Friday Faves – May Day, 2015

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“Hooray, Hooray, the First of May!”  (Fill in whatever rhyming completion you know.)  But, before you start thinking of the beach and flip flops, remember Q2 is one-third over.  Good time to use the freshness of spring to freshen up some stale leads, inject new life into stalled deals and move the growing ones closer to closing in this quarter.  Here are some posts which may provide good ideas.

Sales Onboarding: Twice as Good in Half the Time – Sales onboarding is like the Three Bears story, either too long, too short but seldom “just right.”

To overcome an irrational fear… – Therapy is good, too.

These Mistakes Will Cost You – Think of lost deals and BE HONEST about which ones may have played a role in the loss.  Once you realize something is a problem, you can do something about it.

 

Friday Faves – 4.24.15

042715As the weather warms up, so does the business climate.  Hustle while it stays that way.

You Can Do Almost Everything Right And Lose – I hate when it happens, but sometimes we learn more from our failures than from our successes.

Your Team’s Productivity – More thought in the multi-tasking debate.

No, That Meeting Could Not Have Been an Email – Field salespeople of the world, rejoice.  Science supports you!

Words Do Matter! – Want to improve your verbal communication?  Read – blogs, business books, great literature.  Even more than engaging, your words paint pictures, lasting pictures, which clients will recall long after your 30 minutes are over.  What do you want them to see?

Demand higher standards – Most people rise to the level of expectation.  Exceptional people exceed it.

 

 

 

FU, no FU Too!

call for emailBefore you delete, FU is CRM shorthand for Follow Up.  Follow Up, also known as stalking, is a key weapon in a seller’s fight to close the deal.  It is also one of the most poorly-used tools.  Like the ecard says, many calls are made to FU emails.  There are many others ways the FU is F’d Up:

 

  • “Read my email” – You can send with a read receipt.  BETTER if you have a compelling Subject Line, VALUABLE content and a clear CALL TO ACTION.  If you have and they read it, you’ve already heard back from them.
  • “Made a decision” – Their timetable, not yours.  If they made a decision and you haven’t heard, you didn’t get the deal.   BETTER to ask if anyone needs more info (sometimes these requests fall between the cracks), let the prospect know about new enhancements that will soon add more value to your proposal, peer/competitive companies that have signed deals with you (competitive pressure).
  • “Have any questions about…” – If they had questions, they would ask.  Maybe.  This one, I’ll cut some slack, because some prospects don’t like to ask questions about a proposal because it a) makes them look dumb; b) leads the seller to think they are getting the deal and push harder.  BETTER to ease in by asking if anything in your proposal needs clarification because sometimes terminology is different company to company.
  • “Received my proposal/quote” – See “Read my email” you can send the proposal with a read receipt.  BETTER to assume the prospect has received it and use the email to add some value/color to part of your proposal.
  • “Checking in” – When I was in Middle School, I had an 11pm curfew.  If I was going to be late, I had to Check In prior to 11pm and confirm when I would actually be home.  Failure to Check In or arrive by the time I indicated resulted in grounding.  Seriously, is there a bigger waste of a voicemail than “Hi, just checking in?”

Not fair to just criticize, so here are 5 FU ideas that may actually help your deal move along, or at least let you know where it stands.

  • “News you can use” – Share industry/competitive/regulatory news you heard, then ask if it will have an affect on the specs or implementation timeline.  You make your prospect smart, show off your knowledge and demonstrate you have their interests in mind.
  • “Best practice” – Share best practices other clients are using to generate greater value or better outcomes from what you’re selling.  Don’t divulge confidential information, but good ideas are not usually subject to copyright.
  • “I had an idea” – Like the previous idea, but make this a singular idea targeted to one of the prospect’s strongest needs/goals for what you’re selling to accomplish.
  • “I had a question for you” – Sometimes, particularly in a bidding process, a period for questions is defined and ends.  But, if not, try asking a question about implementation (presumptive trial close) or customization, so that you can make sure appropriate resources will be made available to support them.
  • “Changes?” – Changes on the prospect side can slow down a deal.  Your prospect is dealing with the changes and likely doesn’t have notifying you of a delay very high on the list.  You can ask if timelines, needs, budget or process has changed on their side.

