Month: April 2015

The Reality of Selling High-Tech Today: the two most important people every salesperson should know!

By Steve Martin, Author, “Heavy Hitter Selling – How Successful Salespeople Use Language and Intuition to Persuade Customers to Buy”

The 90’s were a great time to sell technology. The decade started with the widespread adoption of home computers, which in turn fueled the demand for user-friendly information in the business world. Client-server technology, datawarehousing, and open systems sales took off. The paradigm shift continued as companies migrated core business applications off obsolete mainframes. Next, the Internet created another gold rush in California, this time in Silicon Valley. Finally, the decade ended with massive amounts of money and manpower spent to ensure Y2K went smoothly.

While the deals were always competitive, there was more business to go around so everyone got a piece of the action. Compared to those heady days, everyone in the high-tech community agrees that selling today is not only more difficult but harder than in any other time in their careers.

My career in computers started as a teenager in the late 70’s. At that time, a high-quality personal computer system cost about $10,000 ($25,000 in today’s dollars), and the Control Program/Microcomputer or CPM operating system was just as well known as the operating system from a small company called Microsoft.

As a software programmer, I became knowledgeable about the fundamentals of how computers work. I learned the importance of the structure of language and how to build a “model.” Models are the descriptions and representations of how a system works. Understand a model, and you can recreate a system. Models enable repeatable, predictable experiences. When I transitioned my career into sales, I quickly realized that I could build models to explain customer behavior in the sales process.

Since then, I have spent twenty years in high technology sales. I have worked with hundreds of salespeople and participated in thousands of sales calls while serving in positions ranging from salesperson to vice president. Over the years, I continually refined these models and compiled them in my new book titled, “Heavy Hitter Selling– How High Technology Salespeople Use Language and Intuition to Persuade Customers to Buy.” In Heavy Hitter Selling, I characterize attributes of successful salespeople (known as Heavy Hitters) and customers involved in the decision-making process.

There are many different ways to classify people during the sales cycle including title, personality, and orientation (technical, business or financial). Another interesting characterization of the various people who are involved in the product selection process is displayed in the following graph that represents four different characteristics that a person can be measured against.


Fig. 1 Characteristics of Evaluators
The left axis is a person’s insistence that things be done his way. This is called being a “bully.” A bully will get his way at any and all costs. Being a bully is not necessarily a negative term, nor does it mean that the person is physically intimidating. It is simply the description of people who will tenaciously fight for their cause. Also, people are more likely to be a bully when they have an elevated status within the evaluation team. The status could be the result of their domain expertise (technical or business knowledge) or their title and the authority it commands.

At the other end of the spectrum, are people who are accommodating. They are apathetic to whatever solution is purchased. The degree to which people are a bully or accommodating depends on the effect the purchase decision has on their span of control, position in the company, or ability to perform their job. On the horizontal axis, is the concept of “juice” and the “dud.” Simply put, juice is charisma. But even this definition is too simple. Some people are natural-born leaders. They have an aura that can motivate and instill confidence. That’s juice. Juice is fairly hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.

Having juice does not mean that these people act like John Wayne, nor are they necessarily the highest-ranking people involved in an evaluation. Instead, they are the ones who always seem to be on the winning side. Only one member of the customer’s evaluation has the juice. Single-handedly, he or she imparts his or her own will on the selection process by single-handedly selecting the vendor, and pushing the purchase through the procurement process. He or she can either finalize the purchase terms or instructs the procurement team on the terms that are considered acceptable.

“While there may be several bullies there will only be one that has juice. It is the bully who occupies the highest position farthest to the right that is the ultimate decision-maker.”
“Duds” are named after the ineffective firework they represent. Sometimes the fuse of a firework will burn down, but nothing will happen. Some fireworks may be very big but produce disappointing results. Duds have a lot of big talk but little action. “Accommodating duds” are people who do not take an active role in the sales process. Even worse are “dud bullies” who try to pretend the have juice, but don’t. For the salesperson, the realization of this may not come until too late.

For all of the people involved in the sales selection process, Heavy Hitters calculate their amount of Juice and their propensity to be a Bully. In the following example, John, Jim, Karl, and Rich are plotted according to the Hitter’s assessment.


