Category Archives: Sales

The Twelve Days of Prospecting

partridge-in-pear-tree-fi

To keep your business pipeline healthy all year long, prospecting for new gigs is a necessity.  In keeping with the holiday season, KiteDesk.com has posted my article, The 12 Days of Prospecting.  In it, I discuss a variety of processes, tips, and suggestions for successfully building your customer base.  These are twelve strategies that you can begin to incorporate today, which will serve you well in the upcoming year!

Read the entire post here!

Sales Leads: 3 Great Paths to Conversion

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                                              (image: KiteDesk.com)

 

The path to closing a deal with a big-time prospect is never a sure thing. However, the probability of converting a sales lead increases the more qualified, simplified, and decision proof you can make your buyer’s journey.  For some tactics on how to make this happen, please read my recent post on this topic, on KiteDesk’s blog!

Click here to read more…

The Missing Piece in Content Marketing

Lisa Dennis Content Marketing“While content marketing is one of the most effective and interesting marketing tactics to come down the pike, I have to confess that I have a bone to pick with it.  Content marketing isn’t only about marketing.  While marketers have all the responsibility for strategy, creation and execution, which is no small thing, there is another very important aspect that’s missing…”

I recently wrote this while pondering the strengths and weaknesses of content marketing, and why it has not been fully embraced by sales people.  I came up with a few ideas on the matter that I’d like to share with you.

Click here to read my entire article on TechTarget’s Mktr2Mktr site.  Thanks!

Is Your Pitch Pitchy? Why Reading Aloud Works

ReadingAloud

Please check out my new blog post regarding the importance of reading your writing aloud before putting it front of your customer’s eyes, recently posted on Pipeliner CRM’s blog.

4 Reasons I Sell #LikeAGirl

This past week I read an amazing blog post from my colleague Jill Konrath:  I Sell #LikeAGirl and I’m Proud of It.  As always, she is both insightful and SPOT ON with the truths about selling in today’s environment.LikeAGirl

It got me thinking about where the discipline of sales is going, and what we as #likeagirl sellers bring to the table. Not only do I think this is a very important statement for women sellers, but it has the potential to be a wake-up call for the rest of sales people out there. Are you ready?

My introduction to selling started when I was a product manager.  I had the bad luck of being in charge of the “dog” product in my company – the product that no one cared about, or understood, or thought was valuable.   Except me.  If I was going to be successful, I needed to shift the sales team’s attitude about the product.   In my head, the “dog” product needed to become “the little product that could.”   (For the uninitiated, this harks back to one of my favorite children’s stories:  The Little Engine That Could).  To get my sales team to sell this product, I needed to do two things:

  1. Figure out and clearly communicate why it was valuable to our top clients who bought it religiously every year (most of our top 100 client list).
  2. I had to sell those concepts to our sales force. Every quarterly sales meeting, the product managers (all women) trooped in and usually got challenged (and sometimes beat up) by the sales team.  This was my opportunity every three months to sell to my hardest audience – my own sales guys.
I sell #LikeAGirl because I’m CURIOUS.  (TWEET THIS!)

I knew that I had to make the sellers believe in the product’s potential. I also knew that it was going to be heavy lifting.  What would it take?  So curiosity became the first step in my strategy.  I picked a couple of sales guys I knew I could talk to, and asked them about their challenges out there.  What was missing? How could we do a better job of helping them sell?   I didn’t even mention my product in those early conversations. I had already pitched my brains out to them previously with little result.   It was time to walk in their shoes and see it from their point of view. I learned a lot from these two guys.  I asked them questions, then I shut up and listened. Then I listened some more.

I sell #LikeAGirl because I’m OPEN.  (TWEET THIS!)

