Author: Sean O'Shaughnessey

Read Every Day To Become An Expert In Sales

Read Every Day To Become An Expert In Sales

In my recent interview with Brian Burns for his podcastThe Brutal Truth, I challenged salespeople to read more. We didn’t explore the content that salespeople should read, though, and this post will dig into that question.

Self-development expert Brian Tracy tells us, “If you read only one book per month, that will put you into the top 1 percent of income earners in our society.” Now, imagine if you read one book a week what will happen.

Earl Nightingale said many years ago:

One hour per day of study in your chosen field is all it takes. One hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years. Within five years you’ll be a national authority. In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do.

If you read one hour a day in your chosen field, that translates into one book a week. One book per week translates into roughly 50 books a year. Do that for five years, and you have read 250 books in your field. You will quickly become an expert in your area.

What should you read?

I do not recommend that you focus on one thing and become an expert at it if you are in sales. I think that an expert in sales is an expert at understanding and influencing the motivations of people. To do that, you need to have a very rounded understanding of your world, the people you interact with, and your prospects’ needs and goals.

I suggest you break up your reading to cover these three topics.

  1. Selling – you are a salesperson, so you should read about improving your skills.
  2. The World – you should be knowledgeable about the world around you to relate to your prospects and customers.
  3. Your Industry – you should know more about your industry and the technology driving your industry than anyone you meet.

Read about selling

Your world is different from mine. I don’t know what you sell, but if you are reading this blog, you must be in sales or desire to be in sales. So let’s start there: spend every day reading five blog posts. It is a good start being here at this post, but I do not put out five articles a day.

There are two great ways to find five sales articles per day. You can subscribe to Feedly (or a similar RSS aggregator) and subscribe to the RSS feeds to some of the best sales blogs. If you don’t like RSS feeds, create a list on Twitter that gets feeds from the best sales blogs.

In my opinion, the best sales blogs today are:

Read about the world.

It is crucial that you understand what is going on in the world. It is especially important to understand what is happening in the business world since you are in business.

There are only two choices for reading what is happening in the business world. Pick one of the two newspapers and read five articles in it every day. I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal (and have for decades). It is the larger of the two in the US and has a wide readership among US business leaders.

Read about your industry.

It isn’t easy to give you great suggestions for your industry. The easiest way to provide you with assistance is to explain how I pay attention to the sectors I watch.

The method below uses Flipboard, but it would also work with other content aggregators such as Google News and Apple News.

Every day, I spend time on Flipboard and read at least five articles (and usually 15-20 articles) on the interesting industries and technologies. I will save the best of these articles in my bookmarks file and occasionally forward them to prospects and customers.

I do this by going to the Flipboard Topic listing and adding necessary technologies to this list. Once you have an account, you can go to https://flipboard.com/following/topics. However, adding topics is easier using their app, which you can download to your Android phone or your iPhone (or their tablets). Once you have your app setup, follow these steps:

  • Open the app and tap the Following tab.
  • Swipe across to Topics and choose Find More Topics to Follow, and you’ll see the topic picker. Select topics that interest you, or use the search feature for diving even deeper.
  • Select Done when you’re finished.

Return to the topic picker from time to time to keep personalizing your Flipboard with new and exciting content.

Don’t stop learning.

I will be giving more tips on getting more content to make you a better salesperson. Subscribe to my newsletter so that you never miss my content.

Brian Tracy and Earl Nightingale talked about reading books, and I spent most of this article talking about reading articles. Reading books is essential as well, and I must recommend my book, Eliminate Your Competition.

You may purchase my book, Eliminate Your Competition, from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Don’t Negotiate With Yourself! It’s Not Personal, It’s Business

Don’t Negotiate With Yourself! It’s Not Personal, It’s Business

Congratulations! You are approaching the end of your sales campaign with a new prospect. Now you need to put the final deal together.

In many companies, the salesperson will have to go through extreme hurdles to allow any special concessions to the prospect. However, in some companies (especially in smaller companies), you only have to work with your immediate manager and maybe someone in legal. In either case, the salesperson will be advocating for concessions that make it easier to win the customer and have them sign the order.

Most companies that you sell to understand that the first offer is not the final offer. There is no reason to make an offer that is your “walk away – take it or leave it” offer on the first written proposal to the customer. As a salesperson trying to bring in the commission to increase your W2, it is natural to be a bit apprehensive if you have to make multiple offers.

