Tag: research

Don’t Ever Give Up

Don’t Ever Give Up

In the past, I have written that there is no crying in sales. When you lose, you need to get back on the horse and keep going. This is excellent advice, but you also cannot give up on that prospect that just rejected you.

There is a chance that your product is a “one and done” type of product and therefore the customer will never repurchase a similar product. However, most products are not that way. In fact, many products that are sold from one business to another business are continuously used and repeatedly purchased. The first order is just that, only the first order.

In most situations, you only lost the first order. Yes, this might put you in a disadvantage for the longer term purchases, but it doesn’t disqualify you.

I still remember the first time I lost to a DIY (Do It Yourself) solution which is a frequent competitor in the software industry. I was calling on a company in Minneapolis MN (I live in Cincinnati OH). The company was a high-tech company, and they had a lot of astute, young professionals. I was very late to the sales cycle and found out about the prospect’s need after they had done a lot of work at identifying how to achieve their goals. If you have read my book, Eliminate Your Competition, you can easily guess that I was in trouble from the very beginning.

I only had a few people identified in the Power Matrix. I had not had the time to develop relationships with multiple levels of the organization.

Being that late caused me to lose the deal. The engineering team at the customer convinced the division manager that they could engineer the solution themselves with some open-source software and off-the-shelf computer add-ons. Four weeks after learning about the customer’s need, I received a phone call that I had lost.

The loss was my fault. I was outsold by the internal engineering team. Time to get back on the saddle.

My manager told me to shake it off as I was obviously column fodder. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, column fodder is when the customer only looks at your product to prove to “management” that the evaluation was complete and covered enough competitors to ensure that the assessment was fair.

I don’t like being column fodder. I don’t like to lose either.

I called up the admin of the VP of the division and asked for an appointment with him in two days. This is back when most executives had an administrative assistant and that person actually answered the phone. I had met with him once before, but it was a brief conversation, and I was still learning what was important to him. The only thing I knew for sure is that he was very demanding of his team and that he had severe deadlines on this project. She informed me that John (not his real name) was in all day, but his calendar was booked. I told her that I understood that he was busy, but I really needed to see him, and I would be sitting in the company lobby all day in the hopes that he could see me.

I flew to Minneapolis and arrived in the company lobby at 7:15A. I had two documents with me that I thought would make a difference to John. It was the dead of winter, and it was frigid outside. The lobby was merely a security entrance with a security guard and three plastic chairs against a window that let much of that Minneapolis cold seep through the glass. Unfortunately, it was not the employee entrance, so I was not able to “ambush” John as he came to work.

The two documents that I had in my possession were the tools to set the only trap that I could set. I didn’t know if it would be good enough this late in the decision cycle. It was the same trap that I would have wanted to set weeks or months earlier, but I couldn’t because I was late. This one trap had to be so good that John would need to use it to override the wishes of his own engineering department. I was a Trapper and just like I would write in my book many years later, I knew exactly what I had to say to make the trap work. I assumed that my internal competitor had left me this one opening and I had to play it. My major goal was that this meeting would allow me to stop an existing decision. My minor goal was that maybe they would implement the homemade solution once, but they would turn to my company for the rollout of a purchased solution. Failure of either of those goals would mean that I was going home to Cincinnati empty-handed.

Larry, the security guard (his real name), was amazed that I was there to see a VP without an appointment. But he was kind enough to call John and tell the admin that I was there. At 8:30 (1 hour and 15 minutes after I arrived), Larry took pity on me and called again and said I was still in the lobby. This time John walked out and started laughing. He said he had heard about annoying salespeople camping in a lobby, but he had never seen it himself.

John brought me back to his office. He explained that he had full faith in his engineering team to create a solution that would satisfy his needs and that I wasted the plane flight to MSP. I thanked him for his time and explained that it was my fault that we were in this situation. If I had known about their needs earlier then we would have had this exact meeting several weeks ago. It was my fault that we had not had this conversation and I appreciated that he was allowing me to have the discussion now. I told him that I just wanted him to look at two documents and then I would leave. He agreed to see the documents.

The two documents that I placed on his desk were the annual report for his company and the annual report for my company. I asked him to find where in his annual report his company attested to being experts in the creation of this type of software. I followed up this question with a request to look at my company’s report and how many times we explained how we were experts in this area. He didn’t reply (I didn’t expect him to).

Then I laid it out to him. “John, you told me when we met three weeks ago that you demanded excellence from your team and you were proud of their accomplishments. You also told me that this project was critically important to your company and, in fact, your CEO says in your annual report that your company is in a highly competitive industry and constant improvements in this area are critical for the health of the corporation. Our company is obviously excellent in this area, but yours is obviously going to be learning for the first time. What are you going to tell your CEO if your engineering team is not excellent enough? Your excellence is in making your product. My excellence is making our product. Don’t you think you should reduce your risk and not hope that your engineering team is as good as mine when we have been doing this for years?”

And then I was silent. I didn’t say a word.

Finally, John said, “How do you know we cannot create this solution?”

“John, I don’t know. They might pull it off. But I do know that there is no question that my software can do everything that has been described to me that you need. Why are you taking this risk?”

