Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Explain It To Me Like I'm Nine Years Old

Salespeople are under a significant misconception.  In 2013, millions of salespeople will meet with customers and talk about lots of different topics, EXCEPT the one thing that's most important:

Customers ONLY care about one core concept:  How will this decision impact my business or myself?

Let me put it a few other ways that other salespeople have found helpful;

  • Customers don't care about the speed, feed, tech or coolness.
  • Customers don't really don't want to buy your product or service - they only want to buy the positive impact that product or service will provide them.
  • Business Decision Makers make decisions on business impact.
If you're not relating your selling solutions to business impact, expect the typical sales cycle of:  being compared to your competitors, being evaluated mostly on price and getting similar success results you've had.  Isn't it time to make a conscious choice to engage your customers/prospects differently?

If you're ready to hear more, the next question you probably have is:  How do I do that?  Discussing business impact is difficult and there are a variety of ways get there.  Today, I have a new suggestion that came to me as I was having a discussion with my nine-year-old son.  

My son and I were discussing a complicated topic - how internet gaming servers work.  Believe me, explaining how hosted data centers work to a nine-year-old is tough.  At first, I tried to think about major concepts and attempted to simplify these down to understandable concepts - however, in about two minutes - he was lost.

Then I stopped and thought about what was important to him.  The answer came to me quickly:  He cares about how gaming servers help him to play more video games.  Take two:  I explained things only in how the details impacted how his games work when he sits down at his computer.  He was stoked.  I call this method:  "Explain it to me like I'm nine-years-old."

What are you talking about with your customers:  explaining features or demonstrating impact?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2013 Sales Planning - Your Plan - Your Destiny!

Welcome to 2013.  While many salespeople are trying to reel-in those last sales of the year, we also have a unique opportunity to begin creating success in 2013.  In speaking with salespeople over the past few weeks, I've heard some interesting comments that strongly reinforced that NOW is the time to plan for 2013:
  • "I've got to get my database tool cleaned up for next year."
  • "I need to sort out which accounts have the biggest potential for me next year."
  • "I have no idea how I'm going to hit my number next year."
  • "With my company changing the comp plan, I have to approach my customers differently next year."
There's an axiom in selling:  We create our own plan for success.  This golden rule is founded in the word "plan."  Annual planning should not be taken lightly and many professional sales consultants insist that salespeople spend a day or two (8-16 hours) really thinking through the strategic approach to a full year's worth of sales activity.  I agree (Covey's Sharpening the Saw Principle).

With this said, you'll find my best advice here on what, how, who, when and why - in regards to Annual Sales Planning:

