Month: August 2015

The Fine Line Between Persistence – And Stalking!

By Colleen Francis, President And Founder, Engage Selling Solutions

Let’s go back to the science of sales, and dissect a typical opening call that I hear 80% of the time when I’m coaching sales people:

“Hi Mary, this is Colleen from Engage Selling. How are you today? Great. I’m just calling to check in and see if anything has changed since the last time we spoke?”

Did you spot what’s wrong with this opener – and why? I see at least three big mistakes, any one of which could cost you a potential sale.

Mistake #1: “How are you today?”
Please, please, please never use an opening statement that starts with “how are you today!” Why? Because all it does is remind your customers of all those dinnertime calls they receive from telemarketers. Are you a telemarketer? I didn’t think so. So don’t act like one!

Besides, do you really believe that your customers actually think that you are even listening to the answer? Are you listening to the answer? Of course not. So remember: your prospects see through this opening question just as easily as you do whenever a telemarketer (or less professional salesperson) calls you.

Instead, try this rapport-winning phrase: “Did I catch you at a bad time?” This works well because it points out the obvious, and that makes the customer laugh. Of course it’s a bad time! Any non-scheduled call is an interruption, and no interruption ever comes at a “good” time. After all, if all your customers spent their days just waiting at their desk for you to call, then sales would be too easy!

Mistake #2: “I’m just calling to check in and…”
Are you their mother, or their sales rep? Seriously, are you really calling just to check in or check up? If so, either you’ve got a lot more time on your hands than I do, or else it’s time to seriously consider a career change!

First, start by removing the word “just” – it makes you sound unimportant, and your call seem like an afterthought. Instead, replace it with something like: “The last time we spoke, you….” By taking the customer back to the last time you spoke, you remind them of your relationship, and prove that you are carrying through on what you were asked or promised to do. Nothing builds rapport better than a promise kept. And as we know, rapport leads to trust, and trust leads to loyal customers.

Mistake #3: “…to see if anything has changed since the last time we spoke.”
Don’t be vague. These days, your prospects don’t have the time to try to decipher why you’re calling – and neither do you.

According to a study conducted by the American Association of Professional Organizers, the average executive has over 52 hours of unfinished work on their desk every day. Our experience in today’s market shows that if a prospect doesn’t understand the purpose of your call within the first 30 seconds, 99 times out of 100, they will simply lose interest, stop listening and start looking for a way to get you off the phone. (Does the phrase, “Please send me some information,” sound familiar?)

State up front exactly why you are calling, and your prospects will appreciate your openness. To complete what we started in the response to Mistake #2, try tying your opening statement back to something specific the client requested on your last interaction, like: “The last time we spoke, you mentioned that you wanted me to call before we had a price increase…” or, “The last time we spoke, you mentioned you were looking for consultants with experience in the banking industry.”

Breaking the rules
By the way – there are ways you can stay in touch with your prospects more often than once every 6 weeks, and still not be considered a stalker. Just use a combination of direct contacts (the phone) with indirect contacts (email or mail).

In fact, I’ve found that using the phone exclusively is generally not the best way to stay in touch with prospects. Instead, I recommend that sales reps use a variety of means to reach their prospects.

Mix up a phone call with an email, and then later maybe send them an individualized hard copy mail piece – not a generic corporate brochure, but something that’s relevant to them, like an article you clipped from a magazine with a personal note, a celebration card recognizing their company anniversary or an invitation to your open house. To get you started, try the following schedule:

  • Week 1: Follow-up call with action items noted for the next direct contact.
  • Week 3: Company email newsletter, announcement or article. It doesn’t really matter what, provided it is content-rich and NOT an advertisement. After all, this contact is intended to increase your credibility, not weaken it.
  • Week 4-5: Another indirect contact such as a birthday or anniversary card, a note in the mail with a newspaper clipping they might be interested in, or an email with a newsworthy article about their industry. This contact is designed to strengthen your personal relationship, and help you build rapport.
  • Week 6-7: Follow up again with another direct phone call.

Finally, a last piece of advice: when making a follow-up call, make sure you’re never in a position where you’re still thinking about what you’re going to say while the phone is ringing. Even if you’re a veteran salesperson, pick up a pen and script the first 45-second “opener” of your next call right now. Then, look in a mirror and say it out loud.

Would you listen to you? If not, hang up, and try something else!