Fig. 2 Plotting Individual Assessments
In the chart above, John is a dud bully, Jim is an accommodating dud, and Rich has the juice. Heavy Hitters naturally gravitate to people with juice. However, a person with juice may be apathetic to the purchase of your product, such as Karl in the preceding diagram. For example, a CIO who has juice probably doesn’t care what toner cartridges are purchased for the laser printers. He or she will be accommodating and support the decision of the people who make that decision. Someone else has the juice for the procurement of toner cartridges. Many people have juice (charisma and authority), but only one person has the “juice” to single-handedly select the vendor.

Let’s assume the same company was making a decision about an ERP system. You can assume the evaluation team’s decision will match the CIO’s preference. His or her will may have been imposed on the evaluation process through brute force or by finesse. Either way, his preference was “bullied” into the decision. The most powerful position in all of sales is when your coach (internal advocate within the customer’s company) has the “juice.” If your coach has the juice, you win! The next best scenario is when your coach can influence the person with Juice.

Some people believe that the economy has changed the way high-technology is purchased. People will argue that some purchases are truly made by committee without a bully with the juice. While a committee does put more fingerprints of accountability on the product selection, behind every committee (and its creation) is a bully who has the juice.

There are three important rules regarding the bully who has the juice. First, if you cannot accurately determine who the bully with juice is in your deal and none exists, be prepared for no decision to be made. It takes a bully with the juice to make every purchase happen. This is a reality in today’s economy. Second, when there is a bully with the juice in your deal and this person is not helping you, always assume they are helping someone else. Therefore, the deal is lost. Finally, if a Bully with the Juice does exists but you aren’t able to identify the person, be prepared to lose as you are in a position of extreme risk.

“If you cannot accurately determine who the bully with juice is in your deal and none exists, be prepared for no decision to be made.”
I want to share with you a memorable, personal story about a bully who definitely had the juice.

The local account team had been working with a prestigious financial brokerage firm in New York for five months. During that time, the potential customer had completed a thorough technical product evaluation in its information technology lab. The sales team had invested a lot of presales engineering resources in this account. By doing so, engineer in charge of the technical evaluation had developed into a strong coach. He even approached the sales team to discuss the possibility of joining our company.

Our coach had warned us that the vice president of information services was a micromanager. He personally had to approve all new technology that was brought into “his” organization. Therefore, in order to receive his blessing, a company presentation was scheduled. The sales team can laugh about it now, but the presentation was much more of an interrogation than a business meeting.

From a personal standpoint, the vice president was combative and condescending. For example, as part of the presentation about the company, the sales team explained the patents that we have applied for and been awarded. To this point, he replied, “How do I know that these patents aren’t just red herrings [false or nonexistent] to throw off your competition!” The entire meeting felt like we were appearing on 60 Minutes, being asked by Mike Wallace “Is it true you beat your wife?” Even though you answer “No” to the question, you are assumed to be guilty.

Given this set of circumstances, we had limited options to build rapport. First, we maintained our composure and did our best not to take the attack personally. Second, we agreed (profusely at times) with the vp’s point of view when it was applicable. And finally, in the most professional, nonpersonal way we could muster, we countered on certain issues by offering other potential solutions. You do not want to directly contradict a bully who has juice.

As we left the meeting, I told the local salesperson that based on the beating we received I thought it was a long shot the company would move forward with us. However, we had a secret weapon. Our coach would later tell us that our performance was deemed “acceptable” by the vice president. More importantly, our coach continued to lobby on our behalf. Several weeks later, we received our first purchase order from our new customer. It was through the coach’s persistent promotion of our solution that the Bully with the juice approved our deal.

Heavy Hitters understand that they must deal with duds and bullies while they are in hot pursuit of the person who has the juice. This story illustrates another important truism about hi-tech sales– Heavy Hitters know they need a constant, accurate source of information revealing the internal machinations of the customer’s selection process. The term “coach” is the popular name of a person who is the source of this inside information. Without a coach firmly entrenched on your side, you have no hope of winning the deal.

