Create Winning Sales Experiences

Two Female Runners Finishing Race TogetherAccess to decision makers is tough. An IDC study reported that inundated with data and sales pitches, buyers return only 10.5% of phone calls and 9% of emails from new vendors. Yet, pressured by management KPI’s, every day salespeople use the same tactics – cold calls and cold emails – in an effort to convince a prospective customer to agree to a sales meeting.

Activity is NOT the same as effectiveness.

Using technology to cast a wider net has given rise to the delusion that if you just broadcast your message to more people you are bound to land more meetings. If sales people expect to make quota, they need to remember that it’s all a numbers game, right? Wrong. The theory that simply increasing the number of “people” you contact means you’ll get more business is outdated.  Buyer expectations have changed.

In IDC’s Social Buying Meets Social Selling whitepaper they concluded that “While time is scarce, trust and confidence can be even rarer. Buyers making high-impact decisions will gravitate toward methods that make confidence building easier.”

Spray and pray selling isn’t going to instill confidence in a buyer any time soon.

Spamcasting the same email message to 100, 500 or 1,000 people is not an effective prospecting strategy. Moreover, you put yourself at serious risk of creating a negative impression in the mind of your potential customer. Competition is stiff and buyers have choices. If your goal is to fill the pipeline with qualified leads and secure sales meetings, you need a different strategy.

Two things need to change:

  1. Sales approach
  2. Message

Chasing anyone with a pulse is a costly waste of time and energy.

Though it may seem counter intuitive, you actually have a higher likelihood of securing meetings and closing deals more quickly when you focus your attention on a targeted list of decision makers to pursue.

Now that you’ve narrowed your focus, it is time to personalize your message. The Internet and social media in particular, is full of insights that can help craft a message that is relevant to the buyer you’ve targeted. That means you need to do some homework prior to crafting your message, and yes, it does take more time but aren’t positive results worth the effort?

Don’t fall into the 90% of communications that are deleted without a second thought.

Follow these tips:

  • It is not about you. Prospects don’t care about your company history, the latest infusion of VC cash or the fact that you won an industry award. Tell them what is in it for them!
  • Create a compelling subject line that captures interest.
  • Keep the message brief and to the point.
  • Check your facts. If you sell services to staffing agencies then be sure you are emailing staffing companies.
  • Stop asking people to visit your website to learn more. Lazy and presumes your buyer has the time to do your sales job.
  • Make sure the customer examples you use are relevant. Don’t tout examples of enterprise organizations if you are emailing a small business.
  • Provide the social proof and include specific metrics that clearly show how results were achieved by the companies you are referencing.
  • Don’t try to be a comedian. One email I received said that perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t get back to him is because a file cabinet fell on me and I couldn’t reach the keyboard to contact him. Delete.

Buyers expect more.

They want to work with people who can help them solve their business challenges. Order takers aren’t needed or wanted.

When you earn the right to a 30-minute meeting, use your time wisely. Don’t pitch. Focus on bringing insights to the meeting that will benefit the buyer in some way. It could be information on the latest industry trends or data related to their competitors.

Ask great questions to guide the sales conversation.

  • Why should my target buyer care about what I offer?
  • What happens to their business if they do nothing?
  • Why should they trust me versus my competitors?
  • How are their peers solving the same challenges they face now?
  • What expertise will I need to move this ahead to a successful win?
  • What do I need to know about their competition or their industry?
  • How do I gain their commitment? What’s really important to them?

The sellers who succeed are those that swim in the blue ocean. Let your competitors continue to do what they’ve always done. Let them pitch features and fight it out on price.

CEI discovered when they surveyed decision makers that 86% said that they would pay more for a great customer experience but felt that only 1% actually delivered.

Creating a sales experience that sets you apart from everyone else is your competitive advantage. Go make it happen!

Get the Message Right: A Sales Mastery Interview with John Cousineau

In this Sales Mastery Interview, we talk about how to engage prospects with the right message, and John has developed a unique system to help sales folks understand what conversations are working and which ones are not.

