Has this happened to you?
Some large potential calls you up and asks for your company to make a company presentation. You spend hours putting together a company presentation, and fly to the prospect taking some top executives with you.
Then you are asked to participate in an RFP (Request for Proposal), which would bring in $2,000,000 in revenue.
Because this was an unusually large request from a reputable company your whole team spends the better part of two weeks trying to put together the proposal.
The result. Thank you very much for your time, but we decided to go with the competitor.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
Part of our jobs as Sales Managers and Sales Coaches is to make sure that the company does not waste time and resources on long shot opportunities. In some cases, even with large potentials it is not worth the time and efforts of our people if there is no true basis for doing business.
The first mistake was just giving a presentation without being very specific as far as what attracted your prospect’s interest. Never give a presentation, if you do not know what is important to the prospect, and focus your whole presentation around it. The prospect is only mildly interested in all the other things your company does.
The second mistake was in doing the RFP without first asking some of the following questions:
- Other than price what criteria is important to the prospect?
- Has there been an issue with the previous supplier?
- What additional information do you need from the prospect to make sure that they are comparing apples to apples?
- Is your timeline the same as theirs?
- Are they willing to take suggestions to their RFP, which may reduce costs, or improve the project overall?
- Will you be allowed to present the RFP face to face, and ask some of these questions?
If you feel that you must bid, and that this is a door opener, do it intelligently. If a prospect is not willing to let you ask these questions, do you really want to do business with them? You must agree on a basis for doing business. The buyers’ job is to make you a commodity. Yours is to show them your competitive edge. Sell the value of doing business with the company and yourself beyond just the product.
In many cases they are only sending out these RFP’s to compare to their present vendor. With such a large bid, trust and competence is more important than price to the buyers. They may say price is most important, but without the trust and competence would you put your job on the line for a better price?
Give me your situation and thoughts and let’s see if I can help you do a better job of winning the bid.
So last month I talked about the fearless salesperson, and got some very interesting comments. One comment from my old boss and close friend for 30 years ago. “ Allan you were not only fearless you were ever persistent.”
There are many ways to improve sales. Better questions, being more fearless, being customer focused, targeting better, closing more, filling the pipeline, better body language, and more and more.
However, if you cannot persevere and follow up consistently none of these improvements will dramatically help. I do not know what it is today, but people just don’t follow up. The average salesperson follows up 1.5 times when the average sale is made over 8 contacts.
Please someone tell me what is the problem. I know you don’t want to be a pest. Are you being honest with yourself? Are you really saying, you don’t think your product or service is of real benefit to the prospect? Or, you don’t want to belittle yourself by contacting them multiple times. If you truly believe you are not being a pest if you truly believe this will help the customer.
Let’s set the scenario. You thought you had a good meeting with a prospect, and then you call him/her back and there is no response. Sometimes you e-mail them back and no response. DON’T GIVE UP.
GIVE UP, if you feel that there truly is no basis for business.
GIVE UP, if you feel that your product or service has no value or benefit to the customer.
GIVE UP, if you really do not understand the problem and implications of that problem to their business or you are unable to quanitify the pain.
E-mail them, text them, furnish third party testimonials and references, but DON’T GIVE UP.
Be bold, be fearless, and be persistent.
Recently someone asked about my history, and why I was so successful in sales. It took some thought, because I do not consider myself to be the smartest, friendliest, or best salesperson in every situation. However, the one attribute that helps me the most is being fearless. In my coaching, I have seen literally 1000’s of techniques one can teach to help in sales, but nothing will replace being fearless and confident.
As an example, have you ever seen some new young sales person get a sale that seasoned sales people were not able to get? Was it because of knowledge or technique? Doubtful. Probably because the young one did not have it ingrained in their head all the reasons someone would not buy?
Have you ever seen some salesperson that was so totally obnoxious that you did not understand how they could be so successful? Despite them being obnoxious they were fearless in their approach and asked or stated the problem in such a confident manner that it was too hard to dispute.
Don’t confuse fearless with intimidation. The young salesperson was fearless, the obnoxious salesperson was intimidating and fearless. Neither intimidating nor fearless is not in many of our basic natures. Learning and adopting a fearless attitude is difficult. One really has to commit and accept the concept as truth. If you ever read Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer, you can see how this works. I am sure Donald Trump either read the book or helped write it.
These salespeople and negotiators are NOT smarter, NOT more creative, and NOT better than you. However, what they have in common and what most people do not have is the chutzpah to ask the difficult question. They are not so emotionally tied to the outcome of the sale that they are afraid of losing it. They will put a buyer on the spot, if they feel there is reasonable cause.
