Tag: cold calls

Predictable Revenue interviews me on their podcast

Predictable Revenue interviews me on their podcast

I was recently interviewed on the 151st edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast, by co-host Collin Stewart.

Throughout the pod, Collin and I discuss how to update the traditional Hunter-Farmer sales model to better reflect the responsibilities of today’s sales professional. Highlights include:

  • the problem with the Hunter-Farmer sales model ([3:18]),
  • specializing sales roles ([20:11]),
  • what does a good Trapper do that too many salespeople do not? ([22:32]),
  • the makings of a great salesperson ([35:15]),
  • my unique celebrations after closing a big deal ([42:55]),
  • and cold call with Collin for my current company, Agile Stacks, Inc. ([48:46]).

The conversation was enjoyable to do, and hopefully, you will get a taste of my advice and read more in my book, Eliminate Your Competition. You should also subscribe to my blog feed on my company’s website, where I help salespeople and sales leaders at startups. The blog is called “Skinned-knees: What an MBA Didn’t Teach You for Rebel Sales in a Software Startup.”

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.

You can listen to the podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

And you can stream it right here from Stitcher:

Salespeople need to stop asking oxygen questions

Salespeople need to stop asking oxygen questions

In my position, I frequently have salespeople reach out to me to pitch their product or service. I try to listen to as many of these as possible. I believe there is a chance their product could help me achieve my goals or the goals of my company.

I firmly believe that there are better tools or capabilities in the market that can help my company achieve our goals. For this reason, I will happily listen to a salesperson that makes a persuasive pitch.

I get most frustrated in these opening pitches when the salesperson asks an “oxygen” question. Something like, “In all of my conversations, we have found that salespeople do best when they can breathe oxygen. Do you find that in your own business?”

Really? You just asked me a question that everyone in my position would reply with a “Yes” answer. What good came out of you asking that question. You are now starting in negative territory for having any credibility with me. I have immediately categorized you as wasting my time. Good luck trying to dig out of that hole.

I am not a chastened buyer. We have all seen the comic of the medieval king that is battling his foe with swords. The helpful salesperson is trying to get his attention to sell him a machine gun. 

But if that machine gun salesperson started his pitch with an oxygen question, maybe it is that is the reason that the king doesn’t want to listen. 

I am not suggesting that a successful salesperson shouldn’t make small talk to create camaraderie with the prospect. In fact, I wrote about creating small talk a short time ago

What are oxygen questions?

Oxygen questions are designed to get a positive response. A long time ago, salespeople that sold at the kitchen table (e.g., insurance, pots and pans, vacuums cleaners, Tupperware, etc.) used the philosophy of asking many questions that required a positive answer. The theory was to get the gullible prospect used to saying, “Yes” and eventually saying, “Yes” to the final price.

When you ask an oxygen question, you are suggesting that your prospect is gullible. Is that the impression that you want to give?

Examples of oxygen questions

All of these questions are no better than asking your prospect if his team needs oxygen to do their job. Of course, they need oxygen; everyone needs oxygen.

A lousy question to the VP of Sales: “In our experience, VPs of Sales for young companies are trying to grow. Are you trying to grow your company’s revenue of your venture-capital funded startup?”  This was the oxygen question that I received this morning and gave me the impetus for this post. Aren’t all VPs of Sales trying to grow revenue, especially those in VC funded companies? This question does nothing to advance the conversation.

A lousy question to the Head of Supply Chain: “In our experience, supply chain managers need to drive efficiency in the operations. Are you trying to make your supply chain operation more efficient?”  The sarcastic answer to that question is, “No, I want my company to be less efficient.”

A lousy question to the CFO: We have noticed that CFOs are worried about the accuracy of financial reports to their board and shareholders. Are you concerned about the accuracy of your financial statements? Are you kidding me? What CFO wants to go to jail for knowingly having inaccurate financial statements? How is the answer to that question going to give the salesperson any information?

Use better opening questions

Your opening questions should not be similar to, “Is oxygen important?” Instead, the wise salesperson or business development representative should spend a few minutes researching the company. It won’t take long. You should look at the company website and see what is essential to the prospect. Maybe read the CEO letter in the annual report. Figure out the industry and look at other companies in the industry.

The more a salesperson understands the business of his prospect, the more he can start to add value to the conversation. 

Even starting with a statement about what you do is better than asking an oxygen question. If you cannot take the time to understand the issues confronting that company, start with your value pitch: “My company helps young companies rapidly increase their revenue generation. Can I spend a few minutes explaining how we do that?”

That opening statement is not the best opening, but if you make that pitch to me, I will likely give you a few minutes to hear more. But to be honest, I am a sucker for a good sales pitch, and I hate bad pitches.