Sales Challenges: 1 of 6 - How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives

June 23, 2017

Read Forbes, Fortune, or any other top sales and business publication. What will you find? Articles about the top sales challenges commonly faced, no matter which product or service you are marketing.
I'd like to share the benefits of my 30-year experience in sales and marketing with you. This series of blogs tackles 6 of the top sales challenges with sound advice and a practical 'do today' tip.
Sales Challenge #1: How to create clearly defined sales processes and sales objectives
If you don't know where you are going, you are almost certainly not going to get there.
Sales organizations need a road map--the sales process; you need to know what you need to do at each stage of the process, what KPIs to expect at each stage, and how to get sales opportunities through the process from lead to closure.
Then, your sales organization needs to follow that process (preferably mapped in CRM) so you can measure and report on each stage of the sale.
Likewise, for each deal, there is a need for a clearly defined sales objective--what are you selling, for how much, and when.
Do-today Tip #1: Build yourself a dashboard so you can track who has got what in the pipeline, what stage it is at and that the KPIs are being met.
Next time, we'll take a look at how to build the right team.
How has your organization been dealing with this challenge? Have a great story or hot tip to share? Any questions? Our online community looks forward to reading your comment or answering your question below.

Posted in Articles, Best Damn Sales Blogs.

How Power Base® Sellers have adapted to a changed sales eco system

June 15, 2017

Having been in the sales business for a long, long time, having trained literally thousands of salespeople, having sold and trained around the world, I am often asked "Has selling changed over the years?".  
Well, if you were to read one of the most famous sales books ever, Dale Carnegie's, "How to Win Friends and Influence People", and you read the first few paragraphs without reading the preface, you'd think, "Hmm... this is quite relevant today." Then, when you do read the preface, you'd see that this book was first published in 1936.

So - has selling changed?  Fundamentally no, its been fine tuned, the techniques have been renamed a few times and some have been dropped.  What has changed is buying.

It used to be that the seller controlled the selling and the buyer controlled the buying.  Then, along came the Internet, the information age and social media.  Selling was turned on its head because now, a much better informed, much better educated prospect can control the buying process and selling process, too.

Let's take a look back.

Up until the early 2000's, a professional, solution salesperson (in simplified terms) identified prospects, motivated them to engage, built rapport, skillfully asked questions, identified needs, presented solutions, handled objections and closed the deal.  Buyers were not particularly savvy about what they were buying.  They wanted information and they wanted choice.  They wanted to buy from someone whom they could trust.  
Solution selling, B2B selling, was about personal relationships - prospects were buying trust first and product / services second.  Sales people were "information providers" practicing "personal selling", gaining trust to make decisions easier for the prospect.

Very early into the new millennium there was a paradigm shift.   
There was increased competition in just about every product, service and market sector you can name (B2B and B2C). There was more choice than ever.  The Internet and increased competition drove prices down (and margins!).  More sophisticated solutions had more impact (negative and positive) across entire organizations.  Now, with more information more readily available, multiple decision makers were becoming more involved in more decisions. Enterprise selling was the order of the day and "the Internet changes everything" rang only too true.

Many salespeople, hitherto successful salespeople who had been using traditional 'tried and trusted' solution-selling skills, found themselves struggling in this new enterprise environment.

Then, in the late 2000's the market place was turned upside down.  
Globally, there was a low growth environment.  There was considerable cost scrutiny applied to just about any purchase for anything.  Organizations were barely buying necessities, let alone niceties.   Simultaneously, social media started gathering real momentum, putting information and tools at the fingertips of buyers.
This meant that buyers did not need to engage with salespeople to get information.  They did not need to build a simple, trusting relationship with a salesperson to make a wise decision.  They merely jumped online and asked their peers what they thought.  When they finally called in the salesperson, the decision was nearly made. The buyer - seller engagement was for the purpose of, literally or figuratively placing the order.