And, oh yes, use the client’s preferred contact modality.  If they only respond to email, then email.  If they’ve responded to voicemail, then use that too.  You just don’t want to be waiting at the airport when your ship comes in.

If you’re going to FU, make sure you FU creatively and appropriately so you don’t FU your deal!

 

Friday Faves – 4.17.15

041715Jetlag lasted far longer than I thought.  (Or at least the excuse did.) Enjoy some thought-provoking posts I read this week.

Eliminate Distractions And Do Good Work – Add this to the growing discussion against multi-tasking.

The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis – With typical candor, some valuable ideas from the Pope.

Trading Up – This, to me, is really solid thinking.

 

 

Lessons from Glen

Club DateWhen I was in college, I earned money by playing for private parties on weekends.  Known as “club dates,” I worked for a violin player/bandleader who I’ll call Glen.  He would usually call me Tuesday or Wednesday and let me know where I was playing that weekend.  Sometimes he would be there, other times not and someone else would be leader.  After a few gigs, I started leading some of them and got the extra $20 for being the leader.

Though Glen had a stable of musicians, I never knew who was going to be in the band that night.  But, we all knew a couple of hundred tunes and anything we didn’t know was a 60 second hum-along, conversation after which we faked it.  From Bar Mitzvahs to weddings, company holiday parties to retirements, we played them all.  If they paid, we played.  I wasn’t going to be discovered for a record deal but, I could make rent in 2 weekends.

Some of the musicians were classmates, some were locals, even a couple of guys who had played with this or that Big Band in the 40s.  There were some great musicians I could barely keep up with and others, drunks I had to carry for the night.  But, each week was a new experience.  One in particular stands out to this day.

Why they booked the Glen Cawley (fictitious) Orchestra for the East High School Prom, I will never know.  Even though this was pre-DJ, it was a lousy fit.  Glen was there on violin and vocals along with me on saxophone, a keyboard player, guitar (old guy, rhythm mostly), bass and a drummer.  I had worked with all them many times before and even though the pairing was strange, I thought we could have some fun and make some good music.  Especially after Glen left.  Glen would usually have 2-5 bands working on a Saturday night and he’d spend 30-60 minutes at each party.

The leader calls the tunes, which requires a good understanding of the audience, plus shaping and pacing each set – particularly the last one.   If the band wanted to work at overtime (very lucrative), we’d pack the dance floor for the last 15 minutes of the party and get everybody hooting and hollering.  So, when we said “Thank you and goodnight, please drive home safely,” we’d be greeted with shouting and applause “More, more!” or “Don’t go!”  We’d start packing up VERRRRRRY slowly and sure enough, the Father of the Bride, or Sheldon Glickman’s Dad would come up to me and say the magic words “How much for another hour?”  Even then, closing the deal was a rush.

So at the East High School Prom, Glen is calling all the popular tunes of the day.  “Rolling on a River” to “Bad Bad Leroy Brown,” we played a succession of up tempo pop hits.  The dance floor was empty.  The large, diverse group of high school students stood around talking drinking punch, eating snacks and generally looking bored (or for the spiked punch).  After a set of this kind of stuff, Glen announces a break, then tells me he is going to the next gig and I’m in charge.

After 10 minutes, we came back and I called “When a Man Loves a Woman,” the Percy Sledge hit.  I started it with two notes “When a” alone on saxophone and took it up an octave so those high Es screamed out and got the group’s attention.  When we came to the 3rd high E “Man,” the band came in on the downbeat in a nice slow, sexy ballad.   I could see the audience’s faces lighting up as they grabbed (key operative word) their dates and headed to the dance floor.  It was wall to wall.

We continued to play mostly ballads, blending in an occasional uptempo tune to keep everyone awake (and their clothes on).  The dance floor was never less than half full the rest of the night. Kids were coming up to the bandstand making requests, waving at us and smiling.  Hopefully, we helped them have a memorable, if not a little more fun Prom.

