Archive for the ‘sales coaching’ Category

The Lemon Law and the Collective Consciousness

May 6, 2011

The Federal Lemon Law was passed in 1975 to protect consumers against warranty fraud, most notably in auto sales.  To this day, car sales men and women still fight the stigma tied to their profession (anyone referred to as a “used car salesman” isn’t receiving a complement).

That was 36 years ago, and sadly, the collective consciousness of today is no better than it was back then.  We need our morality legislated like never before, because where there is money to be made between someone selling and someone buying, you will find rampant dishonesty and corruption.

For you and me, this is actually good news.  Because if you’re honest, reliable, and deal with integrity, you’ll find that customers will actually seek you out.  We’re that scarce.


The Gauntlet (or Perhaps, Maybe, One Day)

March 18, 2011

Perhaps, one day in the future, you’ll be handed an account that has never done business with your company.

And perhaps you’ll be told that they never will.

But maybe the reason they tell you this is because they themselves have tried and failed, or never tried at all.

And one day, someone (maybe you), will pick up the guantlet that has been dropped, unnoticed or unquestioned by those who came before you, and do what no one else has ever done.

Intersecting Self Interests

January 18, 2011

I hate to break it to you, but your customer probably doesn’t care if you made your quota last year.  Nor does he care if his last purchase helped your company beat its Wall Street estimates or paid for your kid’s private school education.

Your customer, like everyone else on the planet, is self interested.  He’s interested in things like getting himself promoted, keeping his boss happy, protecting the status quo, and meeting budget constraints.

Fortunately for you, there are interests in every transaction that you both care about:  things like an acceptable price, meeting a compelling event, and finding a solution that solves a business need.  Focus on the overlap of these self interests, and you’ll find the catalysts you need to get the deal done.

Ask The Question

December 17, 2010

Surely you’ve learned by now, haven’t you?  You know the 5 (or 7, or 12, or however many) steps it takes to get from the moment the customer says “yes” to the moment you receive the P.O., don’t you?

You realize, of course, that this process stands in the way of your commission check, right?  It’s also the key to accurate forecasting, which plays a significant role in setting expectations and managing your manager.

Do what you want…but if it were me, I’d want to know.  I’d ask the question.

Pavlov’s Dogs

December 3, 2010

In the early 1900’s, Ivan Pavlov first demonstrated his theory of conditioned response.  During these tests, Pavlov showed that if you rang a bell (or tapped a tuning fork) each time you fed a dog, the animals would reach a point where they would salivate at the mere sound of the bell, even in the absence of food.

In sales, we’ve created our own conditioned response with our customer base….through the repetitive promotion of quarter and year end “deals”.  In short, we’ve trained our customers to expect to get a better price in December than they will in January.  Personally, I hate the year/quarter end deal, because we tend to sacrifice long term profitability and price protection for the sake of a single transaction today.

But if you feel you must offer your customer(s) some sort of time-sensitive pricing, here are some things to consider:

  • Verify that the customer can take action before you extend the offer.  The worst thing you can do is show your customer a price that he or she can’t move forward with because of budget constraints or not enough runway to complete the deal.
  • Clearly indicate that the offer is time-sensitive. Make sure that your customer understands that there is a “drop-dead-date” on the special pricing you’ve put in front of him, and that the pricing will revert to the previous structure one day beyond the date you’ve set.
  • Set the customer’s drop-dead-date comfortably short of your own. Always give yourself a few days cushion to account for PO errors, vacation schedules, potential shipping issues, etc.
  • Get comfortable with the new bar you’re setting. Like it or not, the new pricing structure you’re establishing with this year-end-deal will become a precedent for pricing going forward.  You’re opening yourself up to this “deal” price becoming the “standard” price, and you need to make sure that you’re OK with that over the long term.

Bad Business

November 5, 2010

There is such a thing as bad business.

You know in your heart who they are – customers or prospects that abuse their position and are never, ever satisfied.   They marginalize your value by pitting you against your competitors, leaving you with razor-thin margins.  To them, you are a commodity broker.  They refuse to recognize your value and therefore don’t appreciate what you bring to the table.

As hard as this is to consider, some customers aren’t worth it.  The B.S.-to-Income ratio is simply too high.

Fire these customers.  Tell them whatever you want; just get out.  The time and dignity you reclaim as a result will be more than worth it.

