Posted on Leave a comment

Microcall

A friend of mine called up the other day. It must have been a couple of years since we met or spoke. Yet, we spoke like as if we last met only yesterday. That’s real friendship.

The call didn’t last for more than two and a half minutes. Microcall, if you wish to call it that.

That’s when an idea struck me.

I ask customers for an hour of their time. Worst case, 30 minutes. That’s too much to ask for, I now think.

Whether it’s an Intro call or a Discovery call, it can be done in 10 minutes flat, to start with.

Ask them, “would it be a great idea to catch up for 10 minutes on Wednesday post lunch?”.

I hate wasting my time or my prospects’ time.

I tend to be specific, clear and achieve something in every interaction.

It is possible to do that in a short call/meeting as well.

Happy Calling!!

Happy Selling!!

Posted on Leave a comment

Rediscovering the “Art” of Prospecting!

John Barrows & M. Jeffrey Hoffman conducted the webinar “John Barrows Goes Back to School: Rediscovering the “Art” of #Prospecting” yesterday or today [depending on where you live :)].

I enjoyed it thoroughly. What an energy & insight. Learnt about “Why you? Why you now?” technique to turn cold calls and cold emails to hot ones. How to get them to call you back?

It is important to connect with the C level but start from bottom. Bottom-up approach. That Fedex story is going to stay with me forever.

My takeaways:

1. Fake it to yourself until you actually make it.

2. Connecting with the non-buyer first to learn something that you can use when you have the live conversation with the buyer.

3. Prefer live conversations with a non-buyer over email interaction with a buyer. [more relevant now, when all of us are getting thousands of emails]

4. Look for triggers while prospecting.

5. Energy and enthusiasm are important in Sales.

6. Keep yourself busy always.

7. Do not jump on the inbound leads at once. Give it some time before you do that.

8. Do not use all that you have learnt in an MBA when you interact with the C Level.

9. Have the maturity to walk out of a deal early if there is no fit.

10. During discovery & prospecting call, disqualify more than you qualify.

#Happyselling #b2b #sales #salesprocess #changethegame

Posted on Leave a comment

How to handle objections?

I have often faced objections in Sales. It is a good thing to happen. The prospect has given you a reason to continue to interact with him/her.

I had been in various Sales situations and most prospects say “Your price is too high”. Who has not said that to me. I have lost deals as well as won deals after that.

In the buying process, if the buyer wants to move to the next stage he needs to:

  1. get answers to all his questions
  2. clear all his doubts
  3. get proof of concept
  4. reduce the risk of investment if not eliminate the risk completely
  5. be convinced that he is paying the right price and not being taken for a ride
  6. convince his boss on the RoI [Return on Investment]
  7. feel smarter by buying from you and your company or buying your product.

There are a lot of things that go into buying a product or service.

As Sales people, it is our job to reassure the prospect that they are making the right decision and help them visualize the scene post buying. We should tell them how our product is going to help them save money or time or both. Also, tell them, how it is going to improve efficiency in their process and help them do more business.

Coming back to the “Your price is too high” objection, I would ask:

  1. Is it, the price, the only thing you are concerned about?
  2. What are your thoughts on our Organization / Capabilities / Management / Brand?
  3. Based on the answers to the above two questions, I would tell them either a) I will continue to be with them through the implementation & post implementation and will get them the ROI as desired or b) I will go back to the drawing board, discuss internally about their specific needs, our commitments, long standing relationship and get back.
  4. In the event that we decide to give them a lower price I would look at getting them to accept for a case study on them, in return.

What are your thoughts? Please comment. We should learn from each other.

Happy Learning!!

Happy Selling!!

Posted on Leave a comment

Building trust is essential!

When I started my career, I used to cold call, collect business cards, build a database in MS Access, send mass mails [through post & not email], meet customers without any appointment [most of the time], keep all the information about the customer & his organization in my head [partly the reason for my hair fall, trust me.] [I have now started regrowing my hair, thanks to CRM]. My MS Access db those days had just the name, designation, company, address & phone numbers. Email was added much later, maybe after 1996.

Whomever we networked with or found from the market, we called them #leads [without the #]. We didn’t care whether they had any #opportunity or not.