First, be comfortable with this process. It is a process that people have done every day for as long as two people have been exchanging goods or services. As the book/movie by Mario Puzo, The Godfather, frequently said, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”

Second, if you have followed my advice in my book Eliminate Your Competition, you have virtually eliminated your prospects other choices. If you are dealing with someone in the purchasing department, they may not acknowledge that reality to you, but your Coach and your Champion have already told you that you have won the deal.

If you don’t know how to enter into the negotiations after beating all of your competition and eliminating them from consideration, I suggest that you read my book. You may purchase my book, Eliminate Your Competition, from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Your Coach probably told you, “You’ve won, so don’t blow it with Purchasing.” This advice is nagging at you. If you work for a big company with lots of approvals, you have probably nicknamed that black hole of deal approval “The Order Prevention Department.” You don’t want to lose the deal at this point.

If you work for a small or a large company, always remember that your company wants the order, but they need to make sure that the order doesn’t violate internal processes (some you may not fully understand). There is no one on the Executive Committee trying to get LESS money into the company by walking away from deals.

It is tempting to pitch to your management a series of concessions so that the prospect buys at first sight.

Don’t Do It!

You cannot negotiate with yourself. You will always lose. You cannot say that if you give this discount or concede this term or condition, you will get credit for it in the customer’s eyes. The customer will never give you credit for something that they do not know about.

Think of it this way. Quite a while ago, there was a popular movie titled Pay It Forward. The film’s premise is that you pay for a favor by doing a favor for someone else. After that movie, some people would pay for the drive-thru order of someone in line behind them. The goal was that someone who really could not afford that meal but was quite hungry and had to eat would get a free meal.

What if you received such a gift, but the teller did not inform you who paid your bill. The teller didn’t say the car in front of you paid your fee, but instead, said there was no charge? Would you return that favor by paying for the car behind you? Of course not. You would assume that the restaurant manager granted you that favor and not by another good-willed person in your community. The person that did you that favor did not receive the credit; therefore, the ‘pay it forward’ chain breaks.

Even the book and movie by Mario Puzo, The Godfather, was famous for offering to do a favor in advance with the understanding that at some time in the future, a return favor will be requested.

By giving a concession to a buyer that they are not aware of, you are not getting credit for that concession. This favor works against you even more as corporate buyers frequently have to report to their superiors how much money they saved during the purchase process. By giving a concession without the buyer’s knowledge, you are not giving him that credit, and he will work hard to get further discounts (and these will be harder to grant on top of the original discounted offer).

Don’t ever give a customer a discount that the customer didn’t request or is not aware of receiving. Even “standard discounts” shown in the initial offer are assumed to be available to every customer and are accommodations of a list price that is not in keeping with the street price. The discount or concession is much more appreciated if the buyer is aware of a great deal and assumes you worked hard to get the approval.

Be confident in the process. Don’t negotiate with yourself as you will always lose – you will give without getting anything valuable in return.

Header photo The Godfather – 1 by komersreal

6 Types Of Bad Salespeople

6 Types Of Bad Salespeople

Selling is a difficult career in which to make a living; it is not uncommon to have the commission check denied before the salesperson even gets a chance to win. Analysis of thousands of sales situations has made it phenomenally obvious that most salespeople begin their sales campaign so late in the decision-making process that they are virtually guaranteed to lose the order. To make matters worse, when they do start the campaign early enough, most salespeople do not know how to control the prospect adequately so that they can guarantee their victory.

Typical turnover for a sales department is 10-20%. Many companies see turnover that approaches 40-60%! This turnover costs them 50% of their revenue-generating capability. In any organization that exceeds 25% turnover, the loss of trust with the customer can be astounding as the new salesperson tries to rebuild the entire relationship. Further, a salesperson who is making quota is probably not going to leave the company. Excessive turnover means that for six to eighteen months before leaving, the territory was not performing well and then the salesperson left. To make matters worse, this lack of performance is followed by weeks (and maybe months) of no coverage (or little coverage) as a replacement is found, trained, and starts to become productive.

Other organizations such as accounting or manufacturing in the company see a turnover that is under 10%. Why is selling so difficult that two to ten times as many people fail in the profession compared to any other profession? My book is designed to reduce or eliminate this problem by explaining how to be successful in the sales profession.

