Category: Product or Book Review

Do’s And Don’ts For Your Sales Kickoff

Do’s And Don’ts For Your Sales Kickoff

I am a big fan of Sales For Life, so when I read their recent article on sales kickoff planning, I had to mention it here. This is the time of year when many companies are starting to plan their next sales kickoff (SKO).

You would think that companies could do this well, but the statistics show that success is far from easy. Many companies may be falling short, according to BrainShark’s State of Sales Kickoff Meetings survey. Despite billions of dollars spent on these events annually (not to mention hours upon hours of preparation), three out of four attendees (74%) say their company’s SKO doesn’t merit an “A” grade, with 29% rating it a “C” grade or below – leaving ample room for improvement.

Jaime Shanks of Sales For Life creates some great Do’s and Don’ts. Here are my favorites:

Do

  • Bring clients in to share why and how they bought. Let your sales team understand what it’s like to be in your customers’ shoes. Have them share their buying journey.
  • Get the skills part of your training early in the event – tired minds don’t absorb. You don’t have to use this time for product training as it’s the easiest for reps to get a hold of that information. Try focusing on skills development early in your SKO and then product training.
  • Make your event fun and gamified. You already know sales reps are competitive so bring them competition and fun.
  • The most successful companies we’ve observed have made their SKO a business function with a celebration wrapped around it and not a celebration with a little business wrapped around it.
  • Set clear expectations around attendance and consequences for non-attendance or non-participation.

Don’t

  • Don’t try to do too many activities – focus is the key. Focus on tying everything back to the main company goals and objectives for the year.
  • Don’t focus so much on product training. You have all year and all the support in the world to disseminate that information. Use this time to teach new selling skills like courses in social selling mastery, digital sales, ABSD, storyboarding, video selling, objection handling, effective sales research and so much more that doesn’t involve product knowledge.
  • Don’t have leaders and reps in different sessions. This is the perfect time for each to gain new perspectives and learnings from each other. Being on the same page should be a part of your theme.
  • Don’t accept latecomers who slept in because of a difficult night the night before. Your company may have invested millions so treat it that way.

Header Photo by Editor B
Six Ways To Gain Credibility

Six Ways To Gain Credibility

I have spoken of trust, honesty, and credibility before. When you understand that you sell three things:

  1. Your product.
  2. Your company.
  3. Yourself.

In nearly every sale, you probably have a competitive product that is very close to the same features and benefits as your product. You rarely have a massive competitive advantage in your product. Also, it is very rare that the quality of your employer is so much better than your competitor that it is the deciding factor in the decision-making process by the prospect. Alas, it is usually the salesperson and the sales team that makes the most difference to the prospect. Does the prospect trust you? Does the prospect think you are honest? Are you a credible vendor to the prospect?

John Care is a good friend of mine that has published two books and runs a consulting company that helps technical sales teams. One of his books is titled The Trusted Adviser Sales Engineer. The very description “trusted adviser” is the cornerstone of making sure that the third item that you sell (you) is the best that it can be. While John’s book is targeted to Sales Engineers, every person on the sales team can learn from his words of wisdom. I have recreated a couple of paragraphs from John’s book and also his six ways to gain credibility.

“What makes a customer actually trust you? It is much more than your technical knowledge and capabilities, as those are the basic table stakes that customers expect of any [salesperson] with. For [a salesperson], it is a combination of honoring your commitments, speaking the truth, and acting in the best interests of the customer – even if that may occasionally conflict with the best interests of your own company.”

“The downside is that once [a salesperson] loses credibility with a customer it can be very difficult to regain it. Giving vague or misleading answers to a question or being factually incorrect are classic examples of this.”

  1. Tell The Truth. Always. Plus, you get the benefit of never having to remember what you said!
  2. Be Considerate With That Truth. Younger [salespeople] can sometimes be too blunt – directly saying, “that is never going to work!” to your client may not be the best approach.
  3. Use I Don’t Know Wisely. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, and then promise to go get it for the customer . Don’t make stuff up! You can only do this a few times in a meeting – excessive “don’t knows” shows that someone is in the wrong meeting.
  4. Show Passion. Show some passion and enthusiasm for your product/ solution/services and for helping the customer. Do relax and take a breather so you don’t speak too quickly from an adrenaline high.
  5. Utilize Your Credentials. It’s OK to cite your credentials, but don’t overdo it and do make it relevant. So yes – you can put CISSP, ITIL or vExpert on your business card and eSignature, but just use one. A raft of acronyms after your name is excessive. (Note: “MBA” isn’t going to make much difference in most countries. ) Also, be sensitive to cultures – it is much better for someone else to cite your credentials in many parts of the world than to use the US testosterone “in-your-face” approach.
  6. Do The Research. Know as much as feasible about the company, their issues, and the people that you meet. Just saying “I read that article in the Straits Times yesterday” can really help – as long as you actually did read it!

