Tag Archives: Selling

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!

You lose when you show your prospects that they’re wrong

28 Apr

Part of the sales process will inevitably include time spent showing the customer why your solution is better than your competitor’s solution. However, that’s often a delicate dance because while you want to show them that you have the right solution, you need to be careful not to tell them that they’re wrong to want another solution. Especially if the customer has chosen your competitor and is thus the incumbent in the account.

An interesting article in Fast Company discusses how the “birthers” advocates, who believe that President Obama was born outside of the US, still don’t believe he was born in Hawaii despite the recent evidence of his Hawaiian birth certificate. The Fast Company article quotes Psychologist Leon Festinger, who wrote, “”A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.” So despite the clear evidence of President Obama’s place of birth, many birthers still cling to their claim.

Do you find birthers in your accounts? Maybe you call them the old-guard or the technology bigots. Maybe you ignore them and hope your internal champion is stronger politically. No matter what you call them, how do you change their minds? Would analyst reports and customer references really get them to admit they were wrong? Instead, the Fast Company article felt that you need to give the naysayers a way to save face before they would back down.

Often in sales, we decide to go around these groups after we’ve shown them that they’re wrong and they still refuse to concede. Most often this leads to a lost sale. Next time, try a different approach to gently convert them to your side.

RIM can’t win for trying

23 Apr

I saw reports that the new RIM Playbook had initial sales of under 50,000 units during it’s debut.  I feel bad for RIM being forced to compete against Apple in a category Apple themselves defined.  Being forced by analysts unhappy that RIM didn’t have an offering and then being blasted by the same analysts for the Playbook as not being on-par with Apple has to be a no-win situation for RIM.  The only company that’s done well competing with Apple in this space is Google and it’s primarily because they give Android away for free.

(photo from RIM)

I wonder how I would sell the Playbook to companies if I was the RIM Enterprise sales rep.  My only pitch would have to be the standard pitch of all incumbent vendors to the big enterprises, “We’re already your vendor of choice, we’re the safe choice, you won’t get fired buying with us, our execs know your execs, our new product is good enough, think of the huge implementation costs you’ll incur by switching.”  Even some of the RIM enterprise sales reps can’t use that pitch with confidence as they’ve gone over to sell the iPhone to enterprises.

Poor RIM, they have record sales of product and no respect.  And poor me since I really prefer a physical keyboard so I’ll continue to use the Blackberry…for work…and get the iPad for personal use.

Fiscal Year = Calendar Year is a BAD idea

23 Dec

It’s the time of year when everyone’s getting ready for the holidays – cleaning the house, wrapping presents, bringing out the decorations, sending & receiving holiday cards. It’s a time to be with family and good friends reflecting on the past year and thinking about improving ourselves for next year.

And yet many of us also find that this is the most stressful time of year. Yes, retail employees and shipping clerks are swamped. Consumers are rushing to get last minute presents. But I’m thinking of all the business salespeople and their counterparts in purchasing that are just stressed out because their fiscal year end coincides with the end of the calendar year. As a sales person, I thrive on the high-stakes actions of winning and keeping customers. But when those actions often culminate in an end-of-year battle of budgets and competition that conflict with holiday time with family and friends? Not so wonderful. Wouldn’t it be nice to work for a company or sell to a customer who’s fiscal year doesn’t end on 31 December?

I’ve spoken to a few contracts officers this week and we all lament the same thing, that it’s really too bad we’re working on end-of-year deals when we really want to enjoy the holidays with our friends and family instead of being co-workers and vendors.

So in the spirit of balancing work with family in equal measures, we at Inquisix want to wish you all a wonderful and relaxing holiday time with those closest to you.

Bonne fete

Happy Holidays!

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.

Follow-up Follow-UP

5 Nov

Ivan Misner posted on his blog – What Is the Number-One Trait of a Master Networker? this week and I thought, “Absolutely dead-on!”