In any given quarter dozens or hundreds of companies do not make their forecasted numbers and are dramatically punished by Wall Street. My book will provide the management of a company with a framework to teach their salespeople how to attain their quotas with higher profits. It will also allow salespeople to rise to the top of their organization and be the super-achievers who win awards, trips, bonuses, and respect.

Most sales strategies on the market do an excellent job of trying to teach the salesperson how to align the vision between the vendor and the customer. The overall problem with this is that just because your ‘vision’ aligns with the prospect does not necessitate that you will win the order; after all, your competitors know how to align vision as well. Hence, we must take the process to the next step; we must learn how to eliminate our competition so that the customer has little choice but to buy our solution. This strategy results in higher win rates and higher levels of profitability.

I thought this infographic summed up the bad behavior of salespeople. If you want to truly be a successful salesperson, I suggest you read my book and subscribe to this site (newsletter sign-in is on the right side of this page). You may purchase my book, Eliminate Your Competition, from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

The above infographic evidently first appeared on RingLead’s site.

If You Don’t Have Five Reasons To Buy Then Take It Off Your Forecast

If You Don’t Have Five Reasons To Buy Then Take It Off Your Forecast

I am always amazed that so many VPs of Sales do not interrogate their teams on the “needs gap” during pipeline review meetings.

A prospect’s “needs gap” is the difference between where the prospect wants to be (their goal) and where they are. The more significant that difference, the more likely the deal will get funded.

If a team cannot identify five reasons why the prospect has a gap between where s/he is and where s/he wants to be, there is a high likelihood that there will not be an order. You need to take it off the Commit List and put it on the Upside List. Organizations do not buy because of pain (“I wish we didn’t have to deal with this problem”); they invest because they want to change their situation – a “needs gap” between where they are and where they want to be (“We absolutely need to do this so that we can achieve nirvana”).

In a business-to-business (B2B) sale, there are many decision-makers. You need to have five reasons for a deal to happen so that one or two of those reasons don’t get killed by someone else in the organization. Your risk is that the one remaining reason to buy from you may not be enough. However, your risk is much higher if you depend on only one positive outcome to justify a purchase.

As depicted in the below image, not all of the reasons will be equally important. That is fine. The important thing is that you have at least five reasons to buy from you.

You should have at least five reasons why your prospect is going to buy from you

When people decide to spend their own (or their company’s) money, they do so because their goals do not align with their reality. They wish that they were in a different situation. Their desire to be in that situation is acute enough that they are willing to invest their time and money to get closer to that goal.

Many people discuss ‘pain’ as the reason that people buy. This belief is not entirely true. Pain is the result of not realizing goals. Therefore, ‘pain’ is a ‘lagging indicator’ of the situation. In a competitive situation where there are no Trappers, pain may be a tremendous driving force. Trappers try to get ahead of the problem and drive the buyer into a conducive situation to win the order. If you wait for ‘pain’ to occur, you run the risk of involving many more competitors and being much later in the sales process. Instead, you want to control the process, which means that you want to discuss the goals of both the organization and the individual people.

Pain is the result of unrealized goals.

In addition to ‘pain’ being a secondary and lagging situation, it also has very negative connotations. It is much harder to discuss an individual’s ‘pains’ than discussing the individual’s goals. Goals have a very positive feel and therefore make you a valued partner to the prospect.

A similarity from your everyday life: if you have knee pain, you may see a doctor. You and your insurance company will likely give the doctor money to cure that pain; the transaction does not give you a positive feeling about the doctor. You never had a goal of having surgery or physical therapy – it is more of a necessary evil. 

Another example is that you may have a goal of getting into shape and losing weight and, therefore, joining the local gym. You are more likely to develop a long-term friendship with that gym and its employees. You will likely have a better feeling about the gym than your doctor in the paragraph above, even though you may give them much more money over the term of your membership. The people working in the gym help you get to your goal, whereas the doctor is solving a problem or a ‘pain.’

Pain means that something is broken. It causes a negative feeling. While it may be prevalent in this age of social media to whine and complain about broken things, it does not create excitement or enjoyment. The excitement only comes when you are trying to achieve a goal.

The athletes on your favorite sports team don’t work hard in practice because they want to avoid the pain of losing. Instead, they work hard because they want to win. Winning is the goal. The desire to accomplish a goal allows everyone to be motivated and work hard. Talking about pain with an athlete is to talk about losses, strenuous practices, and injury. The athlete is much more motivated talking about the game wins and the plans to win the next games. The same is true with your prospect.