John’s product is called Amacus and it is designed to accelerate revenue from Business Development by revealing what’s working and what isn’t. Its auto-analytics show buyer reactions to seller efforts. They enable sales teams to hone best practices using trial and error with small, fast, tests of new tactics. Imagine what you’d like to know, if you could, about sales performance and how to improve it. That’s what Amacus is all about.

Let me tell you about John…

With innovative information inc., John’s leading efforts to improve sales performance using auto-analytics that provoke learning and improve habits. Amacus is his firm’s award-winning application.

John’s spent over 30 years harnessing the capabilities of technology and information in ways that accelerate business performance. His mantra: design innovative uses of information that let clients out-perform expectations.

He’s been doing it for a while. Dropped his first deck of punch cards in 1977. Used his first spreadsheet in 1980. Had his first email account in 1981. Co-produced the first internet video for the PGA tour in 1999. Through  these and other learning moments, John’s pursued ways to use information that drive business performance by making work fun; by getting people, faster, to the value creating parts of their daily routines.

When you listen to my conversation with John, you’ll learn:

  • Why producing analytics for sales people makes sense.
  • The problem he is helping sales people and their management solve.
  • Why the right kind of data is more important than more data.
  • The benefits that added accountabilities create for sales people.
  • Bad habits that firms might be practicing without knowing it.
  • Client benefits and learning.
  • Gauging whether the sales approach and message you are using is working.

And more…

Enjoy the interview!

Social Media Does Impact Revenue!

Social Media and Sales Quota” report is now available and packed with great highlights about how sales people use social media to sell.

When working with sales organizations in the business-to-business (B2B), space we are constantly asked if using social media as part of the sales process actually generates a measurable return.

Jim Keenan of A Sales Guy Consulting and I decided to find out if social selling truly impacted sales. With all the hype that surrounds social media and the term “social selling”, we wanted to know if social made a difference where it mattered…in quota.
With that in mind, we conducted a random, anonymous survey to find out what sales people had to say.

Our “Social Media and Sales Quota” survey report is packed with great highlights about how sales people use social media to sell.

You will discover that 78.3% of our survey respondents do use social media in their selling process and that 72.6% of sales people using social media outperformed their sales peers in 2012!

Here are just a few of our key findings…

  • Quota attainment and sales performance. In 2012, 72.6% of sales people using social media as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often.
  • There is a direct correlation between closed deals and social media usage. Sales leaders want to know where the Return-on-Investment (ROI) is if their sales people spend time on social media sites. 54% of our survey respondents have tracked their social media usage back to closed deals.
  • The time investment in using social media to sell. A common concern among sales leaders is that their sales people will spend more time on social media sites then they will actually spend selling. It turns out that their concern is unwarranted. 50.1% of sales people told us that their time spent using social media ranged from less than 5% to up to 10%.
  • The report includes other eye openings insights and clearly shows that those sales people using social media significantly outperform their peers when it comes to achieving/exceeding quota and closing deals!

Help Us Get the Word Out!

Sample Text:
FREE Social Media and Sales Quota Survey Report. Find out how savvy sales people use social media to achieve quota and close deals! Get the results from our 2013 survey.

Sign Up on the Home Page RIGHT NOW to Download Your Copy!

Using Social Media to Sell

Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Ago Cluytens for his Coaching Masters Series. We talked about social selling and the importance of salespeople learning how to adapt their approach. More importantly, we talked about specific things that you and/or your salespeople can do to create sales opportunities using technology.

During the segment, learn about:

  • The FIVE steps you’ll need to follow to develop a social media sales strategy that helps you sell, sell, sell
  • Why 80% of all buying decisions are made before you ever set foot in a prospect’s office
  • Why my interviewer was dead wrong when he said“but maybe senior executives don’t use social media that much”
  • Why all that Tweeting and Liking may not have paid off for you (yet) and what you can do to make sure it does
  • Three time-tested, “fast track” insider tactics you can use right now to build your sales funnel

It was my very first Skype video interview and fortunately it looks like I didn’t embarrass myself! Enjoy the interview.

Think Before Hitting Send

Prospecting is an important element of the sales process and here are 5 common ways in which people tend to approach looking for new business:

  1. Make phone calls
  2. Send email
  3. Attend in-person networking events
  4. Leverage social media like LinkedIn
  5. Solicit referrals

These are not listed in any particular order, and it is pretty likely that like most of us, you are using a combination of these approaches to achieve your sales goals.

