Sales Strategy

Retro Selling on the Horizon?

Could there be a retrograde coming to sales?

One of the topics we took up this year at the RoundTables was the role of the salesperson in the modern sales world. Social media, artificial intelligence, chat bots, etc., are all having an impact on the traditional sales process. Automation is changing the entire process by limiting (removing?) the salesperson from the prospecting activities. The change in the sales process appears to be moving the requirements for successful selling in the very near future.

Prospecting
No bigger change has occurred anywhere else in the selling process than prospecting. The RoundTable members are experiencing the migration of these activities from sales to marketing. The ability to track marketing initiatives, adjust DV messaging and do a first-pass qualify electronically has changed the process. The addition of bots to the marketing initiatives creates an interaction, albeit somewhat wooden, to mildly qualify the prospect.

However, the ability to prospect using traditional methods may come back into focus. The consensus was that salespeople with a strong network will become even more valuable to prospecting in the near future. As prospects become inundated with the new prospecting automation tools, salespeople with strong networks will be able to reach out on a personal level to cut through the noise. That ability may lead us back to in-person prospecting via meetings, lunch and learns, sporting events, etc.

Qualifying
There is no greater skill involved in sales success than qualifying. The strongest salespeople know when to ask, what to ask, how to ask the right questions to bring clarity to a potential deal. There are many artificial intelligence (AI) tools entering the marketplace with the goal of augmenting (or replacing?) salespeople. How smart can these tools become in regards to reading people? Will they be able to pick up nonverbal cues? Sarcasm? Stalls?

You see the issue here - sales is a people-oriented function. Humans communication is only 7% verbal, the other 93% is nonverbal including body language, tone, breathing, eye movement, pacing, etc. The rush towards AI qualifying seems inevitable, but a need for salespeople to talk to prospects will persist.

Closing
Qualified deals close themselves…an axiom we subscribe to in strong selling. However, it still requires a closing event to occur. The actual acceptance of the solution at the agreed upon investment. There is a subtlety to closing that seems difficult to imagine in a machine. The minor agreements, the positive signs, the professional approach to asking for the business, all seem deeply seated in the human approach.

Certainly AI will be able to take orders, but closing a deal will require a far more nuanced approach. The empathetic ability of an AI machine, if it possesses any, will be stretched at this phase of a selling process. This step still seems like a retro approach, if we can call it that, will work best. A meeting over a meal, a stall-clearing phone discussion, a face-to-face closing meeting all seem like a standard that will prevent this stage from ever moving away from a salesperson’s involvement.

Where does it end?
AI is surrounded by ambiguity at this point as it continues to develop to new levels. However, no matter how advanced AI becomes, the basis of selling will remain an interaction between two people making a financial decision. The feeling of our RoundTable groups was that the upcoming year will prove to be revealing of the future of AI in the sales world.

How will your sales team address VUCA?

One of our long standing CRO Executive RoundTable companies has developed a compelling video about the new world of sales addressing VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity).  OppSource is working with sales teams on a global basis to implement the next level of skills and tools needed to survive and grow.  How well will your sales team perform going up against this level of competition?

DV Week Part 4-The Emotional Customer

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We close out the DV week with a final delineation of the real prospect who will value your DV.  The person who will respond to it is the Emotional Customer.  Unfortunately, most salespeople hunt down the Logical Customer and end up in a sales black hole.

Terry Slattery, an expert on DV, walked us through this important aspect of leveraging your DV while prospecting.

Let's first define the Logical Customer:

  • Easy to find but hard to close
  • Price Sensitive
  • Limited performance metrics
  • May have a vested interest in not changing
  • Often isolated from the consequences of delay or undervaluing your DV

The Logical Customer can be lurking anywhere inside of an organization, but some common locations are purchasing, IT, HR among others.  These contacts fit the above description and will work hard to "commoditize" your Differentiating Value.  If your salesperson ends up stuck in this area, you have to guide them out of that hole.

Let's focus on where your salesperson should be focusing - the Emotional Customer:

  • Has zero interest in your stuff
  • Feels the pain and consequences of not having your DV
  • Gets the bill for the pain
  • Easy to close
  • Usually can tell the Logical Customer what to do

See the difference?  The question is how do you find them?

