Month: December 2014

Gaining Access to Senior Executives

By Dianna Booher, CEO, Booher Consultants

If you’re like the typical sales professional, you’re probably not targeting the senior executive. Why? Often, it’s because of a lack of access, lack of skills to sell and communicate at that level, and discomfort in relating. Consider these strategies to cut a quicker path to success in the executive suite.

Selling to senior executives can reduce the sales cycle dramatically. Executives have the power to say yes, carry the biggest checkbook, and can summon all involved parties to the table faster. Yet survey after survey reveals the typical sales professional does not routinely target that level. Why? Often, it’s because of a lack of access, lack of skills to sell and communicate at that level, and discomfort in relating. The following tips will help you to cut a quicker path to success in the executive suite.

Never Call on Senior Executives without Bringing Value to the Conversation
Decide why the executive should spend valuable time with you. This may not be as difficult as you think. Many salespeople feel intimidated about calling on senior executives, because they imagine the executive paycheck equates to brilliance in areas of business and the industry specifically.

Not so. By default, these economic buyers must be generalists. They must keep their eyes on the big picture and keep many plates spinning. They rarely know what’s happening on the loading dock of their own company, in the IS Department during a major platform conversion or in the Customer Service Department – unless at least 10 percent of the client base writes a complaint to their personal attention. Frequently, industry news that floats below the level of legislation falls off their radar screens.

If you have major surveys, statistics, news about new technological advances, research on market share or customer feedback for the future, by all means, that’s valuable to executives who must devote far too much time to socializing with VIP clients and far too little time reading.

Offer Ideas You Can Deliver in a Short Appointment
Don’t be mysterious; executives don’t have time for guessing games – will or won’t a meeting be worthwhile? Give them enough of the idea that they’ll want to hear more. If they are intrigued, they’ll invite you in to discuss the details because it will reduce their investigation phase.

Examples of ideas that will open doors:

  • New product ideas (borrowed from another industry or feedback from market research)
  • New channel of distribution to their customers that you can help them reach through your own suppliers, partners or other clients
  • Testing that you can help do to improve a process
  • Qualitative comparison data of the executive’s organization to others in the industry
  • Case studies of successes completed in similar organizations, with documented evidence, and ideas of how the same approach could work in the executive’s organization
  • Industry study about documented cost of certain challenges the executive’s organization may be having
  • Industry study about the documented revenue-producing potential of a new business model
  • New theory or model just published by a prestigious author, which you’ve applied to the executive’s business, using your solutions as well to achieve maximum results

Offer to Link Them to Someone Else
These have always been effective door openers when a sales professional wanted an appointment to sell something to our training company. For example, Mike, a business acquaintance, called to say he’d just sold his own business and heard I might be looking for a buyer for my company (this was 12 years ago). He might be able to offer a few ideas that he’d learned in the process of selling his business and possibly link me to the same organization who bought his company.

I ask you – did I meet with him? You bet, and in the course of our later meeting, I discovered that he was currently in a new business – selling employee assessments.

Do you know of someone the executive might be interested in meeting or doing business with? Consider your own strategic partners, your other clients, or a key supplier they need. Could you help link them to a source of more qualified executives they might want to recruit? Do you have an inside track to a community of industry leaders who might be valuable resources to them as a forum for idea exchanges?

Do you have connections with the media so that they or their organization and its product or service lines could possibly be spotlighted in upcoming features or stories? Do you know a think-tank group looking for an organization to do testing on a new product that your executive’s company might benefit from for little or no cost?

Send a Troubling Article Accompanied by a Vision or Promise of Solution
When you run across an article in the business or industry press about a current challenge or a promising idea for future growth, clip it and send it to the executive with a cover letter saying that you’d like to have an opportunity to discuss this idea in more depth. Mention that your organization ‘has a solution,’ wants to ‘partner with forward-thinking companies to position for future growth to take advantage of this trend,’ or can provide ‘data on success with this approach’ from other client organizations.

