Category Archives: Sales Process

Just say “No”

A sales person’s lamentYes-No-Maybe

What has happened to business in America? I never thought I’d be espousing Nancy Reagan’s philosophy, but business executives simply don’t say “No” anymore.

I first noticed this in the early 2000’s. I was selling an online solution for buying and selling films between the studios and movie theatre owners. Most of the people I met loved the solution (at least that’s what they said). I spent the better part of a year following up with the decision makers. Although they never bought a thing, they never said “No”.

Why? Why take calls from someone you’ll never buy from? Just say “No”. And watch how quickly the phone calls and emails stop.

And then there are the no shows. These “professionals” tell you to follow up because they’re interested in doing business with you. When you do, they ignore calls, emails and text messages. What is the point? Tell me “No”. Let me move on.

I heard a sales executive recently say that she doesn’t chase people that don’t want to be chased. I completely agree. I’ve learned to cut bait after exerting a reasonable amount of effort to get a response.

My hypothesis for business people not saying “No” is that they’ve never had to sell anything. I propose that every new hire, as part of their on-boarding process, be put in a sales environment to observe the frustration that comes from being told “Yes” or “Maybe” and then watching the sales rep be lead into the abyss of radio silence.

Radio silence is the most frustrating part of this new reality. Part of the problem is the sales rep’s fault. Sales reps need to secure a specific date and time for a follow up conversation. “I’ll call you next week” doesn’t cut it anymore. Closing for the next interaction has become an imperative if you don’t want to lose your buyer in the myriad emails and meetings they have to handle day to day.

If you’re reading this as a non-salesperson, please take heed. Give us reason and we will chase you.  If the answer is no, tell us.  We’ll all benefit from the communication.

Sales Is Not an Island

Sales versus Revenue

How well do ALL of your employees support revenue growth?

I ask my clients to do a bit of self-analysis when working with them to increase revenue. Man on IslandExecutive Teams, in general, view the Sales Team as the driver of revenue rather than the entire company.

When discussing sales with start-up CEOs, they believe that by simply cold calling contacts in their primary market segment they will find the customers necessary to generate the next round of funding.

In both cases, an assessment of how the entire company is supporting the revenue generation process is essential. How well is Marketing providing interested parties willing to consider your solution? What level of testing has Product done to ensure your offering satisfies the pain points of your prospects? Are revenue expectations developed by Finance reasonable? How well is Support communicating with Sales to uncover up-sell opportunities within the customer base?

Sales is not an island. They cannot do it alone.

CEOs and Executive Teams should be constantly asking themselves how well they are doing at supporting the revenue process. Unfortunately, my experience has shown that a company’s ability to internally analyze themselves is a challenge. Existing process and pressure can get in the way of objectivity.

When was the last time you did an in-depth analysis of your company’s revenue generation process?

Are you trying to build a generic sales process?

It’s not about reinventing the wheel. Invent your own wheel.

Sometimes I marvel at how generic people are when trying to increase sales. I read WheelLinkedIn posts all the time that ask for the “top 3 qualifying questions to qualify a lead”. How would anyone know the top 3 three questions for a product they haven’t seen?

“What are the best questions you ask to identify a need for your product?” That’s not going to help you build a sales process.

A sales process starts with the buying process. How do people/companies buy your product/service? Who are these people? What are their roles? How do they evaluate vendors like you? Products like yours? Who’s budget? The functional department? IT? Marketing? How strategic is your product (think software) versus an operational solution to an everyday issue (think paper).

There are no generic sales processes. There are no generic questions to be asked. Each company must create a sales process from scratch. Don’t think of it as reinventing the wheel. The wheel doesn’t exist yet. You need to create a process that is unique to your company, product, and target customers.

Would you post a request on LinkedIn for the best presentation someone has used? Of course not. It has to be specific to your company and product.

Just like your sales process.

When does a start-up become a company?

I’ve worked or consulted for start-ups since 1984. Back in ’84 we called a new company a Woman_Holding_Globe“new company”. That’s because it was “a company”. It had a product, personnel, funding, sales, a market and people operated it. It was kind of like IBM, AT&T or any other company, but new and smaller.

Fast forward to 2015 and it’s not exciting enough to work for a company. If you want excitement and challenge, work for a start-up. But when does a start-up become a company?

I spent six years working for a SaaS provider that called itself a start-up. When I joined, the company had already been in business for eight years. Start-up? At 14 years old. If it was a Jewish boy he would have already been Bar Mitzvah. In 1984 we would have called it a failed company with some really uninformed investors. Not a start-up.

A lot of people in the start-up community believe that a company that relies on VC money for operating and growth capital is a start-up. And they behave that way.

