Archive for category Selling
When we are over-performing, the stage of success is filled with major players and acolytes; all accountable for their right to stand in the blazing footlights. On the other hand, when we underperform; the stage is often deserted apart from the chosen few, caught in the beam of a single spotlight, being asked to account for themselves.
The idea of measuring people to improve ‘accountability’ is also a hierarchical myth. Over-performers apart, it results in form filling to meet the ‘numbers’ and dodge the truth if needed – be it in the private (e.g. sales forecasting) or public (e.g. centralization of schools/hospitals statistics) sectors. A corporate board member of the world’s largest IT company referred this phenomenon to me as “…‘management’s perfumed pig’. What we need instead is truth!”
You, I, we, tick the boxes with answers so that hopefully, in management’s eyes, we aren’t singled out from the crowd. So where is the truth found?
Image courtesy of the Nikki Thomas Network
The journey starts by a commitment to treat successes and setbacks, as opportunities to learn what to repeat and avoid, with equanimity. Secondly, we answer fundamental questions about our behaviour and its effect:
- What is it we do that aids/abets and what is the effect of this ‘helpful’ behaviour?
- What is it we do that inhibits/hinders and what is the effect of this ‘unhelpful’ behaviour?
- In the latter case, what could we do differently and what effect might that have?
- Overall, what do we do/don’t do; knowingly/unknowingly that creates or somehow contributes to the successes and setbacks of ourselves and others?
- And even if we were wise to all the answers to the above questions, do we choose the courage to act upon ‘the wisdom from failure’?
Lack of accountability is only the symptom. The problem is fear.
People are fearful of being perceived as failing or incompetent (by themselves as much as others). People thus fear being accountable.
If management were to have only one task, it’s not about measuring, it’s about releasing the fear in their organization and filling the subsequent void created with wisdom and courage.
An organization releases its fear and gets wise one person at a time, each of their own volition.
Paul C Burr
I coached an experienced salesperson who had fallen on hard times. Sales were down.
Like all good salespeople, he worked extra hard, and made as many sales calls as he could. He crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s in abundant call reports, to demonstrate his commitment and loyalty to his bosses. Alas, all to no avail.
Image from How Stuff Works
Like most of us (I include myself) it was easy to blame the economy………………
I asked what was driving him. Back came the response “Well I’m behind in my numbers and I want to catch up. I don’t want to lose my job!”
I asked a series of questions:
Q: “So fear drives your actions?”
A:“Yeh, I’ve got a wife and kids to support” came the answer.
Q: “To what extent do your friends and colleagues share your fear?”
A:“Quite a few, it’s time like this you find out who your friends are.”
Q: “To what extent do your existing customers share in your fear?”
A: “Yeh, a few have intimated that I’m trying too hard and come across as more pushy than usual. They are a bit apprehensive about me.”
Q: “And what of new customers and prospects?”
A: “Yes again, everybody I meet seems fearful to do anything right now, even when the business case is clear cut.”
So what’s going on here? I’ve coached many people in this predicament. Here’s what I’ve seen, time and again.
What drives us, we attract. Fear attracts fear.
So in the above client’s case, the coaching focused on tools to switch out fear and replace it with what the client wanted instead: “creative confidence”.
Within weeks, despite an ailing economy, the client’s sales figures went from poor, to fair, to good, to very good. He got back on track.
Paul C Burr
I saw a definition of the word creativity recently. It went something like “linking two things together for the first time”.
I got a message from Edward de Bono. He encouraged me, to think of creativity as more than selling new things, into a new market, incurring risk (against the grain of the current economic climate). But better still to use creativity to perhaps minimise risk and cut costs. This got me thinking.
“How might we minimise risk, cut costs and increase sales?”
I proceeded to think about the role the various functions or departments play in large corporations. What is it that Marketing, Training and Development, Sales Operations (sometimes called Sales Enablement) do? What do they all try to achieve?
A simple answer could be to get a decision-making customer (the information they need) to make a favourable decision.
Each department looks out from their pigeonhole and does their bit in getting the customer’s favourable decision. The more enlightened departments work in harmony to achieve the same end. Alas, this is a rarity…..
….. because most people still look at the function of their work inside-out….. “What outputs do I create, in accord with my job specification?” For example: a flyer, a campaign, a training event. What they often don’t do is measure the ultimate goal: favourable customer decisions. Instead of looking outside-in, they look inside-out. So the sum of the parts is never the whole.
So how would it be if we merged departments: Sales Training and Development, Marketing and Sales Operations/Enablement?
How about if we created a single department called: “Getting Favourable Decisions”.
