To Sell or Not to Sell?

USP concept
Hand with marker is drawing USP concept on the transparent white board.

Selling isn’t about winning or losing.  It’s not about money, trips, plaques, or prizes.  Selling is not an easy job, nor should it be a job to kill time until the “real thing” appears.   It’s not a set of activities, calls, presentations, or ratios.

Selling is about helping others.  Helping others solve problems and improving lives in the process.  Simply put, to sell is to make something, or someone better.  If what you’re offering for sale doesn’t provide some improvement over the status quo you have no sale.  The key is to understand your buyer well enough to know exactly how your product or service will improve their life or business.

People know when they’re being sold.  They also know when they feel they’ve been helped.  Seek first to understand before being understood is a good way to approach helping others.  Set out to help others and the sales will follow.

Reverse Prospecting: Your Buyer’s Looking For You

 

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Understanding your buyer’s journey is the first step to delivering explosive growth results.  The age of the buyer has arrived and the seller no longer is in control.  Buyers today are prospecting more than sales people.  How?  By scouring the internet and leveraging social channels to learn and make decisions.  In fact, if you’re the seller, you’ve become the passenger on this purchasing trip.  So make yourself comfortable, stay observant, and most of all have fun on the trip.

Your buyers know more about what they need than ever before.  There was a time (and it goes further and further back each day) when the buyer had to rely on a sales person to identify his problem and present a solution…the seller’s solution.  Not any more.  Have a runny nose and sore lower back?  A quick trip to the website WebMD can provide you with information on what may be going on with you.  You need to put in a new garbage disposal?  There are hundreds of how-to videos on YouTube that provide step-by-step instructions that take a job that previously required a plumber and turned it into a DIY project.

We have all become addicted to information.  In fact, more than 80% of 18 – 44 year olds say the first thing they do in the morning, immediately after opening their eyes, is to check their phones.  Information.  We want lots of it, all the time.

Buyers have this access to information and are using it more and more.  They Google, Facebook, YouTube, Tweet, and ask their LinkedIn groups for information, recommendations, and ideas.  If you’re a seller without a social selling strategy you’re already trailing the pack.  And if you think your product or service is too complex to promote via social channels think again.  General Electric has hundreds of videos on YouTube on MRI equipment, jet turbines, and lighting.  Toll Brothers, a national builder of custom homes, provides a website that allows someone to design and build their dream home and see it!  Buyers are not just using the internet to shop for shoes, sweaters, or books.

Having a social presence isn’t enough. You can’t set up a Facebook or LinkedIn page and check off the box and say its done.  You have to be active…engaged.  You have to create content, share content, weigh in on content others have shared.  This is where your buyers are looking for you.  Your paradigm must shift.  Buyers are now conducting a form of reverse prospecting.  They’re looking for you…you just don’t know it.  So if you’re a seller, and you’re not visible in the areas your buyers are looking for you, you simply won’t be found.

So get started.  Take it slow.  Don’t try to boil the ocean in a day.  A retweet here, a LinkedIn post there, a blog here, are all activities to get you on the road to being found by your buyer.

Be a Tour Guide Instead of a Sales Person

 

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In 2015 I took my first trip to Yellowstone National Park.  To be honest it wasn’t my first choice, but it was solidly in my dad’s bucket list and so we made it a “guys” trip.  Three generations of DeRosa’s (father, son, grandson) traveling to where the buffalo roam, to see exploding geysers, breath-taking views, and to take in the simple beauty of the land.

Of course, the sales and marketing geek inside of me looks for every opportunity to observe, study, and ponder how each experience plays into how people make buying decisions.  Yes, even at Yellowstone I was on the prowl for insights into how sales people can better connect with the buyers journey.  Our Yellowstone tour guide unknowingly provided a powerful example in navigating the changing scenery of the buyers journey.  But first a little context…

If you’re in Sales, or any position charged with hitting a revenue number, you’ve got to sell.  You need to find buyers, and you need to sell them.  Sell them as much as you can, as quickly as you can, to reach your number, celebrate briefly and move on to the next.  Right?

WRONG!

Buyers have become increasingly sophisticated whether buying a pair of shoes, or selecting a payroll provider, or choosing Tom Ford over Hugo Boss.  If you think selling hard, and selling fast is your best chance of success you may want to consider a different career.  Today’s buyer wants to be courted.  They want to feel special. They want to feel important.  They want to believe the option they have chosen is the best option for their need.  Notice I didn’t say the buyer wants to have confidence in the solution you sold them.  No.  They are not to be sold.  They are doing the buyer.  They want you to be their tour guide.

I watched as Kylie, our tour guide welcomed us to a small group tour setting out to see Yellowstone in all its majesty.  Her welcome was warm and genuine.  She was quick to point out the creature comforts we probably would need for this journey.  Blankets, water, soft drinks, snacks, distance between rest stops.  She had anticipated our questions and addressed them before they were asked.

