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29 Sep

Naked Prospecting

by Monika

Prospecting and filling the top of the funnel are often the most challenging disciplines for sales people. Many companies struggle with that concept and what’s important to keep in mind is that everybody can be successful at it as long as you adhere to a process.

Help is here! Below is the link to my latest book, Naked Prospecting.

https://bookboon.com/en/naked-prospecting-ebook

Personality helps, but process drives results

There is a common misconception in sales that sales people should be charismatic and charming. While a good personality never hurts, it’s not the secret ingredient to a successful sales career. Quite contrary; some sales people tend to talk themselves out of a sale, rattling off features and benefits as opposed to leading with value. Naked Prospecting is a “how to” book about the toughest part in the sales process. Prospecting!

Overcoming fear

Fear and resistance often play a big role. If you follow the process outlined in the book, you will be able to overcome “angst” and anguish that so often keeps sales people from being successful. Sales is a process and only those who are diligent, persistent and focused will succeed. If you follow the process outlined in the book, you will be able to overcome the fear of rejection that so often keeps sales people from making headway.

Persistence is key

The most important aspect of successfully building and maintaining a full pipeline is persistence. It’s not about making one call or sending out a couple of emails. It’s about

  • Identifying your prospect universe
  • Finding the right decision makers
  • Crafting messages that focus on the value of your service/product
  • Not being discouraged by rejection

I can promise you that you will be able to see results in a couple of weeks. Be patient, work the process and prosper. Good luck!

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The business world doesn’t stop, even if it feels like it at times, but you know who really doesn’t stop? Your competition and they will gain new clients, clients that could have acquired.

I feel bad for companies who freeze their business development hiring efforts because those very companies will feel the effects later in the year.

This pandemic has forced us to embrace a remote work environment. Personally, I have preached the concept for years, especially in the industry that I operate in where companies are selling technology enabled solutions. Why would people have to come to an office, other than socializing, gathering and being able to see each other? Yes, it’s good for morale (at times) but you can build a healthy company culture even when employees are not physically together.

And before you feel that I am opposed to being with people, let me explain. I am probably one of the most sociable people you will meet and not many folks I know enjoy company as much as I do. But when it comes to work though, I am most effective by myself. It’s not that I’m not a team player, I am but I don’t need to see people in-person to ask for advice, get or give guidance. And, I also don’t have to see my prospects and clients in order to successfully sell. As a matter of fact, I have been working remote for 17 years and have been able to acquire clients all around the US and internationally without a problem. I had a client for 5 years and didn’t meet here until year 3 and it was perfectly fine. And what do we have all the systems for (CRM, Workflow management) if we still feel we all have to be in one room?

Hiring during this crisis

The other day a recruiter told me that they were not hiring until they can see people again. That’s just crazy talk to me during times where we really don’t know when that will be the case. He said that it would be hard to determine if that person can sell without meeting them. To me the question is, how can you determine if a person can sell when you actually meet them in-person?

The May 7th Revenue Collective Benchmarking Report observed that “Most companies using Revenue or Bookings as the KPI for returning to normal business operations but a healthy chunk (33%) have not defined “normal” at all which puts the team at risk.”

Use Assessment Tools!

I believe what people are afraid of is that they feel that the invisible (or what seems to be invisible) cannot be measured. In fact, there are many sales assessment tools out there to measure whether a sales person will be good at what they are doing.

Unless, you are a business where you only sell to people in-person, most of the transactions will take place over the phone or via Zoom/Skype, etc. So, what better way to measure whether a sales person will be successful than observing how they conduct themselves during the interview process.

For years, I have been telling my clients to not only invite candidates to on-site interviews, but to extensively spend time with them on the phone, to see how they follow up after interviews (because how they do it during the interview process will be how they conduct themselves following up with prospects & clients).

Establish KPIs!

Let’s face it. We have all been a bit lazy and complacent and many companies have been flying by the seat of their pants. They used measures such as “how many times the sales person was on the phone when the manager walked by”. Yes, you know who you are and now is the time to change it. Once we establish Key Performance Indicators, such as…..

·        How many prospects have you researched this week?

·        How many touchpoints with prospects took place?

·        How many actual conversations have you had?

·        How many times did you agree on a next step?

…we will have a much clearer picture of productivity and success.

Now, we are forced to operate in an environment where productivity will matter more than anything else. Sales is measured by numbers like no other profession, it shouldn’t matter where you are in the world as long as you have a computer and an internet connection.

