Posts in ‘Sales and Marketing’

The Worst Demo I never Got

by Wayne Turmel on November 16, 2009

demo wrongIf you’re the VP of Sales for a software or other service company I want you to listen to this cautionary tale.  It’s absolutely true and ought to make you ask some important questions about how confident you are in your inside sales or demo teams. More importantly, I can make some educated guesses about how they’re measuring this sales person’s performance and that really ought to make you go hmmmmm. At any rate I was able to avoid a painful experience and what I can only guess would have been the worst demo I’d ever seen.

A cold call/email for no reason: I got a voicemail from someone at a company who “wanted to speak to me” about their software-as-a-service product.  I suspect I know which list they got my name from but “that’s okay”, I figured… they’re trying to make a living. I then got an email at about the same time with the same kind of offer. Of course, there was nothing about their product other than the name and a hyperlink. My immediate thought was “If I don’t know what it does for me, why would I want to talk to them?” Something told me this person is cranking out the cold calls because they have a certain number of contacts they have to make. That’s fine, I’ve been there and done that, but I also know it’s not terribly productive except that it keeps their boss happy.

A kind offer to waste my time: I have great sympathy for sales people just doing their job so I emailed back and said (essentially) “tell me what it does and what it has to do with me and we’ll see”. I then got a response telling me what it is (an “email marketing tool”. Thanks for clearing that up!) in a single sentence, but I really should schedule time for a 30-minute demo so I could “really see what it can do”. Note: They didn’t ask or even assume what it could do for ME, just what IT could do. I don’t know about you, I don’t have half an hour (and is anyone foolish enough to think it will really only be 30 minutes out of my life???) to waste just watching someone tell me about a product I don’t need or want. Again, I figured their “sales management process” demands a certain number of demos a week. I know fully well the assumption is that if they do “X” number of demos, some of them will convert. Exactly what is their conversion rate? Do they measure it?  Imagine how high it would be if they only did demos to people who actually might buy the product to start with!

It would have been a complete waste of THEIR time too: Had this sales person asked a couple of questions they would have known I’m not a good prospect for them. Instead they invested a phone call, two emails and blocked out half an hour of their time (not to mention putting me in their carefully managed CRM pipeline) without ever asking a couple of basic questions which would have taken me off the list immediately. And let’s do some math: 5 minutes of questioning up front versus 30 minutes per demo to someone completely unqualified who will never buy.  It makes no sense, but if I’m being measured by how many demos a week I perform, you can bet I’m going to schedule them. And let’s face it; it’s less painful than filling that time with 15 more cold calls from an obviously flawed list of leads.

Here’s what I avoided:

By not taking up their kind offer of a “30-minute FREE demo” (are there people who charge for that honor?) I avoided several things:

  • A carefully scripted (we can only hope… either that or a rambling, unprofessional) 1-way monologue about their product and its features
  • A demonstration of all the cool bells and whistles without asking any qualifying questions about my company or goals
  • A not-too-subtle avoidance of the price and other key questions until the very end (although that’s probably one of the first questions I have and I’ll sit through the whole thing wondering about it)
  • If this person’s demo is carefully scripted, it MIGHT contain a call to action like moving to a trial account. (About half the demos I watch and review for people have no clear call to action so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here). My guess is I won’t have been asked who actually makes that decision or whether we’ve got budget for it (assuming they ever get around to telling me the price) until the very end of our time together.

I don’t blame the sales person here, at least not entirely. The big problem is some assumptions on the part of sales management:

  • Measuring activity will get results–  you can make 100 cold calls but if you’re calling people who aren’t good prospects you’re wasting a lot of time and effort and demoralizing the sales person
  • The demo itself will move the sale forward– Are we supposed to believe that a good pitch will move an unmotivated person to tears of joy and make a sale?
  • The function and features will make the sale- If I see the wonder of your product, how can I resist? I can think of 20 reasons not to buy something- starting with I don’t need it
  • All customers want the same thing and we can provide it- an interesting notion but you know it’s not true. Find out what I need and give me THAT, then we’ll talk
  • Product knowledge is really the critical part of a demo- asking the right questions, acting like you care about my business and showing me what I want to see (especially in the early stages of the sales cycle) is far more important to a customer than your User Interface or the fine details of your algorithm

Basically, I was able to avoid having a half hour or more sucked out of my life by a “well intentioned” person just doing their job and appeasing their boss. Not exactly a constructive way to do business but one we see all the time.

