How to Read a Customer’s Mind !

Hi guys,

Trust that this blog finds you all well at work and play….

The subject of this one came up today as I was talking to one of my smartest sales reps. She was talking to me about one particular prospect who responded exactly as would be expected of someone who would be keen to place his order ..BUT at the last moment , would apparently back down and the “deal” would go bust !!

So I dug up my best from the last 20 years of sales and marketing experience and came up with this..hope it helps you guys as well…so here goes

A seasoned sales professional categorizes customers into four basic styles of behavior, based upon their tolerance to risk (recognition vs. security) and attitude towards work (goal-oriented vs. process-oriented). These four basic styles are:

  1. DOER (results oriented, needs recognition). Tends to make decisions quickly, prefers brief presentations, and resents time-wasters.
  2. TALKER (process oriented, needs recognition). Desires social approval and thus will avoid making a decision until everyone is happy.
  3. CONTROLLER (results oriented, needs security). Highly logical and analytical, and will generally look for what’s wrong with any situation.
  4. SUPPORTER (process oriented, needs security). Seldom looks at the bottom line but instead is more concerned with getting a job done.

According to my experience, customers have a primary and secondary style of behavior. For example, a CEO might be a Doer when dealing with underlings but a Talker when dealing with fellow CEOs. Similarly, a bank manager might be a Controller when it comes to writing loans, but a Supporter when it comes to working with top management.

In order to “read the customer’s mind”, you watch and listen carefully for clues about styles of behavior when interacting with a customer contact.

A Doer, for example, will often wear flashy or distinctive clothing and is likely to communicate in short bursts. Similarly, a Supporter will tend to dress conservatively and use catchphrases like “the way things are done here” and “the powers that be.”

Once you’ve determined the customer’s primary style of behavior, it becomes easier to predict how they’ll react to various situations that might come up in the sale cycle.  For example, a Controller will probably surface objections quickly and frequently.

That information allows you to adapt your sales approach. For example, when selling to a Doer, speak quickly and get right to the point. By contrast, when selling to a Supporter take the time to explain, in detail, how what you’re selling fits into the status-quo.  With a controller, you play devil’s advocate and let him argue against you, thereby selling himself on your product.

If you’re going to use Willingham’s conceptual model effectively, it helps if you’re aware of your own natural style. If you have a technical background and tend to naturally fall into the Controller style, you’ll need to take on more of an air of authority (become a “doer”) when calling on a CEO, for instance.

Top sales professionals can not only intuitively sense the customer’s style of behavior, but find the corresponding style in his or her own character that best matches the situation.

Obviously this is not a panacea for all sales strategists and it is an acquired skill that becomes a part of your persona as you mature by listening and learning throughout your career!!

To read more blogs about various aspects of sales that I have covered in earlier posts, please visit https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com

Better Questions = Faster Selling

Hi readers,

This blog is a natural fit after my blog on https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/the-10-best-questions-to-warm-up-a-cold-prospect/

After you have suitably warmed a suspect to a prospect, what sort of smart questions do you need to ask such that your sales cycle is reduced and you are able to close a deal at the earliest, at the same time, creating client delight.

I figured that an appropriate example would be just the right thing to explain a suitable line of action that could get you your desired result.

Questions serve three functions in a sales conversation. First, they elicit more information about the prospect, thereby allowing you to learn more about how (and if) you can help. Second, they move the conversation forward, so that you can continue to ask more questions, and learn even more. Third, they help build rapport with the prospect so that you can more easily move the entire sale forward.

With that in mind, the absolute worst kind of questions to ask are those that have a one word , monosyllabic answer. Example:

Sales Rep: What CRM vendor are you currently using?

Prospect: Oracle.

While the above question does elicit information, it does not move the conversation forward. Making the question open-ended does both. Example:

Sales Rep: What was your decision-making process when you selected a CRM vendor?

Prospect: We put together a cross-functional team which looked at different vendors. We decided that Oracle would be the best choice for us.

Sales Rep: What were the most important criteria for the decision-making?

