Archive for the ‘Coaching’


Sales Metrics That Matter

The best sales professionals are constantly looking for help.  Winners are honest in their self-assessment of the skills and competencies – or at least as honest as they can be.

  1. Only 61% of sales reps think they are good at uncovering customer problems. Until they can do that they can’t know how to apply their solutions to help.
  2. Just over half (54%) know how to access Key Players in the buyer’s organizations. The Key Players are critical in the buying decision.
  3. 80% of sales reps think are good at qualification. But 51% of forecasted deals don’t close. Sellers who qualify effectively are 58% more likely to make quota.

Here’s an infographic based on some research we did.

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Battling the 57% – Part 3: Getting Ahead of the Curve

Much has been written about the research that suggests that a buyer is 57% through their buying process before they engage with a vendor. I have written about this how I think the ‘57%’ is sometimes misinterpreted. Sometimes buyers engage with you early, and sometimes the call you after they have done their own research. Strong patterns exist that correlate the level of awareness that a buyer has of a need to act as he rushes headlong to that 57% Point, directly with his propensity to buy something. That is really no surprise. The parallel pattern however is that his level of awareness is inversely proportional to your opportunity to create value. This is a vital opportunity to which every sales strategist should be paying attention and that’s because most effective selling happens before the buyer calls someone for a solution.

 

ACCOUNT PLANNING IS THE NEW MARKETING

Selling early means working in the areas traditionally assigned to marketing: raising awareness, generating interest, and being top of mind as the buyer develops a preference. Our way of expressing this mindset is “Account Planning is the new Marketing.”

Think about what good you can do for your customer early rather than waiting for them to call. This gives you an opportunity to apply account planning principles early and helps you deliver superior value.

Focus on creating, developing, pursuing, and winning business that delivers mutual value to you and your customer. If you can work on a project that’s good for the customer and good for you, it’s more likely to be non-competitive and less price sensitive. By delivering more value to your customer, you’ll improve your opportunity to succeed.

KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER

You need to have a deep understanding of your customer’s business problems and you need to know their people. Our surveys tell us that only 61% of salespeople think they’re good at uncovering their customer’s business problems, and only 54% of sales people believe that they know how to discover this key information. That’s a challenge that you must address and overcome to assure success. If you don’t understand the business problems and don’t know and understand the people, you’re unlikely to create value or make a sale.

SUMMARY

Every buying decision is subject to these four phases: (1) Awareness of need, (2) Interest in solving the problem, (3) Developing a preference for a solution, and (4) Deciding to make a purchase. You need to determine

if you acting before the buyer develops a preference or not? Whenever you can, act early to have a greater opportunity to create value. If you determine that you’re acting after the 57 percent point, you can still prevail if you qualify carefully and work from deep insight about the prospect’s business needs. Then, flank toward your strengths with unique business, target the people who can assist you – and win.

Please feel free to download our latest publication:

Battling the 57%: Deconstructing the Buyer Seller Dance.

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Battling the 57% – Part2: Flanking to Win

I have written before about the statistic that is out there ‘buyers have progressed 57% through their buying process before they engage a salesperson’ – is in fact an average and that how you act before and after ‘the 57%’ is a matter of choice, not a function of averages. It really comes down to whether you engage first with the buyer, or react to their engagement with you. In this post I will set out some guidelines on how you might react ‘after the 57% point’ if you find yourself in that situation.

Let’s first consider the whole spectrum of engagement – the Sales & Marketing Continuum.

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For any purchase, the customer goes through a number of phases, beginning with Awareness. At this point, they learn that you and your product exist. This is followed by Interest where they care about what you (and others) have. The next phase is the critical one. This is where they establish Preference for a given solution or supplier.

When you overlay the 57 percent point on the Sales and Marketing Continuum, you can see that it lies at the critical juncture between Interest and Preference: If they’re already 57 percent through the decision process before they engage you, there’s a high probability that they’ve already established a preference.

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Consider what happens if  you’re late to the game. If that is the case, you’re probably chasing a sale that will be hard to win. In this case how you respond is really important. At this point your competitor is probably in the lead and has been established as the preferred supplier. You need to shift the focus of the customer’s buying criteria to a new or additional issue — one that your solution will uniquely deliver. This is called a Flanking Strategy and can reset the conditions of the sale in your favor.