How are you using demos in YOUR sales process?

Even In Tough Times, Sometimes It’s Best To Move On

by Robert Driscoll on November 11, 2009

dv537022“The same man cannot be skilled in everything; each has his special excellence.” – Euripides, 480-406 B.C.

Today, more than ever, employers are asking their employees to do more.  From a short-term cost-savings perspective, this is great for companies looking to make it through these difficult times in the marketplace.  In the long-term, companies might actually be de-motivating their employees as they feel overwhelmed.  People can be great at one or more things in their professional life, but as their employers start adding more responsibilities to their plate, they could very well just become mediocre as they are spread too thin.

It is understandable for companies to react to changes in the marketplace, whether it’s adding or removing services, consolidating or expanding departments, and so forth.  Too often though, when employers are making these decisions, they forget about their most important asset:  their employees.  A lot of companies state that their people are their best assets, yet more often than not, companies do not look at the person.  Instead, they look at the job to be done and don’t properly match their employees to jobs that optimize their strengths.

In times like this, it is more important than ever for management and their employees to work together and find out what is not only best for the company, but for their employees as well.  Management needs to engage their employees, get their feedback and put them in areas and positions within the company where they can excel and where they want to be.  Nothing demotivates an employee faster and can have a more drastic effect to top line revenues than putting them in to a position that they are not passionate about.  Instead, imagine re-focusing your greatest assets (your people) in areas where they feel they can make the biggest contributions.

In Gini Graham Scott’s book A Survival Guide for Working with Bad Bosses: Dealing with Bullies, Idiots, Back-stabbers, and Other Managers from Hell, she states:

“As they say, you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. If your boss is like that round hole and you are that square peg, you aren’t going to fit in unless you re-shape your edges.”

For employees, while we all know that the unemployment rates is above 10% nationally and are continually reminded that there are many highly qualified individuals who would love to have your job, don’t let this bring you down.  If you have brought to your employers attention that your skills could be better utilized in another area and they ignore your request, don’t give in and become complacent.  Employers are always looking for top talent and instead of re-shaping your edges, sometimes it’s best for you to move on and find a place where your talents fit.

Make The Most Of Today

by Robert Driscoll on November 5, 2009

the-perfect-momentToday, in many organizations, more than ever, salespeople are continuously being pushed to improve and increase their contributions to the top line.  They are asked to sell more in an ever changing and challenging marketplace while at the same time their customers are asking for twice the amount of service for half the price.  Salespeople today feel like they are being pulled in many different directions and are overwhelmed.

In times like this, sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, take a step back, forget about what happened in the past, don’t worry about tomorrow and focus on what we are doing in the present.  We need to learn to seize the moment and focus on the opportunities that are in front of us. We should not be focusing on events from the past otherwise we will never be able to move forward.  When we seize the moment and live in the present, we are fully engaged and are open to new ideas.

In a book written by Joe Hyams, Zen in the Martial Arts, one of his chapters is called “Seize the Moment.”  In this chapter, he discusses the idea of living in the moment in everything one does in life.  Don’t allow concerns of the past, the future, or the concerns of others, distract you from what you are doing today to accomplish your goals and to take care of your concerns.  Learn to quit those people and tasks in your life that are creating roadblocks for you and are not helping you become successful.

If you are always worrying about concerns of the past or tomorrow, you can never truly live in the present and therefore you will never truly enjoy or make the most of what is happening in your life today.  Concentrate on what you are doing in the moment and you will find yourself making the most of today.

