Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Before I go on, part of the celebration is to announce that we're moving. The new location and link for our blog is:
Making A Difference.
For those of you that want to see it "spelled out," the new location is: http://partnersinexcellenceblog.com
Please update your feeds, readers, or links. I want to make sure you can continue to follow us. After this post, all my future updates will be at the new site. The new site, also has the complete archive of past posts and comments.
Reflections On Blogging:
I started actively blogging about September of 2008 and really kicked it into a higher gear in January. At the time, I was really worried that I could write anything -- at least on a regular basis -- that people would find interesting or valuable. I still am amazed when I get great comments from people who have read a post and are motivated to express their views and opinions. It is both flattering and ego building to see some of the fantastic responses.
One of the things that I have learned about blogging, is that I probably get more out of this process than you, the reader. There is so much that I get out of blogging:
- Blogging is a terrific stress reliever. Some months ago, I was being interviewed
and was asked, "When do you blog?" I think the reporter was looking for what
time of day. My response was, "When I get pissed off!" I blog at other times, as
well, but sometimes when I see something that doesn't make sense, getting it off
my chest by writing an article is really helpful. Blogging is certainly cheaper
than a shrink!
- Blogging enables me to use a wide audience as a sounding
board for new ideas that I am considering. I get such wonderful feedback---both
positive and negative---that really helps me clarify my thinking, so that I can
continue to build my value to you and to our clients. I can think of no other
way to get the quality of feedback, as quickly, than through the blog.
- Blogging has caused me to expand my horizons, in preparing new articles, I
am really influenced by the great articles many of you write. They help me think
about issues differently, even shifting my positions on a number of issues (God
forbid I admit that my position may not have been an astute position.)
- Blogging/Social Media has enabled me to "meet" such interesting people. I
have gotten to meet, exchange ideas, and build business with people I might
never have reached in the past. It has helped to open a whole new world of
- Blogging builds and drives business, this shouldn't be a surprised, but people get to know me before contacting us. It makes it easier
for us to build a great business relationship.
Thanks to all of you for your contributions and support!
Join me in our new home, keep engaging in the discussion. Remember, adjust your feeds, readers, bookmarks to our new location:
Making A Difference.
Again, here it is all "spelled out," http://partnersinexcellenceblog.com
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
It got me to thinking, aren't many of our initial introductions and value propositions to prospects very similar? Too often, don't we hear: "Hi, I'm Debbie Smith from XYZ Company. We make the best widgets in the world, if you are interested let's connect."
These introductions may be true, but they are ineffective for a number of reasons. Some of these are:
1. Who is the person calling and are they credible? Why should I listen to their opinion? Sometimes, our company name is enough to get someone to listen. In the case of the guy who tweeted me, I may have been interested if I saw a number of insightful tweets, inspirational to sales. Instead, I saw 100's of the same query---with very few responses/uptakes. I have established many new relationships on Twitter with people who do provide inspirational advice on sales, leadership and business. While I haven't met them, based on what I have seen, they are credible to me.
2. These generic introductions make me feel like "To Current resident or Occupant." Particularly when I see I am one of several 100 getting the same message. Take the time to personalize the introduction if you want to produce results. If the guy had said: I liked Sales The Thinking Person's Profession and would like to share ideas. Would you be interested? (103 characters) The personalized approach and interest in me would have made me very receptive to a discussion. With very little effort, a slightly different approach would have produced profoundly different results. When we meet or call a prospect, are we saying something that personalizes the conversation, demonstrating our interest in them?
3. Tell me a little about yourself and why I should be interested in you. This is somewhat related to the credibility issue, but people buy from people. I like to know a little about the person I'm dealing with. That's part of the step we call "establishing rapport." It may be a few second, or it may be part of your twitter profile, but I respond to people.
Would you add anything more? I know I've just scratched the surface of this issue.
This tweet was a great example of what too many sales people do in introducing themselves to prospects. It doesn't take much to change our approach, but the slightest changes can produce profoundly different results.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
"What does a customer want more than anything else? Profits. If you, as a salesperson can shoe your customers how your product or service will improve their profits....you can be sure they will keep coming back for more...."
" This new approach comes directly from market demands, 'Customers in major markets are setting the new ground rules for selling.'"
"Would you like your customer to value you as a friend who can help make their business grow?"
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I'm seeing people use it in very clever ways for competitive and market insight. I read stories of amazing customer service (though one wonders why people had to resort to Twitter to get action and why the normal channels of customer service do not work). Through Twitter, I've met people I would never have had the opportunity to reach before. Our twitter relationships have expanded and we have great telephone conversations, and yes---even drive new business.
While the business I've developed is not yet large, it has covered the investment I have made in tweeting. And this does not even begin to count the value of the new relationships I am developing.
