Archive for August, 2009

This evening while I was acting as passenger to my son whose learning to drive we listened one of his favorite genres of music, country. As we listened Toby Keith’s song “I Wanna Talk About Me” came on to the radio. This song got me thinking about the dreaded “Me-Monster” that I seem to stumble across from time to time in sales professionals. You know the one – the sales guys always talking about himself.

monsterOne of the easiest traps to fall into selling is to fall into the “me-monster syndrome” and focus to much on yourself, your product and never allowing your customer to get in a word edgwise. I’ve witnessed so many sales people yammering on about this feature, that feature, this benefit, that benefit, the color options, the customization, blah, blah, blah. My goodness shut the yap and let you customer get a word in edgewise.

You can just see the customer as their listening to the salesman pontificate about the grandeur of his product and why you should buy today roll their eyes back and mentally starting singing Toby Keith’s song “I Wanna Talk About Me”.

“I wanna talk about me, I wanna talk about i Wanna talk about number 1 oh my, me, my,What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see.I like talkin about you, you, you, you usually, but occasionally I wanna talk about me! (me, me, me,) I wanna talk about me-e-e. (me, me, me)”

Now I’m not a big country fan. But Toby Keith’s song describes alot of sale people. They’re so busy selling the product they never let the customer tell them the reasons they want or even need to buy.

Here’s a perfect real life example. I have an associate that used to sell products in the Coal Industry. For quite awhile he pursued a significant opportunity that no matter what strategy he tried he couldn’t close the deal.

Then one day instead of pitching the same old story he started asking questions. “What is your biggest challenge”? “If you could improve this process how would that impact your production”? And voila, while listening to the customer, he picked up on the nugget that ultimately help him close the deal.

The nugget – show me how your solution will enable me to extract more tons of coal at a lower cost. Once he understood this key issue he was able to sell to the problem.

Tossing aside the canned slide deck he rolled up his sleeves and demonstrated how investing in his solution, for only 8 cents per ton of coal, would generate an additional 60 cents in revenue for that same ton of coal.

All of a sudden the lights went on. Not because the product features had changed but because he had shown how his product addressed the core business problem — generating more coal, more efficiently at a higher rate of return. He stopped talking about his product giving his customer an opportunity to speak and he was thus able to discover the keys to the kingdom. Because he let the customer open up he able to sell to the problem and thus created value in the mind of the customer. Once you do this you’ll win every time!

…So let’s talk about you for a while… I’m listening……

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Price reduction is not sales!

Posted: August 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

This week I met with one of my outside sales guys to discuss different strategies to close a deal that has been on the cusp of closing for some time now. As I reviewed the the opportunity it became very clear that he’d actually done a phenomenal job of managing the opportunity. He’d qualified the opportunity, narrowed down the core business problems, addressed every concern and received verbal commitment from the customer but still no signed paper.

So what’s the problem?

First of all the person that is sold isn’t the one who signs the checks.

This is a a most critical point in sales – Make sure your selling to the decision makers! And make sure one of the decision makers can write the check.

Now in this particular scenario it’s a bit more challenging because there is a parent company that manages the budgets for a number of smaller companies. Which means the CFO of the parent company reviews purchase recommendations for each company and then bases his purchase decision on the cost of a solution not necessarily how well it fits a business need. Thus my sales guy found himself in a corner where Price discussions have become the negotiation point rather than a line item on the final proposal.

Remember price negotiations are sometimes inevitable. Amateur sales professionals lead price negotiations with their “wallet”. Sales professionals justify costs by re-outlining benefits to the customer. The key is make sure your using Price as a negotiation point not a method to sell.

Happy Hunting!

Dear Friends,

Over the past three years, the processing of adoptions in Haiti have slowed to a crawl. Abandoned children are enduring adoption processes lasting two or three years before being united with adoptive families.

Not only is such lasting institutional care damaging to the children who wait and wait, but the slowed process has had a negative effect on the many desperately needy children of Haiti who are not waiting in orphanages. Orphanages in Haiti have traditionally been providers of humanitarian aid to their communities. Many support free medical clinics, schools, feeding programs and family preservation programs. Orphanages have been a resource for temporary care for children following a family crisis, such as a fire or illness. But now that children are languishing in orphanage care for years, orphanage directors report that the beds are full, the food and medicine supplies are insufficient, and the children needing temporary care are left on the streets with little prospect for life.

