Tag Archives: customer

Green Bananas


One day earlier this month, I got up for my morning routine and went to pack my breakfast – which, since my wife became a nutrition coach and got me on a solid path, usually consists of some whole grains and fresh fruit. I’d been craving a banana and had not had one in a while. I rounded the corner to my kitchen, filled up my coffee, reached into the fruit basket and without even looking broke off a banana from the bunch. The ensuing “snap” let me know what my eyes now confirmed – it was a [very] green banana and was not going to do me any good that day. “Maybe by the end of the week,” I said. The more familiar scenario in my house is that we find there are several brown spotted bananas which we quickly convert to banana bread and all is well. But as I completed my commute to work that day it got me thinking. Do we have any “green bananas” in our pipeline?

Looking at my firm’s business after the big push to the finish in 2011 had my team wondering about the top of our sales funnel, which we had not done in a while.

After spending so much time nurturing the mature opportunities through the more time-consuming stages of qualification, proposals, contracts, and closure, we turned our eyes to the top of the funnel, and were not happy with what we saw. We had just baked a big loaf of banana bread but the basket was lower than we liked, except for a some [very] green bananas.

How many times have you found yourself dealing with the mature deals in your pipeline like those ripe bananas and wondering, “Now what?” Or, looking at a bunch of green bananas and wondering how long it would be until you could eat?

Well, it’s all about managing your produce.

  1. Block out time and buy some green bananas. Treat your demand generation and lead follow-up time as sacred. Book time during your week for this “appointment” of new sales activities and keep that meeting no matter what. Bring in the fresh stock!
  2. Spend time balancing ripeness. Get face-to-face with your clients.  Never Eat Alone. Use coffee in the morning and lunch in the afternoon as ways to strike up conversations in your network to keep the produce moving through the process. It may not pay off today, but your deals will mature when you need them down the line. Personally, I’m finding more people willing to grab a quick coffee or be treated to an eat-in lunch at their office these days than taking time for dinners or playing rounds of golf like the heyday.  The point is, you need to spend one-on-one time to ripen your deals.
  3. Rotate your stock. My firm uses salesforce.com for CRM (full disclosure, we also do consulting on the product and it is my personal favorite after using many over the years – contact me if you’s like to learn more) but whatever CRM system you use, be sure that it serves its core purpose – to allocate your precious resources across the portfolio of opportunities to maximize your business by helping your customers. To do this, you need to be sure about where you are in the buying/selling process. You need to know that you are taking the right action and applying the right resources. Use your CRM system to ensure you are not ignoring new opportunities while you’re focused exclusively on the “closing” end of the funnel. You need to spend time in each stage to get the most out of your produce.

Stick with this more balanced approach to your selling activities and you’ll create a more balanced sales funnel. You’ll have some nice green bananas, some delicious yellow ripe ones – and yes, hopefully, you’ll also be making lots of bread!

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Guaranteed Better Sales Interactions? Plan On It


We don’t always do the best job that we can at preparation.  But one thing is for sure – there is no shortage of meetings each day, especially in sales and marketing.    Due to the collaborative nature of selling today, those meetings burn not only y0ur time, but the time of other valuable people in your organization.  It pays to do them effectively and efficiently.  So when is the last time you pre-planned an important meeting? 

On my better days, this makes the difference between a highly successful meeting or one that lacks specific direction and outcomes.

You can do a pre-meeting plan in a phone call, or more formal written document.  But whatever form it takes, I guarantee that you will have better meetings, and accomplish more in them if you take a few minutes and plan ahead.  It works for non-sales meetings too.

So what comprises a good pre-meeting plan? 

To fit your unique situation, you’ll ultimately need to answer that for yourself.  But here are some suggestions from my “g0-to” pre-meeting plan document to get you started:

1.  Meeting Logistics: 
Communicate the time, date, exact location, attendees from both organizations, dress code, and a reminder to bring business cards.  It seems simple, but at least one or two of these are almost always missed.  By the way, your client will give you points for asking for this information ahead of time. 
Not all their vendors come off this organized!

2.  Client Snapshot:
Include a brief, relevant overview of the client organization to baseline the participants.  Especially in the age of the internet, you never look so unprepared as when a team-mate asks a basic question that they should have known going in. 
You’re on for preparing them!

3.  Client Goals, Problems, Needs:
What does your client need from this meeting?  How often do you go in to a meeting without the answer? Too often if you ask most clients.  Preparing for this item is the only way you can know that you will deliver “in-meeting” value. 
Provide “in-meeting” value or your follow-up won’t matter!

4. Sales Objective for the Meeting:
What do you hope to accomplish from this meeting?  Some people are not comfortable with this prep question.  I don’t know why.  Clients know that we are all in business to give and get.  Don’t just go in for a visit.
What’s annoying to them is you being unclear on what you want!