Print

This is the final in the 5 part series of What I Wish I Knew More About…Sales.  A recap of the series is:

I.  Inspiring Your Customers and Creating Loyalty

II.  Know What To Quit In Sales

III. Managing Your Time

IV.  Just Pick Up The Phone

In this final part of the series we discuss how in sales, you shouldn’t take rejections personally.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short journey.  More to come…

In sales, we get rejected most of the time.  Customers are telling us they cannot or will not do business with us; for a myriad of reasons.  I now know to not take these rejections personally, because when I do, they have a direct negative impact on my mood and energy, which in turn reduces my ability to perform powerfully moving forward.  The faster I can get over a rejection, the faster I can get into the game of being productive and effective.”

Paul D’Souza

Entrepreneur, Consultant, Author

http://www.pauldsouza.com/wordpress/

No one likes to lose an opportunity in sales.  Closing opportunities is what drives us in sales, increases our earnings and helps to take care of our concerns.  Unfortunately, more often than not, our offers are rejected.  Rejection is part of sales.  The last thing you should do, however, is take these rejections personally as it could hurt your relationship with your customers and do more damage than good.  Instead, how you handle rejection with your customers can either open the door to future opportunities or close it for a long period of time, if not forever.

In sales, you need to put your emotions aside, especially if you’ve lost an opportunity.  If you’ve lost a sale, you need to learn from your losses and ask your customers what you could have done to get the sale.  Always try to uncover why your offer was rejected.  If done right, criticism from your client on why you lost the opportunity can be a great tool to help you improve your offer in the marketplace while possibly assiting in improving your sales technique with your clients.  This can, in turn, help increase your revenues.

Getting rejected by your clients may not always be a setback.  If you start having conversations with your clients on problems that you can help them solve instead of just doing a “sales pitch” every time you meet with them, you will find that they will actually bring you in to their buying process.  The value of your offers will increase to your customers, not necessarily in a monetary value, but in the importance to their business.  Having these conversations with your clients may actually lead to conversations that open the space of possibilities for you to make them new offers.

Winning in sales is not just about how much you know about your offer, but how you present yourself to your customers and the relationships you build with them.  Create offers that take care of their concerns and in time you will become their trusted advisor.  As you travel down this new path, remember do not take rejection in sales personally.

Note:

Logo was created by Stacy Driscoll who is a freelance designer based in South Florida where she continues to provide her clients with innovative design solutions while continuing to grow her client base and skill set.  More of her work can be found at her website www.stacydriscolldesign.com.

Your customers want more… so give them less!

by Wayne Turmel on November 2, 2009

time is moneyThe way we buy and sell our products has changed forever because of the Web. This is especially true for the B2B (business-to-business) landscape. The problem is many of us haven’t really adjusted to this change and it costs us money, which is a shame because they are really acting just like we do when we buy something… so, why the cost?

Think about the way we make a major purchase…. We investigate online, read reviews, visit websites and eliminate obvious bad choices. Then-armed with information- we march down to the car lot or the appliance store and get what we want in record time.

Now think about the way we sell to customers online. We have some information posted, the customer clicks a link or emails us and says “yes we want a demo” and we schedule a demo. But is that what the customer really wants? Probably not. They don’t want to start from scratch-  and you have to meet them where they are or risk alienating them forever.

The good news is if they’ve requested to speak to someone from your company they are a great, live prospect. The better news is that they have all the basic information they need or they wouldn’t be there… what they want is the final information necessary to make a decision (or at least pass you on to someone who can). They have very specific information they need to move the sale forward, or decide you can’t help them.

