Archives for June 2012

[10 Questions] in Nailing Your Friendly Competitor

What has been your experience with your ‘friendly competitor’?

Quick story…..

In preparing to attend an upcoming trade show in California, one of my customer’s national sales rep ( lets call him Dan) and I spoke with his largest customer with the goal in mind of setting an appointment while at the show. Success – appointment granted.

In granting him the hallowed time slot, the customer said ‘I’ll give you first shot over your friendly competitors’ as he offered his three open slots. We chose the first one, just prior to lunch (another story for another time around appointment strategy and choosing time slots.)

After concluding the call, Dan and I had the same gnawing feeling. We both knew that he had the lion’s share of his customer’s business and that the competition was always looking for an opportunity in any area. None the less, we began to list Dan’s biggest competitors, their business model, strengths, weaknesses, innovation skill, and so on.

In doing so this served as a great reminder on knowing our competitor and created a new level of ‘awareness’ as we prepared for the show.

Our next step was to ‘Google’, seeking the following objectives.

The list of questions below is now a template for knowing and studying each my customer’s ‘friendly competitor’. While fundamental in nature, capturing this information can serve to fortify your position and to get your thought process flowing.

  1. Who are your key competitors?
  2. How does their business model and product/service offering compare to yours?
  3. How does their business model and product/service offering contrast with yours?
  4. Where are they superior to you?
  5. Where do you have an edge?
  6. What can you offer that they cannot offer? How does this align with your customers needs?
  7. What is their level of innovation (some offer this on their site under News, or Recent Events)?
  8. How does their leadership team compare with yours? How well connected are their leaders with your industry and key customer and prospect base?
  9. What is their financial strength? Going a little deeper, what terms do they offer? (Don’t get caught off guard here by your competitor perhaps leveraging longer terms.)
  10. Are they going through, or about to go through an M&A?

The question now becomes, how can you leverage your new found knowledge and nail your friendly competitor?

As always I am here to help.

To your success,
Andy

The Golden Triangle

Those of us that have chosen sales as our professional craft recognize that for any approach to have great impact, it must include what is know as “The Golden Triangle”. This is made up of:

  • Industry knowledge
  • Product knowledge
  • Sales skills (at both the consultative and transactional level)

Quick story…

Last month, I walked into the store of a national vitamin chain. My mission was simple – to replenish my typical supply of vitamins. Why change? My self-taught blend has worked for years.

As I walked in, the bell rang, alerting the staff that a customer was entering or exiting the store. (Little did I know that this visit was going to be different. I was going to be met be a professional that took his craft seriously.) Out from the back of the store my new friend emerged with a smile a mile wide, asking if he could assist? As normal I thanked him and pulled my proven blend from the shelf and was ready to check out, minus any chit chat.

His first tactic called on his sales skills by asking three simple questions in a calm confident manner.

  1. How is this working for you?
  2. Was what was my choices based upon, moreover what was I trying to accomplish?
  3. Would I be open to considering an alternative that would combine two if my choices into one, and save me $X in the process?:

Now he had my attention! Nothing about product up to this point.

His second tactic was to support question #3 by sharing his product knowledge in a confident manner. At this point I didn’t feel that I was buying vitamins, instead I was buying his solution to what I wanted my vitamins to accomplish.

Hs third tactic, after he had won my confidence, was to call on his industry knowledge by assuring me that I had made the right decision. He used supporting data stating that his solution would meet and exceed my objectives just by making a few simple changes. Now I was ready to make a change.

After I made my decision he threw in several samples, one being a new formulation of the protein that I am currently using. Smart! He was protecting future sales and setting the stage for a potential up sell with product knowledge included.

In the end, I took the plunge. In doing so I reduced my number of different vitamins by 30% and reduced my costs by 15%.

Conclusion. How many of your customers would be willing to change, once you walk them through the Golden Triangle?

To your success,
Andy

Go with the Flow

I have a great story for you!

This past Monday morning I walked into one of my customer’s business and was met at the door by a Rep. that was jacked with excitement! Long story made short, she had just received a quote from a large prospect that was worth $2 million plus. In their industry that is a monster. In fact, the opportunity to quote went out to only three companies, which is also rare.

Discovering their ‘flow’

How did this happen? What was the secret sauce in getting this far?

Simple. We had to be willing to ‘go with the flow’. But to go with the ‘flow’ we first had to discover their ‘flow’. The ‘flow’ is the natural direction your prospect is taking their business.

This was accomplished by taking the time to research their website, and their social media activity (in this case Twitter, and Linked In). We then had a clear understanding of their objectives, key events, victories, and upcoming projects. We were ready!

‘Go with the flow’

Our next step was to craft an introductory email, outlining their direction and stating that we would welcome an opportunity to learn more about their requirements and expectations. The request was granted.

We then proceeded to craft meaningful questions that showed that we understood their business and could serve as a resource.

The next steps were to ‘go with the flow’ and follow up, offering fresh ideas as the opportunities presented themselves and waiting for the right timing.

Later that day, I talked with the V.P. of Engineering and just before concluding our call I had to ask, how they chose their list of potential suppliers for this particular quote.