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Nobody knows what will happen once we open the economy up again, but one thing is for sure. Business as usual it won’t be. Only the companies and executives who understand that this is a challenge as well as an opportunity will be able to succeed.

The best way to go about moving forward is to look at this as a blank slate. If we go into this 3rd quarter, treating is as such and doing all the things we did in the previous years, we will fail. This is a new environment and it’s a great opportunity to start from scratch. Yes, I know. It might be painful because it’s so much easier to just plug away and apply proven methods, but approaches that worked in the past won’t cut it any more.

People are looking for compassion, empathy and alignment. All things that successful sales people already apply, but in this novel situation sales people who pitch without regard for these new conditions will not only fail, they will become obsolete. If we as sales people can help our clients and prospects through this crisis without pushing an agenda, without selling but rather advising, those clients will be loyal to us for a long time. So, let’s break it down a bit on how we should shape the landscape.

Courage

It’s a lot easier to continue on a proven path, or to wait until things become better than taking action. True leaders will seize this opportunity. They will not wait around, but they will pave the path for a new economy.

If everybody just sits around waiting until “this is over”, it won’t be!

Curiosity

Every good sales person is curious, but the key will be to be curious without pushing an agenda. These days it will be all about your client’s and prospect’s world, understanding what they are going through, what challenges they face and how YOU as the sales person can support them.

Empathy

First and foremost, we need to show authentic empathy. Nobody wants to be sold to and this couldn’t be more accurate during this crisis. We need to show that we care, that we will do whatever it takes and to truly partner with our clients. This means an even deeper understanding of their challenges and their business. Many of our clients and prospects are in a situation where they had to change their business model to stay afloat, so learn about those challenges by asking meaningful and mindful questions.

Guidance

If we are in a position where we can provide guidance to our clients, we will be viewed as experts, as partners as somebody who truly cares. It takes a lot to become an expert. We need to keep abreast of industry developments and of economic changes, so there will be a lot more reading, doing research and digging as opposed to picking up the phone or shooting off an email.

Seizing Opportunities

Some industries are still flourishing and there is new business to be found, but we won’t find it the way we found it last year or the years before. Strategic planning will become essential. No more throwing things against the wall, waiting until something sticks. Without the underlying principles of compassion, empathy and strategy, nothing will stick. 

Pay It Forward!

It’s time for all of us to band together and pay it forward. To expect less and do more. To provide solutions that are profitable yet meaningful, to partner with our prospects and clients to help each other be successful. If we as people and as sales people band together, we can get this economy moving again, but it will not only take a village, it will take an entire business community to shift their thinking.

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27 Apr

Leadership Matters…

by Monika

….Especially during a crisis. This Corona Virus Pandemic is a crisis of epic proportion and leadership matters more than ever. We are all watching leaders and how they are handling this precarious situation and the brands, companies and politicians who were not authentic and honest will have to pay a price. In some cases, very soon and other cases the historians will present the bill.

Fair-weather Leaders

We all know these “fair-weather” friends, the ones who show up when everything is honky dory. They like to drink and eat with you and they are mostly in a good mood, but once you come down with a disease or a loved-one dies, they are nowhere to be seen or heard.

And then there are the “fair-weather” leaders. The ones who take credit for everything good that happens but don’t want to take responsibility for negative developments.

Leadership is easy when everything goes well, so is parenting and being a good friend. The challenge for leaders in a crisis is to be positive, while preserving the truth. Below are 5 characteristics that make a good and effective leader.

1.   Leaders are authentic and honest

In today’s environment, where everything can be checked with a simple (or sometimes more elaborate) Google search, honesty is key. It’s really hard to trust people who are making false claims, especially during a crisis when facts matter. In sales we want to over-deliver and under-promise and the same philosophy should be used when managing expectations. People are willing to come to terms with situations that are difficult to handle when you frame the narrative in a sensible way, but it’s really hard to come to terms with promises that weren’t kept. It’s the way humans operate.

2.   Leaders are open to other opinions

Good leaders choose their advisors very carefully, based on their expertise and they rely on them during a crisis. These people should be the support team of a leader but they cannot be held responsible if things go wrong. The leader always needs to make sure that whatever he/she decides or says will be the message that the audience will perceive as the “truth”.

3.   Leaders embrace criticism

Every leader needs to be prepared to face criticism and it’s healthy to get push-back in certain areas, because good leaders learn from it.