Throughout my career, I have been noted as being fearless, and in some cases even intimidating, but hopefully not obnoxious. Because of this, there have been many instances where I knew very little about a product or service and came out with some big orders. Think about it, and see if it makes sense to you. Here are some of the fearless statements and question I have asked which have gotten sales.
- Why haven’t you bought from the company in 20 years?
- Please help me understand why you haven’t bought from us?
- If I was on your side of the table I might not buy from our company, because of the lousy service. What do we need to improve on both sides of the table?
- Let’s get to the point. Yes, is the best answer, no is the second best answer, and if you give me a maybe then you really don’t want to buy? Why? (Sandler Sales preaches this).
- What is the situation with your present supplier? What are you looking to change? What do we need to be a better supplier than presently?
- What are the consequences if you do not make this decision? If you don’t make a decision, have you quantified how much this will cost you? (Three decisions: Move forward with present supplier, move forward with new supplier, do nothing).
I welcome any comments either positive or negative. Tell me a story about your successful “Fearless Sale”.
Recently I showed this Video to the Strategic Business Council that I facilitate called: Radical Candor – The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss. Basically she is saying as Sales Management it is your moral obligation to PISS people off. If you can’t be this then your second much worse choice that no one should aspire to be is an a…hole. Do you agree? There is much more to this Video, and I suggest you listen carefully before commenting.
I agree with almost everything Kim Scott is saying. I find utilizing this concept more difficult when managing sales people. Employees will talk to other employees about your Radical Candor. That’s okay and it is expected. Being a Manager is not a popularity contest. If they are not complaining about you as a manager, then you are not pushing them to do better. However, they are usually discussing these points with other co-workers. Or if not discussing they are brooding in their offices or cubicles. The problem with sales people is that they are frequently more in contact with their clients. Brooding and discussing your company in a negative way in front of customers is not acceptable. And as a Sales Manager or Business Owner you have no clue whether this is happening. How many times have you heard sales people say this is my customer and when I go the customer goes. If you have heard this you are in real trouble.
The question is “How do you keep the spirits up while at the same time be critical and manage effectively”.
I will never forget my first boss at Kraft Foods that once said to me. “Allan, for one of the smartest people I know that was really a dumb thing that you did.” How was I supposed to answer this. This is a Manager that showed a true interest in me personally, and I liked Was I now willing to blindly accept his critisism. Of course not, I was mad as hell. However, I had trouble coming back at him when he said I was one of the smartest people he knew.
I have had those a…hole managers that were nothing but criticism and I must say I could not wait to show them that they were wrong. I have had those managers that only complimented me to the point that it was insincere. I liked them but was not motivated by them, because I was not learning anything from them. If you are in sales you want to always do better. How can you do better if all you hear are compliments and no input on strategy, or improvement on presentation, or recognizing situations better.
So now what type of Manager are you, and what are you going to do to help Drive your Sales. Your comments, positive and negative are welcomed and accepted. I love the discussion.
Having an effective Sales Team starts with having an effective Sales Manager. There is no greater position in the company to influence the direction and success of the company than Sales Manager. Yet many of these folks are untrained for the position, and are so distracted by the latest fire drill, that they neglect their main job – Making their teams successful.
1. To many Sales Managers focus too much on metrics and not enough on coaching to drive performance. Which of these areas are most effecting your sales people and how can you help them other than metrics?
- Managing Priorities / Time Management
- Having a Positive Attitude about the company and co-workers
- Improving their selling skills.
- Improving their communication skills with internal staff.
- Finishing what they have started. This means following up with the customers and with internal requests.
- Gross Profit
- Achieving goal and above goal
- Followed Up Leads from Marketing
- Lead Response Time
- Prospecting Leads
- Referral leads
- Documented Follow Ups of Contacts
- Customer Retention
- Quantified team involvement in Sales Process
- Current Account Receivables.
There is no more critical position that Sales Manager in an organization. Make a bad hire here and it will take at least 2 years to recover. I recently participated in a benchmarking process with my friend and colleague Diana Gats of VPT Enterprise. Diana is a growth Specialist and Business Advisor.
It was an interesting exercise in that what my expectations of a Sales Manager were and what the clients were somewhat different. I understand the need in many small businesses the need to have a Sales Manager that has key accounts. The Sales Manager does not have to be the top Salesperson to demand respect and accountability. I feel that by Sales Managers calling on accounts it deters them from doing the key responsibilities and skills needed to run an effective Sales Organization.
