Obama and Romney – Sales Advice

I learned two things about selling from this election cycle one came from Mitt Romney and the other form President Obama. This isn’t a political rant – this is a sales manager learning a valuable lesson about presentations and winning deals.

Remember if you will before the first debate, President Obama was far ahead in the polls. The political pundits were telling us that Romney had already been defined by his adversaries; the electorate had already made up its mind. Saturday Night Live had a skit about how the worst possible thing Obama could do to lose the election was to open his mouth. To make matters worse, Romney took significant chunks of time off from retail campaigning to prepare for the debates making him look even weaker.

Well that prep time was the best decision he could have made. Romney overcame two years of negative campaign ads in two hours. How? He realized there was one key moment to change the decision-makers mind and he put everything he had into that milestone.

The parallels are striking in a sales process. We have our own time to shine in an unfiltered environment when we demonstrate our service.  Realize, like Mitt Romney did, that if this is the largest deal you are ever going to sell – put everything aside to prepare for it.

President Obama taught me that no deal is closed until you have ensured that all of your votes are lined up. The last month of the campaign – both candidates had reason to believe that they were going to win the election. The national polls had both candidates at 50% a piece.  However, the election isn’t won on national polls – it is won in the Electoral College.

President Obama focused his get out the vote efforts in the eight states that were to decide the election – thus ignoring 42 states and their voters. He had a sophisticated get out the vote effort from people he knew were his supporters. In a tight sales process or election where there seems to be no advantage for one side over the other, sometimes the group that mobilizes its supporters with the right influence will be the group that wins.

From a sales perspective – we can acknowledge that all votes are not created equally. If we hone in on the people we know can influence the deal in our favor and simply drive our value proposition into their heads to the point of advocacy, then we can win an uneven share of 50/50 deals.

SocialPoints for Marketing Automation

The Marketing Automation space is rather well defined with Constant Contact, ExactTarget, and Responsys publicly traded and each generating over $100 Million in revenue last year. Other power players in this space are Genius.com, iContact, Vertical Response, HubSpot, SIlverPop, Cheetahmail, YesMail, Epsilon, Aprimo and Pardot.  Eloqua and Marketo put much of their emphasis on larger organizations.

 
Marketing automation tools have done a great job of facilitating what is now considered the norm for e-mail marketing. In most instances, these tools send e-mails en masse with a tracking cookie attached.  This cookie tracks the activities of the contact and assigns a point score based on who they are and what they have done with the e-mail or website. These behaviors can be as simple as opening an e-mail to downloading a white paper. By setting a threshold score based on behavioral frequency, relevancy, and recency of a lead, marketing automation tools are able to nurture contacts until they are prepared for a sales interaction.

Social123 takes this same scoring philosophy and applies it to the world of social media.  Marketing automation tools base their score on activities that a cookie can track, such as e-mail views and Websites visits.  However, marketing automation tools do not score contacts based on social characteristics or what is being said on social media.  Social123 is able to give a line of sight into the “social blind spot” and create a score based upon an individual’s social actions, attributes, and mentions. This compliments Marketing Automation’s lead scoring technique, giving a much more holistic view of the contact.

Actions: Social123 allocates a point value based on the actions contacts make with social media outlets. Our point score is based off Facebook likes, if the contact becomes a fan on Facebook, or connects with us on LinkedIn. For twitter, we allocate a point value for number of followers and following or if the contact retweets content our company has produced.

Attributes:  Social123 allocates a point value based on the attributes our contacts have with social media. This provides a customized social influence value instead of relying on standards that may not be as relevant to every organization. Our point value is based on the number of Friends you have on Facebook and Contacts in LinkedIn. For Twitter, the point value is based on the number of Followers, those Following you, and the tweets you produce.

Mentions:  There are over 1 Billion subscribers to social networking sites on this planet. Most of what they communicate has no relevance. However, there are certain keywords that are amazingly important and if our contacts are mentioning it we want to know about it. These are usually the same keywords we use for Google AdWords.  If it is worth paying per click, then it is worth knowing if your customers or prospects are talking about it on social media.