Leave the ball in your court. Tell the executive when you’ll call to follow up and verify interest in setting up a meeting.

Gain Access during Their Transition Period
Look for executives new on the job. They need a quick start and are looking for people with insights about new approaches, with experience from other industries that might translate to theirs. They have fewer people calling on them and haven’t yet decided who has the most credibility among their suppliers. The door cracks open slightly wider during this phase.

Provide Media Exposure for Them
Take advantage of marketing opportunities with the media. Seek out opportunities to contact senior executives to interview them, quote them, or highlight their organization.

Above all, make response easy, but don’t make it routine. That is, don’t make your questions something they’ll forward to the PR Department to handle for them. Pose only two or three questions that they must answer personally – something that their PR person couldn’t respond to without interviewing them first.

Give the executive time to think before responding. Unless your topic is time sensitive, the typical protocol is to send a letter or e-mail requesting the interview. Explain that you’re doing a ‘round-up’ article for X industry or business journal, and that you’ve selected three executives to interview and would like to see if Ms. VIP would be willing to spend about 8 to 12 minutes with you to answer the enclosed questions. Then list the questions. The administrative assistant will most likely call back to schedule the phone interview or appointment.

One caveat: Make sure the topic of your article and the questions you ask merit the executive’s time and pique his or her interest.

Gain Access by Serving Where They Serve
Senior executives typically contribute a good amount of time to community and charitable activities such as – fund-raisers, program committees, nonprofit boards, or membership drives. Find such places of services and go to work. You’ll likely get to know your prospects and build a personal relationship with them that will lead them to ask: “So what do you do?” “Who are some of your clients?” “Why don’t you come out and talk to us sometime?”

Sales Tip: Selling Around Objections

By Craig James, Founder and President, Sales Solutions

“I’m sorry, Craig. I need to have Feature X and, well, you just don’t seem to have it. It looks as if you can’t meet our needs.”

Have you ever encountered this situation? If so, and if it were true that you didn’t have the feature the prospect said he wanted, how did you deal with it? If you’re like most salespeople, your response was one of the following:

You got defensive and replied, “Yes, we do” – knowing full well you didn’t. You told the prospect you’d deal with it later, hoping he or she would forget about it.

You told the prospect, or tried to convince him or her, that the feature wasn’t important.

Are any of these responses valid? The answer is, “Yes”, “No”… and “Maybe!”

Now that I have you thoroughly confused, let me explain.

First, the straightforward answer – response #1 is always “No”. Why? Because it’s flat-out lying, and that’s something we as sales professionals never do. End of conversation. Next, the not-so- straightforward answers. Whether responses #2 and #3 are good strategies depends on:

When in the sales cycle it’s brought up by whom it’s brought up

  • Whether you believe it’s a legitimate, important concern of the prospect
  • Whether the benefit you believe the prospect desires can be realized with another feature (or features) you offering does have. In other words, they are situation-specific. An example should help illustrate this.Let’s say you’re selling copiers and the prospect says, “I need the machine to be able to make 70 copies per minute.” You know your best copier only makes 60 copies per minute. If this is brought up early in the sales cycle – say, in the discovery process – it might be well to use response #2. Often times, as the discussion of needs and wants progresses, and solutions are presented, the importance of the feature the prospect said he “needs” is reduced by the prospect himself. So why risk putting yourself on the defensive early in the game when it may not be necessary? You might also sense that the prospect is “blowing smoke”, and that the “need” really isn’t set in stone. However, if it’s brought up by a decision-maker or strong influencer whom you sense would be put off by what he perceives as a delay tactic, whether you sense that the concern is legitimate or not, you might want to go ahead and address it head-on (but follow up by probing on why he needs it).

