When challenging your customer, entering accounts and positioning yourself to be valued as you should, it’s important to remember this key point: It’s okay to be wrong, just make sure you have a clear take and a solid rationale to back it up.
Here are my thoughts on the issue (RSS Readers Click Here to Watch Video):
The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) recently released one of the most comprehensive and insightful studies into what causes successful sales efforts. They published their findings in an excellent book The Challenger Sale (I’ll share my review of this book in a future post).
One of the key findings of the study is that customers and prospects desire and value salespeople and selling organizations that challenge their thinking, provide unique insights into how they can do their job better and enable them navigate unseen pitfalls.
One of the secrets to being able to cut the sales cycle time in any sales process is the ability of the selling organization or salesperson to stimulate the thinking of their prospects and market. How do you do this? By putting forth what I refer to as a Commercial Teaching Point-of-View.
A Commercial Teaching Point-of-View is designed to provoke and reframe a prospects beliefs, mindset or thoughts about their current situation. It’s successful when it stimulates the prospect to think and become curious.
There are five key components to a successful point-of-view:
- It’s focused on the prospects world, and it’s about their issues, not your solution.
- It challenges the prospect’s thinking. Your not looking for an “amen” here. Quite the contrary, if the prospect already agrees with what you’re saying, you’ll be treated as a commodity.
- It connects, partially or fully with a important or critical issue in your prospect’s world. Remember, it’s about them, not your solution.
- It plays to your area of advantage. It requires you to understand and focus on what you do differently than others, and, more importantly, why that matters.
- It leads to an investigative or diagnostic sales process.
I’ll be sharing insights and the process for creating a powerful message that can serve as the basis for your Commercial Teaching Point-of-View on our first Sales Genius Network webinar, Creating a Powerful Sales Message: Getting In the Right Doors Faster.
I’ve been working on a project for one of my clients that has allowed me to spend a significant amount of time reviewing company websites (I’ve probably reviewed a couple hundred in the last two weeks).
There are two things that have shocked me:
- There are still a lot of small and mid-market companies that pay little to no attention to their web presence. They’re sites are old, clumsy, look bad and offer nothing of value. It’s amazing, because I’m sure they wouldn’t let their employees look as disheveled as their website.Your customers and prospects will all come across your website at some point, and if it doesn’t it isn’t reasonably strong, it will harm your sales efforts dramatically. It doesn’t cost that much to develop a reasonable site, so if yours isn’t up to par, please fix it.
- The bigger shock is just how difficult it is for a prospect to reach out to begin a discussion.
It’s this second point I want to focus on. I lost count of just how many sites have three methods to connect:
- A “Contact Us” page
- The choice to email either info@ or sales@ the company.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and prospects. How special do you feel reaching out that way? Why don’t we just ask our prospects to put a big, fat “Sell Me” sticker on their foreheads?
I’m not saying don’t have a contact page, or even email addresses like these; but, please – PLEASE – give your prospects a comfortable path to connect and engage with you. For example:
- If you have a blog (especially if it’s multi-authored) make it clear who’s writing the posts, and how could someone connect with them.
- If you’re highlighting a product/service, give them a name and a real person’s email address that they can connect to. We live in a noisy world, give them something personal.
- If you’re going to list your leadership/management team, let people know how they can connect with them, in some means other than sending an email to an info address.
Making it more comfortable for your prospects to connect or engage with you and your company will reduce their fear and increase your lead generation.
For the last six years I’ve been talking about, working on and fiddling with an idea that would allow salespeople who truly desire to maximize their potential, impact and (yes) income. I’ve wanted to build a platform that would provide the support, leadership, insight, knowledge, experience and the ability to share experiences; giving serious salespeople the tools to propel their results.
For the last four years, it’s operated under the project name The Sales Genius Network. After spending countless hours trying to figure out how to launch the project completely, I realized that I needed to follow my own advice. Launch it, keep it simple and let its participants guide how it grows and what it ultimately becomes.
So today, I’m excited to share the first step in the journey, the official (soft) launch of The Sales Genius Network.
The first phase of The Sales Genius Network, will an be ongoing webinar series presented every month; focusing on topics like:
- Developing a powerful sales message that gets heard and gets you in the right doors faster.
- Account entry strategies that allow you to talk to decision makers when no one else can.
- Developing the questions that eliminate competition and close sales faster.
- Increasing referrals without ever having to ask for one.
- Shortening the time and reducing the effort it takes to manage your sales process.
- And much more
You’ll be able to sign up for the specific webinar you want, or you can subscribe to the series.
Our first webinar, Creating A Powerful Sales Message: Getting You In The Right Door Faster is scheduled for July 12th at 2pm. You can learn more about it here.
I was discussing the importance of developing an effective marketing cultivation and engagement system with a client recently. As we were laying out the path and approach, my client said something that struck me.
“Doug, this is a really good model and I definitely want to do it. But, I don’t even have good collateral material. My brochure is out of date, I have no fact sheets on my products; and I really think I need to take care of that first.”
It struck me because I realize that’s probably what a lot of people think. While the concept of content marketing (the basis of an effective cultivation/engagement process) is old news for me, it’s still something foreign to the vast majority of small and mid-market B2B companies.
As we share in our on-demand webinar Making Marketing Work, an ineffective or non-existent cultivation/engagement process restricts the effectiveness of your sales effort by 30 – 70%. This means that you must sell twice as hard without such an asset.
So, I thought I’d share my advice to him with you.
The very best piece of collateral you can have is content that challenges, educates and provokes a customer. Content that enables them to learn and do a better job.
While a brochure or fact sheet enables you to tell your prospect that you’re a rock star, a cultivation and engagement asset enables you to demonstrate it.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t have a corporate brochure, fact sheets and other collateral? Not necessarily (though as long time readers of this blog know, I’m not a big fan of traditional brochures). But, if you’re looking to drive sales, improve business performance and separate yourself from your competition, you’re far better off building the content first.
It’s not often that you get to witness the birth, growth, climax and death of a major company in less than a generation, but we’re all witness to it at RIM, with the impending death of their business.
When I wrote Is Blackberry a Dead Product Walking, I was worried that people would view the headline as hyperbole (and many did, while taking issue with my thoughts). Yet, here we are, less than 18 months later the stock is down form nearly $70 to just above $10. Last week, news comes that RIM, the maker of Blackberry, has engaged JP Morgan Chase and RBC Securities to “help it evaluate its options.”
As I shared in my original post, “You know the surest way to go broke? Keep introducing more new products while you continue to lose share of a growing market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure.” It turned out not to be so slow.
Let this be a lesson to all business – especially small and mid-market ones. It didn’t have to be this way. But, sure as the sun sets in the West, RIM followed a direct path to irrelevancy:
- They defined themselves by their product, not by their customer.
- All innovation was inward focused. Increasingly they became a solution looking for a problem.
- They assumed they couldn’t fail.
- They wrote off every challenger – including Apple – as a non-starter, with a model that was not viable. Saying in April 2007, ““Again, I have said this before and I will say it again; Apple has done the industry an enormous favor because they basically told the world expect a media player as a software feature on a good smartphone. As the leading smartphone appliance company and platform company, we could not buy that kind of validation for $100 million.”
- They refused to bring true innovation to the table for fear of cannibalizing their revenue; failing to realize what Steve Jobs did, “If we don’t cannibalize our products, someone else will.”
Don’t fall victim to hubris. Be maniacally focused on your customer, challenge the status quo and you’ll find a future far brighter than RIM’s.