Any company in our market was called the “Known Universe”.

Cut to 2020.

We have LinkedIn. We can do all the research here.

I received an interesting email day before. It read like this:


Hey Kannan,

I got to know about you while researching on LinkedIn today.

I want to connect with you regarding  your IT Infrastructure, Migration services, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning,……

Let me know your availability for this week or next week. I want to have a detailed discussion with you.

The next morning, another email from the same sender:


Good Morning! Have you given any thought to my last email?

I appreciate your quick response.

And yet another email, from the same sender, today. You get it. Right?

With or without LinkedIn this cannot happen. I mean you cannot bombard & force anyone to buy.

Whatever we did before #LinkedIn applies now as well.

a. We need to build trust.
b. We need to prospect.
c. We need to identify problems/painpoints/needs.

Those things have not changed.

You can’t email someone & ask for an order. No, it doesn’t happen that way. Unless you are selling personal protective equipments in a pandemic. Unless you are running a school – offine or online.

Everyone else should build trust first.

Once trust is built, you can ask for permission to send some literature & if the customer grants you that then it means that you have made the first sale.

Next step is to tell them about your work in their industry.

And then allow them time to collect their thoughts.

If they have any need, they will definitely consider you.

Takeaway:

  1. Build trust first.
  2. Generate leads.
  3. Qualify them. Convert them to Prospects.
  4. Don’t pitch. Use stories instead to generate interest.
  5. Match the buyer’s journey. Don’t ever use kids gloves. Your buyers are mature & aware.
  6. They buy.

“Sales” per se does not happen in the above process. Yet you sell. You focus on the relationship. Rest will fall in place.

Happy Selling!!

Posted on Leave a comment

Match the speed of your Prospect!

I was patiently waiting at a clients place to sell a particular software, let us call “Product A”. I knew before-hand that I am likely to meet a foreigner, a Brit working in India. And I was there to solve an urgent problem. That was a UK company into oil exploration & drilling on the coasts of Chennai.

What happens when you are the last to meet a customer on a given day is he/she would have already made the decision. But there is a distinct advantage when you are not the first to meet him. While I was waiting, many thoughts were flashing through my mind. Suddenly, I saw my competitor getting out after meeting, who else but, my prospect. I normally don’t see him unless he is closing a deal. I decided to roll up my sleeves and stay put there until I get that order that day.

I was called in. He was very friendly. Immediately, he handed over the server [I was a sales guy, technically incompetent, but can do a demo] to me, asked me to go ahead with the installation and demo. I have never handled a server until then. With no-help from anywhere, I went ahead and did a great demo that day. He was convinced.

All the stages of the sales process were started and completed that day. I called up my manager, took an approval to give a discount and quoted the price. Only verbal quote. And he typed the order in front of me, signed the order, got a cheque prepared since I asked for 100% advance. Can you believe this? What’s more? I came to sell one piece of software but sold him a suite of products.

Well, I won an additional order for another product that he had almost finalized with my competitor. And I picked up that order as well after a couple of days.

Take Away:

  1. Always [ALWAYS] match the speed of the customer.
  2. Don’t stick to your process.
  3. Get the problem fixed. Before your customer pays or even decides to buy from you.
  4. Ask for the order. If you don’t, how on earth do you hope to get it?

Happy Selling!

Posted on Leave a comment

How not to communicate…

Well, I am a great fan of emails. After the invention of wheels, I consider email application as the greatest invention. Even after whatsapp, messenger, skype etc, email still holds its place in this era of instant communication.

But do we really know how to write an email?

That sparks interest in the reader’s mind to know more about you, your company, your products etc.

I received an interesting email today from someone trying to sell me something. This was her second email. The first email from her was received by me on the 19th of last month. I am not letting you know who that is. That’s not important.

In the first email she had said that my company [with name] has been shortlisted as the “most powerful company in XYZ domain” and will be featured in their magazine and she had stated the benefits of getting published in their magazine. Then she had asked me to revert so that she can share the quote. Wow! From “Cold Call” stage to “Quotation” stage in a snap. I wish I can do that as well. Not really.

I replied to her then, asking her to remove my email id from her mailing list since it didn’t interest me. Neither did I subscribe to anything nor did I express interest on any of their services.

