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Shane Gibson Keynote Speaker | Social Selling | Sales Trainer | Social Media Strategy

Posts Categorized / Managing Complex Selling Relationships Blog

  • Mar 16 / 2009
  • Comments Off on Sales Pipelines versus Relationship Pipelines
* Sales Podcast, Leadership, Managing Complex Selling Relationships Blog, Sales Blog, Sales Training, Selling In Turbulent Times

Sales Pipelines versus Relationship Pipelines

sales podcast in itunes on mentors and coachingMany people talk about the sales pipeline.  I have heard many people comment on the fact that they have a lot of business in the pipeline. When prodded further they can’t tell me how strong their relationship is with each client. Even fewer people have a method of measuring where they are at.  You just can’t predict when a deal will close unless you have a handle on the relationship. Have a listen to today’s podcast:

  • Feb 07 / 2009
  • Comments Off on Selling Technology – IT Sales Tips
Managing Complex Selling Relationships Blog, Marketing and PR, Sales Articles, Sales Blog, Sales Management Blog, Sales Training, Selling In Turbulent Times

Selling Technology – IT Sales Tips

Selling Technology

One sector that often comprises both intangible and complex sales is the high-tech sector. Many of the solutions are literally invisible—they run in the background and the majority of people are oblivious that they even exist.

Saying that someone is in the high-tech sector or industry is somewhat ambiguous in this era, as most organizations harness technology to make their businesses run. Everything from engineering solutions, to cars, cell phones, and legal services use technology as part of their offerings to the marketplace. So even if you do not consider yourself to be “in technology,” you will most likely be selling solutions that involve technology now or in the future.

Communicating the Benefits of Technology to Different Types of Buyers

We have to realize that there are often many types of people that are involved in the procurement of high tech solutions. For instance, if you were selling Customer Relations Management software implementation to a client, the following buyers may be involved in the decision making and evaluation process:

•    The CEO
•    Finance/Accounting
•    The sales staff who will use the software
•    The VP of Sales
•    The training department that will insure use and implementation
•    The IT department or team who will have integrate and support it once it is installed

Each of the buyers or contributors will need to have the solution communicated differently:

•    The CEO will most likely want to know the big picture, the bottom-line and how the  return on investment will be measured. They will not want to get bogged down in details and specifics and should not be asked questions related to those specifics.
•    Finance and accounting will be concerned about capital costs, warrantees, process management, risk and on-going fees.
•    The sales staff will want to know how to use it, how it will impact their ability to do their job, and the amount of  control others will have over them.
•    The VP of Sales and the training department will want to know about measurement, implementation, tracking tools, and how it will impact their ability to support the sales team.
•    The IT department will want to know specifics on programming, quality assurance issues, debugging, scalability, programming language security, and a myriad of other technical issues.

Most people are comfortable communicating with one or two of these types of stakeholder groups. Great salespeople in this sector have a strategy to address the needs of each of these groups, and they communicate the benefits in a way that is unique and applicable to each buyer type.

In addition to this, there are several other important attributes relating to great high-tech sales professionals as follows:

Knowing the Market

Understanding our target market and niche is critical. We need to understand the unique circumstances, competitive environment, and business processes of our target market.  In doing this research and preparation, we are better equipped to address the needs of our target market and identify what core business challenges our technology can address.

Knowing the Client

We need to go beyond the market and spend time getting to understand each individual corporation’s situation and circumstance. Each client will have unique business challenges and processes that need the support of technology in a customized way.

Factors that will affect the type of solution needed will vary depending on their stage of business growth, existing business processes, corporate goals, immediate and long term challenges, as well as management and operations philosophy.

Know All Applications and Limitations of Your Solution

In order to fully service the client and become a true resource and problem solver, we must understand all the applications of our products and services. In addition to this, it is imperative that we also understand our weaknesses and limitations.

At times clients have un-reasonable or un-defined expectations—by understanding our limitations and communicating them effectively we can dispel any misconceptions.
Why this is important is that a small misunderstanding early on could result in a largely off-target project or solution. On the positive side of course, by knowing all of the applications of our solution we make sure that we truly maximize revenues and client satisfaction.

Be a Problem Solver

This is an integral part of selling technology. Most new technologies evolve out of a client problem for which there is no solution.

Have Great Consulting Skills

Elevating ourselves from the status of order taker to trusted advisor can give us a real advantage in the marketplace. To be seen as a consultant, we need to have a thorough needs analysis approach, build our profile as a subject matter expert, have a high level of rapport with the potential clients, and look for ideal solutions—not just “our solution” to client problems.