Good leaders want to be respected not liked.


4.   Leaders are positive without making false promises

During a crisis, everybody is looking for the silver lining and while some “leaders” will make unrealistic promises, authentic leaders will give hope while making sure that the underlying facts are considered.

5.   Leaders apologize as opposed to defending

Leaders are also human, so mistakes will be made. The important thing is to apologize, explain and course correct, rather than defend. Once people start defending actions that have proven to be harmful, they are no longer leaders but people who are vested in holding on to power.

Posted in: Brand Experience, CEOs

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08 Apr

Protect your Brand Health

by Monika

Now, that reality of this quarantine is really kicking in and there is no concrete end in sight, we need to start thinking about things differently.

Nobody (not even Bill Gates) knows what our environment will look like once we come out of this situation. There is so many question marks to almost every single situation in our lives.

  • What will it look like once we ease Social Distancing?
  • Will people gather in larger groups, or will they be afraid to do so?
  • How much money will people be able to spend on activities like going out to eat?
  • What will vacations look like, or will we not even have to luxury to travel without fear?

Just looking at those uncertainties, there are so many industries that will be touched by it. So, what can we do in order to keep ourselves, the economy and daily life going?

One thing that I believe is certain and that is that people will remember how companies acted during these difficult times. If you do the right thing, you will be better off than others.

That’s not to say that every business will be OK, because some companies will simply not be able to endure the financial stress. If you are however a company that puts its people, the community and the well being of others ahead of profit and greed, you will be rewarded later.

Remember the phrase after 9/11

“We will never forget”?

Well, that will be true once we come out of these difficult circumstances.

It is the responsibility of Public Relations and Crisis Management professionals to guide their clients through a crisis. They should encourage companies to do good and to communicate clearly and compassionately. Simply sending out communications that state “We are sorry, blah, blah, blah” is lazy and can be damaging. Now is the time to dig deeper, to come up with solutions that not only help employees but that will preserve brand health in the future.

Let’s take banking as an example. The first communication that I got from my credit card company was not “we are here to help” it was a message to encourage me to use the on-line system or the app. It felt to me that they only cared that I knew how to pay them, which is probably true but there could be other ways to package it. If you want to make sure that your customers remember you in a positive way, give them something tangible like a 30-day grace period for example and then plug your app.

This is why mindful crisis management is so important. Sometimes, communication is counterproductive because it is obviously geared to benefit the company rather than the customers. Even if it was not their intention, perception is reality and it matters how people feel when you communicate with them.

I will remember that message and so will many other customers, I’m sure.

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When we get married or make a long-term commitment, one thing that is inevitable is that there will be rough times. Some people are lucky and they only face minor obstacles, others will have to deal with a full-blown catastrophe, such as losing a home or even worse, a child.

Research has shown that couples don’t separate because their life is in shambles, they separate because they don’t know how to handle these difficult situations. Blame is one ingredient that doesn’t improve the circumstances and things often spiral out of control.

It was a long time coming

The same holds true for this Corona Virus crisis. Everybody who has read credible publications or watched trustworthy news over the last years must have heard that a Pandemic was looming. I can’t remember a time in the last decade where there wasn’t a potential danger of an outbreak of the magnitude that we are experiencing right now, but then it didn’t happen and we sighed with relief and moved on with our lives.

Although we know that at any time there is a worldwide pandemic that could linger, what have we done to prepare? Not a lot as anybody can see. We are reacting, but we are not executing plans that were developed prior to this outbreak. And I am not even talking about the fact that there don’t seem to be enough test kits or face masks available, that is almost a rookie mistake.

Reaction vs. Preparation can lead to Panic

What happens when there is a lack of preparation is a feeling overwhelm and panic. The financial fallout from this crisis could be devastating and it could have been mitigated if we had a solid crisis plan in place.

Events are being canceled and schools are considering to home-school children. When I watched the local news the other day, they were referring to the way some countries are now engaging with students as E-Learning. They don’t even have the terminology right. It’s not E-Learning, it’s long-distance learning. I know that because I own a company that has E-Learning capability with a technology platform and a curriculum that was developed so sales people who are disbursed all over the world can all learn at the same pace. On the other hand, we now have teachers who are instructing their students over the internet without the ability to truly collaborate or being able to tap into an E-Learning platform.

