Sales and Sales Management Blog

June 24, 2013

Need Help? Find it at A Sales Guy U

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 11:49 am

Are you a seller or sales leader that needs some help with issues now and then or who would like to find better, more effective methods to tackle your job?  Who among us doesn’t need help on occasion (more truthfully, on a very, very regular basis)?

Jim Keenan of A Sales Guy Consulting has just created a great resource to help meet your training and learning needs—A Sales Guy U.

At A Sales Guy U you’ll find a ton of stuff by Jim—from e-books to webinars to sales and management tools to videos and more including material from people such as Jill Konrath, Anthony Iannarino, Jeffery Gitomer, Elinor Stutz, Kelly Riggs, and Robert Terson.

You’ll find books on sales strategy, templates for sales team evaluation, social selling, hiring great sellers, creating a sales plan, cold calling, creating value, and lots more—and most of it is FREE!

I seriously encourage you to go check out A Sales Guy U.  Don’t just take a look at the home page—spend some time and look through each of the sections—Videos, Tools, Webinars & Podcasts, and Other Resources.  You’ll find great stuff and you’ll be glad you took the time—and bookmark it because you’ll want to go back on a regular basis.

 

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June 17, 2013

Book Review: Make It All About Them

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 1:01 pm

Book Review:  Make It All About Them

“The most commMake-It-All-About-Them-bookon misconception about the sales presentation is that the prospects want to hear about us, the company presenting: our size, our clients, our products, our people, and our awards. . . . Yet, in reality, clients want the presentation to be about them.”

With those opening words of Chapter 1 Nadine Keller sets out the entire thesis of Make It All About Them: Winning Sales Presentations (Wiley & Sons: 2013).

Keller argues that the entire concept of sales presentations as taught and as practiced is completely backwards.  The typical sales presentation, she believes, is a self-centered, self-serving production that completely misses the mark in regards to what is really important to the presentation’s audience.

And, of course, she is right since as sellers we tend to think not in terms of a buyer but as a seller—and what then do we present to the prospect?  What we believe should be important to the prospect, not what is important to them.

Once she has established the book’s thesis she begins laying out concrete steps to help create a them centered presentation.

Keller’s advice is given in straightforward chapters that tackle each step of the presentation process from where to begin—deciding on what three things the presentation will center on, to using stories to create interest and to generate an emotional connection, to the actual presentation and constructing and using materials in the presentation.

The focus of the sales presentation shifts from communicating what we think is important about our company to what is of actual importance to the prospect—what it means for them, not what it means for us.  Rather than addressing what we thinks should be important to the prospect, the presentation is refocused to dealing what is important from the prospect’s perspective.

Make It All About Them is a highly practical work that gives the reader guidance on not only the why but the how to perform the various aspects of creating prospect centered presentations.

Although you might not decide that Keller’s form of sales presentations is right for all situations—or you might pick and choose amongst her concepts—I cannot see how you can walk away from the book without wanting to incorporating at least some of her concepts.

June 11, 2013

Guest Article: “Dumbing it Down: 5 Secrets to Getting Smart People to Buy,” by Nancy Nardin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 1:15 pm
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Dumbing it Down: 5 Secrets to Getting Smart People to Buy
by Nancy Nardin

B2B sellers of complex technologies, that address a broad spectrum of customer issues, are generally very smart people, especially within the framework of their specific scope of solutions. On a parallel scale, business buyers of these complex technologies are also very smart people.

Smart people are perfectly capable of grasping and solving complex problems, though they may certainly differ in their approach or priorities. Unfortunately, whether by genetic wiring or socio-cultural persuasion, what they (and all of us) are not as capable of is being ready or willing to embrace change. And of course, change is what is surely required when acknowledging and solving problems, and certainly when the subject of implementing new technology or processes is on the agenda.

When people begin to consider the change required to dove-tail solutions with complex problems, their rational side takes over to process the data. Rationality requires a more focused analysis, and effective analysis requires both time and energy.

Time and energy, along with patience and attention span, are limited resources and can be depleted quicker than a smartphone’s battery.