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There are four things to consider:

  1. Don’t follow the rules. (Your competitor is already winning under the current rules.)
  2. You need to have internal executive support. (You’re changing the game, and someone powerful must help.)
  3. Make your move last.
  4. Don’t open the door to alternative solutions.

However you can’t just arbitrarily adopt a Flanking strategy, you must also have the right conditions in place.

  1. A flanking strategy requires that you offer a solution with unique business value informed by genuine insight about the customer’s needs.
  2. The proposed solution must also favor your unique strengths.
  3. You are devising a specific benefit or value for the customer that your competitor can’t match.

Let’s look at some examples:

In the 1990s, Oracle and Siebel dominated the CRM market. In 1999, salesforce.com entered the field. Rather than asserting, “We’ve got a better CRM,” Salesforce focused attention on a new perceived value by stating that their approach of delivering enterprise software from the cloud would yield a 10X easier deployment cycle. They didn’t sell based on CRM features. Their proposition was that Salesforce was easier to use and easier to deploy – a benefit against which the others couldn’t compete: a unique business value that the customer cared about. Over the last fifteen years Salesforce used a flanking strategy flawlessly and changed the rules in a big way.

In our own case at The TAS Group, we also adopted a flanking strategy to introduce our solutions. We examined the business of sales training, methodology and effectiveness tools: $10 billion of expenditure every year. But research showed that on average 87 percent of that training was ineffective after thirty days: $8.7 billion wasted. Clearly, traditional approaches weren’t the most effective investment for improving sales team productivity. Our solution, Dealmaker – embedded decades of sales methodology in a smart, easy-to-use software application – uniquely helps companies to operationalize their sales effectiveness initiatives – for true, sustained sales transformation. Our flanking strategy was born of this insight and helped us establish a new market category: “How do you operationalize your sales effectiveness? What do you do when the sales trainer leaves?”

While customers have an ever-increasing opportunity to research their own solution before they engage with a supplier you have an opportunity to shape the subsequent interaction by helping them to learn what you want them to know.

Feel free to download The TAS Group’s latest publication, Battling the 57%: Deconstructing the Buyer Seller Dance or for a more detailed treatment of how to add value to your customers, check out the #1 Amazon Bestseller Account Planning in Salesforce.

 

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Battling the 57% – Buyers Buy Different Things

There’s a statistic out there that buyers have, on average, progressed 57% through their buying process before they engage a salesperson. That ‘average’ piece seems to have been lost, and a commonly held-belief now is that this 57% is a fact in all cases.

How you act before and after ‘the 57%’ is a matter of choice, not a function of averages. Buyers buy different things, and sellers sell differently. You get to choose. But first, let’s explore the differences.

As we researched this topic, we spoke to many of our great customers to see what they had observed. Here’s their buyer’s point of view.

  • Xerox sells many things, including copier paper. Copier paper is a commodity. As a buyer I don’t need a lot of advice. I’m going to buy frequently and only care that the price/quality is reasonable.
  • Hewlett-Packard provides most things an IT buyer might need, including a cool laptop called the HP Envy – a little more complex than my copier paper.
  • If I wanted a temperature control system in our building, Honeywell is the place to go. It’s a more specialized purchase than a laptop.  I am probably going to need guidance and advice.
  • Harmonic sells media controller systems that manage video workflows in some of the world’s largest and most demanding video environments. That’s not something I want to buy on my own. I’ll need some consultative advice.
  • Box provides enterprise online data sharing and large-scale content management services. Buyers want to engage strategically when determining their enterprise content strategy. It’s a big commitment.
  • If you are choosing Salesforce as your CRM, it is likely to have significant impact on your business. You know it is important to get some serious advice.

As evident from these examples, there is a lot of variability in how buyers need to engage before buy, so let’s look about how you might deconstruct that.