Heavy Hitters also have their own juice– their ability to create rapport. In order to win the deal, they know how to communicate their message and influence others in the process, building a more intense level of rapport and deeper relationship with their customers. The best way to illustrate this is to recount a recent sales situation with another bully who had the juice.

Paul was the manager in charge of information systems security in a well-known financial services company. He would accurately be described personally as a cantankerous skeptic. His main responsibility was to ensure the customer’s data was safe and secure. The position held a lot of responsibility and commanded equal authority. A breach in the customer’s data could have significant financial implications. In addition to the legal liability, the unfavorable press would impact the company greatly.

Paul was a tough-minded authoritarian. He didn’t meet vendors; rather he verbally abused them in front of his staff! These staged events were designed to showcase his considerable knowledge and the extent of his authority. Paul didn’t trust anybody. He spoke negatively about other divisions of his company and how he would manage them differently.

Developing Paul into a coach was critical. He was the bully who had all the juice. If the Heavy Hitter didn’t win him over, he wouldn’t win the deal. He knew it was pointless to argue with Paul, as there was nothing to be gained by doing so. He would not be swayed by any vendor’s logic or reason. Paul marched to his own drumbeat.

Paul would choose the solution he believed was in his own best interest. So what did Paul want? He wanted to be a hero. He wanted to prove he was a smart businessman. He was seeking the recognition he felt he was entitled to. The Heavy Hitter’s mission was to ensure that the selection of his product helped Paul achieve his needs.

Paul was considering replacing the company’s existing security vendor because of continual product stability problems and the quality of its support. The product was originally purchased before Paul was hired and the company had spent a significant amount of money purchasing and implementing it. Knowing this, the Heavy Hitter worked with his management to package a very compelling proposal that included a full product trade-in credit and free implementation services. This excited Paul! He would take great pride in boasting to his managers how he not only fixed the problem but essentially got their money back too.

The Heavy Hitter continually sold to Paul’s ego. At every opportunity, he elicited Paul’s feedback, not so much for its own merits, but rather so Paul could hear himself talk about the Heavy Hitter’s solution. He arranged for Paul to meet with others from the Hitter’s company– his technical support manager, the product management team, and various members of the executive staff. By doing this, the Hitter’s colleagues were subjected to Paul’s pontificating, and the Heavy Hitter was freed for other tasks. The Heavy Hitter even arranged for Paul to be invited to join his company’s customer advisory committee.

Paul would ultimately become a fantastic coach and an incredible champion. He was sold on the Hitter’s company as well as the product. Finally, someone was treating him with the respect he deserved. Later, he even met with the president about the possibility of joining the Hitter’s company. Paul wasn’t such a tough guy after all.

There’s an interesting way to determine who the bully with the juice is. Group dynamics are very complex and often revealing. A group’s behavioral pecking order is communicated by where people sit during meetings. Whether at a round table or in a classroom setting, the person with the most juice and greatest ability to bully will usually take the dominant seating position. This dominating behavior is also evidenced in meeting interactions. To explain this, we need to introduce the concept of the “participation pie.” The participation pie illustrates the amount of time each person interacts in a meeting or presentation.


Fig. 3 Participation Pie Charts
Usually, the person who interacts the most will be the bully who has the most juice. Bullies with juice are in charge and they want everyone to know it. And although dud bullies will be very active participants, the more they participate, the more it becomes obvious that they do not have the stature or expertise they think they do. We have all been in meetings where people like this are contradicted or even publicly chastised by members of their own team. Dud bullies don’t take Mark Twain’s advice when he said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and be suspected of being a fool rather than open it and confirm suspicions.”

Another key aspect of the participation pie is how the number of attendees affects the level of participation. In meetings with up to four members, the amount of time each person spends interacting and asking questions is relatively equal. As the group grows to eight people, the interactions become clustered around several people. In larger groups, up to twelve people, the majority of interactions are usually among a few individuals. These people are most likely to be bullies.

CONCLUSION The model of the bully, dud, and juice help explain that members of the customer’s evaluation team do not share an equal vote or the same level of interest in the decision being made. Some members are apathetic while others are more insistent they get their way. However, one individual has the juice to single-handedly make the decision, and it is this individual that we strive to build rapport with.