    How about response #3? Well, I think we can agree that telling your prospect that a feature he tells you is important is not important is a recipe for disaster. Because by doing so, you’re both showing disrespect for his opinion and coming across as arrogant. Neither of these is likely to endear you to the prospect; in fact, it will likely have the opposite effect. But is it OK, is it ethical, to try to get the prospect to reconsider how important the feature is? Absolutely! In fact, that’s what the most successful sales people do, and do well. Your job as a professional sales person is to help your prospect make a purchase decision that is best for him and best for your company. In our first example, delaying your response to the prospect’s objection allowed him to view this one feature in the proper context – as one of many other features he should consider. As a result, he convinced himself that he really didn’t need the feature he said he needed, and was thus able to make a more well informed decision. In many cases, though, the prospect will not come to this realization on his own. Or he may become fixated on the one feature. You help him make the best decision for him (and for your company) by telling him he’d be well advised to consider features a, b, and c of your offering (which provide the same benefits as feature X, which we lack), as many other customers did. Features a, b, and c, of course, are features/capabilities that you offer that the competitors doesn’t, or in which you are superior. This is known as getting the prospect to “change his base” – his perspective. Once the prospect is shown (as above) how to view this one feature in the proper context, he’ll convince himself (again, as above) that he really didn’t need the feature he said he needed. And you’re off the hook with that objection.

    ACTION ITEM:
    Examine a deal you’re currently working where you face a situation such as this. How can you assist the prospect in “changing his base”? What benefit does the prospect expect to get from the feature you don’t offer? What other aspects of your offering could provide the prospect with those benefits? Once you have the answers to these questions, schedule a meeting with this prospect, review what he likes about your offering, and help him view this one feature in the proper context. You’ll be surprised how often prospects who are seriously interested in your solutions will come around and see the light – the light you want them to see. Your light!

    OR how about…

    Sales Tip: Selling to the C-level
    Most of us in software sales have heard the phrase “Selling at the C-Level”. With too many purchase decisions being made on price by individuals lower in the food chain, Sales Directors have begun exhorting their teams to “call higher in the organization”, where decisions are made on strategic value. Yet while we understand and agree with the logic as to why we should, many of us nevertheless don’t. There are several reasons for this: we’re more comfortable dealing with people at “our level”; we’re unsure what to say to, or how to engage, an executive at this level; we feel we’ll never get through to such a person, so why bother? And so on. These are all legitimate excuses, but excuses don’t pay the bills. Selling at this level requires a different approach, a different mindset from what is acceptable when selling lower in the organization. It requires additional, higher-level skills. But most sales people – never having had to use these skills – simply haven’t acquired them. Furthermore, few managers have provided their troops with the training necessary to effectively engage senior-level executives. Rather than fall back on excuses, then, why not address the issue head-on? How to sell to these top executives? The dos and don’ts in this Sales Tip begin to take us in that direction.

    It’s important to understand that CEOs and other C- level executives are not in the least bit interested in the nuts and bolts of your offering. They are interested in knowing how partnering with your organization can help move their company forward not incrementally, but by orders of magnitude. They have tremendous demands on their time. They are asked to consider dozens of “great ideas” each week (internally, from staff, and externally, from vendors like you). Most are loathe meeting with a sales person. You can imagine, then, how a C-level executive would react to a sales person who manages to get on his calendar, only to waste his time by being unprepared, inefficient, or both. Here, then, are some dos and don’ts for successfully dealing with CEO’s and other C-level people:

    Don’t:
    1. Waste time with small talk. C-level executives are busy people – they prefer efficiency to BS. Introduce yourself, dispense quickly with the small talk, then get down to business
    2. Discuss the features of your offering. Features are the what of your offering – what its component part is. The code. The language it’s written in. How user-friendly the interface is. Just as C-level people don’t monitor the nuts and bolts of their organizations, they’re not concerned with those of your offering. They are concerned with high-level issues, and how your offering will help them deal with those issues. So you need to be talking about what your offering does – what the benefits are – for this executive and his company.
    3. Ask him or her to “share his/her challenges” with you. You should already have a pretty good understanding of what’s important to most people at this level across most organizations. You should have determined fairly well with what issues this organization is dealing, through the research you did in preparation for the meeting (see below).
    4. Ask for nor take more than a half hour to make your case.

