Wednesday, February 14, 2024

When Relationships Don't Matter


In the sales profession, we're often reminded how critical business relationships are in the sales cycle (especially for complex or large deals).  In discussing the importance of building relationships with customer stakeholders, we often discuss that establishing relationships help to develop trust.  I think we can all agree that trust is important (and sometimes essential) to create the environment of closing business.  If you believe in the concept that "people buy from people" (regardless whether it's decision by a committee, board, or by proxy), it furthers the argument that relationship building is one of the most important skills for any salesperson.

REAL LIFE STORY:  What happens when building trusted relationships don't matter?  In a real-life example, a team of seasoned sales professionals targeted a large public sector customer over an 18-month period.  They identified half a dozen key stakeholders, including financial, business, end-user, technical and procurement.  Not only was the sales team successful at meeting with these stakeholders, but they went on to develop meaningful relationships.  One of the key ways they developed trust, was by demonstrating value (before asking them to buy anything).  They provided educational/discovery sessions, brought industry experts to engage, showed the customer how they've helped other organizations like theirs in lowering costs, improving productivity, improving image and more.

As with many public sector customers, this real-life customer put out RFP's.  As time progressed and RFP's were released, this group of salespeople found that the customer only chose the lowest price (and by razor thin margins).  In many cases, these salespeople went back to their trusted stakeholders and asked them if they valued the engagement.  At the end of many of these discussions, it was clear that while the customer greatly appreciated the relationship and the value they had brought to them, they would only pick the lowest price (even if they didn't like or trust the rep/company).  One of the stakeholders actually said, "we hate those guys and don't trust them - but they bid the lowest price."  Here's some lessons learned:

  1. Pick your customers.  There are absolutely some customers out there who will NOT value anything other than the lowest price.  Some actually will buy from a company they don't trust, or from a salesperson they don't like.  It's not often, but they are out there.  These are the type of customers who will not pay more for better value.  Identify these customers quickly and spend your time finding customers who value trust, want to learn/be educated, and may spend more for better value.
  2. Don't respond to unsolicited RFP's.  There are tons of studies showing that if you have not been involved/aware/engaged way before the RFP is released, you have less than a 10% chance of winning.  That's cold call results.  While there are always exceptions and strategies, RFP winners are either engaged and/or influencers with the RFP in advance, or it's a knife fight for price.  Watching how RFP's go down with prospective customers over a period of time can tell you a great deal about how they pick their partners and if they value things other than price.  Look for selection criteria that have price as only one factor of the decision criteria in an RFP.
  3. Ask you prospective customers how they do business before you invest time in developing relationships.  Talk to stakeholders and ask them about how you can provide value to them.  Ask them how they've made complex/large purchases in the past.  Who did they consider?  Why?  What was the decision-making process like?  Ask how they procure?  Review their previous RFP's.  Educate yourself before you invest.
Since developing relationships takes time and investment, it's OK to be picky about which stakeholders and which companies value the things you can bring to their organizations that they would truly value.  Trust is key to building sold relationships.  Just be sure that your prospect can translate trust into the buying decision.

Happy Selling!

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Gratitude is the Currency of the Universe (and selling)


You've likely heard of "The Secret," (the book, record and movie which strongly affirm the importance of creating positivity in your life).  There are also several sales/leadership books written about the Power of Positive Thinking.  It's also possible you've had mentors or managers who have discussed the topic about "sales attitudes."  This could be anything from putting yourself into a "positive frame of mind" or "keeping it positive."  This post takes these thoughts one step further.

I believe (along with a great many others) that we should be genuinely grateful for who we are and what we have (no religion or spirituality required here).  Each and every interaction, every thought process should be reflected back to us with an angle of gratitude.  Here's an example:  Today happens to be Tuesday (it's not my favorite day of the week, but I am grateful to where I am today on a Tuesday). I have people who love and care for me.  I have a job where I can interact with other people and be paid for it.  I am grateful.  It's as simple as that.