Like any sales tactic you use, it is important that the tactic delivers the return on the time invested. Is the activity driving sales revenue or not? That’s the question you want to be asking yourself all throughout the day.

I want to focus in on email prospecting for a moment, because coincidentally two sales leaders that I respect – Jill Konrath and Jim Keenan – both wrote blog posts that zeroed in on how salespeople are using email to prospect. The answer…not well.

Jill shared an example on her blog that is so horribly written and wrong in so many ways that I have to ask who the heck is monitoring what salespeople are saying to prospects in their email exchanges? This salesperson wasn’t thinking before hitting send.

Sales execs…this part is for you.

Remember that crazy old saying…”You never get a second chance to make a good first impression”? That applies here. Do you know what happens to any chance of a sales opportunity when your sales rep sends sales spam is that not targeted, not relevant to the receiver, poorly written and not well thought out?

The best you can hope for is that the email is merely deleted and your name is erased from their minds. The worst scenario can look like me telling all my colleagues to steer clear of your company, product and service.

It is time to pay attention to what your salespeople are sending out on behalf of your company each and every day.

What can you do to solve the problem?

Work with team members to craft several different emails based on buyer personas. This will prepare the majority of the message up front and you want to use it consistently with each prospecting touch. This will also squeeze time out of the sales process, because your folks could send batch emails based on industry or title.

And…

Craft emails thinking about the prospect and what’s important to them – avoid the sales pitch. Batching emails as noted above is a good idea as long as you remember that a little customization will be needed based on each prospect situation. Boilerplate emails that are sales pitches do not work.

Teach your salespeople to do their homework and leverage real-time information available on the web to tailor their message. Now, more than ever, is it easy to do a little digging to quickly identify triggers that help you to spot potential sales opportunities.

Regularly monitor and spot check the emails that your salespeople are sending out. They represent you, your company and themselves. It is up to you to know exactly how well they are living up to their responsibility.

Develop a system to track whether or not sending email is actually working. Frankly, this suggestion applies to the other four ways that people prospect too. But here’s the thing about email:  92% of buyers say that they ignore emails from people they do not know. If that’s true, why are your salespeople relying so much on email to sell for them?

Prospecting in the right way yields better results. Continuing to do things they way you’ve always done them while expecting different results? Not gonna happen!

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If you are ready to ROCK YOUR SALES and want to learn HOW TO use social media to help you do it, we are launching a new program that will teach exactly what you need to do and why. Check out the details here. We’ve made it super easy for you enroll by letting you split the fee over 3 payments!

Are You Planning to Fail?

As the saying goes, failing to plan is simply planning to fail. It is easy to make excuses for not putting in the planning time…too busy with projects, clients, family commitments, etc. You are already stretched thin. How you can possible add one more thing to your plate?

Listen, I understand. I really do.  And, in my most empathetic voice, let me just say…you must get past the excuses!

Let me ask you something.

  • Do you need more revenue flowing in the door?
  • Do you need more prospects in your pipeline to ensure that revenue keeps flowing in the door?
  • Would it be helpful if more of your deals closed faster?
  • Would your revenue benefit if you could get in front of opportunities before your competitors?

Ok then. You need a Sales Meets Social Media plan and playbook.

There are 5 master keys to successfully using social media to increase pipeline and revenue. They are:

  • Have a plan. What are you trying to accomplish specifically?
  • Target your audience. What are the characteristics of your ideal buyer?
  • Choose the right tools. Not everyone needs Twitter. Use the right platform based on your needs.
  • Implement consistently. If you aren’t participating on a daily basis, you are missing the point.
  • Measure and track. Determine what forum or set of activities work for you, discard things that don’t.

About that plan.

If you are like a lot of people, you get hung up on the word “plan”. This isn’t a 30 page document that you need to write. You can easily keep it to 1-2 pages and you should. Your goal is keep it simple and narrow your focus.