5.  Main Agenda Topics and Topic Owners:
Being organized ahead of time to avoid confusion or conflict makes a huge difference on the impact of the meeting . The collaborative nature of selling has introduced a variable that did not exist in the “1 vs. world” model of sales meetings.  We all think we’re smart and we all hate silence.  Have this mapped.
Someone will say something dull unless you script it out!

6.  Potential Objections, Planned Responses, and Owner:
If you can do just one item on this list before your next meeting make it this one.  This is the most critical item and most often missed opportunity.  Prepare for objections before you get in there.  Here is a fun exercise to run before the meeting: Ask 4 participants what our ideal answer to a client’s question/objection will be and watch how far-flung the responses are.    Practice this, or at least plan for it, and your meeting will be many times more effective.
A crisp response to a tough question can mean a win or a loss!

So there it is, your starter “Pre-Meeting Plan.”  Now go make it yours and watch your meetings soar.

Good Selling!

Your Client Is Like Santa Claus…


I could not resist looking through the red and white lens for this week’s post.  There are a lot of analogies to be drawn here.  I’ll skip the most obvious (we should all be thankful to our clients for the gift of business they give us…) and get to some of the other comparisons:

…He sees you when your sleepin’… You may think you’re getting away with it when you are dogging it at work in a sales role.  You may even pull one over on your boss.  But, your clients will notice.  In a world where product differentiation provides only the slimmest advantage, responsiveness and even proactivity remain your key strategic differentiators.  If you slow down, your clients will sense it. There is a great book on this concept called “Selling the Invisible,” by Harry Beckwith.  Read it.

..He knows when you’re awake
…If you are a solution-maker for your client, you will get their attention.  If not, you’re toast. You need to work on these relationships in earnest.  What have you done for your client that is truly different or better than anyone else?  What has your firm done to stand out as leaders in your industry? What are you doing to show that you’re awake?

He knows if you’ve been bad or good…It used to be that your customer would need to try your product/service and let you succeed or fail a few times before learning if you were bad or good.  What’s changed?  The internet and  Social media are the new norm.  You don’t go car shopping without knowing the VIN#, invoice price, and full specifications of the car your buying, and your client doesn’t buy from you without knowing your offerings as well or better than you know your own.  They now also know what your other customers think about you– BEFORE they even contact you.  Better be on your toes!

I hope your year is winding down to a successful end this week.  The next 10 days are a good time to reflect on 2010 and prepare for an even better 2011. 

…So be good for goodness sake!  Happy Holidays

Friday Strategy: Make it a 10-Point Day


It’s the end of the week.  Depending on how yours went, you either have 20 pounds of sand and a 10 pound bag and you’re wondering how your going to get it done, or maybe you are at the end of a long week and wondering if you have the steam to keep going and finish strong. 

Either way, here’s an idea:  Make it a 10-point day.

Give yourself a weighted value for key activities accomplished.  Specifics may vary here, just make it a stretch.  For example: 5 points for a contract, 3 points for an executive meeting, 2 points for an executive phone conversation, 1 point for any buyer touch-point like a nice email/voicemail combo.  Now, try to  reach or beat a total of 10 points today.

Hope you need a calculator!

Focus on Your Clients


A mentor once told me that “Sick companies are internally focused – Healthy ones are focused on their customers.”  Wise words from a wise man.  Thanks, Larry. 

With the economy slowly crawling out of the funk, where are the leaders in your company focused?  It’s easy to become entranced with YOURSELF.  Think about it.  Do you spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy looking at your own company’s Operations?  Alliance Relationships? Cost Containment/Reduction?  Organizational Structure?  Market Segmentation? Inventories? Corporate Branding?  If so – STOP!

These are all necessary concerns.  But they are also a very  – dangerous distraction from your most vital area of  focus in this moment –           The Client! 

If you take your eyes off the client right now, you run the risk of buying your stock high and selling it low.  How so?  You burned a lot of calories keeping clients during the downturn (never worked so hard for so little myself).  If you focus internally now, you may have burned them in vain – only to have a competitor snatch the client away from you as you focus inward and miss the first signs of the recovery.

Instead…Spend as much of your time as possible with clients.  Have progress report meetings to brag about all that you did for them in the past year, hold peer-to-peer executive lunches with them, bookmark web articles of interest and share them with clients, make twice the cold calls than you did last month, do a speaking engagement, double your contacts at a given account this week…

…However you want to…

FOCUS ON THE CLIENT right now!

Customer Site Visits: Always Take the Nickel Tour


I was at a client site today and was offered a the $.05 tour of the facility.  Besides being extremely cool (the client is a forge who makes parts for mining equipment and other heavy industries so it looks like 10-ton Legos being pounded out of pure metal!) I learned an invaluable amount of information from my tour-guide ranging from:  their business, competition, pricing, staffing, assets, market positioning, strengths and weaknesses, future plans, go-to-market strategy, corporate pains, and a 30-year history of the company.  You can’t buy information like that.  ALWAYS take the nickel tour!