Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sales Poetry - Poetry as an analogy for Sales

I originally wrote this as the basis for a speech and found it again when I was recently trawling through my documents folder. I hope you enjoy it.


Poetry needs passion, so does sales.

You can write a limerick and get a laugh, you can run through a process and get a sale. But if you want to leave them wanting more, you need to approach Sales with passion. After all, it is sales that gives your company its life blood, revenue. You may as well get passionate about it. 

Consistent format 

Poetry has consistent formats eg: Haiku, Rhyme, Quatrain, Iambic pentameter and limerick. Similarly, Sales generally follow a Prospect, Qualify, Position, Align, Proof of concept, determine scope of work, Quote, Negotiate, Close. 

Explores Facts and Emotions 

Poetry explores and questions facts, assumptions and emotions:
Eg: There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses — he was worth a thousand pound
(with apologies to AB "Banjo" Paterson)

A sales person might question the truth of this and seek to understand if the owner was happy with a replacement. If not, what would the owner do in the mean time to satisfy the need for a colt. Possibly strike an agreement to outsource a colt of similar stature at 100 pounds per month for the next 6 months and if the colt from old Regret could not be found, the owner could purchase the replacement. 

Sometimes unexpected ending 

Poetry can lead you down the garden path, certain that a pot of gold awaits at the end. Then, just as you feel it in your grasp, it is snatched away. Sales are the same, but if you write the script, you can be more certain of the end. 

Sometimes inspired

Famous American poet Ruth Stone described how a poem would fly to her when she was harvesting in the fields. See I had my own experience when I was able to out manoeuvre IBM. This is also a story about flexibility in smaller companies. 

Sometimes just hard work and persistence

Sometimes a poem just flows; sometimes it’s just hard work. When it is hard work you can still get there but you need to follow a process and make sure that the deal is still worth the work. 
·         2% of sales are made on the 1st contact
·         3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact
·         5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact
·         10% of sales are made on the 4th contact
·         80% of sales are made on or after the 5th contact <<== WOW

There are highs and lows 

Just as poetry can take you on an emotional rollercoaster, so can sales.
Month on month you can be elated at the end of the month then realise then you need to do it all over again.
The best way to avoid this is to have visibility of a pipeline.... 

Not everyone is a poet 

Just as everyone is not a poet, not everyone can sell.
The features and the benefits from which you can tell
That you understand all the tricks and avenues
It might be obvious to all, that you are clever with words
Adds up to nought when you are dealing with revenues

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Networking or Putting yourself in the way of your targets

I was recently asked by a trainer, who had just decided to start his own company, how I use networking to find business. In answer, I told him that it was about putting yourself in the way of your targets. He got it immediately.

Just in case it is not, I’ll try to make it more obvious with some examples. There are many occasions when you could be invited to an event or gathering that might turn up some good prospects. I recall one instance when I was looking to be employed by a company but wanted to impress upon the CEO that I would be able to take a different angle to most others. I started subscribing to an email specific to his industry. Very soon, I noticed a conference that was being run by a government body responsible for that industry and that he was listed as a speaker. As it was a government conference, anyone with an interest could register to attend. By the first break we had “run into each other” and he was offering me the role. He had not expected me to be there and the fact that I was showing interest beyond others proved to him that I was the right selection.

This is an especially good way to learn about an industry that you may be targeting and can give you great exposure to who is the decision maker.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Most of your sales team suck at their job.

If your sales team runs true to form, about 20-30% of them produce about 70-80% of the revenue.
It’s one of the things that we tend to take for granted. We know that if they don’t perform in a given timeframe, we can present them with the hard evidence and march in the next contender.
I sometimes smile when other professions talk about negotiating their KPI’s. It doesn’t get much cleaner than the sales KPI.
Some companies have a standard practice of “releasing” the lowest 10% of performers knowing that, over time, they will end up with the best “over” performers. Why over performers? Eventually all of them will be exceeding target which means that even though you have let go 10% of your sales team who over achieved, the remaining 90% are performing so well that you hardly feel it. And the practice acts as a prod to the rest of the team.
There is another way of getting 90% of your team over achieving their targets.
You need to train them and coach them to perform at their full potential. Sounds simple, but the problem is that all of us have different skills and aptitudes. Good HR departments started using psychometric testing decades ago. However, it is hard to apply these to a sales profile.
Over recent years a number of sales ability specific tests have been developed that assess a sales person specifically for the job, or role you wanted them to do.
One of the tests is called Fit-4 from

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Are you the Rainmaker in your small or medium business?

A "Rainmaker" is someone who brings in the big deals.

This is really addressed at the owners of small or medium businesses who have worked hard to build their company but just can't seem to grow beyond a particular limit. I've noticed it more over the last few years.

Often, the person who started the company best understands the product and where it fits in the market.
Usually they, the company, has matured enough to put together a business plan for growth and have often designed their systems to scale to handle the increased volumes. It just that for some reason, no one seems to be able to sell their product or service quite as well as the owner.