Many start-ups that think like start-ups, rather than companies, forego spending time on the basics. Things like sales strategies and process, marketing strategies and plans are secondary to building a culture to attract the required technical talent.

A start-up IS a company. Start-up CEOs must give equal time to sales, marketing and other functions of their company. Concentrating on providing a fun culture of challenging coding problems is only part of the responsibility of a company’s CEO and Exec Team.

If you think and act like you’re running a company instead of a start-up, especially at 14, you’ll find the road to being self-sufficient somewhat smoother to navigate. And perhaps sometime before deciding you don’t need the VCs any longer, you’ll call yourself a company rather than a start-up.

Salesforce Usage Analyzer Applango Partners With SalesClinic to Grow Revenues

Applango LogoSalesClinic, through dozens of Salesforce implementations has discovered that there is one constant with most Salesforce customers. User adoption is a challenge.

Why is it so difficult to understand the accuracy of activities, pipeline and forecasts?

It’s difficult because Salesforce Admins and Sales Management have no idea who is properly using Salesforce. Until now there has been no way to gauge if users are actually using the tool or simply signing on and getting phone numbers and addresses.

To address this very common problem, SalesClinic has partnered with Applango.

Applango has a solution to this challenge through a usage analyzer that provides all of the data and information required for Admins and Management to identify users that may need additional coaching and training. It also identifies how well processes within the Salesforce application are being adhered to by the users.

Applango for Adoption Infographic

SalesClinic’s analysis and testing of Applango’s market from a sales perspective has resulted in a better, segmented sales strategy, with a plan and process that are now resulting in significant revenue pipeline growth. By supplying Telesales and Field Sales resources for hands on selling, SalesClinic has provided both strategic and logistical sales support.

As part of SalesClinic’s sales process development, we’ve been able to change the expectation of prospects from a “free trial” to a Salesforce Usage Analysis that actually provides value in the first two weeks. Most SaaS solutions allow you to attempt using their solution as a test. Applango’s sales process provides actionable user data for their prospects.

SalesClinic continues to work with Applango to identify and close potential customers. Our hands-on experience allows us to recommend adjustments to the sales process to ensure Applango exceeds its revenue goals moving forward.

If someone winks at you at a bar, do you tell your friends you got married?

Woman WinkingAt what point does Marketing become a fantasy?

Software companies often build freemium business models. Those who may or may not work for well-known brands have the ability to subscribe to use the software for free. Marketing, in its quest to achieve credibility, scrapes the logo of that major brand from the site and posts it on the software company’s site to announce the major brand is now a happy client.

Where does this fall on your integrity spectrum?

Imagine that you work for H&R Block as an IT Analyst and you subscribe to a free version of a SaaS solution. Would you want to assume the liability associated with the use of the H&R Block trademarked logo?

Now fast forward to a sales rep’s conversation with a new prospect who’s just reviewed the vendor’s web site. How does that rep respond when asked about H&R Block’s use of the software? Is it ethical to put a sales rep in a position to have to justify Marketing’s position that a free “user” (and I use that term lightly) is an actual “customer”?

Sales reps are often in very challenging positions. Their employers are obligated to provide strong, credible support and collateral materials in an effort to support the sales process. This provides funding for all functional areas of the company.

Don’t compromise the integrity of your sales department in an effort to impress analysts or investors. It’s simply not good business and of course, should you be discovered, good luck explaining the significant benefits the national brand is realizing.

One free user does not a customer make.

Don Corleone – Without the crime, death and stuff

A Networking Strategy

Don Corleone gained the trust of his network and made a mark on his industry by employing a simple philosophy.

If you do for others, you will get something in return. It’s only a matter of time.

When networking to generate business for you or your company, providing an introduction, reviewing and critiquing a document, or simply providing a sounding board for an idea costs little to nothing. Helping out someone in your network or even a colleague of someone in your network is always a good thing.

Identifying and contacting executives who may be decision makers is critical in Sales. One strategy that has consistently worked for me was offering my experience, contacts and expertise to my colleagues when asked. Perhaps someone wants an introduction from me. Or they have an idea in which they want a salesperson’s perspective. I’m always happy to provide whatever I can reasonably do to help. Reciprocation is usually available when requested.

I have found that, for the most part, professionals understand the Don Corleone brand of networking. Negative responses when requesting similar acts from colleagues are few and far between.

Don Corleone’s empire was built on this premise along with some questionable business practices. Still, we can learn a lot from his networking skills.

Are you a Sales Manager or the Top Sales Rep?

Firefighter NetYou manage salespeople. A component of your job is to go out on sales calls with your sales representatives. It is your job to sell if you are in the sales call, right?

Not necessarily. Through untold ride-alongs I’ve experienced with sales reps it has become apparent that sales reps sometimes lose control of sales calls during a sales manager’s ride-along.