In sales, we are frequently placed in uncomfortable situations where rapport is nonexistent. Unfortunately, salespeople will naturally gravitate to members of the evaluation team that like them. It’s human nature to want to avoid rejection and stay in your comfort zone. Finally, salespeople are constantly placed in an environment where they must differentiate themselves and their product from other attention-getting solutions.

Under these circumstances, the salesperson’s job is to create a receptive environment and create a relationship with detractors as well as supporters. Ultimately, there is one person who makes the final decision and truly matters. In today’s economic malaise, it is the bully with the juice who reigns supreme.

TUMBLEWEED

By Rob ‘Waldo’ Waldman, Founder and President, The Patriot Group

Communication is not important, it’s critical. This holds true in every walk of life whether in business or combat. Communication keeps wingmen focused on their responsibilities and builds situational awareness in rapidly changing environments. It makes or breaks a mission. It’s all based on trust.

Building Trust through Effective Communication
Lack of communication can take the most carefully laid plans and destroy them with the corrosion of doubt. It can transform the most confident person into a ‘second-guesser’ and that’s bad for everyone on your team.

I remember flying a combat mission in Iraq when I lost radio contact with my wingmen. I was flying in the ‘dark.’ Having no radio contact at 20,000 feet and separated from my wingmen by 10 miles on a night combat mission in hostile territory was not an ideal situation. What if I lost my engine or was engaged by ground fire? How could I call for help? Was something wrong with my radios?

I was quickly reduced to a ‘second guesser’ filled with doubt and fear, and fear kills the warrior spirit! I felt clueless. This is the state that fighter pilots call ‘Tumbleweed’ – having limited to no Situational Awareness (SA) and barely hanging on.

Suddenly my back-up radio blared with the terse (yet comforting) sound of my flight lead, “2, come up frequency 239.9.” I realized then that I had accidentally typed in the wrong frequency of 233.9! I was relieved! My flight lead continued, “Vipers, check!”  We responded in a crisp, monotone cadence, “2, 3, 4.” With a brief position update Viper flight was now marching to the same beat. We had SA. We were ready for battle.

Looking back, it was a single act that changed everything. One second, I was in the dark, unknowing, afraid and full of doubt – a ‘second guesser’ with no SA. Then, with the crackle of the radio and the reassuring sound of my flight lead, I was back in the game and had re-gained situational awareness – just like that!

Communication is not important, it’s critical. This holds true in every walk of life whether in business or combat. Communication keeps wingmen focused on their responsibilities and builds situational awareness in rapidly changing environments. It makes or breaks a mission. It’s all based on trust.

Here’s the kicker. Great communication doesn’t just happen. You build a framework that ensures it. You train for it, and then you hold everyone accountable to it!

On every mission, fighter pilots and top business persons should:

1. Brief the mission to establish and communicate objectives, delegate responsibilities, analyze threats and review contingency plans.
2. Establish a communication plan (a ‘Comm. Plan’) by confirming when and where to change frequencies.
3. Brief a back-up plan in case communication fails (known as ‘radio-out’ procedures).
4. Ensure positive two-way communication is established between wingmen during critical elements of a mission.
5. Debrief every mission to review lessons learned and reinforce training.

– Do you have a ‘Comm. Plan’ with your wingmen?
– Are you taking the time to brief your sales, IT or marketing missions?
– Do you ensure all team members are on the same wavelength and understand their roles, responsibilities and objectives?
– Are you aware of those wingmen that may be on the wrong frequency with no SA (Tumbleweed) and do you have a plan to get them back on frequency?

Leaving any of your wingmen in the dark guarantees one thing – that you’ll have ‘second guessers’ on the team making decisions on their own that might not be in the best interests of the sales mission and the other wingmen involved. Communication is the conduit of teamwork and is the basis for all trust. Without it, a team is useless. Without it, sales cannot be won.

Checking in with your wingmen and making sure they’re on the right frequency, listening to their questions, and understanding their challenges are fundamental components of teamwork, leadership and trust. When people’s problems are acknowledged and they know who to go to for help (and that it’s ‘okay’ to ask for help), they are more likely to admit mistakes to their wingmen (supervisors and/or peers) and reveal situations that can adversely effect the accomplishment of a mission.

