Entries Tagged 'New Opportunity' ↓

One sales question isn’t enough

sales-questionsWe’re all taught in Sales 101 to ask ourselves “Why would our prospect buy this product/service?” I’m here to tell you that this question is only the tip of the iceberg and if you leave it at this you’re only doing your competition a favor.

I can’t lay claim to the two follow up question that I’m going to put here, but I can’t quite remember the exact sales source either – I think it might have been from the SalesRoundup show. At any rate the follow up sales questions to ask yourself are:

  1. Why would they buy this product or service right now? and
  2. Why would they buy it from you?

By understanding why they need it right now you really get at their painful needs and can better control the pending sales negotiation.  And you certainly need to know why they would buy from you and not your competition … so that you can educate them on this very matter.

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.

Ask open ended questions

open-ended-questionsWe often preach how important it is to “ask open ended questions”.  I recently realized, however, that many don’t really know what is meant by this sage sales advice – so we’re going to set the record straight right now.

Open ended questions simply refer to questions that can’t be answered with a single word such as yes or no.

An example open ended question would be “How does your purchasing process work here?”

An example closed question would be “Do we have everyone at this meeting that we should have?”

Why do we preach this so hard?  Well, it ties in with another important sales lesson to listen ten times more than you talk.  You may say ten words in a closed question that your prospect answers in a single word – you now have a deep deficit in your talking to listening ratio.

After asking your open ended question, just sit there and listen, no matter how hard it is.  Let them fully answer the question and then either just sit there in awkward silence until they talk more or simply probe deeper “I think I get what you’re saying, can you give me an example?”  “Where does the process typically bog down?” and so forth.

A final bit of advice, don’t sit there and think about your next question while your prospect is answering you.  Listen and live in the moment and just make sure that you fully understand everything you need to in order to put your self in your customer’s shoes – just make sure you take off yours first!

Difference between good and great salesmen

Broken sales promiseI was having a discussion with a young engineer last week trying to advise her in her career path.  She has a lot of drive and ambition, but is young (i.e. inexperienced) so she doesn’t have some of the wisdom that comes with graying hair.

I told her that the difference between an engineer and a good engineer is that the good engineer knows that they don’t know everything and isn’t afraid to ask for help.

I went onto explain that the difference between a good engineer and a great engineer is that the great engineer knows that he doesn’t have to know everything.

The same holds true for good and great salespeople.  Don’t go into a call acting like you know everything, because you don’t.  I’ve never lost a sale by saying “I’d prefer to conference with my technical team before I answer that if you don’t mind.”  Go on to explain that you don’t want to answer incorrectly.

What you’ve proven is that you can be trusted, and whenever you say something as a fact, it should be taken as a fact.  If you just spew out “Oh yeah, we can do that” and then you can’t – that breech of trust is next to impossible to gain back.  And trust is what we’re all selling afterall.

When should you network?

sales-networkingDue to the rather weak economy, many of my contacts are in-between jobs, or at least nervous enough to be looking into other career possibilities – some as sales engineers, others in hard-core engineering or business management.

I’ve treated three people to lunch in the past month that are on the hunt for a new position. While I’m happy to do this and to help them out, the only time I hear from them is when they need help of some sort.

As I listened to what the perfect job for them would be, I proceeded to ask what they were doing to find it – all three said ‘networking’. While that’s great, if you only network when you need it, you’re doing yourself and your contacts a great disservice.

Listen, I’m an engineer as backward and uncomfortable as anyone meeting and greeting new people, but I do a little bit each week so that I’m never in a jam when I need it.  95% of my networking is unselfishly helping others – that is the secret of networking, there you have it.

So when I DO need something, I have no problem asking for help.  I don’t mean to imply that I keep score and know who ‘owes me’, that couldn’t be further from the truth – I simply give unselfishly and get that back in return.

So get out there and reconnect with old friends and meet new acquaintances and start your networking with trying to figure out how you can help them – this is the best way to keep you sales funnel overflowing.

If you want to do something today, cruise over to LinkedIn and invite me to your network and I’d be happy to hook you up with anyone I can.