From my perspective the 9 top key priorities of a Sales Manager are as follows:
- Coaching and collaborating – Will your new Sales Manager be able to utilize the established sales people’s background, knowledge, and relationships effectively. Or, will their style turn off your top performers. It’s not easy coming into an established sales organization and setting a new path.
- Holding people accountability – Another Blog I wrote Creating an Accountability Sales Culture is critical in hiring a Sales Manager. Accountability starts with the Sales Manager. If he/she cannot demonstrate to you when hiring that they have self-accountability, how can they hold sales people accountable. Following up is a critical skill and characteristic.
- Keeping the Sales People Positive – NO one doubts the difficulty of selling. If you are doing your job, you may be getting more no’s then yesses. When sales people become negative they easily translate to the customer even when they think they don’t. They are your face to the customer. If they do not feel like they are being supported or are being constantly harangued, then they get worse not better. Sales Managers must always find ways to make the sales people better and in that way more positive about the company and themselves.
- Understand the Financials – I laugh when I see business owners not wanting to share at least some of the financial information with Sales Managers. Then one hears the complaint that they those damn sales people only sell on price. A Sales Manager must understand the whole picture not just sales and marketing.
- Managing the Sales Process – You already have spent money on a CRM that is supposed to increase your sales but has become a data dump. Either you did not have a Sales Process to begin with or no one is managing it. This is where sales are really lost, or prolonged. Of course, following rules goes against the normal high flying sales person. This means that the Sales Manager has to be creative in bringing everybody on board and show how it is important and helpful for the sales person to follow the process.
- Shortening the Sales Cycle and the Sales Process – You cannot shorten the cycle if you do not have a clear understanding of the process. Making it easier and quicker for everyone involved is important for the Sales Manager to help the sales people and the company.
- Embracing Technology – To many Sales Managers are living in the past. Technology is your friend and can help accelerate the many processes or pricing, communication, and minimize mistakes.
- Ability to hire and attract top sales talent – What is going to attract new top talent to your company if the Sales Manager doesn’t have this innate skill.
- On-Boarding New Sales Representatives – Can the Sales Manager put together a detailed agenda for a new hire, and make sure there is an understanding of the company culture, why buy from the company.
Notice that none of these are experience in the industry or relationships. These are short lived values which you may or may not get benefit from in the first year, but beyond that and for the sake of the sales people hire for these skills, motivation, and how well they fit in your culture.
I hope this has been helpful and gives you some further thoughts. If you would like to comment, please join the conversation, e-mail me, or just pick up the phone and call.
As a follow up to my Quantifying/ROI blog, I see many sales people either give up or start lowering prices like crazy because a prospect has stated a budget that is very low. Help the customer and yourself by quantifying the problem. In this way, you and they can say whether their budget is reasonable or if there is a further basis to do business.
I was reviewing SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. SPIN stands for Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff. He has many examples of implication and Need-Payoff questions, which are vital in helping your prospect have a complete picture of what the implications are we they do not buy. Once they put a dollar figure to the whole problem the budget seems totally secondary. Or the problem may not be big enough to warrant your solution. The point is that unless you put a number to the problem NOT the budget, you have no idea if your solution is worth it.
Here are some examples:
Example 1: The Company needs to reduce inventory. Questions you may want to ask are as follows:
What benefits would you get from a lower inventory levels besides just cost? Would reduce warehousing space be an advantage? Can we quantify it? Can you use that space for more production? Do you have any idea how that will help your company and can we put a $ figure to it.
Let the buyer describe his or her benefits and quantify them, not you.
Example 2: The Company loses yield or has an unacceptable reject rate on finished products. They believe that a new filter would help, but have a budget of only $50,000 to spend. Questions you may want to ask are as follows:
So, you said you are looking for a new filter. Could you please tell me how much yield you are losing?
Answer: About 5%.
Can we put a number to it on a yearly basis?
Answer: About $350,000 / year.
And how many years have you had this problem?
Answer: 5 years which is $1,7M. Wow, I never thought of it in that way.
Okay then. I realize your budget is only $50,000. I have a solution which is going to cost $100,000 which will give you a payback in 3.5 months. What is necessary to get this approved? Or do you need help in presenting this idea to your CFO?
IN CONCLUSION: Of course budgets are important. They are good qualifiers. However, there are circumstances when the stated budget is inconsequential. If you have not read SPIN SELLING book or been exposed to its principles you should spend the time. For those that are interested I have an Executive Summary. Just e-mail me and I will send it to you.