Pain is also not the reason to choose one product over another. Pain may justify the purchase, or it may start an evaluation process. If all the reviewed products solve the problem, then ultimately, price and ‘terms and conditions’ will be the deciding factors. However, most evaluations are more concerned about goals and achieving those goals. If your pain is that you have a broken TV, then any TV should solve your pain. Suppose your goal is to watch sporting events and feature films on the best-looking and best-sounding audiovisual system on the market. In that case, your list may be more detailed.

Similarly, suppose your pain is that you cannot get to work in the morning. In that case, hundreds of automobiles and some public transportation options will solve your problem. If you have a goal of getting to work in a sporty red convertible, you will eliminate many of those choices. In that case, you need a car salesperson to help you meet your goals. You will also pay more for attaining your goals than just solving your pain. 

The chosen product will match the goals of the prospect, not just the pains of the prospect.

In sales, we can use this to our benefit. We will center our initial questioning and needs development with our prospect on goals and the ability (or inability) to reach those goals. By doing this with the Discoverer (a role that we will discuss later in the book), we have the advantage of being a long-term and trusted ally. As the sales process evolves, other vendors are brought in to ascertain their possible remedies. Still, the prospect sees them as solutions to a problem (pain) that you have helped them identify because their reality was not the same as their goal. You, on the other hand, are a trusted confidant who only has their best interest at heart, and you are willing to guide them as they explore their goals.

The key points to remember are that you need to go after the prospect’s goals and document at least five reasons why you can help the company achieve those goals. One reason is not enough. The more reasons that you have, the more likely the deal will close in your favor.

Header Photo by Icons8 Team (Unsplash)

Brian G. Burns Interviews Sean O’Shaughnessey On How To Win Large Enterprise Deals

Brian G. Burns Interviews Sean O’Shaughnessey On How To Win Large Enterprise Deals

Brian Burns interviewed me for his podcast, The Brutal Truth, which can be found at https://www.youtube.com/c/BrianBurns/videos.

This version of the video doesn’t have the automatic transcription of the original podcast. I have created a better transcription below. I encourage you to read it here.

Brian’s podcast was titled The Top 3 Things You Need To Do To Close Large Enterprise Deals. We summarize those three things in the final moments of our conversation:

  1. Practice at being a well-rounded person. 
  2. Practice at being a business person. 
  3. Be able to relate to your customer in a way that makes them successful.

I would also add a 4th attribute that we discuss in the podcast, but Brian doesn’t emphasize in this podcast (but he does in his other episodes):

ABL – Always Be Learning

I hope you enjoy the podcast. The transcript is below the video.

Brian G. Burns  

Sean, welcome to the show. As a way of getting started, tell us about yourself.

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

Thanks, Brian, I enjoy being here. I am Sean O’Shaughnessey. I’m currently the Chief Revenue Officer for Agile Stacks, a startup company based in California. I’m in the Midwest, though, because I cover the entire world. I can be anywhere.

I have a long history of selling enterprise IT solutions. I have worked for many large companies that are names everybody’s heard of on your program.

Brian G. Burns  

It was kind of weird that before I looked at your profile, I was expecting an Irish accent.

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

A lot of people say that, but I’m a seventh-generation Irish. I have a lot of German blood in me as well. But I’m the seventh generation. The first generation O’Shaughnessey that came over on the boat was back in about 1820 or 1830. Something like that. So we have been in America for a long time. I didn’t look like an Irish man. I’ve got gray hair, of course, but blonde hair originally.

Brian G. Burns  

You can pass as an Irishman. But yeah, you spell your name the same way my brother does. And yes, so he grew up with everyone calling him “seen.” Yeah. Have you experienced that?

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

Absolutely. Thank goodness for Sean Connery. I think I’m actually named after Sean Connery. I think my mother, God rest her soul, had a crush on Sean Connery. 

Brian G. Burns  

How did you get into sales? 

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

My father was a salesperson. My brother was a salesperson. I was originally trained as a mechanical engineer. I realized that I didn’t want to be a mechanical engineer. My last day of being a mechanical engineer is when I walked across the stage to get that diploma. I immediately went into sales.

I went to a really great program put out by Allen-Bradley, which was a whole year of sales training. It was almost like getting a Master’s in Sales. And I never looked back. I never wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I was more on the business side. I’m technically adept, but I just enjoy selling. I enjoyed being with people. I definitely don’t like being stuck in the office, like I am now with this stupid COVID thing where I can’t go to see customers. 