The process begins with defining the characteristics of your ideal buyer. Hint: it is NOT everyone.  Nail down the specifics like title, age, income, type of industry, etc. Clearly defining your target makes it easier to determine where your prospect may spend time online.

Next, you need to think about your purpose. What it is specifically that you want to accomplish using social media? More sales? How much more? Net new meetings? Ok, how many per week? Acquire 10 new clients? By when? Increase the size of your LinkedIn network? By how much and by when? You get the idea. Put your thinking cap on and decide on what you are really trying to do.

Now that you know who your target prospect is and you’ve determined your purpose, the fun begins.

For your plan to succeed, it is important that you set detailed goals, strategies, tasks and social activities you will commit to and take action on.

Start by setting 3-5 goals to support your purpose for using social media in the first place. If you want to increase your sales, one of your goals might be “build a referral network”. Next you commit to the date for getting your process established to achieve your goal.

Once you’ve determined your goals, you need to ask what results you expect to achieve, which is closely followed by deciding on the best strategy to undertake to achieve the desired results.

Next, break down that strategy into tasks and tactical activities that lead you to achieving your desired objective. And don’t forget to commit dates to these tasks to ensure that you get them done.

You see…pretty straightforward and easy process, but the plan won’t write itself!

Your Sales Meets Social Media plan is your roadmap to success. Without one, well the outcome is going to be questionable.

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If you are ready to ROCK YOUR SALES and want to learn HOW TO use social media to help you do it, we are launching a new program that will teach exactly what you need to do and why. Check out the details here. We’ve made it super easy for you enroll by letting you split the fee over 3 payments!

Generating Revenue and Pipeline

Three common sales priorities I hear being discussed among salespeople is the pressure to increase pipeline and revenue, improve their win rates and get deals to close more quickly. To attack the challenge, I believe salespeople really need to focus their attention on finding better qualified prospects and then taking the time to better qualify possible sales opportunities. When sales deals are dragging on or eventually lead to a loss, it often can be attributed to these two things.

Time is a precious commodity that salespeople largely waste.

Let’s start with prospecting. The importance of this one aspect of the sales process cannot be overstated. Even if your company provides leads to you, it is still your job to be on the lookout for new sales opportunities each and every day. Pipeline is what drives revenue and ultimately your commission check. If you have no pipeline, you have a serious problem.

How you network to find more qualified prospects and opportunities is a sales skill that  is really important for you as a salesperson to get right. It isn’t about the number of networking events you attend, it is about the quality of that event and the real potential for meeting a targeted buyer. Why would you go otherwise?

It is time to take a close look at how you network. Are you leveraging social media as part of your mix to get to more of your targeted prospects faster? Buyers start a majority of the buying process without salespeople, so you need to be visible online. If not, you are missing sales opportunities. And what about those in-person events? Think about the recent networking events you invested time in. Did they lead to a measureable sales result?

How well are you qualifying opportunities?

Are you using the face-to-face meeting time to qualify the opportunity instead of using the telephone or other means first? You should only agree to an in-person meeting once you have confirmed that this is a qualified sales opportunity worthy of investing time. Have you answered core questions that determine if your buyer is truly motivated to buy or just kicking the tires? Is there some burning initiative inside the company that is driving this opportunity forward? Have they budgeted for the project? Are you sure they will decide in 30 days and not 3-months or more? A quick phone call can reveal the answers to these questions quickly enabling you to determine whether face time is warranted.

And about that face time.

Are you using in-person meetings to demonstrate your products or talk about your services when there are more cost efficient ways to achieve the same result? Today, you can create and share your product demos on YouTube. Meetings can be hosted using Go-to-Webinar or maintain that face-to-face connection using iMeet from PGi.

If you really are serious about building pipeline and revenue, you need to get serious about making sure that you are strategic about your prospecting and that you have strong qualification skills. Every minute you spend with people who aren’t going to buy quickly is time you could have been spending on the people who can!

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Become a Social Selling Rockstar with our new coaching program. A 7-step program, Sales Meets Social Media is aimed at professional sales people. You will take away an understanding of how to use social media correctly and own a social selling process for engaging with buyers at the right time with the right message. Learn More

Help Buyers Buy from You!

