Entries Tagged 'Summary' ↓

Site on hold … for now

onholdI have a confession. I’ve been trying to raise money to start up an innovative manufacturing company for a spell and it looks like we’re going to close on our first funding round very soon.

As such, I have to put this site on hold due to a dramatic loss of any free time.

If anyone out there has any interest in purchasing this site, I’m open to selling it, otherwise, there’s still a boatload of sales and marketing information on here, so I’m not going to officially close it down quite yet.

Changing sales jobs (go out on top)

outontopIn this crazy economic environment, a lot of people are swapping jobs because the grass is always greener as the saying goes. Today’s sales post warns you not to stop working hard for your current company during your two-week notice and to go out on top of your game.

Work hard so that all your customers know you are leaving and there are no hard feelings and inform them who they should be contacting in your absence.

The reason for this seemingly weird behavior is two-fold.  First, and most importantly, it is the right thing to do.  If you are collecting a pay check, you owe 100% effort to your employer.  Secondly, this world is pretty darn small (and getting smaller) you’ll be surprised how often you end up selling to, working for, or competing against folks you thought you’d never see again.

Bottom line is to be responsible and work hard until the door hits you in the rear end!

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.

Top 5 Sales Mistakes

buyers-sellersWe set out to prove that our oft claimed strategy of integrating the buyer into your sales process at the very beginning of the sales cycle provides deep rewards down the line. By integrating buyers in your process early, we argue, you are gaining almost insurmountable advantages over your competition. Here are just two of the main advantages.

  • Buyer buy-in. In other words the buyer will be on the ride with you as you and the respective technical teams build up a technology solution. She’ll have a say at each fork in the road and understand the economic repercussions of each decision. So by definition, your price tag will be acceptable, the buyer knows what it is before you submit it. As long as your technology is at least comparable to your competition – you’ll win the job every time.

  • Your customer’s engineering team will often be on your side, because they are mainly interested in the best technical solution, period. As such, as you and they begin to form that solution, they will act as your agent – convincing the buyer that your combined solution is the best path forward. When your competition’s proposal shows up and no one has even seen it before, you will look like the safe bet.

We surveyed a swath of buyers from major domestic corporations in the fields of telecommunications, advanced materials, manufacturing, aerospace and aviation, mining, and advanced electronics; we stayed away from buyers in the retail world. While a statistician would have no problems poking holes in our method, you can’t argue with the practical results – and that’s all we really care about.

For this post, we’re detailing the question that asked for the top five mistakes that engineers and salesmen make when trying to sell into their respective organizations. The questions were asked in an open format, so that they participants could answer in any manner that they felt best. Here are some of the quotes that we received.

Don’t talk down to buyers.

Don’t ignore the buyer when you get them in the meeting.

Engineering estimates are not the same as quotations.

Don’t try to backdoor the buyer by going through the engineer.

So here they are – the top five buyer’s pet peeves.

5. Trying to weasel in the back door of the company through an engineer.

4. Not offering alternate solutions.

3. Not knowing about either company’s terms and conditions.

2. Underestimating the buyer’s technical knowledge.

1. Not bringing the buyer in the process from the very beginning.

In support of the number one reason, one of the survey questions was:

At what stage in the buying process do you like to be brought in at?

a) During the initial sales call

b) After your engineers have approved the solution

c) While a quote is being developed

d) After delivery of quotation

e) Never

100% of the respondents answered (a) they want to be brought into the sales process in the very beginning.

In reality most buyers are brought in the process at step (d) after delivery of the quotation. If they (buyers) want in at the beginning of the sales cycle and we (sellers) want that too, why is it so rarely done? I guess we’d need another research study to determine that!

Bottom Line: Get the buyer’s involved right from the start and you’ll be buying them a beer after the deal closes!

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.

Bad sales mistakes

Don\'t be a sloppy salesmanOK, this is the first venting post of this blog’s history – but it’s very appropriate to our sales discussions so here goes…

We were in the market for a new bedroom suit for my little boy who is moving out of his crib.  My wife found what she wanted at Value City Furniture.  Unfortunately they have no options to do anything over the Web (sales mistake number one), so she had to call to place the order for a bed, mattress set, end table and dresser – I’ll explain later why she can’t get to the actual store.