However, any easy tool like Twitter, with virtually no barriers to entry from a cost point of view, stimulates some of the most bizarre behaviors and results.
The thing that has set me off now is this whole debate on Followers and Following. I just was followed by someone. I went to this individual's profile: This person is following 1473 and being followed by 1213. This individual has the grand total of 1 tweet.
Are people following this person because of the tremendous content they are providing? Is this person being followed by the quality of the pithy comments and observations? Is the person being followed by interest in the profile provided?
Undoubtedly, not, it is the Twitter practice of "auto-follow." So what result does this produce --- this individual can brag about their 1000 + followers (Maybe I'm displaying a little bit of follower envy---for months I have been organically building my following of 492 as of this writing.) But is this an audience the person really wants to reach, will relationships be initiated and built? Will business result?
What about the followers, what do they get out of it? Are they now the proud recipients of the electronic analog of : Dear Occupant??? I always try to focus my followership to people who provide interesting commentary that I can use (either professionally or personally). I have this strange quirk, I don't like junk mail, spam, or wasting my time --- maybe I'm different from the rest of the community.
One of the problems with Twitter and many of the other Social Media communications vehicles is the relatively low cost of entry (discounting the person's time), creates a vast wasteland of meaningless, self promotional drivel. The problem is, it makes it difficult for all of us to find meaningful content. We waste more time, leverage more tools (this is great for tools developers, tools filtering through the junk). It makes it harder for me to use these channels--both for marketing and for insight.
I'm not sure there is any resolution to this. But I certainly understand when I talk to business clients and they have trouble seeing the value of many of these new channels. I understand their reluctance to invest in it, because at the same time, they have to invest in navigating through the mountains of crap.
Anyway, I'm done with whining. For a more substantive set of tips on the use of Twitter (whine free), visit my friend Niall Devitt's blog. He has done a couple of thoughtful commentaries on his use of Twitter.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
I have to admit I've struggled a little with this notion -- how did we become irrelevant? In a conversation with a great sales executive this morning, it all became crystal clear: We become irrelevant to our customers when we stop focusing on their business and their needs. We are irrelevant when we spend our time pitching our products, not talking about growing their businesses.
The job of the sales professional is to help their clients improve their businesses, whether it is helping them become more efficient through reducing costs and improving productivity; or helping them grow their revenues by providing them new capabilities or addressing new opportunities. Our job is to demonstrate how our offerings help them.
This is not new, it has always been a core element of developing, communicating, and delivering value---but prior to the downturn, both we and our customers may been lulled into a complacency where value was presumed, not proven. If anything, one of the greatest lessons we can learn from the crises created by the economy is not to be lulled into a false sense of security. Everything we do with our customers must create value--each meeting and every solution. If we cannot create value, we waste both their time and resources.
What customers value changes over time. If we do not keep in step with our customers, then we become irrelevant. Keeping in step means continually improving our products and services. It means continual attention to the conversations we have with customers--focusing on their needs and priorities today and those they may have tomorrow.
Value is dynamic, not static. Companies and sales people that don't help in moving their customers forward are holding their customers back.
It's a big question, what are your thoughts? How do we stay relevant to our customers?
Thursday, July 09, 2009
How many sales professionals understand the core value propositions of their customers? Do we know how our customers present their value to their customers and differentiate themselves from their competitors? Most good sales people have a pretty good idea of this.
Now, here's the twist---what do you do to help your customers deliver on their value propositions to their customers? Do you know---more importantly does your customer know and do they see it as an important contribution to their value proposition?
Now you are probably thinking, "Dave, I've bought your stuff up until know, but you are getting pretty far out there. We are just a small component of what our customers do."
Try thinking about it in these ways:
1. Remember the old story, "for the lack of a horseshoe, a kingdom was lost." Think of the value delivery chain--start with your customer's value proposition, work backwards through the value delivery chain and see where you fit in and how you can contribute. I've found if very useful to engage the customer in doing this--often they don't know where they fit in. Mapping it out on a whiteboard can be a very interesting and enlightening discussion for both you and your customer.
2. Take the classic quality and process analysis approach. There are internal and external customers. Think about your direct customer, who are their customers? They may be internal or external. What is your direct customer's value proposition to their customers, internal or external? How do you contribute to that value proposition? Does your direct customer see how critical you are in helping them deliver their value proposition?
Your customers are worried about defining, communicating and delivering value to their customers. Show them how you help them in delivering differentiated value, make your offerings an integrated part of their value delivery process. You become indispensable in their offerings.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Let me back up a minute. One of the most common issues that comes up when I speak with sales people is, "we can't get meetings with customers, how can we sell if we can't get in front of customers?" I see the same issue, sometimes I have difficulty getting customers to meet, what's up?