Lessons from Barry

October 1, 2010

As most of you know, Barry Sanders was a prolific running back for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, where he won the Heisman Trophy, and set several collegiate single-season records.  He then went on to be a 10 time Pro-Bowl back for the Detroit Lions and amassed more than 15,000 rushing yards before suddenly retiring, just a single season short of becoming the all time NFL rushing leader.  Check out this video for some of his unbelievable moves:

This week, a friend of mine drew the analogy between Barry Sanders and the ideal sales rep.   Sanders was a performer, no doubt.  He was consistent too, making the Pro-Bowl every professional year he played the game (even with a perennially mediocre offensive line).  But more than anything, he was humble.  When Barry crossed the goal line, there were no celebrations or dances, no hidden Sharpies in the socks (a la Terrell Owens).  He just handed the ball to the referee, ran to the sidelines, and rested up for his next time on the field.

Get the job done, act like you’ve been there before, and move on when you don’t love it anymore.  I don’t know a whole lot about his personal life, but that’s a professional role model if I’ve ever seen one.  Thanks, Barry, for the lessons.

You’re Losing Until You’ve Won

September 21, 2010

Ever had one of those opportunities that everybody described as “yours to lose”, and then (surprise!) you lost it?

It’s easy to get complacent when you’re ahead, or when you’re the incumbent.  But that’s when you’re most vulnerable to attack, because you’re less aware of a competitive threat.  And when you don’t feel that competitive pressure, the tendency is to stop selling and let your guard down.

These days, every opportunity is competitive.  Believe me, every CFO, Purchasing Manager, or Decision Maker  in the country is actively pursuing competition as a way to drive down costs.  It’s not only how they like to operate, it’s likely a part of their compensation.  This is great news for new players in your market, but (potentially)  bad news for you.

A little healthy paranoia, in this case, can go a long way for you in today’s economy.  You must adopt the philosophy that until you have the signed purchase order (or better yet, the customer is  consuming what you’ve sold them), you are still competing for the business.  In short, you must always assume that you’re losing, until you’ve won.

The Sales Cycle Continuum

September 10, 2010

A week or so ago, I posted a blog on Tag Lines, in which I shared my personal motto to “radically over deliver”.  Once you have a tag line, the challenge then becomes finding where to apply it, so that your message is reinforced, and your customers/colleagues/partners begin to see that it’s real, and not just a hollow mission statement.

To meet this challenge, my suggestion is to break down the sales cycle into “touch points” (the collection of which I refer to as the “sales cycle continuum”), so that it looks something like this:

These touch points represent every possible interaction that you might have with your customer, a collaborator, or co-worker during the sales cycle.  Once identified, you can begin to prioritize which touch points are most important; the places that deserve your focus and attention.  These are the places where you turn your tag line into something tangible, something that you can point to and say “This is what it’s like to do business with me, this is why I’m different”.

My touch point count?  60.  60 opportunities to radically over deliver, or 60 potential places where I could fall short of that goal.  But the number isn’t as important as knowing; knowing that the consistent reinforcement of your message, at predictable points throughout the sales cycle continuum, will define how you are seen by those around you, and establish your reputation in the marketplace.

I hope that one day, people will speak of me and say, “That guy radically over delivers”.

The Trojan Horse

September 3, 2010

Most of you know the history of the proverbial Trojan Horse.  Legend has it that the Greeks, who were having trouble sacking Troy, built a giant wooden horse, filled it with 30 men, and left it at the gates.  The Trojans pulled the horse into the walled city, and under the cover of darkness, the concealed men opened the gates to the remaining Greek army, and the Trojans were destroyed.

The term “trojan horse” is now a part of our everyday vocabulary, and is often used to convey a sneak attack. In the world of computers, a trojan horse can refer to a virus that is masked as a legitimate looking piece of software, but in reality has a malicious intent.

In the context of sales, however, the term has a much less nefarious meaning.  The trojan horse can be a useful strategy in penetrating a heavily defended competitive account.  Instead of a full frontal attack, find a dark corner (translation: business unit, subsidiary, or department), flawlessly execute, and watch what happens over time.  The incumbent (your enemy)  won’t feel threatened, or better yet, might not even know that you’re there.

And if you play your cards right, that seed you planted will grow, and before your competition knows what’s going on, you’ll be challenging them for the customer’s family jewels.  It takes patience, creativity, and perseverance, but using the Trojan Horse might just pay off…if you’re willing to work for it.

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