  1. It Has To Be In Writing.  You just can't ignore the pile of scientific studies which point directly to formalizing the planning process.  Whether it's a simple document, a slide-deck, or even a hand-written process, this must be something that is taken seriously and documented.  This process drives ownership, creative thinking and absolutely higher achievement.
  2. Your Goals Must Align With Your Company's Goals.  While somewhat obvious, don't overlook this important prerequisite.  Most organizations re-align goals at the beginning of the year.  Make sure you take this into account.  As you develop your goals, ask yourself, "How does this goal align with the organizational goals?"
  3. Sales Plans Begin With Goals.  No need for introductions, market analysis, defining statements.  If you haven't figured these things out already, this needs to be a tactical action item in month one.  Goals are the "big-picture" achievements, or milestones that you must achieve in the year to meet your criteria of success.  Studies have shown that people can't focus on more than 3-5 goals, and one of these should certainly be your quota (or sales volume metric).  Keep in mind that goals should be specific and measurable.  [Other goal ideas are:  How many new customers will you get?  How many high-potential targets do I need?  What kind/type/number of networks can I leverage?]
  4. Goals Require Plans.  For each goal that you've identified, think of the things that must be done to achieve the goal.  Plans are the tactical details that must be accomplished.  When you've completed all the plans associated with a goal, you should have achieved your goal.  Document the plans in writing along with time-frames required for each plan.
  5. Sales Logistics - It's Part of the Annual Process.  Document the things you need to do, logistically, to get ready for 2013.  I'll go out on a limb here and say that all of us need to do the following logistical things:  
    • Classify all your accounts/prospects by their potential to contribute in 2013.  Use a ranking system like A, B, C, D, F.  Be consistent.  If you or your company uses a CRM tool (who isn't using one, right?), be sure this is documented in the tool.
    • Re-organize your filing systems.  This could be physical or electronic.  Organize your old emails.  Sort documents that you've been putting off.  Throw-out or delete items you no longer need.  Archive old emails/documents in a safe place for later, easy reference.
    • Create a list of other logistical things that you can't do now, but want to do later in the year.  Maybe this is an action-item list that you keep in your binder or task-tool.
  6. Sales Strategy.  Besides numbers, appointments and other sales activities, it's important to review Sales Strategy at the beginning of the year, and to include a section on strategy in your Annual Sales Plan.  This is about approach, market trends, education/training, and style.  HOW are you going to do things differently in 2013?  WHAT is required for you to implement your new strategy.  Write this all down in a measurable way.
  7. Activity Formula.  While some salespeople simply "wing-it," in terms of level-of-effort regarding sales activities - this is a mistake.  Professional, top-of-their-game salespeople do NOT wing-it.  They prepare and plan for level-of-effort.  Create a simple spreadsheet for your plan that has the following metrics (or your organization's equivalent):  Sales Volume Required to meet your compensation goal, Average Deal Size, Number of Deals required, Number of Proposals required, Number of Appointments/Demos/Meetings required, Number of Cold Calls/Warm Reaches required, etc.  This is an exercise that you can revisit throughout the year.
  8. Sales Obstacles.  What are the things you know of, or might anticipate in 2013, that will get in your way of success?  Let's document all of these and plan on a way to mitigate these obstacles.  Some of these you can push through.  Others will have to be navigated around.  Now is the time to plan for these, so that you can minimize down-time in 2013.  What is the obstacle?  What is the mitigation plan?
  9. Growth, Development and Staying Motivated.  Grow or Die.  Get better or you will surely get worse. Enhance your position, or your competitors will take care of that for you.  Create a spot in your Sales Plan to document the things you will do to ENHANCE your success.  Maybe this is courses, training, peer-mentoring, outside coaching, sales books, blogs?  Maybe this is year you get your college degree?  Pick three important goals in this area and create plans to make this happen.
  10. Present Your Plan.  Would you be surprised to learn that salespeople who formally present their plan to a peer or manager gain (on average) a 15% improved performance over those people who choose to keep things private?  FACT.  Harvard Business Review cites two studies that showed the simple rule of accountability to others helped salespeople achieve more.  Maybe you should present your plan to several people!
Don't let your competitors take advantage of you by failing to PLAN FOR YOUR SUCCESS. It happens all the time.  When you think about it, sales are won or lost by people.  Invest in yourself.  Invest in your family and future.  Plan today for your success in 2013!


Monday, December 10, 2012

People are Successful Because It's In Their DNA!

If you haven't read Jim Collins' best-selling book, "Good to Great," make sure you give yourself this gift over the holiday season.  I cannot recommend it more highly for any business-person, regardless of title or role.  Jim mentions the topic of this blog in several places in his book.  I've seen some recent reinforcements of this concept and thought it might make for some interesting reading.

There are all kinds of people on our planet.  Regardless of how closely related we all are to each other, and no matter what geography we come from, it is fascinating to see two clear sets of individual behavior.

On one hand, there are those people (who may be very moral, kind and caring) who seem stagnant in their business and personal goals.  Regardless of coaching and a midst our "instant information" environment, these folks do not drive towards success.  They become confused and unproductive when changes arise.  They may be "good" at their job (or in their life), but they will never become great.

On the other hand, there are other people who seem to succeed at anything they can get passionate about.  These are the folks who almost can't help themselves in driving towards excellence.  They do "whatever it takes," not because the boss or company requires it.  They just can't help it.  They embrace changes and figure out a way to get things done, regardless.  It's inherent.  It's in their DNA to succeed.

  1. There is a misperception that process and coaching changes people's inherent drive towards success.  This old adage has been described as, "getting a zebra to change it's stripes," or "can't change a D-Player into an A-Player."  However, I believe there's more to this issue than simple change.  At a very basic level, people are genetically predisposed to live life a certain way.  For some, there is simply not enough inherent drive to succeed.  Process and coaching will only move these individuals into uncomfortable situations and/or failure.  
  2. Every sales candidate I've ever interviewed says, "I'm great at overcoming obstacles.  I'm a fast learner."  This stock answer is simply not always true.  People who are driven to success because that's how they're wired, will find a way around a challenge.  They will succeed in any role in which they feel valued.  Unfortunately, if they are not wired this way, no amount of learning can change them into a driven performer.
  3. Jim Collins' Rule #1:  FIRST WHO, THEN WHAT.  I see this everyday as a Sales Manager in a large busy company.  It's far more important to hire the right person for the company than it is to clearly know the exact pathway to success for them.  People who are DNA-driven will find that pathway or make one themselves.  This take-away is key for any hiring manager.
As an important footnote here, not all employees need to have this DNA-wired-drive.  As a matter of fact, there are plenty of roles in almost any company in which this type of drive may be counter-productive.  You don't want an accountant or controller who by-passes important procedural steps in an effort to drive towards success.

Happy Holidays Everyone!