Watching the dynamics between sales management and their salespeople for 20 years has caused me to stop talking on ride-alongs. As a sales consultant I spend hours in sales calls assessing the performance of the rep.

As the “coach”, most sales managers would agree that managing a sales organization can sometimes be painful. It’s reminiscent of a baseball coach watching his star hitter swing at a pitch that is obviously a ball. So does a sales manager get that queasy feeling in their gut when a sales rep misses a buying sign or starts doing a data dump without tying product features to the benefits of the product?

Sales Managers must understand that they are both Top Sales Rep AND Sales Manager. Sales Managers should view themselves as a firefighter’s net. When the fire starts moving towards the mother in the window on the fifth floor, the net comes out to catch her before she gets hurt. Similarly, does the Sales Manager save the sales call when the rep appears to be heading for a professional crash and burn.

Imagine if you will a sales call that is lost. Dead. Buried. There is no chance of a save. As painful as this may sound, it is OK to sit back and watch your rep fall flat on their face. I witnessed a few flame outs in my time. Some I saved. Others I used as a learning experience. The conversation in the car afterwards went like this:

Me: “So how’d that feel?”

Rep: “Not so good. Why didn’t you say anything?”

Me: “Will I be here next time? The time after that? Probably not. Let’s replay it and figure out how it went wrong.”

Just as it’s OK to let you child fail sometimes to learn how it feels and understand what went wrong, it’s OK to let your sales rep feel the pain of a really bad sales call. Now you wouldn’t allow this to happen with an important client. But a prospect who you determine to be a lost cause, for whatever reason, can be very useful as an educational exercise.

Sales reps inherently get better as they increase activity over time. Every sales call should be a learning experience. Your role is to make sure they learn something each time. This may come from their own success, you taking over the call demonstrating best practices or having the rep fail miserably. In every case, you’re the coach.

How personal are your business relationships?

Four pairs of feet in a bedWhen has a business relationship gone beyond business? If your mind has just gone into the gutter as you read this, please crawl out. That’s not the kind of relationship I’m referring to.

Are you so close to your business contacts that you can’t ask hard questions? Are you so close to your direct reports that you can’t put them on a Performance Improvement Plan?

Some sales reps fall into a trap of going beyond the rep/prospect or rep/customer level. When this happens, transactions become favors. Going to a prospect’s boss is nearly impossible. Negotiating contract terms can turn into a spat rather than a professional give and take.

A more dangerous scenario is when a Sales Manager becomes “friends” with their reps.

Business relationships need to walk a very fine line. Keeping a relationship both professional and personal at the same time is critical to actually doing business. The personal aspect of your business relationships should help you in business, not hinder the progress of a business transaction.

If you find yourself challenged by the personal relationship you have with a business contact, think about how you can begin to distance yourself a bit. The depth of your relationship will dictate your ability to do business and affect your level of success.

Is your weapon loaded?

GunYour vocabulary is the greatest weapon you have. The power of the “word” is extraordinary. When used properly, a phrase or even a single word can make all the difference in your success. The key to harnessing this kind of power is simple, “think before you speak”! Arm your mouth only with words which are compelling and impactful when presenting, meeting or simply conversing.

How do you respond to the question, “What do you do for a living?” Do you say, “I’m in ad sales” or similar? Or do you say, “I’m responsible for the success of businesses in my community”.

We have all heard a salesperson trying to set an appointment in this manner: “Hi Bob, we’ve got a new product that you might find interesting. Do you have a few minutes for me to come by and show it to you?”

Now compare that to: “Hi Bob, we’ve just launched a new and dynamic tool which will dramatically and positively affect your bottom line. I’m sure you’ll agree as soon as you see it. As quantities are limited, I’m accepting appointments on a restricted basis.”

Or how about this one for subordination? “I know you’re very busy, so I’ll only take a few minutes of your time.”

Versus, “I have a brief and extraordinary presentation prepared specifically for you. As I highly value our time together, I will take 30 minutes, no more and no less. I’m sure we’ll be able to mutually agree that it was time very well spent.”

And of course, there is that endless slide presentation. The audience is not told the number of slides and is therefore in limbo. When you notice that half way through your presentation that they are looking at the clock, you begin to use phrases such as “well this slide isn’t very important so I’ll skip over it.”

Once you’ve begun to speak in that manner, you’ve relegated yourself to “unimportant and unprepared”. You’ve lost the sale.

So take the time to prepare for every meeting. Think carefully about the kinds of words you will use to assure your audience of your competence and importance. Eliminate weak words and unimportant slides. If you’re not sure of a word, don’t use it. Terms such as “irregardless”, “nucular” and “for all intensive purposes” will sink you.

Load your weapon and use it carefully.