(Or something less obvious, like “Customer Enablement” for those organisations whose culture has not yet migrated to the Aquarian Age of meaningful information.)
There is an old phrase: “50% of our marketing is valuable and 50% is waste. The trouble is, which 50% is which?”
Luckily for me, I got to analyse a vast amount of data. The utilisation data of a large global IT company’s marketing materials, deposited into a single digital repository. It tracks which materials are used, by whom, where, when, and for how long. The statement “50% waste” proved to be an understatement. The data revealed it was 85%, i.e. only 15% of the material was read by anybody outside marketing i.e. sales and customers.
Likewise I’ve spoken to many sales trainers about knowledge retention. They typically reckon that when people walk away from a training course, they retain 15% of the knowledge and wisdom imparted. That’s about the going rate.
So curiously enough this number 85% crops up again. 85% of the marketing material isn’t being used, 85% of the wisdom imparted is not being retained.
So how about creating a “zero-retention” application? An application that provides on-the-job information, wisdom, knowledge, learning, call it what you will. It gives you what you want, where you want it, when you want it. It’s concise, understandable, and is already customer ready. (No more time consuming training courses, no more pedantry e-learning.)
We merge, into one repository, all the materials we need, to give customers the right information, in the right sequence, to make a favourable decision. We provide this through one single department. We merge Sales Training & Development, Marketing and Sales Operations/Enablement into one. We reduce management overheads, courses and waste (by 85%?).
Your customers and salespeople engage using (the same) articulate materials, media, dialogues, analyses, questions and messages. They all sing from the same song sheet.
Sales go up. Selling cycles shorten. More sales from less waste.
p.s. Now you know what to do. Should you want to know more on how? Get in touch :).
Paul C Burr
I pondered about the conundrum of “White Space”. The problems and wants (leading to opportunities for you, me, us) that (non-existing and existing) customers have that we don’t know about.
One morning, something came to me in my waking conscious about “The unheard voice of the customer.”
Here’s what popped up first…
The outside is sent as a mirror to what’s inside.
To find White Space, that problem you don’t yet know that customers have. To start, look for the problem in yourself that you don’t know yet.
So how about finding answers to the following questions:
- What problems/opportunities exist in the organisation that the Board doesn’t know about?
- What problems/opportunities do the Board have that the rest of the organisation doesn’t know about?
- What problems exist that customers don’t know about?
Use this data to inform a customer research programme to find the unheard voice of the customer….….
- What met or unmet expectations do customers have that we don’t know about? (How do we stack up?)
- What problems do customers have that we/competition don’t know about (especially those we/competition contribute to)?
- What would happen if these problems and expectations were met (even surpassed)?
- What new opportunities might we help customers create for themselves (value creation)?
- So how can we get ahead of the wave to create new value?
Mmmm this could be some project…. What thinks you?
Paul C Burr
Killer Strategy #1
Coach Top Performers: increase your top people’s contribution by 30% (and maybe increase your total company sales by >20%)
My research over the last 20 years has found that top performers demonstrate 7 key traits or characteristics (eg curiosity: eager to learn). Top performers love to be coached, to go (not think!) outside of their comfort zones. They yearn to discover what lies above and beyond their limits of success (all-be-they high already).
I see top salespeople, whom I coach, increase their sales run rates by 30%, in a matter of weeks. For those who really trust themselves and commit to the journey, performance goes up several fold.
2 Case Studies:
- Account Director (now a Vice President): Responsible for renegotiating a £50M pa contract within 9 months. The client achieved the £50M target within 11 weeks from commencement of the coaching programme.
- Regional Manager (now a Senior Vice President): used coaching methodologies to prepare his team for a new business-services sales campaign with an Australian bank. The team won a pilot worth around $100K in the UK. Our client flew to Australia to extend the bid. He then steered the local sales team to win further contracts……“I won the big one (worth £15M!) for the Australian bank I was after….. my life has changed quite a bit (for the better) and 80% due to your help”
Lever your company’s sales revenue. The top 20% of your salespeople probably bring in 80% of your revenue. Measure, if you can, the proportion, they contribute, to your profit line. I have clients who were staggered at the results.
You can now imagine what happens to your bottom line when your top performers raise their game by 30% and more. And, 0rganisational beliefs (about what’s achievable) get smashed. Others follow. But how fast? And can they keep up the pace?
So what about the remaining 80%?
Killer Strategy #2
Raise Every Salesperson’s Results: model and spread your top performers’ traits and behaviours to everyone else
Sales effectiveness is a function of motivation, confidence, competence and curiosity.
