Tag Archives: sales strategy

You’ve made your bed.  Now sleep in it.

LinkedIn is for Business!

Salespeople have tools.  Just like a carpenter, electrician or roofer.  LinkedIn is one of Sale’s tools.  If you decided to build a LinkedIn profile, then understand what you’ve gotten yourself into.

At least once a week I read a post from a non-Sales executive complaining that they are being contacted unsolicited by someone trying to sell them something.  No kidding!  What a shock?

It’s as if they think that the sales reps at the company they work for aren’t doing the same thing to others on LinkedIn.  But that’s OK.  As long as a sales rep doesn’t contact me.  My guys can do it.  But don’t bother me.

I know I’ll be barraged by the “pick up the phone” gang.  And maybe from the email marketing contingent.  I get that.  As I said, LinkedIn is one tool in the belt.  It can’t be relied on to make quota.  Every mode of communication must be applied to pipeline building and sales in general.

But LinkedIn will be used by sales reps to contact people they don’t know.  It’s a fact of your professional networking life.  If you are in the position of influencing a sale or happen to be a decision maker, change your thinking.  You put yourself out there by building a profile.  Just because you only did it to get a better job doesn’t mean a sales rep is going to ignore you.

One last point.  Since you thought that accepting every invitation you ever received was such a clever idea, we’re going to contact you to get to your network.  So those 5,000 people you’ve never met, spoke with or even know, we’re going to contact you for that too.

Sweet dreams.

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.

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.

What Do Software Development & Sales Have in Common?

Technical Debt

Technical Debt you keep using that wordI’ve had an epiphany. I attended a presentation on Technical Debt. As I listened to the speaker discuss how software code development processes can cause Technical Debt, I thought that the topic was interesting, but not really relevant to SalesClinic or our clients. Unfortunately, I’ve worked with companies that have had significant Technical Debt without even knowing it. My epiphany hit on the drive home from the event.

Wikipedia defines Technical Debt as “a neologistic metaphor referring to the eventual consequences of poor system design, software architecture or software development within a codebase. The debt can be thought of as work that needs to be done before a particular job can be considered complete or proper. If the debt is not repaid, then it will keep on accumulating interest, making it hard to implement changes later on. Unaddressed technical debt increases software entropy.”

So what does this have to do with Sales? Everything.

Think about your Salesforce automation (SFA) system. In most cases we find that Sales or Sales Operations departments identify and implement these applications rather than making a request of the CIO. In implementing a SFA, screens are customized, reports are written and processes are defined. These implementations usually don’t keep up with the evolving business model or sales process learnings that are realized every day.

At some point in the future, use of SFAs by the Sales Team start to decline. Managers find that their reports don’t accurately represent reality. Things start falling through the cracks. That’s when the Technical Debt comes due.

Because the SFA has not kept up with the changes that the company’s market has dictated to the revenue generation process, it is forced to embark on an expensive and time consuming project of updating the SFA. To complicate things further, the user community needs to be resold on the use of the SFA and re-trained. This effects on-going adoption and has its own costs as well.

From a non-technical perspective, Technical Debt can be applied to Sales Strategy and Sales Processes as well. Even before considering the effect of change on your SFA, you must consider if the steps a sales rep takes to sell your product are still valid. Has the market moved forward but your sales process hasn’t been adjusted to meet the market’s demands?

Consider a newspaper sales team. From the late ‘90’s to today newspapers have evolved into media companies. They provide multiple marketing opportunities for local businesses that may have nothing to do with a print advertisement. Digital marketing solutions should now be part of every conversation between a sales rep and their prospect.

This evolution changes the Sales Process and therefore the SFA implementation. Not keeping up with your process changes and associated SFA customization equals debt. Take the time to start servicing that debt yourself or with outside help. Don’t have the same epiphany I just had when you can’t afford to pay the interest and principle.

Good help is hard to find…

Wanted-Good-HelpI say, “Nay, nay”.

It’s great leadership that’s hard to find.  Good people want to work for inspirational leaders.

Good help is in fact, easy to find.  It’s convincing them to work for you that’s difficult.  I have found that sourcing, hiring and retaining good talent is directly proportionate to the level of leadership in the company.  Great leaders understand that “greatness” is fleeting and therefore know how to inspire greatness when needed.  Talented staffs are motivated to do great things.  None of us are “great” every day.  Think of those who were farmers one day and then heroes on the battlefield the next.  They were inspired to be great by circumstance, dedication to a cause, and great leadership. No soldier ever enlisted because of the pay.   Sure, everyone goes to work for a buck, but motivation and inspiration trump compensation every time.

When I was a young man of 15, I went to work for a McDonald’s franchise for $1.65 per hour.  Sure, I needed the money for summertime fun, but there was much more to working there than donning a crew hat.  McDonald’s strived to build a culture of competition, a culture of understanding.  For me, it became a challenge.  Why?  I can attribute it to one inspiring leader… Lou G.

Lou G. was a regional manager who came to me one day and said, “Son, thank you for working so hard for us.  I want you to understand though, that we want you to work ‘smarter’, not ‘harder’”.  That one inspirational exchange led me to understand that the culture of the company valued my thinking more highly than my ability to “flip burgers”.  From then on, I went to work every day trying to impress Lou G. with my creative ideas.  The notion that my “mind” was the reason they hired me made me feel incredibly valuable.  Of course a raise every now and then was helpful, but what I really craved was Lou G.’s nod of approval.

So before you hold that meeting giving your sales team the “what for” because of underperformance; before you chastise your recruiters for sourcing sub-par candidates, take a closer look at your sales management team.  If they are more comfortable submitting reports; more at ease with attending meetings, they will likely never lead anyone to greatness.  If you can’t identify inspiring and motivational leaders among them, then you have discovered why good help is hard to find.

Making the shift from “transactional” to “consultative” selling.

Blog Change ImageI spent 7 years as VP Sales at an enterprise mobile app platform vendor. We partnered with both global and regional wireless carriers. I personally participated in numerous sales calls with the wireless sales teams in the SMB market.

The carrier Enterprise reps, who handled Fortune level prospects and customers, were consultative sales reps selling a complete solution. However the wireless field reps were more transactional in nature. It was all about selling another device or data plan rather than building a comprehensive mobile solution that included devices, data plans, EMM and apps.  If the wireless reps were going to differentiate themselves from the other wireless carriers, they needed to transition to consultative selling techniques.

This isn’t the only industry that’s had to make this transition. The newspaper industry is in the throes of this change. Historically they’ve sold print ads as transactions. Especially the Auto reps. But now they need to sell marketing campaigns that include print, digital, email, etc.

This move to consultative selling is a significant culture change for legacy sales reps that are used to transactional sales.

How prepared are your sales reps to make the move to consultative solution sales?

Understanding how your reps sell and ensuring the transition is successful is all about process. It’s also all about you, the Sales Manager.

What is your sales process? Is it documented? Have your reps been trained in both the process and strategy behind it? Are you managing to your sales process? Does your CRM properly represent it?

When a detailed sales process, that is supported by a well communicated sales strategy, is delivered to sales reps and monitored by effective sales managers, the transition from transactional to consultative sales becomes easier for everyone.