Sales and Sales Management Blog

April 27, 2011

Book Review: Slow Down, Sell Faster

Filed under: Book Reviews — Paul McCord @ 9:21 am
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As a seller, do you want to slow down your sales process?  Making your sales cycle longer than it currently is sounds crazy doesn’t it? 

What can happen if you slow down your sales process?  Well, the prospect could change their mind if they’re thinking about buying; they could get a better offer from one of your competitors; their needs could change, leaving you out in the cold; the economy could change, leaving them without the ability to buy; in fact, all kinds of bad things could happen.

But on the other hand, according to Kevin Davis in Slow Down, Sell Faster! Understand Your Customer’s Buying Process and Maximize Your Sales (AMACOM: 2011), if you slow down your selling process you could actually end up selling faster than when you were trying to sell as fast as possible.

So, riddle me this: how can doing something slower actually be faster?

Davis argues that the secret to selling faster by selling slower is moving from a sales oriented process to a buyer oriented process, that is, from trying to sell based on your sales process to trying to help your prospect buy based on their buying process.

The crux of Slow Down, Sell Faster is understanding and developing the skills of the 8 roles of buying-focused selling.  The process of buying-focused selling involves working with the prospect to help lead them through their natural buying process, and to do so salespeople have to work through each of the 8 roles that come into play as the buyer works through their buying process.

The 8 roles of buying-focused selling:

  1. 1.     The Student: understanding the customer, their company, and how your products or services can fit.
  2. 2.    The Doctor: diagnosing the real needs of the customer
  3. 3.    The Architect: designing customer-focused solutions
  4. 4.    The Coach: analyze the competition and develop a game plan to win the sale
  5. 5.    The Therapist: understand and resolve the buyer’s fears
  6. 6.    The Negotiator: reaching mutual commitment
  7. 7.    The Teacher: teaching your customer how to maximize value from your solution
  8. 8.    The Farmer: cultivate customer satisfaction and loyalty

 By slowing down your sales process and engaging the prospect using a process that matches their buying process you can, according to Davis, end up closing sales much quicker.

And the argument makes sense.

Most of us have spent our sales careers trying to force our prospects to do what we want by demanding they conform to the way we sell—but when we buy for ourselves or our companies, we typically resist the efforts of the person trying to sell us until we are satisfied we’re making the right choice and have worked through our fears and concerns.  Most of us will ignore the entreaties of the salesperson and make our decisions our way and on our timeframe.

If that is the way we buy, why would we think others aren’t doing exactly the same thing?  If they are, doesn’t it make sense to help them work through their process instead of trying to force our process on them?

It’s time to move away from trying to force prospects to buy our way and to begin helping them buy their way.  Get a copy of Slow Down, Sell Faster and begin to speed up the flow in your pipeline.

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April 26, 2011

Book Review: Strength Based Selling

Filed under: Book Reviews — Paul McCord @ 8:38 am
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Are all sellers the same?  Of course not.  There is no such thing as the prototype seller.  Great, successful sellers come from all types of backgrounds; no two have exactly the same strengths or weaknesses; some are extraverts, others introverts; some are technically oriented, others have no technical aptitude what-so-ever.

So if there’s so much room for people with different strengths and characteristics to succeed in sales, what is the “secret” to success?

Tony Rutigliano and Brain Brim answer that question in Strengths Based Selling (Gallup Press: 2011).  Based on the StrengthsFinder tool developed by Dr. Donald O. Clifton, the book describes the 34 ‘talent themes’ that are identified through the assessment tool.  When a seller takes the assessment, it identifies the seller’s top five themes which are the strengths the seller should focus on—these are the strengths they should base their selling efforts on.

First, let’s define some terms as used in the book:

Talent: “a natural way of thinking, feeling, or behaving, such as the tendency to be outgoing in social situations.”

Strength: “the ability to consistently produce a positive outcome through near-perfect performance in a specific task.”