After a month, today I received the second email in spite of me asking her to remove my email Id. What’s more. This time it was more stronger in language.

Excerpts [if the language is not right, please excuse me, it is published here exactly as I received]:

In the rare opportunities, I have to work on client acquisition, I have not had much success reconnecting with you. It might just be that you don’t have any interest in talking with me — and that’s okay. I just need to know whether or not to keep trying.

So, to make this nice and easy for you, you can reply with a simple keystroke. Just reply with either A, B, C, D, or E and I’ll know what to do, but please do reply so that I can stop emailing you if you’re not interested.

A. Stop emailing me with attempts to connect but continue to send invites for future opportunities.

B. Don’t send me anything, remove me from your list. We don’t currently and won’t ever need your opportunity.

C. I want to talk, we need some help, but the timing isn’t right. Keep trying.

D. I would like to schedule a time to talk. We need some help. Please send your calendar link.

E. I forgot who you are. What’s this about?

 

The funny part is this: “to make this nice and easy for you…..”. In fact she wants me to make it easy for her. You can’t do prospecting over cold email and also automate it. It is so naive, unprofessional, bossy, accusing, all rolled into one.

Instead, the sender should have used a professional email marketing tool with “unsubscribe” buttons and sent an intro email with few lines and asking for permission to continue writing without any demands. Forget business.

Clients are not waiting in queue with the cheque to handover to you. Stop dreaming.

Write well.

Spark interest.

Serve without any expectation.

Build trust.

Pick up the phone and ask for an appointment.

Meet.

See if they have any problems that you can solve.

Add value.

Propose.

Negotiate.

Close.

Deliver.

Retain.

Where is this sales person right now, in this process? She hasn’t even started yet. But thanks to her for teaching us how not to write emails.

 

Happy Selling !!

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Questions to ask yourself about your Sales Function

What Sales methodologies do you use ?

  1. Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-Payoff, popularly known as SPIN
  2. Keeping it Simple, being iNvaluable, Aligning your activities with your Customer’s priorities or SNAP
  3. Conceptual / Solution Selling
  4. Consultative Selling

Do you have a proven Sales process ?

The steps right from leads / cold calling / known universe to various sales stages till closure including but not limited to Prospecting, Validating, Needs assessment, Budgeting, Mapping Customers Org Structure, Demonstrating, Proposing, Closing, Following-up is a Sales Process. The question is to ask is: Is your Sales Process proven? Has it delivered the desired results quarter after quarter?

Do you need a CRM [Customer Relationship Management] Software? Why?

  1. What problems are you trying to solve using a CRM ?
  2. How are you currently handling sales ?
  3. Where and how do you find your clients ?
  4. Why should customers buy from you ?
  5. What implication will CRM have on your organizational goals ?
  6. Why is it important for your Organization to think like your customers ?
  7. Do you know the things you should keep in mind while implementing a CRM ?
  8. Why is CRM Adoption more important than anything else ?
  9. Do you know that a CRM can be used for Field Service, Channel or Partner Management or even for Product Management ?
  10. And it can be used for Banking and Financial Services Sales ? Have you heard of Vertical CRMs ?

Do you understand the power of CRM Analytics or in other words Customer Analytics?

  1. Why do you think CRM Analytics important ?
  2. Lead stage to Close – how much time did the Prospect spend at each sales stage
  3. Activities Vs Deal size – is your salesforce spending time and effort on high value deals
  4. Weighted Vs Goal, Balanced Vs Goal, Pipeline Overview & Other snapshots
  5. Forecasting, Forecasting Vs Actuals
  6. Is 20% of your prospects giving you 80% of your revenue and vice-versa ?
  7. Have you invested on Customer Analytics ?
  8. How Dashboard Creation can help you and your Top management ?
  9. What is the purpose of Campaign Analysis & Customer Segmentation ?
  10. Why should anyone undertake Trend, What-if & Pipeline Analysis ?
  11. Are you getting actionable insights from your customer data ?

