Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Fat Lady Never Stops Singing for the Great Ones

A friend of mine runs a well known middle market media planning and buying service. This fellow has led companies in both media and technology, always makes sure he understands what he and his clients know and don't know and works hard to forge partnerships that serve his clients.

In his current field, the most serious threat to the continuance of the client relationship, is the appearance of a new marketing "head" at the client.

Now if a marketing executive reaches the CMO level, he's made a few friends along the way who service client marketing needs, and now that he's landed his new job, he "knows" just who can help him make his mark in his new position. Inevitably the contract termination provision is invoked after one or two polite conversations with the existing provider.

So one of my friend's top clients sends him the thirty day notice.

A good executive in a situation like this, gathers the troops and target new customer forays. "We must replace this income!"

My "bud," not a "good," but a Great Seller and Leader also gathered the troops. His message was different.

"You know,we have several really smart new initiatives in the pipeline and no other agency understands this client's opportunities better than we do. We can take their three month "severance" and focus only on new business, or we can earn the three month pay by fine tuning and presenting our ideas. They are making a mistake in terminating us and our hard work these next twelve weeks may help them avoid that mistake."

That's the approach they took and the fat lady never stopped singing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Great Sellers Know When to Leave Their Cell Phones Deactivated

Maybe that goes for parents and spouses as well, but I claim much less expertise in those areas.

If you've the good fortune of a client or potential client giving you a part of his business day because you've convinced him you that believe that you can and would like to help him, what's the message he receives when your cell rings or you check for new messages, across the desk from him. (If you are one of, sadly, the minority of folk out to dinner with the wife and kids and no cell phone in sight on your table, what's your reaction to the guy at the next table celling-away?)

You client deserves your complete and thoughtful attention. You are there intruding on his schedule for his benefit. You are his samurai--at his service--you exist for his well-being, at least for the hour he's given you.

Absent a personal crisis which you must be able to respond to quickly, everything else can and should wait.

Leaving your cell phone in the glove compartment may be harder than stopping smoking, but you can do it. I know you can!

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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Friday, April 1, 2011

I Believe I can Help You

That's a magical phrase, if you do the work to get there, and mean it!

I consult a handful of companies. This activity is one of the most pleasurable of my career. The reasons are different in each case. Diversity of challenges and needs in these varied, mostly start-ups, keeps tedium at bay. The tenacity, vision and brilliance of the entrepreneurs couldn't be more stimulating. And their willingness, perhaps in some cases acknowledged desire, to be mentored by the "been there and done that" guy is, I admit, affirming.

I have also turned down, graciously I hope, other opportunities to consult, and rarely because of time, or the economic constraints of the company. It's always been because I didn't think their particular needs suited what I bring to the table. And that brings us back to the title of this blog.

Don't take anything from anyone. Always give instead. Or at least always think you can, and then try, to give. And how will you know if you can? That is where the work comes in. Who is this potential client? What does he do? What product or service does he provide? What product or service do I provide? What are our respective competitive sets? What is his differentiation from his competitors? Does what I have to provide improve his differentiation, make him more desirable? Or do I at lease believe so; honestly believe so?

That's the work that hopefully gets you too "I believe I can help you"

When you get there: "Hi Mr. Jones, I've been doing considerable researching of your company efforts and I believe that I can help you." He of course responds "blah, blah, blah" none of which means "how quickly can you get over here?" To which you say, "Mr. Jones, the half hour you commit to me (choice close on days and times--call me if you don't know what that means--) may be of real importance to you. I'd like to help. Commit the half hour and if after five minutes you wished you hadn't, I won't be offended by your ending the meeting. Fair enough?"

He'll see you.

Now what if Mr. Jones isn't in your Rolodex? You don't need a Rolodex. Its value is highly overstated. Those with a humongous Rolodex have them populated with a significant percentage of people who hope that they never call. Let Google be your Rolodex. If you do your work, want and are skilled enough to help, you'll get the appointments--and new clients. I do it all the time--and so will you!

Great selling!

Happy to answer questions.

BTW (ask your kid). Have a story to tell or a selling philosophy? Email me and get famous:)

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Commoditization Your Problem?

Do you sell corn, or sweet Jersey corn? Do you sell potatoes or Idaho potatoes?

Has the commoditization of your product or service got you down or is your inability to differentiate it from the pretenders holding you down? A few days ago, WCBS-AM Newsradio in New York, aired a feature by Ray Hoffman of the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Hoffman was reporting the thoughts of the CEO of Priceline about the complaint of commoditization, and its painful effects on profits.

The answer offered...differentiation.

Look, you sell either a piece of meat or sirloin, a bushel of wheat or a bushel of super fine, no toxins Kansas wheat, cars or Cadillacs.

You hit and run, or you are there every step of the way with your client from order to renewal. You sell "as is" or "satisfaction guaranteed or your money back." You make a difference in his success potential or it's "every man for himself."

If your product or service is above the pack, and especially if you own that reputation and it's verifiable, you can't be commoditized. You're different, unique and uncommon and so "Please Mr. Jones, may we discuss the value to you that I bring to the table? Because I promise you, it's very different than those you are comparing me to--like apples and...."

Here's a letter that one of our well trained, genuine and talented managers received just this week from a client:

From: Dawn M Richardson
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2011 1:06 PM
To: 'Tim Miller'
Subject: RE: Tim Miller Calling

Tim, I must tell you that I do believe that you are on my side. I don’t believe that I’ve just begun working with you but I have made a friend too. I appreciate your sincerity and honesty. I look forward to a long working relationship with you...