Organizational Impact is a Driver of Buyer Engagement

If you engage early with the buyers in their buying cycle you will be more successful.  That is a core tenet of my book Account Planning in Salesforce (free extract here). Being a buyer isn’t as easy as it might seem. Understanding and articulating their own needs and then finding the best solution can be a stressful exercise.  The greater the organizational impact, the more stressful it gets.  Buyers need help.

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The two axes on this graph are cost and intellectual property (IP) intensity.  As they increase, so does organizational impact. Buyers then need help in establishing criteria, evaluating options and choosing a solution. The engaged salesperson can create value for their customer and gain more control of the deal.

There are also two other factors that matter: risk and frequency. Organizational risk is higher when choosing a CRM system than it is when buying copier paper. The buyer performs greater diligence and needs more guidance. Also, greater frequency translates to greater familiarity and less need for help. I buy copier paper more often than I buy a temperature control system so I know how to make the copier paper purchase on my own.

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In the chart here you can see in the top right quadrant, our buyer is more likely to engage the supplier early, because a business process infrastructure project is usually high cost, contains a lot of IP value and a bad decision carries significant risk.

Conversely, there is less IP value in purchasing utilities (e.g. electricity). The difference when buying office equipment is even more striking; Cost, IP and Risk are typically low and Frequency is high, so buyers are less likely to need a seller to guide them.

Here’s the thing: If your solutions don’t fit into the bottom left quadrant, your buyers likely want to engage with you (or your your competitor) much earlier in their process, and there are many things you can do to influence the outcome.

In the next post, I’ll help you understand how to respond when the buyer is in fact well along the path to developing a buying preference. In the meantime, please feel free to download our latest publication Battling the 57%: Deconstructing the Buyer Seller Dance.

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Battling the 57%: From Sex to Romance – The Ultimate Flank

Don’t be put off by the title. This might not be what you expect.  And sometimes that’s the point.

There is a lot of nuance behind the 57% statistic – the CEB research that says buyers are 57% through their purchase cycle before they contact a supplier – and there are things you should do before, during, and after, the 57% point, if indeed this applies to your business.  (I promise I will get to the romance shortly.)

I think it is important to reflect on what the 57% really means and the limit of its impact. It is getting a little out of control. (I have organized a webinar on March 25 to dispute/clarify/de-bunk/resolve a few of the myths.)  What is obvious is that you want to be in a position where you can educate the customer before they get to the 57% point. But let’s say that your buyer has indeed progressed 57% through their buying process before they contact you.  What do you do?

If the buyer is 57% through the cycle, then they will most likely have a preference for someone. If it is you then you might have a short sales cycle. Perhaps their search has been truly unbiased and you are now part of a short-list. But if their preference is for a competitor, you will need to change the criteria they have used to get this far.  Redefining customers’ purchase criteria is one of the most powerful ways you can wrest leadership from a competitor.  In the TAS methodology we refer to this a Flanking Strategy – and that gets me to a story I read in the December 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review.

From Sex to Romance – The Ultimate Flank.

Pfizer launched Viagra (the erectile dysfunction drug) in April 1998, with a record 600,000 prescriptions in that month alone at a price of $10 per dose. Pfizer created an entirely new market on the basis of one key criterion of purchase: efficacy. The drug got the job done! By 2001 annual sales had reached $1.5 billion.

Not long after that Cialis entered the market. Whereas Viagra was effective for four to five hours, Cialis lasted up to 36 hours, making it potentially much more convenient for customers to use.

At the time, the key criteria that physicians considered when prescribing were efficacy and safety with a combined relative importance of 70%. Duration had a relative importance of 10%.

The marketing team behind Cialis decided to emphasize the benefits of duration—being able to choose a time for intimacy in a 36-hour window, and set the price higher than Viagra to underscore its superiority.  The new criterion of purchase – marketed as romance and intimacy rather than sex – caught on. A BusinessWeek article reporting on an early positioning study stated, “Viagra users who had been informed of the attributes of both drugs were given a stack of objects and asked to sort them into two groups, one for Viagra and the other for Cialis. Red lace teddies, stiletto-heeled shoes, and champagne glasses were assigned to Viagra, while fluffy bathrobes and down pillows belonged to Cialis. In 2012 Cialis passed Viagra’s $1.9 billion in annual sales, with duration supplanting efficacy as the key criterion of purchase.