Crisis Management

And all of this happens in the 21st century with so many technology solutions available. We scramble, we panic and we react and it’s really scary to watch how the news develop and there is no clear path to success outlined.

For governments this should be a wake-up call to fund departments to be prepared. We have access to the data and we know that the next Hurricane, Flood or even Pandemic will be coming. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when and how often.

Shareholders should keep companies accountable and require a crisis preparedness plan to be in place. There are many companies who offer crisis management, including training, incident planning and response tools.

Even if we weather this emergency in a way where we contain it (fingers crossed) the question still remains how well prepared we are for the next crisis.

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11 Feb

People like stories….

by Monika

From a very early age on I was fascinated by fairy tales and stories. Storytelling is essential in a consultative sales environment. It helps you connect with your prospects and it is a great way to add value rather than pushing a feature.

In a consultative B2B environment we are often faced with a situation where we are selling the invisible. Often, there is no physical product we can showcase when we are prospecting on the phone and we are challenged to connect with a prospect in a short period of time. It is therefore imperative to build am emotional connection and that can only happen when we tell a story.

Telling stories and sharing best practices gives us an opportunity to communicate a business objective in a personal way where people can relate.

Remember 1001 nights?

When I was a kid I loved the idea of people gathering in a tent or square and listening to stories. It’s fairy tales and stories that shape our thinking, they trigger our imagination and fuel our creativity. As adults it’s not that different, we are always drawn to stories where we feel that something speaks to us directly.

When I started out in sales, I had come from a public relations/marketing background with no credentials in sales so I decided to do what I liked best – listening to stories. I researched case studies and told my prospects about the success that other companies had when using our service. It worked!

Why?

Because people like to listen to stories, they can relate to them. Product features are boring to people unless they can use them to their advantage. Nobody wants to listen to you bragging about your company, your service, how good you are, etc.

What people are interested in is what your service can do for them and how it will help their business.

If you don’t have something to show, share a story

Even, if you have something to show you should tell a story, but it’s especially important in a B2B environment where you often don’t have a product to show and you need to rely on anecdotes to get people interested, especially when you first engage with a prospect. The key question is “What do the clients do with the service you provide?”

What better way to explain than sharing success stories.

Why is it easier to sell a story than a product or service?

Rather than selling a service, focus on the value it brings to the client and the human experience. Instead of selling a service that is “better”, offer a solution that helps increase efficiencies. Once we are able to tap into somebody’s emotion, it’s a lot easier to connect. Never forget that it is human beings you are targeting. Although you are trying to sell them something, you are also an advisor, a consultant in the true sense, a resource to help them make the right decision.

When telling stories, it is important that you own them and make them yours. Be personal, just like a dinner conversation. First, listen to your prospects, then choose a case study/story that you think will resonate with their needs and I can assure you that your prospects will listen. Because, everybody likes stories…

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Sales people often believe that prospects will remember their emails or voice mails, when in actuality we are really not that important.

 It’s a crowded business environment and we get inundated with information every day, or every waking hour for that matter.

Therefore, sales messages should be crafted a little bit like ads.

Sales messages shouldn’t sound salesy, but they need to be memorable. Just like in advertising, you want to make sure that you penetrate a person’s mind with your communication. And by penetrate I don’t mean that you aimlessly repeat the same thing (which some sales people do) but you effectively craft a message that will resonate with your target audience.

The best ads are the ones where we not only remember the message, but we also connect the message to a brand. Geico anybody?

This can only be accomplished when we weave repetition into our outreach.

In other words, you want to say the same thing over and over, using slightly different versions, changing the order a bit.

Let me give you an example. Let’s paint the scenario where you want to get the attention of a COO (Chief Operation Officer) of a mid-size manufacturing company. Your goal is to get a response from that person to either, book a meeting with him/her or get a referral to the person who is responsible for that area.

You want to craft an email/phone outreach cadence of five touchpoints where you use the value proposition over and over, using slightly different words.

For example, you talk about your solution and how it can create efficiencies to help save time and money and that’s the message you want to come back to time and time again. Everything else you say is basically a filler. What you want them to remember is “saving time and money by creating efficiencies” using your solution.

But the key is not only repetition, but also to have no more than 10 business days between the first and the fifth outreach. You can only tap into people’s memory when the intervals between each outreach are short.

Again, we all get inundated with information and for somebody to remember you and the message you are trying to communicate, it is important to stick to this recipe.