    Do:
    Your research. Find out from publicly-available sources (including the web); from vendors to; and customers and employees of the company, what’s going on, what the company’s goals are, and what challenges they’re encountering in achieving their goals.

    Using your knowledge of these goals and challenges, make the case in your meeting that not addressing these challenges will have serious adverse ramifications (significantly impact on revenues or costs, market share/competitive position, impact on public image and prestige, etc.) for the company. Make the case succinctly and convincingly that not only can your organization address these high-level issues, but that it is the best qualified to do so. Get agreement that the company should begin discussions with you, and begin them now, and ask how best to go about starting the process. Get names, departments, and decision process. Agree on a time frame for resolution.

    ACTION ITEM
    What can managers do to prepare their teams to sell at the C-level? Give them these and other tools to use. Invest time in a training session where C-level selling concepts are learned and practiced – using role plays and other mechanisms. If you yourself don’t have the time to prepare such a session, consider outsourcing it to a professional sales trainer. And sales people – if your organization does not provide this kind of “continuing education”, seek out courses or workshops yourself. The investment you make in yourself will be more than returned with the first big sale you make at the enterprise level to a C-level executive!

 

The Six Steps to Solid Sales Success

By Dan Goldberg, President, Dan Goldberg Consulting L.L.C.

Solid sales success is attainable for salespeople in all professions. What they must first do is gain better control of their selling skills. Too often the salesperson feels that they’re at a loss when entering a client’s domain. It’s not unusual for salespeople to say that they “just can’t make this call, the prospect already has a vendor, the prospect’s friend is taking care of that account, I don’t know it just doesn’t feel right” or any number of excuses.

So what’s the problem?
The problem is that sales is not an easy profession. The salesperson always seems to be at a disadvantage. They automatically “sell to” the buyer rather than let the buyer buy from them.

Through listening, learning, understanding and responding to their clients’ needs the sales professional can gain the upper hand.

Remember that sales should be a win-win situation for everyone. Clients, customers and salespeople should always feel good about the sales process; otherwise there’s something wrong.

Becoming successful at sales may be about control but it’s not about manipulation, lack of caring or taking advantage of any one.

Sales success is also about finding needs, fulfilling those needs, following up, representing correctly, adding value and having fun.

While it’s true that people buy emotionally, sales are sustained rationally. So look for distress, fear, concerns, weaknesses and needs, provide solutions, solve problems and you will create opportunities.

Twenty-eight years ago I formulated these six steps and taught them to my retail, as well as wholesale sales force. These steps helped me build a very successful business. They can do the same for you.

Those steps are:

  1. Understanding who you are
  2. Understanding others
  3. Getting prospects
  4. Getting agreements
  5. Adding value
  6. Closing

Before any salesperson goes out on a sales call, in fact, before they even become a salesperson they have to understand themselves.

What does it take to become a motivated salesperson?

It takes insight into who you are, what you want and knowing that you have the desire, commitment and outlook to succeed.

We’ve all heard the 80/20 rule. You know… 80 percent of the sales are made by 20 percent of the salespeople in any organization. So, you really have to look inside yourself to see if you have the makeup to be part of that 20 percent.

Otherwise, why waste your time?

Sales is a game and you have to decide whether or not you want to play the game. And like all games, most importantly, do you have what he takes to win?

Let’s start with the premise that at least you have what it takes to find out if you have what it takes. We’ll make that assumption because you’re reading this.

WHO AM I?

It is vitally important for you to understand yourselves so you can be comfortable in your career. Once you understand who you are, not only in the part you play (i.e. salesperson, mother, father, softball player, book club member) but also in your intrinsic self, you begin to build self-esteem. You can deal with the ups and downs of life in a more objective way.

Setting Goals

With an understanding of the relationship between your “self”, your “part” it should be easier to begin to understand and categorize your goals.

While all of us set goals of one type or another, it has been shown that those who put their goals in writing are more likely to achieve them.

Part of the reason is that these people are more apt to refer back to their written goals. They are a documented record of where they want to go.