While the above question both elicits information and keeps the conversation moving forward, it would be even more effective if it also helped build rapport with the prospect. The easiest way to do this is to assume that the prospect has something uniquely interesting to say. Example:

Sales Rep: The economy is tough but I’ve read that your company plans to use sales technology to help weather the tough times. How did your team come up with that plan?

Prospect: Well, we’ve been through some similar situations in the past and, when we got early warning that sales might drop…

In the above question, the prospect has essentially been given the permission to brag about his firm and his participation in helping his firm be successful. Since people like talking about themselves and their achievements, the prospect will probably warm to the subject, and the entire conversation will be more productive. And that, in turn, will make the sales cycle faster.

Personally , an eclectic mix of open ended and close ended questions worked best for me during my roles as a solutions sales specialist.

Based on the vertical that you are engaged in and the product or service that you sell, ideally a set of 10 , a mix of open ended as well as close ended questions work best to help you close your sale with your client, and leaving the client feeling that in you he has a friend and consultant for life!!

Happy selling!!

Steps to qualify your sales leads

Hi readers,

The process of sales involves turning “suspects” ( maybe he could be my client), to prospects ( aha!….I think he would buy from me if I could convince him)…to eventually , clients (YES! he bought from me …wooohoooo!!!)

BUT…in order to actually maximize your productivity, the star sales man has to learn the art of pre-qualifying the list of “prospects” as actual, warm, or hot leads…and thats an eclectic mix of art and science.

I have elucidated some steps that I think assist the sales rep to pre-qualify a prospect and to close the sale…

STEP 1. Define your target industries. Based upon your experience (and that of your colleagues) figure out which industries have both the greatest need for your offering as well as the money to purchase your offering. Limit your target to one or two industries at most. Now go through the generic list and scratch out everyone who isn’t in one of those target industries.

STEP 2. Define your target job titles. Within each industry there are “natural” buyers who either purchase offerings similar to yours or greatly influence such purchases. Based on your experience (and that of your colleagues) figure out the two or three specific titles that this natural buyer usually has within your target industry. Now go through the edited list from Step 1 and scratch out every remaining prospect that doesn’t have one of those two or three job titles.

STEP 3: Craft a targeted message. Based upon what you know about that natural buyer in your target industries, create a compelling message. You want a message that identifies the problem that keeps the prospect awake at night and which your offering helps to solve. The most effective messages have a high emotional content. For example- if you are selling  a video software service to a client using SMS to broadcast his marketing message, instead of saying that you are the best thing that happened after you-tube you may want to consider…” Would you consider a video software, that could compress a personal video message of upto a minute to a size that could be sent across to all your friends and business associates as a film clip, either through the SMS service or as an email?”

STEP 4: Reality-check the list and the message. At random, call four or five of the prospects on your edited list. Do not attempt to make a sale at this time. Explain that you’re trying to understand how to sell into the prospect’s industry. Ask them to confirm that the targeted individuals inside the targeted industries are actually the people you should be calling and that the message will prove effective. If there’s a disconnect, re-examine your assumptions and return to Step 1.

STEP 5: Help Marketing create better lists in the future. Make your cold calls. If you find (as you probably will) that pre-qualifying your cold calls results in a higher number of average sales per call, save yourself some time and trouble in the future. Ask Marketing to purchase or generate prospect lists that fit the demographic of your proven target. Warning: when the marketing group sees what you’ve done, they’ll probably want you to come work for them!

Happy qualifying and closing!!!

The 10 best questions to warm up a cold prospect

Hi readers,

Apologies for the sabbatical from my blogs…been busy on-boarding in my new avatar as Vice President Business Development of a great technology startup that will disrupt the social media space in the remote , rural , under-served, economically deprived, Bottom of the Pyramid Markets. The company I speak of is called GramVaani media (http://www.gramvaani.org/)

All this while I have addressed a distinguished gathering at the Rockefeller foundation‘s , Rock Talk event, and participated at the RMAI round table.

During all this, I have had the opportunity to engage with a group of very bright, young women who are raring to have a go at key account management and sales with a great new  platform that is poised to disrupt the wedding services space in India.