And when that happens, your buyer goes radio-silent! You find yourself in some strange and oddly familiar no-man’s land as they mysteriously start avoiding your phone calls. You feel as though you have fallen into a black-hole of lost momentum. When, and if, a connection is finally re-established, they politely yet pointedly inform you they have to put it (your pride and joy) on the back-burner for now, to focus on other “more pressing” tasks. It is very difficult to recover that momentum once a buyer’s stamina is spent. When it’s gone, it’s gone. And there is no up-side to going back to zero, in hopes of re-building, or fixing what can never be repaired – the buyer’s enthusiasm for your solution.

The key is to simplify the buying process, so that your prospect’s “buying stamina” never starts running on fumes, or worse, flames out. You need to literally dumb it down. Not because your buyers aren’t smart, or capable, or far-sighted enough, but because they are human and incredibly busy, with a limited capacity of time and energy. You must dumb it down to prevent the ‘juice’ connected with your sales proposition to run out. Your buyer needs to be ‘plugged-in’ to an energy source strong enough to sustain them all the way through to the end.

Here are a number of ways you can dumb it down so that your smart prospects will not only buy, but will be your most ‘enlightened’ advocates.

1. Don’t tell them. Don’t show them. Give them a way to experience it.

It requires a lot more energy to envision something than it does to experience it. Watching is not the same as experiencing. Next time you give a demo, ask your prospect to take the wheel.

2. Don’t make the buyer think in your terms.

Speak in their language, not yours. Why make their brain have to expend the energy required to translate what you tell them into something they can understand? For example, don’t refer to your product as a ‘predictive analytics solution’, if what it does – from the buyer’s perspective – is to identify the right person to call. A buyer’s capacity for being qualified as ‘smart’ does not mean your brand of tech-savvy lingo will translate as easily as you think. Skip the need for the buyer to translate what you say, into a literal ‘no-brainer’ of a direct hit.

3. Help them envision what happens next. Not in the end. Next.

Big changes come from a succession of small, easily absorbed changes. Asking buyers to focus on the end-goal may be too overwhelming. While you may be intimately familiar with the outcomes, your buyer still must mentally walk-the-walk within the process if it is ever going to ‘stick’. If you have ever had a long trail to hike, you have probably accomplished the task by focusing on the intermediary goals. You tell yourself, “Only ½ mile to the next mile-marker!” because if instead you told yourself, “Only 9 miles to go!” chances are you would turn around and head for home, regardless of the mental consequences.

You must focus on ‘next’ because it is the totality of the endeavor that shuts the stamina down. Your prospects will react no differently if you make them focus on the end-goal at the expense of the next step.

4. Ask questions

Buyers form their interpretations and conclusions not only by what you tell them, but – perhaps most importantly – by how you tell them. If you go on a long rant about your product features and benefits, they will tune you out, or shut themselves down. The best way for your message to reach them effectively is to have the prospect come upon it for themselves, step by carefully-crafted step, by answering a series of ‘phase-specific’ questions.

Not just any questions either. And especially not BANT questions which only serve to help you, the seller. Ask questions that, in the process of answering, give your prospects insight into the problem and the possibilities. If they themselves can experience the transformation from problem to solution, with the strategic ‘cues’ offered by you at the right moment, the selling ‘process’ will unfold before your own eyes. The important difference is that the buyer is the one telling the story, and the script will have been written in their own words. I’ll give you an example. But first, know that this exact line of questioning is not right for every situation. It’s just an example:

You:         “What are the odds that your revenue will increase by 5% this year with the tools and processes currently in place?”

Them:      “I think we’ll be able to get it done.”

You:         “I know this is a crazy question, but what are the odds of doubling your revenue this year?”

Them:      “Slim to none.”

You:         “5% of revenue growth is do-able and 100% revenue growth is not. What percentage of revenue growth could you accomplish, in your opinion, without changing – in some way – the tools and process you currently have in place?”

Them:      “That’s a really good question.”

This type of questioning creates insight (if I don’t think bigger, I can’t get “there” from “here”). To bend a quote from an obvious source – “if you [help them to] build it, they will come”. And if the buyer can experience how and why the solutions do what they do, within an unfolding transitional process, then they become, in effect, a player instead of a spectator within your field of dreams.