One of my clients called and wanted to meet to talk about how to use the product for a few different initiatives they were considering.  They were based in New York, so I set up the meeting and invited our New York sales executive to join me.  I met him on Fifth Avenue, and up to the client’s office we went. I asked the client to share their ideas with us – so we could get a feel for what they wanted to do.  Ten minutes into it, the sales executive interrupted them and asked, “Why do you use this product anyway, we have much better options that would meet your needs better.”  Everyone in the room was quiet.  This was the moment to be open, not defensive.  So I said, “It might be a good idea to look at other options, but let’s be sure we hear everything that you’re thinking about first.”    The client looked at him, looked at me – and picked up where he left off.  Let me just sum up the situation:  My own sales guy threw my product under the bus…with me sitting there…in front of the client. Then once the client finished talking about their needs, they started explaining to my sales guy why the product was valuable for them.

I sell #LikeAGirl because I’m RESILIENT.   (TWEET THIS!)

After the client was finished speaking, I moved the discussion to how my product, and others we offered might best address their needs.  My sales executive focused on higher ticket, sexier products. Still managing the urge to get defensive or adversarial, I focused on being resilient.   I let him pitch other options and participated in comparing and contrasting them to see which would be the best fit.  We figured out next steps and closed the meeting.   On the way out, the sales executive said to me, “Yeah, they need something much better than what they have been using (my product).  I’ll follow-up with them and take care of it. You can take it off your plate.”  Then he walked away and left me there. I flew home discouraged but not finished. I needed to think through the situation some more.  Two days later, I got a call to come to our president’s office.  I walk in, and there is the sales executive.  The client had called the president and told him that he did not want  that guy in his office ever again.  He said he was arrogant, rude, and clearly didn’t know anything about his business.  I had to participate in a debrief on what actually happened in that meeting – with the sales guy in the room. I laid it out diplomatically, and didn’t flinch when the sales executive trashed my product in the course of the discussion. The president ultimately sent a letter of apology and made the situation right.

I sell #LikeAGirl because I’m TIRELESS.   (TWEET THIS!)

The client kept my product, and also purchased a subscription to one more from another product line.  I fielded several calls from them about how to use both products together.  I went to the support team for the other product and asked for their help.  They spent about an hour with me on what the product did, but told me they couldn’t go any further because they didn’t provide support for my product. So I sat down, and figured it out myself – what was the best way to balance and integrate the use of both so the customer’s specific and unusual needs could be met.  I put together a process and a demo and did a webinar for the client’s team to show them the possibility.  And it worked.  Later that quarter I got a customer service award based on the letter that the client sent our president outlining the entire set of experiences they had in both the sales and service of their account for these two products.  Net results:  we increased their purchase from one annual subscription to a second subscription, more than doubling monthly revenue for 12 months – and we kept the client happy.

So here it is:  customers today want a partner, not a sales person, not an adversary, not a stalker.  Think about selling #LikeAGirl even if it is outside of your traditional comfort zone.  It will not only impact your sales results, but also increase customer satisfaction in a big way.

Lisa Dennis
Email:    LDennis@knowledgence.com
Twitter: @Knowledgence

Sales Role Plays:  Let Me Count the Ways They Suck

  1. Sales reps are generally not used to delivering in front of their peers.

Just because they are in sales does not mean that they are comfortable in front of any audience.  An audience of peers can be the toughest.  What if I suck?  You can bet that crosses more than a few minds during a group role play exercise.

  1. talkTeam feedback isn’t necessarily objective.

Any sales rep watching peers do a role play knows their turn is coming. There is a delicate balance between giving constructive feedback and making someone feel like you are criticizing them.  Like they say, payback can be a…

  1. Annual and quarterly sales meetings leave little time for practice.

Doing a role play once is not even remotely enough practice.  But often that’s the only “rehearsal time” provided to reps before they need to go out and have conversations about a new offering. One role play equals a lot of trial and error in the field in front of customers and prospects.

  1. The quality of feedback is uneven across the team.

Some people are good at delivering feedback, and some are not.  What is the criteria for evaluating someone’s performance?  We assume that we all know how to role play – so often there are few guidelines on how to actually conduct it, and how to deliver actionable feedback.

If you want the team to communicate consistently, than the process of practice has to be consistent as well.

  1. Sales reps can’t really see how they are doing.

While sales people are in the moment of a role play, they’re trying something new and have to rely entirely on what their partner decides to tell them (see #2 and #4 above). It’s hard to objectively and completely evaluate their own performance because they can’t “see” it.

