Archives for March 2012

How To Reduce Your Sales Cycle And Why It Matters!







In working to gain new business and build a sold pipeline, it is normal to have certain prospects with extraordinarily long sales cycles (or buying cycles).

Who says that it has to be this way? Guess what? It doesn’t – you have a choice! When working to create a pipeline, it is normal to also create ‘eyewash’. Yep, those prospects that have shown interest but your instincts speak loudly to you saying that the timing is not right.

Let’s look at a simple yet effective solution for the ‘how to’ portion.

Step 1: The ‘How To’
This boils down to simple no nonsense prospect qualification

As you speak with your prospects, a simple set of basic questions techniques will serve you well. These questions are:

1. What are some of the key challenges that are facing you today?
2. What are your requirements and expectations regarding your ________ program?
3. What criteria do you use in choosing a new supplier?
(If the conversation is tracking in a positive manner then pose question #4)
4. What would you consider as a next step?

My experience has taught me that if your prospect is willing to shoot straight with you, and is willing to answer each of these questions, then more often than not you have a solid prospect with the timing aspect in your favor.

Step 2: The ‘Why’

Simple. You are valuable. Your time matters. If the timing is not right, place these “wanna be’s” into your later file. You later file is a group of prospects with great potential, but unfortunately the timing is not right. Stay the course through your nurturing process. Your competitor will slip, or the landscape will change and your past nurturing efforts will work to your advantage.

In sticking with the above process you will accomplish three things. One – you will reduce your sales cycles because you are working with prospects where they are interested in making a change. Two – your stress levels will be greatly reduced. Three – you will have more fun in the process.

Let it rip. You can create qualified prospects that offer shorter sales cycles.

To your success,

[How Do You Roll?] Helpful Insights To Make A Positive Difference

This is a great question “How do you roll?” Moreover, how should a professional sales rep (you and I) roll? I have asked this question since I was on the buying end of the equation earlier this week.

Recently in working with one of my customers they reached the decision that to truly differentiate their offering, they needed the assistance of some scientific data to lend credibility to their marketing strategy. In doing so, several laboratories were contacted and subsequent visits paid to each.

After reaching a decision on a local laboratory, price negotiations began involving their chief engineer and their ‘sales rep’. We reached an agreement on price, testing parameters, and start date. Business as usual. To our surprise, we received an email from their ‘sales rep’ requesting payment upfront. We were somewhat hesitant but agreed none the less. All during the process their ‘sales rep’ is all smiles and charm (sound familiar?). We dropped off the test samples, met with the engineer to again cover the test specifics. Oddly enough no sales rep. On the way out we were escorted through a different area of their office. There in the hall was their sales rep. Our rep and I passed this person and spoke. To my surprise he stopped briefly and acted as if he barely knew who we were.

By this time I felt slighted. Curiosity got the best of me so I asked “Is he having a bad day or does he have a twin?” The only response we received from a member of their staff was – “Hey, he is a sales rep. You paid your money and he is off on another project…that is how he rolls.”

Really? In this scenario I was on the buying end of this transaction and experienced what many of our competitors customers and prospects experience.

This does not have to be the case. So let’s ask the question again. How Do You Roll? Below are two simple suggestions that you can apply that will create and maintain a strong relationship for your customers and prospects.

  1. Show a sincere interest in what they are doing and trying to accomplish.
  2. When the time is right, demonstrate how you can make a positive contribution in helping them achieve their objectives and solve their problems.

Next time you are asked “How Do You Roll?”, give any one the above suggestions a shot and show them that they are your priority. Hey, that is How We Roll!

To your success,

[4 Buying Influences] Each one Counts!

Last Tuesday morning I was in the middle of hosting a webinar and my phone was blowing up. (Thankfully I remembered to put it on silent.)

The two messages weren’t enough so my friend shot me a text message to make sure I got her message.

When we spoke she said “we finally got ‘em”. What she was referring to was a large grocery chain that she and her team had been pursuing for five long years. Having spent 24 years in the chemical industry, I can to you that these long sales cycles are normal.

After the congratulations were taken care of she mentioned that she was not only excited about the win, but was relieved that she was able to recover from a tactical error of not including each of the ‘buying influences’ which lengthened the process and almost cost her the opportunity.

My first words were ‘tell me more’.