When I take this approach, every moment I spend thinking about gratitude excites neurons inside my brain in the neocortex that release neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.  These chemicals are "reinforcement" and "reward" chemicals that train my actions through a positive reinforcement model to continue this behavior.  When I do the opposite (which is to think with my ego, only care about myself, only see the glass half empty, complain about what I don't have or didn't get, etc.), a different area of my brain becomes excited (amygdala).  This area of the brain is rudimentary and hasn't changed much since our evolutionary cousins, the dinosaurs were walking around.  In this simple explanation, you can see that, in many ways, we create our own future.  We create the outcomes we get through the choices of thinking.

You may be saying to yourself that thinking alone doesn't actually create reality.  My hypothesis to you is that BELIEF in that thinking does create reality and you can control outcomes through a grateful approach to thinking.  The key difference here is do you really believe it, and that is accomplished through our subconscious. I can say something out loud, but until I really feel it and believe it subconsciously, it is just a statement that I make.  

If you take this concept a step further, you can train your subconscious through the practical approach of writing something down.  Journal about it.  Try this experiment:  Spend 10 minutes a night working on a single work or life goal.  Visualize the result you want.  Write down what it looks like, feels like, smells like.  Read it back to yourself and then read it again the next morning.  If you do this for about a week, your subconscious starts to lock onto it.  FYI - You can't wish for $1m and then you'll suddenly get $1m - that's magic.  You can, however, put a plan together on how you'll earn that $1m and you can focus in on those goals.  As my coach/mentor, Mark David, says, "put your order into the universe."

I continue to be amazed at the most difficult tasks being accomplished by non-traditional methods when approached from the perspective of gratitude.  Here are some questions to ask yourself every day:

  • What are all the incredible things that you can be grateful about today?
  • How can I help myself today by looking at things with a grateful, positive perspective?
  • How can I help other people today without expecting anything in return?
  • What value can I add to my co-workers or friends today that would help them?
  • Today, what can I do that centers around how I feel on the inside versus the external hustle of life?
For all of the salespeople out there, how do you think your sales results could be impacted by putting more gratitude in your life?  HUGE!!

Happy Selling!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Value of a Great Sales Manager

As a sales leader in the technology industry, I am frequently presented with opportunities to interview candidates of all kinds of sales positions.  One of the questions I commonly ask in an interview is, "Can you describe sales management value?"  I'm sure you're not surprised to hear that a large percentage of candidates go out of their way to describe how most of the sales manager's they've had provided little or no value (according to them).  I push the question further, "Really?  So you've never had a sales manager who actively coached sales methodology, negotiation, prospecting ideas, or career progression?"  The most common response I get is something like this, "Well, they did some of that, but mostly they were there to force me to fill out reports/CRM, help them forecast to the business, or to help them meet their own objectives/agendas."  I'll refrain from addressing the separate issue of how we select and hire sales managers.

I would be remiss if I didn't reveal that occasionally I'll get a candidate who's had a true inspirational leader that made a real difference in their success and helped them be a better salesperson/individual.  Unfortunately, these are few and far between.  I would suggest that there are some very fundamental and critical values that sales leaders can provide sellers.  How does your sales leader stack up?

1.  Helps you navigate the people/processes/tools within your organization.  This is critical because while a single salesperson knows how to do some things, many deals require "one-off" negotiations, approvals, or special circumstances.  "A village" may be required.

2.  Coaches, leads and demonstrates a specific Sales Methodology.  If your company embraces a particular sales methodology (like Sandler, SPIN, Command of the Message, etc.), a great sales manager helps salespeople by reinforcing the concepts involved and demonstrating mastery of the methodology.  One, singular, universal language is created and productivity/efficiency should be increased (leading to a larger, more qualified pipeline).  If your company has no official sales methodology, a great sales leader will select one and lead the team accordingly.

3.  Develops trust, transparency, empathy, and generally "has the back" of the salespeople under his/her charge.  This takes time and experiences.  Trust must be demonstrated, given freely until proven otherwise, and both parties must see value in the other.  Most salespeople/manager clashes fall under this category.  While these complex relationship components are difficult to establish and keep, they are the cornerstone of a partnership.

