Tag Archives: sales process

How to Create Account Bonds That Are Bulletproof – Flip Your Triangles


Here is a selling concept that is arguably a fundamental, but it’s one that is too often missed…

The “One and Done” Account Relationship.

“So what,” you might say, “One relationship is all that I need to get my contract signed!” That may be true.  But, I guarantee that in today’s dynamic business environment, one relationship will not keep that Account for you – much less keep it growing.

We all know that our contacts at an Account must be deep, and constantly refreshed.  But sometimes we forget that they also must be Plentiful.

Picture two triangles bonded by one point a the apex. Only the tips of these triangles are holding them together.  Our one point equals our one relationship – you and your key contact. No matter how strong this one relationship, do you think that bond will be strong at the Account level?  Not strong enough!  Even if that relationship is the Chairman of the Board or the CEO, there will be changes in careers, dynamics in responsibility, relocations, re-orgs, spin-offs, changes in priorities, and on and on. Here’s another challenge to your one point bond – How about our top competitor coming to town deciding they will buy the business and co-opt your contact by building momentum with other buyers in the account?  News flash…Your bond won’t hold.

Relationships point

 

Now, picture the same two triangles, only this time they are bonded by many points along their bases. Our many points equal our many relationships.  You, your President, your COO, your Marketing Director, your VP of Distribution, your Customer Service Manager, etc. – all connected through you to their peers at your Account.  Now, no matter what happens to one or two of them, the bond is strong.  Imagine that competitor coming to town in this scenario.  They will simply bounce off.  It’s unbreakable.  It’s…Bulletproof.  

Relationships 2

 

Challenge: Think through your Account list right now.  How many of your Accounts are linked by only one key contact?  More than half? Don’t feel bad.  That sums up my informal poll over the last 25 years.

There are plenty of great books out there for building deeper and more abundant client relationships. Here is a quick Amazon search with some great recently published books on the subject.

But here’s the thing – regardless of your methods to build those relationships, you should not be wondering what to do on Monday morning.  Plot your course and expand those relationships…Flip Your Triangles!

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No News Is Bad News


No News is Bad News

General rule in life (if you’re an optimist like me)…No news is good news.  Example: “My kid is away at summer camp, and no news is good news.”

But in sales there is a natural law…
No news is BAD news.

However you track your sales process – whether it’s a sales funnel, a buyer’s process, sales stages, contract milestones, etc., No news is BAD news.

Here’s what I mean…

As your potential customer gets closer to awarding you the business, you should see an ever increasing dialogue.  You should receive more and more questions, objections, clarifications, contracts red lines, requests for references, etc.

If you are seeing less and less communication, you’re dead meat.  It may be because humans don’t like to deliver bad news, or it may be that they don’t have time to keep the losers up to speed on their decision making process (because they are too busy finalizing things with the winners!).  In the end it does not matter why.

20 years has taught me, as you’re approaching the moment of truth, there had better be more talking!

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!

Most of Us Have a Sales Process, But Do We Use It?


I ran across a great post today by one of my favorite Sales Bloggers, S. Anthony Iannarino of The Sales Blog.  If you are in sales or sales management and have not subscribed to this blog – do it immediately.  The jist of this post was that most of us have a sales process, but few of us use it and even fewer work to tweak and improve use and adoption.  These points struck me in particular:

  1. “Salespeople make too much of their sales process, and sales managers too little. Having a sales process and not using it is the same as not having a sales process. It means you aren’t following your best practices for stacking the deck in your favor, and there is no reason not to do so.”
  2. “Salespeople aren’t avoiding the sales process; they’re avoiding asking for and obtaining the commitments that they need and that are embedded in the sales process.”

Are you leveraging and repeating your best sales cycles into all sales cycles?  Are you gaining the commitments from your clients early in the sale to ensure a higher close ratio? 

These are questions that we can all benefit from reviewing.

Give this post, “A Sales Process in Peril,” a read and become a subscriber.  Anthony always has great information!

Are All Opportunities Created Equal?


The answer, of course, is NO!

But if you are like most organizations, I would wager that you and your sales team have a natural tendency to “shoot at anything that moves.”

Acting with the discipline to treat opportunities differently depending on their qualification can pay huge dividends as a return on organizational effort.

We all have a limited set of differentiated offerings.  It is also true that available time for selling is tighter than ever before.  So it makes the manner in which you identify, qualify, and pursue opportunities a higher stakes game than ever before.

In his re-creation of Michal T. Bosworth’s concepts in The New Solution Selling, author Keith M. Eades draws one key distinction that can be helpful in sorting the wheat from the chaff.  The image above is a modified version of the “Solution Selling Process Flow Chart Model.”  In it you will notice that opportunities fall into two types: “Latent,” where the client is not actively looking, but your solution is a strong fit; and “Active,” where the client is looking for a solution to a specific problem, and your solution may be a strong fit. 

You can quickly sort opportunities at your firm into these two types as one way to triage potential pursuits and if/how you are going to manage them.

Sales to Latent opportunities are typically longer (more nurturing, education and collaboration with clients) but also generate less competition and more profit per deal.

Sales to Active opportunities need to be scrutinized (what is our unique win strategy?  What is our profit position? Should we pursue?) but are often a faster path to closure.

The challenge is not to develop the perfect process, but to begin to differentiate the way in which you engage on pursuits. 

Interesting things will happen when you do.   Your hit rate should increase,  you should see a higher return on your effort, and people on your team will begin to feel that you are playing to win.

Sales People – Play Your *Position (*It’s Changed)


Parents who have watched their children growing up playing soccer can appreciate this.  It’s the phenomenon I call “swarm-ball” where the young kids cluster around the ball, eyes fixed on it, and move as a swarm up and down the field, flitting around to the brink of exhaustion.

Years go by.  Then, something magical happens.  All the coaching sinks in and like a light-switch, the players lock into the concept of playing their position.  Suddenly all the lost energy becomes focused and efficient.  Players are making passes, assists, and goals more often with less exertion and more accuracy.

Sales people have a position to play in a selling process too – and it’s changed.  Radically.

In recent years, as the internet has exploded and buyers are more educated than ever, sales people can no longer afford to just “chase the ball.”  Buyers don’t like it.  They won’t tell you – they just won’t buy from you.

It boils down to this, you are no longer the source of information on your product or service.  Whether they have it or not, clients will come to you feeling as though they have all the knowledge about their purchase (want proof of this trend? Ask your Doctor if Web MD has caused her any frustration in this area with the medically “brilliant” patients she now must deal with).  Clients do their homework first.  We all do this when we buy. 

My respected friend, Ardath Albee (follow her on Twitter immediately if you don’t yet – http://twitter.com/#!/ardath421 )  is a thought-leader in content marketing.  This is the art and science of generating interest, attention, value, and engagement (that leads to YOU and the active selling position you play).   Here is Ardath’s new concept of a sales funnel:

The bottom line is that you as a sales person no longer work the entire funnel.  You and your organization need to need to put good, valuable content out there to capture the interest, gain the attention of, communicate value to, and Engage potential buyers.  This is where your position kicks in.  At this point is where you can make a huge difference as a sales person.  You can have more qualified sales conversations, and close more sales, if you play your position

Don’t to shoe-horn your clients into being “sold” on your product.  Instead, play your position by leveraging content marketing techniques to engage clients in the front end of the funnel while you bring value to buyers in key conversations and their decisions to buy. Be the best possible player you can be from “engagement” onward in this funnel and you will score more goals!