Effectiveness = Motivation x Confidence x Competence x Curiosity
E = MC3
(No longer a Theory of Relativity, nor rocket science, get everyone winning!)
So the objective is to raise everyone’s:
- Motivation: better yourself, seek wisdom, explore below the surface, relate to people and situations, analyse facts, follow process
- Confidence (as opposed to arrogance) know, execute: when to listen (ask), when to learn (bide time) and when to advocate (articulate)
- Competence and knowledge in 4 verbs, to: Connect, Inspire, Prove and Proceed
- Curiosity (to explore below the surface) about: selling, the customer, the customer’s industry, self, technology, your company, the world, and beyond….
This is how top performers come across and do things differently to average performers?
My personal research goes back nigh on 20 years. My studies include cross industry interviews and workshops with hundreds of salespeople, sales managers, directors, consultants and customers around the world.
My purpose here, is not to tell you how to do this. My purpose is to tell you what needs to happen.
Case Study: A pan Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) survey, by a Top 5 Global IT Firm, reveals a boost in sales millions of dollars.
- UK, Regional Business Development Manager: “Sales are up because 30% more Account Managers are going out and selling solutions that otherwise wouldn’t have.
- “Middle East and Africa: Within 6 months of the launch, sales surpass $2.5M, in a region where hitherto, no Account Managers had been selling these solutions proactively.
- Q: “Score out of 10, how much has the approach contributed to the $2.5M revenue sum?”
- A: MEA Regional Business Development Manager “Contribution to sales? I’d say more than 8 out of 10.
Killer Strategy #3
Increase the Effectiveness of Sales Leaders: Equip managers to lead others, outside their zones of comfort.
I coach managers (to coach others). Many have already been “trained in coaching”. Yet, they increase their personal productivity measurably (£).
Because, for most, “training” does not engage the manager sufficiently in the emotional and insightful journey to become a great coach:
I have found that “training” gives process.
Training alone doesn’t:
- Engage the emotional journey of moving into discomfort with a fresh mindset.
- Shift the mindset from being an expert (i.e. mentoring) to a non-expert (i.e. a co-explorer)
- Shift the mindset from being directive (eg “you need to do a,b and c!”) to non-directive.
- Nurture 7 key traits, common to both coach and a top performer.
- Get managers to realise that every coachee (at some level) mirrors their own imperfections
All the above are essential skills and learnings to coach well.
A study carried out by Olivero, Bane, & Kopeirnan in 1997 demonstrated an 88% increase in management productivity when coaching and training were interwoven as opposed to a 22.4 % increase when managers were placed on a management training programme.
Top 5 Global IT Company: European Sales Management Team, Public Sector, already “trained” as coaches.
“When I do follow the coaching process it works and it fails when I don’t”
“First two sessions were particularly useful. I would not have got through that month without the 2 List System. I am more effective in how I use my time and am more prepared for important meetings. SOS helps me synchronise with people. Using 2nd position has helped enormously. Coaching isn’t an individual session; it takes place over a period of time to get to a solution. It’s made me face some demons.”
“The Coaching Process gets an A* for managing poor performers. “
“It has helped me to explore new ideas and not get hung up if they don’t work. I took away the “Preparing for Key Meetings” from the workshop and used it – it’s brilliant. I understand the coaching tools and need to get myself organised to use them on a regular basis next year.”
“I am more rigorous in the analytical and process quadrants and it’s paid off.”
“I took the material from the workshop and applied it rigorously to coaching (underperformer) X. It’s not there yet but the mountain has moved.”
The managers achieved “Top Team” status aross Europe, in the year following the coaching.
Killer Strategy #4
Lift Under-Achievers out of the Mire: Save them, your managers, and you, a lot of time and possibly grief!
What do you do with an underperformer?
- Sack them?
- Leave them alone?
- Manage as best you can?
- Invest in them?
Coach them. Why?
Corporate Sales Case Study: a highly rated salesperson was underachieving in her first year on quota. Within two months, from the start of the programme, the salesperson’s going rate of year-end target increased from 20% to 80%. Her results then went from strength to strength.
Quotation…. “I found the programme extremely beneficial: it grew my self-confidence and self-esteem tremendously, and allowed me to go and sell. I have both the ability and I have earned the right to do this. I also treat customers as human beings, realising that the best way to persuade someone to agree with you is to get on well with them. I am much more ruthless about agreeing to tasks outside the scope of my quota – unless it eventually benefits my quota in some way. I do nothing unless it progresses me closer towards meeting my targets. I am better respected amongst my peer group and managers, and I am assured of a successful career with solid progression!
Overall, I recommend this to anyone, so long as they are prepared to accept new ideas and alter their attitudes to certain ways of working.”
