First, Start with a Point of View

 

You really never do get a second chance to make a first impression yet I hear so many sellers stumble out of the gate with questions such as: What keeps you up at night? As discussed in an earlier blog about peer 2 peer selling, a peer is seen as an equal with similar acumen and experience. A conversation with a peer is not a series of open ended questions but rather one with purpose and a path.  Successful first calls are executed by following a model that begins with what we call a “point of view” and follows a six step process.

 POV 

 The point of view statement is an observation about the prospect’s industry or business followed up with a closed-ended question. As an example – I will use our own sales tool kit with a fictional VP of Sale:

“I read that your company is expanding your product offering to include a software as a service platform. We have seen that companies usually have a 6 month lag in revenue with this type of change because it takes marketing and sales that long to get on the same page with sales ready messaging. Is that something you have factored in?”

1. This starts the conversation on a path that will help us gather specific information. The prospect will either answer the question yes or no.

To prepare provocative point of view statements for a first call, I recommend InsideView. This tool can be embedded inside of your CRM on the account level to give everything available about the company, from the blogosphere, LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Facebook, and in Twitter. InsideView is offering a free version right now that is well worth the time invested. 

2. We want to understand the impact that a 6 month lag will have on the individual and their organization. We simply ask the question, “What impact will that have on your company?”

3. We want to confirm that impact in terms of metrics. If we are going down the right path –there will be a tangible repercussion. We will want to ask, “Just so I heard you correctly – a 6 month lag in revenue for this product line will mean $15,000,000 in lost revenue?” We would want to add some clarification as well to address a date by which this problem must be solved. “When is the product due to go-live?”

4. We want to create a mutual vision to address this pain. It is very important to align with their vision. We want to collaborate with them by asking, “What are your plans on getting sales and marketing aligned before product release.” We then follow up by sharing how we have helped similar organizations in similar circumstances.

5. Our next step is to offer a method of proof. Most complex sales will require some deeper discovery with individuals in the company. We want to get sponsorship of this discovery step but not without giving a “high-level” overview of what we are trying to achieve. “Our Sales Tool Kit will provide sales ready messaging at the time of product release to avoid the 6 month revenue lag”

6. We ask then for the prospect’s sponsorship on a deeper discovery and a time to demonstrate our proof of concept. “As a next step, you will introduce me to your VP of Marketing and Sales Operations department to tailor a proof of concept demonstration of the Sales Tool Kit. We can have something prepared for you by month end. Can we schedule a time for our next meeting then? ”

A Sales Tool Kit to Help with your Point of View

Selling like a peer means thoroughly researching all of your potential stakeholders to be well versed in their position and the challenges they face.  Successful companies take this research and put it into a sales tool kit for consistency throughout the entire sales force. It is vitally important to have a central repository available of best practices in messaging, competitive positioning, objection handling, and probing questions to prepare for a first call. Kadient offers a fully integrated content management tool with most CRM’s including Salesforce.com where the tool kit’s content should be housed.

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Peer 2 Peer Selling (P2P)

 Say the right thing

A new study by Forbes finds that 53% of C-level executives do their own research online – well before they delegate a project or contact vendors. Therefore, sales people need to add much more value than the standard discover, present, pricing method that permeates our business. Our buyer wants to buy from a peer – or someone who can add value well beyond our product offering.

How does one become a peer of an executive? We must speak to them in their language.

Successful sales forces are able to take their operational features and functionality and translate their benefits into a compelling value proposition for non-technical buyers. As we begin to sell more complex solutions, more stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. These stakeholders often do not have the technical expertise to distinguish our solution from the competition or other in-house alternatives.  

Inherent in a value proposition is a keen understanding of the pains of the non-technical buyers and a linkage of our solution to solving those pains. Many organizations make the mistake of having one generic value proposition – when in fact it must be tailored to the individual to whom we are selling.

This is most apparent when we generate a sales process through our own demand creation efforts. Oftentimes, executives who need our solution the most, have no understanding of what we do and need it translated for them to sponsor an evaluation.