Skill: “the basic ability to move through the fundamental steps of a task.”

Knowledge: “information—what you know.”

Practice: repetition

The book’s argument is that by knowing your strengths which encompass your talents and then adding skills, knowledge, and practice, you can maximize your sales success because selling then becomes a natural extension of who you are—sales comes naturally.

So far, so good.

The authors then address the strengths based concept to the reality of selling—in prospecting, assessing opportunities, negotiating, customer service, and the various other areas of the sale.

The concept is great.  The short coming of the book is it actually gives very little that can be used by a seller or manager to change one’s selling behavior—even after taking the StrengthsFinder assessment.

Readers of the book can take the assessment for free as each book has a code that can be used to access the StrengthsFinder.  Upon completion of the assessment, the seller will be provided with their top 5 themes with some suggestions on how to implement them.  The guidance is very broad and generalized.

If you don’t find the information to be specific enough to be of real help, you can pay for upgrades which will give you your additional themes and access to some individualized coaching.

Pick up a copy of the book—you will glean enough from the book to more than justify the price of the book.  But don’t expect to see significant change in your sales business without investing more dollars since the book is really a marketing tool for the add-ons to the StrengthsFinder.

April 21, 2011

Are You Just a Piece of Trash to Your Client?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 7:48 am

Whether you know it or not, your database of current and past clients is your best source of new clients.  “Prospecting” for a new client is time consuming and expensive.  If you can find a way to increase your sales without the time commitment and expense of cold calling, mass direct mail, advertising or purchasing leads, would you be willing to implement it?  Of course, you would.

Taking the time and effort to keep in contact with past clients will grow your business through new direct sales to the client and generating referrals to qualified prospects.

We salespeople often think that keeping in touch with past clients takes too much time, effort, and money.  Considering the return on investment, this really is not true—at least for most of us.  The key is finding a way to communicate that is time efficient, relatively inexpensive, and effective.

Studies indicate that in order to keep your name at the top of your customer’s mind, you need to “touch” your customer a minimum of 14 times per year—more if at all possible.

What is a “touch?”  A touch is any communication from you to your client—email, telephone call, snail mail, postcard, holiday card, in-person meeting, or any other method of getting in front of your customer.  If you are communicating with the client, you are touching them.

 What is the most effective way to touch your past clients?  Studies have shown that there is not a “best” way but rather, the most effective client communication programs enlist a number of communication formats.

Sending 14 emails a year is better than nothing, but it is not the best way; neither would be sending 14 snail mail pieces–or making 14 phone calls.  Neither would be sending 14 postcards during the course of the year.  However, constructing a campaign using a combination of these methods could be a very effective program.  For instance, setting a marketing calendar to send 4 postcards per year, 6 emails,  2 snail mail letters, one phone call, and one holiday card during the course of the year allows you to touch your client approximately once every 3 ½ weeks during the year. 

But, what do you send?  What do you say 14 times during the course of the year?  The content of your communication is just as important as the fact that you sent something.  When you communicate with a past client, the fact that you have something in front of a previous customer is not necessarily a good thing in and of itself. 

Many traditional marketers will disagree.  Much traditional thinking says that any time you get your name in front a client you are ‘communicating.’  However, is a 3-second trip to the trash for your expensive postcard or letter the best the use of your money?  And do you really want your client to think of you as just another piece of trash?

Whether or not your communication campaign is effective will depend on what you are communicating.  If you send junk just to send something, your customer will quickly learn to ignore you and your communications and everything you send will take that 3-secnd trip to the trash.  On the other hand, if your communications offer something of interest and value, you will train your client to pay attention to you.

The most basic question to ask before sending anything is, “Does this add value for me (that is, is it ‘me’ oriented, or does it add value for my client (client oriented)?”  If the answer isn’t that it primarily adds value for your client, you have a communication worthy of going straight to the trash.

Which would you rather have:  a client that ignores you or one that pays attention to you?