My guess is that Tim's price will be discussed, but without reference to another guy's price, because the other guy is not Tim. He's different, not a commodity.

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelesly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Great Sellers are Great Forecasters; Great Executives are Great Forecasters too!

So there you are Mr. Responsible for the P&L Executive at the beginning of March. You take a look at year-to-date 2/28 numbers and you are off your revenue budget. Several totally unpredictable events have cost you revenue. Maybe two sales executives resigned to start their own venture. Maybe a severe weather period slowed down industry activity in your area. Fortunately you are not so far off that the full year budget appears unachievable, but if truth be known, you think good luck will have to play a part. Too bad there aren't EVPs of good luck.

It might have to be luck because in preparing your revenue budget for the year you've identified every potential revenue stream and put a number against it. Let's see, core customer renewals and upgrades, new business targets, additional products and or services, etc. You are an experienced budgeter so your plan is probably all inclusive. Well, prayerfully, now that you're in the hole, you'll be able to think of something new.

And this is where your forecasting acumen comes in. You take a good look at the rest of the quarter's prospects and you pick an absolutely "can do" number. This number can be neither aspirational nor doomsday. Rather it must be borne of a deep look at your sales team's pipeline, one-on-one meetings with your sellers and a thoughtful and realistic review of the past forecasting performance of these sellers. You must apply a rational degree of confidence percentage to their forecasts.

How do you accomplish that? First, you challenge each account in the pipeline. "What have you proposed and to whom at this account? Was the decision maker a participant at the "close?" When did you see him last? Did he agree to the specific price level you are forecasting or did he say he would decide which plan and get back to you? When did he say he would act?...."

And then...the Great Executive Forecaster pulls out each individual sales reps' forecast history sheet (you have them, don't you?) to help gauage the seller's reliability.

You are now in a position to make a professional, informed forecast...and uh, oh.

It's mostly fear of the "uh, oh" that poisons accurate forecasts; fear on the part of average sellers and average managers alike. Here's what happens when that fear is converted to "can do, will do" by the Great Ones.

They come together and help each other get it done! "Joe, among the seven accounts you believe can close this month, two appear to carry the meaningful revenue load. Let's call/see them together ASAP to see if we can close the deal. With respect to client A, if you think that could get him to move today?"

Now the session above does two things: First it gives the Great Ones the best shot at maximizing the short term results. But let's assume your researched, pro-active challenging and helping still leaves your now professional, and therefor probably near perfect forecasting, short for Q1. Now it is "What can we change, add, invent that will drive incremental revenue over the next nine months to cover our projected shortfall?" This is your new, probably top priority exercise. Do it well, and with a little additional luck, you'll crash through your budget.

Great Selling!

Happy to answer questions

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessy
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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Monday, February 28, 2011

Great Sellers are Great Buyers As Well

If you've done exceptional work to convince a client that you are in his service and that his success is both your goal and your responsibility, you've gone a long way toward ensuring the success of this partnership. There are two more critical pieces to the mosaic that must be undertaken and monitored.

The first of course, is the implementation...the follow-through. Anything less delivered than as promised makes working with you a mistake, and makes you a liability. Needless to say, makes you NOT a great seller. The work really starts when the customer says "yes."

A Great Buyer holds your feet to the fire on your promise, your end of the deal. He metrics the progress against the promise, is involved in strategies and plans that require re-working because of unforseen but inevitable potholes. He paces and races with you from start to the finish line. A Great Buyer is a great partner.

A Great Seller must also "demand" the best from his client. He must monitor and metric the degree of effort that the Buyer expends to maximize the benefits, to the buyer, of the partnership. The Buyer's responsibility is more than to write the check when the invoice is delivered, just as the Seller's responsibility goes way beyond getting a signature on the contract.

"Mr. Jones, we need can we?...what if we?...weren't you going to?...I thought we agreed that you would...etc." Wow, the Seller sounds just like a buyer. Only the great ones.

In an effective partnership, once the deal is made, Buyer and Seller are "in it together" and each hold each other's feet to the fire.

Great Selling!

Any Questions?

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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Monday, February 21, 2011

When Negotiating: Great Sellers Talk Value

He asks, "how much is it?"

Undergraduate sales trainers call this a "hot button" and say "it's time to close."

Great Post-Graduate Sellers know that the "sale" hasn't gotten to the "I must have it" stage yet and there's more work to do before it's time for the pricing conversation. "How much is it" is a knowing or unknowing expression on the part of the buyer which implies, "if this stuff is cheap enough, maybe I'll go for it."

The reality is, the presentation has gotten the buyer to "it's a nice doo dad, but I have seven already. If it's cheap, ok."

So you say, "let's make sure we've nailed down the proposition. The idea I've put together to jump start/grow/expand/make more profitable/get more customers for...your business, starts with the notion...makes sense right?"

If he responds, "right" follow with, "and then I and my support team will make sure that the implementation is perfect by get that right?"

If he is still enthusiastic in his responses, you offer "well I'm happy to tell you that the project is reasonably priced for both of us at________."

Then he says, "Great," right? Nah. He coughs and says, "that's way too much/ about _______?"

And you respond, "Mr. Jones the value you will receive as a result of this targeted plan and the effort that will be expended to grow your business is very fairly priced for both of us. That will make it a successful partnership."

Smile, shut up, and wait for his "Let's go."

Great Selling!

Love Your Work and Work Tirelessly
Communicate Honestly and Fearlessly
Serve, Don't Sell
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