Sales Training and Motivation:

  1. When was the last time your Sales Force attended a Training program?
  2. How often do you train your Sales Force?
  3. Are they equipped to take your company to the next level?
  4. Are they motivated enough?
  5. Who fixes the compensation for your Sales Force?
  6. What incentives do you give them?
  7. Do you recognize your best sales persons?
  8. What plans do you have to continuously educate your Sales Force?
  9. Is your back end team [Product Management, Delivery Teams] taking regular feedback from your Sales Force?
  10. Are you occasionally involving your Product / Delivery people  to meet prospects and customers along with your Sales Force?

I am sure these questions will help you frame fresh Sales Strategies, Process and Methodology. Spruce-up is not just desired but mandatory for growth.

Happy Selling !!

 

 

Pic Courtesy: http://www.freepik.com/free-vector/businessman-agreement-cartoon_774932.htm

Posted on Leave a comment

Step by Step Guide to Prospecting

What is Prospecting ?

The process of identifying prospective or potential new clients for your business is called as Prospecting. It is during this process you qualify prospects [or leads] and see whether there is a fit between what he/she needs and what you have got to offer.

Why should you undertake Prospecting ?

Prospecting is done to identify new customers. It is very important to do Prospecting on a continuous basis. New customers are very important for a business to grow. It is also worthwhile to remember that existing customers have to be retained at any cost since the cost of acquiring new customers is too high compared to the cost of retaining existing customers. But that doesn’t mean we should stop doing prospecting or stop acquiring new clients. The only way to Growth is to acquire new customers at whatever cost.

Sales people normally do cold calls to identify prospects. But traditional Cold-calling, as we know it, is dead. In today’s world, one does a lot of homework before picking up the phone. Whether one is calling a list from a database or calling on the leads that have come in through their website or Ad campaigns, one has to do plenty of homework before connecting with the Prospect.

Let us now take a look at how to do Prospecting.

Step by Step Guide to Prospecting:

  1. The first step is to define your target market. Or your target segment.
  2. Then undertake a study of your target market or target segment.
  3. Understand what is causing them headaches or what goals do they have for their organization this year.
  4. Find the right set of people in Organizations within the target market, those who are most likely to have a need for your products/services.
  5. You may use LinkedIn and/or any other service that gives you access to your target segment including the decision makers direct phone nos.
  6. Understand the Buyers’ Persona.
  7. Make a list.
  8. Run a campaign. Whether yours is a B2B or a B2C. It can be an Email campaign or an Ad campaign on the web or both.
  9. Now, get your Story ready. [Not the pitch.] People like stories. Let the Story be inspiring. Let it make the buyer sit upright and take note of it and let it induce the buyer to take action. The buyer will then help you sell to their organization. It will be his/her baby from then on.
  10. Attend Trade Shows, Road Shows, Industry Conferences, Workshops, Seminars where your target segment is likely to participate. Network. Exchange cards.
  11. Make a refined list. Include those who came through your Campaigns and those whom you networked with recently.
  12. Invite them over to Breakfast meetings on Saturdays. Make Powerful and Inspiring Stories and Tell them these stories. StoryTelling is an art.
  13. Story Telling & Other Ways to Engage a Prospect.
  14. Generate awareness. On your Products and/or Services.
  15. Qualify your Prospects.
  16. Questions to ask your Prospects: What Questions to ask your Prospects ?
  17. Prepare a Qualified List of Prospects, those who are a fit and those who are most likely to buy your products or services in the near future. With this, Prospecting is completed. But the Sales Process continues. Keep doing these steps on a regular basis to have a constant supply of Prospects for your Business.

Happy Selling !!

Posted on Leave a comment

You can close more sales, if

We all want to close more sales. Right ? Let us understand what it takes to close more deals. First and foremost, I am sure you have heard this: Don’t rush the sales process. And don’t delay it as well. The right speed is what will determine the outcome. The speed that matches your prospect is the one that will help you land the deal. Customers would like to buy and don’t like to be sold.