I assume you would rather have a client that pays attention to you. 

To train your clients to pay attention, and, therefore, to keep you at the top of their mind, you must figure out how to send them communications that give them value.  Can you offer a special for them or someone they refer to you?  Can you provide them an annual or semi-annual update on their purchase?  Can you send or email them articles of interest that relate to their purchase, their business, or an interest of theirs?  What you send does not have to be large or costly—it just needs to be of value to the client. 

A program such as this requires thought and considerable customization of content, but the payoff can be enormous.  Think about what you are sending and what it will—or will not—communicate about you and your business.  If you want your clients to think of you and not ignore you, then take the time and the effort to make sure you are sending value.  If you are not sure it has value, it probably does not.  Marketing to your client database should be at the top of your “to do” list and your campaign should be constructed with the thought and care as if you were communicating with the most important people in the world, because for you, they are.

April 19, 2011

Master Your Sales Conversations–And Close More Sales

Ever feel like your sales conversations don’t go as well as you would have liked? Perhaps there was something nagging at you that made you think, “I could be doing something better. Something to win more and bigger sales, but I’m not sure what.”

No matter what you’re selling, at some point you have conversations with buyers. Much selling success is determined here. Over the years I’ve seen too many sales people, leaders, and professionals struggle to create sales conversations, kick them off well, uncover needs, create enthusiasm with the prospect, and win business. Without realizing it they make the same mistakes over and over again that end up losing sales.

My friends Mike Schultz and John Doerr, Founders of RainToday and Co-Presidents of the Rain Group, have just released  Rainmaking Conversations, which teaches you everything you need to know about leading masterful sales conversations.

This book gives you a practical step by step process to go from the first “hello” to “send me an invoice…let’s go.” Full of compelling stories, examples, and winning techniques, the book covers how to:

  • ·         Build rapport and trust early on in the relationship
  • ·         Uncover the full set of prospect needs (most advice and training only gives you half the story)
  • ·         Develop winning value propositions that get prospects excited to buy
  • ·         Apply the 16 principles of influence in sales
  • ·         Overcome all types of objections  (including price pressure) and move towards the close
  • ·         Craft compelling solutions and close the deal
  • ·         Avoid the most common mistakes that kill sales

The book walks you through RAIN Selling, an acronym that stands for Rapport, Aspirations and Afflictions, Impact, and New Reality. It provides a guide for the most important part of sales – the conversations you have with prospects and clients.

Rainmaking Conversations is hot off the presses, and it’s a great sales book. A classic in the making. To kick off the book launch, the authors have put together an amazing bonus package for those of you who buy a copy today.

 Pick up a copy today and you’ll get tons of bonuses including a special bonus from me! So get your copy at Amazon.com. Then stop by: www.RainGroup.com/Book/Bonuses to pick up all the bonuses.

I highly recommend it!

April 15, 2011

2011 Sales and Marketing Success Conference—Improve Your Skills and Help Japan at the Same time

Get out your calendar and start making plans for the week of Monday, May 9 through Friday, the 13th.  During those five days you’ll have the opportunity to attend up to 35 incredible webinar sessions—7 every single day—presented by 35 of the top sales minds in the world. 

Each session will be a quick but highly targeted 30 minutes.

Who are some of these presenters?  Well, there’s Dave Kurlan, Jill Konrath, Kelley Robertson, Colleen Francis, Linda Richardson, John Doerr, myself, and many others.  Topics covered will range from Sales 101 Isn’t Enough: Advanced Selling Capabilities For Outselling Your Competition to 7 Habits of Highly Effective (Social) Salespeople to Successfully Profiting from the New Buying Cycle to my session on Build a Successful Business on Referrals by Knowing Who Your Client Knows and, of course, many, many more.

You can see the whole list of sessions HERE

And here’s even better news—when you attend any given session you’ll be helping the Red Cross in their mission in Japan.