Brian G. Burns  

You miss the traveling? 

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

I do. When you’re traveling, you hate it. When you don’t travel, after doing this so long, it just feels wrong. I think my suitcase is dusty.

Brian G. Burns  

That’s it. You get used to looking at bad TVs and bad hotel food and not waking up not knowing where you are.

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

Exactly. I think the biggest thing is my wife is saying, “Get out of the house!”

There is more to read. Go to the following pages to read:
Introduction
Why does Sean like the sales profession?
The transition from salesperson to sales manager
Growth milestones
Rep radar and Always Be Learning

You should forget attachments more often

You should forget attachments more often

I typically do not do a lot of writing about specific tactics that will work. Instead, I tend to write about more prominent strategies you can leverage to increase your commission. Unfortunately, plans will fail if your tactics fail.

For years, articles have advised us that a PS (postscriptum) is the most read part of an email. While their advice is not wrong, it is not the most straightforward way or the best way to get the reader’s attention.

Unfortunately, the PS is not required with today’s editors. Writers of days long since gone created the PS when letters were hand-typed or handwritten, and adding content to the 3rd paragraph of a 7-paragraph note was impractical. With modern editors on your computer, tablet, or phone, if a great idea came to you after typing a letter to a prospect, why wouldn’t you merely place your cursor at the appropriate place in the body and add the thought? Using a PS in modern times is simply an artificial contrivance that your reader will recognize as a fake add-on. It will be evident that you are trying to manipulate the prospect (which you are, but why admit it).

As a salesperson, you regularly send your prospect documents to read. These documents are in the form of attachments or links to a shared site. They help to explain your product or your company. They give more depth of understanding than can typically be done in the body of an email.

Occasionally, you will forget to do the attachment. You typically realize this immediately after you hit send. The accepted practice is to make a quick Reply All to your email, apologize for the mistake, and include the attachment. 

My suggestion is to do this more often. Don’t do it for every attachment, just the most important one. Please do it for the one attachment that you want your prospect to read.

The most read email content that you can send is the “OOPS” email. It nearly always is opened immediately, and it possibly could be opened before the original email. In the list of emails on the prospect’s email client, you are there twice in a row. The one on top must be the most important.

I caution you not to do this every single time that you send several documents to a prospect. Just do it on the most critical issues. Only use this technique when you absolutely must have the prospect read the email and the attachment to move forward. If you abuse the method, you will look obvious or look like a forgetful fool.

Good luck with your prospecting. Let me know what other tricks or tips you have used. You can drop me a note on my contact page, or you can leave a comment below.

Header Photo by bohed (Pixabay)

There Is No Single Decision Maker In Enterprise Sales

There Is No Single Decision Maker In Enterprise Sales

Brian G. Burns says many great things in his videos and podcasts, but this one video sums up B2B sales more than all the rest.

I coach salespeople saying that Sales is nothing but helping decision-makers (plural) make the correct decision in the timeframe that we need it done. It is an overriding theme in my book, Eliminate Your Competition.

Think about that above paragraph for a second. What are the key phrases:

  • Helping – As Zig Ziglar used to say, stop selling and start helping. Sales is about assisting (helping) a person along the path.
  • Decision-makers – there are many decisions by many different people along the way. The final decision is the decision to buy your product, but everything you do is a choice. As the excellent Rush song, Freewill, says, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”
  • Make a correct decision – Ultimately, we want the “buy” decision, but long before that, we need the “meet with me” decision, the “listen to my advice” decision, the “don’t like my competitor’s pitch better” decision, and many more.
  • In our timeframe, salespeople have a fiduciary responsibility to their employers to close deals in the time frame needed by their employers. Let’s face it; we are the company’s revenue arm, and everyone’s income depends on us selling the company’s product and bringing in revenue.

There are hundreds or thousands of decisions that get made in a long sales cycle product. In some markets, it can take a year (or maybe two years) from the time the company realizes that they might need to do something to when they make a final purchase decision. In that time, dozens of people are each making many decisions along the way. Just about every decision will affect who wins the deal, or who is ahead in the competition to win the contract.

You can sell high and lose. 

You can sell wide and lose. 

You can sell to low-level people and lose. 

The critical thing in business-to-business sales is to do all of them. You still may lose, but if you cover EVERY decision-maker and understand their goals, needs, and pains, then you will be less likely to lose. Remember, they are ALL making critical decisions every day, and you need to ensure that you “win” each of those decisions.

