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The New Gap Selling: How to Win Big Ticket, High Value Media, Advertising and Sponsorship Deals

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

What’s Wrong With Media Sales and Right About Selling the New Gap

Sales is one of the world’s highest paying professions, and media sales (or knowledge/information sales) is among the most lucrative in the field. But, as with all sales, the economy of the last five years has weeded out those with weak skills and a sub par work ethic. The best still do very well, but it has become an industry where most just get by and a few make the lion’s share of commissions.

However, the top performers in our business are aware of a number of factors that prevent many from earning the type of money they did prior to the financial crisis and have taken steps to ensure their approach and sales process reflects these new dynamics.

3 Factors Which Define the “New Normal” 

  • Buyers are becoming ever more risk averse (pre crisis, the market was flush with liquidity and clients were looking for reasons to buy, now they look to avoid risk). 

  • While the sheer number of media offerings continues to grow, global marketing spend has decreased significantly, leaving more information/content providers battling it out for less available budget. 

  • To compete, media as a product is becoming more comprehensive. Many companies in the space now view themselves as knowledge/information providers and offer portfolio type solutions inclusive of events, print and digital publications, online news sites, market intelligence, social media, lead gen, e-mail marketing, etc.

In an environment such as this, the majority of spend allocation flows to a small fraction of media providers that couple the most versatile product with the best trained and most agile (and competitive) of sales forces.  

The rest fight for an ever-shrinking pie of ex-budget funds.

However, the single biggest differentiator between the haves and have-nots in media sales is not the product, but the approach. This is good news for sales people, it means they have the ability to alter their circumstances for the better, regardless of the grip other departments have on creating and developing product.  

Of course, the most dynamic companies look to include their sales force at the tip of the spear in probing and listening to the market’s demand for viable media solutions, but irrespective of where the salesman stands within his organization, if he engages his customers in the right way, he can join that small fraction of dealmakers who are doing just as well, if not better than they did prior to the economic downturn.

In order to understand how the elite salesperson continues to succeed and thrive in today’s marketplace, it’s important that we first take a closer look at how the majority of media/information based salespeople approach the business of selling.

(Product) Pushing the Prospect Around 

98% of media/information salespeople sell using a method known as “pitching product”, or push marketing. It’s a technique where the salesman pushes the features, functions and benefits of a particular product, and why the salesman believes it to be of value.  

The typical product pitch sounds something like: ”The beauty of what I’m selling is only outshined by the magnitude of what it will do for you – which is exactly why you must buy it…now!” 

However, when you push, you inevitably get resistance, prospects push back. This leaves the salesman with two possible options: confront or convince. 

Steamrolling the Prospect 

Talking “at” or down to the customer to let them know who’s in charge, or to “clue them in” on why they should consider themselves lucky to have received your call or bludgeoning them with rebuttals to objections that are borne only out of a ham-fisted, shove-it-down-their-throat approach, is a recipe for how to lose friends and alienate people.  

Confrontational selling is a lose-lose proposition

It’s Now or Never 

‪Pitching product (in order to be successful) relies on emotionally charged stories fuelled by intense urgency and ginned up enthusiasm all in hope of triggering an impulse buy, of convincing the prospect to make an impromptu purchase,.

If the deal does not close on the first call (and the vast majority do not), the magic moment passes and the sale moves to a second stage (typically involving additional members of the decision making unit and deeper scrutiny of the proposition). A process this particular approach was never designed to withstand.

Discount Kings 

As the sales cycle lengthens, and the excitement generated during the initial conversation fades, without a genuine need uncovered or addressed, the chances for a deal diminish greatly. And, for those product pitched deals that do make it through the multi-decision maker gauntlet, what are the results? 

As the push style of selling highlights functions, features and benefits, and as the functions, features and benefits of most media/information products (advertising, event sponsorship, e-marketing, etc.) are all “relatively” similar, the only unique differentiator between one product and another becomes cost, which is why most advertising/sponsorship salespeople get caught up competing primarily on price, discounting as part and parcel of their sales process and selling at ever lower and lower rates.

Hold on, I’m not a (Product) Pushy Salesman! 