As a go-to-market strategy, successful sales organization take a census of every potential stakeholder in their sales process. They uncover every potential pain this individual could have and link their solution to solving that pain. They also take inventory of every potential competitor and create competitive position statements and ways to handle objections. They lean upon the expertise of their best parishioners and marketing departments to create an easy to access tool kit for the sales force.

We have seen messaging tool kits used to shorten sales cycles, ramp up new hires faster, and move lesser skilled reps up to the level of more skilled sellers. With this knowledge and confidence – they are more effective listeners and can sell Peer 2 Peer.

Selling to the C-level

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbTC2EPM7to

 

The above Youtube link is an interview with Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE on his vision of the future of his company and the world as a whole. Now this should come as a surprise to no one but think about this – what if he is wrong? Or even worse, what if he is right but he can’t capitalize on this vision?

The higher you rise in an organization the lonelier it gets. You are asked and well compensated to predict the future, read the tea leaves, and forge a vision into the great unknown.  Successful companies have boards of directors to guide the C-suite, talented VP’s to execute the strategy, and access to the best management principles available. But know this – ultimately the C-suite is held responsible for the decisions they make. Not only in the strategic direction of the company but how successful have they executed upon that direction.

Case in point:

GM quite correctly predicted the appetite of the world’s need for fuel efficiency when it created the EV-1 electric car. However the timing was wrong because oil became extremely inexpensive and the EV-1 was scrapped to make way for the Hummer.

Sony quite correctly predicted that family’s wanted to watch “recorded video” at home when it unveiled Betamax video cassettes: JVC cornered the market with its version of VHS video cassettes to make the Betamax obsolete.

 

On a very real, but smaller scale, your clients are judged by the same risk versus reward model for predicting the future of their industry and capitalizing on it. The question we as sales people must ask ourselves, “How do we tap into that risk vs. reward mindset to position our service as the best solution?”

 

We must first think like our customer.

 

  • As an individual, my very fate could lie in getting this decision right.
  • I don’t look at you as a vendor – I look at you as a means to an end.
  • Are we sure we even need to look outside the company to do this?
  • How can I trust this guy when I can’t even trust my own people to tell me truth?
  • I need a partner that has been down this road before.
  • I don’t want to be a product of the Peter Principle.

The average executives receive 57 meeting requests a week from sales people. Couple this barrage of requests with the average executive’s history of receiving “little to no value” with sales people they did meet – it is no wonder you aren’t getting access. The sales people the exec saw in the past did not understand how they thought and spoke about product, feature, and functionality.  

 

Reverse this trend – get sponsored by someone that the executive trusts to introduce to you. This will cut through the clutter. When you do get a meeting with them – tell them something they don’t know about their business, their competition, or their industry and then speak to them in the language of risk vs. reward.

 

 

 

Addressing Politics in a Sales Process

“I don’t believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.”
— Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. president

I receive a quote of the day from Brian Tracy and today’s quote is from Ronald Reagan. This is such a perfect sentiment because as I coach deals to help close out the year – the one constant that I hear is that we can do nothing about the politics in our account. Well – by not addressing the politics in the sales cycle you are making a conscious / tactical step to be influenced by them rather than influencing them. That is why it is so vitally important to have a political plan in your opportunity strategy.

If you are like most sales people I coach, your sales process goes like this with each step representing a percentage of the close.

1.      First Call – 10%

2.      Discovery – 25%

3.      Presentation / Demo – 50%

4.      Reference Calls – 75%

5.      Negotiation – 90%

6.      Close – 100%

This process alone simply does not address the politics in an organization. After all – the closer you get to winning, the closer you get to losing in a competitive sale. Rick Page writes in his book – Hope is Not a Strategy, the reason why you simply cannot rely upon where you are in the sales process to accurately predict if you will win is because of a “crucible effect.” Complex Sales go from rational and logical – like the sales steps shown above – to emotional and political – unlike what is accounted for above, in the decision making phase of the sales process.  Better functionality and return on investment is usurped by risk mitigation and personal agendas. We must find how to mitigate the most risk for the people who have the most to lose with our partnership and promote their personal agenda if we want to effect the winds of change.  

 

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