Sales Managers lose 26 days (5 weeks!) per year dealing with poor performers, source: “UK Managers Losing Twenty-six Days a Year to Poor Performers”, SHL GROUP plc, Business Series 2005.”
The UK’s “lost management days” figure is lower than the other regions studied apart from one. The UK figure is 7 days more than Sweden.
No coincidence: Sweden invests the most in getting people to competence. Source: “Getting the Edge in the New People Economy”, www.futurefoundation.net, Future Foundation and SHL Group plc.
Under-performers, when coached, take an emotional journey (similar to top performers) to step up to the next level. They rid themselves of sometimes deep-rooted, personal, blocks that hold them back. Sometimes, it only requires a simple shift: maybe just a reframe of their perspective. Mostly though, it involves something deeper.
I often find that training doesn’t go anywhere near these deep emotional blocks. Under-performers will not allow it to. They fear the consequences of exposing what holds them back, often unconsciously.
The irreplaceable value of coaching: from research undertaken (Trygve Roos, Mental Coaching 2002) to discover what really causes effective behavioural change. It proved that the most pervasive change happened when learners were trained in various excellent techniques, followed by personal coaching/interventions.
Corporate Sales Case Study: New to sales, and prior to coaching, an erstwhile consultant’s going rate was 40% of his year-end target. Within two months his going rate was 80% and he was looking to overachieve. We focused on sales campaigns to win new business in competitive accounts. He went on to win a contract from one of the campaigns worth about $1.5M, from a client whose spend up until the start of the campaign had been minimal.
Paul C Burr
I’ve witnessed sales reporting issues in a number of organizations. They affect negatively:
- Sales productivity
- Sales management effectiveness
- Bid management quality
Three fundamental issues stem from senior management’s right and penchant for scrutiny…..
- Information overkill: There is a lot of work involved in the mechanics of the reporting process itself. Whilst this may be worthwhile for the very top tier accounts, it’s an overkill for the rest.
- Major Bid Scrutiny: The more time senior management have to take a decision, say about funding a major bid, the more information they will ask for. Sales people soon realise that if they put in a major opportunity above a certain level in revenue terms or percentage of winning chance then it will attract scrutiny. They thus underbid to avoid management attraction. They wait until the very last moment to play their hand. And senior management don’t like surprises. They question “Why the swift change?” Back comes the answer, “Do you want us to win the bsuiness or not?” Beneath all this we find no bedrock of Trust or Truth either in one’s self or the other party.
- Isolation of the Weakest: Senior management have tendency to transform any bids going wrong into a star chamber process. So sales people start filing progress reports that will keep management off their backs. They avoid the ignominy and embarrassment of having senior managers putting them under the spotlight of scrutiny. Erich Clementi, IBM, called this ‘The Perfumed Pig’ effect. Senior Management sit in the illusion that bids are going ok – until either cut off has passed or the sale is lost. They may take out their frustrations on those who said everything was ‘rosey’ and is now not. But by this stage the many, that have ‘failed’, hovel together; hoping they won’t be picked out from the crowd – for ‘they can’t sack everyone’.
In every case, game playing is afoot. And whilst the game plays, senior management are making investment decisions based on false data that salespeople use to keep them out of the way.
With this in mind I’ve been working and thinking of ways around the issues. The game playing needs to be replaced by Truth. And that will only happen when salespeople who are struggling with their customer relationships ask for and get help. ‘Beating them up’ simply doesn’t work. The archaic carrot and stick approach is no longer effective in an economic climate where most, if not all, are struggling.
I’ve 3 things in mind…
- I’ve pieced together a best practice, Relationships-based Account Management Template – tis based on my own experience and research. I set out to create a reporting system designed for both Tier 1 and 2 clients – ie requires a fraction of the work that the big hitter systems take up – and is more effective. It currently consists of about 7 pages of data but the vast majority of focus is based upon one relationships chart for the whole of the account. For it is here that sales are made or not. This system is Word based at the moment but I might have an economically viable way to make it fully interactive, fast and trackable….
- The review of account plans is conducted on a peer basis. Where teams, with at least one leading expert, are created to help one another in the sales process. Sales ‘leaders’ (not managers) mentor and coach peers (in a ‘safe’, private and confidential process) who want help through critical points in the sales process. This takes away the pressure that management applies and fosters Truth instead – because the struggling salesperson feels safe to share his problems. This doesn’t stop a sales person engaging management for support if they want it.
- The role of management is then to ‘facilitate’ success as opposed to leaning on people to go out there and win by the of the week/month/quarter at all costs.