Flanking – redefining customers’ purchase criteria – is one of the most powerful ways you can wrest leadership from a competitor; you will undoubtedly have a powerful competitor if you truly only enter the deal 57% of the way through the process. To flank successfully you need something to flank to (i.e. your competitive UBV that the customer cares about) and someone to flank with (i.e. a supporter with the buyer’s organization who will help you navigate the last 43%).

I will discuss this and ways to avoid the 57% trap altogether on the webinar. I would love if you can join the conversation.

 

 

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Helping the Front-Line Sales Manager – It’s All about Rhythm

About once every six months I have the privilege of hosting some of our customers at our Customer Advisory Board meeting.  At these meetings we always learn a lot about how Dealmaker is being used to drive sales performance.  I am just back from San Francisco where we had gathered together a group of sales leaders to discuss our future plans and to get their input on how we can serve them better.

One of the topics we frequently discuss is the critical role of the front-line sales manager.  It is well understood that this important link in an organization’s sales ecosystem is a high-pressure role, but one that can be highly impactful when leveraged.  To help frame the discussion we had crafted a framework for the rhythm of a sales manager’s business.  The people in the room thought that this was helpful, so I thought I would share it with you.

(If you are interested in this topic we are hosting a Front-line Sales Manager webinar on Tuesday, February 25 with two of our customers; Salesforce.com and Shaw Industries. You can register here.)

One of the key observations is that effective sales managers can balance short-term current revenue activities (represented by your current forecast), with the future business pursuits (represented by your pipeline).  We endeavor to support both of these tasks with our Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight product, so we do have a vested interest in fully understanding the dynamics and efficacy of these competing motions.

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When most sales managers wake up every day they are concerned about the deals on the table right now.  Good sales managers triage the opportunities focusing where they can win and applying resources accordingly.  But at the same time they struggle with how to coach their teams, strategize future initiatives, ensure their teams are effectively enabled, worry about success at their existing accounts, hire and on-board new reps, performance-manage those existing reps who need help, liaise with marketing to help fill the funnel, and feed the corporate machine.

 

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The chart here is a sample approach that you might consider.  The first column generally represents hygiene-factor activities but need to stay on the list.  Column 2 includes the most high-yield activities and as you move left to right you want to stay focused in the middle of the chart.  The last column is a necessary evil and can be almost completely off-loaded to technology. Spending time here adds no value to your business.

Our experience would suggest that if you can develop a rhythm in the business, balancing the important with the urgent, you will be more successful, particularly if you can off-load the management of the machine to someone else and leverage technology to automate as much of the reporting as is practical.

I am concerned about the current trends towards unguided use of analytics to ‘help’ the sales manager, and I have written about that before.  The experience of successful practitioners would suggest that sales domain expertise embedded in a structured business rhythm removes much of the friction.

 

 

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7 Principles for Individual Sales Success

You should only read this if you believe that your level of success is largely up to you. Yes, it’s impacted and influenced by external events, but it’s not your sales manager, employer, customer, product, partner, bank manager or religious leader who ultimately determines your destiny. It’s you, and in difficult selling times, that’s the first principle that you have to accept.

There are few professions where the inner strength of the individual protagonist is as critical as that of an individual salesperson. During each sales call, you put your own credibility – and that of your company – on the line. Most likely, you are the primary arbiter of success or failure, and you always face the risk of failure or rejection. But when you win, the sense of achievement and personal gratification are amplified just because you are always putting yourself out there.

There are 7 principles that winners exhibit more frequently than others.  These are not best practices, processes, methodology, or selling skills – but rather personal choices that you control to define your personal purpose – the ‘why’ you do what you do.

1. Ambition: To achieve your ambition, you first need to be very clear as to what it is. There are two main questions you should ask yourself;

  1. “Do I know what I really want to achieve?” and
  2. “Is my goal ambitious enough?”

A ‘shoot for the moon’ goal is a wonderful motivator. By figuring out your personal outrageous goal – conceived in a moment of suspended reality – you see what might be possible. Then you can plan to achieve that ambition by breaking it down into attainable and realistic steps. Winning sales professionals do this in small ways every day as they strategize how to maximize revenue from an account, or win a specific deal. Then it is the art of the possible, planning the realization of the ambition.