In a laudable effort to move towards transparent and democratic government, Haitian officials are now adhering to the Haitian Constitutional law regarding adoption, written in 1974 by Jean Claude Duvalier. While the law of 1974 places severe limitations on the size and age of those who may adopt, it does allow for Presidential Dispensation for those not meeting the family size or age limitations. Unfortunately, Haiti lacks an organized and transparent system for obtaining Dispensations. This confusion along with the absence of a sense of urgency regarding institutionalized children has caused extensive delays in the adoption process and further victimizes children who have already lost much.

Haiti has a pending solution to this legal logjam. A newly proposed adoption law will clarify who may adopt, increase protections for Haitian children, their birth parents, and adoptive families, and streamline the adoption process. This legislation is supported by the United States and French governments along with the NGO community and UNICEF.

The children of Haiti, the crèche directors who serve them and the adoptive families who wish to raise them need your help. We must encourage the Haitian government to pass the new adoption law and efficiently grant Dispensations in the interim.

What can you do? Make five simple phone calls and write one letter.

1. Call your U.S. Senator.

  • You can find your Senators’ phone numbers at http://www.senate.gov
  • Ask to speak with the Legislative Director or Chief of Staff

2. Call your second U.S. Senator.

3. Call your representative to the U.S. House of Representative.

  • You can find your representative at http://www.house.gov
  • Ask to speak with the Legislative Director or Chief of Staff

4. Call or fax UNICEF Haiti

  • Ask to speak with Julie Bergeron
  • Their number is 011-509- 2245-3525
  • Their fax number is 011-502- 2245-1877
  • Their email address is portauprincehaiti@unicef.org Please note that calls and faxes to Haiti are international calls

5. Write letters for the Haitian Prime Minister, President of the Haitian Senate, and the Minister of Social Welfare.

  • Your letter can contain the same information as specified below. If you are an adoptive family or are close to a Haitian-born adopted child, insert a picture of the child or your family in your letter.
  • Describe your family’s commitment to Haitian culture and the country’s well being as a result of your contact with a Haitian-born adopted child.
  • Mail your letter to Holt International, which has volunteered to collect letters and transport them to Haiti for hand delivery to the above government officials.

    Holt International Haitian Children & Families Initiative
    P.O. Box 2880

  • Eugene, OR 97402

6. Forward this message to everyone you know who cares about the welfare of abandoned children in Haiti. Individuals need not be personally involved in a Haitian adoption to let their voices be heard on behalf of children who have no one to speak for them!

When should you call? August 13th, 14th, and 17th · For maximum affect, we are asking you to make these calls within a 72 hour window!

What should you say or write to member of the U.S. Congress?
Speak from your heart and give them the following information.

  • Inform them that you are calling regarding Joint Council Haitian Children & Families Initiative
  • Inform them that the Haitian international adoption process is unreasonably delayed.
  • Inform them that children referred to U.S. families are anguishing in institutions
  • Inform them that the backlog of children in the process of adoption is preventing orphanages, who serve as local humanitarian aid providers, from continuing to assist their communities.
  • Inform them that due to the interruption of services provided by the orphanages, Haitian children outside the orphanages are needlessly dying.
  • Ask that their office to sign the Dear Colleague letter regarding the pending Haitian adoption law, sponsored by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Senator Sam Brownback. The letter asks that adoptions currently in process be speedily granted Presidential Dispensation and that the new adoption law be passed. Sample Statement
    Hello,

    We are calling/writing on behalf of the Haitian Children & Families Initiative. We, as your constituents, are asking that the Senator/Congressperson sign the Dear Colleague letter regarding the pending Haitian adoption law, sponsored by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Senator Sam Brownback.

    As you may be aware, the Haitian adoption process is unreasonably delayed. Children already matched with adoptive families are languishing in orphanages for two and three years. The orphanages, which have traditionally served as humanitarian aid outreach centers, have run out of resources and are no longer able to offer assistance to their communities. Haitian children outside the orphanages are dying needlessly as a direct result of the delayed adoptions.

    Your office must get involved and sign the Dear Colleague letter to support the Haitian government in their effort to assist the homeless and abandoned children of Haiti.

    Sincerely,

What should you say or write to UNICEF? Speak from your heart and give them the following information.