I recognize this will require a change in behavior for many senior managers – BUT if Senior Management haven’t got the results they wanted in the past, they won’t get them in the future either – by doing the same things over and over again. The new Sales Leaders need to be equipped with techniques to lead others outside their comfort zones – and do it in such a way that the people they are helping feel ok with them and the process.
Paul C Burr
I was researching the value of Cloud Computing. It’s still relatively new in boardroom parlance.
IT Vendors, speak of several issues to sell new technologies and services (such as Cloud Computing) to customer executives.
“How do we get our message across and understood?”
“How do we get our young salespeople to make executive calls confidently?”
“How do we skill them up, or maybe equip them, to do so?”
“How do we motivate young salespeople, who by definition aren’t experts, to call on Marketing Directors, Finance Directors, and so on?
I’ve been working with a global IT supplier. When introducing new advanced (and world-class) technologies, they had a devil of a job to get their value message across, convey trust and inspire across to its customer executives, outside the IT function
Here are the issues they encountered:
1. Only a small number of salespeople knew how to generate trust, articulate value and inspire action with senior executives in “big clients”
2. The rest avoided selling the new technology because they didn’t know how to perform Action 1.
3. If customer executives aren’t even curious about the value you can bring to planning table, you don’t get invited” to dine” there.
Now if we apply all the above principles to the SME market and Indirect Channel Sales, the whole picture gets economically fraught. In this market space people no longer sell on price and brand – and haven’t done so for years. They sell what they know how to sell.
So how do you give anybody the motivation, confidence, competence and curiosity to go sell something that’s new to the customer and new to them as well? How do you maximize cross and up selling opportunities?
Answer: You make it easy for them (and the customer) and apply an Outside-In Selling Approach.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? And so it is. Why, oh why, don’t more sales organisations apply it?
Here lies Rub #1. IT Vendors are very interested (and rightly so) in how their technology works. Customer executives are interested in the value it brings, i.e. what it does, not how it does it. By and large, customers executives are not intrinsically interested in technology.
Thus the successful sales approach requires a shift in mindset, from Inside-Out to Outside-In. For a large organization to take it on, such a shift has to be sponsored from the top. Why?
Rub #2:The traditionalists in product training and marketing will say they can do it for themselves. Well, they can’t. Because it also requires a structured approach to how customer executives want to receive information. “Less is more”. Product enthusiasts want to say more about what they are proud of. Customer executives want less. About 85% less, if I were to guess. So it’s about having a structured approach to find out which 15% of your collateral can be transmuted to inspire customer action.
“A lot of people in our organisation have supreme knowledge about our technology and what it can do for the customer, Paul. The vast majority of them, alas, don’t know how to articulate it to a customer to inspire action.
Inspiration = Knowledge + Articulation (first to self, then to others)”
– Top performing salesperson in UK for a Top 10 Global IT vendor
I leave you with a thought. I’ve checked out quite a bit of IT and IS vendors’ collateral on Cloud Computing and the like. It’s written mainly Inside-Out i.e. feature/benefit. Which means the customer has to be interested in how it works first, to see its value.
Top selling these years is applied outside in.
Paul C Burr
Since the current economic climate began, organizations have been downsizing, reshaping, restructuring, removing layers of management, centralizing, decentralizing… you name it. As conditions worsened the focus has gone from cutting costs to cash survival (+ cutting costs). I’ve observed that no-one has been harder hit than SME businesses where, even in good times, cashflow has always been a bit of a juggling act.
So we are now fours years on, this very August. Customers and vendors who get on stick through the mire. They’ve shared the pain. What’s next?
A few organizations I deal with are gearing themselves for growth. It would be nice if they could ‘farm’ that growth from existing clients. Maybe they can but they do not want to ignore the opportunities from ‘hunting’ for new clients nor be wholly dependent on the custom of existing ones.
They seek to transform themselves from Sales ‘Farmers’ into ‘Hunters’.
Here are some salient points about their journey.
- There are 18 benchmarked critical success factors an organization can invest in to become ‘winners’ in hunting for new business (“superbidders” win more than 3 out 4 major bids). More on this later.
- The F-to-H transition is more of an emotional journey than an intellectual one. It’s about making people motivated, confident and curious as well as competent. This starts by making selling (‘hunting’) as easy as possible.
- Recent years of restructuring of reporting lines and reshaping of business processes will no-doubt have been for good reason. A key question remains – what changes will customers have noticed in your people:
– More fire and enthusiasm?
– Or sloping shoulders?