2. Commitment and Resilience: How badly do you want it? Will you stay the course? Invariably you will see seemingly ‘lucky’ people for whom everything just works out. Evidence of their hard work is sometimes hard to see. Enduring hardship is frequently the bedfellow of success, so you’ve got to be committed to your goal and both resilient and relentless in its pursuit. When you continue to do the right thing, and stick with it, good things invariably happen.

3. Honesty and Integrity: These are two of the least understood, and most under-valued, personal and business assets. A reputation for being honest or having high integrity is priceless. It brings trust and openness, deeper relationships and more productive engagement. Trust is ‘truth delivered over time’. It is hard to win but easy to lose. The sustained value of these assets cannot be overstated.

4. Inquisitiveness and Learning: In sales, as in life, it is better to be interested than it is to be interesting. You need to be inquisitive and curious about what matters to others and less focused on what ‘interesting’ stuff you have to say. When you have earned the right – you can then be interesting.

If you are in the right job/company/industry, being interested in your customers’ business/industry/market comes easily to you. You have a natural passion for what you do, choosing to continuously self-improve. Without this passion to learn, you will find it hard to be naturally inquisitive. Then you’re possibly in the wrong job/company/ industry – and probably stuck in mediocrity.

5. Empathy and Perspective: Without Empathy you can’t possibly appreciate what’s important to your customer or your own support team. Remember the last time you complained about your marketing / product department, ‘I just don’t understand why we never seem to get … [Insert leads, new features, competitive analysis, better pricing]. Usually when you start a sentence with ‘I just don’t under stand why …’, it’s usually just that – you don’t understand. Arrogance is usually bred from ignorance, and that’s never pretty or productive. Consider the other Perspective.

6. Vision: Innovation and Leadership: Ambition without vision is dangerous and usually counter-productive. Vision elevates ambition to a higher place, one where your insight, founded on innovative thinking and thought leadership (informed through Inquisitiveness and Learning), propels you to the front. (There is another V for Velocity – click here to learn more)

7. Enterprise: You’ve got to work hard, really hard, no really, really hard. Come up with the right strategy to fulfill your ambition, and then through your own initiative and resourcefulness, determine how you best execute your plan. Unless you have the requisite Commitment and Resilience you won’t reach the uncommon heights you’ve visualized in your ambition.

When you put these principles together – Ambition, Commitment, Honesty, Inquisitiveness, Empathy, Vision, Innovation, and Enterprise – you can choose to A.C.H.I.E.V.E. your goals.

It really is up to you.

 

 

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A little sales dashboard humor

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You know it matters that the data is accurate if you want to understand how to improve your sales performance.

Here’s a Slideshare that shows you how to figure out how much you sell by focusing just on the Four Levers of Sales Velocity (aka Forget the Pipeline!)

It’s not all about the size of your pipeline.

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7 Principles for Successful Sales Leadership

One of the perks of my job is the interaction I am privileged to have with so many great sales leaders. During the beta phase for a new solution we just launched (to help sales managers understand the potential vulnerabilities in the sales performance of their teams), I had more intensive interaction than usual with a number of sales leaders.  Going beyond the challenges of the front-line sales manager, which is really the problem that Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight helps with, I was struck by some common principles that seem to be consistently applied by those sales leaders who are at the top of their game.  Here is my synthesis of those conversations.

1.    Lead with Purpose:  Your team cares less about what you are telling them to do, but more about why you are asking them to do it. With a shared understanding of where you are headed together, you can more easily collaborate and communicate.  If you can articulate a higher purpose than just hitting the targets – they know they have to do that without you telling them – they will understand the ‘why’ you are taking the direction you are taking, and that is always more powerful than the ‘what’.  When ‘why’ is understood, the team has a better chance of figuring out the ‘how’.

2.    Set High Standards – Hold Everyone Accountable:  Inspire your team to execute to the best of their ability – every time. Every single internal and external interaction matters.  It reflects on your values if you let poor practices develop without instant intervention. Slow response to a customer, casual email communication, bad manners to internal colleagues, poor quality proposals to customers, or arriving late or unprepared to a meeting, all let you (and the whole team) down.