You may have heard the old question, “How do you eat an elephant”?
And its famous answer, “One bite at a time”!

Well the same goes for goals. You can’t get to the moon if you haven’t built a spaceship.

It’s best to start with realistic goals and as you achieve those go on to the next. You’ll see how things expand and multiply!

RELATING TO YOUR PROSPECT

Ok, Now that you’re starting to get a handle on who you are in your “self” and your “part”. What does it mean to your business?

There’s a saying that “People buy from people they like”.
And, for the most part that’s absolutely true. That doesn’t mean that if you need a bandage for a bleeding wound you wouldn’t buy it from a jerk. But…If you were shopping for bandages just to have them in the house and the salesperson was indeed a jerk…then you would probably tell him or her to go pound sand, and buy it from someone else. To paint an even more pointed scenario, if you had that bleeding wound and two sales persons were there to wait on you, one being the jerk and the other being a caring, compassionate individual, who would you give the sale to?

So in the real world it’s how you interact with your prospect that helps give you the edge.

People buy emotionally. Needs, wants, distresses, frustrations, etc., push people into action. It’s those emotions that fuel the buying engine.

Being able to uncover those emotions is a key in becoming a successful sales professional.

As I mentioned in my article on The Seven Elements Of Successful Management, there are three very important ingredients all sales professionals should understand. They will always help them in the uncovering process when interacting with prospects.

  1. Types of Attitudes
  2. Types of Behaviors
  3. Types of Communication styles

These are the ABC’s of effective salespeople as well as successful managers and all the other parts we play!

Know Your ABC’s

Knowing the different types of attitudes behaviors and communication styles of individuals can help in building rapport between you and your prospects and clients.

It’s important to understand your core attitude, behavior and communication style first. Once you have a clear picture of who you are you can then learn how to interact successfully with others. Remember, people buy from people they like and the more you are like the person you are selling to the easier the sale becomes.

In addition learning how to recognize and adapt to the attitudes, behaviors and communication styles of your prospects and clients will give you added control of the sales process.

Once you understand the types of attitudes, behaviors and communications styles it will also help make getting prospects a much easier task.

Attitudes are the reasons why individuals do things – it’s what moves them into action. Attitudes are derived from our beliefs.

Behaviors are the manifestations of how we do things.

Communication styles are the tools we use, or don’t use, in gathering, processing and delivering information and ideas.

Words are just words to too many of us. Quite often they lose their meaning and either turn into meaningless chatter or just noise that someone else is waiting to stop so that they can either start their noise or have some peace.

For some prospects/clients what you have to say may indeed be interesting.

But beyond what you have to say is, more importantly, what they have to say.

GETTING PROSPECTS

With a new perspective on the attitudes, behaviors and communication styles of yourself and others you can begin to see how your interaction with clients and prospects can lead to them feeling good about you and what you’re selling.

As you begin to build rapport with clients and prospects, opportunities begin to present themselves. You can get into a position to ask for (and get) referrals.

Referrals come when you have satisfactorily given your client or prospect what they wanted and more.

It is necessary to always keep in mind that people do things according to their own agenda. In other words everyone is tuned into the same radio station WII-FM (what’s in it for me?).

You have to recognize and acknowledge your clients’ and prospects’ expectation level.

The more you do that the easier it will become to make a sale.

As you keep your clients’ and prospects’ happy you begin to build up a pool of credible personal and professional recommendation sources.

But in order to make people happy you have to get them first!

Earlier we spoke about buying a bandage for a bleeding wound. Sure you’d buy it from the jerk if your blood was spilling on the floor but you’d feel so much better buying it from the compassionate person who took your pain to heart.

Now suppose your wound wasn’t visible to the salesperson but they knew how to find out about it and enable you to realize that you should also do something about it. Wouldn’t you be willing to buy something to get ride of it?

Well getting prospects and clients to buy is all about making them aware of their distress and in some cases their pleasures.

Once you understand a person’s distress you begin to take control of the selling process.

