selling

Selling In a Populist World

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Popularity is greater than exclusivity. Likes and follows are driving awareness. Crowd > Elite. The selling world is being modified by B2C interactions. The transformation is underway…have you noticed?

Amazon is almost single-handedly changing sales interactions. Searching, research, pricing and popularity are hallmarks of the Amazon experience. “Prospects” are well-versed in your multiple products, your general pricing and your relative popularity. Your salespeople are at a disadvantage compared to just 10 years ago. You have to make adjustments to your sales process to adapt to this new reality.

Marketing Is Prospecting
The halcyon days of salespeople generating their own prospects are now fading fast. Prospects in the discovery phase are less likely to call a company and ask to speak to a salesperson. Prospects are even less likely to take a prospecting call from a salesperson. This cultural change has shifted the burden of prospecting over to the marketing department. Marketing is now responsible for approach strategies and communications to open the door to a sales discussion. Your marketing approach must go beyond introducing your company, your products/services, and your history. Marketing now has to provide an flavor of your company’s culture and mission to invite the cold prospect into a selling relationship.

Differentiating Value will Drive Engagements
Commoditization is the devaluing of your Differentiating Value (DV). This devaluation is a prospect’s best weapon to neutralize any sales approach. “You are just like the other solutions.” “The other company does the same thing for less money.” “We don’t have a need for it.” You see how easy this is…and effective if your salespeople are unable to utilize your DV. The modern-day prospect is more informed than ever so your salespeople will need to leverage your DV to drive new engagements. This engagement is more than features and benefits - those points will have been discovered and intellectually digested by the prospect. Your salespeople will need to use DV to establish the next stage in the selling relationship.

Relationship Sales are the Future
There has always been a relationship aspect to selling, even when selling transactional solutions. However, the greatest change in the sales process is the shift from seller to sherpa. Salespeople now have to engage on a different level with prospects. Automation has taken responsibility for the nuts and bolts information regarding your solution. Your salespeople will need to build an immediate, and then ongoing, relationship with the prospect to close the deal. As this sales change becomes ingrained, who a salesperson knows will become the foremost factor in ongoing success.

The current state of selling seems like a new frontier and these 3 changes are having an impact on success. Yet, some aspects of selling are timeless. Being a good qualifier, asking tough questions, actively listening, etc. are all abilities needed to succeed. The key for all CRO’s will be to incorporate the new sales model into their existing processes.

Myths About Persuasion

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We like to boil sales down to getting other people to change behavior. This “change” requires salespeople who are persuasive.

The Selling Power archives contain a quick-read article about persuasion. The focus is debunking myths that permeate sales cultures regarding how to be persuasive. There are 6 myths they note, but this one is preeminent:

2. If you give customers enough facts, you’ll get their business.

Wrong. People do not base their buying decisions on facts. Research shows that the first step in a decision process is emotional engagement. Without an emotional response at the outset, persuasion does not occur.

Absolutely true. People make decisions emotionally and justify them (later) intellectually. If you do not understand this fact, you will sell on features and benefits. This will work if you are selling to Mr. Spock, it will not work on humans. Successful salespeople know their Differentiating Value and they know their Critical Qualifying Questions. Those two items, when connected to an emotional response, guide the salesperson to qualify the prospect.

That ability leads into the author’s third point:

3. Some folks are natural salespeople.

No. Charisma and personality are helpful, but they do not guarantee success, particularly in complex or technical sales. Effective salespeople have certain habits and behavior in common – and that includes the so-called naturals, even if they’re not consciously aware of the habits and behavior.

Many truths to unpack in that paragraph. First, many people confuse charisma for competence when it comes to selling. This conventional wisdom couldn’t be more wrong. Sales are won by the salesperson who asks the right questions and listens closely. This leads to the second point that certain behaviors are key to success in sales. Stephen Covey used to say, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Understanding is key - the strongest salespeople are attentive to the prospect’s words which is conveyed by the salesperson’s body language, focus and responses.

All six of the points from the article are key. Persuasion is a process and the backbone of all successful selling.