In truth, we have done it to ourselves. Customers don't want to see us because too often we waste their time --- and they are so time pressured that one more sales person wasting their time is unacceptable. We spend our time pitching our products without understanding what they are trying to do.
How to we create value in every meeting?
It starts with planning and preparation. Shooting from the lip doesn't work. If we aren't prepared, we are wasting the customer's time and our time. The best sales professionals prepare for every meeting.
In planning the meeting, a key question we have to ask ourselves is "What's in it for the customer to participate in the meeting?" We always know what's in it for us---we're trying to advance our position through the selling process, but until we can answer the question about what's in it for them, we will waste their time.
If we can't define what's in it for the customer, then we should cancel the meeting -- we aren't ready for it.
Now, let's talk about this concept of "what's in it for the customer?" We aren't talking about solving world hunger, we are talking about using the customer's time well. At the end of the meeting, the customer should have the reaction, "That was a good use of my time, I'm glad we had the meeting."
Think about it, if we pass that test for every meeting, customers will no longer avoid us, we will have less trouble getting meetings with them, customers may even start to look forward to meetings.
But if we are so focused on creating value for our customer, how do we achieve our goals? Frankly, the two are in separable. Early in the customer's buying process, we want to understand their goals, problems, challenges. We want to understand what is standing in the way of them achieving their goals. Here, the customer is focusing on themselves, they are describing what it important to them.
We might, during these early meetings help the customer in other ways. We might help them clarify their thinking about the issues and priorities. We might help them to look at their business in different ways. We might help them understand what they should be considering in seeking solutions to their problem.
Later in the buying process, we are helping the customer understand potential solutions to their problems. We are showing them the results they should expect. We are showing them how to manage the risk and achieve results.
Through this process, we are a partner to the customer in defining and solving their problems. Sales people only pitching their products, features and functions leave the task of solving the problem on the customer.
So how do we create value in every meeting or interchange with the customer:
1. We plan and prepare. Until we can answer the question, what's in it for the customer, we don't have the meeting.
2. After the meeting, we want to make sure the customer says, that meeting was a good use of my time.
For some tactics and tips on doing this, send me a note to ask for our Call Planning Checklist. It is a pragmatic guide to creating value in every meeting.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Not only is interrupting offensive to customers, but it presents the opportunity to miss a lot in really understanding what they want and need. I suggested sales people would be better off, letting customer complete their sentences and tell their stories. I also suggested that sales people follow up with three questions.
I taunted my readers with guessing what those questions might be, asking you to email me if you wanted my version of the three questions. Since then, I have been inundated with ideas and emails. There have been some exciting offline conversations. To some degree, I am sorry to have taken such an interesting conversation off line and intend to fix that in this post.
So what are the "three questions?" I'm not sure there is a right answer to this. Also, these three questions will be just the beginning of a conversation in which you will want to engage your customers---hopefully you will ask many more as you probe.
When a customer has described a situation, issue, or problem, generally, the 3 key questions I tent to think of are:
1. What is the impact of this issue on you and on the business? It is important to explore the impact both from a personal and business point of view. Try to quantify this impact because it becomes a key element of your value proposition. Drill down and make sure you really understand the impact of this issue.
2. If this issue were to be resolved, what would the impact be on you and the business? This may sound a little redundant to the first question, but here you are trying to explore new opportunities or things they can do if the problem is eliminated. Generally, people are so focused on problems, they become blinded to what the problems are keeping them from doing. This is an area of tremendous opportunity for the customer and asking this question gives you the chance to explore these opportunities. Again, try to quantify so that, because this is part of your value proposition.
3. In terms of all the things that you are working on, where is this in your priorities? If it isn’t in their top 3-5 priorities, it will never get done. As sales people, we tend to leap on issues that we can address. Customers tend to let us continue to discuss those issues, even if they are a low priority. For us to make a sale, generally, we have to be in the top priority of issues they are addressing.
For those of you that have had any type of "SPIN Training," you will recognize these questions as a variant of the SPIN approach.
Does this make sense? Would you take a different tact?
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Dave Brock is President and CEO of Partners In EXCELLENCE, a global consulting company focused on performance improvement in sales, marketing and business strategy. Partners In EXCELLENCE has trained over 100,000 sales professionals, globally, in how to outsell and outperform their competition. Dave is a trusted advisor to executives in the high technology, industrial products, and professional services, and has worked with the largest organizations in those sectors as well as start-ups. Brock blogs at Making A Difference, his website is Partners In EXCELLENCE.
David Bonnette is Group Vice President of Oracle's North American CRM sales organization, overseeing Oracle’s market-leading CRM portfolio for North American commercial markets. He leads a team of nearly 150 people and has built his organization around industry, segment, and product specialization. In transforming the culture to emphasize Innovation, Collaboration, his team is acutely focused on developing communities that create sustainable, material value for Oracle’s
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