  • Inform them that you are calling regarding the Joint Council Haitian Children & Families Initiative
  • Ask them to support the rights of children and lend their considerable influence to ensuring that intercountry adoptions currently in-process be speedily processed to completion under the existing Presidential Dispensation clause.
  • Inform them that many adoptions are taking two or three years to process, during which time children languish in orphanages.
  • Inform them that due to the overextension of their resources, orphanages are no longer able to provide their traditional humanitarian aid services to their communities, such as free schools, medical care, temporary child care for families in crisis, and family preservation programs.
  • Inform them that as a direct result of the orphanage’s inability to provide humanitarian aid due to overly taxed resources, children are needlessly dying in the streets outside the orphanages.
  • Ask them again for their support of the Presidential Dispensation and the swift passage of the new adoption law.

    Sample Statement
    Hello, We are calling/writing on behalf of the Joint Council Haitian Children & Families Initiative

    As financial supporters of UNICEF (through our tax dollars), we are asking that UNICEF lends its support and considerable influence to the Joint Council Haitian Children & Families Initiative

    As you may be aware, the Haitian adoption process is unreasonably delayed. Children already matched with adoptive families are languishing in orphanages for two and three years. The orphanages, which have traditionally served as humanitarian aid outreach centers, have run out of resources and are no longer able to offer assistance to their communities. Haitian children outside the orphanages are dying needlessly as a direct result of the delayed adoptions.

    UNICEF must get involved to ensure that adoptions in process be speedily granted Presidential Dispensation so that they can be completed in a timely manner, and that the new adoption law be passed.

    Sincerely,

Can you explain the problem behind the current crisis? Here is some additional information…

  • The current constitutional law, written in 1974 by Jean Claude Duvalier, severely restricts who may adopt from Haiti. The only method by which the Haitian government may permit adoptions to non-conforming families is via Presidential Dispensation.
  • The lack of a defined and efficient Dispensation process has caused delays of up to three years for children in the adoption process. Prolonged institutionalization has been scientifically proven to be highly detrimental to children.
  • As orphanages expend their limited resources caring for children in the process of adoption over extended periods, they are unable to provide their traditional humanitarian aid programs to their communities.
  • The existing adoption law provides almost no protection for the rights of abandoned children, their birth parents, or adoptive families. It offers no safe guards against human trafficking.
  • A proposed adoption law will alleviate the crisis by standardizing and streamlining adoptions, and will far better protect abandoned Haitian children from child trafficking.

What else can you do? In addition to your primary calls to U.S. Congress and UNICEF, you can call the Haitian Embassy:

Embassy of Haiti in the U.S.
2311 Massachusetts Avenue,
N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008
Office Phone 1- 202.332.4090
Office Fax 1- 202-745-7215
embassy@haiti.org

You’ve all heard the saying “If you fail to plan you plan to fail”. We’ve heard it so much that it’s almost cliché. But I would submit that if you can get beyond the cliché and spend some time planning your sales strategy you’ll far exceed sales goals.

A few things I consider when making my plan:

  1. Who am I working for?
    At first glance you might quickly respond “the company of course”. While that’s true you’re really working for yourself. Put yourself in the mind set of being more than just a salesman. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur you will think of your territory as your business. And developing strategies and plans for building a business territory are far different than simply driving for a sales quota. Making the shift from a sales thinker to an entrepreneur will change everything; your call strategy, your personal marketing strategy, your treatment of customers and even your internal strategy with management.
  2. Set a goal that will make you push
    Traditionally when the average sales person meets with their sales manager the tend to commiserate or make excuses for  their average performance. They’ll  justify their performance  and when encouraged to do better will walk back to the desk and grumble that the sale quota went up by 15% – how am I every going to hit that goal?

    Sound familiar? Let me challenge you to do something different this year. For the past 5 years I’ve set my own business goals – notice I didn’t say sales quota — and those goals have exceeded the sales quota set by management.  Believe it or not ever year I’ve SMASHED the quota set by my manager.

    Because approach my territory as my my business I know I control my own destiny and thus build my own business strategies.  In fact I make it a practice to share my r business strategy with my boss. This action puts accountability in place. Now you’re not just accountable to yourself but your boss knows your plan and can help you fulfill your plan.  (Hint don’t tell him your personal business strategy has a higher sales goal. Remember under promise OVER deliver).

    Along with this I encourage you to build a daily, weekly and quarterly plan.  Now that you have a business strategy and the appropriate sales goals pull out the calendar and plan each day of the week. I recommend start by looking at the quarter and then work backwards to each month, each week and each day. This will enable you to identify key events and work towards those events. For example if I have a sales trip in Mid-March I don’t want to set appointments the week before the trip. No I want to start January 1 with the goal that Mid-March I’m going to meet with 8 customers. I then plan each day and each week to make sure I have a successful travel week.