How does someone find those distresses?

By asking questions and listening to the answers.

Everything you need to know will be told to you if you just ask the right questions and listen to the responses.

The salesperson should only talk thirty percent of the time, at most. That leaves seventy percent for your prospect or client to tell you everything you need to know.

If you learn how to listen the sales gates will open.

There are certain questions that help you get the answers you need.

Those answers will even tell you whether or not you have a “prospect” or a “suspect” on your hands. Enabling you to continue or go on to the next person.

You’re better off knowing that someone is a “suspect” at the beginning of the process than wasting time and finding it out later.

People don’t like to be sold but they do like to buy.

And everyone has his or her own agenda. They are NOT going to buy just because you want them to. The more you force, the more you will push them away.

For many salespeople getting prospects means many things.

It may be getting referrals, cold calling, joining networking groups and organizations, advertising or all of these methods.

No matter what it is, every sales person needs to be able to easily and simply explain what he or she does without seeming like they’re selling

All you have to do is pretend that you are advertising on TV or radio and have a limited time to tell people how you are. Write a short and simple explanation of what you do without sounding like a salesperson and you’re on your way.

You can even use that self-description in your cold calling.

There are plenty of salespeople who make their leaving as a result of cold calls. For these people every call is a means to an end. As on old friend once said “The average sale I close is worth $2,000.00, I’ll make 100 calls a day for 15 contacts for 2 appointments that may result in one close, I’ll take those odds everyday of my life!”

And he has done extremely well for himself.

Of course by now he doesn’t have to make cold calls because all those old cold call clients have become very good referral sources for him.

But like he says “It works!”

So, looking at it from that angle, one thousand calls a month could put the cold caller on the road to doing quite well.

GETTING AGREEMENTS

Time and experience has taught us that if you don’t have certain agreements lined up before you head into an appointment, you’re probably wasting your time.

Remember, you are as much a professional in your area as the person you are meeting with. Just as they don’t need to waste their time neither do you.

The agreements are the ground rules of your meetings and discussions.

Remember while you are setting up the ground rules and all through your meetings you are using your knowledge of the ABC’s of effective salespeople.

Make sure you set a time frame for you meeting.

Find out what your prospect/client is hoping to get out of the meeting.

Let them know what you are hoping to get out of the meeting.

Put what you see as potential roadblocks, such as budgets, attendance of decision makers, costs, etc. on the table before the meeting begins.

By getting issues agreed upon before you meet you and your prospect/client will save valuable time and energy. In addition you will have learned more about your prospect/client than you would have if you dove headfirst into your meeting without asking questions and listing you those all important answers.

ADDING VALUE

As we’ve discussed, there is no reason to give prospects or clients your information until you understand what they need.

By now you may have realized that by your prospect or client telling you all their pertinent information they may be closing the sale for you.

What you need to do at this point of the process is to give your prospect or client the information they have told you they need.

You can even ask them what they would like you to do.

“If you were me what would you do next?” is a question that evokes a great and telling answer.

You can see how much time and money you’ve saved by not giving away too much information, making needless extra meetings just to find out that you were on a wild goose chase the whole time and spending time tracking people down without knowing what they want.

Now is when YOU add your value.

You address pertinent situations.

Long ago you started to learn what they needed by asking, listening, using your ABC’s, probing and listening some more, now all you have to do is produce only those things that address the issues they’ve revealed.

When you have been instructed by your prospect/client as to what they need you are in the final step to getting the sale.

CLOSING

Don’t ever be afraid to ask for the close!!

Remember you are giving them the vehicle to do away with their problems.

And don’t ever be afraid to ask for payment. You sure would be willing to pay whatever it costs to get that bandage to stop the wound from bleeding that we discussed earlier wouldn’t you?

These six simple steps can help you build a much more successful sales career.

While there are variations of these steps by many different authors, trainers and individuals, the order and integration of each step are extremely important.

The foundation of the steps is the ABC’s of communication.
Without them the other four steps will be much harder, if not impossible, to climb.