Tag: sales calls

The pitch you want to give, yet need to create

The pitch you want to give, yet need to create

This post originally appeared on my company blog series “Skinned knees—what an MBA didn’t teach you for rebel sales in a software startup”. In this post, let’s talk about the challenge of doing a sales pitch for a product that has never been pitched.

Every day at a startup has challenges. You know this. That’s why being a founder or a member of the founding team can be very exciting. Having been in your shoes, I find that developing the sales pitch can be both heartbreaking and exciting. Starting from scratch and being ready to take on the world is noble, yet the downside is having absolutely no historical examples to jumpstart the creative process.

You may be lucky. Your software startup may be biting at the heels of one or more big competitors. If this is the case, you simply position yourself against their value proposition and say that you are better at something then the big guys.

Maybe you are also cheaper than the big guys (I hope not because pricing can always be lowered due to competitive pressures). Creating a value proposition that is “cheaper” may not be enough to differentiate you in the long run, but there is no question that it can be an advantage if your cost model still allows you to be profitable.

Do Not Internalize Doubt

But what if you need to create a unique value proposition and you cannot copy the value proposition of anyone else? What if your offering is so unique that it is hard to find another company and copy their idea?

First of all, if you are so unique that no one else is doing this, are you too unique? Is there anyone to actually sell to? Did you identify a missed goal that no one else can see, or is it a market that isn’t really there? Do you have a solution looking for a market, or are you in a market looking for a solution? This is really important, and I discuss it in my book, Eliminate Your Competition since competitors prove your need to be in the market. If you have no competitors, you may not have anyone to sell.

By the way, these questions come from many of my successes as well as failures. In my career, I have been fortunate to have amazing mentors. If you have them too, see if they can do a thirty-minute coffee break with you. Ask them your questions. They may not have the immediate answers you seek, but they will have encouraging words that may lead to somewhere you had not yet considered.

Another consideration is to find peer founders at your incubator or accelerator. An obvious cautionary tale, please rephrase your questions so as not to give away any intellectual property or competitive advantage. Polling your peers does have the advantage of boots-on-the-ground knowledge. Having founders who are in the thick of operations and execution will get you another perspective.

Do Something About It

Before your first customer order, you need to use the time-honored practice of A/B marketing. Whereas, my prior suggestion focused on opinion gathering, now I want you to put some of that knowledge into actual use. You should have enough material by this point to create a compelling story.

The downside of A/B sales pitches is that you run the risk of completely blowing a sales pitch to a prospect you desire. That is fine as it is almost as important to understand what NOT to say as it is to understand what you should say. After all, we all grok that “No” is never final and you can always go back to that rejection and explain that you didn’t explain it well and ask to speak again.

Once you have closed a few deals, then you need to have positive feedback from those early adopter customers. To ensure you are truly addressing a need that no other company is solving, you need customers to part with their precious cash in return for your product. Nothing else will prove your value proposition as well as cash.

After you have those first 5-10 customers, ask them what your value proposition should be for your company and product. They are probably not marketing folks with exceptional abilities to write concise and pointed value statements, but they can give you the essential words or philosophies. Hire a copywriter to take those basic statements to craft a message that is unique to you and epitomizes your message.

This method was recently discussed in an article on First Round. The article is about the email marketing success of Watsi. Grace Garey of Watsi explains: “For the longest time, we had it in our heads that people donate on Watsi because they are moved by a patient photo or story and they act on impulse. When we started to see droves of people sign up to donate continuously through the Universal Fund, we realized that users’ motivations were really varied and there might be new ways to reach them we hadn’t ever thought about. We didn’t expect that people really bought into a much broader vision for what Watsi was about — that they didn’t want to just help the person whose profile they were looking at, but underserved patients in general.”

Watsi found a value proposition for their fundraisers by listening to their donors (customers). They were able to learn from those successes to fine-tune their value proposition. You can do the exact same thing with your startup.

By the way, you should seriously check out Watsi. 100% of your donation funds life-changing surgery. It is a great organization, and you can donate here: https://watsi.org/crowdfunding. I don’t have any relationship with the charity, but I am seriously interested in making the world a better place.

Header image Photo by geralt (Pixabay)
Time Is Your Enemy. Here Are Some Tips To Eliminate It As Your Competition.

Time Is Your Enemy. Here Are Some Tips To Eliminate It As Your Competition.

Time will beat you in every deal if you let it. It is a constant competitor. It is relentless. It never takes a break.

In every deal that you lose, you could possibly say that you just ran out of time to convince the prospect that you had the best solution. Whenever you do a post-mortem on your lost deals, it usually comes down to a simple realization, you didn’t spend enough time on with key decision makers. Sometimes you were blocked from spending time with the decision maker that turned the deal against you, but we all know that those blockers can be defeated given enough time.

We also know that time kills good deals. On old manager told me a statement that I often repeat, “The only things that get better with time, are cheese and wine.”

Using your time effectively is critical to your success as a salesperson. Hopefully, I can give you some tips to encourage you to do a better job, but I do have some bad news. You have probably heard all of these tips before. There is nothing new I can tell you. The only difference is that you decide to do something about it this time, or you don’t. You can always procrastinate about getting better with time management.