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.

The 5 Must-Have Components for Revenue as a System in 2018

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After 6+ years of hosting monthly roundtable meetings with revenue leaders from a diversified combination of businesses, it’s clear there is a core list of components CRO’s need to have in hand at the start of the year for maximizing success and driving revenue growth. 

The core components of Revenue as a System:

1)  Lead generation system – Differentiating Value (DV) is defined by target segments and campaigns are loaded for launch through all media channels.  It is never about what you say, it is more about what the prospect remembers about you.  The DV messages are 100% translated into the prospect’s world.   Response systems operate under time-is-of-the-essence priorities so nothing goes past a couple hours, worst case, without a direct engagement (not an auto-responder).  The goal is always a response time in minutes to connect in the prospect’s “window of interest.

2)  Revenue team roles – The right mix is a combination of inside and outside resources with the new business development goals assigned to specific hunters and not diluted across everyone’s goal sheets.  The hunters have line of sight vision to the targets and the tools to pursue them.  The right talent means trained and ready to handle all levels of communication - especially qualifying.

3)  Structured sales process based on your Differentiating Value – Selling is a communication process and your Differentiating Value (DV) is why prospects decide to do business with you.  As such, a CRO cannot invest the time to learn the unique qualifying approach of every sales rep in their organization.  I have tried it – it doesn’t work and the individual process I was exposed to were totally ineffective.  Qualifying is all about asking the right questions.  Every sale typically consists of 4-6 Critical Qualifying Questions (CQQ’s) that objectively determine if, how and when the deal comes together.  Sales reps never want to get a “no,” but the reality is getting more no’s than yes’s is the way it works.  It is far better to get the no before you invest a lot of resources into deals where you are not even on the list for consideration.

4)  Structured forecast process – Forecast accuracy is the report card of your qualifying system.  Sales reps know it is always better to be optimistic vs. realistic when forecasting.  Due to that approach, management does not know exactly what’s in their pipeline.  This is a common survival technique to buy more time without going under a formal “get-well” plan.  A bankable forecast process can be achieved - the challenge lies with your qualifying execution.  The key is to hold your salespeople accountable to qualifying suspects for motivation, money, methodology and market before moving prospects on/through the forecast.

5)  Properly-aligned incentive systems – Incentives are the most underutilized tool in the CRO’s arsenal.  The days of one-size-fits-all spreadsheet plans never really worked…and they still don’t.   It is important for plans to both recognize behaviors and reward results.  Incentive plans can include a variety of components – forecast accuracy, mix of sales performance by product and/or accounts, new logo accounts, etc.  No two businesses are identical so no two plans have the same focus.  It starts with understanding your specific sales model and building the incentive plan around key performance thresholds.  In the end, much of successful selling comes down to doing the right behaviors consistently.  Your incentive plan should creatively incent those behaviors.

This is just one of the revenue-focused topics we discuss at the RoundTable.  If you would like to learn more about the executive peer group, register to attend one of our upcoming briefings in the Twin Cities or Chicago.  Visit our Executive Briefings page here.

What Matters Most in Selling

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Qualifying.

That’s it.  End of post.  No, we’ll go a bit deeper.  I write this post as I sit at a Caribou Coffee right next to an actual sales interview.  It is fascinating to observe as the candidate is doing fairly well.  He is qualifying the position which is excellent.

He is falling down in that he is asking the right questions and then answering them HIMSELF.  Disappointing.

There is an elegance to strong qualifying…almost an artistry.  The questions flow in a conversational manner, the prospect is comfortable in answering and the information is gained by the salesperson.  It is enjoyable to watch from my perspective.

When you are interviewing sales candidates, it is important to watch for more than just the answers they provide.  Pay attention to their questions, their strategy in answering, their conversational approach, etc.  Even watch for candidates who are able to ask difficult questions.  Imagine them selling for your company – will your prospects buy from them.

In the end, the salesperson’s ability to qualify, a job, a prospect, a deal, is the backbone of all good selling.