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The Customer’s Story, Not Yours

27 Jul

Are you listening to product pitches that start with the vendor’s history? “Founded in Silicon Valley by really smart people with A-level VC funding and a market-leading solution” goes the pitch. Then they take 10 minutes to explain the problem. Another 20 minutes to explain the solution in (too much) detail. Does that work for you? It does not for me.

As a salesperson, I’m always interested in how other sales people try to sell me. While part of me is listening to their pitch, the other part is thinking about how effective they are. Are they doing things I would not? Are they doing things that I should?

Usually, those “selling to me” experiences have been while I’m a consumer. Recently those experiences have been in the business world and tend to be more relevant to how I do my own job. There are many smaller vendors looking to partner with my current employer on various sales opportunities.  As I am the point person on several large opportunities, I get these partnering calls.

Those that know me also know about my sales material. It’s a double-sided, laminated card with customer logos on one side and my solution architecture on the other. The card gets lots of smiles from peers and customers but it also is quite effective. Why? Because I start with the slide that tells the customers stories.

WasteTime

I got the title of this post from Geoffrey James’ recent article on Inc., entitled, “Tell the Customer’s Story, Not Your Story” The tagline is spot on, “Why are you wasting everyone’s time telling your company’s story?”

I’ve been listening to too many vendor presentations that tell their story. The salesrep has admirable enthusiasm for the solution and a deep knowledge of how it works. But I don’t care yet. What I want to know is WHY other customers are using the solution. I want to know what problem are they solving with this solution. If you can’t start with that information, then you’re wasting everyone’s time.

[5 Aug 2013 Update] Given the number of people who’ve said they’ve encountered this problem as well, I have created these 2 quick polls to see how pervasive this issue is. Please vote!

Trust – Fancy Website or Human Voice

11 Oct

A great comment from Barry Moltz:

“Many years ago small businesses wanted to appear large so customers would trust them. They produced fancy stationery and secured a respectable business address. This has all changed with the Internet, where customers value the human voice. Now every business wants to appear small and provide personal service to its customers.”

And I agree.  I was quite happy to stop the renewal order of new stationery and envelopes and instead spent it on a better website.  But still recognized that a website wasn’t enough, that customers expected a contact link that included phone and address.  It was acceptable that the address wasn’t local as long as there was a viable address.  More importantly was ensuring the phone was answered by a person instead of an automated system.  At my small companies, everyone was the receptionist because the call rang to everyone if the frontline people were otherwise engaged.

The next level of trust that customers are looking for includes customer ratings.  Think what eBay, Amazon and others started to ensure customer feedback is reflected back to prospects.  Having peer ratings for Inquisix referrals was a key point to the system.

To build trust in today’s market, make it easy for the customer to research and buy your offerings.  No more paper or offices but a well-designed website, a human answering the phone and trust ratings from customers are the new trust factors.

Shout Out to Dave Dupre for CIO of the Year Award

13 May

A shout out to my co-founder and CTO at Inquisix, Dave Dupre, for being nominated for WINNING the 2012 CIO of the Year Award from MHT and Boston Business Journal. No surprise to me, Dave was clearly the best engineer back while we were getting our degrees at Boston University and he accomplished amazing things at Inquisix by building a pretty sophisticated application behind the covers that was so simple to use. He’s got didn’t even need my vote for winning the award next month!

Top Rules for business and starting your career

25 Oct

Today I thought I’d share the two top-10 rules that I have saved and posted in my office. One is from The Daily Beast on Steve Job’s rules for business. The other is a speech attributed to Bill Gates but was actually an op-ed letter by Charles J. Sykes written to college graduates.

Motivating The Troops

30 Jul

I was invited to sit in the back of the room for a new-year sales kickoff meeting. Unbeknownst to me, the sales team had finished the prior year ranked 16th of 16 teams. The local VP had been relieved of his duties about 3 months prior so the area VP was in town to talk with the team. By the end of the area VP’s 30 minute kickoff speech I was shaking my head in amazement regarding the number of bad Sales Manager 101 cliches he managed to use.

He started the meeting by telling the group that he enjoyed being a jerk and that this particular group brought out the worst in him. Although he called himself something worse than a jerk, a word that rhymes with donkey. He ranted about how bad the team was, how embarrassed he was that they were on his team and that things would be different in the coming fiscal year. Then he had them all watch Alec Baldwin’s (in)famous speech in Glengarry Glen Ross.

 

 

When a region does that poorly in sales, I wonder where the fault lies. Is it with all of the reps who did so poorly? Can it be the entire office’s fault? Maybe the sales trainers did not do their job properly? Perhaps it was the marketing group because they delivered bad leads? Did some microeconomic event strike this region while leaving everyone else unscathed? Or maybe the fault lies with the area VP who passed down quotas that weren’t based on in-depth market study and analysis?