4.  Treats everyone fairly, but coaches everyone differently.  A good sales manager will evaluate the personality style, strengths and weaknesses of every sales rep on their team.  There are 100 ways to be successful.  We don't need robots, we need successful reps.  Great sales leaders change their approach, coaching style and focus depending on the individual seller.  Some reps are great at relationships, but fall down on the admin side.  Others are more analytical and have problems getting their "foot in the door."  I'd suggest a SWAT analysis and a personality inventory on every rep to make it easy for the manager to quickly engage properly.

There's one last concept here, and that is the employee/supervisor relationship.  Studies have proven that up to 70% of job happiness is directly related to your immediate supervisor.  When sales reps interview with sales leaders, it's important to take this into account.  Your style needs to be similar or symbiotic with your manager.  Most resignations happen due to challenges in a "good fit" between rep and manager.  Think about it - you're unlikely to leave a good environment if you feel supported and your manager provides value.

Happy Selling in 2022!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Detectives Make the Best Salespeople

Have you seen the new series on HBO, Perry Mason?  Yes, it's a re-boot of the classic 1950's original, but it's so much more than that.  Critically acclaimed as "some of the best television ever produced," it's powerful in a variety of ways:  incredible character development, beautiful/gritty representation of 1950's Los Angeles, and the ever-present trial portrayals by some of the best actors in Hollywood.  My wife and I were glued to the screen each Sunday as each episode unfolded.  After the eighth and final episode of the season (I hope they make another season), I couldn't get the character of Perry Mason out of my mind.  The actor, Matthew Rhys, portrays the private detective turned attorney in an unusual way:  dysfunctional, curious, lonely, and a bit pathetic.  The combination is electric as viewers follow each clue along a perilous plot-line.  Mason's behavior reminds me of great salespeople.

In many ways, in order to be a successful salesperson, you must "work a case," hunt down clues, verify alibis, get your hands dirty.  You've basically got a bunch of stakeholders in any sales opportunity that (for the most part) don't want you "sneaking around, learning too much information about their motives."  Unfortunately for us, this is exactly what it needed to really qualify a deal.  If you've read any of my previous blog entries, you'll know that I feel pretty strong about the concept of "Information = Opportunity."  In other words, the more you know about the stakeholders and the company, the better you'll understand whether what you're selling can have an impact on them.  The more positive impact you have, the more likely you can make a strong sales argument.  How do you get that information?  Ask for it?  Sure.  That only gets you so far.  If Perry Mason took everyone at their word, he'd never get to the bottom of a case.  In any investigation, you're going to find stakeholders who just don't feel like providing you the information you really need.  If you're going to make a strong argument to the "jury," you're going to need evidence, and sometimes that means hiding behind a garbage can, or following the suspicious car moving slowly across Ventura Boulevard.

Great salespeople use detective skills to find the critical information they need to show relevance and impact.  Let's outline some of the most important detective skills required:

  • People make business decisions and we need to know about those people (stakeholders) and what's important to them.  People tend to give away clues about what they value if you look closely.  While you can certainly go to somebody's office and see what they have hung on their walls, or the furniture they sit in, you can likely find the real truth about them online.  Great detective-salespeople know that it is a digital world and everyone leaves "digital fingerprints" online.  Whether it's cleanly posted on LinkedIn, or whether it's hidden in a blurry photograph on Instagram, Google probably knows.  You job is to take the time to look.  This time is well invested and as important as any sales meeting.
  • Be a tracker.  Like a bloodhound on the trail of a missing person, sales opportunities leave tracks along the way.  Put me in the middle of a forest and I'm lost forever, but put a skilled tracker in the same place and they will find their way to a river, which will lead them to a town.  Great salespeople-detectives need to learn how to track down the "footprints" of the trail that leads to the sale.  I love these great questions, "When was the last time you had to make a large purchase decision like this one?  What were the circumstances?  Who/what did you evaluate and what did you decide?  Why?"  True, some customers won't answer fully, but they will usually give-away clues as to what happened.  Guess what?  People usually make decisions for large procurements the same way. Most of the time.  Go ask other people.  Detectives call these "other" people witnesses, and they get a "statement" from them.
  • Put the puzzle pieces together.  When great salespeople-detectives have enough pieces of information, they start laying out the evidence on a glass wall, or on the floor.  They turn photographs upside down.  They pull red string from one piece of paper to the next.  They sit.  They think.  Eventually, they create a hypothesis (e.g. sales proposition).  They "work the case" until the "opening statement" settles in the back of their mind.  With enough data and time, you'll have yourself a rock-solid case to present to the customer as to why your products/services make the most impact.
I tried to go back and watch the old black and white Perry Mason TV show, with Raymond Burr.  Sadly, it didn't stand up to the times.  The witnesses always confessed on the stand, and Perry rarely got into a gun-fight or was passed out drunk like the new show!  I wonder if the remake of Perry Mason 50-years from now will frown upon HBO's version?

