Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sales Best Practice: A Meeting Agenda on Steroids!

Of the four building blocks of credibility and trust discussed in a what your prospect understands about your intentions for the Sales Best Practice: a Meeting Agenda relationship – is by far the most important.

So, this post is focused on a simple yet powerful method for making sure your prospect clearly understands your positive intent right from the very first meeting and every time thereafter. The process can be easily remembered as The 3 P’s:

  • Purpose
  • Process
  • Payoff

By taking the time prior to a sales meeting to think about – write down – brief statements answering the following questions, you will be very well prepared to make your positive intent clear to your prospect so you can both get down to business.

You will start the meeting by sharing your 3P’s and, most importantly, by asking your prospect to confirm their acceptance and or make changes.

Purpose – Why We Are Here?

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Stop just reacting when your customer says they have a need! Rather, ask questions to help them understand their needs.
searching for the answers
In years gone by, it was fairly simple for a salesperson to approach a prospect, ask them what they needed, then convince them that whatever product or service they had to sell would fit that need perfectly.

In the 21st Century, however, this simplistic, needs-based sales paradigm no longer works. You need a more robust sales process .

Why?

Because today’s buyer in the B2B environment is far too savvy and well-educated to accept that any pre-made “happy meal” solution is exactly what their organization needs to cure its ills.

Today’s B2B buyer has a huge selection of products and services to choose from, with customizable features just a mouse-click away.  Research, reviews, customer feedback and competitors are all freely available to anyone with the desire to look, so most of your customers will know as much if not more about what they’re buying than you will.

In addition, the average B2B customer’s problems and needs are more complex, more difficult to identify and prioritize than they used to be.

Therefore, as you may have noted in your own experience, most customers know what their problems are, but don’t really have a handle on their actual needs .

Problems versus Needs

What’s the difference?  How can someone know their problem, but not know what they need to fix it?

Consider this simplified example, based on an old adage:

Bob is hungry.  He looks through his cupboards and his fridge, and finds nothing to eat.

Joe, Bob’s best friend, drops by on his way to a nearby trout stream and finds Bob sitting on the front porch.  Bob complains to Joe that he is desperately hungry.

Now, Joe has a choice to make doesn’t he?

See, Bob understands his problem: he’s hungry and wants to eat.  Joe has no trouble understanding the problem either, and both of them could easily agree that what Bob truly needs is to eat something.  And quick!

But, Joe also happens to be a counselor salesperson, too.  So, rather than immediately jumping to the old needs-based conclusion and bringing Bob a fresh trout from the stream, what does he do?

He tells Bob to grab his hat and rubber boots and to join him.  He teaches Bob how to fish.  After all, no grown man in Bob’s area (within sight of a beautiful trout stream) ought to go hungry.

And now, instead of just being satisfied for the day, Bob can be satisfied every day because he’s learned how to provide his own food.

As I said, this example is simplistic, but it makes the point:

To most effectively solve a customer’s problems, both the customer and the salesperson need to fully understand more than just the basic problem itself and the surface need that the problem seems to suggest.

Rather, they need to dig deeper into root causes, gleaning all the facts and feelings involved.  They need to establish the range of available options and the pros and cons of each so that both agree that the final solution provides the most effective means of addressing the problem.

This investigation is a vital piece of the modern B2B sales puzzle: The Discovery Process .

In future posts, I’ll be digging deeper into this fascinating and constantly evolving process to help salespeople fulfill their preferred roles as trusted advisers.  Please feel free to include any questions or comments below so we can discuss!

If you can’t wait for future posts to learn more about the discovery process drop me a note we can schedule a 15 minute conversation to discuss your situation.

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Imagine a man, Bob, who’s interested in buying a laptop computer.  He comes home empty- coaching handed and frustrated, explaining to his wife why he refused to buy:

“As soon as I walked into MegaBox one of their salespeople latched on to me like a leech and steered me toward the most expensive laptop on the market.  I tried to explain what I was looking for in a computer, but he wasn’t really listening to me.  He just kept telling me that this computer was the best one available, but he wasn’t explaining why.  When I finally got a chance to speak to someone else, she told me something completely different about the same computer.  It felt like no one knew what they were talking about.  When it was all said and done, I just walked out because it felt more like a high-pressure pitch than anything else.  And I still don’t have my computer!”

Bob’s unfortunate experience does an excellent job of highlighting the Four Obstacles to Buying that every counselor salesperson must understand and learn to overcome to effectively sell. These four obstacles are just as true in B2B selling.

The Four Obstacles to Buying:

1.    No Trust: “When I finally got a chance to speak to someone else, she told me something completely different about the same computer.  It felt like no one knew what they were talking about.” Everyone has grown up with a strong, inborn distrust of salespeople.  This is primarily because so many salespeople, especially in years past, have used manipulation, intimidation, and flat out lies to make sales that should never have been made.

2.    No Need: “I tried to explain what I was looking for in a computer, but he wasn’t really listening to me.” If a customer’s needs are not understood, acknowledged and directly addressed, no list of features and benefits is ever going to matter to them.

3.    No Help: “He just kept telling me that this computer was the best one available, but he wasn’t explaining why.” Few things will turn a prospect or customer off as quickly and completely as being left in the dark.  Maybe that computer was the best option for Bob, but obviously Bob didn’t get that message, and the sale was lost.

4.    No Satisfaction: “When it was all said and done, I just walked out because it felt more like a high-pressure pitch than anything else.  And I still don’t have my computer!” If all of the above is covered satisfactorily, there should be no reason why the customer will feel dissatisfied with the outcome.  They trust you, they trust the solution you’ve built together, and they understand exactly why it’s the best solution for them.

As everyone knows, people love to buy, but they hate to be sold.  In other words, a customer hates to feel like he or she is being pressured into a sale or is being pushed toward something that’s not perfect for them personally.

That’s one reason I wrote my previous post about the “solutions” mindset, and why we’ve been discussing researching and engaging prospects via social media.  We need to learn about them, personally, in order to really assist them.

Buying is exciting.  Buying is fun!  If we can help our customer arrive at a decision to purchase something from us because they’re sure it’s the perfect fit to solve their problems, actually going through with the purchase is simple.  Even enjoyable.

Interested in figuring how your salespeople can effectively anticipate and address the obstacles to their sales success? If yes drop me a note . We will schedule a brief conversation.

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We helped transition a technical staff into a “sales” role.   We have found that most one person giving advice to another frequently, technical consultants are not in a traditional “sales” role.  Rather, they are brought in to help close a deal, or after a sale to implement and project manage what was sold.  Therefore, our approach is to focus on the consulting aspect of this role in which technical staff is required to consult, support, and expand upon existing business opportunities using advanced consulting skills.  Following is an example of how we have used this approach to help our customers.

The Client:

A Fortune 500 multinational information technology organization providing computer products and services to organizations around the world.

Business Situation:

This company had created a team of IT system design specialists of international repute to provide support to the most challenging design problems of its customers. The team asked their manager for ‘consultancy training’ because they were aware of a need to relate differently to their customers.

Approach:

To meet the “consultancy training” need appropriately Consulting With Clients (CWC), was implemented. CWC helps consultants partner with customers in designing solutions that fit the full scope of a customer’s situation.
The team attended the CWC program and found a great deal of satisfaction with the training. Some of their responses about the training were:

  • “I am now aware of the importance of process skills awareness.”
  • “I now realize the importance of the consultancy phase of building relationships.”
  • “I have never handled the human processes consciously, now I see the need and feel I can do it.”

Overall Results:

The team’s internal effectiveness increased through the use of CWC and the use of an established common language. Customer response to use of the newly developed tools was positive, and sometimes, ecstatic.

Resulting directly from the CWC training, the team was able to create two design methods that became worldwide standards for the entire company. This program also formed the nucleus of a system design consultancy, which has operated profitably since the second year of business. As another direct consequence of the use of the CWC concepts, major pieces of business were gained.

Interested in how you can turn your tech support team into a resource to increase sales, increase your share of wallet and differentiate your company? If so drop me a note and we can schedule a brief conversation.

Photo Credit: tylertarver.com

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Why aren’t my salespeople doing what I’ve asked them to do?!

This question most often comes up when the VP of sales gets the latest sales report and the one person showing others how to get a job done numbers are disappointing, again. The VP is frustrated because he/she has invested a lot of time and money into communicating the new expectations to the sales managers and sales team, during the annual sales meeting. Furthermore, these expectations were reinforced at the 1Q quarterly meeting, which followed the annual sales meeting. And yet, they still don’t quite get it.

So what should the VP of sales do? Here are a few examples of approaches that can be effective:

  1. Read the riot act to your sales management team.

  2. Send an e-mail message expressing your disappointment and asking for a renewed commitment.

  3. Deliver an inspirational audio and/or video message to the entire sales force.

  4. Fire somebody; hire somebody.

  5. Demote someone; promote someone.

  6. Reorganize the reporting structure.

By the time I’m talking to the VP of sales he/she has already considered these approaches and others and has taken action (s). And yet, the VP of sales says “they still don’t get it.”

My approach or advice -Establish a clearer link between the sales strategy and plans you launched at the annual sales meeting and what’s required on the job. Be explicit about what you are requiring of your sales managers and salespeople. Help them to see the ultimate goal from their position; is it a clear and straight line of sight? The clearer and straighter the line of sight, the better it is for everyone.

Here are four possible ways to help everybody get a clearer line of sight:

1.    Right Way, Wrong Way: Tell stories about the right way to get the job done, based on the sales strategy.

2.    Process: Show them the work process you want them to follow from beginning to end.

3.    Change: Explain how the sales strategy requires daily flexibility of their tactics.

4.    Day in the life: Describe the typical workday that uses the correct tactics to implement the sales strategy and achieves the sales objectives and goals.

What are some other ways that you can help your sales team “get it?”

Are you puzzled by the fact that the so many of your salespeople are not doing what you’ve asked them to do? If so, perhaps having conversation with me might help you figure out what’s going on and what you can do about it. If you’re interested, drop me a note .

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I recently wrote about three reasons why a prospect would want to meet with you they are:

1.    Best Practices: Story about a customer you helped solve a problem or seize an trust between salesperson and customer opportunity.

2.    Headwinds and Trends: Early identification of problems and opportunities that your prospect would benefit by knowing about.

3.    Solutions to Problems: Assuming you completely understand your prospects problems, tell them about the solution that you have to offer.

Now that you’ve got the meeting how are you going to overcome that natural distrust a prospect feels for a salesperson, which invades nearly every relationship during the opening stages? It’s especially important for a salesperson to work to help the prospect overcome the distrust so both can get something done.

Commonality

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Sales best practices: meeting with a prospect.

While the average salespeople might not consider why a prospect would want to meet with them. Good salespeople know why they want to meet with a prospect before they call, while very good salespeople also know the reasons why the prospect might want to meet with them. Excellent salespeople focus the conversation on their prospect’s needs, wants and interests.That’s a best practice!

So why would a prospect want to meet with you? Your looks, intelligence and quick wit will only get you so far, your prospects are busy people. Unless you can help them in a way that they want to be helped, the meetings will never happen. And if the meeting happens without your helping the prospect it will be your last meeting.

Here are the three reasons why a prospect would want to meet with you:

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