I also wondered how things were going to improve. The entire sales team of over 20 people except for 1 rep remained. Quotas were unchanged. Training was pushed out till the next quarter. A new regional VP had yet to be hired. How quickly after they came on board would they be able to positively affect the efforts of a 30-person sales team? Would the area VP be delivering the same speech in 6 months?

Clearly, his sales management style can be summed with the Dilbert-esque comment:

 

(photo credit: SJT Enterprises)

Influitive – new spin on referrals and references

31 May

This spring, my dear colleague, Joanne Black, the author of No More Cold Calling, introduced me to Mark Organ of Influitive. Influitive has an interesting twist on the reputation-based referral process that Inquisix built our business on.

Inquisix was focused on helping fill the beginning of the funnel with qualified prospects who came to you, the sales person, based on a referral from someone the prospect trusted. At Inquisix, the network was the salesreps and executives who had high-value relationships with their customers and thus could refer them. Influitive looks at the sales cycle from the point of view of your happy reference customers. At Influitive, it’s these customers who expand their reputation network based on the products and solutions they embrace.

Influitive is in beta now and I encourage any VP of Sales or VP of Marketing who is using salesforce.com to take a look at them.

Happy Selling!

Doing a Good Job Enough

19 Mar

Is doing a good job enough…to get recognized, rewarded, appreciated, respected, trusted?  Earlier this week, Seth Godin’s post on “Are you doing a good job” ended with, “Doing a good job is no guarantee of security, advancement or delight.”  Two of my colleagues discovered this themselves recently to their disappointment and confusion.

One works long hours and even weekends. They’re the go-to employee when the problem is a little harder or the customer a little more challenging.  And it’s been that way for years.  And their recent reward?  A small bonus check, the same as the rest of the team’s bonus, slipped under their keyboard.  I’d bet management would be surprised to find out that my colleague is now upset and bitter because of their lack of appreciation for a job done well and often.

The interesting question to ponder now is whether the problem lies with the employer or employee.  If you are in management, do you think about how your rewards might demotivate your staff instead?  And if you are the employee, are you communicating your expectations or assuming management can read your mind?

The Job Hiring Front is Improving

11 Mar

I believe that job hiring is picking up the pace, based on anecdotal evidence from my LinkedIn account.  I’m getting 2-3 InMails from recruiters a week from LinkedIn and there’s nothing in my profile to suggest that I’m looking for a new job.  I’ve spoken to colleagues and they’re getting the same increased attention from recruiters.  Let’s hope that these data points are true across a wide swath of professionals and lead to an improvement in the economy.

How about you?  How many recruiters are reaching out to you from LinkedIn InMail?

And a small pet peeve.  Why are recruiters sending me invitations to connect as a friend as an enticement to review their job posting?  First, I prefer to connect to people I know.  Second, my colleagues and boss are my LinkedIn connections.  So when they get that LinkedIn update email that says I’m now connected to several recruiters all of a sudden, they’ll all assume I’m looking.

Performance Reviews – Does Anyone Like Them?

26 Jan

Does your company do performance reviews?  Is there anyone out there who likes them?  Most employees like to receive them.  Most managers hate to do them.  And even employees don’t like to do them when it’s the 360 peer review. Regardless of how you feel about performance reviews, if you are a manager at a company that requires them, then they’re just part of the job.

But should they just part of the job?  Are your team members apprehensive when  it’s time for you to deliver your review of them?  Do you think there will be any surprises for them?

Good managers will never surprise a team member with a bad performance review.  Why?  Because communication between manager and team member should be happening throughout the year and not only during an annual performance review.  I don’t like surprises from my salesreps, especially during forecast time, and I know they don’t like surprises like this as well.

If you are not surprising your team during performance reviews, then how are you communicating to them during the year?  Via one-on-one meetings?  Team meetings?  Hallway conversations?  Email?  Ideally, you are communicating (and listening) on a consistent and frequent basis.  Which will make writing and delivering performance reviews easier for you and less stressful for your team.

(photo credit: jokemail)

Your Prospect Tells You How to Sell to Them

30 Nov

Not often that your C-level prospect will tell you how to sell to them.  They’ll hide behind email spam filters and executive assistants but won’t take the time to tell you what you’re doing wrong.  Until this CEO opened up with their automated email reply telling you to do more than just call the vendor hotline at purchasing – a voice mail no one ever picks up.

Top ways to get noticed:

  • Let your prospect find you – ie Inbound Marketing
  • Get introduced by someone they trust – ie Referrals

Top ways to annoy:

  • Constant cold-calls
  • Mass emails to entire executive team
  • Trying to connect via social media

Thanks to Hubspot for the full article.