Get your badge and your gun (or your iPad and Apple Pencil) and go find the clues.

Happy Selling!  

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Community College Dilemma

With the 2020 election coverage heating up (especially for Democrats), there's been a swarm of people discussing the concept of "free college" for all Americans. At, his platform for education is clear, "Everyone deserves the right to a good higher education if they choose to pursue it, no matter their income." Bernie includes four-year, public colleges, universities, and community colleges in this plan. According to his calculations, this would save each student $84,000 (price of four years "all-in" for a bachelor’s degree). I am a huge student education advocate and believe that a bachelor’s degree is simply table-stakes for not only entering the job community, but for advancing one's career.

What puzzles me about "free college" is the wide disparity of the quality of education, depending on which "free college" one might attend. For example, who goes to community colleges (which primarily provide associate degrees)? In the U.S. there are 1,051 community colleges, representing seven million students in 2019 (AACC website). Unfortunately, (according to the Hechinger Report), fewer than one out of five students at community colleges obtain their desired degree in three years or less. A recent study published by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) paints a similarly grim picture by indicating that high college dropout rates cost both state and federal governments billions of dollars each year. As shown in the graph above, data from the National Center for Education Statistics, shows that only 13 percent of community college students graduate in two years. Within three years, approximately 22 percent of students graduate, and within four years, the rate stands at 28 percent.

There have been many studies published in the academic community about the root causes of these high dropout rates and longer attendance periods in order to reach a degree. While more repeatable studies are needed, some investigators claim that the conclusions are inaccurate because a portion of students "dropping-out" of community colleges may be transferring to a four-year institution without attaining an associate degree. Others point out that dropout rates are inflated because they only look at up to a five-year time frame. Due to family/personal reasons or circumstances beyond their control, a segment of dropouts may go back later (5-7 years) and complete a degree. There is also discussion regarding many of the students who show up in reports as “dropouts” did not leave school because they wanted to, rather, they were compelled to by some uncontrollable life event.

I think, regardless of these alternative explanations, there is a serious problem with community colleges and their ability to do better than a 25% success rate (IPEDS). With federal funding (63% of tuition) and state funding (17% of tuition), community colleges are struggling in almost every area: attracting qualified instructors, attracting students (overall), aging facilities, changing student population (older students, diversity students), outdated teaching methodologies, lack of personalized learning, and a lack of digital technologies (while most colleges/universities are in the middle of an enormous digital transformation). These challenges directly impact student engagement and likely amounts to a significant contributing factor to high drop-out rates.

I have an 18-year old son who recently enrolled at my "local - not to be named - community college." I realize that citing one example doesn't really provide any substantial evidence. It does, however, help to illustrate these challenges. His enrollment experience was worse than registering a car with the DMV. The college's move towards digital transformation is practically invisible. From their website, to their ability to help, practically every task was a physical chore. Instructors are teaching from 20-year old textbooks. Their Learning Management System (LMS) is one of the popular ones (brand purposefully omitted here), but instructors simply haven't adopted it. In almost every way, my son's public high school was better.

If this type of environment is even partially similar at other community colleges, it begs the question: is this the "free college" that Bernie Sanders has in mind? Perhaps we need to evaluate how to transform our decaying community college systems in the U.S., before we start giving it away.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Business to Government (B2G) Sales - The Famous Five Stakeholders

In the field of technology sales, we often talk about people from the buyer's organization known as stakeholders. Put simply, these are folks who play a part in the decision-making process in any sales situation. Sometimes there is just one stakeholder (maybe it's a commodity sale), but when it comes to selling to government organizations/agencies, it's very common to have several people (or groups of people) that influence the buying decision. Remember, government entities are using public money, and thus have a fiscal responsibility to use these funds wisely (we don't want the pentagon buying a hammer for $400).