The #1 Way to Enable Greater Market Success: Messaging Breakthrough Accelerates Each Phase of the Technology Adoption Life Cycle

By Michael Cannon, Founder, Silver Bullet Group, Inc.

A great go-to-market strategy, poorly executed, is destined to fall short of expected results.

Geoffrey Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm, is one of the best strategy books ever on how to market and sell both disruptive and continuous innovation via the Technology Adoption Life Cycle (TALC). There is no doubt that those who implement Moore’s concepts and frameworks are much more successful. There is also a lot of agreement that a great strategy is necessary but not sufficient.

One of the biggest points of execution failure when launching a new product is Marketing’s inability to successfully enable Sales (inside, outside, channel) to have an effective conversation with potential customers. Marketing has not figured out how to provide Sales with effective messaging, collateral, sales tools and sales training — vital tools that Sales must have in order to successfully persuade a prospective customer to buy.

One of the biggest points of execution failure when launching a new product is Marketing’s inability to successfully enable Sales (inside, outside, channel) to have an effective conversation with potential customers.

You can see this failure point exposed year after year in market research studies like these:

  • “58% of a vendor’s marketing content is not relevant to potential buyers and reduces the vendor’s chance of closing a sale by 45%.” – IT Buyer Survey, International Data Group, 2008
  • Over 65% of sales leaders feel they’re losing business because they don’t have a compelling value proposition.” – Miller Heiman, Sales Best Practice Study, 2006
  • “As much as 40% of a sales rep’s time is spent creating presentations, customizing messaging and preparing for pitches.” – CMO Council Study, 2004
  • “80 to 90% of marketing collateral is considered useless by sales.” – Proceedings of the Customer Message Management Forums, published by the American Marketing Association (2002 and 2003)

In addition to developing a great go-to-market strategy and a great product, Marketing must provide Sales, and customers, with more effective messaging and tools that are in alignment with the key teachings contained in the TALC.

One of the TALC’s major contributions is that it identifies specific market dynamics that must be addressed in order to achieve market success. They are:

These market dynamics are crucial to understand in order to develop a successful go-to-market plan. Of particular importance, the TALC provides a solid indication of the key messaging themes needed in order to translate these strategic insights into greater market success.

To complete the translation from high-level messaging themes to highly effective messaging and tools, we need a breakthrough in the way we think about customer messaging. We need a better way to identify the categories and types of messaging that Marketing must create and integrate into the collateral, sales tools and training provided to Sales.


Marketing must close the sales messaging gap in order to eliminate one of the
biggest points of execution failure and achieve greater market success.

As the map above indicates, the primary reason Marketing is not successful in enabling Sales to have an effective conversation with potential customers is that the marketing team does not create sales messaging. Instead, it creates corporate, market, and product messaging, and then it tries unsuccessfully to use these categories of messaging to enable the sales conversation. The map makes it obvious why the current approach does not work. The messaging and the tools into which the messaging is integrated are not in alignment with the types of real-world questions potential customers are asking Sales – and Marketing, for that matter – to answer. Marketing must close the sales messaging gap in order to eliminate one of the biggest points of execution failure and to achieve greater market success.

Before we align sales messaging with the TALC, let’s take a closer look at the business creation and competitive sales messaging types. Business creation messaging is mandatory in the early stages of the life cycle, when the most important customer question is, “Why should I change-out my current solution for a new solution?” The answer to this question has little to do with your company, per se. The primary goal of business creation sales messaging is to create demand for the product or service category by stating a compelling reason to change, convincing buyers that there is great value (Business Case) to be gained in changing from their current solution to a new or better solution.

The primary goal of business creation sales messaging is to create demand
by stating a compelling reason to change.

Competitive messaging is mandatory in the late-market stage of the life cycle, when market demand is more established. The most important customer question then shifts to, “Why should I buy the solution from your company rather than the competition?” The answer to this question must focus on competitive differentiation. The primary goal of competitive sales messaging is to create orders for your company, convincing buyers that your product is their best choice.

Now let’s look at how these two sales messaging types align with, and support, the TALC.

In the Early Market and Bowling Alley phases, it’s all about business creation sales messaging. The primary reason the buyer is going to spend money, time and resources to change is that it will help him or her gain a competitive advantage or because it will help fix a broken business process. These are the two high-level business case themes for change.

