Entries from May 2009 ↓

Delivering really bad news

bad-sales-newsI think we all know that when there is bad news brewing, like say a shipment will slip by a week, you should let your customer know ASAP.  That’s a no-brainer and not worth talking about.

But in today’s economy it is worth talking about how and when to deliver REALLY bad news.  For example, I’m dealing with a company that just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and we had to come up with a plan to inform the customers so they didn’t read about it in the paper.

The people at the level I was dealing with didn’t know for sure exactly what day we were filing, we just knew it was coming – and you can’t say anything to customers before the filing, who knows, it might not actually happen, so we knew we had to at least wait until the filing actually happened.

The VP of sales for this organization (~$400M) wanted a form letter to go out to all customers, period.  I argued that the top 20% customers deserve at least a phone call, and the top 5% should get a face-to-face delivery.

We ended up doing a mixture, I got my 20% phone calls and we visited the top 2% and things went pretty well.  Literally every customer took our calls and thanked us for explaining what this filing meant to our company and to our ability to service them short and long-term.  We set up a Web site to post updates on so that everyone knew our status and things seem to running fairly smooth right now – we’ll see.

Bottom line is that communication is the key, if your customer hears about your dirty laundry from anyone other than you – you lost.

Easy on the email

huge-email-loadI love email – it’s one of the few tools that you can use at 2:00 in the morning to communicate to your customers.

I’ve noticed over the past few years, however, that the size of emails is rapidly growing.  It wasn’t all too long ago that it was foolish to try to send an email over 1MB in size – now it’s common to get 10MB files launched my way.

Just because your customer is capable of receiving your bloated sales propaganda doesn’t mean that you should tax their system, or their patience.  Learn how to convert images to smaller sizes and transform large documents into smaller PDF files – your prospects will thank you for it.

Don’t move in even percentages

sales-percentageYou’re about to close a deal with an enormous company and the buyer tells you that the $100/widget price must come down if the deal is to go through.

You’ve let your sales funnel dry up and you need this deal to make the quarter.  Without hesitation, you drop to $95 (5%) and assume the deal will go through.

Ah, but what does the buyer see?  He sees that you just took a seemingly arbitrary 5% off your price – quite an arbitrary amount don’t you think?  If you had 5% to give up, you probably have 7%.  So the buyer waits two or three days and says that the deal is yours if you just back your price back an extra 2%.  Deal done.

Now imagine you cut your price from $100 to $98.35 instead of the round $95, what is this message saying to the buyer?  Well, it says that you don’t have much room to move at all, and there isn’t much margin to give up.  The buyer comes back demanding an even $98 and you’re still $3 ahead of where you were in the first scenario and everyone’s sales ego remains intact.

Bottom line: don’t telegraph that you have excessive sales margin by moving your price in predictable amounts.

Sales leads from odd places

sales-leadsI get asked a lot where I get my sales leads from. While there are plenty of standard answers – mine is typically “Where other salespeople aren’t looking.” Here are two quick examples.

For example, what industry to you sell into? Let’s say that it is in novel materials for semi-conductors. Why not monitor the semi-conductor patents that get issued and contact each and every author to pick their brain and see if they know who you should be talking to.

Staying on the same general sales lead path – get your hands on all the technical articles you can and call up all the authors. Typically these more technically-oriented people will talk to you and provide you with great insight and sales leads as well.

The point is to look where others aren’t looking.