  3. Go to work !
    Simple as it sounds once you have your business plan in front of you go and get busy implementing. What are you waiting for? Go get it done!

    Oh and one other thing… Evaluate your plan and your performance against the plan from time to time. Remember your plan shouldn’t be set in stone. In fact a good plan will have some flexibility built-in. You need to ensure you’re not so rigid that you don’t allow for course correction in your plan. Remember it’s healthy to evaluate your plan. Just as important is that you evaluate your performance of the plan. This requires an honest assessment – and honest evaluation of your efforts against your own plan. And sometimes that’s the hardest honest evaluation to make.

Best of luck and Happy Selling!

I’m a firm believer that relationships are everything. Everything I do is geared specifically to build a relationship. One of the areas that I think is often neglected is the simple act of giving thanks.

When was the last time you had an associate, customer, friend or even family member call you up and say thank you. This week I took a moment to call a long time customer that has done a lot of work with me of the years to say “I’m just calling to say Thank You for your business over the years and more importantly to thank you for our association”. The conversations that ensued honestly amazed me.

This simple act of gratitude opened the doors to incredible conversations where feelings of gratitude were expressed on both sides. And to my surprise, one of my more challenging customers after expressing his gratitude informed me they were planning new projects specifically because of the service I’d offered through the year. My only regret is that I didn’t call all of my customers.

So just let me say “Thank You for reading my blog. I honestly hope you find some of my points useful in your sales efforts.”

Happy Selling!

Guiding the Sale to Close

Posted: August 3, 2009 in Sales

Last week I had the opportunity to go to lunch with a long time associate to discuss taking he’s business to the next level. He’s been incredibly successful developing a core group of customers. His customer loyalty is exceptional. He delivers a solid product. But he struggles in his efforts to win new business.

While discussing his challenges he made the comment “I seem to educate my potential customers well, but they don’t ever seem to go beyond that. What am I missing?”

We visited for a few more minutes and his problem became very clear. It’s the same problem most average sales people have – he presents his products well but he doesn’t guide his customer to any sort of action.

Let me demonstrate a guiding scenario. We’ll pick up the dialog after the presentation has been made to the customer…

Customer: Wow, your product is amazing. I didn’t realize those options were available. They sure would make a difference in what I’m doing.

Seller: How so?

Customer: That one feature alone would save me at least an hour a day just in clerical duties.

Seller: And is that the same for you colleagues?

Customer: Absolutely, there are three of us that do the same thing. It’s a real chore.

Seller: If I could eliminate that one challenge how would that impact your current work loads? (Conditional pre-buy based on resolving a problem)

Customer: It’d be amazing. It’d free me up to do ____________ which seems to never get done. But you know how it is, we’re so invested in the current system we’d never make a change.

Seller: I completely understand. Obviously we’ll want to leverage your previous investment and build a strategy that helps you get the features in our product that will help address the previous issues you articulate. Now if I could help you build that strategy and the business case for our product would you make the decision to move forward? (Conditional buy)

Customer: Oh yeah, but…

Seller: If I could eliminate that roadblock when would you want to move foward? (Another conditional purchase with the added time line.)

Customer: Sure but to do that you would also have to get my boss’ approval.

Seller: Ok, no problem. We can work through each of these together. I recommend we take the next few steps. (Outline the steps)

Once those are accomplished we’ll then outline the next series of activities to get you the solution you need. (Assumed Close)

Customer: Great

Seller: Ok for the first item will need to _______. Let’s set an appointment for next Tuesday to followup and report on_________….

This will then take us to __________ By the time we get to this stage we’ll be able to make a presentation to your boss and outline a plan for final implementation.

Does that sound like a good plan to you?

Customer: Absolutely

Seller: Ok let’s move forward with……

================

Do you see what’s happening?

You’re taking control of the sale. The client internally is visualizing a mountain of steps to get authorization for something he really needs. You as the season professional are taking action and guiding the client in a path that he might not otherwise see — a path designed by you that will help him get the solution he needs while helping you win the sale. At each step your building a case for your product, reaffirming its value to the customer and asking for the sale based on certain conditions being realized.

It’s a simple formula that puts you in the driver seat. So take the lead and guide your customer to that next sale.

Happy Selling!