Jonathan Farrington, the host of the conference says,

Just four weeks after the Magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake and a tsunami which delivered 46ft waves, we learn that the death toll is likely to top 25.000, and recovery is going to take not years, but possibly decades, maybe even a generation, at a cost of at least $250 billion.

This is our opportunity to show that the sales community – so often derided for being shallow and materialistic, amongst other things – actually has a very big heart.

We plan to charge just $5 registration fee per presentation, and we are limited to 1000 guests per session, so places will be allocated on a “first come – first served” basis.

Can I count on your support? Together we can make a worthwhile *contribution to the people of Japan.

That’s right, it only costs $5 to attend any one session and 100% of those dollars will be donated to the Red Cross specifically for Japan.  At the end of each session you’ll be given an opportunity to donate an additional $1, $5, or $10 if you so wish.

Here is a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the efforts in Japan and get great training at the same time. 

What a great deal!!!

I encourage you to seriously consider attending my session Friday, May 13 at noon Eastern time as I’ll be giving you the tools you’ll need to do the detective work to figure out exactly who your client knows that you know you want to be referred to—and knowing that will allow you to both greatly increase the number of referrals you get and, more importantly, get referrals to prospects that you know are great prospects for you.

Here is the registration page for my session.

Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to help yourself improve your sales while helping those who are in desperate need of help.

April 14, 2011

A Tale of Three Villages

This was related to me by a sales executive—I’ll refer to him as Robert–who swears it is a true story.  Although I have his permission to use his name, I’ve chosen not to for as you will see, the story is not complimentary to the company he was working for (and it’s too pleasant a Spring to worry about a law suit).

Like many other companies, Robert began, we had gone through a terrible year in 2008. 

I had joined the company as chief sales officer at the beginning of 2007, just a very few months before the economy really began to hurt our sales.

During the course of the year we had cut back on everything—even to the point that office supplies were monitored, hourly employees were forbidden to work overtime, a hiring freeze was instituted which not only meant that no new positions could be created but if someone quit or were terminated we couldn’t replace them.  There were no merit raises, and, of course, there we no bonuses.  Travel, training, meeting, and other “non-essential” budgets were greatly reduced if not entirely eliminated.

We in the sales department were under a great deal of pressure to bring in business—any business.  At first, profit margins were watched with an eagle eye, but after a few months the goal was to get a sale at virtually any price.  The entire sales staff was working under tremendous pressure.  Two satellite sales offices were closed during the year as well as one branch office.  The national and all regional sales meetings were cancelled.

Despite the emphasis on bringing in business at any cost, sales were still down by almost 20% for the year—and 2009 looked like it would be even worse.  The company posted a loss for the first time in almost 15 years and we knew that the following year would be an even bigger loss the way things were going.

During the first quarter of 2009 all the department heads and executives were called in for a strategy meeting.  The goal was to figure out what could be done to stop the bleeding.  I was to lay out in detail what was needed in the sales department. 

When it finally came my turn to present, I started with an overview of 2008’s sales and the current projections for 2009.  I then wanted to make a case for funding an aggressive training program starting immediately.  During the previous year our one in-house trainer had quit and wasn’t replaced.  We instituted some training during weekly sales meetings but that was totally inadequate.  For several years prior to the recession when business was really good the company had cut back on the amount of training it provided.  Business was coming in and frankly they didn’t see a reason to spend the dollars.  As I said, we had a company trainer but he wasn’t really a sales trainer although he had gone through one of the major sales training systems and was our “official” sales trainer so to speak, supplemented by our branch and regional managers and on occasion me.

Rather than giving a straight forward argument for increased training of the sales team and the associated expenditure, I decided to tell a story that I thought might illustrate the need better than simple facts.

I stood up and started:

“Around the mid to last half of the 19th century in the Midwest farming was becoming the backbone of communities.  Small farming villages were constantly forming as more and more farmers developed their farms.  Often these communities were founded on a river.