- Winning over the hearts and minds of (especially remote) people comes down to making their lives easier. Again, for salespeople (who follow the path of least resistance) – it’s about ‘making selling easy’ so that they can hit their sales-targets from hunting as easy as (or easier than) they can from farming.
- Sales training in Industry, Function and Product areas will provide much of the intellectual content required but will probably have only a limited impact on all but the top 10-15% of your salesforce. Management reinforcement will help further to instill hunting practices. The research I’ve seen in this area points to single figure %age growth in sales from such training/coaching interventions. So I want to talk about 3 things that can take you well into double digit growth.
3 areas to consider should you want to go for double digit growth:
1. Benchmarking – only 4% of companies win more than 3 out of 4 major bids for new business
The largest research programme in the world into winning business (led by Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, Chairman of Cotoco Ltd [www.cotoco.com]. I declare my hand here. I’m a Non-exec Director.) has involved over 2,500 companies. This large sample size includes companies of widely differing performance in Winning Business. Overall the results are consistent industry to industry – and across sizes of organisations.
• 18 Critical Success Factors (CSFs) to winning major bids
• The top quartile: “Superbidders” win more than 3 out 4 major bids
• “Superbidders” make up less than 4% of the total population
• “Superbidders” only consider themselves to be “very effective” in 8-9 out 18 CSFs. There is plenty of headroom.
• Largest number of organisations in quartile: the median is between 1:2 and 1:3 win ratios.
• Organisations in the median or lower quartile consider themselves to be very effective in only a small number of CSFs.
The top 3 (CSFs) of the 18 differentiators are:
- Understanding the value/benefits customers expect to gain from your products/services
- Understanding the cost of ownership issues that impact customers’ decisions about your product or service
- Establishing the superiority of your products or services over those of competitors
Organisations that spread themselves too thinly don’t catch up with the winners. I find that most organizations (I introduce this benchmark to) are already tackling a broad range of the CSFs. They do not realize that improving the CSFs you are very effective in from say 2-3 to 4-5 will have a huge impact on your win rate. So it’s about knowing the vital few to invest in first.
The benchmark informs you which CSFs to go for, to get the best RoI in winning major bids.
2. E-quipping every salesperson to engage with new C-Level clients the way top performers do – and save on your face to face training costs
This approach to enabling Customer Executive (C-Level) Engagement has been used by global companies like Cisco as well as SMEs for a number of years.
Having asked the right questions and done their research beforehand, we find that top performers engage with C-Level clients far more effectively because they use compelling evidence and messages to:
- Underpin the trustworthiness of your company.
- Raise your customer executives’ curiosity to investigate the broad range of services that your company can provide
- Make it easy for regular (non C-Level) customer contacts to convey, to their own peers and senior management (that your salespeople might not get to meet), the superiority that your company has to offer.
E-quipping (as opposed to the drudgery of e-learning) takes minutes. It provides the opportunity to cut out the high costs of face to face training. This can be a huge expense saving for global companies. It also means less time away from the field for your salespeople.
3. Coaching top sales performers to make the emotional breakthroughs to increase their sales by 30%+
And what about your existing top performers? How do you take them up and beyond their current levels of performance? They are already setting your company’s benchmark for what’s achievable – are they not?
The good news is that top performers are always curious about how to improve themselves. In my experience, good in-house management coaching will improve their performance by no more than say 5-10%. Going beyond (increasing their sales by 20-30% and beyond) requires coaching which (and an experienced coach who) will take them outside their comfort zones. For the journey to 30%+ is filled with emotional blocks: limiting beliefs about themselves, their client relationships and the tasks in hand. If it were purely an intellectual journey (these people are smart) they would be there already. The experienced coach gets them to dissolve these emotional blocks. And when they commit themselves to move beyond, their sales performance escalates.
Paul C Burr
Imagine you’re in corporate sales. You have 400+ (I’ve been quoted this) items in your email and your in-mail grows by the day. What should you read? Can’t decide? Take a day off from selling or delete them all?
Imagine you have a portfolio of say 20 products and services to sell. How do you keep up to date with what is important and relevant? You can only assimilate a tiny fraction of what is available – but is it the right fraction? How would you know? How would the people sending that information know?
Now imagine you have a portfolio of over 600 products and services. What chance, of keeping up to date, have you now?
A smarter planet means everything connects: across brands,across industries, across technologies… across everything. What does this mean to the customer? And the customer could be anybody.
Now you’re a sales director.
How do enable your sales people to have the breadth of conversation with a wide range of people (architects, hospital managers, mayors, CEOs, business owners etc. rather than CIOs/technical people).
You are no longer dealing with a bucket full of information but an ocean full.
How do you enable selling across a huge range of products and services?