So, why discuss a medley of my hits?  Allow me to deconstruct what I learned here, that is helping me succeed to this day:

FLEXIBILITY/ADAPTIVENESS – When you never know who will be on the bandstand with you, if you want to sound like a real band, you must listen a LOT, and adapt to each others’ styles.  On a sales meeting, you may have had contact with one or two attendees.  The others in the room are wildcards who can make or break you.  The plan you had for the meeting may be completely wrong with this new dynamic.  Being flexible, listening to the verbal and reading the non verbal cues is critical so you can adapt for the unexpected.  Sometimes, you just have to be brave enough to can your plan and jam.  (Those can be the most frightening/enjoyable/successful/exhausting professional experiences.)

LEADERSHIP – That $20 was important to me, so I took every opportunity to demonstrate that I knew how to work an audience, call the right tunes and keep the band in line.  Glen would always ask the client if they were happy so even if he wasn’t there, he knew what went on.  I made sure to introduce myself to the client to let them know we were there for their guests’ pleasure and anything we could do to enhance the evening was our pleasure.  Leadership can be an intangible quality, but you demonstrate it with mastery of your product, competition, client and industry knowledge.  Demonstrate this to your prospects and you earn the right to recommend, advise and steer the meeting.  Without this, you become a pushy control freak who doesn’t listen to them.

PREPARATION/OBSERVATION – When I got to the hotel ballroom, I was really surprised to see we were playing a high school prom.  I reviewed in my head all the Top 40 tunes I knew (Girl from Ipanema was NOT going to happen) so that I was prepared to play the kind of music this group was expecting to hear.  When Glen left after playing all the pop stuff, I immediately called a love song.  Why?  Think back to YOUR Prom (if you went to yours).  You and your date were all dressed up, cleaned up looking great and wanting to have a great time.  Touching played an important role in having that great time.  You don’t want to flap your limps around in a spastic way, getting sweaty to “Bad Bad Leroy Brown,” you want to hold your date really close, smell their perfume/cologne and whisper to each other.  That’s what ballads are for. Understand the group you are meeting with.  Know EVERYTHING you can know about them, their needs and challenges before you meet.  Ask QUESTIONS to understand what you do NOT know.  Then provide them the solutions you can offer to meet those particular needs and challenges.  Give them what they need, don’t sell them what you’ve got.

I had a lot of fun playing those gigs in college (some of them were really awful, like the time the piano player and trumpet player got into a fist fight after a New Year’s Eve dance in a Church rec hall).  Little did I realize then that I was learning things that would help me all these years down the road.

Looks like I went a little overtime.  Don’t worry about time and a half.  We’re good.

Friday Faves – 4.10.15

Though I was on vacation for 2 weeks, I still read some great posts.

Are You Spring Cleaning? – You may want to consider doing this more frequently, because pipeline management is your lifeline.

A practical definition of reputation – Yup!

3 Reasons Sales People Hate Selling Virtually – If this is the way you feel (or your team), then the company has done a lousy job of rolling out/training/supporting you in selling virtually.  You are missing out on a very important tool and the chance to enhance your selling skills.

Face-to-Face Meetings Are Back in Style – They never went OUT of style.  But, they’ve changed. Pair this with the previous article and consider how the two modalities can work effectively together, and you are on your way to selling in the current century.

Five More Things I Am Thinking About Now – Help yourself.  Write #2-4 down and read it them every morning before you start work.

How To Be a Pro – Yup again.

Mistakes I Have Made In Sales – I’ve often said sometimes learn more from our failures than from our successes.  But, you must leave your ego out of it, so you can be open to learning.

 

 

Friday Faves – 3.20.15

032015NOTE:  I will be off the grid and will not be publishing for two weeks.

Providing Space for Dissatisfaction – My favorite open ended probes:   “Oh?”  “Really?”  “How’s that?”  “Tell me more.”

5 Basic Needs of Virtual Workforces – The cubicles of the future.

The Death of the Gatekeepers – An interesting perspective, though I believe they exist and will continue to.

Why All These Meetings? – After reading the 5 Basic Needs and Death of Gatekeepers, maybe Death of Meetings follows?

Don’t Wish It Was Easier – When all else fails, persistence and competence succeed.