Archives for February 2012

[I am sorry but] 3 minutes is all you have

Are you kidding me? Really?

This past week I was asked to participate in a sales appointment with one of my customer’s national reps – this guy is a true professional, has worked hard to qualify, conducted a needs analysis, his prospects need and his company’s offering are in alignment, timing is good, etc. Needless to say I was excited and honored to be a part of the action.

The sales call objective around this appointment was to convince the committee that we had a viable solution, and could scale with their future growth.

You know the whole bit: preparation, confirming the appointment (just to make sure), and then travel adventure beginning with a 6:00 a.m. flight. Everything is lining up for a perfect setting.

We arrived at their corporate office a few minutes early, and are escorted to their conference room. We hook up our lap top and are ready to begin our one hour appointment.

In walks a party of three of the five decision makers, two with iPads and notebooks in hand – so far so good.

After a normal exchange of hand shakes, and business cards we return to our seats. Instantly we can tell that this is not going to go as planned. Then bam – the ring leader (who our rep has not met up to this point) says our schedules have shifted dramatically… I am sorry but 3 minutes is all that you have. The other two looked uneasy and shocked at his opening.

My first thought was, are you kidding me? There is obviously no time to review our customized power point and whip out the full color brochures (which they asked for by the way as part of our presentation).

The rep looked at me and smiled and then looked at each of the three and then focused eye to eye on Mr. Wonderful. What happened next was classic sales professionalism in terms of ‘connecting’ and using the power of questions. His first words were ‘we understand’ your schedule shift’ with that may I ask you a few questions? Of which the response was- of course.

Here goes…

  1. Would you mind sharing with me what is your biggest challenge relative to XXXXX?
  2. What are your requirements and expectations for our type of product offering?
  3. How do you choose a supplier?

The first question and response took just under 2 minutes. In responding Mr. Wonderful seemed relaxed as did his counterparts. Now question number two – the same reaction, but the response pushed well over four minutes. Everyone in the room is totally engaged. Then came question number three.

All in all we concluded 45 minutes later. Mr. Wonderful was happy, felt comfortable, and has given the green light for his team to move forward.

Bottom line: This was a test, a test that meant moving forward or disqualification. The key influencer was not interested in a pitch or product knowledge. Instead he wanted a company/solution that he felt fully understood his challenges. He did not want to be sold but was interested in buying from a group that understood his business objectives.

Next time you only have three minutes, give these a shot!

To your success,

Ok, thanks for calling!

Sometime you have to stand your ground

Putting in the time, qualifying heavily and connecting with the true buying authority is key in any buying selling exchange. These steps were in place on the front en of the buying cycle.

Time for a face of face meeting.

On a recent road trip with one of my customers national reps we flew out late one afternoon for a morning meeting in Pittsburg. I’ll spare you the details but the meeting went well. We connected well and positioned our offering as a resource through basic questions. At the conclusion of our meeting, we agreed on following up with some key information and a date to determine next steps. Time to grab a coffee and head to the airport. I followed up with a discussion summary, received a thank you for coming, and thought we are gaining the long awaited traction.

Fast forward two weeks.

I followed up on the date and time as agreed, addressed the information that was requested and received then the decision maker responds with the generic/vanilla your offering is a commodity – ‘thank you for calling’. Wow my first thought was what happened since our previous meeting?

It’s now or never to test the real commitment to moving forward. Here goes – my next questions were:

  1. Which portion of our offering do you feel best suits your needs?
  2. If we decide to move forward what type of follow up strategy do you prefer? (note the ‘we’ as in my customer)?

Dead silence. Then a change in demeanor and a sincere response to both and a promise to place an opening order.

Two hours later an order was placed. The office was in a state of celebration.

Lesson learned. The timing was perfect, yet a consultative approach made the difference in moving forward.

Stay the course in the midst of your buying cycle. If you have a sincere prospect with a solid offering you can penetrate a long standing incumbent and accelerate growth for you and your organization. Be ready you may have to stand your ground.

To your success,

5 Solutions To Avoid A Fire Drill With Your Prospect

Does this sound familiar?

One of my customer’s senior rep. has been working to gain serious traction with a national player. Great chemistry, lunch at a recent trade show, several email exchanges – even common ground in terms of sports and the age of their children.

Bam! A rush order out of the blue appears, in fact a small order with high demands and short turn around time. The group rises to the occasion fulfills the order based on the buyers criteria hoping this equates to capitalizing on a competitors mistake or lack of preparation.

The rep reaches the now customer to thank him and to begin the cultivation process only to hear – great job in helping us with our fire drill. Translation – he is a back up supplier only to be used in rush cases. You have been there as have I. Some may view this as a proving ground while in reality under the existing circumstances it is a dead end.

What really happened? Simple. The incumbent ran out of product and a quick fix was in order.

Lets look at this from a positive and creative perspective on what you can do instead of what was not done.

5 Tested solutions:

  1. Qualify- research on the front end to make sure their business, and objectives are in alignment with your offering and solution.
  2. Identify- research to discover the right decision maker.
  3. Leverage- your existing relationships to refer you to the right person.
  4. Connect- with the decision makers to discover their requirements and expectations in choosing a new supplier.
  5. Cultivate- with a planned follow up strategy that clearly communicates new ideas and how your service can create a solution for them.

Best to you in using these to create a healthy prospecting experience, a healthy pipeline and new business opportunities.

To your success,

5 Proven Steps to Renew Your Sales Influence

You are working hard, and have done so from day one. You have exceeded well beyond your expectations when your adventure in sales began. You have developed an experience curve that is respected and valued by both your customers and organization. You are viewed as a ‘game changer’.

But perhaps in recent months you have noticed that the zip isn’t there. Your passion has waned. Overall your ‘game changer’ results and influence are not up to par. You ask, “Is it the economy?  My offering? My organization?”

Truth is, each of these could be contributing factors, but before you halt your analysis – have you considered that a portion of what you are experiencing may be you? Is it possible that you are just on ‘autopilot’ and your experience curve is actually working against you?

For sometime now, your experience and instincts alone have served you well (and they will in the future). But if you have discovered that the reason behind your performance shift is that you are operating on autopilot, then today is different. To regain the performance levels of which you are capable, hitting ‘refresh’ and abandoning autopilot is a must!

Below are 5 proven principles to regain your ‘Game Changer’ level of performance whether you are a sales professional or sales leader. I would encourage you to take action before someone or your circumstances takes action for you:

  1. Hit the streets with a new rep calling on existing customers – early and often.
  2. Get involved with their on-boarding process. Avoid leaving them alone to sink or swim. Once they figure it out, in their mind they will no longer need you.
  3. Become a player coach by creating and nurturing 2-3 prospects through the buying process.
  4. Share your activity and accomplishments with your team as you advance through the buying cycle. This builds trust as you lead from the front and advances their learning curve.
  5. Once you land a new piece of business (and you will, you always have) transition it to a deserving rep.

Do these things and you will be  a renewed ‘game changer’ with an increased level of influence.

To your success,