Good Conversation Stimulates Like Black Coffee

When was the last time you were really engaged in a conversation that was stimulating?  One thing is for sure; you were engaged in the conversation because the conversation was about something you were interested in.

Let’s face it there is nothing more boring than to be talking about something you feel is a waste of time.  With that in mind, how do you think your prospects feel when you are talking about something that is not of interest to them?

Conversations with prospects have to be crafted, planned, and well thought out to be stimulating.  One of the biggest challenges is to match the right conversation with the right person.

What I mean by that is a conversation with a CEO is going to be different than a conversation with a CFO, which is different than a conversation with a manager.  The reason these conversations are different is because the needs and interests of these people are different.

A one size fits all conversation about the value you bring to prospective clients will not work.   If you don’t tailor your conversation based on the needs and concerns (interests) of the person you are talking to, you won’t get very far.

For example, according to The Conference Board CEO Challenge 2010 Survey, the number one challenge CEOs say they are facing is excellence in execution followed closely by consistent execution of strategy by top management.  If you tailor your conversations to center around these points, you will be an instant hit.

It’s pretty easy to do.  You just simply state how your product or service will help with excellence in execution.   If you provide employee benefits you could discuss how execution is vital and what you and your firm are doing to address that.

Similarly, a recent study by IBM of over 1,900 CFOs and other senior financial executives revealed the top three priorities for CFOs are: reducing the cost base, making faster, more accurate decisions and providing more transparency to external stakeholders.

When you put yourself in the other person’s world and talk about things that are of interest to them you will increase receptivity to your message.  Your conversations will be engaging and you will develop relatedness at all levels in the prospect organization.

The best way to have stimulating conversations is to plan.  If you know you are going to be meeting with the CEO develop a few conversation topics of interest.  If you are going to a networking event and CFOs will be there, plan your conversations.

Taking a little time to plan and construct a conversation that is meaningful for your audience can pay huge dividends in the long run.  Always make your conversation stimulating.

Happy Selling

Have You Been Losing Sales to Hidden Competitors?

What happened?  You just knew you had a sale and then your prospect did something completely different than what you thought they were going to do!

What happened was you lost out to the competition.  The word competition can conjure up many things in your mind.  You may think about the many competitors that offer similar products or services that you do.  You may think about the advantages or disadvantages your product or service has in relation to your competitors.  Most of the time though, when you think about competition you think about competition as being another company, product, or service.

What you may not have taken into consideration is there are competitive forces that you need to contend with in sales then just “traditional” competition.  I often refer to these non-traditional competitive forces as hidden competitors.

There are two distinct hidden competitors that we are going to discuss.  The first is a mindset and the second is a buying influencer.

The “We’ve always done it this way competitor”

If the solution you are bringing to your prospects represents a fundamental change in the way they have previously done things this is a major competitor.

Consider if your prospect has been using your competitor’s brand for some time, the decision to move from the competitor’s brand to your brand may not be based solely on the value you bring versus the competitor.

In fact, your prospect may be sold on the fact that your product is actually better than what they are currently using.

However, part of the decision making process will revolve around the ease of transition from one company to the other company.

When you think of what is involved in changing companies there is a lot to change.   There are new accounts to set up from an admin basis.  There are new procedures and processes that may be different for your company versus brand X.  There are the new relationships that have to be formed.

As you can see with the amount of change that has to be made, part of the value you bring is eroded by the “cost” of changing.

What you have to do as the sales person is show how the transition will be minimal and easy.

The “outside looking in competitor”

In most business to business sales situations that involve a significant investment for products or services there will be many buying influencers in the decision making process.

Buying influencers are those people that have input into the decision making process.

Most of the buying influencers will be inside the company.  However, you may encounter a buying influencer that is outside the company.

Buying influencers that are outside the company could include attorneys, CPAs, consultants, and partners not actually working in the business.

The outsiders looking in play a role in the decision even though the product or service may not directly impact them.

Most of the times these outside buying influencers can’t give the decision to buy, but they can say don’t buy.

It is imperative that you know all of the buying influencers that will be playing a role in the decision making process.  You can’t be afraid to ask who will be involved in making the decision and confirm that you know and are aware of everyone that could remotely influence the decision.

With the outsiders looking in competitor you have to make sure you address their needs and concerns.  If necessary you may need to meet with them to understand what they want to accomplish and how your product or service would satisfy their needs.

In conclusion, competition can have many faces.  Don’t be short sighted and think that your only competition are the companies you compete against.  Competition includes all of the alternatives and obstacles that stand in the way of you making the sale.

Happy Selling

What it Means to Win The Sales Game

Last week I talked about the mindset it takes to win the sales game.   I said that the mindset you need to have is one that places your prospect’s needs first.  It occurred to me that some might think there is a contradiction if you “win” the sales game and place your prospect’s needs first.  Let’s look at what “Winning The Sales Game” really is.

When you look at selling it appears that there are two sides: the seller and the buyer.  In reality the seller and the buyer are on the same side.  If you place your prospect’s needs first, you are on the buyer’s side helping them get the best solution to their problem.  The problem (could be literally or figuratively) is what you are trying to solve with the buyer.  You are positioning yourself as a trusted advisor for your buyer.  So, there is only one side.

There can however be winners and losers.  There are four entities that can win or lose in each sale.  The four entities are: the selling organization, the buying organization, the buyer, and the sales person.  In order to win the sales game, all four entities have to win.

First, let’s look at the selling organization.  This is the company you represent.  A win for the selling organization means a profitable sale where the organization can deliver what is promised.  This means the deal fits the parameters the organization has set out for a good customer or client.  A “lose” for the selling organization will ultimately result in a “lose” for the buying organization because they will eventually have to change something to make it a win.

A win for the buying organization is when they have the best solution for their problem for the investment they can make.  If they buying organization loses, it will ultimately be a “lose” for the selling organization.

A win for the buyer is when the buyer gets what they need personally out of the sale.  For example, if your product or service allows the buyer to reach his/her targets and they get a bonus.  That’s a win for the buyer.

Lastly, the sales person has to win.  The sales person wins when they get credit or the commission for the sale.  If they make a sale that is below the threshold to get a commission it is a “lose” for them.  Or, if the sale doesn’t count towards their quota, it could be a “lose.”

In order to “Win The Sales Game” everyone has to win.  There really is no contradiction with putting your prospect’s needs first and “Winning The Sales Game.”  While putting the prospect’s needs first the sales person has to take into account all the other needs too.  It is the sales professional’s responsibility to ensure everybody wins.