Role plays continue to be a requirement of many sales training efforts – and there is a better way that corrects all five of the issues above.  Rehearsal Video Role-play is an online sales training platform that makes role plays impactful and effective.  I’ve been delivering sales training for almost twenty years, and am now a licensed reseller of Rehearsal.  Check out my demo to see how role playing can be ramped up for maximum impact.

 

Lisa Dennis

 

 

Marketing is Just as Important as Sales (but you knew that, right?)

IMG_1264Here are 5 reasons why marketing is as important as sales.  I say that as someone whose professional focus is BOTH marketing and sales.

Of all the reasons listed in Sara MacQueen’s article, Marketing vs. Sales: Why Marketing is Just as Important As Sales, the one that resonates for me the most is this: we can’t assume that sales reps are the only path to the sale.

A good example is inbound marketing, which often plays a major role in moving a prospect down the sales funnel.  Thinking that lead generation is marketing’s job is one dimensional. It doesn’t really leverage all of what marketing brings to the table in a world where B2C customers research and buy directly from websites, and B2B customers research, learn, attend webinars, download content, and develop a short list of vendors before ever talking to a sales rep.

It is so past time to stop thinking about marketing and sales as two separate entities. What might this look like 10-15 years from now?

7 Steps to SMARTEN UP about Your Biggest Accounts

raising_handPlease raise your hand if you are a sales leader that has ever been blindsided by one of your biggest customers buying something from a competitor that your company offers, and you and your team had no idea they were even in the market for it.

You’re doing a good amount of business with this customer. So how come the account executive wasn’t on top of this?  Why didn’t we know? Why weren’t we considered or asked about it?  It’s one of our best accounts and we missed a great opportunity to open a new line of business with them.  Now the rest of the account may be in jeopardy!

If you’ve been there, let’s talk about how to keep it from happening again.  If it hasn’t happened yet – well, listen up because it’s highly likely you’ll find yourself there when you least expect it!

Being consultative, at its core, is about two things.  The first is about conducting “discovery” on the account on a regular basis.  The second is about developing a living account plan that includes a solid strategy, and not just random tactics.

Is this rocket science?  No.  Then why do we still have these challenges?  Because it takes a lot of both work and patience – and with our quarter by quarter mentality, we just keep executing tactics to drive short-term revenue. We’re insanely busy and we just don’t have time to be “strategic.”  Plus, we already did a pretty thorough discovery exercise on this account.

As we move into the second quarter of 2014 sales leaders are grappling with two challenges

  1. Our prospects and customers are asking us to be more “consultative.”
  2. Many of our sales people are transactional sellers and are leaving money on the table at our most important accounts.

Group of unidentifiable business peopleBoth of these needs boil down to a hard truth:  we simply don’t know enough about the accounts we are already engaged with, and our accounts know it.

Wait a minute – accounts that we already have?!  

Right – I’m talking about accounts that we already have sold to, and maybe have even done quite a bit of business with.  The good news is that we have them. The bad news is that we may either be assuming we know more than we do, OR the sales executive is comfortable with what he/she is generating, and doesn’t want to risk rocking the boat on that account by pushing for more.  But the reality is that you don’t have time NOT to be strategic; limiting yourself to one round of discovery is the reason you had no clue that other things were happening in that account.

 