“In one area in particular at about the same time, three farming villages were founded, each on a fork of the same river. 

“Each village was thriving as more framing families moved into their area.  Over the years, additional commercial interests began to move into each community.

“For many years life was good.

“But from the beginning, each community took a different view of the fork of the river they lived on.

“The first village understood that the river was the source of their livelihood.  The village council made sure that the river was well maintained.  Any trash that was found in the river was removed.  If sand, silt, or rocks began to build up around the banks of the river, it was cleared out.  About every couple of decades they dredged the river if they needed to.

“But the elders of the second and third villages didn’t see a need to pay much attention to the river as the river was always there.  Sure, over the years the silt and sand had accumulated.  The river was shallower than it had been but it was also broader, so it had just as much water as ever.  They thought the first village’s efforts to keep their fork of the river narrow and deep a silly waste of time.  Life was good–why invest in something that didn’t need to be done?

“But then a year of drought came.  The first village barely noticed that the rains had ceased as their river still ran strong and deep and provided all the water they needed.  But the other two villages began to see their forks of the river begin to dry up.  At first it was just a bit of bigger semi-sandy beach.  Then there were mud flats that seemed to go for hundreds of yards before there was any water.

“The drought didn’t break in the second or the third years. 

“By the end of the second year the first village had seen a noticeable decrease in the flow of their fork of the river.  Even so, they had plenty of water and had no fear that if the drought lasted another year or even two that they’d be in any real trouble.

“The people in the second and third village were in very different shape.  Their forks of the river were on the verge of drying up completely after the years of neglect. 

“The village councils of both villages finally had no choice to face the crisis. 

“Both villages talked about their options—they could sacrifice and pay the price to do the work they should have been doing all along and invest in getting their fork of the river in shape to handle the drought, they could give up and move out of the village, or they could stay and hope that the drought relented before they were driven out.

“The people of the second village debated and debated and finally decided that as much as it would hurt short-term, they had no choice but to hire someone to come and help them save their fork of the river.  The sacrifice was painful—and it wasn’t quick, but finally it began to pay off and the water began to flow, each day the flow of water seemed to increase. 

“The people in the third village decided that the cost to deal with the river was just too great to bear.  They believed that the drought would abate and they would be able to delay any repairs to the river until times were better. During the fourth year of the drought the final residents of the third village moved away, leaving their small village and most of the surrounding farms to decay.

“Unfortunately, we have several competitors who, like the first village, didn’t fritter away the good years.  They maintained a high level of training for their people even though for many, us included, it seemed a waste of time and money.  They are now reaping the rewards of that investment.  Some have even seen their sales increase during this downturn.

“We now have to decide if we’re going to be like the second village that was willing to pay the price in the short-term to rectify past neglect–or whether we’re going to hope against hope as the third village did that somehow we’ll make it through.

“It’s our choice—and our responsibility.  Where do we go from here?”

 

I’d like to say that my little story had the desired effect, Robert said.  It didn’t.  We limped along through 2009 and most of 2010.  The loses grew larger each month. 

I eventually left out of disgust. 

The company is still hanging on but is looking for someone, anyone, to purchase them.  Most of the executive group that was there for my story is gone also.

Would things have been different if we’d made the decision to ratchet up our training?  Of course I can’t say for sure, but I’m willing to bet they would be very different.  We had a good product.  We had some good salespeople.  We didn’t have the right support in terms of training and coaching to help them at a really difficult time.

Since then I’ve changed my focus, Robert ended.  My team is 100% focused on gaining and implementing skills—and every manager is required to learn how to coach their team members.  No longer will I get myself in a situation where my river is going to silt over and die.

 

I thought Robert’s story both timely and relevant to many a company right now. 

I hope if your company didn’t follow the example of the first village that you at least joined the second village in digging deep and sacrificing to dredge your river to get the saving water flowing again.  If you’re with the third village, well, good luck.