Another random sales pitch hit my inbox today. That’s pretty much the norm these days, unfortunately. What bugged me more than the fact that the email wasn’t personalized, it was that the email starts with a lie.  “You and I spoke recently” this sales guy says, but here’s the problem…we have never talked, and I’ve never heard of you.

Every business person I know is sick to death of these cold, boring, untargeted, irrelevant emails. Why do salespeople keep sending them? Buyers have said that they don’t work, but salespeople don’t seem to be listening.

If you sell, it is time for you to wake up to one critical point.

How you sell is more important than what you sell!

What this means is that your focus needs to be on how buyers want to buy NOT how you, as the salesperson wants to sell.

Change is tough. I get that. What I don’t understand is why so many salespeople and their managers keep their heads buried in the sand. Frankly, there is a reason why at least 48% of reps will not make their quota. Again.

What about that buying cycle?

Let’s assume that the buying cycle (what the buyer is thinking about) looks like this:

  • Understand the internal business issues
  • Establish our business objectives
  • Set a strategy for addressing the challenges
  • Time to explore options
  • We need to set vendor criteria
  • Let’s examine alternatives
  • What’s the implementation plan?
  • How will we measure the results?

It is not unusual for salespeople to enter the buy cycle when the customer is examining alternatives.

How do you know?

You know when you’ve had a brief conversation that typically ends with the prospect asking you to submit a proposal. Contrary to common sales wisdom though, someone asking you for a proposal is not a signal that you have a shot at winning the business. At this stage, your competitors probably already have the upper hand. That’s why the ability to qualify or disqualify opportunities at this stage is critical to making sure that you are spending time with the right people.

The ideal point of entry into the buying cycle is when your prospect is grappling with understanding the issues that they face internally. To earn that right, you need to have done the work – in advance – to establish a trusted relationship with your prospect. And that’s where social networking yields big results when done well. It takes a strategy, a process and consistency. It takes work, but the work is worth it.

Now that you’ve established yourself and are engaged at the front end, your goal now is to help your prospect see things that they can’t and become part of establishing the objectives and strategy while helping them to understand options. Doing so allows you to be part of guiding the buying process in your favor.

Keep sending email spam…well, good luck with that.

Sales Spam at a New Level

Wow, just when you thought that salespeople couldn’t get more desperate or sink any lower…along comes this spam mail through our website contact page. Forget how crazy time consuming this must be jumping around to people’s websites, but what is truly ironic is that this unenlightened salesperson (and I’m being nice here) apparently didn’t bother to notice that I had just written a blog post about the inappropriateness of sales spam. Talk about not knowing your audience!

So…here’s the message:

“Good Afternoon, I am getting in touch with training companies from a variety of backgrounds who all currently deliver face to face and material lead courses. My question is have you converted any of your training content to be served online and sold to your current client base? The reason for such a questions is simply that there are many training companies unaware of the additional revenue that can be achieved quickly and easily by converting present content and methods to an online version, this in turn can supplement or create a completely new revenue stream from clients both incumbent and previously unobtainable. In order to do this you need to source an appropriate learning management system (LMS) provider. The XYZ LMS platform is ideal for those who have developed or are looking to develop online training content and want to organize, distribute, track and report on all content across multiple user populations. We let clients focus on their core competencies and creation of quality content without worrying about the ongoing delivery to customers. We also provide industry advice on the most common tools and methods to use in the content development stage and would be happy to answer any questions and provide insight on this. I will follow up shortly but if you can advise on the above or indicate the correct person to speak to please get in touch. All the best, Sales Idiot (ok, not the real name but hey, it’s my post).”

Seriously, your thoughts? The truth is that I might have actually been interested in talking to this guy, but I won’t give him the time of day now, because he is clearly clueless. The message isn’t personalized…same message apparently to every other “training” company. He spent zero time understanding who we are and what we believe in, which is inexcusable given he was on our website. How could you miss it? And, follow up shortly? Does he plan to keep reaching out to us via our website contact form? Who knows how long it will take to get rid of him.

There are so many things I want to help change about the profession of sales, but for now, sales spam tops the list! What tops your list?