So here are 7 Ways to SMARTEN UP about Your Largest Accounts

  1. Define The Buyer’s Journey
    To get from point A to point B, you can wing it, or you can get your hands on a map.  The landscape inside of big accounts is not simple, and it gets more complex every day.  Consider developing a Discovery Matrix that outlines the stages of how your account’s customers typically buy from them.  This is the horizontal access on your map. Then list all the business needs that their customers might have that your offerings could help the account deliver on. This is your vertical axis.  Have you noticed yet that this buyer’s journey is more account focused than “sales” focused?  Unless you are helping them through their own buyer’s journey, then you aren’t consulting to help their business grow – you’re just selling, like everyone else.
  2. Map What You Already Know
    Now do a brain dump on this map about everything you know for sure about this account.  In what areas of the buyers’ journey are you already contributing?  What do you know about other any other areas, which you haven’t broken into yet?  Is someone else in there? If so, what are they doing?  What business needs have you already addressed or are currently working on?  What new opportunities, challenges or goals do they have that you are aware of? Populate this matrix with everything you know or are aware of.
  3. Identify and Analyze the “White Space”            
    In the white space, the areas in the account for which you have no information, lives potential opportunity.  There may be entire areas where you could be creative with how your offerings can help.  There may be extensions from where you are now that link to new ways to help in other divisions or solutions or offerings.  Are there any patterns in your map that might help define a path for account growth?  Most importantly, this mapping of the account shows you clearly and visually the areas where you don’t know enough to really grow the account.
  4. Do Your Research – Even if You’ve Done It Already
    So it’s back to doing some more homework.  Discovery is never done.  Why?  Because your account is never at rest.  They are trying to grow and expand themselves, which means they are constantly changing.  And their customers are changing, as well.  So what you knew last year, or even last quarter, doesn’t mean you’re on top of things today.  AND if there are areas in the account that are untouched by your company, then I KNOW you need to do more research to learn what’s going on in there. Does it take time to do this?  Yes. Stop complaining and get on with it!  What you don’t know is keeping you from penetrating and expanding the account.
  5. Develop Your Discovery Questions
    Mapping? Check.  Research? Check.  Now you can start to make some strategic decisions on where you want to begin to move further in the account.  You need to prepare strong discovery questions around the “white spaces” to continue to learn, and to demonstrate you’ve done some homework.  This moves you to starting a much more consultative conversation than you may have had with them in the past.  But good questions aren’t random.  Give some thought to what you want to ask and why.  Be sure it’s about true discovery, and not rhetorical questions that can only be answered by your products or services.  You are not going to pitch in this conversation – you are going to learn.   (Repeat that sentence twice!)
  6. Conduct Discovery Conversation (and Shut Up!)
    A good discovery conversation happens when you sit down with a person high enough in the organization to have an idea of the bigger picture of the company’s goals and objectives.  Be sure you are not with someone who doesn’t have insight into that view.  Share that your organization has been able to deliver more value in several key areas with other customers, and you have some specific questions you’d like to ask to determine where that additional value might be gained.  At that meeting, ask the questions, and SHUT UP AND LISTEN!  You don’t need to respond to every point.  Just take it in, write it down, and plan on going back to the office to think about it, talk with others, and come up with some ideas that you will come back and discuss. This sets the stage for the second consultative conversation.
  7. Define Strategic Account Goal, Top 5 Objectives and Action Plans
    At this point, you should have a good handle on what the account is trying to achieve, and you will have discussed some ways to help them deliver.  Now you’re ready to define a meaningful account strategy, set an aggressive goal, and define the top 5 objectives to get you there.  This forms the account plan that will focus your tactical action plans in a clear and well defined direction.  Strategy first, then tactics.  Account expansion relies on this.  The obvious sales opportunities are never enough to really go deep and wide in an account, and build a solid partnership.

Being consultative with your best accounts means “being in the know.”  It’s up to your account team to stay on top of what’s happening and to ask smart questions that will inform as well as bolster the importance of this strategic account, and show how committed you are to helping them achieve their goals.

—  Lisa Dennis

Resistance: Let Me Count the Ways

At this moment, where ever you are, you are resisting doing something.  It may be something you “should” do, or “want” to do, or “need” to do.  Whether you are actively resisting and digging in your heels, or just nursing a vague push-back that keeps you from doing it, it’s there. 