5. Give ‘em Back-up
Rarely does one person make the purchase decision in B2B sales any more. Even if your prospect can make the call independently of others, they will not go it alone. In the beginning, they will tell people what they are thinking about doing, and who they are talking with, and why they are excited about it. As the sales cycle proceeds and things “get real,” the prospect will ask for feedback on their intentions from trusted advisors and decision influencers. They will share their concerns and ask for others’ assessments.

Then, when they make the call to move forward, the tables will turn and others will ask the questions of them. “Why do you want to do this again?” “How is this going to work again?” In effect, they have taken on your particular role as the salesperson. While imagining this scenario, ask yourself just how well you prepared your prospect for this moment.

Their confidence will be a direct reflection of your sales effectiveness. And it will determine how successfully the prospect can convey the vision supporting their intended decision. The imperative here is that there are several inflection points along the path to a sale where your prospect will need back-up. It is, after all, their own reserves of time and energy they will be drawing from. Make sure they are fully prepared and positioned – both to describe their excitement (at the beginning) and to defend their decision (at the end).

Often, we are so focused on selling solutions and getting to the proposal stage that we lose sight of the fact that prospects are likely to run out of buyer-stamina before you can reach a final agreement. You are the fuel for your prospects’ decision process. Do what’s necessary to reduce the amount of energy required. Simplify the buying process. Dumb it down. Not because your buyers aren’t smart, but rather because they are smart. And intelligence requires a great deal of energy and stamina.

Nancy Nardin is the foremost expert in sales productivity tools. As President of Smart Selling Tools, she consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools or subscribe to her Tool Talk blog.  Nancy can be reached at 916-

June 5, 2013

Guest Article: “Half of What You’ve Learned About Sales is Wrong,” by Charles H. Green

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 10:32 am
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Half of What You’ve Learned About Sales is Wrong
by Charles H. Green

Maybe you’ve heard the old line, “Half of advertising dollars are wasted – you just don’t know which half.” Something like that is true in sales – except that you’ve got a much better chance of telling which part to keep.

(Many thanks to Chris Downing and Anthony Iannarino for helping develop this thought).

The Challenge

Take this quiz, based on your own business:

1. I think closing is:

  1. obviously critical to selling
  2. one of the more harmful concepts in sales

2. I think cold-calling is:

  1. a tough, but necessary, and improvable process
  2. to be avoided like the plague

3. I think the customer wants:

  1. a clear value proposition
  2. a relationship
  3. a fast, cheap transaction

4. The critical job of sales management is:

  1. motivation
  2. training
  3. supervision

5. Price should be:

  1. mentioned up front
  2. not mentioned until value is established
  3. not talked about between sophisticated people

Now total your scores: Give 1 point for each a), 2 points for b) and 3 points for c). Now add them up. What does it all mean?

Pretty much nothing, I’m afraid.

It. Simply. Depends.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

We all know this, of course.  B2B is not like B2C. Internal customers are not like external customers. Inside sales is not like external sales. High-ticket items are sold differently than low-price point items. Intangible services are not the same as tangible goods.

We know that.  And yet – an enormous amount of sales advice out there doesn’t make the distinctions.  Here are some examples from page 1 results of Google searches on some terms:

And I could go on; and so could you. I didn’t pick bad articles – those are pretty good ones, some of them excellent. But – they don’t explicitly deal with the relevance of the advice to you.

Fitting Your Size

How, then, to figure out what advice to take?  You might start by characterizing your business across several continuums (continua, if you prefer):

For example, draw five lines (one for each characteristic), connecting the two endpoints:

     a. from frequent to infrequent purchases

     b. from high to low price point

     c. from tangible to intangible goods

     d. from high margins to low margins

     e. from transactional to continuing revenue relationships

Then mark the midpoint for each continuum.

Now – for each issue – on which side of the middle does your business fall?

Now ask yourself – what’s the right answer for the other side of the spectrum? And what’s the right answer for my side? How and why do they differ?

Charles H. Green is founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC; read more about Charlie at http://trustedadvisor.com/cgreen/  You can follow him on twitter @CharlesHGreen

June 4, 2013

The Keys to Creating Effective and Productive Referral Partnerships

It is getting harder and harder to break through the relentless marketing and sales noise to reach new prospects.

Prospects today are finding new—and better–ways to insulate themselves from sellers.

Many of the tried and true methods to connect with prospects are becoming increasingly less effective and demand a larger investment of time, often for a much smaller payoff.