Whether it's a K-12 school, a public university/college, a county, city or state, it's important to identify five key stakeholders that usually exist (even if you think they don't). When developing a sales strategy in the public sector, keep in mind these key Famous Five:

  1. Technology Stakeholders. OK, you knew this one right away because technology salespeople typically gravitate here, and these stakeholders usually grant meetings without much fuss. Obviously, we need these relationships to help define the technical match between what you're selling and the technical requirements in the customer's business. Unfortunately, these folks typically cannot create budget. In fact, they usually are over-extended on budget. Examples include: Director of IT, Data Analyst, Security Engineer, Director of Applications, etc.
  2. Business Level Stakeholders. This should sound familiar because every technology company around the globe is force-feeding this relationship to salespeople regularly. The concept here is to define "business outcomes." These are issues/challenges inside the customer's organization that aren't necessarily about technology. They typically are about: making more profit, becoming more efficient/productive, increasing safety/security, improving their organizational image. These folks are key because they usually have the ability to create budget (or shift budget). Business level stakeholders will not take a meeting to talk about a technology product; however, they'll likely take a meeting to discuss improving one of these key areas above. This is where you should start penetrating any new prospect. Examples include: CXO, General Manager, Superintendent, President, City Manager, Office of the CIO/CTO, Provost, Chancellor, Dean, Chief of Police, etc.
  3. Financial Stakeholders. While some government organizations roll this into procurement (see below), there are plenty that have specific people that bless deals over a certain dollar threshold. While these folks typically do not create budget, they usually manage all budgets and sometimes they are very powerful in approving or denying a large purchase (even if your other stakeholders are ready to go)! It's important to learn who these people are and understand what ways they will evaluate large budget approvals. Examples here include: CFO, Director of Finance, General Manager, City/County Finance Director, etc.
  4. Political Stakeholders. These people are some of the most overlooked decision influencers in any sale, and they shouldn't be forgotten! Public organizations typically have an elected official(s) that correspond and work jointly with, the Business Level Stakeholders above. For K-12, this is the school board (board members/officers). For Higher Ed, this is usually the Board of Trustees/Regents/Governors (board members/officers). These people work with provosts, chancellors and presidents of colleges/universities. In local government (city, county, towns, etc.) you'll also find elected officials. These can be council-members, boards of supervisors, mayors, etc. States typically have houses of legislature that are elected, along with governors. Make no mistake: These folks can create budget and usually have their own personal agendas (wins) that were made/developed during their campaigns. If you can align your technology solutions with these important stakeholders, it's possible to leap-frog many steps in the sales cycle. This level is a great place to begin with your prospective government agency.
  5. Procurement Stakeholders. In government sales, you'll often hear the sales expression, "find out HOW they're going to buy, before you invest time in qualifying the deal." Woe is the salesperson who invests 60 hours into a large deal, forgetting this key adage. They've been told they have the deal, only later to find out that the procurement office is going to shop the deal, or take the deal to formal bid. Even worse, some government entities have existing contracts which mandates who must be used for different types of procurement. Don't let this happen to you! Establish a relationship early (and often) with the procurement office of your prospect. Understand the procurement policies and quickly disqualify opportunities in which you simply cannot win (even if you're chosen). Examples here include: Procurement officer, Head of Procurement, Chief Procurement Officer, etc. Remember that many times, these folks are attorneys (especially in large counties, cities and states).
Got a big prospect you're exploring? Make sure, during your strategic business planning, that you include the Famous Five stakeholders above and you'll cover your bases as you begin engaging. Each of these five can be the determining factor of whether you'll win or lose.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

How Fred Rogers Changed My Life

"Won't You Be My Neighbor."  I finally got curious enough to watch this special documentary on HBO about the life of Fred Rogers and his impact on not only television, but on all of our lives.  I fondly remember watching his show as child in late 60's and 70's.  Sure, it wasn't as cool as the cartoons or reruns of Gilligan's Island, but there was something special about Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (which ran for more than 30 years (800+ episodes).  I remember the Neighborhood Trolley, King Friday, feeding the fish, "picture-picture," and who could forget the special deliveries that came to Mr. Rogers' door everyday.