If you’re curious about my three lunch dates, I hooked one up as a managment consultant and the other two are still on the prowl.  Maybe I should start a small job board on here?!

Getting to true sales emotions

Sales emotions

I was trying to convey the idea of knowing when you are really at the true pain or sales emotion of a prospect.  I used the following example which seemed to really hit home.

Imagine this same question with only a single word changed – and how that single word changes your answer over a rainbow of possibilities.

Question: Would you die for your X?

  1. Pet?  No way, I love my beagle, but a dog is a dog when my life is on the line.
  2. Friend?  Nope, sorry Bro.
  3. Siblings?  Hate to say it but probably not, I have a family of my own to worry about and can’t leave them high and dry with no support.
  4. Parents?  Call me ungrateful, but most likely see #3.
  5. Spouse? Yup.
  6. Children?  No question, bring it on.

Do you see how we went through a sequence until we reached a point of no return – ok, so now you need to craft your pitch around my little buddies and my darling wife.  That is where my deep passion lies.  Anything else you’re wasting your time.

Our job as salespeople, is to ask the right sales questions in the initial sales call so that you know where my needs and pains really are.  My needs may be broad based (say life insurance), but my pain is centered around my wife and children.

Bottom line: I don’t care what you’re selling, the person sitting across the sale’s table from you has a few key pains that you need to uncover.  Ever run across a buyer that needs to close a deal by the end of the quarter or they lose their job?  Dig, dig, dig.

Should I use viral marketing?

In the previous post, we talked about exactly what viral marketing means.  That begs the question “Should I use viral marketing?”

This is an area that I am quite passionate about and think that we, as engineers, can gain a competitive advantage.  You need to tread lightly, however.

Depending on what you’re selling, a lot of your customers will look at you like you have two heads if you tell them that they should be following your every move on Twitter.  You run the real risk of alienating these folks – I talk from experience here.  I used to try to keep my marketing and sales methods on the cutting edge of social technology.  I’ve learned over the past few years that my customer base runs literally about two-years behind that curve, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

My point is that you need to know where your customers stand in this arena before you pummel them with zany invites and pitches.  You don’t want to try to sell an Xbox game to someone that is still using Atari.

Start small with simple things like newsletters and blogs and see how your base reacts.  Educate them as you bring them along the technology curve and you’ll be seen as an expert in two fields, and that can never be a bad thing.

What is viral marketing?

Happy Election Day everyone!  I fought my instincts and followed my peers’ advice and stayed away from talking politics and comparing the two campaign’s selling style.  I now regret that decision and wish I had put up some posts about how each campaign approaches selling their candidate.  I was worried about offending 1/2 of my audience.  In retrospect, I think I underestimated your understanding that I would be talking about selling and not politics (you can get that type of input from several other thousand blogs if you want it).  At any rate, we must march on – see me in four years.

I’ve gotten a few emails over the past several months asking exactly what viral marketing is.

I typically explain what it is and how it can help your sales efforts.  I’m finding an interesting pattern where the sales engineers get the concept and want to develop a campaign but upper management isn’t on-board.

We’ve all heard the term ‘viral’ before but it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to explain – until now.  The folks at VM People created this awesome video that we can all understand.

It walks you through the process of using viral marketing and selling to sell more soap.  The main point is to give your product advocates the tools and motivation to help you sell.  Pretty cool stuff.

Sales leads – example

Sales lead exampleWith so many different possibilities for lead generation, it was difficult to select a single illustrative example, but it had to be done.

Sally the saleswoman is responsible for growing sales for her company’s accounting software package. She knows the product inside and out and even passed her CPA exam recently to help illustrate her deep accounting knowledge and give her instant credibility. The company gave her six months to bulk up sales by 15%, a tall order for any product. Here is how Sally exceeded her sales goal and her commission expectations.

  • She called on her classmates from her CPA preparation class to ask for advice on finding referrals. Note that she didn’t ask for referrals, but asked for help on getting referrals – that’s a fine line, but an important one to take heed to. By asking for this type of help, Sally let her classmates relax their guard and offer advice. Her classmates are mostly practicing CPA’s, so there is no competition for software sales to worry about.