You never completely know who that one person is that can kill a deal. Many people in an organization can say, “No,” but few are empowered to say, “Yes.” Typically, that “Yes” only comes when no one is saying, “No.”

Top leaders at your prospects do not make decisions in a vacuum. While there are cases where the executive overrode the team and made a decision that everyone hated, most of the time, the boss tries to build consensus in the group. If a highly respected person in the department doesn’t like a purchase, it is infrequent that the leader goes against that advice. If you want the top person to decide in your favor, you first need to get that highly respected person to decide in your favor.

That is why coverage is essential, and you must understand if someone is a supporter, neutral, or an enemy. In my book, Eliminate Your Competition, I teach salespeople how to create a Power Matrix to map the influencers in the sale. A Power Matrix covers the 9 (or 25) people that might have an influence over the decision.

It boils down to a couple of simple items and by creating a Power Matrix the salesperson can effectively track what is going on:

  1. Work on trying to get as many supporters as possible. If there are one or more enemies, try to move them to at least being neutral. The most potent and rewarding move is an enemy to a supporter.
  2. Make sure you have a strong supporter (a coach and a champion) that is providing you with private information, coaching you on tactics, and, most importantly, selling on your behave when you are not present.

You may purchase my book, Eliminate Your Competition, from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Check out this great video from Brian Burns that summarizes all of this. Brian has a lot more great stuff that he puts out on his YouTube channel. You need to check it out.

Header Photo by geralt (Pixabay)

Too much event-based selling hurts your ability to close

Too much event-based selling hurts your ability to close

Many salespeople fall into the bad habit of depending on event-based selling to move their prospects through the decision-making process. A salesperson should spend a large percentage of their time doing personal selling, rather than event-based selling.

Before the above statement can sink in, I need to explain the difference. Event-based selling is when you have scheduled a meeting with multiple people from the prospect’s organization and maybe numerous people from your organization. Event-based selling identifies with such topics as demos and workshops. 

Personal selling is where the salesperson is simply sitting with the prospect discussing business and also maybe discussing family, weather, sports, or similar topics. This activity usually is one-on-one. 

Event-based selling is essential. It is the primary method of conveying information about your product. This is even more true if the product category is new to the prospect and is somewhat technical. You set up a demo, and you invite several or a dozen people from the prospect organization to attend. These are events. 

Events are important. You will never get the prospect to agree to buy many types of products if you don’t do a demo, a workshop, or a proof-of-concept event. You need to plan and execute these events successfully. They are critical for the success of you closing a deal.

However, events can be a crutch that hurts you in your sales campaign. Too often, a salesperson will try to “make something happen” by offering to do another event. Maybe that event is a “lunch and learn” for more people. Or perhaps that event is mini-demo of an individual feature not adequately explored in the original demo. If the prospect requests those new events, then, by all means, qualify them and do them to educate your prospect. But if you propose those new events as the salesperson, you may have a problem.

Start selling yourself instead of your product

Throughout my book, I discuss that you are selling three things during the sales campaign:

  1. your product
  2. your company
  3. you

You must sell all three things. However, if you are always offering to do additional events, you are likely to spend too much time selling the first two items and not enough time selling the last item – you are not selling yourself.

If you think about all of the sales calls you have made in your career, the questions fall into these three value offerings. At a high level:

  • The prospect wants to know all about the speeds and feeds of your product – a product conversation.
  • They want to know all about the pricing model of the product – a product conversation.
  • They want to know all about the support options and warranty of the product – a product and company conversation.
  • They want to know how long your company has been producing the product – a company conversation but also a product conversation.
  • They want to understand the roadmap for your company – a company conversation and a product conversation.
  • They may even want to meet some executives of your company to be comfortable with its management – a company conversation.

During these sales conversations, they are also learning about the value offering you bring to them. They are learning about you as a person. Are you reliable? Are you knowledgeable? Does the prospect trust the words that come out of your mouth? In short, they are trying to figure out if they should buy from you or, in essence, can they hire you as their representative for this kind of product.

Yes, you are for sale if you are in sales. You are a part of the value offering that the prospect considers in the evaluation. At a minimum, do you offer enhanced value to the prospect over just buying the product over the Internet?

Here is the rub; you are the essential value offering. It isn’t the product nor your company. They are secondary to the importance of you as a value offering.