Here is the reality, if time is your biggest competitor, then procrastination is his coach and champion. Procrastination will help you become a very mediocre salesperson. Procrastination helps time eliminate you in your deals. You need to overcome procrastination.

To beat procrastination, you need a friend/coach/champion for yourself. That friend/coach/champion is urgency. Sometimes urgency can come from your manager, but when your activity becomes so low that you need your manager to give you urgency, then there is a good chance that your job is in trouble. That is not a good thing. Try to be urgent without your manager helping you.

Maybe your urgency comes from your spouse and family. That is good urgency. That means you are staying on top of your business for the benefit of others. You want to close all the deals that you can find so that you can provide for your family. You want to give them all of the great things in life that they desire and deserve.

I know salespeople that keep a picture on their desk or as the background of their computer merely to establish that urgency. To remind themselves that they are working hard so that they are providing a great life for their family. That is a good urgency.

How urgent are you?

Here is a bit of math to help you increase your urgency and eliminate procrastination as a competitor which in turn will help you beat time.

Assume that you have a 1 million dollar quota. Also, assume that the average product sale for your company is $50K. To continue this scenario, lets assume that you have learned from the most successful salespeople in your company that in order to consistently do 150% of quota (or $1,500,000 – remember that you should always think of your goals as a complete number!), you will need to close at least three deals for four times the average deal size. In other words, you need to close three large deals of 200K each.

While you have an annual quota, it is best to think that you always have to do 150% of quota in any given 12-month window. So in the next 12 months, you need to close:

3 – 200K deals for a total of $600,000.

18 – 50K deals for a total of $900,000.

You need to close 21 deals, and three of them need to be large deals to achieve your goal of 150% of quota.

The Power Matrix that I describe in my book Eliminate Your Competition suggests that you should cover 9 people in your small deals since they are less than 10% of your quota. It also tells you that you need to reach 25 people in your three large deals.

Some of those people that you need to cover in the Power Matrix you will meet with only once but others you will visit with many times. Some of your meetings will have multiple people in them. For rough assumptions, let’s assume that you need twice as many meetings are there are people that you need to cover. Therefore, you need 50 sales calls on your big deals and 18 sales calls on your smaller deals.

The above math means you need to make 150 (3×50) sales calls on your big deals and you need to make 324 sales calls on your small deals. That is a total of 474 sales calls or just shy of 10 per week. It also means that roughly ⅓ of your sales calls are going to be on large deals.

If each sales call is 45-60 minutes, then the overall time for each meeting is about 90 minutes from parking lot to parking lot. That is 42,660 minutes of sales calls every year for the deals that you win.

You will never win every deal. If you follow the suggestions of my book, Eliminate Your Competition, then you will eliminate your competition far more frequently than you will be eliminated. Let’s assume you win 75% of your deals. This means you will work just as hard on the deals you lose as those you win. That means that you need to increase the 42,660 minutes by 25% which is an additional 10,665 minutes. That is a total of 53,325 minutes of sales calls per year and approximately 12-13 sales calls per week.

There are approximately 120,000 work-minutes in a year. You can do this. In fact, you can easily do this. The only issue is if you procrastinate. If you procrastinate then procrastination’s friend, time, will eliminate you from some of these victories and from achieving your goal.

I talk in my book, Eliminate Your Competition that you need to be making sales calls before the customer starts their decision-making process. Assuming that means you are calling on the customer 36 weeks before the order (the assumption that I make in the case study in my book Eliminate Your Competition) then today, you need to be calling on 19 opportunities (21 divided by 50 working weeks in a year times 36 weeks decision-making timeframe multiplied by 1.25 because you lose 25%). At least three of those opportunities need to be candidates for big deals.

More math, you have to make 12 sales calls this week. Above, we determined ⅓ of those have to be on deals you think could be large deals. That is 4 per week.

Hopefully, this math (modified to match your quotas and average sales metrics) helps you create the urgency to achieve your goals.

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.

Here are some tips that will now help you develop your time management.

1 – Set goals

I discussed in an earlier article on how to set your goals, but now you can amend that with the math above. For instance, in this article, you need to make 12 sales calls this week. Also, you need to make four sales calls this week on opportunities that are going to be large deals.

2 – Find a good time management system and use it.

Everyone is different in how this works. There are lots of blogs out there to help you. Pick one and stick to it.

3 – Tackle your biggest tasks in the morning.

The different systems out there will give you different advice. However, as a salesperson, your day will almost definitely get crazier as the day goes on. Therefore, every morning you need to make sure you accomplish your number one task before you do anything else. In my opinion, your number one task every day is to make sure that in the next two weeks, you have 12 appointments scheduled with four of those appointments being for deals that are expected to be substantial.

4 – Follow the 80-20 rule. Another great time management tip is to use the 80-20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle.

In this case, 80% of your revenue is going to come from 20% of your activity. The Pareto Principle reinforces that you need to focus on your big deals as you need to have your 25 people in the Power Matrix covered and comfortable with you, your product, and your company.