Standing on the outside, it became obvious to me that there are three main reasons that this occurs:
  1. The sales person does not have the authority to make the call. This allows the owner to always be the rainmaker.
  2. The owner hired someone who understand the technology or complexity but does not how to sell. This person is often best at after sales support. This allows the owner to step back in and be the rainmaker.
  3. The owner hired sales people who cannot sell, or has them in a structure that cannot scale, which often amounts to the same thing. So, in an attempt to grow, the owner steps back into the rainmaker role.
I'd love to hear of similar observations.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Social Media is not Selling

I’m fairly new to the social media scene and certainly don’t consider myself an expert in the field. So it may be best to regard this as an early observation.

In order to get an understanding of what social media is about I decided to follow some of the more obvious thought leaders in social media including @thinktankmedia and @smcmelb for a local perspective and @mashable for an international perspective. Interestingly most had initially bypassed Linkedin having started in social media from a marketing or blog background.

I recently attended a gathering for @smcmelb and was amused at the reticence of attendees to engage. Most of them were busy using their various smartphones to check the latest stream of witty comments. I was specifically there to meet people as I’m recruiting for some sales roles, so widening the network helps. It was better after the presentation but I’m sure that was an effect of the wine. This probably explains why social media clubs like to gather in a bar!

My observation is, apart from a few, most social media experts get there from two perspectives:
1) Marketing People using a new medium, or
2) Technical experts who understand how to configure the applications.
It reminds me of the time when every person who could run a PC suddenly became a “Desk Top Publishing” expert. Just because you can drive word processor, or blogger, it doesn’t mean you can increase revenue for any company, especially your own. Likewise, having a twitter account or facebook fan page does not make you capable of engaging a market or selling a service.

Whilst social media is great for brand awareness, product and business, and can be a great source for leads, business to business sales for any complex product or service still requires a structured sales process.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Consultative Selling Lessons for Labor and Liberal Parties

I happened across this tweet from @fast_thinking The Public Private NBN Divide. and it reminded me that unless you are aiming to meet the business goal of the client, you will inevitably fall back to trying to sell product features and benefits and this always leads to a price comparison.

Often, the client is left trying to choose between benefits that, in the end, do not make much difference to the goal of the client. In this case, both solutions can handle a simple video conference. If you are not across the relative merits of the technology, it will become obvious that the discussion falls back to price.

This is great for the Liberal and National Party but disastrous for the Labor Party and the Greens.

But if your goal is to improve health in regional Australia then a simple video conference in not going to make the grade.

I think the spin doctors in Canberra can do with some consultative sales training.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why is hiring sales people such a risky and expensive business, when it doesn’t need to be.

I interviewed a candidate for a sales manager role this week. When I asked her to describe an experience of having to sack a sales person for non performance she gave me the following story….

The CEO wanted to establish an operation in Sydney. The organisation provides professional training to engineering staff. The decision was made by the CEO to establish an office, hire 3 trainers, and hired a sales person that had a good resume and interviewed well.

Five months later, after giving the sales person extensive induction training and then additional hands on support they let him go. He was just not performing, and yet during the hiring process, which was rigorous, our candidate seemed perfect for the role.

Total direct cost of this exercise was $750,000. This included the cost of the office lease, the salaries of the three trainers and the salary of the sale person; other additional costs that could have been included are the cost of recruitment or the cost of lost opportunities. This was a very expensive exercise as a result of failing to hire a top performer in just one role.

If you want to know if the sales person can do the job, I can help you from making the same very expensive mistake.

Visit this site to find out more and organise for more information that explains the challenges of hiring.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Selling at the C-Level

Sometimes it’s the C-Level customer that is the roadblock because they do not understand the difference between someone selling them a product and someone trying to help. Sometimes it’s because the sales person is still stuck in the “feature, benefit, close” sales process.
The April 2009 Harvard Business Review posed the question “Who can help the CEO?” The answer is other CEOs, or peers. This can make it difficult to engage with C-Level Executives and appropriate decision makers in organisations, unless they see you as a peer.
Many companies, even consultants, try a front on approach that necessitates a product based discussion. Whilst it might be true that your product may eventually fit a possible client, a product based approach generally ends up in an early discussion of feature, benefit and price.
Based on prior experience I recommend a course of action that engages the target decision makers at a business level that is not directly related to your product. My experience shows that it is easier to get C-Level Executives into a smaller setting when they know that the focus of the meeting will be them, not the technology or services company.
The idea of peer support becomes viable in the smaller environment and is in line with current thought leadership in business approaches. The best result is that in being part of the discussion, you too become a peer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How do you catch your ideas?

Last year I listened to a description of how a poet would feel a poem rushing toward her and how she would then have to rush to her writing desk to make sure she caught it all. If she didn't make it in time she would end up with half a poem.

Today I listened to a songwriter and a comedian discuss how, when a line came to them, even if it was out of context, they knew it was a good line and they needed to capture it. One used an iPhone to record the thought, the other used a notepad.

When you are thinking of how to solve a business problem for a client, it should be obvious that as a sales person you need to get creative. Maybe you should use similar techniques for capturing inspiration!