You can close more sales, if

  1. You don’t rush the sales process
  2. You add more value during your interaction with your prospects
  3. You understand the prospects pain points and provide point solutions to resolve those pains
  4. You Align with your prospects
  5. You have built a good Pipeline of Opportunities
  6. You understand your competitors and have a strategy to counter them
  7. You act more like a Business Partner than like a vendor
  8. You are an Expert and an Authority in your domain
  9. You are willing to help your Prospects solve their problems
  10. You are putting effort in finding a solution that meets the growth demands of your prospects
  11. You keep up your commitments
  12. You can provide Customer References
  13. You can demonstrate your solution and prove that that is the best in the market
  14. You can highlight the value of your products or services
  15. You can offer a solution matching your prospects budgets
  16. You can eliminate the risks for your prospects
  17. You are enthusiastic, disciplined, courageous, entertaining
  18. You are willing to go that extra mile to match customer expectation
  19. You are helping your prospects save money, time and effort with your product or service
  20. You know how to smile from your heart and do.

Happy Selling !!

Posted on Leave a comment

I was asked “What is a CRM” and this is what I answered…..

CRM is not anymore a buzzword. It is not just another acronym that an IT Professional builds skills on to grow in his / her career. CRM, as you are aware, stands for Customer Relationship Management. When someone says CRM, they refer to an application software used by Sales, Marketing and Customer Service departments of a Business entity. Typically, CRM has these three modules – Sales, Marketing & Customer Service. Analytics is either offered as another module or as part of all these modules.

Coming to the Sales module, the App helps Sales people of a business close more deals. The Sales CRM application helps in Account Management, Activity Management, Lead Management, Contact Management, Opportunity Management, Pipeline Management.

Typically sales people get leads from Marketing department and start validating those leads. Sales people also generate their own leads as well. Starting from a cold call, qualifying a contact as a lead or validating the leads passed to them and then finding an opportunity with that lead and converting that lead to an opportunity and taking that opportunity through various Sales Stages – for example from Needs Assessment to Closing and beyond, the Sales CRM helps sales people perform their job more efficiently.

CRM is unlike traditional applications used in an enterprise. By traditional applications, I am referring to the transaction oriented applications – say for ex, Financial Applications [that is used to track the finance from order to pay or purchase to pay etc] or Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] application that helps in the back office business processes. These applications capture limited customer information – order and payment details of customers and cannot satisfy the requirements of the sales people.

Sales people are the face of any business. They occupy and run the front office. They are the point of contact when a customer walks into a business. They handle all the customer inquiries that are received through various channel. This is inbound traffic. Customers get in touch on their own and express interest in a product or a service. While sales people handle this inbound traffic, they also run outbound sales to identify customers who may be a good fit for their products or services and can benefit from them. The sales people do a number of activities to acquire new clients.

“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” – Steve Jobs, Apple

Coming to Sales CRM, it captures customer data in detail and it is mapped to the Sales Process of an Organization. The sales process of an Organization is the process followed from the first contact with a prospective customer till the order closure. It starts with the sales person contacting a lead, understanding the needs and evaluating the needs, checking product fit or service fit, budgeting, Mapping Customers Organization Structure, Identifying Decision Makers / Budget holders / Influencers, Demonstrating, Proposal submission, PoC [Proof of Concept], Closing, Following-up.

The Sales CRM captures all the data through this entire process. It is a complete salesforce automation. Contact management is the basic feature that helps sales people to keep all customer contact details in one place. They can map social media accounts of their contacts as well. They can even create a field to capture the news feed about the customer’s organization from the web.

Sales CRM captures all the leads. Allows one to convert those leads into opportunities as they get qualified. The opportunities then follow a predefined sales process through various sales stages. And sales people can then visually see which opportunity is in what stage. A series of opportunities in various sales stages is a pipeline. And sales people can have multiple pipelines – one each for a specific product or a business entity or a division or a geography.

Sales pipeline management is critical to success of any organization. The low hanging fruits will be taken care of. But it is those warm leads that needs to be nurtured for long term success of an organization.

At any given point, the sales people see which opportunity is in what stage, in the CRM. The CRM intuitively tells where the sales people should focus their energies and what should be done with all the other opportunities and other leads as well.

CRM is useful for any business with either one sales person or 200 sales people. Whether it is a B2B or a B2C. Regardless of whether it sells a capital intensive product or everyday use product. Whether they sell directly or through the distribution channel. Whether they sell online or offline. Whether their sales cycle is long or short. As long as they sell and want to grow by selling more, they need a CRM. CRM is an essential tool in today’s competitive world. Without that, businesses will be doomed.

It is not anymore a buzzword.