Qualifying.

Your team has to know what their DV is, have it translated into the prospect's world and then have to ask the right questions to find the Emotional Customer.

If you need help implementing Revenue as a System, we can help.

DV Week Part 3-DV Depth and Premium Pricing

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Let's review CRO Success Rule #5:

The breadth and depth of your Differentiating Value platform determines the amount of traction your product or service has in target market segments. It also determines the level of premium pricing you can achieve.  If you have zero Differentiating Value, it means you are selling only on price.

Did you catch that?  No DV means no premium pricing.  Actually, it means your salespeople are probably in a discounting war with far too many (all?) prospects.  You understand when we say DV is the foundation of all successful selling, this is why.

Now that your are into your DV process, it is crucial to refine and translate your DV.  You need to boil it down to its essence to make it powerful.  Think of this fact, it takes 10 GALLONS of maple sap to make 1 QUART of maple syrup.  It takes hours of boiling to reduce the sap (depending on sugar content).  You get the point - it is an arduous process that yields a valuable end product.  DV creation is analogous to the maple syrup process.

These DV questions must be addressed to make sure you get paid what you are worth:

  • What value do you bring to your customers? (Real value - no fluff)
  • How does the absence of your value show up in the prospect's world?
  • Where does it show up?
  • Who does it affect?

When your DV successfully answers these 4 questions, you are well on your way to handling these 2 sales objectives:

Bridging the communication gap with the prospect's world

Doing it in a way that will shorten the overall sales cycle

If you need help with any of these processes, we are always welcome to assist you.

DV Week Part 2-Direct Your DV Towards the Emotional Decision Maker

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We all make decisions emotionally and later justify them intellectually.  This is a fact of human nature.  We look to our emotional decision making to finalize our purchases.  Granted, few people need to access this area of their brain to buy a gallon of milk.  However, think of a significant purchase you recently made.  You decided based on how the item or service made you feel.  Later, you used the logic centers of your brain to rationalize/support why it was a good decision.  If your salespeople are aware of this distinction, they have a distinct advantage over your competition.

The emotional decision maker is the person who suffers the consequences of life without your solution.  They pay a price for not having your DV, whether it be slower times to market, higher failure rates, lower productivity, missed ship dates...it could be almost any painful outcome.

Here is the advantage for your salespeople:  Emotional decision makers are usually harder to find, easier to close, not as price sensitive, and can typically tell the technical buyer what to do.

Now that you know this, you must direct your DV messages towards the emotional decision maker.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Define what matters to the customer - There is no point in highlighting benefits a customer doesn't care about.
  • Be unique and demonstrably better - If the competition offers the same item, whatever that feature/service/product is, then that item is not your competitive advantage.
  • Be specific and measurable - If you can't be specific and/or measurable, you sound like every other competitor.  Get rid of the fluff.

If you need assistance in defining and directing your Differentiating Value, we are here to help.

DV Week Part 1-Drive Your Margins

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

We are spending the week on the most fundamental aspect of successful selling - Differentiating Value (DV).

There is an old saying in sales, "Price is what you pay, value is what you get."   Keep this in mind when you are formulating your DV.  People revert to price because it is the easiest metric to use when comparing like solutions.  If I can't truly differentiate between them, I'll just buy the lower priced solution.  You can't blame the prospect in this instance - they made the correct decision.

But shame on the salesperson.

A buying decision should never boil down to price.  If it does, the salesperson has failed to accomplish two mission-critical tasks:

  1. Differentiate their solution from all of the others
  2. Translate that differentiation into the prospect's world

Number 1:  Prospects, especially those in procurement, will spend great energy to remove your DV.  Their goal is to get your solution entered into a spreadsheet tracking prices.  Unless you are successfully running the lowest-priced solution, you are done if you end up here.

Value = margin, just ask Apple.  They don't sell nearly as many cell phones as Samsung (315 million units for Samsung vs. ~215 million units for Apple).  Yet, most everyone has heard of Apple becoming the first $1 trillion company.  Value = margin.

The salesperson's first priority is to establish their DV.  Differentiating their solution from all the other competing solutions provides the ability to qualify for fit.  Your solution will not be a fit for every prospect.  Testing for "fit" using your DV is crucial for qualifying whether you have a viable prospect or not.

Photo by  Frankie Guarini  on  Unsplash

Number 2:  Prospects will not translate your differentiating value into their world.  How does your DV show up in their world?  What pain does it fix?   Whose life will be easier with your solution?  What is that DV worth (beyond money to time, resources, reliability, etc.)?

DV is what you do that is unique or better than your competition.  It exists in the prospect's world.  It is not features and benefits.  It is not quality, service or support.

DV is what the prospect will lose if they decide not to do business with you.  This fact is the keystone to building your DV into the prospect's world.

You have to answer these questions to approach translating your DV to the prospect's world:

  • What value do you bring to your prospect's world?
  • What do they lose if they do business elsewhere?
  • How does your absence show up in their world (what, when, where, etc.)?
  • Who is most affected by your absence?

When you can articulate your answers to these questions, you will have defined your DV.  We have further questions and techniques to refine DV.  If you could use some assistance with your DV, please contact us today.

Best Time to Cold Call

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Does anyone still cold call?

They do…though it is not a high ROI activity.  That being said, there are some tips that can provide a slight advantage to this activity.

The Harvard Business Review (sorry, no link) posted some usable data from the insidesales.com team.  The important summary:

Best Days to Make Contact:
1. Thursday
2. Wednesday

Surprisingly, Friday is the 3rd best day.  However, Thursday and Wednesday are by far the best days.

Best Times to Make Contact:
1. 3:30pm to 5:30pm
2. 7:30am to 8:30am

How about that?  I grew up in the “old school” days of calling during 9:00am to 3:00pm.  That explains my ineffectiveness…if only I had known this information then!  (That is a fine example of the longstanding sales technique called “excuse making”).

The disclaimer here is that these are suggestions based on averaging 3 years of call data.  Of course there are variations based on whom you are attempting to reach, time of year, etc.  Yet, I like to say that sometimes sales simply comes down to slight advantage.

CRO Rule #6 - Prospect Motivation

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CRO Success Rule #6
A prospect can never have too much Motivation regarding your Differentiating Value.

We’ve written frequently about Differentiating Value (DV) which is foundational to all successful selling.  The key to DV is translating it into your prospect’s world.  What do they give up in the absence of your DV?  A critical question for sure.

However, usually the consequences of life without your solution aren’t horrible, they are just unknown.  Therefore, when you can translate the consequences of not being your customer into your prospects’ worlds, they can start envisioning their own perceptions of new possibilities.  The more their perceptions become compelling, the more traction your DV has in their decision process.

CRO Rule #3 - No Decision IS a Decision

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CRO Rule #3
If a prospect decides not to do business with your company and there is no impact in his/her world as a result of that decision, the person made a good business decision.  As such, your Message objective is to make sure prospects understand what they will give up (lose) if they decide not to do business with you.

Last week we talked about Differentiating Value (DV) which is a fundamental component of successful selling.  This week we are going to apply DV to your messaging.

DV is what sets your solution apart from your competition.  The key is that the value cannot be tied to quality, service or support.  Those 3 bromides are the backbone of many marketing messages…and an ineffective approach.  The reason is these 3 traits are assumed by prospects and claimed by competitors.  They are the opening ante to enter the game and therefore are difficult topics in which to differentiate your solution.

The key in applying your DV to your message is this – in today’s market you have to clearly express what sets you apart from your competitors and your prospects must find this valuable.  I’m not talking about traditional features and benefits, rather the value you bring that differentiates your solution from your competitor’s.  When there is differentiation, then there is loss for not choosing your solution.  This fact is the key to your message.

Execution Isn't The Problem

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Our RoundTable program is totally results-focused meaning our executive membership knows the leadership road to results is always a combination of 3 components – Leadership, Strategy and Execution.

Many times we observe non-member leadership putting all their performance shortfalls on execution. More successful executives have learned that where the problem appears is not always where the problem exists. Our members say it best – culture eats strategy for lunch every day. When culture and strategy are not aligned (a core leadership responsibility) execution becomes an intermittent compromise at best…and terminally toxic at worst.

Leadership and Strategy exist inside the business – execution takes those “assets” outside to your market. That’s how it works so be careful not to define results as solely an execution issue.