His words were simple – you were willing to ‘go with the flow’.

What has been you experience?

New business acquisition is my passion, and as always I am here to help.

To your success,
Andy

[5 Benefits] in Stepping Back from the Day to Day

We have all been there. You have an idea that inspires you and the potential to benefit others, but your energy and normal level of creativity just isn’t up to par.

The “day to day grind” is a topic for another discussion, but I would encourage you to set it to the side for a period of time…to get away and think – here is why.

  1. It will rejuvenate your thinking.
  2. Your thoughts will transition from fragmentation to a razor sharp focus.
  3. You will create a fresh momentum to carry you into the future.
  4. You will feel better.
  5. The result is an increased value to your customer.

The ability to learn and master the day to day grind takes a special will (which warrants a separate discussion).

I would challenge you to calendar some time to get away and think.

Once you do, your creativity will soar, and you can provide the benefit to others that you are truly capable of.

To your success,
Andy

[Pulling Out All of the Stops] One Knob at a Time

Pulling out All of the Stops.” How often have you heard this phrase? And, what does a pipe organ have to do with sales success?

This past week, I was meeting with the senior team of one of our largest customers. The cool part is that 2012 has been a record year for sales. Even cooler is the fact that the CEO acknowledges, issues praise AND is looking for ways to improve.

“Why?” is the unasked question for many. The ‘Why’ is that nothing stays the same; the trend always turns (but that is another story for another time).

During our meeting, a visitor from their Australian parent company stated over and over again (in an effort to assure all in attendance that they/we had their full support) that they would (here we go) “Pull Out All of the Stops” in terms of resources to assure their future success.

Out of the blue, the phrase “Pull Out All of the Stops” sounded different than any other time before. Hmmmm…was it the Australian accent? Or the vitality? No idea. I had, for the first time, a burning desire to find out what this phrase really means.

So naturally I took out my iPad and referred to Google. Here is what I found:

Pulling Out All of the Stops

To deploy all the resources or force at ones disposal.
To make every possible effort.

Or…here is my favorite:
With a pipe organ, the stops or knobs control the loudness and tones. When all are pulled out, the organ can play all tones simultaneously and with maximum volume.

So with that said, I would ask that you consider the following:

Are you willing to “Pull Out All of the Stops”?

  1. Do you ever wonder what is possible?
  2. Are you willing to adjust your intensity to meet the circumstances?

After the meeting, I had the opportunity to have dinner with my Australian friend. My first question was centered around what does “Pulling Out All of the Stops” really mean to him? He carefully explained that he’d reached a point in his sales career where it was time (now or never) to grow in spite of circumstances. His next step was to pull out all of the stops, one knob at a time. In doing so, he saw that it had an immediate impact on others and therefore had an immediate impact on him.

I would challenge you to pull out all the stops so your skills and talents can work simultaneously to benefit those around you. In doing so, the results will take care of themselves.

What has been your experience thus far? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.

To your success,
Andy

[Precepts & Principles] Creating Sales Strength & Vitality

Double digit growth is expected – regardless!

How can you create sales strength and vitality?

Whenever you have been faced with requirements similar those above, you know that you are going to have to raise your level of performance in order to meet expectations. That is the “what”, but what about the “how”? Let’s take a look.

Earlier in my career I was faced with this mandate each and every year while selling on a national level for a Fortune 500 Company. Looking back on it, this was the most challenging time in my sales career…and yet the most rewarding.

Why? Simple; in order to survive I had to figure ‘it’ out. I needed more than product knowledge, industry connections and relationships, and passion. I needed a deeper level of understanding in how I could grow, and in doing so meet my responsibilities (aka keep my job).

I needed the ‘it’. What was ‘it’ going to take to meet and exceed my responsibilities?

The ‘it’ was to discover and to develop a solid understanding of precepts and principles.

Let’s take a closer look ….

Precepts are as clear as “Speed Limit 25.” So what is speeding? Any number over twenty-five MPH. That is a Precept.

So how about in your sales world? One example that I am assisting one of customers with today is “Q3 Top Line Sales of 7% over Q2”. Fairly straightforward anything over 7.0% meets and exceeds the CEO’s expectations.

Then there are Principles. These are general guidelines that require thought and development if you are to truly understand them…like the sign that says “Slow Down Slippery When Wet.”

So how slow is slow? It may mean fifteen miles per hour on a winding mountain road, or thirty miles per hour on a flat road with few curves. Both examples require that we must be alert and aware of certain conditions.

Examples in your sales world are endless, but here is one that will ring familiar to you. “The importance Creating a Healthy Pipeline”. I think that we will agree that creating a pipeline is a must for creating a stable and solid territory and organization. But the question becomes “How do you define healthy?”. Is healthy defined by the number of qualified prospects in your pipeline? Moreover, what is a qualified prospect for you? Could healthy define those prospects that align and match with your offering or those that are borderline?

You are smart and can see where this train of thought can benefit you. These principles require your wisdom and discernment.

So the question now becomes how can you apply precepts and principles to create sales strength and vitality for you and your organization?

As always, if I can do anything to to support your success please contact me.

To your success,
Andy