5 – Schedule email response times.

Don’t respond to incoming emails until you accomplish your top goals for the day. Yes, this is difficult, but you need to ignore the marketing emails and even the emails from your boss until you get your top goal accomplished – get your appointments scheduled for the next two weeks.

6 – Take frequent breaks when working.

If you have an office day, you need to stand up and walk around every 45 minutes. Get a coffee or water. Look outside for a few minutes. Please don’t go out and smoke though because smoking is an almost guaranteed trip to the hospital or the morgue when you get older.

7 – Meditate or exercise every day.

Some time-management gurus will tell you to do this first thing in the morning. This may not be possible for some sales professionals due to interactions with customers or maybe the home office in other time zones. Instead, either workout or meditate (or both) sometime during the day. If morning works for you, that is better, but daily is essential.

8 – Make to-do lists in the evening for the next day.

Before you check out of work for the day, update your task list. If you prefer a piece of paper, then rewrite a clean version for the next day. If you prefer a software-based task list, review it and make sure it is accurate. Make this the last thing you do every day. Make sure that making your goal for appointments per week is one of the top one or two things for the next day.

9 – Turn off social media app alerts.

Every day you will log into social media to make sure you are appropriately communicating to your prospects. You need to create a reputation that you are making them smarter. However, confine this interaction to once in the morning and then once in the afternoon. For your personal social life of looking at cat videos and pictures of your niece – do that in the evening on your own time.

Header Photo by ۞DLB۞
Do You Prepare For Your Sales Call Like a SCUBA Diver?

Do You Prepare For Your Sales Call Like a SCUBA Diver?

SCUBA divers prepare more fully for the dive than most salespeople prepare for the sales call. SCUBA diving is a popular hobby and sport. It allows the diver to see a beautiful world under the water filled with fabulously decorated plants and animals. While the environment is beautiful, it can be dangerous if the SCUBA diver is not prepared.

Very few SCUBA divers have accidents, and that is because they are prepared. Before every dive, there is significant discussion and planning. The dive site is discussed in detail including:

  • What currents that are prevalent?
  • How deep is the dive?
  • What possible dangerous animals and plants might they encounter?
  • Which SCUBA diver is going to lead?
  • A review of various hand signals to communicate.

Not insignificantly, the divers also agree when the dive will be over and the safety of the ascent.

All of this makes sense. Diving is incredibly fun, but there can be disastrous repercussions.

Your sales call will probably not cause injury or death if you screw it up. You will be much more effective if you simply prepare for the conversation – especially if you are going on a sales call with a buddy.

In the worst case, a bad sales call could mean that you lose the order – and financially that can be devastating. It can also be a mortal problem for your career if you screw up too many sales calls.

Here are some suggested topics to prepare for your sales call. You should think of these topics even if you are making a solo sales call.

  • What is the major and minor goal of the sales call?
  • Who is going to lead the conversation?
  • When is the sales call finished?
  • Do you need to review some verbal signals to change course during the sales call?

Prepare for the major and minor goal of the sales call?

This conversation is probably the easiest and most important item to discuss during the preparation. You should have two goals for each sales conversation – a major goal and a minor goal. The major goal is your best outcome for the sales call. The major goal is the outcome that you are working towards and you will “high five” your sales partner as you walk out of the building.

The minor goal is the minimum you can settle for without being disappointed at the end of the call. If you don’t get this, you have failed. Failure is bad. You need to work hard to avoid this outcome.

Prepare for whom is going to lead the conversation?

With multiple people involved there needs to be some coordination on which person is leading different parts of the conversation. Your life will be much better if everyone agrees to this plan. Your chances of achieving your Major Goal are much better if this is structured.

A general problem happens here when you have your manager with you. Let’s face it, managers typically are not great coaches and wish they still had your job. In too many situations, they don’t want to sit there passively and let you lead. If your manager suffers from this problem, politely discuss it with him/her. If the problem continues, have him read my post on coaching, and then call him “Coach” repeatedly in your daily interactions with him. It is a sad reality of life that you may have to teach your manager how to be your manager.

Prepare for when is the sales call finished?

It is an old statement that you need to stop selling when you have won the order. The end of the call needs an advance agreement. Do you need to fill the entire time slot or is there some signal that everyone agrees it is time to leave? Figure that out in advance.

Prepare for verbal signals to change course during the sales call?

The main reason for your buddy to be on the call is probably because that person needs to say something important. You may have a technical partner, subject matter expert (SME), or your manager. However, when the customer says or questions something, who is going to take it and what is everyone else going to do?

It only takes a few minutes to plan a sales call, but it is very important. You will have more predictable results, if you prepare. Spend those couple minutes in the car before walking in, in the office earlier that day, or on a quick conference call. Being prepared for the call is not as important to your safety as in SCUBA diving but it can be just as rewarding when it all works out.

You may have other ideas of things to cover in the sales call. If you do, drop me a note at @soshaughnessey on Twitter or leave a comment below.

Photo by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten