Let’s do a thought experiment. I admit that the experiment is a little ” black and white” thinking. I would like to leave the thinking in “shades of grey” to the reader here.
Let’s assume you have a good product, but can’t sell it. What are the consequences? The company will not last long and disappear from the market again.
Let’s take the other extreme: you have a bad product and good salespersons. The product will probably be sold from time to time (have you ever bought a bad product?). The company generates income and a profit margin and new people come on board to improve the product. What is the consequence? It is safe to say that this business will survive longer.
So, take care of your sales staff and show #Leadership in sales. The things that these sales people need to enjoy working for you have been compiled by Phil Kreindler in his blog.
#Sales is a trade like any other Of course, a sales representative must have certain personal qualities. But this is no different in other professions. #Leadership in sales shows who is developing and improving his or her way of working. Younger salespersons tend to talk too much – I am also talking from my own experience here. Brain researchers agree, however, that questions can activate the brain of the person you are talking to much better than facts and figures (that’s why customers fall asleep during company presentations ;-). This is why we have started developing a database with “good questions” for one of my customers. Here is an example to show what this means.
“Do patients with dementia have trouble with keys, or do these patients lose or misplace the keys often?”
“How much work does this entail for administration and housekeeping if a set of keys is lost?”
The customer immediately feels “picked up” and “understood”. Experienced sales staff have mastered these questions for their customer base, but not necessarily for all customer segments of their own company. New employees, however, are not yet able to play this “keyboard” in the beginning. And when a sales employee leaves the company, the “know-how of good questions” is of course lost. These are important assets for a company. A #SystematicSales is a competitive advantage.
Phil Kreindler shares more tips on this topic in his blog.
For sales managers or CEO only: 16 coaching questions for sales representatives to improve the quality of your opportunity reviews.
Sales is a very challenging job. It is not for nothing that sales professionals often earn more than a managing director or CEO of an SME. However, salespersons are also only human, often lose the overview or, perhaps unconsciously, hide important facts. Instead of just asking for key figures at the “sales meeting”, I appeal to sales managers to support the sales staff: “Yes, this hour with my boss has pushed me further in sales opportunities and increased my chances of winning! This increase #Leadership in sales. This, or similar, is how the feedback of a salesperson should sound. The 16 questions in Phil Kreindler’s blog help sales managers to support their employees and promote #SystematicSales. Because, #Sales is a trade.
During a business lunch, an acquaintance told me that he had this problem: although he was receiving enough inquiries, he always got “very far” with these inquiries but ended up losing with far too many offers. One reason could be the inadequate qualification of offers. For this purpose, I posted the blog “Don’t ride a dead horse” last week. But there can also be other reasons why offers are rejected. 12 of the most frequently mentioned reasons are summarized in this blog. Good selling can be learned, because #SalesIsACraft
In cooperation with our partner, we regularly conduct a survey on the topic of B2B sales. In connection with the topic “Why do we win orders and why do we lose orders, the participants told us why they lose orders:
No clear description of our solution and/or price
The summary (management summary) was not good enough
The customer’s expectations regarding the richness or depth of the offer could not be satisfied
The client’s current situation and needs were not understood
Project plan and/or implementation plan were unclear
No sufficient information about the realisation team
No details on the benefits of the different buying influencers (stakeholders, buying centre)
Risks and their mitigation unclear
No reference information enclosed
No or insufficient quantification of the benefits for the buying influencers
No or insufficient differentiation from the competing solutions
I have talked about the importance of a Sales Process for several years now and a good Sales Process is essential. You can improve its effectiveness significantly by designing your Sales Process around customer expectations of professional salespeople. But that’s not enough. A good Sales Process alone won’t win you the sale. Really significant improvements in your chances of winning require Game Changers.
What do I mean by a Game Changer? Firstly it is something you do in a sales opportunity that radically disrupts the way the customer views you, your solution or the competition. The emphasis is on the word “radically”. Secondly it has to be something that can be easily replicated and used again and by other sales team members. Finally it has to be something that fits into a Sales Process stage.
Let me give you some examples. This first one is about changing the way the customer views you – or in this case views us – as it relates to a sale Infoteam recently made to a world-leading provider of equipment and solutions for technical education.
We had worked with the parent company previously and I was asked to make a presentation at their European Sales Meeting where I was approached by the person who was managing their Sales Transformation project. She was one of their star sales people. She showed me the internal project paper, which had many valuable elements, but revealed her lack of in depth knowledge about how to make transformation happen. We worked with her to improve the document using her company templates and with her name on it. When she was happy with it, she used it to present the project to her board.
We didn’t try and get access to senior decision makers and pitch to them. We made sure everything was expressed from her organisation’s perspective and we let her shine. The document radically changed the vendor selection process in our favour.
Engineer your strengths into the customer’s needs
Let me share another example, again from our own experience of selling Sales Transformation programs. This Game Changer radically disrupted the way the customer viewed our solution versus the competition.
We found ourselves up against a strong competitor pitching for a very large project with a global communications company. We knew the competitor’s solution well and knew that their sales methodology was often perceived as too complex and difficult to implement. The objective of our competitive strategy was to introduce our strengths into the customer’s needs. We positioned interviews with key decision makers as a way to better understand the customer’s requirements but the real objective was to implement our competitive strategy. In the interviews we covered several aspects of their needs but in addition we asked a number of questions about the importance of a pragmatic, easy to implement solution. By the time it came to the vendor solution presentations the importance of user acceptance was front of mind with the key people and we won the business.
Where do game changing ideas come from?
I have observed many groups of sales people striving to come up with game changing ideas and it is always just one or two people who come up with the best ideas. This is no surprise. Psychologists like Belbin long ago identified that in any group there will be a few people who are good at coming up with creative ideas. Game Changers are likely to come from your best sales people – the ones who are good at expressing what they do intuitively in a way that can be effectively communicated throughout the sales team and be used by all of them.
We are currently working with a large software organisation on Sales Transformation and shortly we are running a workshop with 400 sales people at their global sales conference. We will run 40 Opportunity Pit Stops, all working on live opportunities that need game changing ideas. At the end of all the sessions we will collate all the game changers and present them back to the 400 participants so they can take away a set of examples that have been developed to meet real challenges that arise when selling their own solutions in different customer segments.
You may not have a 400 strong team but you are almost certain to have some creative thinkers in your team whose best game changing ideas need to be shared among the whole team. Your objective is to have a set of Game Changers for every stage in the sales process. Using them effectively will mean every Opportunity Pit Stop is a chance to define game changers that will radically improve your chances of winning the sale.
Is your sales process just a box ticking exercise?
Do your Opportunity Pit Stops give people genuine game changing ideas?
Are you effectively sharing Game Changers across your team?