You can purchase John’s book wherever books are sold. I suggest that all my readers get a copy and read it, regardless of your role in the sales process

 

 

Care, John. The Trusted Advisor Sales Engineer (Kindle Locations 266-270). Mastering Technical Sales. Kindle Edition.

Care, John. The Trusted Advisor Sales Engineer (Kindle Locations 412-414). Mastering Technical Sales. Kindle Edition.

Care, John. The Trusted Advisor Sales Engineer (Kindle Locations 422-444). Mastering Technical Sales. Kindle Edition.

 

A Thank You Note For Those With Lousy Handwriting

A Thank You Note For Those With Lousy Handwriting

I recently encouraged you to send handwritten thank you notes to your prospects and customers. What do you do if you have lousy handwriting?

First of all, don’t be so hard on yourself. Your lousy handwriting is part of the reason that the note is so important. However, there is a solution for those of us that have lousy handwriting that is so bad that we cannot read what we wrote. If you still want to send a personalized note: use Bond.

Download the basic version of the Bond app, and you can type out a message, pick a card and handwriting style ranging from the messy cursive of “Gramercy” to the clean all-caps “Hudson” and upload your signature and address. Then everything else, from postage, envelope stuffing, sealing, and drop-off, is taken care of by Bond. You don’t see the note or deal with the hassle of mailing it. You get an email when it ships.

Bond offers about 20 different handwritten house styles. After the note and address are composed, and the type style is chosen, robotic pen-writers (who never worry about hand cramps) write the notes on selected paper and envelopes. The notes can be reviewed online before being snail-mailed.

You can also utilize your own handwriting style via an intake form that requests you write various sentences and characters. All alphabet letters are covered, and Bond’s software generates a couple of dozen variations for each written letter.

When the note is written, the software employs the variations of each alphabet letter to compose a unique version of the chosen handwriting style for each note.

I have no financial interest in Bond, I am just a happy user. When I signed up a long time ago, they allowed me to send a sample note to myself so that I could see the process and the final product. From that point on, I use Bond whenever I post a thank you note to a customer.

Get To The Point – Bottom Line Up Front

Get To The Point – Bottom Line Up Front

I recently read a great article to help sales professionals remember to be direct and concise in their conversations and communications with their prospects and customers. The article is by my old friend, John Care, who has written a couple books that are the premier advice books in the pre-sales technical sales world. If you have the job of being the “smart person” on the sales call, then you need to read John’s books. If you regularly have technical experts on your sales calls, I highly advise you to purchase this book for each of your team members (links below).

John’s advice is to remember the acronym BLUF. BLUF is a military acronym for “Bottom Line Up Front.” The purpose is to place the most crucial piece of your communications at the start of any discussion. Visualize that as being on a cell-phone with only 15 seconds of battery time remaining. Why use BLUF instead of the usual corporate fluff? Because it gets your message across faster and saves everyone time.

Reverse the situation and think about all the times you have patiently waited for someone to get to the point. Remember that whenever you start with the background (“once upon a time”) and take minutes to get to the point, then busy people will just ignore you. By the time you get to the Very Important Point, you have lost their attention. The same principle applies to email. Any time I need to read the History of the Universe merely to find out what the sender wants me to do – I am far less likely to take action.

If you have read my book Eliminate Your Competition, then you know that I think using acronyms and acrostic devices are critical to helping our customers and prospects remember things. These tricks also work for us on the sales team. By remember BLUF, you will be more effective in your communication. 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.

Make sure you click through and read John’s full explanation of BLUF here. Also, don’t forget to purchase a copy of his excellent books for everyone on your technical team. These books really are the standard for pre-sales professional teams. Everyone that has that job should read John’s advice.


 

Header Photo by geralt (Pixabay)
Effective Salespeople Know How to Write

Effective Salespeople Know How to Write

Probably the most critical skill of a salesperson is to be able to communicate effectively. Some sales managers will even have a job candidate do a presentation as part of the interview process. Also, many sales managers will review resumes and cover letters for signs of poor writing.

If you want to be a top producer in sales, you need to be able to write effectively. You will be writing emails and letters to prospects and customers. You will be writing proposals. You will be modifying presentations. You should also be writing LinkedIn posts and blogs. Effective writing is a required sales skill.

In my book “Eliminate Your Competition” I gave you several examples of newsletters and prospecting letters. 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 ability to communicate your ideas and your thoughts will improve the more you do it. In this post, I am not overly concerned with how you structure your communication. In this post, I want to make sure you are not writing with 4th-grade grammar and 2nd-grade spelling skills. If you are using the Microsoft Office suite of productivity tools, you can have that tool give you suggestions on spelling and on grammar. Unfortunately, it is not the best tool available, and I suggest that you look at Grammarly.