They posed a very good question to me- what would be set of some basic key questions that could warm up a cold prospect in the first meeting, agnostic to the vertical or the profile of the prospect (client). And I started to think on this and came up with this list that I believe would serve many who have the same question bothering them.

here goes…

  1. What can you tell me about your organization… and yourself?
  2. What do you like about what you’re currently doing?
  3. What don’t you like about your current situation?
  4. What would you like to be enhanced or improved?
  5. Have you spoken to other solution providers to address your current specific challenge?
  6. What can you tell me about your priorities and your options?
  7. What obstacles are there in the way of this initiative moving forward?
  8. What will be your criterion of evaluating different options if at all?
  9. How much have your budgeted for this proposal/project?
  10. When do you wish to start?

Try these questions with a cold prospect and write back to me with your inputs and comments…

more than happy to ideate with you !

Happy reading

How To Reinvent yourself when the chips are down, and create a new avatar!

Hi struggling sales stars of yester years!

Feeling the heat of a struggling economy? Do you have nightmares about not making your quota targets and being presented with a beautiful pink slip on your table?

Well…you are not alone and that makes two of us!!

But having weathered many situations and economic downturns myself over the last 18 years that I have been working, I have realized that mental agility (keeping your wits about), perseverance ( always a good attitude) and an open mind ( keep options open) are key to ensure that you dont get caught in a rut and are successful in reinventing yourself in a more potent avatar!!

So here’s how you do it folks!!

  • Step #1. Locate. Find the most talented and successful Key account manager in your company and ask (beg, if necessary) to let you shadow him (or her) on a couple of weeks worth of sales calls. Get your boss on your side; boss is gonna be very pleased that you are taking the initiative to learn and improve (see ..thats politically correct!)
  • Step #2. Observe. Watch how he presents himself, opens up a conversation, moves the sale forward. Observe the words he uses, the way he moves his body, the way he interacts with individuals. (Take notes on your tricorder if necessary)
  • Step #3. Investigate. After each sales call, ask your role model to describe what he was THINKING at each point in the sales call. You want to understand the basic beliefs and assumptions that support the successful sales behavior. (Always good to understand the perspective behind each action and reaction that you observed during the sales call)
  • Step #4. Imitate. After you’ve done this for two weeks, you should have a pretty good understanding of the way that a successful sales professional THINKS about selling, and how that thinking manifests itself in specific behavior. Good time for you to jot down these key observations and to think of a way to consciously imbibe that into your system.
  • Step #5. Integrate. Start trying to think and behave identically to the sales professional. It will seem odd at first and you’ll be tempted to start talking technical. However, if you emulate both the thought process and the outward behavior, you’ll eventually get similar results.

EVENTUALLY you will have evolved into a new YOU and success will be closer to you than a couple of weeks back!!

Results guaranteed!!

Ten Ways to Make Cold Calling Easy

Hi Readers,

This blog is a natural follow up to the blog that I posted yesterday which drew numerous visits…thanks for your continued interest and for the shares.

Yesterday I spoke of the ways to conquer your fear of cold calling https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/how-to-conquer-fear-of-cold-calling/

In this post I would like to touch upon the topic of ways to make cold calling easy and also FUN!! Yes Cold calling can be real fun and can help you break the monotony of your daily routine!! Dont believe me , then read on….

Many sales professionals dread cold calling, and that included me when I had just come on board as a sales rep with J&J in 1992.

And that dread, unfortunately, makes them ineffective when they pick up the phone to make the calls. If you’re not careful, you can end up in a cycle, where your fear of cold calling creates more failure, making you hate it even more.