They told her that they aren’t allowed to take orders over the phone because of credit card issues.  What???  I can pay for a bloody pizza over the phone! (sales mistake number two)

So now I have to run to this store with my 2-year old to order the bedroom set.  I tell the salesperson, Bruce, that this was very inconvenient for me and asked him to explain why we couldn’t order over the Net or at least the phone.  His response was that the “Privacy Act” prohibited them from taking confidential information over the phone.  He stated it as such a fact that the President himself must have signed this Act into law.  What???

He then made his major mistake and said that it isn’t a big deal to come to the store and it isn’t really inconveniencing me much.  Now, what Bruce didn’t know was that my wife had been in the hospital for several weeks due to pregnancy complications and I was running ragged back and forth with work, daycare, and daily trips to the hospital with no family around to help – so this was a major, major inconvenience for me. (sales mistake number three)

He finally goes to ring me up and proceeds to tell me that his computer will only let him enter single unit sales and since I was buying a set, I had to go through the customer service department.  What??? (sales mistake number four)

Since I’m extremely short on time at this point in my life, my only punishment was to not order the mattress set off of them.  If I had more time, I would have blown out of that store completely.

So what can we learn from Bruce?  Plenty.

  1. Make it easy for your customers to order your goods through a variety of outlets.
  2. Make sure your offerings are at least as easy to order as your competitors are.
  3. Don’t make a mistake and assume anything about your customer because here is where you can mess with their deep emotions and really screw up a sale.  So stay away from politics, religion and things like that.
  4. Never tell a customer that you can’t take their order right now.  If all else fails, write it down and enter it in the system later, but don’t pawn them off onto someone else to deal with.

Maybe we can start a list of our readers vents and put them together to deliver to sloppy salespeople that give us all bad names.

Two easy ways to improve your sales skills


sales-managementWe’ve all been through them; the company sponsored training programs designed to improve our sales effectiveness. But have you ever stopped to see if they’ve really helped you?

One effective way to do this is using your performance management process.

Most training programs focus on trying to improve a few particular competencies or skills. To track your progress in honing those skills, check the performance ratings you’ve been given over the past few years. Have your ratings improved both overall and on targeted competencies? Review your progress year-over-year. If your ratings aren’t improving, you need more development.

Another way to check and see if your selling skills are at their peak is to solicit feedback from others. Multi-rater or 360 degree feedback processes are an excellent way to get feedback on your performance from other people. Even if it isn’t a formal part of your performance appraisal process, you should seek out feedback from others. In certain circumstances, I’d even recommend getting feedback from your customers, although you really need to be careful here. The point is, you can always learn from someone else’s perspective. If they have a safe way to deliver the feedback anonymously to your boss or some other third party, getting feedback from peers, co-workers, and other folks who work with you on a sale can really help you get a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses so you know what to work on to improve.

Automated Performance Management Tools Can Help

As engineers, we love tools! We love anything that saves us time and improves our quality and efficiency. OK and there’s the “sexiness” factor too. Let’s face is, technology is fun! There are some really great automated performance management tools out there that can make it easier for you to get the feedback you need and monitor your performance improvements. Your performance appraisal should be one of your key tools for getting feedback and monitoring ongoing improvements in your performance. If your company doesn’t have an automated system in place yet, maybe you could develop your sales skills by selling the need for one to your HR group!

What is a sales funnel?

Sales Funnel

The Sales Funnel metaphor has its roots in the real world use of funnels. A large amount of liquid, or sales opportunities, can fit into the top wide portion of the funnel. However, as you move down toward the funnel neck, less and less opportunities can fit.

A sales funnel is constructed by stacking several layers together.  These layers include:

  1. New Opportunity
  2. Initial Communication
  3. Fact Finding
  4. Develop Solution
  5. Propose Solution
  6. Solution Evaluation
  7. Negotiation
  8. Purchase Order
  9. Account Maintenance

The key to surviving in sales is to make sure that each respective layer in your sales funnel never dries up – it really is that simple.  You should always know how many companies are in each layer.  New Opportunities are put in the top and worked through the funnel (via a documented sales process) until they either issue a purchase order, or become a disqualified lead.