Nothing frustrates me more than giving a referral to someone and then they DON’T FOLLOW UP. I’ve asked my colleague if they’d accept this referral to and now I have to explain why there was no follow up. This affects my reputation. That’s why Inquisix allows members to rate the referral in both ways – rating how well one party handled the referral and how well the other party gave the referral.

Inquisix – Business Relationships that Last

27 Oct

BusinessRelationshipsThatLast

I just ordered this book because that’s what Inquisix members do – they build business relationships that last.

If you’ve already read the book, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Learning from Previous Mistakes

19 Oct

Fabulous article about Hulu from Fast Company magazine. Great lessons for every entrepreneur, every growing company or company wishing they could grow.

Can Hulu Save Traditional TV?

Lessons to be learned for all on:

  • Improving user experience
  • Using analytics to figure out what users want instead of asking them (because they don’t tell you – think Edsel)
  • “Dinosaur” TV networks learning from a lesson (missing out on YouTube) and taking the appropriate steps.   RIAA needs to do the same
  • How to build revenue and market share.  Amen!

Yes, I know this blog post is not about referrals. But I’ve been reading Fast Company a lot lately and find so many of them to be well written and insightful.  Their articles should be required reading for anyone looking to grow in the new economy.  Maybe that’s why it’s called, “Fast Company”

hulu fastcompany

Free Up Your Time to Do the Important Stuff

10 Oct

2 great tips for freeing up a bunch of your time – from the in-box and out-box side of your desk.  First tip is from the out-box side on how to decide whether to respond to an RFP or not.  It’s tricky to tell if it’s a real RFP because they can just take SOOO much time.  What’s worse, coming in second or not having it awarded?  The second tip has really freed up my day to tackle my to-do list instead of read and respond to trivial stuff.

  • How To Avoid Deals Where No Vendor Wins – Really enjoyed this post from Geoffrey. In discussions with other sales reps in various industries, there seems to be an uptick in RFPs being issued but two items stand out –
    * RFP decisions are pushed out out out. The company wants the RFP response back in 2 weeks but the decision drags drags drags. Hence the timeliness of Geoffrey’s post
    * RFPs in purgatory. In addition to new RFPs being issued, old ones are getting dusted off and sent out again. When you ask, “Why” the answer boils down to, “We’re getting ready JUST IN CASE…”
    Always a challege for a small company responding to an RFP from a F500 company when there’s no real good understanding (or belief) in whether the RFP’s really real or not.
  • Improve Your Connect Rates – Absolutely spot on commentary. Emails are so easy and cheap to send that readers are bombarded by them. Therefore, they don’t read them or at best, scan thru them. I’ve even set up my BB to only accept emails from people who are already in my address book as all other emails get saved on my PC. Guess how many of them are read on my PC?

    Jim’s critical point – call & leave a message pointing out the details in your email. I’ve had a much higher connect rate when I both call (leave a message) and send an email. And as he says, “Persistence is key.”

Quick sales tips & reminders

2 Oct

There were a bunch of quick and valuable reminders and tips on the web this week on improving your sales process.

  • Making You Suprisingly Unforgettable To Your Customers – Loved this post – in these days of too many competitors and too many choices offered to our prospects, here’s some great tips make yourself unforgettable. How many of you think of Nat & Natalie Cole when you hear the word, “Unforgettable” like I do?
  • Three Tiny Changes That Drive Success – Nice reminders to help get you out of a sales rut. Don’t forget Dale Carnegie’s, “21 Days to Making it a Habit” as you try these changes. Assuming you don’t do them already!
  • Quiz: How To Bypass a Gatekeeper – Real good quiz on bypassing the Gatekeeper when you just can’t get in. Interesting decision by Geoffrey on which department you should call into to ask for the transfer. Other ways:
    – try Jigsaw for direct dial # of executive
    – try Inquisix for a referral to the executive by someone they know.

Geoffrey’s idea is manipulative but sometimes you just have to try it. But only after you can’t get an Inquisix referral or JigSaw is not coughing up the direct dial numbe