It needn’t be that way. Fear (or hate) of cold calling is a very solvable problem,

The following according to me , are the suggested ten best ways to overcome the fear of cold calling…

  1. Make some phone calls. The fear that you’re creating for yourself is far worse than the reality of cold calling so overcome fear by doing.
  2. Make a lot of phone calls. The more calls you make, the more success you will have and the less you’ll notice the ones that don’t work out.
  3. Prepare. Know the goal, what you want to say, how you want to say it and how you want to represent yourself, your company, and your offering.
  4. Practice. Practice your cold calling conversation out loud and role-play with friends or colleagues. Then focus on your prospect rather than your fear.
  5. Start easy. Begin with your less important leads. Once you feel more comfortable, start working on the more important leads.
  6. Stay calm. If a prospect is rude, remember that they’re probably just be having a bad day and then move on. Don’t take it personal.
  7. Don’t project. Your priorities and your prospect’s priorities are different. Don’t read negative meaning into early conversations with your prospect.
  8. Keep your perspective. Some things are out of your control. But what is within your control is continuing to prospect and continuing to make calls.
  9. Make it a Game. Give yourself 1 point for every “no” answer, when you reach 100, give yourself a prize. (If a prospect says “yes,” that’s a bonus!)
  10. Have fun. The fate of the world does not rest on you and your telephone, so loosen up and be creative.

 

How to Conquer Fear of Cold Calling

Hi readers,

Apologies for the sabbatical. Been travelling all over the place to deliver to folks who have retained my services as a consultant.

Well…. recently traveled to a client in Mumbai and he asked me to do a workshop for him for his sales team. As is my practice, I began with personal interviews with the sales team members and realized by the end of the day that the highest common factor ( remember our 2nd grade math!) that impedes their performance was FEAR OF COLD CALLING!

That set me thinking and I began to analyze first the reasons for this underlying fear…and my assessment revealed the following

  • Fear #1: Fear of Sounding Stupid. You’re afraid that once you have a target in your sights , and you are able to muster enough courage to just walk up to his door without an appointment,you will stumble and be turned away from his door by his secretary.  This is not a fear of “rejection”; this fear comes from not having mastered the skill of converting a conversation into an appointment over a telephone call.
  • Fear #2: Fear of Wasted Effort. You’re afraid that you’re not “working” the target correctly; that you are in a random pursuit.  A call here, a call there; leave this voicemail; craft an email, etc., etc. . You’re flailing and you fear your results will correspondingly flail and your efforts will be ineffective.
  • Fear #3: Fear of Lousy Process. You have the same hesitation and take the same deep breath you would take before starting to put clothes on the drying line in fierce a wind storm. Experience says that, even if you’re successful in getting the appointment, there is no efficient way to develop and close the deal.

Post this assessment, my question was- now we know the fears, so now what?

So I came up with a simple 3 point program to help address the fears mentioned and identified above – and these tips are

  • Step #1: Develop Your Skills. Either through available training or available written material work to improve the ability to control the flow of the conversation, to handle pushback’s and to secure an agreement to meet.  You must learn how to deftly and professionally handle the predictable negative responses to a request for an appointment and still secure an appointment.  As a result, you’ll feel the confidence that comes from being able to control the conversation.

Step #2: Adopt a Sales Methodology. Find (or create) a written methodology that sets in place the specific pursuit of any group of suspects, including how many times to call, the frequency of those calls and the messaging used in voicemails, emails, and/or videos. Developing the “Best Practice” model will eliminate the feeling of flailing or being caught up in a random pursuit going nowhere

Step #3: Measure and Adapt. Either manually or with available technology develop a way to execute your best practice and training in a way that enables you to track the pursuit of targets very precisely and in the most efficient way. By tracking activity you will gain control and give purpose to your telephone activity. You can begin to determine how many initial appointments you need to make quota, how many conversations you need to get those appointments, how many calls you need to make that conversation goal.

P.S- Marketing has a crucial role to play in ensuring their sales team members are empowered through various devices ( training, sales playbooks, technology, tools etc) and have the confidence to go out there and get their business and makes their quotas!!

Hope this helps my brothers in the sales teams across the world!!

Hi readers,

When I started my career in 1992, I was introduced to the power of the sales pitch by my mentors who came from the old school. At that time, the sales pitch was king.

The sales pitch had to be perfected to a point that you knew that pitch by heart, and that was THE critical element of hooking the client.

Well, circa 2012, and Solutions marketing is fast gaining over traditional marketing and with that , sales strategy is evolving.