She I have known and practiced for many years the four buying influences that are part of many buying decisions. These include the economic buyer, the user buyer, the technical buyer and the coach. I said “Yep, straight out of book ‘The New Strategic Selling’”.

She went on to say:

After the RFP was sent out and we were one of the final qualifiers, I got caught up in working with their operation team (user buyer), their CFO and his team (economic buyer) and the coach (the CEO) that I overlooked the technical buyer with my follow up and correspondence. Over time this lead to unforeseen delays in the process and the incumbent was able to strengthen their position. She said this was foolish on my part since our offering is driven heavily by customized reports which our IT team and their IT team must be in alignment on (technical buyer) to make this a reality.

Thankfully a person that I had developed a relationship with on their panel pointed out my error. I immediately called the technical buyer to apologize and he granted a meeting with our CIO. Over a short period of time these two professionals connected and we regained our position over the incumbent – whew. Today, four months later after correcting my mistake and regaining the trust of the entire panel, we won the business!

Lesson learned …. To not only identify but include the four buying influences from start to finish in the decision making process.

A few minutes ago my phone rang and my friend will be receiving a RFP from another huge grocery store chain. This time, she said, I am going to get it right from step one.

I know she will and so can you!

To your success,

Activity Trumps Attrition

4 Solutions That Will Protect Your Business

It’s a fact, attrition is going to happen to your territory, your sales team, and your organization – always has, always will. In short attrition is inevitable. The key question is what are you doing about it?

Wikipedia refers to this KPI as customer attrition and defines it as follows…

Customer attrition, also known as customer churn, customer turnover, or customer defection, is a business term used to describe loss of clients or customers.

I have seen from an up close and very personal perspective how sales attrition wreaked havoc on my career, and later other businesses by not have a strategic plan in place. In doing so it affects everything- your quality of work, your career and your family. One day all is well, then a key customer makes a decision to leave, or you lose an RFP that you had counted on and everything changes. Sound familiar? Are you there now?

It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a solution.

Going forward let’s focus proactively on four proven principles on how your activity can trump your sales attrition every time. Will it go away? Nope, not all but by applying each of the four steps you can create significant sales synergies that will protect you and your team well into the future. But you have to begin now. There are no shortcuts!

Let’s set the stage with a real life experience. A few years back I was speaking with a member of the senior management team. He mentioned that he had gained market share with his top three customers but his top line sales were not reflecting this growth. The fact is that attrition was eating away at his base of business in small incremental ways that had gone unnoticed affecting the top line. One key cause was due to the fact that he was losing market share with many customers that were not in their top 10 tier. In short, the competitor was taking market share one bite at a time. This combined with no strategic or tactical ‘customer growth plan’ played a huge role. To make matters more exciting I learned that new business growth was not a real priority and as a result an active pipeline was not in place.

This is but one example that comes to mind. I am sure you could site several examples as well.

It doesn’t have to be that way – let’s take a look at four solutions that collectively can create solid, healthy activity that can trump attrition.

  • Existing customers:

1. Retain
2. Grow (organically)

  • Former customers:

3. Recover

  • New customers:

4. New Business Acquisition

Let’s take a closer look at each of these solutions.

  • Retain – these are defined as customers where organic growth is limited or non-existent. In short the customer is sending you the majority of their business. None the less, they must be protected, and nurtured with an active plan
  • Grow – these are defined as customers that offer organic growth opportunities that can lead to huge margins for your company.
    • In many cases businesses that create customer retention rates by 5% saw increases in their profits ranging from 5% up to a whopping 95% ref. Frederick Reicheld of Bain & Company
  • Recover – to focus on this segment there are typically two types. Those that have chosen to leave fully by pulling all of their business, or those have left partially and have only transitioned a portion of their business to a competitor.
  • New Business Acquisition – studies show that acquiring a new customer can cost 6-7 times more than retaining an existing customer. None the less new growth is the lifeblood of any business.

Each of the above solutions requires a different skill set and will take a significant level of time and commitment to set up. Dependent upon your organization they may be handled by different departments. For example ‘recover’ may be handled by a focused area of customer service. New business acquisition typically belongs to sales while customer retention is handled by marketing.

Regardless of your model, each of these are important to your survival and success.

Our goal is to offer proven solutions that will inspire you to create a road map and blue print that will encourage and strengthen your position in the market place by using Activity to Trump Attrition.

To your success,