Great Project Planning and Management Skills

Many large high-tech sales deals will require numerous people on our team to help us close the sale. There most likely will be a need to engage technical and support staff and then coordinate their interaction with key staff in our client company. Once we have the deal, there will be a need to continue to monitor these interactions to ensure that the promises we made to the client are in fact fulfilled.

  • Feb 07 / 2009
  • 9
Managing Complex Selling Relationships Blog, Sales Articles, Sales Blog, Sales Management Blog, Sales Training, Selling In Turbulent Times

Risks Associated with Long Sales Cycle Selling

A large complex sales opportunity can be very lucrative and offer great rewards for salespeople who pursue them.  With these rewards also come risks because a large investment of our resources over an extended period of time is required for success.  This large investment can be in vain if we have not addressed some of the risks associated with large complex deals.

Risks:

Not Targeting
If we do not have a clear idea of who our ideal clients are (referred to as A’s or the 20 percent that bring us 80 percent of our revenues) then we can be spending a lot time prospecting the wrong companies and opportunities. It is often a large effort just to get in the door and if we are knocking on the wrong doors, it can be costly.

Not Managing Pipeline
Being organized with a clear game plan is imperative as there are so many details and variables in a complex sale the deal can easily get side-tracked. By being organized in our sales process and managing our pipeline, we can reduce the chance of losing the deal due to apathy or distraction.

Not Knowing the Buying Process
We need to really understand how the client assesses potential suppliers and what process they use to do so. Too often we push our own agenda at our own demise.  Spending time probing, asking questions, and researching is critical in helping us understand the likelihood of landing a deal. It also ensures that we do not miss critical pieces of information and steps that are important to the prospect.

Taking the Wrong Advice

We need to gather information from multiple sources to make sure that our approach is in line with the values of the key decision makers. If someone is blocking your access to the internal network of your client company, and all the information comes from that source, there is a good chance that your proposal will miss the mark.  Take advice and gather information from people without personal agendas.

Not Having a Bid Qualification Process
Just because a big company sends you a Request for Proposal (RFP) it does not mean you should apply. Many companies have failed because they won the wrong contract and went bankrupt trying to service a large client and/or one with unique and expensive specifications.

As big complex deal hunters, we need to know what a profitable deal looks like. More importantly, we need to know how we could lose money or burn up time on deals that are a misfit.

  • Feb 03 / 2009
  • Comments Off on Influencing Top Level Decision Makers
Managing Complex Selling Relationships Blog, Sales Articles, Sales Blog, Sales Management Blog, Sales Training

Influencing Top Level Decision Makers

Influencing top level decision makers

Guest Blog By Bill Gibson bill@kbitraining.com

Top level decision makers are results-orientated. Both tangible results and intangible results appeal to them.  When we talk about results we can talk about both tangible and intangible results.

Tangible Results

The kind of tangible results that appeal to them are:

Raising Revenues:
Show them how their overall volume can be increased; in other words, an increase in sales. They know that an increase in sales means more profit if the expenses are well managed.

Increase Efficiency:
They want a sizable return on their monetary investment. If they see that their employees, or their equipment, or other capital will be more efficient, then the chance of their buy-in is higher.

Keeping Shareholders Happy:
Top-level decision makers are the ones who have to answer to the Board of Directors and to the Shareholders in a large corporation. Keeping the Board or shareholders happy is their main priority. This means that you are showing them ways to improve the value of the company, in turn improving the value of the shares paid out, or returning a bigger profit so that larger dividends are declared and paid to the shareholders.

Lowering Cost of Production:
Again, more logical, linear, left brain appeal to the top level decision makers. Lower costs equal better margins and bigger profits.

Increasing Market Share:
They are interested in advertising, marketing and business development strategies, tactics and methods to increase market share. Taking market share from the competition is something that inspires them. Also, gaining a bigger share of the average client’s   buying power  also means increasing market share to top level decision makers.

Higher Return On Investment:
Can you show them how they will get a bigger return on their investment for the money they invest with your services, products, ideas and concepts? If you can, they will want to know you and they will also open to investing time with you.

Dealing With Market Changes:
A sudden down swing in the economy, a new big competitor grabbing market share, a sudden market switch to a new technology, a new way of doing business, new government regulations that affect them adversely, a major change in consumer behavior are all examples of market changes that corporations have to adjust to and capitalize on. If you come with solutions for market changes that affect them, then they will  take the time to explore the possibilities with you.