As we started our journey from the Grand Teton’s into Yellowstone, Kylie provided a history of both parks in a way that only a master-storyteller could do.  Her story was highly engaging, edge of your seat, filled with suspense.  She educated us on the wildlife ecosystem and how everything was interconnected.  I’m embarrassed to say I probably learned everything I know about biology and the circle of life from this tour.  Up to this point in my life I hadn’t taken time to think about how life and nature were interconnected. She led us on this journey of enlightenment through her personal passion for the landscape and wildlife within these two parks. It was amazing. In fact, so much so, that we embarked on a second tour a couple of days later with a different focus, in a different part of the park.

I’ve often thought about my experience on this Yellowstone tour.  I’ve thought about how I was educated in a way that allowed me to fully grasp the concept of a wildlife ecosystem.  I think about how my interests in conservation have since grown as a direct result of this new knowledge.  I ponder the impact personal passion has on the transfer of knowledge.  I do believe that if Kylie simply read a script, or ran through the motions, I would have left Yellowstone feeling quite different…less connected.  Her passion created questions of my own.  Her stories have become remarkable memories for me, my father, and my son.

As a revenue leader it is important to have a true passion for what you do.  It’s not enough to be a VP of Sales.  Kylie could have been a tour operator for a double-decker bus in Manhattan, but it wouldn’t have served her passion.  You’ve got to have passion for what it is you’re selling.  What is the ultimate purpose for what you do, what your product does, what improvement it makes in the buyers life.  Too many people are occupying positions for a paycheck, not really believing in what it is they are selling.  We’ve all done it.  The problem is, your buyers can spot a scripted seller miles away and today they vote with their shoes by either walking toward you or walking away.

View yourself as your buyer’s tour guide.  Anticipate their questions and provide answers before they ask.  Make the journey as comfortable as possible.  Be warm, be kind, be generous with your time.  Study and learn…I mean really learn about what it is you’re selling.  If you can’t get excited or enthused about it find a new product to sell.  Your goal is to help your buyer through this journey at their pace, not yours. Be the best sales tour guide you can be.

Strive For Mastery, Not Perfection

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Recently I was having a conversation with a long-time mentor, coach, and friend.  I was sharing my thoughts on a new endeavor and happened to mention that I was “trying to perfect” the thing I was working on, before attempting to market it.  My mentor stopped me in my tracks and said, “Not perfect.  Don’t focus on perfect, you’ll never get there.  Focus on mastery.  You want to be a master.  No one is perfect, nor will anyone ever become perfect.  But you can become a master.”

While certainly a profound statement, it wasn’t the first time I had heard this.  In fact, I recently went back and re-read one of my favorite books by Seth Godin, Linchpin. For Seth fans, you’ll know that he strongly believes in creating remarkable experiences.  In Linchpin he talks about being an artist.  Making your work, art…and art by definition isn’t perfect.  Some of the most valued art in the world is not “perfect”, instead it was created by a master, and even loved for its flaws.

Mastery is an ongoing journey while perfection suggests you’ve arrived, you’ve made it, you’re done.  What lies after perfection?  What’s left to learn?  What’s left to develop? What’s left to explore?  What’s left to invent?  The world is a timeless collection of things and events that simply prove perfection isn’t possible.  Instead, the world is changing, evolving, reinventing every day, minute, and second.

So with that, I will begin reframe my perspective to focus on mastery rather than perfection.  By accepting mastery as my goal versus perfection, it empowers me to accept life’s fact that there’s always something new to learn and invent.  Will you join me on the journey to mastery?

3 Quick Ways to Know if Your Team is Sales Enabled

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You’ve got a great product, competitive pricing, and best-in-class service. Your revenue numbers should be exploding and new recruits should be beating your door down for the chance to work with you. But none of that is happening. Revenue is flat, turnover is higher than average, and your sales team can’t seem to provide accurate forecasting that you can depend on. So what’s wrong?

For the moment we’re going to focus on your sales efforts and put Marketing to the side. You seem to have many positives in your direction but progress is alluding you and your team. Start by probing into these 3 areas of your Sales team:

  1. Education. Knowledge is only powerful if the owner knows how to apply it. What’s your philosophy on learning? Do you run your team through sales training and consider it a box checked off? How much self-educating and self-development is taking place? Are you encouraging your team to expand their horizons beyond what you’re providing them? What actions are you taking to facilitate or develop a learning culture? Without continuous education and learning your team is at a disadvantage.
  2. Resources. How well equipped are your sales people? The best warriors need weapons. A sharpshooter can’t perform without bullets, nor can a drummer play without sticks. Your sales people need tools. They need resources. Resources could include a killer website, an eBook, a webinar, or podcast. No matter what the product or service is that you’re providing, your team needs tools. It’s been reported that the average B2B buyer consumes 6 pieces of content before making their purchase. The days of a handshake and charismatic smile winning the deal are over. In the “age of the buyer” the demands are much greater for tangible value.
  3. Application. Simply having the knowledge along with great tools still isn’t enough. Direction on how to apply that knowledge and those tools is critical. This is where the true “enablement” piece of Sales Enablement happens. Navy Seals aren’t great just because they are educated on warfare tactics and have great weapons. Seals are awesome warriors because they are taught how to use their knowledge and resources available to win the fight. The same is true in Sales. Great content and an impressive presentation are meaningless if the sales person doesn’t know how to present them. Are you providing application training?