As the documentary develops, you really get to see who Fred Rogers really was behind the camera (spoiler:  he's the same as he is in front of the camera).  Did you know that he swam a mile in the pool everyday and weighed exactly 143 pounds for 30 years?  He was so concerned with the feelings of children and how our environment impacts them, he went to congress when funds were being threatened and got $20M for PBS.  Needless to say, I highly recommend that everyone watch this one.

At the risk of exposing too much of my feelings, I'm going to "put myself out there" with three key things that really "challenged" me (in a positive way) by watching the film:

  1. It's how you feel about yourself that really matters!  OK, a few therapists over the years have said the same thing to me, but Mr. Rogers really substantiates this concept in a different way.  Children grow up in an unforgiving world.  It makes them question their own self-worth.  Even little things, like being told the truth about difficult subjects reinforces a child's emotional well-being (Mr. Rogers spoke about divorce, racism, death, the Challenger disaster, 9/11 and more).  True to his song:  You're perfect just the way you are;  I like you for who you are.  (FYI - Rogers wrote every song, lyric on the show and did most of the pupetts himself). 
  2. Forgiveness, Empathy, Love, and Honesty must be taught and nutured.  It's just the truth!  Our world is in a tail-spin over religious intolerance, nation vs. nation, politics and corruption.  Wouldn't a little empathy go a long way?  Can't we just tell each other the truth instead of bringing out the Special Investigation Committee?  Can't we empathize with the millions of refugees who are starving and without shelter?  Today, I'm going to think about how I can forgive other people (and forgive myself).
  3. Learning is something we do for a lifetime.  Funny story from the film:  Rogers does his show for 20 years and decides he's covered every topic he could (plans on showing reruns).  Two years later, he's back on set because there's more to teach.  Does it for another 10 years.  AMAZING.  I see this every day in myself and others.  We get good at things (being a parent, our job, a sport, a game, etc.) and we stop learning.  Mr. Rogers taught me that we must always care about each other and our world.  We need to take care of our families, our societies and our planet.  We only do this with knowledge.  If we don't understand something, it's hard to change and prioritize our lives (take climate change as a great example).
I'll say it.  Mr. Rogers is an inspiration for me.  I think he was ahead of his time and knew something that we don't.  In his soft spoken voice, I think he would tell us to spend our time, effort and lives doing something that promotes kindness and love towards one another.  Pretty cool.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Without E-Rate, the US Primary Education System Would Collapse

At the time of writing, the United Sates has just endured the longest partial government shutdown in our nation’s history – 34 days.  There were over 800,000 federal workers who failed to receive a paycheck. 

What would happen if our public-school system for primary education was funded by the federal government?  Would our national school system shutdown?  Luckily, state budgets pay for K-12 education in the US, but that doesn’t necessarily mean our public schools are well funded.  The political challenges that has brought the government to a standstill, is alive and well at the state level.   Even states with some of the largest budgets for education and the highest teacher salaries (like California, New York, Florida and Texas) have their share of incredibly poor schools.  The US ranks 17th in educational performance worldwide, while spends only 10% of our GDP on education.  We rank 23rd in science assessment. 

On May 7, 1997, the FCC adopted Order 97-157 as its plan to implement Section 254 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The FCC determined that “telecommunications services, Internet access, and internal connections,” including “installation and maintenance,” were eligible for discounted rates.  The program, now commonly known as E-Rate, has disbursed over $38B to K-12 schools in the US since 1998 (averaging around $1.5B to $2B per year).  Without these funds, technology simply fails to exist (especially at the poorest schools).  From phone bills to data cabling, to switching/routing, E-Rate pays for the network infrastructure, firewalls and power-protection to allow students to access the internet.

Where would our schools be without the federal E-Rate program?  How far behind would our national educational system be?  With teachers going ton strike due to low wages and poor benefits, there is a slow-rolling revolution happening in US education.  Many teachers’ salaries are now below the poverty level and qualify for food stamps.  Many schools, without the E-Rate program to propel learning into the 21st century, might simply collapse.  Thankfully, E-Rate is relatively recession proof.  Taxes that fund E-Rate come from both telephone land-lines and mobile phone lines (which is sky-rocketing).  Let’s continue to support our children.  Support teacher salary increases, union support, educational bonds, and the federal E-Rate program.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Voyager - I want to be on board!