As customers become far more sophisticated (and fastidious) in their approach to choosing suppliers, a number of media/information salespeople have abandoned the transactional style of pitch based selling and adopted some of the principles of those that sell larger ticket offerings rooted in longer sales cycles. Many salespeople in the space now consider themselves to be practitioners of a “consultative” method of sales known as solution selling.

Instead of pitching a particular product, when selling solutions, the salesman seeks to assess a prospect’s problems and needs via a question-based approach before attempting to sell an appropriate solution (product or service). 

However, for many in our space, “solution selling,” is really just pitch-based selling in disguise, the push method of sales dressed up in fancier clothes to better navigate the initial trepidation of prospects who have grown impatient and resistant to those cold callers who so often launch into hawking product within a few seconds of introducing themselves.   

Those that pitch product like to believe they are solution selling because they are engaging in a dialogue about their prospect’s “needs,” but what “needs” are actually being uncovered? Well, what types of questions are typically being asked? 

Two types of queries are usually asked in this faux solution sales cum product push environment: audience centric questions and/or product centric questions.  

Audience Centric Questions are designed to qualify the prospect’s target market, examples include… 

What regions do you focus on?

What type of businesses/consumers do you target?

What type of decision makers do you look to engage with?    

Audience centric questions often lead to product centric questions as the salesman naturally looks to build on his newfound knowledge of the customer’s target market by seeking to learn how they identify and communicate with their audience.     

Product Centric Questions are intended uncover and identify the prospect’s use of similar or competing media product. Some typical product based questions include… 

How do you go about generating leads?

How are you currently marketing your product?

What publications/websites do you currently advertise in?  

Do you sponsor events, conferences or exhibitions? 

Product centric questions are then followed by results driven questions, as the salesman looks to query the outcome or performance of the customer’s current activities. 

What types of results are you experiencing? 

Product and audience centric questions often only end up confirming that the prospect either makes use of similar solutions or targets a market the salesman can help with. At best these questions uncover dissatisfaction with results.  

These types of questions are obvious and far from compelling, the prospect is typically underwhelmed. Nothing mission critical is discussed and no need/problem unearthed so urgent that it demands a timely solution.  

Product and audience centric questions are designed to provide nothing more than a distraction to get past the gate and push product, as both lead to either “we can deliver/help you engage your target market” and/or “we can deliver better product/results than our competition” based pitches.

Selling the Sizzle 

So how does a product pitchman make the sale? By selling what he has, and although he has no solution, what he does have is a story, and the best product push sales people sell the sizzle, the steak, and the plate it was served up on.  

Unfortunately, with this type of approach, the thrill exists only in the white-hot enthusiasm generated during a “heat of the moment” style call, and if the rate quoted is not low enough to avoid further approval, the chances of an impulse purchase are less than zero. As, once the phone call ends and the spell the fast talking salesman has cast wears off, the prospect is left with nothing more than a half-baked proposal that must hold up to the skepticism of one or more risk-averse decision makers who will wonder: “do we really need this product?” and “do we need it at this price?” 

When the sizzle fizzles out, the steak goes cold!  

Reframe the conversation

No company wants to part with budget, particularly budget holders and their minions, especially when they are so good at spending it prior to the point at which you have contacted them. It is a rare cold call indeed when a salesman stumbles upon a prospect who says, “the timing of your call couldn’t have been any more perfect, I have a ton of budget to spend, what have you got!”

The number one excuse for holding up a deal when pitching product (or even when solution selling) overwhelmingly has to do with budget. Of course this can be abated with a skillfully positioned approach (especially when engaged in the right type of solution led conversation), for if a customer really wants what you have they will find the money, but for the most part decision makers and especially decision fakers (you know who I’m talking about, the messengers, those we like to refer to as influencers) or even worse, i2i’s (influencers to the influencers) just love to claim budget as the reason for not moving forward with a sale.

For those caught up pitching product, the reality of being forever faced with the budgetary woes/excuses of their prospects leads to a never-ending war of attrition, as the “numbers game” is all that can be counted on to thwart the endless claim that customer budgets have evaporated. And when product pushers do hit the lottery on a sale, it is a frictionless, highly discounted rate that moves the deal over the line. If you are pushing low cost/low value product then playing the odds as your best bet to success is a hazard of the job.

If, however, we want to change the odds in our favor, then we must actively seek to reframe the conversation. As almost all sales calls will lead to a second stage, we need a sales methodology that has impact and holds influence over the process beyond the initial enthusiasm of the first call. To do so we must engage in a different sort of discussion from those who merely pitch product. We must steer the conversation away from one that ends up in an assessment of product vs. price (an inevitability when push selling) and instead look to have a conversation that leaves the customer contemplating the magnitude of the problem he needs fixed, the financial gain in doing so and the minimal investment necessary to see such a return on investment.

The conversation we want to construct has the prospect moving on from the first call un-preoccupied by the trivialities of product vs. price, and rather has them engaged in the possibility of a cure to what ails them, we want our prospects contemplating the severe cost of problems, the business altering value of opportunity should plight be overcome, and the fact that a solution is within reach.  

And, while decision making units love to hold on to budget, what no decision maker in any organization wants to own is a problem, especially one that is getting in the way of hitting revenue targets. Executives that do not come up with plans to overcome challenges or take action to solve problems do not tend to last very long. 

Root Cause Selling 

What product and audience centric questions (as well as the salesman who deals in them) fail to take into account is why the product (or the audience for that matter) is needed by the prospect in the first place.  

Why would a prospect ever want to advertise in a magazine, on a website or sponsor an event?  

When asked this question, many sales people respond by saying that their clients invest in advertising or sponsorship because they want brand awareness, increased exposure, thought leadership, opportunities to network, build relationships, educate the market, make the business case for their solution, generate leads, etc. 

As sound as these objectives are, they are not the core reason why customers buy advertising space or sponsor events. They are merely routes (among many routes) to achieve the customer’s one true need…

The reason clients purchase advertising, sponsor events or do any form of marketing is because they want to… 

Sell more product!

The need to sell (more) product is the fundamental need all media opportunities address.  

Advertising and event sponsorship are powerful solutions that help clients overcome the challenge of selling their products and services more effectively, efficiently…and more often.  

And customers will pay handsomely for solutions that help them sell more product.

Solution-Led Selling  

If you want to sell a media/information/knowledge solution, one that will gain more than just the fleeting “first call” interest of your prospects, you must uncover, understand and address the problems and challenges they face in attempting to sell their products and services.

‪Uncovering, understanding and addressing the issues faced by prospects in bringing their offering to market, winning their next big contract or in simply selling more product, and only then offering the appropriate solution to help them do so, is how the top 2% of media/knowledge/information sales people go about the business of selling.

When done in this way, the approach resonates, and it roots out/brings to the fore issues that the client cannot afford to live with…

Leading to the purchase of solutions that clients cannot afford to live without!  

The Best of the Best  

The top 2% of dealmakers that sell advertising and sponsorship in this manner are noted for their ability to close business at higher value rates than their product-pitching colleagues.  

However, a very small fraction of these top performers, the best of the best within our business, understand and make use of a far more evolved and dynamic version of this approach, a process that not even the majority of this highly effective and prosperous 2% is aware of. These are the million dollar producers, dealmakers that regularly generate between $1,000,000 – $5,000,000 a year in sales.  

These elite sales people do something only the world’s best consultancies do when closing multi-million dollar deals…

Gap Selling  

Those at the very top of their game in media/knowledge/information sales practice a sales methodology known as Gap Selling. However, it is a very different version of the technique known to most, one that is powerfully unique from what has been taught up till now  

Gap Selling, as originally conceived (and as studied today when learning how to sell “consultatively”), attempts to exploit the “gap” that exists between a customer’s current situation and where that prospect would ideally like to be.  

The New Gap Selling methodology is just as simple in concept, yet far more sophisticated in its approach (and effective in its results) because it adds real value to the process.  

How does it work?

Unlocking Your Value  

We have already established that, in order to sell an advertising/marketing/sponsorship/lead-gen solution, we must uncover, understand and address the challenges faced by our prospects in attempting to sell their products and services.  

But, how can we truly expect to help our prospects overcome the issues they face in selling more efficiently, effectively, and more often, unless we also understand the challenges faced by those our prospects look to sell their products and services to…

Their customers!            

If you can identify the needs of your prospect’s customers (and potential customers), and communicate those needs (and the challenges faced in meeting those needs) to your prospect, then you are adding real, unique and extremely compelling value to the (sales) equation.  

But, how do you deliver this type of highly valuable intelligence to the process?

How do you come to know, understand (let alone be able to communicate) the (commercially solvable) issues and challenges faced by your prospect’s customers?  

Well, who is your prospect’s customer in relation to what it is we do in media, marketing and event production? 

Your prospect’s customer is your publication or website’s readership, they are your event’s speakers and delegates, they are the target of your market research.  

You not only have the access necessary to uncover this priceless data, but those that hold the key to this critical information are a proprietary (and captive) audience of your firm and its product! 

Uncovering the New Gap

Selling the New Gap is sublime in that, when you identify the disparity that exists between your prospect’s need to sell product, and his customer’s challenge in finding an appropriate solution, and communicate your understanding of the dilemma faced by both sides, you have exposed are far larger opening than the one which exists in getting your customer from point a to point b and in doing so perfectly positioned to bridge this new “gap” with your solution, bringing powerful value to both parties. 

Cultivating a Dialogue

So how do you develop/have this type of solution-led conversation?  

How do you add real value by becoming a source of actionable intelligence for your prospects (and clients) and offer credible insight that helps them understand their own customers better?  

And, how do you ask effective questions that ensure you uncover issues and challenges that your product can actually solve?  

Furthermore, how do you do all this without devolving into push style selling once the prospect is ready for a solution? 

How do you sell by not selling, convincing or pushing, but by simply giving your prospects what they will quite naturally request once you have engaged in the right type of dialogue and have asked the right types of questions?  

And, finally, how do you do this in an efficient, effective and persuasive manner? How do you package your dialogue and questions in a nimble and agile, yet meaningful and compelling way? 

Contact Lawrence Rosenberg 

lawrence.rosenberg@chasethechampionship.com 

uk.linkedin.com/in/rosenberglawrence/

Take Action and Find Faith

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Having what you want, becoming who you wish to be or merely looking to change your life for the better is as simple as…believing you can.

Or is it?

And is believing as simple as it sounds?

If you do any research on the subject of how to motivate yourself to go after what it is you want or undertake any type of significant change, you will quickly find out that the prevailing wisdom among self-help experts and psychologists is that the reason most people do not move forward or do the things necessary to dramatically alter their lives is because they lack faith or belief that they will get what it is they are after.

They say that the key is to BELIEVE (with absolute certainty) that your efforts will be worthwhile, that your actions will alter your universe of carry you to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Popular theory has it that you start your journey with BELIEF, they claim that this is the pre-requisite, that in order to start you must have total conviction, because having rock solid belief will lead to a massive increase in your POTENTIAL, and once your POTENTIAL has been upgraded, you will have the firepower necessary for ACTION. The next part of the equation is that inevitably, your action will yield RESULTS, and at that point you have what is known as a positive  feedback loop, because those results (the positive ones at least) will seal your faith in your ability to achieve and fuel your drive to take even greater action, which will lead to even stronger results and so on, and so on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that sounds great, and I agree, if you do have an intrinsic, unshakable belief that you are going to get what you want, then yes, you will walk through walls. I mean it is absolutely brilliant if you are fortunate enough to have been born with belief, or to have had an epiphany, to be one of the lucky few who have magically arrived at a state of mind buttressed by absolute faith before you get to the starting line. But what if you are one of the millions upon millions of people who have not yet found unassailable conviction, or what if you did have it at one time but have now lost your faith? What then?

Let’s face it, we are in a tough economy and there are a lot of downtrodden and defeated souls out there. Many have been laid off, lost their jobs and/or simply cannot find a compelling new opportunity to motivate them to action. Many are no longer even sure they live in a land of opportunity, how many still believe that the streets are paved with gold (as my grandfather did and growing up I was absolutely sure of)? So whether you have never taken a big step before due to uncertainty or you have lived the high life, been successful, but have lost it all and are finding it hard to get motivated and believe again, does not having faith in your future at the outset eliminate you from the challenge to win the life of your dreams? Is belief absolutely necessary to moving forward and taking the steps required to change your life?

I am happy to confirm (from a life lived rising and falling and rising again) that thankfully, if you have lost your way, or you have forgotten what it was like to have faith, or are missing the type of determination that breeds confidence, that it makes no matter.

You do not need belief or absolute certainty in order to take action.

And, the even better news is that, it is in taking action that you will regain your faith if you have lost it and/or you will acquire the assuredness you have yet to come upon that what you are doing will lead you to your destination.

Saying that you need to be a believer before moving forward is like saying you need to have confidence before you can ever become confident. It is incongruent, a complete catch-22. In reality, it is through the very action of ACTING confident that you, in turn, eventually become confident. It does not matter at the outset whether you truly are or not, it is not what is going on inside your head that counts (the world at large has no clue as to your true thoughts or feelings), the only thing that is of any consequence is what the world sees, what matters most are the actions you undertake.

“A man is not judged by his thoughts or his words, he is judged by his deeds, he is judged by his actions.”

It is the manifestation of confidence, the mechanics of élan (talking in an assuring tone, standing with poise, walking with a brash stride) that makes the man, inside you may be as timid as a field mouse but you can always ACT like a lion. The beauty of this principle is that “as you be, so you are,” the assumption of character becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (life imitating art) — by wearing a confident man’s shoes, by simply acting with confidence YOU WILL BECOME CONFIDENT.

And so it is with faith.

By simply taking action, you will have ACTED WITH BELIEF (irrespective of how you feel or what you think initially) your actions will have dictated otherwise. Through the mere act of moving forward, you will have set yourself on the path to living the life you want, to having the things you desire.

And it is here that you will discover your faith.

It is here where you will come upon the belief that many so desperately seek. It is the ACT OF MOVING FORWARD that signifies the ultimate vote of confidence, your very action in pursuit of your interests will underwrite a new belief system, it will set in place the foundation stone that you will build your faith upon, faith that you will reach your destination, wherever it may be, simply for having had the courage to act in the first place.

Belief is the natural and inevitable consequence of your actions.

So here is a different feedback loop, one that works all the time, on every occasion, for anybody, irrespective of what your level of confidence or conviction is. You begin with one move, could be a small change, could be a major dive into the deep end, either way you take some type of ACTION and as sure as day follows night your actions will yield RESULTS, the positive of which will lead to the BELIEF it is so often claimed we need to start with. And, that BELIEF that you discover along the way, will forever propel your actions to greater and greater heights as your RESULTS grow and grow and grow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The magic lies within your actions, that is where belief lives, in that very first step.

The Ten Laws of Competitive Persuasion

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity – Edwin Hubbell Chapin.

You flick the light switch on because you assume that the light will turn on. You strictly follow a particular dietary regime because you trust it will aid in your physical health and shape. You follow the tenets of your religion because you have faith that it will secure your place in God’s good grace. We are our beliefs, they define who we are – they characterize the self. Some convictions are rooted deep in our childhood, taught to us by parents and teachers, and accepted as dogma. Others are learned from peers, books or television and warped or reinvented to suit our psyches. And some beliefs we come by late in life after having lived, made mistakes, realized accomplishments and formed steadfast opinions. Once shaped or solidified, beliefs act as a filter for the way we see the world, they affect the way our brain interprets the endless information we are bombarded with and stands as the backdrop against which we justify action.

It is a profound and complex process the business of forming ideas and beliefs that we both become anchored to and readily act upon. Or is it? Moving forward based on certain notions, taking action on propositions that we feel are the natural consequence of our summations (usually formed over great lengths of time and supported by everything from conjecture and hearsay to hard-core empirical evidence and experience) is not always the natural consequence of belief. And conviction is not always a necessary prerequisite to action. Sometimes, under the right circumstances, a mere suggestion will do.

Consider cold calling sales, an endeavor or process by which an individual is asked to assume and act over the span of a single telephone call or visit. In many instances, the prospect has never heard of the company, product or service they are being introduced to or informed of, yet are eagerly asked to have faith in and commit to a person they have never met or know next to nothing about, all over the course of a lone conversation. No time to collate data or study propositions, no time to “think about it,” just a brash expectation on the part of the closer that the prospect should presume and act. And they do, every hour of every day prospects become buyers, agnostics become apostles.