April 11, 2011

Results of the 2011 Richardson/McCord Training Social Media in Marketing and Sales Survey

It has taken a bit of time and a lot of effort, but we finally have the 2011 Richardson/McCord Training Social Media in Marketing and Sales Survey results.

Some will be surprised, some won’t like the findings, and others will find they confirm what they suspected.

Two things stick out for me:

1.  Both salespeople and companies, whether they currently use social media or not, are struggling to figure out how to use it effectively. In fact, few—even those with sophisticated marketing departments investing time and effort into the process—have any real social media strategy.  Undoubtedly, this will be true for quite some time to come–and, of course, that means there are and will be thousands out looking to take your money to help you learn the hows of making Social Media work.  The lesson here: be extremely careful as there are many who know little more than how to construct a tweet who are anxious to take your money.

2.  To date, social media has been pretty useless in generating actual sales.  By far the most use salespeople and companies are getting from social media is in the area of prospecting–finding new prospects to contact using traditional means, not in making sales.  Again, this will probably be the case for a long, long time–it may always be the case.  Except for web-based sellers, few are realizing any real sales volume from their social media activities.  The lesson?  If you’re thinking you’re going to make easy money by spending time on social media and not having to do the hard work of prospecting, well, good luck with that thought.  On the other hand, if you’re not using social media to help identify and research prospects, you’re probably wasting a heck of a lot of time elsewhere.

Find out what else we discovered–it’s all in the survey.

I’ve decided to divert from the typical approach of requiring you to register to receive a sales oriented White Paper or making you subscribe to our newsletter.  Instead, I’m offering the report as a simple PDF download with the download link below.  I would encourage you, though, to either subscribe to the SELLING POWER Newsletter by simply shooting me an email at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com with the subject line “subscribe,” or clicking on the “Sign Me Up” button at the top of the sidebar to the right and subscribe to receive notification of new blog posts.  Subscription appreciated, not required.

If you have questions or anything needs a little more light put upon it, by all means, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Download social media survey

April 5, 2011

Let’s Stop with the Stupidity and Start Dealing with Real Problems

Don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but obviously you’re wasting your time trying to make a living in sales because:

Cold calling is dead.

High pressure sales tactics are dead.

Consultative and solution sales processes are dead.

Salespeople who aren’t using social media are dead.

Selling as we have known it for the past several thousand years is dead.

Sales training is dead.

I’ve heard all of these proclamations numerous times just since the beginning of the year. 

Then, over the weekend I heard that relationship based selling is also dead.

Isn’t it time the stupidity stop?

Yes, the Internet has impacted the way people buy—to some extent.  It hasn’t changed human nature.

New sales opportunities will still be developed through cold calls.

There will always be a group of sellers that resort to high pressure tactics—and some buyers who will succumb to it.

The most successful sellers will still be focusing on solving client issues.

To the amazement of some, for decades to come there will be highly successful salespeople who won’t use social media as a marketing tool.

There will still be buyers—and still be salespeople.

There will still be sellers who need to learn the skills of selling, relationship building, communicating, and delivering superior service.

And a great big percentage of the transactions will be someone making purchase decisions based on trusted relationships with sellers.

So why all the death talk?  Some of the proclaimers of death actually believe what they say; they just don’t really understand human nature.  Others are simply seeking controversy and trying to call attention to themselves.

Either way, instead of wasting time with hyperbole and doing a tremendous dis-service to sellers and sales leaders, we should be concentrating on dealing with the very real problems and issues of the salespeople we are supposed to be helping—and a silly discussion about whether cold calling works or not or whether or not building a relationship of trust with a prospect is a good idea or not isn’t serving anyone other than the writer seeking to make a splash.

The next time you see an article title that proclaims the death of anything, move on as there will be nothing of value to be had there.

 Death to all the death proclamations–and let’s get on with dealing with the real world issues that plague sellers and sales leaders.

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