of least resistance—so if you are making it easy for them to buy from you by being available and persistent, then you have increased your chances of closing the deal.
If you hear a lot of apologies from your prospects and progressing deals, it isn't a bad thing. If you aren't, then take a look at your process for follow up and ask if you might be giving up too early?
When was the last time a prospect told you they were sorry they didn't call you back sooner?