Archives for November 2012

We Made The Short List

How often have you heard the statement “We Made The Short List”?

What does it really mean? More often than not it is another way of saying we fell short.

This morning I was with a customer in Orlando. Their CEO pulled out the stops just prior to Thanksgiving to congratulate his team for what looks to be a record year as they head into December.

While the celebration was in place, I noticed a call on my phone from a number that I did not recognize. The caller left a voice mail. Within 30 minutes the same number appeared – this time I took the call.

The caller was the CEO of a small industrial company, located in the Midwest, that I had met a few months ago on a return flight from Dallas. After a short exchange, he cut to the chase and told me why he was calling.

We need help…

The CEO stated that he has a unique product offering, supported by a great staff. However, his challenge is that the sales team is winning less than 20% of the jobs that are quoted. This is down from the industry norm of 30-40%.

What is working?

With that piece of information in mind, I asked him what ‘is’ working for the sales team? He stated, that they are able to find new opportunities, and are even given the opportunity to compete through the quoting process. They present their offering around the customer’s expectations … and then the wheels fall off. They are told that they ‘made the short list’ but are not being chosen for the final evaluation phase.

What changes need to be made?

The next question is always predictable… “What changes do we need to make?” In the majority of the cases, a few minor adjustments need to be made. Based on the information shared, I made the following suggestions.

6 simple suggestions that will work for you:

  1. Did you fully understand their requirements and expectations in the beginning?
  2. Did these change during the buying cycle?
  3. Why are they willing to change?
  4. What are their specific challenges?
  5. Has the incumbent attempted, or been given the opportunity to ‘fix their own mistake’?
  6. Once you were able to define the above criteria, did you introduce anything new, too much new (front of the curve stuff)?

Next steps

After an hour on the phone going into great detail. My final question was “what will your next steps be? What is your plan going forward? By the statements made I was left with the impression that he is willing to make the above course corrections and so we agreed to speak in mid-January to see check his teams progress.

The big challenge with any sales opportunity is to avoid beating yourself by not qualifying thoroughly and identify their true needs on the front end of the buying cycle.

If this scenario sounds familiar, shoot me an email … I would be interested in listening to what you have to say.

To your sales success,

9 Magic Guidelines For Pulling Away Or Pushing Through No-Man’s Land

The difference between sales success and failure often lies in your persistence and willingness to persevere.

However in a long buying cycle there are times when decisions are not being made on our time table. All of the high hopes on the front end are now in flux.

This is why persistence and perseverance are important for the sales professional. However the middle of the cycle, or ‘no mans land’ often creates doubt and questions. Do you make mid-course corrections, or do you simply stay the course? Do you reduce your time and financial investment and place your valuable time on another prospect?

Stay the course and your sales efforts could lead to success. Exit from ‘no mans land’ and it could lead to failure. The hard part is deciding which direction to take.

Consider this real experience….

Bob sells on a national level for a large medical services supplier. One of his larger prospects has invited him to participate in their RFP process due to his understanding of the industry, his service offering and his ability to build trust throughout the propects organization.

Bob is competing with an incumbent that also matches his attributes and his organization, plus they have tenure with the true decision makers. The purchasing decision will be made by leaders from various levels and positions in the organization. Namely, the coach (CEO), financial buyer (CFO & team), user buyer (operations), technical buyer (clinical team).

Bob and his team has successfully made it through the initial and follow up presentations, plus a series of one on one meetings with members of the buying committee. Each of these strategic steps were critical in being granted a 3 month pilot with three offices across the U.S.

The pilot in each of the offices started out at various levels of enthusiasm which is common in their industry – change and loyalty are often our greatest ally or obstacle. At the end of the second month the committee felt that further testing was in order.

Bob has some concerns with the overall acceptance at office level, however in speaking with the buying team he is receiving positive feedback. That said, the test has been extended yet again which will now cover a five month span.

Bob is in the uncertain middle, or better known as ‘no mans land’. What should Bob do? Stay the course or pull away? What would you do?

Whether Bob stays he course or pulls away, there are 9 guidelines that can help him navigate through ‘no mans land’:

  1. Have the committees priorities shifted? Are you aware, and have you adapted to their new priorities?
  2. Is there anything conflicting going on internally between the committee members?
  3. Did you connect with each of the committee members in the beginning?
  4. Did you connect with the influencers in the pilot offices in the beginning?
  5. Did they define their requirements and expectations, and how progress will be measured?
  6. Is skepticism and pushback beginning to decline at all levels?
  7. Have critical deadlines and objectives been met?
  8. Is the team overall motivated to press forward?
  9. Is it more cost-effective to continue that to pay the cost in withdrawing?

If the answers to the majority of these questions are ‘yes’, then it makes smart business sense to push through ‘no mans land’. As a next step, identify any course corrections that need to take place regarding the committee and office staff. Anything worth doing requires strategic resilience for the final half if your test.

If the majority of the answers are no, then cut your losses and move on.

Let me know your thoughts on this below.

All the best,

Overcoming the “Sleeping With The Enemy” Challenge

For those of you that recall seeing the 1991 movie Sleeping With The Enemy starring Julia Roberts and Patrick Bergin, you may well remember the theme and plot of this action thriller.

We often hear a familiar theme played out in our world of professional selling. In this context, the theme often describes an ideal prospect (the sleeper) that you are in pursuit of, but you are facing an entrenched incumbent (the enemy). As in most cases the incumbent has well established trust-based relationships running both horizontally and vertically within your prospects organization. To add to the challenge, the prospect protects the incumbent that he has grown comfortable with.

Something you can count on….

With well established prospect and incumbent relationships, two factors are often are in play:

  1. The pricing may be out of line. This may be intentionally low due to flying under the radar, or high simply because enough people are turning their heads.
  2. New, fresh ideas are few and far between. Why bother?…they are protected and have been for years.

Accepting the challenge….

Now that you have chosen to overcome and accept the challenge, it is time to create a solid strategy using the proven steps below.

Your goal is to find and schedule an initial appointment with a valid decision maker that is open to listening to new ideas.

  1. Find the contact(s) with influence and the authority to create change. This may be a senior manager – perhaps the CEO, or others in the ‘C suite’ that is leading from the front, and open to new ideas. Another option could be in the form of a manager that is open for change, assertive and has a high degree of influence within the organization. Your challenge may be at the executive level. All the more reason to implement the next step.
  2. Peer to peer referral. Once you have found the right contact(s) use certain customers to leverage your credibility on a peer to peer basis. Let your contacts leverage their influence to establish your credibility.
  3. Social Media. The case may be that you do not have a customer at the appropriate level to use the above option. In that case your social media tools such as LinkedIn are invaluable in using your existing contacts to provide the needed leverage.

Once the appointment is obtained, the buying cycle can take on a life of its own. You have survived this long and know what the next steps are to achieve the level of success that you are capable of.

You are to be congratulated! Many retreat and use multiple excuses not to take on a sales challenge such at this. While you may not be Julia Roberts, sometimes all you need is a word of encouragement and a change in perspective to succeed in Overcoming The Sleeping With The Enemy Challenge.

To your success,