The bad news is that we often don’t know at which point in the conversation they are. Thus, we end up giving them too much (read irrelevant) detail and that does not serve them very well. This is evident by their number one complaint  about online demos … yep! you guessed it right – they have too much information and don’t get to the point.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind:  If the customer has come this far, find out where they are, currently and what they need to complete their journey. Now, you are at a point where you can then give them exactly what they need. Before even starting the presentation, ask a lot of questions and find out what information is critical to them to make a buying decision. The form they fill out won’t give you the same good quality information as a conversation. Your contact with the customer needs to give them more relevant, focused information they need to make a smart choice. It needs a lot less time and extraneous detail. You may never even demo the product- which is actually a good thing in a strange way.  Why go through all the effort if it’s not a fit, and why make them sit through it if they know enough to move you through the sales cycle?

This also means that the information on your site needs to give them as much up-front information as possible. Do you have recorded information, demos and video that helps them choose you?  Are you giving them the chance to gather information before they even talk to you? If not, why not? If you are, is it easy to use and understand?

Customers want more from us than ever before, they just want less of us in order to accomplish it.

Dangerous Ground – Doing “It” Yourself

by Thomas Frasher on October 30, 2009

This weeks article addresses the strong desire for people to fall into the trap of “I didn’t invent it, it’s not as good as it could be” or “Not Invented Here”.

Both of these attitudes usually have some merit and at the same time are usually flawed.

In an earlier article on when good enough is good enough, I made the point that at some point you have to stop development and ship the product or service, before that you have no knowledge of the viability of your product or service. You have to ship/deploy and get feedback from your marketplace, before that you are guessing.

Proof of your accomplishment is after shipment/deployment.

To that end we must as business owners be aware of the landscape surrounding our businesses, our competition, our customers, and our own needs, and what help is available to us at little or no investment. So the question “do I need to do it all from scratch?” is posed here. What parts can you get elsewhere and will it help you to do that?

For example, Matthew Lesko has made a big business out of publishing a series of books on government available loans, grants and funding, and if it works for you, the cost is very low.

There are professional societies for every profession that are a great source of help and ideas. Surprising though it may seem, you can even get help from your competition.

For the technology crowd there is slashdot and sourceforge; for the science minded products and services there is the IEEE with societies for nearly anything you can imagine and Symetry for the more scientifically minded. I would encourage your to sign up for one or more of these, at least take a look to see what’s there and if it is usable.

All of that said, there are countless places to find help in the marketplace, and as I’ve said in nearly every article I’ve written: in business you need help, and not just any help, you need the best help you can get, and help will cost you, the best help costs a lot.

So take a look around you both physically and in your marketplace and find your help, it may be surprising where you find it. Watch out for the “Not Invented Here” trap in yourself and your employees, it can raise your costs and lengthen your delivery times and thwart your chances of success.

What I Wish I Knew More About in Sales #3: Managing Your Time

by Robert Driscoll on October 29, 2009

Print

I wish I would have taken more sales training classes that focused on time management and sell cycle control.”

Joe Shea

Founder, Shea & Associates

http://www.jshea.com/

Time is limited and scarce.  It is something that you cannot save for a later date.  Once time is lost, you can never make up for it.  Everyone has the same amount of time in the day to make offers, but it’s what you do with your time and how you maximize your efforts that will separate you from others.

Most people feel they have too much on their plate and therefore not enough time.  They’re too busy.  You have to make the most out of your time and therefore you need to learn to quit those things that are taking up too much time and start acting on those offers that can produce results.  You need to learn to prioritize your concerns.  Bad time management skills can overwhelm you as you try to take on too much and you start getting backlogged.  Overdue work starts interfering with current work and the snowball starts getting bigger and bigger as new work continues to be given to you.  Lack of time is blamed for too much stress, not being able to complete tasks or achieve your personal and professional goals.  The reality is that poor time management skills are most likely what has created your stress.

Time management is also important in your sell cycle control.  Not only should you prioritize your work “tasks”, but your sales opportunities as well.  Being too optimistic in sales can hurt you more than you think as you go after every opportunity.  You need to learn to quit opportunities that are taking up too much of your time and focus more on those that have a higher probability of closing.  You will find yourself becoming more productive using time management skills, tools and proper sales cycle control, as well as accomplishing more with less effort.