Intangible Results:

The types of intangible results that appeal to top-level decision makers are:

Lower the Risk And Worry:
Anything that you can do to lower or eliminate the risk makes them feel better. Showing them how you will finish a project on time, protect their investment, handle unexpected situations, save them personal stress or personal hassle are all examples of what they consider to be valuable as an intangible. It makes them feel better and reduces their worries.

Personal and Corporate Pride:
Senior executives and top-level decision makers are at the top because they have personal pride and are proud of the business results that they achieve. Whatever you can do to make them feel even more proud of themselves and their company, will usually provide positive results.  One particular business journalist who works for the Globe and Mail uses this as her primary strategy to get senior executives to call her back for interviews.  She will leave a message or send an e-mail genuinely complementing them on their achievements and track record and citing why she thinks they are an industry authority.  Her callback rate is almost 100 percent.

Image – Personally And Corporately:
Yes the car they drive reflects their success level. The suits, the shoes they wear, the house they live in, the office address, and the image their marketing material portrays are all examples of personal and/or corporate image. Not all top level decision makers hold image as a top motive for buying, although most do, whether they admit it or not.


Retaining And Attracting Good Employees Who Work Beyond The Norm:

The top level decision maker knows that you win when you have exceptional people working with you. Show them how to attract and keep really good people who work beyond what normal people do, and they will be open to listen. When they see these types of people around them they are impressed and it gives them that intangible result of a sense of pride and comfort.

  • Feb 02 / 2009
  • 6
Managing Complex Selling Relationships Blog, Sales Articles, Sales Blog, Sales Training

Sales Blog – Selling Intangible Solutions

Key Skills and Strengths for Selling Intangible Solutions

The following provides a brief overview of some of the skills and strengths needed to be great at selling intangibles.

1) Personal Brand of You
When selling intangible solutions, it really is about credibility and the relationship. Because the solution is intangible, the purchase is largely based upon the believability of the salesperson. For example, a business coach sells a very intangible service. They are often evaluated by their own personal presence, ability to communicate, and by third party endorsements and certifications.
Having a strong personal brand helps people understand who we are, what we are about, and it removes uncertainty. There is so much information out there to process that it is almost impossible for a consumer to choose a service or product—instead they choose the right company or the right sales representative and leave the product selection up to them.

2) Differentiation
People who are good at this type of sales often communicate what they do in a unique way. This means specializing and unique positioning is often necessary. Thousands of people in Canada call themselves “financial advisors” and the minute we hear that term we mentally lump them into the same category as the last 100 advisors we met and lose interest. One of the top one percent of advisors at London Life/Freedom 55 Financial refers to himself as a “Wealth Management Specialist” and just by the nature of his positioning, attracts very affluent clients. Find a way to present what you do in a way that makes it memorable and creates a distinction between you and the rest of the people in your industry.

3) Passionate Evangelist/Industry Authority or Both
As an extension of our personal brand and our ability to differentiate, our passion and knowledge are critical in selling intangibles. Because the client cannot often experience the service or solution in a tangible way, their experience of you has to be credible and inspiring. In fact, their experience in dealing with you will determine if they purchase or not.
Passion is really about having a strong conviction and unwavering level of confidence in ourselves, our company, our industry, and our solution. It is also critical to be seen as an industry authority—consistently doing such things as writing articles for local periodicals, blogging, being a guest speaker for local business or community groups, maintaining a regular newsletter, and having endorsements from well known people in the community.  A combination of passion and being an authority increases our believability factor and takes away the fear of saying “Yes” for the client.

4) Clarity

In communicating, your greatest enemy isn’t the noise around you – it’s the noise you create, un-wittingly – Harry Beckwith, author of What Clients Love and Selling the Invisible.

Brevity and focus are key. If we focus on one or two core things we are good at and communicate those proficiencies really well, we can own a large portion of client mindshare and wallet share. Clearly communicating what we do, and not trying to be all things to all people, sets apart the high-paid specialists from the generalists.

Nick Usborne, author of NetWords makes an interesting distinction when he says that:

We’re not just writing to be understood, we are also writing in a way that insures we are not misunderstood.

Make sure the message about what you do is clear, focused, and void of any ambiguity. Focused, predictable service providers make clients feel safe.

5) Value Builders
Because what we are selling cannot be seen, touched, or measured, we need to be good at building value. Your ability to articulate the real value in terms of return on investment is very important. Solutions must be presented in a way that solves a core client pain or challenge. Describing our solution as innovative, leading, next generation etc. is not enough. These are weak business cases that are uninspiring. Look for client pains, fears, and challenges, and then talk about your solution as a pill for their pains. Back up your claims with research, data, client references, and proof. Help your clients measure what they cannot see.

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