“My engineering team says they can do it cheaper than buying it from your company. Especially, since we have to roll it out for over 100 installations.”

“Your annual report doesn’t say that cost is an issue. It says that if you don’t drive improvements in your product, then you will lose your position in the market. Why are you talking about cost when the risk of failure is the driving factor?”

It was silent for a long time after that question, but I knew that won when he finally responded.

“Can you wait in our cafeteria while I meet with my team? I promise it won’t take more than an hour.”

After 45 minutes of drinking hot coffee in the cafeteria (I was still cold from sitting in that cold lobby for over an hour), John walked into the cafeteria with the two lead engineers on his team.

I closed the deal two weeks later for list price. The deal doubled in size 6 months later with a repeat order due to the success of my product and the customer’s product. I blew away my quota that year. I would never have done that if I gave up on this order. I would never have won the order if I didn’t understand my prospect’s true issues and align the benefits of my offering to those issues.

Don’t ever give up. No means not yet. You will never be column fodder if you understand what is really important to your prospect. You must be prepared to explain how you help your customer achieve their goals even if the customer doesn’t want to hear it. The opportunity will come with persistence and perseverance.

I leave you with a quote by President Calvin Coolidge almost a century ago.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Header Photo by skeeze (Pixabay)
Calvin Coolidge photo courtesy of Wikipedia and in open domain
Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?

Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?

The question is often asked, “Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?” The theory is that with the ability of the Internet to allow for massive research of technologies and products, what role does the salesperson have in the modern economy.

I will cut to the chase on my answer and then explain it later: The CFO can eliminate his sales force only if all of the following is true:

  • Your product is so simple and your relationship with the buyer is so straightforward that no Internet research is required. In other words, think of things that you buy in a mall or a grocery store (although I will explain an important caveat later in this post).
  • You have a commanding market share – probably in excess of 50%.
  • Your VP of Manufacturing and your VP of Supply Chain has told you that they cannot handle any increase in orders.

In every other case, your sales force is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

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All of the Account News a Salesperson Can Use

All of the Account News a Salesperson Can Use

Information is king. This statement is especially true when it is account news. With information, you can make appropriate decisions. More than that, information on your prospect allows you to

  • respond to the events affecting your customers and prospects.
  • having background talking material during your sales calls.
  • find opportunities.
  • establish financial justification for your opportunities.

There is a lot of information to gather about your accounts. You need a quick and convenient way to review the highlights of your account news so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. In order to lead you to the end goal, let’s start at the easiest beginning. Let’s assume you are looking for account news for your new prospect, General Motors.

The first and most obvious solution is to go to Google and search for General Motors. The resulting page will be at https://www.google.com/search?&rls=en&q=general+motors&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

This page will be good but not great. It has a lot of account news about the company that you may not know. However, it has little in the way of new information. If you look part way down the screen though, you will notice that there is a news section. As the last entry for that news section, it should say “More news for general motors” – go ahead and click this link (the link is: More news for general motors or https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=general+motors&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8#q=general+motors&rls=en&tbm=nws

This listing of account news is much better. The News page has even more timely information that we can use. However, it can be vastly improved. General Motors is a public company, and we can get financial information by modifying our string and inserting the stock symbol for the company. In this case, the stock symbol is “GM” so let’s modify our search by just changing the above URL with “+GM” like this: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=general+motors+GM&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8#q=general+motors+GM&rls=en&tbm=nws

Depending on your Google preferences, you may have to hit News on the menu bar immediately below the search bar.

Note that we had to make the modification twice, which is a bit inconvenient. Also, if you look at the News page, you will see a lot of analyst comments which are likely not very helpful in your sales campaigns. The fact that an analyst thinks the stock is going up or down is likely not going to help you in your sales campaign. So let’s skip to the end of all this work. Take a look at this URL: http://news.google.com/news/search?pz=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&q=”general motors”+GM+-trading+-resistance+-upgrade+-downgrade+-upgraded+-downgraded&cf=all&as_qdr=w&as_drrb=q

Once again, you may have to hit the News button to see these results. Let’s spend a minute understanding what this search does to help you gather account news:

  • Give me all of the Google News for General Motors or GM (the quotes makes the two words General and Motors into one string). If the article has both GM and General Motors then it will score higher.
  • If the article contains any of the following words, score it lower:
    • trading
    • resistance
    • upgrade
    • downgrade
    • upgraded
    • downgraded

That is what the +- (or a plus followed by a minus) does. It adds a subtraction of that word to the search.

Now comes the best part. Once you have all of this setup, you don’t have to think about it again. On the right side of the browser, there should be a Save button. Clicking on that button will put this search in your Saved Searches (which is on the left side of the screen).

You can also have Google email you this information. Skip all of the hard work above and go straight to Google Alerts. Type in the company name (put quotes around it if it has a space in the name), the stock symbol, and “-trading -resistance -upgrade -downgrade -upgraded -downgraded” to eliminate some of the noise.

Good luck and get ready to use this account news to set traps for your competitors so that you can ELIMINATE THE 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 Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Photo by Spencer E Holtaway