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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

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 this....as 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 is....it 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 happen....it 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