Grammarly is a great tool. It can be embedded into your browser or in Microsoft Office, or you can just use the web tool.

Once you create a Grammarly account for free, take a tour of the Grammarly editor. It shows you how to get feedback on your writing quickly, make your writing clear and adjust feedback to your preferred writing style.

Then open a new document and set a goal for your writing. You can set writing goals based on your:

  • The intent, e.g., inform, tell a story or describe
  • The audience, e.g., general or expert
  • The Style, e.g., formal or informal
  • Desired Emotion, e.g., mild or strong
  • Targeted Domain, e.g., academic, business or technical

When you’re ready, merely paste extracts of your writing for proofreading, grammar checking and catching spelling mistakes. Or you can write directly in Grammarly and then paste your work into your writing app of choice. After a few seconds, this proofreading tool underlines grammar mistakes similar to what you see in Word.

Grammarly Premium also provides a more detailed explanation than the free version (or Word) about why you made a writing mistake. This is particularly useful if you want to improve your knowledge of English grammar.

The free version contains most of the features of Grammarly Premium apart from an advanced grammar checker, a plagiarism detector, and some vocabulary enhancement suggestions. In other words, the free version of Grammarly is ideal for salespeople with a minimal budget for writing tools.

Grammarly Premium provides detailed information about each of your grammar mistakes. It also provides additional writing insights and an ability to set writing goals. It also finds and fixes more errors than the free version.

You can pay for premium on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. I currently pay for a monthly premium subscription as this strikes me as a nice balance between affordability and managing my expenses.

Yes, this blog post (in fact nearly all of my writing) was double-checked with Grammarly.

What’s at the next exit?

What’s at the next exit?

Most of us in the sales profession drive a great deal. Your territory may be named accounts in your city or maybe a geographic patch within the city. It also could be several states in your area.

No matter the size of your territory, you probably find yourself driving down the highway. During those long lonely drives when you are burning up your cell phone plan, you might get hungry or thirsty or need to visit a clean restroom. The more you drive your territory the more you learn the best exits to stop at. However, what do you do when you are driving an unfamiliar route? Or maybe, you are in need of a Starbucks. Or maybe, you are hungry for a particular brand of hamburger and don’t want McDonald’s but instead, you want Whataburger or In-N-Out Burger.

You could always do a search on your mapping application on your phone. But that isn’t especially helpful because as smart as your mapping application is, it doesn’t give you destinations in the direction that you are going on the highway. What good is it knowing that Starbucks is five exits the wrong way?

Put iExit on your smartphone. You will love it if you drive down the interstate regularly. Open the iExit app on or near any interstate nationwide and watch the magic unfold. It finds you automatically, shows you exits ahead, and allows for easy searching. Your GPS will tell you how to get there, but iExit will tell you where to stop along the way.

The app offers a directory of services and businesses within 1.5 miles of the next 100 exits you will pass. This eliminates much of the guesswork that goes into road trips. Should you stop here, or will there be better food coming up? How far is the nearest gas station? Will there be a hotel in about half an hour? Now you know.

In addition to hotels, restaurants and gas stations, iExit will locate rest stops, campgrounds, RV parks, hospitals and diesel fuel. If you tap on the icon for each service or business, it opens with more details.

So the next time you are hurting for a Starbucks, open up iExit. Put Starbucks in the search window and you will be rewarded with every Starbucks convenient to the highway for the next 100 exits.

The app is available for an iPhone as well as Android.

I don’t get paid to recommend iExit to my readers. I am simply a fan and I use the app all the time.

Evernote as a business card reader

Evernote as a business card reader

If you want to manage your relationships with your prospects and customers, you will need an effective and quick way to scan business cards to your personal and professional database. Evernote provides an effective way to accomplish this tedious task.

It is very possible that your employer requires you to put this information into their corporate database. This is perfectly acceptable. Your employer pays you and you represent them to your prospects and customers, therefore, they have every right to ask you for information about those that you meet. However, this does not preclude that you maintain your own list of people that you have met – you are not forced to forget everyone that you met when you leave an employer.

Regardless of where you store your contacts, you need an efficient method for taking the information off of a business card and getting it into your computer. Your basic choices are:

  • Pay an assistant to transcribe the data.
  • Manually transcribe the data yourself.
  • Use an optical character recognition (OCR) tool to accelerate your own efforts.

I have used several OCR tools in my past. My current favorite tool is to use Evernote. I find it to be very efficient and quite accurate. I use an iPhone and here is some assistance in using Evernote to increase your efficiency with scanning business cards.