Short Time Frame + Repetition + Perseverance

Also, many sales people are hung up on the fact that their prospects should remember the company they represent. Unless you work for IBM, SAP or any of the other known brands, people generally don’t care. What they care about is “What’s in for me?”. The key is not for them to remember the company you represent, but how you can help them solve a business problem.

Posted in: CONSULTATIVE SALES, Consultative Selling, Prospecting, Prospecting Tool

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I have worked in many industries, consulted with even more and one thing I know for sure. Certain skill sets come in isolation and they can’t really be combined. Let’s take Market Research as an example. If you are looking for a sales person to sell market research/analysis, then you have to choose one skill set over the other.

Please don’t look for Unicorns! Having listened to many of my former colleagues looking for new opportunities, I realized that most job requirements are quite unrealistic. Of course, hiring managers take their orders from the person who is looking to fill the job, but shouldn’t there be some sanity check?

Can research people sell?

Sales people are good at selling and developing business and research people are good at analysis. Very seldom will you find somebody who can do both well.

There will always be an aspect of the qualifications that will not be met. The key is to identify what is most important to the person/company who is hiring.

If they are looking for growth, then hire somebody with a sales/business development background who understands market research/data/media. They shouldn’t have to be able to do the analysis themselves, they just need to understand the concept.

However, if you are looking for a researcher or somebody who does analysis, then look for a person with that skill set. If this person happens to have an aptitude for business growth, then maybe they can be trained to become a good seller. They will probably never be a super star, but their performance will be decent.

Unicorns can stunt a company’s growth

Looking for a unicorn can actually stunt growth. It happens all the time. I have seen it more times than I can remember.

I used to work for a big market research firm, years and years ago and they realized after a couple of years of modest revenue growth that they have to split responsibilities. Best decision they ever made.

They hired people with a strong sales acumen to sell and left the research to the people who love analyzing data.

Now, when it comes to upselling, that’s a different story. Some researchers, after having built a relationship with their clients are able to upsell, but also not all the time. It is best to always involve somebody with a sales/business development mind to meetings when it comes to growing accounts.

Not every sales person is comfortable asking for money, so trust me when I say that I have yet to meet a research person being at ease when they are tasked to introduce new services.

What about LeBron James?

To use an analogy (I love them!) – we wouldn’t ask LeBron James to be a soccer champion as well. So, why are we having these lofty asks from people who are not celebrated athletes?

And don’t get me wrong. Some people can do it all, but it’s a small percentage and it’s almost impossible to find them, because they often start their own companies.

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31 Oct

This is too expensive!

by Monika

How many times have you heard somebody say this? Not only in sales, but in every-day situations.


From a sales perspective, there is actually no such thing as “too expensive”. The meaning of “too expensive” is always “it’s not valuable to me”.

Just think about it. We can all buy, sell, choose something at a lower price tag, but what are the consequences of the lower price? Do we actually consider that when choosing a product, a service or a person for that matter?

When companies hire employees, do they actually evaluate what that person can bring to the table, or do they just look at a category that fits that job description and make an offer accordingly? I think we all know the answer to that.

Do we consider the long-term consequences?

When a person chooses a product or service, do they consider what might happen if they go with the provider that has the best price tag? Some people do, but most people don’t.

Cheaper products and services sometimes cost way more than a solution that lasts longer and is future proof.

We have also all worked with the people who are highly paid and don’t bring value and the ones who are talented and efficient, but underpaid.

One of our clients manufactures and sells modems to prevent internet outages, certainly a product that is essential these days to keep businesses up and running. Their fiercest competitors are not other companies that offer a similar model, but cheap consumer devices that you and I would use for our homes.

What is the value of anything?

Imagine, you are a company where the cash registers depend on a reliable internet connection and this company uses the same product that you and I use for our home offices. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s the truth.

I experienced it first-hand a couple of years ago when I wanted to buy something at a Dunkin Donuts kiosk at JFK airport and the cash register wouldn’t open up. In an airport! where time is of the essence. Maybe management didn’t consider what the loss of revenue would cost them and I am not even touching on the bad customer experience.

There is always a cheaper solution

Everything comes with a price tag, some higher some lower. And some products are competitively priced but when you choose a new solution, a new hire or a new product always consider the long-term value vs. the short time savings.

And for us sales people, we need to make sure that people understand the value of our solution. Leading with value is key, so price discussions don’t come up in the first couple of minutes, but at a point when the decision to purchase is being made.

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