This morning, I’m resisting writing a blog post – know I should do it, want to do it, need to do it.  But there you have it – RESISTANCE.    What to write?  I always have ideas when I’m not sitting down to do this.  But they evaporate when I sit down to do it.  So I started googling “ideas for blog posts” and came up with all sorts of things that ultimately will be helpful.
Help

 

This morning, it’s the resistance that I am most thinking about.
I love to write.  I have been writing all my life – and it’s often a large part of what I do in my business practice.  But the resistance is there nonetheless.  I saw an interview about a month ago with Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art.  The premise here is resistance is the block to creating things, or outcomes – and it really resonated for me.  Here’s a partial list from the book that sets the stage:

RESISTANCE’S GREATEST HITS

The following is a list, in no particular order, of those activities, which most commonly elicit Resistance:

1) The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.woman on ball

2) The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.

3) Any diet or health regimen.

4) Any program of spiritual advancement.

5) Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.

 

Number 5 made me laugh, but I found that all of the first 5 were pretty spot-on for me.  There are 5 characteristics of Resistance that outline what we’re up against.   Resistance is:  invisible, internal, insidious, implacable, and impersonal.  Oh, and it’s a major pain in the butt (that one is from me).   I’ll just share Pressfield’s comments on the first characteristic because it is the part that always gets me.

RESISTANCE IS INVISIBLE

Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. It is experienced as a force field emanating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its intention is to shove the creator away, distract him, sap his energy, and incapacitate him.

If Resistance wins, the work doesn’t get written. 

That is the bottom line for sure.  Whether you are creating something, marketing something, selling something, the barriers are the same.  What are you resisting doing that will create opportunity for you personally, professionally, and organizationally?   I am focusing on mine – and now my blog post got written.  What are you resisting and how will you overcome it?

The 5 Step Value Proposition Check-Up

Not sure that your value proposition is really delivering the message that you intend?  So many of us in marketing and sales are expected to create value propositions, but the majority of us have never received any kind of training on how to do it effectively.  Here’s a quick check-up that can help you identify points at which you can refine your value proposition so that it is truly ready for customer engagement.

 

customer

Step 1 – What is it about?

Does the value proposition focus on your product or services, or is the focus on the potential customers’ need, challenge or pain?  Your targets are short on time and patience, so putting the focus on your own company, rather than their issues leaves them to figure out for themselves if you are relevant.  I’m sure you can guess which of the 2 choices above will be more attractive to them.

Step 2 – Who is it addressing?

Many value propositions try to cover multiple target audiences.  Yet, one-size-fits all usually fits no one. So if I was your prospect, could I easily tell by reading or hearing your value prop if it is addressed to me specifically?  If you are thinking that you have to have a broad one because you have multiple targets, think again.  Consider developing a core one, and then multiple targeted value propositions that speak to key players in the buying decision.

Step 3 – Is it Understandable?

Use of acronyms, technical language, internal jargon, and “marketing speak” can completely derail the clarity of the message you are trying to drive home.  This is a frequent issue that many value propositions fall prey to.  Keep it clear, crisp, and in customer language.  If your prospects have to translate it to understand – they won’t.

Step 4 – Is it Provable?

The very essence of a value proposition is about making a “claim” of value.  Given that the claim is coming from your company, most buyers will automatically be skeptical.  You’re trying to sell them something, after all.  So consider offering objective, third party (i.e. not YOU) proof that the value delivered is real.  Testimonials, case studies, survey results, research results, analyst reviews. No proof?  Get some or your value proposition will be just words on a page.

Step 5 – Is it Quantifiable?

Many value propositions include key attributes such as increased productivity, lowered costs, additional revenue, and the like.  There are a handful of key buyer imperatives that your prospects are typically looking for.  The sticking point is that if you include an imperative, you need to put a stake in the ground and tell me by how much.  The amount or % that your offer delivers is key to putting the oomph into your statement.  Afraid to actually use a number or %?  Then reconsider the inclusion of that imperative.  If you can’t make it specific and real, then it’s just a claim like millions of others.

By now, you should be getting a good idea on the strengths and weaknesses of your current value proposition.  Resist the urge to start over from scratch.  Instead really think through where you can make improvements that will speak directly to the customer.  The value proposition as a marketing and sales tool can be thought of, metaphorically, as a mirror.  When your prospect looks in that mirror – make sure it’s their face they see, and they will step forward.  Differentiate yourself as a vendor by making it all about them.

— Lisa Dennis

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