Most importantly, they will trust that someone on their team will heed the wingman’s call for action, which is ‘I need help!’

PUSH IT UP!

Communication Land Mines: Sales Credibility Killers and What to Do About Them

By Marty Clarke, Author, Communication Land Mines, 18 Communication Catastrophes and How to Avoid Them

As a salesperson, nothing is going to have a more material impact on your credibility than your ability or inability to communicate. True, if your product is deficient, then this is going to reflect negatively on you as a professional salesperson. But let’s just assume you represent an excellent and useful product, and take that out of the equation.

Beyond your product’s integrity, your own credibility is the only currency that truly matters in your relationship with your customers and your prospects. Do your customers and prospects trust you? Are they comfortable with you designing and delivering a legitimate solution for their business challenges?

You answer these questions with every communication with your customers and prospects. Every phone conversation, voice mail, letter, e-mail, and personal meeting is going to impact that credibility quotient in their minds. And in all these areas, there are mistakes to be made, land mines to trigger.

THE PHONE
Repeat after me! The phone is the most dangerous thing on your desk. Oh it’s true! Possibly, as a real salesperson, you could do yourself grievous bodily injury with plenty of things on your desk, but nothing is going to be more lethal to you professional credibility (and your income) than stepping on some of the land mines that exist every time you pick up that phone and dial.

Phone Land Mine #1: The Instant Launch – This land mine goes off any time your customer picks up the phone and you begin talking, talking, and talking just to make sure you get your pitch or your agenda out in its entirety. The problem is, this makes you sound like a telemarketer and the fact is, you may have interrupted your customer while he or she was in the middle of something important.

Quick Fix!: Use the phrase “Am I catching you at a bad time?” right after you say your name. Used at the very outset of a phone call, this phrase allows your customer to give you the go-ahead to get to your point, or stop you from interrupting them further if they cannot give you their attention. If you get the green light, go ahead and set the appointment! If not, get off the phone as quickly and politely as possible with a promise to call back when it’s more convenient.

Phone Land Mine #2: The Wrath of the Rep – It is OK to feel a bit annoyed when you do not get a call-back from a customer. It’s OK to feel that way, it is NOT OK to hit your customer with a quick “Hey, you sure are a hard person to track down” when you finally catch him or her live. This comment and all the variations on that theme do nothing but alienate your customer by putting him or her on the defensive. Why in the world would you want to start a conversation that way? Passive aggression is the mortal enemy of professional credibility.

Quick Fix!: Actually, the only way to avoid this land mine is to know that it’s coming and just get over it. You may feel the strong urge to let your customer know that you are not pleased at not getting a call-back. And if you know you are going to feel that way, it becomes easier to avoid indulging yourself with a light verbal smack to your customer’s face. Next time you feel the urge to mention how hard it was to get in touch with a client, let the moment pass without comment and get down to business.

POSTAL MAIL
The death of postal mail has been heralded for years and it won’t ever happen because postal mail is an excellent sales and marketing tool. When used correctly. Jumping on the Postal Mail land mines is certainly not a deal-breaker, but these land mines can hurt your credibility and prevent you from staying top of mind with those upon whom you are trying to leave a lasting impression

The trick with postal mail however is cutting through the ever growing stack of paper that is surely growing on each of your recipients’ desks. Avoiding a few of the key postal mail land mines can’t guarantee your letter or post card gets the attention it deserves, but it can help put you in the best position to stay top of mind.

Postal Mail Land Mine #1: The Sanitary Mailer – A quick way to lose out on your opportunity to make an impression on a decision maker is to send a mailer that is entirely devoid of any personal touch. In an increasingly electronic world, human interaction is a welcome thing.

Quick Fix!: Let nothing, nothing leave your desk that you have not personally marked up in some form or fashion. A post it note, a highlighter, a marker, let these be your weapons in making sure your mailer gets noticed. REMEMBER: The sweetest sound to anyone’s ear is his or her own name. The sweetest sight is his or her own name handwritten on something.