Knowing that it can take weeks or months to walk prospects through the sales funnel process, you better have multiple prospects at all layer in your personal sales funnel.

So the bottom line is pretty straightforward.  Make sure that you have action at all levels in the sales funnel and you’ll never be desperate for a deal to close again.

Sales funnel tool released

Example sales funnel

Over the past two years, I’ve been developing an Excel based sales tool to automatically create sales funnels for my team and clients.  As we saw in the proceeding sales funnel example post, sales funnels can tell you a lot about your business.

This sales tool allows you to:

  • Focus your efforts and make more money
  • Better track your current and future customers
  • Identify and secure repeat orders from current customers
  • Never be desperate to close a deal again
  • Identify top performers in your sales organization
  • Determine which customers aren’t worth your time and effort
  • Provide more accurate and timely forecasts
  • Stop wasting time preparing sales quotations on loser sales accounts

After seeing many salespeople successfully use this in practice, I’ve decided to offer it for sale to our readers.  A quick look at the directions should help you decide if this would be useful to your sales efforts and how to properly make a sales funnel.

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments so that all can read the response.

Example sales funnel analysis

It seems an appropriate time to look at an actual example sales funnel that we recently analyzed. Let’s call our salesman Sam since Sam the Salesman has such a nice ring to it.

Example Sales Funnel

A quick glance at Sam’s funnel reveals several observations, some good, some not so good.

  • Sam’s New Opportunities layer stands strong at 15. So Sam either has a fantastic marketing department that is feeding him a lot of leads, or Sam is great at uncovering his own leads. What we don’t know yet is the quality of those leads.
  • There is a large step down from New Opportunities (15) to Initial Communication (3). Something doesn’t smell right here. We need to talk with Sam. He either needs retrained on how to get in touch with his prospects or we need to help him get better leads.
  • The relatively low values for Fact Finding through Purchase Orders continues to point to a problem of converting prospects into customers. Is it Sam’s fault? We can’t really tell without talking with him. But we sure can tell that something is wrong somewhere.
  • Ah, ha – look at the high Account Maintenance number (12), that’s downright fantastic! Right? Look closer. With the large number of current clients, why doesn’t Sam have much more repeat sales in the upper layers? We’ve hit on a problem. Even if his new leads are garbage, he should be able to churn his current clients back through the sales process at a much greater rate than he currently is. This is where his efforts need to be focused.

This is the type of process you should go through on a monthly basis to make sure you have deals at all levels in the funnel and you don’t go hungry. In practice, Sam would couple his funnel with a brief document detailing each company in his sales funnel.

New Year sale’s list

Happy sales new yearWelcome to 2009!  I’d like us all to start off the new year making a simple sales list.  This list should have two headings “What I did good” and “What I did bad”

Try to think of some sales tactics that you did which proved to win you business.  Maybe you sent a reminder email between phone calls and people were more likely to take your call, or perhaps you finally started recording sales call details in a CRM, or whatever.  The point is to think about what you did to help build your sales funnel or at least make your job easier.

Secondly, and this list should be easier, make a list of things that didn’t work.  Maybe you were offering discounts right off the bat and it didn’t help your close ratio, or you might have even tried to start at the bottom of an organization in your selling efforts, again, whatever.  The obvious statement here is not to do these things again, but more importantly try to understand why they didn’t work.  For instance, maybe you’re already very competitively priced and slashing prices won’t help close more deals – in fact it might make your offering look like a cheap alternative, and that’s never good.

So make your lists, check them twice and put them in your drawer.  Pull them out once a month and review and add to it.

Best of luck in 2009 as we start off our sales efforts.

Holiday sales vacation

Merry ChristmasEngineersCanSell is going to to take a two week respite for the holiday season to maximize time with friends and family.

I want to thank all of you for making this a phenomenal year. My readership has exploded, I’ve met some great sales people, acquired some clients, and even made a few friends along the way.

Please take this latter half of December to reflect on how blessed we all are and try to give back to those less fortunate.

And get some rest – the first quarter is right around the corner and we’re going to work hard to fill up your sales funnel!

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, and all the other politically correct tidings of great sales joy.