Whether you’re facing the above issues or not, aligning yourself with others who can expose you to new prospects, help set up the sale for you, and help make life more enjoyable is one of the most effective prospecting and marketing methods you can employ.

Enlisting other sellers or companies who sell to the same prospects as you to help you find and connect with quality prospects has been a staple of marketing for top producers for decades—and unsuccessfully imitated by countless others.

Why have top producers found working with other professionals for referrals to work so well while so many others have failed to capitalize on them?

I often hear sellers and managers–and even some sales trainers–talk about seeking out ‘referral sources’ to help them find and connect with prospects.  These referral sources tend to be sellers or companies who are likely to deal with people or companies that would be great prospects for the seller and who might need or want their product or service.

These ‘referral sources’ discussions always interest me, so I’ll engage the seller in a conversation about their experience with them.  Typically my first question will be how much business they’ve closed through these referral sources.  A few will indicate they’ve done well, most indicate they’ve seen very little to no real business from their sources.

When I ask the seller I’m speaking with what the other seller gets out of making the referral, they mention that they are giving the referrer the assurance that they’ll take exceptional care of the client, allowing that seller to become more valuable to the client by becoming a trusted source of additional advice and services; or they’ll give the seller’s client a discount of some sort that only that seller’s clients get, or they’ll give the seller a cash incentive–in other words, nothing of value to the referrer.

When I assert that the other person is getting nothing of value, I often get a scornful look and verbal resistance.  Some of the responses I’ve received are:

•    From a mortgage loan officer: “Their client has to have a loan and I’ll make sure their client is well taken care of and gets a great deal—and that the loan will close on time.  That’s real value to that Realtor and their client.”
•    From an insurance agent: “She doesn’t offer insurance, just securities.  Her clients need insurance and she can be assured that I won’t try to steal her clients or infringe on her business in any way and if she doesn’t help her client through me, her client is likely to see an agent that will try to steal her business.”

•    From a seller for an IT service company: “I often find additional needs the client has and when I do, if he (the person who referred him to the client) sells that product, I’ll send the business to him.  I’ll be a source for additional sales for him to his client.”

•    From a specialized printing seller: “My referral sources are also in the printing business.  Their clients will on occasion need some things done that they can’t do and that I can.  My appeal to them is that by referring the business to me, they are assured that I’ll talk up just how good they are and it keeps their client from going to another company that might be able to not only do what I do but might be able to replace them as well.”
•    From a management consultant: “I focus exclusively on helping companies evaluate and hire more effective employees.  I look for other consultants who work in other areas who can recommend me to their clients who are having employee selection and retention issues.  By recommending me, they prevent the client from seeking help elsewhere which just might be from a company who could replace them in addition to helping with their hiring and retention issues.”

In each of these cases (and these responses are the norm, not the exception), the reason given for the referral source to send them referrals is that they are doing the referral source a favor.   “I’ll talk them up,” or “I’ll close the loan on time,” or “I won’t try to steal her business,” or “I’ll help them protect their relationship with their client.”  The worst part is these sellers are serious when they make these statements.

Lazy, delusional thinking at it’s finest.

Why do these “referral sources” need these sellers?  A promise of making them look good, or not trying to steal their business, or closing the loan on time is a dime a dozen.  Actually, they’re more like a penny a hundred.  There isn’t a mortgage loan officer, IT salesperson, consultant, or printing salesperson alive that isn’t likely to make the same promise.  If you think you’re doing your referral source a favor and that is going to earn you their business, you’re living in fantasyland with Unicorns and Hobbits.

The first rule in developing referral business from others is that they don’t need you.  They don’t need your promises, they don’t need you to make them look good, they don’t need you messin’ with their clients.

The second rule in developing referral business from others is they need business just like you.  They need referrals to quality prospects, just like you do.

The ‘secret’ the top producers have discovered when getting referrals from other sellers and companies is to forget about ‘referral sources’ and develop referral partnerships—real partnerships where the referrals go in both directions, not jut one.

Sellers and companies need the same thing you need—business.  If they need someone to make them look good or to help one of their clients, they have no problem finding dozens of sellers willing to help.  What they need are reciprocal relationships where the people they refer clients to also refer prospects back to them.  They need partners, not moochers.  And if you’re not giving back in kind, that’s exactly what you are—a moocher.