Postal Mail Land Mine #2: The Metric Ton Mailer – Just because your marketing department has developed an entire buffet of super-high-profile marketing material does not mean you have to assemble all of it and ship it out anytime a customer or prospect says “Send me some information.” But unfortunately, most people do succumb to this knee jerk response and wind up dumping a metric ton of material on a decision maker.

What are the odds that a decision maker wades through all of it and finds what he or she needs? Exactly. Pretty much zero.

Quick Fix!: Whenever you hear “Send me some information” you can avoid triggering the Metric Ton Mailer land mine by responding with this simple question: “Is there anything specific I should include?”

If the decision maker then mentions an area of specific interest (sub prime lending, investment properties, first time home buyer, etc…), your path is clear. Make sure you either just send material germane to that interest or at least make that section easy for the decision maker to find.

E-MAIL
E-mail is part of everyone’s business life and it is showing no signs of going away anytime soon. Remember: Your audience is going to make conscious and sub conscious decisions about your credibility when they read what you’ve written. Take care, pay close attention to detail, and steer clear of the land mines.

E-mail Land Mine #1: The Term Paper – You’ve seen them. Maybe you’ve sent them. This is the huge, colossal, “How Long Am I Going Have to Scroll Down to get to the End of this Thing” e-mail message. Very bad and unfortunately all too common.

Quick Fix!: We live in a bullet world. Find out how to create bulleted lists on e-mail and use this function liberally. E-mail is supposed to be a “speed medium” and bullets get your points across quickly.

E mail Land Mine #2: Grammar & Spelling – Typos and poor grammar in an e mail usually get noticed immediately and almost always damage your credibility. Typos have a direct negative reflection on your “attention to detail” quotient in the reader’s mind.

Quick Fix!: Beware of relying solely on Spell Check. Spell Check is a useful tool but DO NOT confuse “spell check” with “proof read.” Never send an e-mail out that you have not read at least once over. Just because Spell Check says it’s OK does not mean you’ve composed an error free message.

E mail Land Mine #3: The Emotional E mail – A credibility killer! In fact, this one has the ability to end a career. No matter how good a writer you are, if you compose and send an e-mail while you are in a highly emotional state, the likelihood of your sounding like a petulant child is very high. Years of deposits in the credibility bank can get wiped out with one emotional e-mail.

Quick Fix!: Write what you need to write in your word processing program. Get it all out of your system. Then let one night pass. If, when you read it again in the morning, you still feel it merits sending then fire away. But chances are you’ll thank your lucky stars you didn’t put the message out there for everyone to see.

VOICE MAIL
When leaving voice mail for your customers and prospects, the dual issues of speed and clarity of message are always at hand. The land mines hiding in plain site on Voice Mail are worth avoiding if you want to stay far a field of those in your field who routinely damage their own credibility when using this communication medium.

Voice Mail Land Mine #1: The Endless Message – Question: Is there someone in your personal or professional life who, when you hear their voice on your voice mail your heart immediately sinks because you know you’re going to be sitting there forever while this person rambles on? Leaving long protracted messages for your customers is a very quick way to lose credibility with them.

Quick Fix!: Before you dial, if you think there is a better than even chance you’re going to have to leave a message for a customer or prospect, get out a sticky note and make a few quick notes about what information you want to impart. You’ll feel a little strange but do it anyway. Better that than your name coming up in a client’s mind when they get asked the question above.

Voice Mail Land Mine #2: The Phone Number at Mach Speed – Your phone number is often an integral part of your voice mail message. Why then do so many sales people leave their own phone numbers so fast that they wind up sounding like they have a mouthful of pizza and lawn clippings? Customers and prospects find it annoying in the extreme if they have to rewind a message just to get a phone number.

Quick Fix!: Taking a beat between number sets, as in: “… you can reach me at 123 (beat) 456 (beat) 7891” is an excellent way to slow yourself down. Also, saying your number twice is always welcome because it can give the listener a second chance to make sure he or she has your number down correctly.

There are very few communication land mines that are, individually, deal killers. However, taken as a group, they can add up to an extremely sloppy image for a sales person. Keep the land mines in front of you while you navigate through your customer communications and you will emerge ahead of the pack as someone who is able to deliver information in a quick compelling manner.