Throwing e-learning at it will not work – there is just too much stuff.
Each sales person needs to be like a general practitioner – which means the patient that comes through the door may have one of thousands of ailments. How can an individual sales person be an expert in all of these at the same time?
Build ‘an expert on everybody’s shoulder’ to whisper guidance in their ear. The ‘expert’ will equip each salesperson with everything they need to generate trust, articulate value and inspire action with senior customer executives. Once they get the ball rolling for a particular opportunity then, hopefully, it’s business as usual for them.
Salespeople want information but….
3 critical factors I’ve observed about your typical salesperson:
- Short attention span
- Wants everything on a plate – won’t work at it
- Wants the relevant up to date information in seconds – not minutes, hours or days
- “A common weakness: most sales support material (I come across) is designed “Inside-Out”, not from the customer’s perspective. Top performers take this material, massage it and whiteboard a powerful “Outside-In” story. This is what you capture and disseminate. (“Inside-Out” collateral lists features and benefits. “Outside-In” focuses on value, trust and evidence)
- Content needs to be vetted by top and average performers, and technical experts, to ensure it is fit for purpose – i.e. will make selling easier.
- No module of information lasts more than 90 seconds.
- Everything needs to be at their fingertips
- The approach focuses initially on getting the customer to say “tell me more”. Then it makes it easy for the customer to say ‘Yes!’. The approach e-quips the salesperson for this precise purpose. E-quipping isn’t e-learning. (Warning: e-quipping is vastly misunderstood by the Training and Development community because they look at it as learning. They don’t get it.)
Paul C Burr
“We count the beans in the sack, by size category. When we don’t have enough beans, we count them by colour – then by shape – then by country of origin. We find out who’s not selling beans very well and lean on them to get their act together. We find out who’s selling beans really well and incraese their quota to sell more beans. That’s how middle and senior management spend most of their time.” – Top 5 Global IT firm’s European Sales Director
Data when syntaxed and grouped becomes information, becomes knowledge when we understand what the information means, becomes wisdom when we know what to do with it.
A (perhaps over) simple example…
Information: Sales performance data is varied across the organisation. We categorise by product, region or individual so we find out what’s selling well, where it’s selling well and who’s selling well.
Knowledge: So far so good but as yet what’s going on below the surface? What is that the top performers are doing differently to everyone else?
Wisdom: How can we get everyone else to mimic them, fast?
When everyone has access to the best wisdom available and can apply it – you have the opportunity to take a quantum step (20%-30% more?) up in people’s performance. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in sales, marketing, engineering, supply chain mgt, finance – you name it. BUT….
In order to make this transformation happen you need to totally transform your approach to learning (from your top performers), training, development and equipping people to do their work well. For this to work properly it all needs to become real time. There are only a handful of organisations, I know of, in the world trying such a “real time approach”. It takes a bit longer to explain than this blog permits.
“To increase sales you need to get in the sack with the beans and use the wisdom of the biggest and better beans to grow the little beans and more beans at the same time.”…. me
Paul C Burr
As well as sell, salespeople have to market themselves well too. They need to be confident, passionate, competent, knowledgeable, motivated, curious, articulate, great networkers, show self belief, practice sensibility and stay cool under pressure. That’s quite a lot to demonstrate and when they meet a new customer, for the very first time.
NEW-NEW: So how can salespeople go about selling a ‘new’ product (or service) well to a new customer?
Answer: understand the sequence and the nature of the questions all customers ask.
Customers Only Ask 4 Questions
I haven’t found a customer question that can’t be allocated to 4 fundamental questions. All customers will ask:
1. Can I trust you?
2. What value do you bring to the table?
3. Are you right for me/us?
4. How will we make it work together?
1. Can I Trust You?
When we consider trust, we can think of intent and effect. We may set out in a business relationship with good intentions BUT will it work? Do we really mean to deliver the value we promise to customers? Are we confident? Can we commit confidently our intention to deliver this value? (Or do we fall into the trap of sometimes overselling to get the contract i.e. selling what we can’t deliver?) And even if we do commit, can we convey assurance of our ability to deliver?
Trust thus has two dimensions: Integrity and Capability.
As soon as a new customer has interest in what we sell they start to ask (albeit in many instances to themselves):
• Do I feel comfortable with you?
• Will you to keep your word?
• Will you to be reliable?
• Will you be loyal?
• Do I believe your intentions are sincere?
• Do you give me the sense of security I seek in a business relationship?
• Do I want to face the unknowns in this deal with you?
• Will you be there with me should things go wrong?
And they want to know what underpins our credibility and integrity.
With these types of questions a customer discerns our ability:
• Can I trust your ability to deliver what you say you will?
• Do you have the resources, intelligence and wherewithal to deliver what I expect?
• What track record, evidence, research or testimonies exist to back your proposals?
• Is your contract clear and concise?
• What risks exist? What contingencies have you put in place?
You probably don’t need convincing that Trust comes first. Just in case – in recent research, across 120 b2b customers worldwide, the three most important determinants of a healthy sales relationship are:
I. Keep commitments
II. Listen – demonstrate understanding
III. Be trustworthy, honest and loyal (Before a customer’s trust, we must trust ourselves. For if we can’t trust ourselves, how can we expect a customer to trust us?)
So what about Value? This leads to the customer’s second major question.
2. What Value Do You Bring to the Table?
The ‘science’ to determine value discovers what’s important to the customer. And once we understand the customer’s priorities – how do we stack up (against our competitors) to deliver against them? What expectations do they have of us as a supplier? Can we over-deliver? And if we do, will the customer gives us any goodwill/credit for it?
Here are sources of value (business drivers and problems to fix) that I find CEOs look for:
• Cash – Will your proposal improve our cash position?
• Cost Down – Will we reduce costs?
• Revenue/Market Share Up – Will we make competitive gains?
• Agility/Speed – Can we move, reshape, transcend quickly?
• Security – is it safe?
• Governance – Am I compliant with Company Law.
• Product/Service/Cost Leadership – Will our own customers notice/value the changes in our organisation that your proposal offers?
• Innovation (e.g. Technology, New Business Models) – Do I want (to be seen) to be first in the marketplace, to do something differently? Does your proposal accelerate the process?
• Personal Credibility – Can I use your proposal to advance my own career prospects?
• People – Will your proposal raise the effectiveness and job satisfaction of people?
• Something else? – If you don’t know, ask. Even if you feel you know, ask anyway.
Put concisely, we need to understand profoundly what’s important in the hearts and minds of customers – and convey the value we bring to the table in their language, not ours.
This leads to the “crunch” question where the decision to purchase or not takes place.
3. Are You the Right Person/Organisation (to give me/us what I/we want)?
Sounds straight forward but this question has two dimensions:
I. The Tangible or Intellectual
II. The Emotional
I. The Tangible or Intellectual
Over and above all the questions asked so far:
• What’s the business case for your proposal?
• When’s the payback period?
• What’s the upfront investment?
• Am I willing to afford what you ask for?
• What are the risks?
• What are the contingencies to avert or defend against such risks?
• Do I have the OK from my board and my technical people about your proposal?
II. The Emotional (this is where we win or lose the customer decision)
Here the customer takes in everything they’ve seen, read and heard about us and our proposal. They go inside themselves. They internalise the answers to one or more of the following questions….
• Can I see your solution working in my organisation? Will my people embrace it willingly?
• Can I see our business relationship working?
• Does is sound right? Are the bells ringing of joy or tolling a warning?
• Does it feel right?
• Does it smell right? Clean and fresh or something that could go rotten?
• Does it give me a sweet enough taste in my mouth?
• (And when we get a ‘yes’ to the above questions.) Am I inspired enough to go ahead with this relationship?
So now we have a favourable decision to “let’s go” from the customer – a signed and committed contract. We may have had a number of further customer questions to answer, to arrive here. They concern how our proposal will work.
4. How Will We Make It Work Together?
The customer CEO may well delegate some or all of the questions below. They all need answering in due course. The ‘science’ of selling here determines the right time and amount of information, required by the customer in order to make a decision. Our answers set the customer’s expectations about division of labour, responsibilities and consequences when things don’t go as planned.
These are the customer’s “doing questions”…
• What’s the business strategy or migration plan?
• Who will do what, where and when?
• How will we work together?
• How will we measure results?
• How will we track progress?
• What new skills do we need?
• How will we finance the deal?
• How will we get buy in from those affected adversely?
• How will I communicate with stakeholders?
• What do we do if we go off-track?
• And so on…
Tip: Many of us start by leading with: here’s how (we or our products) work, here are the benefits and here’s the business case – i.e. we start with Questions 4 and 3. We work from the inside (of our product or service)- out. Top sellers leave these (still important) messages until later. They work outside-in. They start with Trust and Value.
The process to answer all the customer’s questions that they require to make a buying decision is not linear. The above sequence points where to focus our attention but be prepared to flex if the customer so wishes. If we miss out answering any of the questions, we can end up losing a winnable deal. Pay attention to all the questions a customer asks and those that they don’t. If the customer doesn’t ask any of the above types of questions – find out why.