Today, successful sales reps know that, far from being a “sales pitch,” every customer meeting is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and to engage with the customer with a long term perspective.

there are 3 simple rules that the sales rep of today can follow in order to evolve from a slick , fast talking, fast thinking sales pro, to a more strategic thinking, solutions oriented, business partner to his customer.

  • RULE #1: Always seek the truth.  You want to find out if you really have something that can help the customer.  To do this, the meeting must be a quest to discover the real areas where the two of you can work together. Quick tip: your customer knows that you’re telling the truth when you’re not afraid to say something negative (but true) about your product or company.
  • RULE #2: Always keep an open mind. When you walk into a customer meeting absolutely convinced that the customer needs your product or service, the customer will sense you’re close-minded and become close-minded in return.  If, by contrast, you’re open to the idea that the customer might be better served elsewhere, the customer will sense that you’ve got his or her best interests at heart and will be more likely to listen to what you have to say.
  • RULE #3: Always have a real dialog. A customer meeting should be a conversation, not a mere sales call.  This means that you should be listening to the customer at least half of the time that’s spent at the meeting.  Furthermore, the dialog should be substantive and about real business issues, not just office patter or chit-chat about sports.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Sales Teams

Hi Readers,

New of impending fiscal cliff in the US, continued bad numbers from the Eurozone, Worst GDP numbers from India in a decade do not make our work in sales any easier than yesterday.

Selling is hard work, but it’s even more difficult when the sales team starts exhibiting dysfunctional behavior in the face of serious challenges from the economy, clients and competition!

In times of crises like this, Sales reps and sales teams exhibit behavior that I jocularly refer to as “sins”! And I am giving away advice free to those who care to read and listen on how to cope with this bad behavior!!

  1. OVERCONFIDENCE. When everyone wants to make big numbers, there’s a tendency to sell too much, too quickly.Solution: Before closing, always make certain that the customer really needs your offering and that your firm has the resources to deliver promptly. Key take away– measure your selling pace, and DONT Push the sale; it will rebound on you and your client will vanish from your Rolodex!
  2. GRANDIOSITY. If you’ve got a terrific offering, it’s all too easy to pretend that it’s a panacea. While some products do arguably “change the world” they’re few and far between. Solution: Focus on helping the customer, rather than converting them to a “product” religion. Key take away– Leverage your EQ, keep a balanced approach to sales, look at the long term and sell a “solution” as opposed to a “great product”
  3. HUBRIS. Sales professionals know what worked in the past, but the memory of past success blind the team to changing customer requirements. Solution: Become obsessed with customer satisfaction and measure it through an objective customer survey.Key take away– DONT delve in the past, that is history; learn to learn new skills everyday, absorb the changes around you, adapt your self according to the change and display dexterity in making your offer to your clients.
  4. DEHUMANIZATION. Sales technology is great, but if it becomes too pervasive it can hinder the person-to-person interaction that is the core of relationship building. Solution: Use technology sparingly and use face-to-face communication for key customer meetings. Key take away– Remember, the product or the service does not a sale make, YOU DO!
  5. OVERWHELM. During times of change, there’s a tendency demand more from everybody on the team, and management may pile on extra offerings, making it difficult for keep abreast. Solution: Stay focused on what the customers are buying today. Key take away– KISS, Keep it simple and sweet! Always works,…….
  6. STOVEPIPING. In every company there is a tendency for sales to view itself as the only group that’s really important; meanwhile, other groups start viewing the sales team as arrogant. Solution: Get other groups involved in the sales process by inviting them to meetings with key customers. Key take away– Humility is a life long mistress for the successful sales star and a future leader. Collaborate with your internal teams that support you in your efforts to get your quotas, share accolades with them and give them their due for their unstinting support to you.
  7. STRESS. Sales is, by nature, a stressful activity. If a sales team isn’t careful, it can end up creating a sales culture where stress becomes habitual, like a drug. Solution: Make humor and laughter an integral part of your personal sales process. Key take away– De-stress over a round of golf, do Yoga, meditate, shake a leg….get a life beyond your quotas, commissions and job!!

 

Dont be a sinner, become a SAINT!!!