 

 

Enough Sales Spam Already

Over on Paul Castain’s sales blog, there was a lively discussion yesterday about “cold
calling” and it’s place in today’s sales process. You already know that I don’t do cold calling, and I shared my reasons why on Paul’s blog. It is always interesting to see how others respond to a differing point of view. For example, the guy who posted his comments after me starts by saying the following…”When I hear cold calling is dead, I usually see a group of lazy sales people nearby.” I choose not to cold call, so how exactly does that make me lazy? I’ve sold $1B in products and services during the past 29 years as a sales professional. And, I did it without cold calling. I think Paul makes a point when he suggests that we think bigger than is cold calling alive or dead.

It is about the approach.

When you call me or send me email that isn’t relevant to me or my business, in my book, THAT is lazy. I can call 100 people a day and rattle off a pitch in the hopes that maybe someone will take a meeting with me. Is that effective? As Rick Page would say, hope is not a strategy!

What takes work is creating a target list of accounts, uncovering the right decision maker to get to, doing research to learn about them and their business initiatives, looking for common connections who could potentially introduce me and crafting a message that is relevant and focused on the needs of my prospect. That’s work people. I have no doubt that there are salespeople out there who have mastered the art of the cold call by focusing their attention on the value they bring to the prospect they want to close. And, that’s the rub. Most don’t bother.

Today, like every other day, I have at least 15 messages in my email inbox that are unsolicited sales spam. The message that I’m about to highlight below is indicative of why I get up on my soapbox to talk about why buyers have had enough. Though it is better written than most, it is still why buyers are screaming at the top of their lungs…enough. Oh, baby, did I ever want to call out this salesperson, but to tell you the truth, I decided that I don’t want to look like an ass. I can showcase the message with my thoughts about a better way and still make my point.

More than receiving spam from people I don’t know, I am really fed up with the cheesy sales tactics that I know someone trained them to use to provoke a reaction. Today, one salesperson got one, and me, well, I get a blog post in the process.

Here goes…

Subject Line: I have tried to reach you…
(Total lie by the way. I’ve not received a prior email or phone call)

Message:

“Hi Barbara,

I have tried to reach you several times regarding how XYZ video company has been able to help organizations like Talent Builders, Inc. by providing a feature rich online video presentation platform that allows you to quickly and easily assemble video content that works. There is a reason Bain Capital, Progress Software, McKesson, Genzyme, PGA, Callaway Golf, and many others are using our XYZ solution.”

Barb says: I have to ask you, does this message strike you as being personalized for Barb? Telling me that there is a reason why the companies he noted use the service doesn’t really impress me. What might have impressed me is if he had told me how using his video service would bring revenue into my company.

The email goes on…

“Although I was looking forward to speaking with you, I certainly don’t want to be a nuisance or waste your time. To help me understand your situation, it would be helpful if you would respond with one of the following:

1. ” Hey, XYZ sales rep I’m just not interested (so you can stop calling and emailing me). Thanks just the same.”

2. “I’m not the person with whom you should be talking. I’d like for you to discuss this with ___________________. ”

3. “I’m interested, but really busy at this time. Please call me on this specific date __________ and this time ___________.”

I appreciate your response, as it will help me save you some time and effort.

Best regards,
Sales Spammer at XYZ company”

Barb says: Geez, where do I begin? He says that he doesn’t want to be a nuisance or waste my time? Dude, you’ve already done both! But I just love the worn out approach he uses to try and get me to take some action. More time wasting. He wants to understand my situation? Uh, did you review my LinkedIn profile, review the information on my website and blog, check me out on Twitter? Clearly not. If he had, he might have already had some sense of my “situation”. And, isn’t it grand that he “appreciates my response, as it will help him save me time and effort”. Really? How exactly does that work? In particular, it is #2, that gets me. He should already know if I’m the person to talk to, which, by the way, I am. If he had bothered to look at any of my online profiles, the answer would have been obvious!

Listen, beat the drum of… “cold calling and sending email spam works”…all day long. That’s fine by me. As long as I continue to receive emails like the one I’ve shared today (and believe me, I’ve received others far more lame), I will stand firm in my belief that both approaches are ineffective and outdated.

That is all.