Let’s be perfectly blunt, is your product that much better or worse than the competition? When you answer questions about your product, aren’t 90-99% of your responses positively responded regarding the customer’s concern? How often do you answer a question, “No, we don’t have that feature.” Obviously, you give that answer at times, but in those cases, you probably are not a good fit for the customer and will lose the deal immediately. If your product doesn’t have that required feature, you will not be talking to a qualified prospect for that product.

Isn’t your competitor’s product in a similar situation? Don’t most of their features match up reasonably well to your own product’s characteristics? I am sure that you do a little better at feature A or B. Although your competitor probably does a bit better at C. When you add it all up, it is probably pretty close to a dead-even tie. Worse yet, it is likely your prospect can achieve their goals perfectly well without buying the best product on the market (yours) because the second best or third best product will accomplish the goals. They don’t need the best; they need the product and company to be good enough to achieve their goals.

Similarly, how many times do you have to explain to your prospect that your company isn’t very good at supporting the product? Do you ever really lose a deal based on company longevity or commitment to the market? Of course not, and neither do your competitors.

As a Trapper, I continuously advise salespeople that features that do not differentiate do not matter. 

Does the car salesperson spend time explaining the value offering of the accelerator on the floor? Of course not, all modern cars have them. 

Does the TV salesperson explain that the remote will change the channel and volume? Of course not, all TVs have remotes with a value offering that does that. 

In both cases above, there was a time when those were unique and differentiating features, but not in today’s competitive market. The TV and automobile manufacturers have added those features as standard, and the features no longer differentiate the products. Since none of these features add a differential value offering, there is no reason to “sell” these features to the prospect. A salesperson that spends a lot of time talking about the value offering of these benefits is simply wasting valuable time.

So why do you spend so much time talking about your company and your product? You need to do the minimum amount to make sure you check off all of the checkboxes, but that is all you are doing. All you are doing is showing that your company and your product are good enough to match the competition. As soon as you achieve that parity, you need to sell the one benefit that only you can provide.

You need to sell you. You need to prove to the prospect that you offer more value than your competitor. You demonstrate this value offering by the information that you share with the prospect. You confirm this value offering by the benefit that you provide understanding your prospect’s business. By helping your prospect improve his or her skills and achieve personal goals, you make yourself irreplaceable.

If your product can help the prospect achieve a goal, your competitor’s product can likely do the same. If your company can support the product and the customer, then your competitor can do the same. You are the only genuinely differentiated benefit to the prospect, and you need to make sure your prospect understands this benefit (and the associated value offering).

You know that you have indeed won the deal if the prospect says they would buy either your product or your competitor’s product from you. You were the most valuable part of the sale. Have you ever heard those words from a new customer?

Suggestions to get out of the rut of doing too much event-based selling

It is quite easy to break the habit of pushing events rather than positioning yourself. Let’s break it down to two separate types of deals:

  1. Prospect is actively engaged with the next steps.
  2. Prospect isn’t calling you, but instead, you are always trying to do the next activity.

Prospect actively engaged

The first situation above is more straightforward. Your product is resonating with the prospect. However, this is a situation where it is easy only to do events and undermine the value that you bring.

In this situation, you must force yourself to engage with decision-makers. You must make appointments that allow you to interact with them without a demo or a presentation. A good rule of thumb is to do two or three personal meetings for every event based meeting that you schedule.

If your company and industry allow it, it is a great time to take the decision-maker to lunch. If lunch is not possible, ask them to meet in their cafeteria as it will at least allow a more casual conversation. 

Prospect is not actively engaged

This second situation is where the event-based trap typically happens. In this case, the prospect doesn’t seem to be “getting it” after your demos or presentations. You are frustrated as you have this opportunity on your pipeline, but it isn’t moving. 

The obvious, but the incorrect, conclusion is that you need to show them more so that they get excited about your product’s capabilities. Instead, you need to understand their goals and if your product can help achieve those goals. Too often, the customer isn’t returning your calls because you do not understand what is important to them.

A crude but effective opening for the personal meeting could be as simple as, “I am sorry, John, but the product we have been discussing doesn’t seem to impact you or your company. What am I missing? What are you trying to achieve by talking to us?” This open-ended question is something that is difficult to say with a group of people from the prospect or if you have an army of people with you. It is much easier to have this open and honest conversation if it is just the two of you.

The answer to that open-ended question will allow you to start selling the most important differentiator: YOU!

Header Photo by Free-Photos (Pixabay)
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