3.    Write the Plays – and then Play them Right: Sales strategy is relatively easy. Constant execution and sales discipline is harder, and separate the great from the mediocre.  From business development through follow-up after the sale, the overall sales process (or go-to-market strategy) will contain milestones, trigger points, best practices, disciplines, and specific recommended tactics. Writes the plays, and then ensure that they are rigorously adopted, every day.

4.    Be the Role Model: As a sales leader you will undoubtedly have other things on your plate distracting from your core task. De-prioritize these time thieves.  Spend your time on exhibiting to your team how you are holding yourself accountable to the high standards that you have set.  Lead from the front. Execute your plays. Remember, you are in charge.

5.    Be Prepared to Rebuild: If you don’t have the team you need, you must be prepared to re-build. Always be recruiting and building a bench. Just like nurturing prospects for future business, the sales people that you want to hire are probably not immediately available the first time you connect with them. Start the conversation early.

6.    Prepare to Win: Winning doesn’t happen by accident. It usually happens when you are better prepared than your competitor.  Methodology helps, but systematic planning will equip you to deal with situations that arise without warning.  Deal reviews, account plans, sales process refinement, smart sales software, are tools you might use. Once the game starts they are usually on their own and it is then too late to help your team.  You need to prepare them in advance to win.

7.    Embrace Change Methodically:  The business world continues to evolve. Buyers change. New competitors emerge. Economic stability fluctuates.  Responding to change is never easy – particularly when things are already going well. When things are going badly you might feel the need to press the restart button. In either case you must accept two constants; (1) you need to make this quarter’s number working with what you have today and (2) what you have today will need to change just in time to serve your needs tomorrow.

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Surprise Your Customer

Flying from Ireland to San Francisco on the way to Dreamforce 2013, I was thinking about a session I was going to deliver. It was important. It was the first of 10 sessions we were involved in at Dreamforce and I wanted to kick it off well.  It was also the first public showing of our new Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight solution, so I felt the pressure of a product launch.  The session had been over-subscribed to the extent that it had to be moved to a larger venue, and still it sold out. No pressure.

The plan was that Joe Ryan, the session host, and product manager at Salesforce’s Work.com business, was going to talk about Work.com and the capability for partners (like The TAS Group, Xactly, Hirevue and others) to extend Work.com and the Salesforce Chatter profile in general.

That’s where I come in.

Joe would intro me “And now I’d like to introduce Donal Daly, CEO of the TAS Group, ….“, and I would come on go … “Hi, I’m Donal Daly with The TAS Group” (the audience knew that already – a waste of 5 seconds), “and The TAS Group’s unique combination of sales methodology and smart software has been helping companies like HP, Salesforce, Autodesk to grow revenue by …” (are you yawning yet? Seriously, I want to know).  Zzzzzz.

So, as I thought about this, somewhere over Greenland, I thought to myself, “You know that is not the way to do this.” This is an audience that will sit through hours and hours of sessions at Dreamforce – hopefully many of them ours – and they don’t need the standard “Hi, I’m Fred from XYZ,  we leverage the power of the blah, blah ….”.

So, as British Airways 285 left the coast of Greenland and continued on towards the east coast of Canada, I challenged myself to come up with a whole new intro; one that described our unique value in a way that the audience would remember amidst all of the noise at Dreamforce, and then I remembered a conversation that I had with one of our customers just a few days earlier.

No surprises“, Rob said. “What I love about what Dealmaker does is that it means we have no surprises; Surprise wins, surprise losses, surprise competitors, surprise price pressure, surprises in the forecast, surprises in the pipeline.  They are all bad and a waste of time. Now, because we plan better, and bring more value to our customers, and Dealmaker keeps us on track, we don’t get caught off-guard as much, and that’s why the revenue is up.”

Surprises. We help our customers avoid sales surprises.

The best way to prevent a surprise is to create one, and the best way to create a surprise in sales is to bring uncommon value to your customer.  We try to do that for our customers and help our customers do that for theirs.

So, go ahead. Surprise your customer.

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