For more complex purchases the customer still wanted a relationship with the salesperson but not simply one where they trusted the salesperson for good information.  They wanted advice and input from the relationship; they wanted a problem solver.  They wanted the salesperson to challenge and contribute, not simply present solutions and offer choices.  The salespeople who emerged and had enjoyed success during the recession and into the second decade of the millennium were professionals who had gained insider status and built symbiotic relationships (the customer and the salesperson can't live without each other).  They were the professionals who created demand for what they sold; they didn't simply service demand.

These professionals, whom we call "Power Base Sellers', not only delivered value but they delivered unexpected value - value that the customer did not realize was attainable.  
They created and executed strategies that ethically, quickly and professionally differentiated their solutions from their competitors' in ways that benefited the customer, enabling those customers to make faster, more beneficial decisions. Basically,  the Power Base salespeople let the competition defeat themselves.   In so doing, these salespeople did not just build relationships, they delivered personal value to their contacts (the decision makers and the decision influencers) that gave those contacts a (positive) political advantage, often advancing personal agendas and careers.

So, has selling changed?  For many people it has not but buying has changed considerably. So, sales folks who have not changed with the times are getting left behind.  How you sell has to change. Your competitive advantage has to come from how you sell, not what you sell.

OK but in plain language, has selling changed?  Yes, it has. Buyers want an advisor who will solve problems, not an information provider who can offer options.   In short, they want 'Power Base Salespeople'.
In my next blog, I will talk more about Power Base Selling and how you can develop your sales technique in this direction.


Tagged as Challenger sale, Power Base Selling, relationship selling, solution selling.

Sales Tip No. 28 - New Year Rapport Buidling

January 18, 2017

New year, new accounts, new opportunities for many sales people and account managers. Then, as we enter 2017 many markets seem to be heating up and so some sales people start to get a little complacent, some even aggressive (thinking they are being assertive!).  Even in an up-market taking time to build rapport is still important, so here are 5 reminders for building rapport:
1.     Be empathetic - put yourself in the customer's shoes.
2.     Use good listening skills - ask open questions, prove you are listening with active listening techniques.
3.     Be assertive not aggressive - if you are "challenging" the customer be careful how you do it.
4.     If you say you'll do it, do it - promises are easy to make and even easier to break.
5.     Talk at the customers level - you are there to understand the customer's needs and explain what you do, not show off what you know.
If you want more detailed information about rapport and empathy email me and I'll send you a white paper.

Rapport - make it happen, don't wait for it to happen!

Posted in Weekly Sales Tips. Tagged as Assertiveness, Challenger sale, Rapport, sales tips.

Sales Tip No. 26 Negotiation - are you really in a position to negotiate?

October 21, 2016

The current presidential election campaign in the US has me talking to quite a few clients and participants about negotiation skills.  As one candidate claims to be such a good negotiator it has become a hot topic!
In any real negotiation there has to be two conditions in play.  Both parties must have the will to vary the terms and both parties must have the authority to vary the terms.  So here is the challenge in many negotiations - unless you have true executive authority in your organization, the ability to really vary the terms may not be yours - no matter how willing you are to vary them!
This means preparing and planning for your negotiation.  You need to work out before you go into any negotiation three factors.  1) your "walk terms" (your last resort terms, the lowest $ amount for example, that if you don't get you will [have to] walk away.  2) your "like terms" (this is what you ideally would like to get and this would be a very good deal for you.  3) your "accept terms" (this is what you would accept and although maybe not what you would ideally like, is still an acceptable deal for you).
Of course you have to be at the right stage in the sale too.   Most sales people start [trying] to negotiate too early - see my earlier blog / Sales tip no. 6 "are you negotiating too early?"

Posted in Weekly Sales Tips. Tagged as closing the deal, negotiate, negotiation skills, preparation and planning.

Sales Tip No. 25 - Cold calling, no names policy?

September 15, 2016

Are you cold calling (yes many people still do it) or following up on leads or cleaning lists - but can't get hold of the right contact, especially when the target company has a "no names policy" on the switchboard?
Try this - it sounds counter productive but its not.  Do the research call and the sales call as two separate calls.
Call the target company's switchboard - in a  very friendly non threatening tone say "I wonder if you can help me, please do not put me through to any one, I do not want to talk to anyone.  I am sending an invite to a seminar to your [job title / description], who would that be please?".  Get the details, get off the phone, wait a couple of days and then call them (using your get past the gatekeeper techniques).  
If you want a white paper on calling for appointments, getting past gatekeepers - email me.

Posted in Weekly Sales Tips.

Sales tip no. 24 - No pain? Sell the gain!

October 18, 2013

Interesting situation with a sales team I am coaching at the moment.  They have been taught to find the technical, business and personal pain - exactly the right thing to do.  Recently on a particular campaign they were finding the people they were approaching had "no pain".

When we dug down into what their solution actually did we found they delivered benefits that could be "of gain" - not just "address a pain".  So when their prospects were saying everything is great we don't have any problems our client was able to put forward arguments to make them "even more productive", "even more efficient", "free up even more staff".

Sounds obvious but with careful positioning and good questioning skills "the pain" became not taking advantage of "the gain".

Posted in Weekly Sales Tips. Tagged as addressing the pain, business gain, business pain, compete selling, no pain, relationship selling, solution selling.

CRM – are you solving your Relationship Management problems or simply automating them?

October 18, 2013

Do you want to .........
Annoy and upset more customers?
Give out wrong information faster?
Pass the caller to the wrong extension efficiently?
Get your customers' name wrong with increasing frequency?
Handle complaints with no empathy?
Keep your customers on hold for as long as possible?
Generate sales leads you don't contact for ages?
Completely screw up your sales forecasting?
Then you need...........
A Customer Relationship Management system.
There are many benefits to installing and using properly a CRM solution, on premise, in the Cloud, a few users or thousands of users CRM can be an absolute boom to any company.  In fact we have been CRM centric for 20 years except when we started out it was called "Sales Force Automation (SFA)" or "Automated Contact Management and Prospect Tracking".
Whether upgrading from an old or less sophisticated system or going into CRM for the first time (yes some companies DO NOT have CRM) most organizations see CRM as the answer to all their problems.  Sadly what most end up doing is not solving their customer information, customer management, prospect tracking or service problems they automate them, inadvertently delivering even poorer service even faster.
So how do you avoid this?  Here are some considerations:
Firstly think of CRM as business solution based on technology, don't leave your CRM solution entirely in the hands of the IT folks.  The project lead / sponsor should be a sales, marketing or service advocate.
Secondly have a project and change management approach that analyses and maps out your present lead generation, sales, order, implementation, service processes and then with all the appropriate stakeholders map out what you would like those processes to be.  No matter how simple draw a flow chart of the process and at each stage what the outcomes or deliverable s should be for each process.
Next engage some change management principles define how the new CRM will be used to achieve the business change  you need, define what the usage rules (governance) are going to be,  write up and publish the Standard Operating  Procedures.  Have a roll out plan with dates and goals, arrange training and familiarization workshops.  The system may look simple but looks can be deceiving.
Finally explain to everyone WHY you are changing the system.  Some sales and service people see CRM as a necessary evil (enlightened professionals see it as a sales, marketing  and service tool) and if your CRM is either automating the problems or a simply a glorified rolodex then ALL your sales, marketing  and customer service people will see it as evil but not necessary.

Tagged as business development, CEM, CRM.

Get out of your comfort zone

September 29, 2013

Just when you are expecting the order the competition side swipe you by being politically aligned with the decision makers, unfortunately you were speaking to the wrong people - has this ever happened to you?

Time and time again we see sales and business development people doing a great job at presenting their products, services and solutions but sadly they are doing a great job with the wrong people.  They are in their comfort zone - talking with IT and technical people, administrators, HR folks - everyone except the "line of business managers"  who own the business problem that their solution addresses.

Understand the Power Base (the people in the organization making and / or influencing decisions about purchasing what you are selling) and get people other than technical and operations people voting for you.

So get out of your comfort zone - identify the people in the business that own the business problem and contact them too.  Not about technology but about what you can do for them from a business and personal perspective. 

Posted in Articles. Tagged as complex selling, political alignment, Political plan, Power Base Selling, relationship selling, selling in your comfort zone, solution selling.

Business Planning - you'll never take a business plan seriously again, once you have read this!

September 23, 2013

Business Plan Speak Plain English True Meaning
Acquisition strategy The current products have no market
Broadly on plan 20% below plan
Complex architecture Unworkable design
Core business Only activity
Currently revising the budget Financial plan is in total chaos
Cyclical industry Made a huge loss last year
Entrepreneurial MD Slightly mad, totally uncontrollable and definitely irresponsible
Extrapolation Sheer guesswork
Illustrative projections Don't blink
Investing heavily in R&D Trying desperately to catch the opposition
Leading edge technology Doesn't work
Life sciences application You won't live to see it work
Limited downside It can't get much worse
Long lead time We haven't made one that works yet
Major opportunity Last chance
Marketing-driven One salesman: with a Ford Mondeo
Niche strategy A small time player
People business The only assets have two legs, one interest and no loyalty
Performance ratchet Heads we win; tails they lose
Pro-active stance Quick to latch on to other people's ideas
Proven technology It nearly worked once before
Repositioning the business We're lost
Revised budget Downgrade to actual
Salaries are not competitive CEO wants a rise
Shorter project life cycles We've just finished copying market leader when he brought out a new model
Strategic alliance Know their phone number
Synergistic acquisition Two minuses make a plus
Temporary cash flow problem About to go bust
Under-capitalised Negative net assets
Unique No more than ten direct competitors
Uniquely positioned No-one else mad enough to be in this position
Upside potential It's stopped breathing.  An investment could be the kiss of life
Vertically integrated Series of rotten business piled one on top of the other
Volume sensitive Massive fixed overheads
Window of opportunity Without more money, the company is dead

Posted in Articles. Tagged as Business Plan, Business plan speak, Humour, Plain english.

Social Media – are you forgetting you still need to sell?

September 21, 2013

In my long, and some would say illustrious, sales career I have seen two paradigm shifts in the sales business.  One was the in the early 1990's - the adoption of en masse telesales in the B2B market, the second is Social Media Networking.
Telephone selling is, by and large, great.  Over the past two decades my company has developed for and with our clients many skills and techniques for B2B solution selling by telephone it can be productive, increases profits and lets you win incremental business by increasing your reach often globally with dramatically lower operating costs.
Social Media (Social Media Networking - SMN) on the other hand worries me, let me tell you why.
It used to be that the seller proactively generated the sales lead and controlled the sales process whilst the buyer controlled the purchase (with the sales person admittedly running interference!).  Now with SMN the prospect or customer controls YOUR lead generation, YOUR sales process and THEIR buying process.  Sometimes you don't even get to pitch and your superior product loses out to an inferior product that was marketed and sold "differently".
I am not against SMN but I think particularly for B2B selling - we all need to get it into perspective and not be quite so quick to abandon some of the tried and tested prospect lead generation and sales techniques ask how many people are using targeted snail mailers again, ask why if SMN is the instant panacea General Motors and others have pulled multi million dollar campaigns.
Remember, in the gold rush the people making the money were the people selling the picks and shovels not the people digging for gold.  Sometimes we are so busy social media networking that we mistake activity for results and whilst all the popular SMNs and inbound marketing organizations are generating huge revenues, are we so busy being busy we are forgetting we still need to generate leads and sell.

Posted in Articles. Tagged as Confusing activity for results, SMN, Social Media.

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