Proper time management will help you prioritize your day, your career and create harmony in your life.  Eliminating those things in your life and career that are not that important to you and planning your time wisely will allow you to do more things and have more time in your day.  So get rid of the feeling that you have too much to do and not enough time and start thinking that you have all the time in the world to focus on those things that are the most important to you.

Note:

Logo was created by Stacy Driscoll who is a freelance designer based in South Florida where she continues to provide her clients with innovative design solutions while continuing to grow her client base and skill set.  More of her work can be found at her website www.stacydriscolldesign.com.

Watch out for Value Erosion

by Guy Ralfe on October 29, 2009

erosionMy father has just been in to have surgery to remove cataracts from his eye. Into hospital, operated on and out in a few hours, with virtually no pain to report and on the road to recovery at home the same day. In discussing the procedure, my mother rewinds a couple of years and explains to me that it wasn’t like that when she was a nurse in the late 60’s.

Back then people came into the hospital for cataract surgery which involved hours of surgery and over a week to recover. There was a lot of discomfort and the patients had to remain still afterward for a number of days with their eyes covered up. She explained it as a risky procedure and requiring a “good” surgeon. I think for any surgery I would want the best surgeon, but with my sight I would probably want the best I could afford or get access to.

She also described today’s procedure and how quick it was, 30 minutes of theater time compared to hours, how non-invasive the procedure was via three micro incisions and how an artificial lens is placed into the eye where thick glasses were depended upon before.

Fundamentally the same health condition exists today as it did 40 years ago, what has changed is the way the condition is dealt with. In my view the surgeons back in time, when my mother practiced as a nurse, were scarce and a major differentiator between successful and failed operations. But with the advances in medicine and technology this procedure that used to endure a patient to a week of suffering, today has evolved into a standard procedure lasting under an hour.

Initially the costs and value of cataract surgery lay in the surgeon and hospital facilities for recovery and would likely have been rather exorbitant and not accessible to many (substantiated in the paper Measuring the Value of Cataract Surgery). Today this surgery is available to many more people because of the improvements in technology and the refinement of the procedure to almost a routine repeatable process. What this has done is drive down the value of the cataract surgery per patient, so now the surgeon and hospital have to handle many more patients in the same period to maintain their value. In addition to the increased patients, technology suppliers have taken a share of the treatment through their offerings of artificial lenses as a valuable part of these procedures, which now are likely the main differentiators in the procedures offered today.

Looking into the future this procedure may one day no longer require a hospital visit or the skills of a surgeon and will become a commodity product much like LASIK eye treatment has become today.

This is a classic example of how the marketplace continuously drives down the value of scarce commodities and how competitors will always fight to gain a share of any successful market. All businesses are subject to these same threats on a continuous basis. The pace of erosion on ‘value’ will only increase into the future, this is why businesses must innovate and adapt to the changes or be consumed by the marketplace. It is easy to look back over 40 years of change and see the evolution but it is an essential survival skill in business to notice and move to counter the subtle changes staking place in your marketplace – Time will not be on your side if you ignore the signs.

What I Wish I Knew More About in Sales #2: Know What To Quit

by Robert Driscoll on October 28, 2009

PrintWhen I first started in sales, I wish I had the courage to more effectively weed people out.  I was so eager to just have anyone talk to me, that I didn’t really have an effective filter (or the courage) to qualify people OUT of my process.  I needed to be clear about who is and who is not a good fit and to be willing to walk away from bad business.  I wish when I was starting out I had the mindset and the process to be more selective about where and with whom I spent time and energy.”

Tom Batchelder

Founder, Perficency – A National Sales Coaching Organization

http://www.perficency.com/

Anyone who has been in sales knows that this job is the easiest one to measure.  You either hit your quota target or you don’t.  Even when you hit your quota one month, it’s quickly forgotten as the business moves forward to the next month.  In a sales organization, it’s, “What have you sold today.”  As every salesperson knows, if you don’t convert your opportunities in to closed sales, it is just a matter of time before you’re let go.  Plain and simple.