In a Tornado market, many buyers have decided to change, but some have not. This means that you need both types of sales messaging: Highly differentiated competitive sales messaging to get orders from those buyers who are ready to change and business creation sales messaging to get more of the fence-sitters to agree to change. From a competitive messaging perspective, key themes are lowest-risk, best-of-breed, or best value.

On Main Street, it’s all about competitive sales messaging. Your company must find a meaningful way to differentiate itself as being able to provide the best whole-product solution.

The role sales messaging plays is to help tune these high-level TALC messaging themes into highly persuasive reasons for the potential customer to spend money – and to spend it with your company. The more persuasive the reasons, the greater your market success. It’s that simple.
“Our win rate increased by 30% and the time we spend supporting the field reduced by around 50%
for the product family I support.”
— Nigel Mott, Product Sales Manager, Agilent Technologies, Inc.
As the quote above indicates, making this one change – creating TALC-aligned sales messaging and then integrating the sales messaging into the collateral, sales tools, sales training, etc., delivered to Sales and, ultimately, to customers – enables Sales and Marketing to increase their win rates by 15 – 20% or more. Now that’s greater market success.

The Life of a Salesperson

By Jack Falvey, Founder,

The life’s blood of every enterprise is sales. How much do you know about the sales professionals that keep our economy alive? Accountants say they spend too much on expenses. Marketing says they are just order takers. Engineering says the product sells itself. Management thinks they are little more than a shoeshine and a smile.

Sales professionals provide both the fuel and the lubrication that keeps our economy running smoothly. They create wealth and then make the adjustments needed to go to the next level. They take the hits and keep things moving. They are the eyes and ears of every business. You have to make the time to work in the field to appreciate the skill required to produce the top line of an income statement. Here are some of the things you will discover.

All days begin early. Sales people are morning people first and foremost. Even in trades that begin later in the day, they work the details till the customers can see them. They also work late in the day, because the customers do so as well. Physical stamina is a job requirement. They often beat the commuter traffic by being ahead of it in the morning and after it in the evening.

Appointments are made on the run. Calls are returned and problems solved or addressed between meetings. Notes are always scribbled. Paperwork is always late, so that they are always on time. They have no need to consult a database for information. It’s all there in short term memory and in great detail. Sale professionals know more about their customer’s business than the customers do themselves. Most of what they know should not be entered in the customer’s records.

What kind of person can do this job? Those that don’t play well with others are often a good fit. Sales is a lonesome business. Self reliance in the face of adversity is a requirement. Selling is not a team sport. It is one on one, with no group showers at the end of the day. It is not a game for the faint at heart because the box score is published for all to see each week, month and quarter. These are the people that actually make the quarters.

Why Incentives
Why must sales professionals be paid on incentives? High risk must earn high rewards. How would you like it if ninety five percent of everything you did every day didn’t work? That’s a good day for someone in sales. Mental toughness is a given, big or small, male or female, it comes with the territory.

If all this is true, what should be done to manage this function? First, do no harm. Second, realize that everything possible should be done to support the process of bringing in business. Rules must be flexible within reason. Truth and ethics are absolutes, but policies and procedures are not. What will it take, is the question? Get the business first and work out the details second. To manage the people who manage this is not easy. A sound night’s sleep is not part of a sales manager’s job.

Is it any wonder that sales is not understood by cubical dwellers? Sales is outside of all organizational norms by necessity. Sales is in the world of the customer. The rules are different in each situation. The sales professional must first learn the rules both written and unwritten for each customer and then must take the products and services they bring to market and some how, some way, get things to work together for the benefit of all, while making the numbers profitably.

The toughest competitor faced by all sales people is an international concern named Status Quo Inc. How do you get things to move? How do you get those reluctant to change, to change? How do you get someone to take the next step? What should be the next step? Too small a step will take forever. Too big a step will stop the process. Step by step, account-by-account, day-by-day, each situation must be moved forward or all human progress will grind to a halt. This is the field the shakers and movers must play on. There is no school for all of this. The lessons are taught and learned face to face with suspects that must be qualified to prospects that must be converted to customers.

Working with the best of the best in the field, makes all this self-evident. One sales professional in a previous career spent ten years as a professional football player in the NFL. He said that the hits he took as a linebacker were less frequent and less severe than the hits he takes each business day of the year in sales. He says this with a knowing smile and a quick glance down reveals a shoeshine like glass!