To create a winning Sales team requires great talent, an executable strategy, clear tactics, knowledge, tools, and application training. Pulling all these pieces together is called Sales Enablement. If you’re struggling to hit your number step back and ask yourself, “What am I doing to enable my team to win?” If you don’t have a clear answer to all 3 areas above start there and begin developing them.

Applying Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits to Your Buyer’s Journey

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In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey presents seven habits (and one bonus habit) that he observed made some people more effective than others.  Since his passing in 2012 I have revisited my copy of this book on a number of occasions.  I have found overwhelming similarities between how these 7 Habits, if practiced consistently, not only produce more effective people but also more effective companies.  Over the next week I will highlight each habit and how it can translate into helping you understand your buyer’s journey.

Habit 1 is about being proactive and taking responsibility.  In business, the leader’s job is to provide the vision for where the company is headed, and is the owner and nurturer of the company’s culture.  Many companies delegate cultural ownership to the head of HR or some other executive.  But culture is much deeper than simply finding a champion or cheerleader.  Culture is about setting a tone, establishing expectations, accepted behaviors, and perhaps the most difficult ingredient of the culture, which is the creation of confidence.  The ultimate leader of the company sets the culture even if he or she doesn’t want to “own” it.  It just happens.  Employees look to THE leader as both watchers and witnesses to behaviors. How THE leader acts and behaves is how the entire organization will act and behave.  If the leader is proactive, the company will be proactive.  If the leader hides behind walls, doors, and desks, the entire company will hide from its customers’ behind walls, doors, and desks.

To be proactive requires a great degree of curiosity.  It’s the ability to wonder what if, what could be, or how could we?  The ultimate one word that demonstrates just how proactive someone is – “why”.  When you ask “why”, you’re being proactive. Think about it.  If Thomas Edison never asked why, would we have lights? If Steve Jobs hadn’t asked why, would we have many of the modern-day conveniences and access to information that we have today?  There are thousands of examples of how asking why delivered major inventions or innovations to our society.  If no one took the time to ask why, we’d simply all be sitting around, idle, stagnant, and unchanged.

As you look at your buyer’s journey ask why?  Be proactive.  Don’t wait for a major disruption or crisis to force your evolution.  Get out in front of it. Take every opportunity to talk to your customers and ask questions, get their ideas, opinions, emotions.  Don’t rely on paper, or automated survey’s.  Engage them live, in real time.  Be bold, brave, and most of all be proactive in understanding what’s important to your buyer.

 

 

There’s No Such Thing As Too Big For Social Selling

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Many management teams are struggling to align around the significance and impact social selling has on complex products or services. Most agree that some products like consumables, and other “quick purchases”, benefit from a social media strategy.  But what’s the difference between social media and social selling? While differences are many, think of social media as the channel of communication and social selling as the user of that channel.  Social sellers, otherwise referred to as today’s modern sales people, leverage multiple forms of social media to achieve their goals.  Social sellers are communicators, sharers, educators, networkers and connectors. The size nor the complexity of what they’re selling matters… they are socially connected.

If your company provides a highly complex and/or expensive solution and you’re still wondering about the value social selling can have on your sales efforts consider these points:

  1. 92% of all B2B purchases begin online
  2. 300 billion emails are sent each day
  3. 40 – 70% of the purchase decision is made before the buyer meets with a sales person
  4. Less than 40% of sales teams reach their quotas
  5. Average sales force turnover hovers at 50% each year
  6. Google alone reports more than 1 trillion searches each year
  7. The global average of time spent on Facebook each day is 20 minutes, in the United States it’s 40 minutes per day
  8. 500 million tweets each day
  9. 4 billion videos viewed daily, totally 6 billion hours of time watching videos daily
  10. More than 50 marketing automation platforms on the market designed to “push and pull” content into the public domain

It’s hard to imagine any product or service being immune to the impact of hundreds of social tactics available to buyers. If a buyer isn’t looking at your company you can rest assured that he or she is looking at you, your sales people, your management, and even other customers using your service.  The fact is, you’re open for business 24/7/365 thanks to the internet and the tools that have been introduced to buyers over the past few years.  The company’s brand, your brand, and that of your employees is on display for all to see, evaluate, judge, avoid, or select… the controls rests with your buyer.  Are you ready? Social has arrived. There’s no turning back. It’s up to you as to how you want to be seen, when you want to be seen, and where you want to be seen.  One things for sure… if you’re not visible… by definition… you’re invisible… and it’s quite difficult to sell something when the buyer can’t find you.