  • My Company
  • My Products
  • My Competitors
  • My Customers
  • Industry Keywords
  • Google AdWords

Today’ buyer rarely uses just one source of information to make a buying decision.  By combining Social123’s SocialPoints with Marketing Automation’s Lead Scoring – companies can finally get a full understanding of their contacts’ behavior and attributes.  This added feature provides the competitive advantage of buyer intelligence when the buyer isn’t in our direct line of sight.

The Three Best Sales Books You Need to Read

I have been asked what the best books on selling are on more than one occasion. Obviously I am predisposed to Rick Page’s Hope Is Not A Strategy, seeing that I worked for the man for over two years. That notwithstanding, it is perhaps the only primer you need on strategizing a multi-vendor, multi-decision maker, big ticket sale. Rick takes the concept of strategic selling from B2B to P2P or peer to peer. Not only should you understand the pains of the company – but the individual decision makers – then tailor your message to solving those pains on a one-off basis. Genius really – but Rick’s book strictly covers deal strategy. You can compliment it very well with these books – I humbly submit:

Selling to Big Companies: Jill Konrath. I love this book. Jill does an extraordinary job of getting you in the mind of the buyer. Your buyer is busy, he doesn’t return solicitations, and he doesn’t care about your solution. Trust me; now that I am literally on the other side of the desk I experience these truisms every day. What I care about, and your buyer as well, is how you can help me take one thing off of my plate and give me one more hour with my kids. How can you learn what’s on my plate, “use the news.” Jill introduces the concept of triggering event selling, meaning we can get a glimpse of what will entice our prospects to buy by linking into their press releases. Although written in 2005, read this book to get a primer on modern day demand creation. Schiffman, Boylan and Parinello write books that can help you get the appointment, but Jill’s book will help you get the deal.

SPIN Selling: Neil Rackham. This book introduces the tactic of probing for pain in that we first need to diagnose before we prescribe. Neil was hired in the 70’s to find the one common trait that all successful sales people had at Xerox. What he found was the sales people that were most successful listened two times more than those who were not. The SPIN Selling technique was introduced to replicate the art of listening. Situation, Problem, Implication, Need. We must first understand our buyer’s environment, the problems within that environment, the impact those problems cause and what is needed to solve those problems. Bosworth’s Solution Selling and Customer Centric Selling basically take the pain-based selling concept and retool it with additional steps. However, SPIN has four steps – the only four steps you need to probe for pain.

Do the Best Sales Reps Make the Best Sales Managers?

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Most of us are aware of the Pareto Principle. Not to be confused with the Peter Principle – where employees are promoted to their level of incompetence. The Pareto Principle is the 80/20 rule and it applies to selling in that 80% of the productivity will come from 20% of the sales people. It is from that 20% where we find a pool of candidates to promote to sales management.  

This 20% is intuitively good at their job. They naturally understand the nuances of political navigation, strategic literacy, objection handling, building competitive preferences, probing for pain, and negotiating for value.  However, generally speaking, the 80% do not have this intuition. They need training, coaching, messaging, and process to help them win a complex sale.

This is why I love working with new sales managers! They are fantastic practitioners of their company’s sales process, tireless workers, and can pick apart the competition with surgical precision.  They also have a tremendous track record of success which provided them their opportunity for advancement. From my observations, the natural career path of most sales managers is one of internal promotion from the field.

When the 20% are promoted to manage the 80%, the process begins as such.  Being the eager leaders that they are and with fresh revenue production pressures, new managers hit the ground running. Without direction to do otherwise, new managers resort to what they do best – selling.  Their first instinct is to take ownership of ALL of the deals in their new territory. It is so apparent to them what needs to be done and yet their direct reports seem to be doing the wrong things. The 20% fail to understand why selling doesn’t come as intuitively to the 80% as it does to them.  Oftentimes, the new sales manager takes on the mantra, “if you want something done right, you do it yourself.” After all, that attitude worked so well for them when they were a rep.  

Over a short period of time, the new manager becomes the de facto new sales rep on every qualified opportunity in his/her territory.  This has a terrible impact on the team because the direct reports are getting no coaching and they have been relegated to a sales assistant on their own deals.  The impact is even worse on the new sales manager because eventually the enthusiasm for their new job fades into 80 hour work weeks and airport layovers. Disillusionment sets it in. They haven’t learned any new management skills but have taken on much more responsibility.  They begin to wonder if they are an example of the Peter Principle.

I see this cycle in many sales organizations. A-players are recruited, promoted, burned out, and leave.

How do we break this cycle? First, it should be the company’s responsibility to bring the new sales manager into the fraternity of leadership.  New sales managers need a beginner’s course for management just as they had when they became a new sales rep. Second, we need to realize the skills that make a good sales rep are not the same of a good sales manager. Good sales managers realize that they need to scale, coach, cultivate, and lead; not parachute in on every qualified opportunity.  They understand that the profession of sales is more foreign to their direct reports so they document the best practices that move a sale along the process.  They train their reps on how to handle a discovery call, give an effective presentation, and build a business case for their solution. Not do it for them. Good Sales managers coach every deal in their territory – they don’t cover every deal. 

To answer the question, do the best sales reps make the best sales managers, the answer is yes. If new sales managers understand that they weren’t promoted to use their skills to close more deals, they were promoted to coach their direct reports on how to be more like them.

What Closes the Deal? Sense vs. Source of Urgency

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Isn’t it great when a month ends on a Friday? You get a chance to wrap up both the month and the week in the same day. If you are like most sales people you also get a chance to lean on your prospects just that much more to get the deal in. After all, that’s our source of urgency, making our number by the end of the month. We find ourselves much more motivated (as does the procurement department) because there are negative ramifications if we fail to deliver.

Let’s take that idea and turn it on its head. Do you think our prospects have a source of urgency? Do you think there are negative ramifications for our prospects if they don’t get a solution in place by a certain time? The answer is an unequivocal…..yes! Companies are a lot like individuals in that they won’t make a change until they absolutely have to. For sellers to know if they are in a qualified deal – they need to know why the buyers “have to” make a change.

Many sellers confuse the  “want to” or sense of urgency with the ” have to” source of urgency. A sense of urgency is more often than not tied to our value proposition. As an example:

  • Automating manual processes
  • Better reporting
  • Lowering total cost of ownership
  • Scalability / Flexibility
  • Mitigate Risk
  • Best of breed / Best practice
  • Consolidation
  • Streamline / Ease of use

All companies can benefit from the above and many have a sense of urgency to get them done. A source if urgency however has a date by which these benefits must be implemented because the company (and more importantly a specific individual) will feel a tangible effect if they do not. Examples of sources of urgency are as follows:

  • New facility / market / clientele
  • New executive strategy
  • Capital purchase
  • Board directive
  • Compliance effective date
  • Product launch
  • Merger / Acquisition
  • Negative Press / Federal Investigation
  • Quarterly / Annual Report

Therefore, to better understand if our prospects are going to buy from us we need to know why they will buy from us. Until then, we will continue to be befuddled by their lack of motivation even though we have a perfectly rational value proposition. Start tying your value proposition AND your forecast to a source of urgency. Then you will see your prospects leaning on you to get the deal done and the end of the month will be just another day on the calendar.

Guest Blogger: Phil Johnson on Why Sales Training Still Doesn’t Work

Bored Man

Phil Johnson is President of Revenue Revelation – a friend of mine and friend of the firm – The Complex Sale, Inc.  Revenue Revelation specializes in helping organization get the most out of their sales training and are experts on sales adoption / reinforcement.

PhilIf you read Scott’s first installment on this subject, you were probably not surprised by anything he said.  However, when confronted with the realities he cited, you may have gotten one of those “Ah Hah!” moments. More likely it was “DUH! Tell me something I don’t know.” Either way, he points out a problem that has been around for at least the 30 years I have been selling.  I’d like to address the same issue from a slightly different point of view.

It has been said that “People buy from people – people they like and people they trust.”  And to a large extent, I agree with that statement.  I would add that “people buy from people who help them achieve their personal and professional agendas.”  If there are more than one solution, the like and trust factors come into play, but when I am buying something, the main thing is that I spend my time and money on solving whatever issue I have determined to be important and expedient.  It gets very personal when I want it fixed.

Now, back to “Why sales training doesn’t work.”  When was the last time you heard a sales person say something like:

  • “I’m confused by what it takes to sell a solution rather than a product.”
  • “I really need a common vernacular.”
  • “Executives are a mystery to me.  I don’t know what to say to them.”
  • “On a day to day basis, I just don’t have a process to keep the deal moving forward.”

Or when was the last time you heard a sales manager say:

  • “I’m really inconsistent in the way that I manage my people.”
  • “I really don’t add that much value when I am coaching deals.”
  • “When we don’t win enough business – on time – it is mainly because I am not able to leverage my knowledge and apply my experience through clear investigative techniques.  In other words, it is just easier for me to take over the deal than it is for me to use it as a learning experience for my rep.”

Sales training fails at the most common denominator of selling.  It is not designed to solve the stated problem of the participants.  It is not specifically designed to solve personal problems.  The VP’s agenda gets met when the participants show up.  But the sales rep participants rarely confess that they have a problem at all, to do so is a kind of political suicide.  And the first line managers have rarely had enough exposure to the skill sets of leadership to see that they are anything more than “uber sales reps.” Especially now, when the dictate is to just get revenue in the door before the next round of layoffs.

Bottom line: Until the needs are fully defined, clearly articulated, and a desire to solve them is personally expressed by the participants, sales training will never have the impact – over time – that it should have.

Sales Training Doesn’t Work

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This might seam like a fairly unproductive point of view from someone who earns his living training sales people. However, that is precisely why I believe sales training – on its own – doesn’t work. I receive plenty of calls from sales leaders asking us to participate in their sales kick-off because they want one of the following:

•   Move from selling products to solutions
•   Gain a comfort level selling to executives
•   Create a common vernacular through out the sales force
•   Win more deals against the competition

These are lofty goals to accomplish over a 1 to 2 day workshop; so lofty that you can expect the impact to be short-lived and all but forgotten in 3 months. It is akin to going to the gym and asking the trainer to help you lose 10 pounds in one session. You will get a good workout – and most likely will be sore in the morning – but more or less the same weight the day after.

That is why we recommend a longer engagement that incorporates the 1 to 2  day workshop as the centerpiece but has the proper preliminary and follow up steps to hit your goals. I recommend this three step process:

Step One: Assess / Align / Define
We need to understand your sales effectiveness goals and their relative importance to other projects and participants. Sometimes a 24 hour workshop is all our clients have an appetite for. For those looking for sustained improvement, we then want to define the best practices in their sales cycle and incorporate our methodology to create a uniquely tailored process. This will give relevancy and buy-in needed for adoption.

Step Two: Deploy / Enable
This is the 1-2 day workshop where the newly tailored techniques and strategies are revealed to the sales force. We want to make sure that we have incorporated the best practices of the sales cycle / messaging / and methodology into the CRM. These workshops should always be taught using live deals because adults learn best through practical application.

Step Three: Reinforce / Measure
After the workshop has ended and the sales force is re-energized, we want to ensure the new techniques and strategies are transferred back to the office on a deal by deal basis. We test the students on their retention of the material, we track their usage of the tools via the CRM, and we coach their deals using the methodology. Adjustments in coaching and execution training are made based upon retention, application, and effectiveness.

As any good fitness trainer will tell you, you must make a habit out of a healthy lifestyle. The same is true for successful sales organizations. A one and done training event will fill space in a kick-off and will fire up the troops – but it won’t have long lasting impact. That is why sales training on its own doesn’t work.

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