This week I watched an incredible documentary called, "The Farthest - Voyager in Space."  The PBS show does an amazing job of showing us the people, the science, and the story of the NASA Voyager spacecrafts.  My family and I were so blown-away by all of the things we just didn't know about our solar system, that we we were compelled to discuss the documentary and even went on the internet to learn more about what we experienced.  A few days later, I started to think about what it was about Voyager that was so compelling.  I realized that if I could make my customers feel so compelled, I would have lightning in a bottle.

Coincidentally, the name of the spacecraft, Voyager, describes the secret behind everything - the voyage of the mission itself.  It was the planning, the collaboration of scientists and organizations, the goals of each part of the mission, the passion of the people behind Voyager, the visual way the story was told, and the milestones along the way.  As human beings, we love to be part of something significant.  We want to hear about the voyage and be drawn into being a part of it. People are much more engaged when you describe journeys that share some of the components I've mentioned above about the documentary of Voyager.  One of the ways to see this in action in a sales situation, is to convert your messaging to the customer in terms of a voyage.  If you look deep enough into the products/services that you sell, you'll find that customers are NOT really buying the "thing" you are selling.  They are buying the IMPACT they believe their company will have after the purchase.  You can take this OUTCOME, and make that the end of the voyage.  This way, the buying process becomes the journey that you can take your customer on.  Many times, you'll find out that your customer has no idea how they'll get from where they are today, to what they really want their organization to be like.  Describing the steps/milestones along the journey, and helping them to define the voyage (road-map), is part of providing value to your customer.  After some commitment from both parties, you'll find that you're both on the voyage together.  Both parties benefit from such a voyage.  

Today, figure out how you will change your "sales pitch" into a journey.  

Monday, November 27, 2017

Post-Thanksgiving Promises - "The diet starts tomorrow"

Another Thanksgiving under the belt (literally).  Three days of fats, carbohydrates, and more carbs (pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and candied sweet potatoes).  Not only am I stuffed, some of those complex carbohydrates circulate up into my brain.  Those funny little neurons that talk to you silently as you're web surfing after the feast:  "Maybe you should start watching what you eat," "Why can't you stick to a three-day a week workout program?" "You should start being more strategic and invest more in the customers you have! There it was.  The last one.  The one about value.  Yes, I do need to eat better and exercise more, but it's that thing about creating value for my customers that is the real Thanksgiving lesson.

Like many salespeople that are successful, they have a handful of really big customers that buy over and over again.  These are meat-providers for your family.  The problem is that every one of your competitors wants those customers and lately you've taken them for granted.  We all know that getting a new customer is way more difficult than keeping an existing customer.  As we think back at the turkey and cranberry sauce, let's review a few things to remind us of how to be thankful and keep our best customers by providing value:

  1. When was the last time you met, face-to-face, with your customer and told them how much you appreciate their business, that it means something personally to you, and you're not here to ask for anything else?  Sometimes, we think we are doing this, but in today's tweet-sized communications, we must go out of our way to make a special visit just for this purpose.
  2. Besides trying to make another sale, when was the last time you simply provided something of value to your customer?  Don't think about the value of your product or service.  Think about things that your customer values.  When have you helped them with a business problem that has nothing to do with what you sell?  When did you provide industry information that has the potential to help your customer?  When did you refer an employee or offered to help with their charity?  Having trouble thinking of something - ask your customer:  "Bob, I love the business partnership we have together.  Let's keep doing that!  Besides our products/services I'd like to provide more value to you.  What are some of the things you're working on in your business that I might be able to help you with?"
  3. Think about lowering your price or providing them with more of what you sell/do for the same price.  We all know markets are dynamic.  There's always a demand for the latest products/services that will help your customers be more competitive, give them a stronger image, help them become more effective/efficient/productive.  If you don't figure out a way to continue to give them more for the same cost, or lower your costs for the same thing you've always done - some other competitor will.  There's likely a few competitors already thinking and planning this right now.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Happy Selling.