As salespeople, we are also very familiar with the “infamous sales funnel” which is used to measure all of the opportunities you are working on and what stage they are at in the sales process.   Wikipedia provides a great example of the layers within the sales funnel process:

Sales-funnel

It’s simple, the goal is to move as many of your new opportunities down the funnel layers towards the purchase order and account maintenance stage.  The more opportunities you close, the higher your chances will be of hitting your quota numbers, making money and succeeding within your company.

During this on-going sales process, a good sales management team will generally look at the following (4) sales funnel metrics:

  1. Funnel  Value:  the potential value of all the deals in the funnel
  2. Arrival Rate:  the number of deals being qualified in to the funnel in a given period
  3. Conversion Rate:  the ratio of deals that were converted into sales
  4. Flow Rate:  the time that deals are sitting in the funnel

A salesperson, on the other hand, will generally only focus on their funnel value and their conversion rate, and too often, forget about their flow rate.  As a sales person myself, I am also guilty of this.  Why do we salespeople do this?  In my opinion, it’s much easier to have a conversation with your boss about a “fat” funnel full of “opportunities” because we’re generally optimistic about our opportunities as we believe they all have the potential of becoming a sale.  In reality, we’re too afraid to quit opportunities in our funnel by pushing them out.

It might seem strange when you first consider “quitting” in sales, but if you think about it, if you eliminate those opportunities (and yes, customers) in your funnels that are not realistic, you are able to spend your time on those that are.  Quitting isn’t always a bad thing in sales.

Note:

Logo was created by Stacy Driscoll who is a freelance designer based in South Florida where she continues to provide her clients with innovative design solutions while continuing to grow her client base and skill set.  More of her work can be found at her website www.stacydriscolldesign.com.

Why Isn’t Anyone Listening To Your Presentations?

by Robert Driscoll on October 28, 2009

untitledHow often have you made a presentation or given a webinar and felt like no one was paying attention to you or that you weren’t connecting with your audience?  Was it your material or your presentation skills?  Or both?  In my opinion, no one is a really bad presenter, but rather you might be using really bad presentation techniques.  Here are some techniques that I hope will help you connect more with your audience.

The slide presentation should not be the presentation

Too often people simply regurgitate what is in their presentation instead of engaging with the audience.  You need to learn to work with the presentation in the background and not have it be the focus of your presentation.  Some presenters think that overloading their slides with information will compensate for poor communication skills, yet this couldn’t be further from the truth.  The information in your presentation is like a book and you should simply be summarizing it for the audience.  If you connect with them and they see marginal value in your offer, then they will want to read your “book”.

Don’t overdo your presentation.

Don’t be THAT presenter who has the 100 slide presentation unless you’re presenting to an audience that is suffering from sleep deprivation.  Limit the number of slides that you are presenting and the number of bullet points or information otherwise your message will be lost during the presentation.  If you feel that there is detailed information that your audience might find of interest, feel free to provide them with hardcopy printouts or email them a softcopy after you have finished your presentation.

Don’t memorize it.  Understand the material you’re presenting.

Simply memorizing your presentation material will not make you connect with your audience.  You need to be knowledgeable about what you are presenting so that you can interact with them and let them participate and apply the concepts from your presentation as this will give them the opportunity to put in to practice what they are learning.  If you memorize your materials without having a good understanding of it, you will have a harder time connecting with your audience and gaining their trust.

Prep your audience and be respectful of their time.

The fastest way to lose the attention of your audience is to not have the right people in attendance.  Make sure your audience understands not only why you’re there but what you will be presenting as well.  You only have a limited amount of time to get their attention and to get them to gain interest in your offer.

While you primarily learn good presentation skills through trial and error and constructive criticism from your peers, having the right techniques in your arsenal will keep your audience engaged and increase the value of your offer.  Before you know it, your audience will start paying more attention.