The business card camera captures the clearest possible images of your business cards and saves everything into a contact note including:

  • Name, title, company, and additional contact info
  • An image of the card
  • A photo of the person and LinkedIn profile information (when available)

Business card scanning is an Evernote Premium feature. Basic and Plus users can currently get 1 year of business card scanning for free when they connect Evernote and LinkedIn.

Using the business card camera

Start scanning cards

To start scanning:

  • Make sure your device is connected to the internet.
  • Open up Evernote.
  • Hold the “+” icon on the bottom of Evernote and three icons will appear. Slide to the ‘Photos’ icon from the quick note panel on the home screen of Evernote on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Position the camera over the card so that the edges of the card remain in view. The camera automatically detects, focuses, and captures the business card (there will be a green overlay on the card). Note: If the business card isn’t automatically detected, tap the button in the upper right corner to turn Auto Mode off.
  • Once the business card is captured, Evernote displays all the information recognized from the card. If you are logged into LinkedIn and the email from the card matches a LinkedIn profile, Evernote pulls in additional information about the contact.

Review and edit contact info

It is a good idea to review the information scanned from cards to verify if it is the way you want it to appear. If Evernote finds a matching LinkedIn profile, Evernote imports additional contact information from that profile and adds a LinkedIn icon beside any of those corresponding fields.

If any of the scanned information needs to be edited, do the following:

  • Tap the field to edit the information.
  • Tap Save to save to Evernote as a new contact note. To scan additional cards, tap Back to camera or tap Done to finish.

Connect with LinkedIn

Evernote automatically build a content-rich note around business cards you scan. Business cards become searchable contacts in Evernote with full contact information, a link to their current LinkedIn profile, and a photo, plus a section for notes.

You don’t have to be connected with the person on LinkedIn for this to work. As long as you’ve connected your LinkedIn account to Evernote, you’ll automatically get the person’s profile info and photo. After scanning their card, you’ll have the option to connect on LinkedIn, share your own contact information, or save the new person’s info as a contact in your device’s address book.

If the scanned business card email address matches a LinkedIn profile email address, you can send a LinkedIn connection request from Evernote in one of two ways:

  1. Scan the business card and save the note. When you see the confirmation message, select Connect on LinkedIn. A notification appears to let you know the invitation has been sent.
  2. If you’ve already scanned the card, open that note and tap the Connect link.

Easily save new contacts

There are two ways to save contact information from every scanned card to the contacts on your mobile device:

  1. Automatically: To save information from every card scanned, simply tap your account name and select General > Camera > Business Cards and toggle ‘Save to Contacts’ on.
  2. Manually: Select Save to contacts from the options menu.

By default scanned cards are saved to the ‘Business Cards’ notebook. You can change this notebook and how cards are tagged from the Settings screen. Simply tap your account name and select General > Camera > Business Cards and select Notebook or Tag to change your preferences.

Photo by shinya

The Seven Deadly Management Sins Of Sales Managers

The Seven Deadly Management Sins Of Sales Managers

I recently read a great article by John Care, Managing Director of Mastering Technical Sales and author of the book Mastering Technical Sales: The Sales Engineers Handbook. His focus was on pre-sales managers but I actually think the seven sins were appropriate for any leader and definitely any sales leader. Here is a quick list but jump over to John’s article and read the rest of his discussion.

Management Sin 1: Expecting Perfection – You Are Only Human.

Management Sin 2: Micro-Managing the Detail.

Management Sin 3: Confusing Communications

Management Sin 4: Not Understanding Who The Customer Is – to modify John’s point in his article, a sales leader isn’t primarily serving the customer that pays the bills but the sales leader should consider his/her sales team to be the customer. Question for all sales managers: what did you do today that will enable your salesperson to hit their goals when you are not watching?

Management Sin 5: Giving Orders.

Management Sin 6: Losing Sight Of The Fight.

Management Sin 7: Ignoring The Needs Of Your Employees.

Think about the best and worst characteristics of all your previous managers. Make a list. That is a great start to positive and negative behavior for any presales leader. You must understand that, especially in high-technology settings, there are many ways to get something done – and only one of those ways is “yours.”

We have all seen great salespeople flop when they become managers. I believe there are two key reasons for this:

  1. The great salesperson really didn’t know how they were able to achieve greatness. Yes, they did most things correctly, but they didn’t understand why they were doing those things. This caused them to be unable to effectively share these techniques with their teams.
  2. The great salesperson thought that managing was different than selling. If the sales manager looks at each of their team members as an individual customer and tries to think about how to “sell” that individual on the manager’s goals, the entire process would go differently. For instance, you would never “tell” a prospect that they have to do X. Instead, you would explain to a prospect why doing X was in their best interest and helped the prospect achieve his or her goals. When you treat your direct reports like a prospect, everyone wins.

You should read the entire article by John on this subject. It is excellent. Please download it here.