  • Next Sally poured through as many press releases as she could that dealt with companies that she already sells into and companies she wants to sell into. The releases that had anything to do with a need for an accounting package were treated as lead material. If there was good financial news, Sally called to congratulate them and see if their current software was up to the task. If there was bad financial news, Sally called to explain how her software helped another company save money and brought it back into the black. Expansions – does their current package have easy extensibility? OK enough, you get the picture.

  • She attended a trade show to gain insights into how her product stacks up against the competition. This allowed her to easily handle any objections where the competition was brought up as an alternative. Although, as discussed in another article, she was careful not to downplay or insult the competition to her clients. That strategy will get you no where fast.

  • At the same trade show, she presented a paper on using enterprise accounting software to streamline costs and minimize project cost overruns.

  • Sally bought ad placement from Google’s Adwords to help rapidly spread the word about her product.

  • Finally, she cruised LinkedIn for leads into companies that she wasn’t able to reach with the above methods.

The result of her efforts led to a 21% increase in business and the hiring of an assistant to help her manage all the extra business.

Plant tours as a sales tool

Depending on what type of company you’re working for, shop tours are typically a common step in the sales cycle.  Prospective customers want to see what your machinery looks like, how clean it is, how much room you have, and just get a good feeling that you can actually fulfill their order.

A critical, but often overlooked, area of the tour is how your workforce projects themselves – in particular the technicians on the shop floor.

You should be continually coaching them on how important it is for them to smile at guests and say hi and to ask them if they have any questions.  I’ve found that the best way to get them on the same page is to ask them beforehand if they would mind talking about their area to the prospects.  You can then say something like “Joe, would you mind telling us a bit how this press works.”

In return the workers get a sense of pride and your prospects really see that you connect with the workforce and have the ability to track their orders through your manufacturing system.

Yes, I realize you may know more about the machine and could talk more eloquently – keep your trap shut.

Spread the fame around and always thank them with donuts (or oat bran muffins) the next morning.

Let’s talk about money

Money talk in salesWho wants to talk about money?  Your prospects, that’s who.  That’s the first thing that comes to their mind in a sales call.  The whole way through your wonderfully engineered PowerPoint pitch, all they’re thinking is: “How much is this going to cost us?”

If you wait for them to bring up the topic, you might have already lost.  Bring it up on your terms and with your point of reference.

Almost universally, you’re product/service is going to either make them more money or save them money.  Decide what that is before your sales call and do one of the following to shake things up a bit and get yourself noticed.

Right off the bat before plugging in your overstuffed laptop or passing out your shiny brochures, throw one of these out:

If you MAKE them money: “I was hoping to start off with an example of what we do and a quick discussion to get us all on the same page this morning.  We implemented our widget to StarCompany’s assembly line three months ago and they’ve already earned back 3 times their investment.  [then add 2-3 sentences saying what you technically did].  Can we talk about if there are any parallel processes like that here?”

If you SAVE them money: “I was hoping to start off with an example of what we do and a quick discussion to get us all on the same page this morning.  We implemented our widget to StarCompany’s assembly line three months ago and their rejection rate has dropped 78%.  This is saving them about $30,000 per month. [add your technical description here]  Can we talk about if there are any parallel processes like that here?”

This is getting long, and I’ve gotten feedback to keep the posts short, so I’ll save some actual sales call stories for a later date.

Sales leads – press release sources

Press releaseFollowing up the general comments in “Where do sales leads come from?“, here is a bit more detail on the idea of prospecting press release sources to keep the top end of your sales funnel full. I’m assuming here that you track your prospect’s news releases – if not, you should be. Whenever something new hits the wire where you product or service can be used, shamelessly contact the release source. An opening phone statement can be something as simple as:

Hi Jane, I saw your press release announcing your expansion plans in Houston and was hoping to talk with you for three minutes about your networking needs. [don’t leave time for a response here] I promise that this won’t be a hard sales pitch and at any time during the discussion you are free to tell me that it doesn’t sound like a good fit and I won’t bother you again. Our widgets have been used in similar plants to increase network speed by 60% and I just want to see if we can offer you that same type of value.

This should buy you that three minutes – keep to that time and ask for permission to talk longer if you need to.