Setting up Referral Partnerships

1.  Identify Your Potential Partners: Look for other sellers or companies who deal with the same prospects as you.  Define your ideal prospect—you may have more than one ideal—and then look for others who target the same prospect.  You want to find sellers who are already established in the market; who have the reach and reputation you wish for yourself; and whose quality of products and services match yours.

There is no need to waste time and energy on low producing sellers as they won’t be able to feed you many prospects.  In addition, the quality and cost of your products and/or services should closely match your potential partner’s since you will be looking for the same prospect.  If your product is top of the line and expensive, don’t partner with a salesperson whose products are on the bargain end of the spectrum.  Likewise, if you are selling modestly priced products, don’t think you can partner with a premium priced company to enhance your image—their clients are more than likely not going to be interested in your company’s products.

2.  Know What You’re After: Once you’ve identified a number of potential partners, develop a plan of approach for each.  What are you looking for with each partner—joint marketing?  Maybe joint sales calls?  Simply referring clients back and forth?

Take a close look at the activities of each seller or company you’ve identified to get an idea of how they operate.  Do they do a lot of advertising?  Are they constantly running specials?  Are their sales materials high dollar—or maybe they don’t really use collateral material?  Are there gaps in their offerings that you can help fill?  Do they tend to sell mostly to existing customers or to new prospects?

How your proposed partner works will lead you to know what to propose to them.  If they do a great deal of advertising or direct mail, maybe a joint advertising campaign would be of interest to them.  If they work primarily with their existing client base, referring back and forth might be most appealing.  If they use a lot of high dollar collateral material, you better have material that is equally impressive.

3.  Set an Appointment with the Partner Prospect: Invite your partner prospect to lunch.  Your partnership discussion is important and shouldn’t be a viewed as a casual phone conversation.

Many of your potential partners will be men and women you either don’t know or have only met once or twice very casually.  Many will not know who you are.  Since the men and women you’ve identified as potential partners are the best in their industry in their local market, a very effective way to gain a lunch meeting is to acknowledge their success and superior reputation.  Just call them, introduce yourself, and then tell them that you know them via their reputation and the quality of their work and that you’d like to take them to lunch as you have found that it is always good practice to know top people in the business.  Most will accept—people like to be recognized for their work.  Seldom have I been turned down with this approach.  And best of all, it’s true.  I do want to know the best people in the business and they are among the best in the business in their area.

4.  Make Your Proposal: During your meeting, present your proposal.  Your proposal must focus on what the partnership will do for your potential partner, not what it will do for you.  Sellers are people, meaning their natural interest is ‘what’s in it for me.’  If you approach the conversation from a self-centered point of view, your proposal is dead before you even begin.

If you’ve done your homework well, you should be able to relate exactly why your potential partner would be interested in working with you, what type of working relationship it would be, and what the potential results for them will be.

Since there is a very good chance your potential partner doesn’t know who you are—and possibly they know little or nothing about your company—you’ll have to be able to quickly create a relationship with them and to provide credibility for yourself and your company.  Hopefully you have mutual clients or testimonials from individuals or companies your potential partner will recognize and respect.

Don’t expect a commitment during your initial meeting.  Most often if the person is interested, they’ll need time to do some due diligence, as well as additional discussions to develop the model for the partnership.

5.  The Monkey is on Your Back: The partnership was your idea, not theirs.  That means you’ll have to do the work to get the partnership going.  Even if you gain agreement from your potential partner, they won’t be committed until they see results.  You’ll have to take the lead in getting the partnership moving—and most importantly, you’ll have to provide them with real leads, referrals, and potential business before you can expect them to begin feeding you leads and referrals.

If you’re just looking for free, easy business, don’t bother with a partnership because it won’t do you any good.  However, if you’re willing to invest the time and effort, focusing on creating partnerships with the top sellers and companies in your area that work with your prime prospects can bring in business you would have had a very difficult if not impossible time reaching.

Partnerships are great door openers and business builders.  But they aren’t magical.  They take work.  They take time and effort.  And most of all, they require you to do what you say you’re going to do—be a source of new business for your partner, just as they are expected to be a source of new business for you.

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