What causes a man to believe, or to at least become interested enough to act on an impulse? What must you do to convince another human being to take action on an idea that is not their own? How can a state of being that usually evolves over a period of months, years or even decades be distilled and induced in the space of a single sales pitch? To short circuit a process that usually involves teaching, programming and indoctrination over the course of one’s life is no small feat, but it is doable. It is well within the capabilities of any determined individual to stoke the fires of another man’s fascination and cause him to take action on nothing more than a moment’s notice. More so than being doable, it is a workable process that can be modeled, adapted and repeated. However, before this can be done, before you can develop into a proficient closer, you must first understand a bit about human nature, and you must learn the fundamental laws that govern this process, of which there are ten.

Although these ten laws are grounded on fundamental behavioral science and cognitive psychological principles, no deep understanding of human psychology is required to understand the essence of their power over the thoughts and actions of men or the effectiveness of their implementation. Far from being complex formulas or theorems, the laws, as I present them, are as effortless to appreciate as they are incontrovertible; they are common sense, practical and manifest. Your challenge will not be in comprehending the laws, it will be in remaining consistent, in following through and conducting your business according to the full protocol. Although it would be of immense value to merely embrace one, or even just a few of these ideals, as each imparts an extremely powerful advantage in the pursuit of deal-making, in order to ensure that you do not end up a one hit wonder or a part-time champion, in order to yield the greatest possible windfall, the full ten laws should be adopted as creed and code.

The ten laws will ensure your success. If you apply them you cannot fail. It is why I call these principles laws as opposed to rules. Rules are merely customary practices; rules are boring and restrictive. People dislike following rules. Many rules are often defied and avoided. Hell, rules were meant to be broken! Laws however, in the scientific sense (which I firmly believe is the ground on which we tread) are principles based on the predictable consequences of specific actions. Laws guarantee results. Adhering to them means that you are not just working to the custom, tradition or whimsy of another (as is the case with a rule) but, rather, operating under a set of circumstances that ensure a pre-determined outcome. It is cause and effect. You cannot flout the laws of the universe; scientific or physical laws cannot be violated. These ten principles are the science behind selling anything successfully and as such, consistent, large and undeniable success can be the only product of dedication to these ten maxims. Much like two plus two equals four, the forecasted outcome must occur, and the results are obliged to be bountiful.

The Ten Laws of Competitive Persuasion:

The First Law:
Compete to Win (Chase the Championship)

The Second Law:
Know thy Prospect

The Third Law:
Become a Believer – Learn to Love What you Sell (Gain Product Knowledge)

The Fourth Law:
Pitch the Decision-Maker

The Fifth Law:
Stack the Deck (Your Advantage is Their Advantage)

The Sixth Law:
Be Urgent

The Seventh Law:
Close

The Eighth Law:
Be Bold (Moving Yourself and Your Prospect Beyond the Comfort Zone)

The Ninth Law:
Gain Obligation

The Tenth Law:
Always Negotiate From a Position of Strength

The New AIDA

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Angle

Seize the prospect’s attention by opening with an attention grabber, something powerfully relevant or meaningful to their business or person:

A piece of news that will wake them up
An event that will inspire them to sit up and take notice
An announcement that will cause their ears to prick up
A fact that will drive or arouse their curiosity

Inquire

People are more interested in what they have to say than what you have to say; they are more concerned with their needs than yours. If you can help them meet their unique needs or solve their problems, then they want to hear about it.

As a general rule, clients are attracted to products or services which will make their lives easier or their efforts / business more effective and productive.They are intrigued by anything that might give them an edge or help them earn more money / generate additional revenue.

Ask questions that elicit these needs, that uncover such interests or reveal what your clients are focused on achieving or solving.

Determine

Figure out exactly how your solution will help your clients:

Meet their needs
Solve their problems
Resolve their issues
Strengthen their position
Assist them in being more effective
Help them compete with other organizations within their industry

Action

Express the scarce nature of what you have to offer and the urgent need to acquire it and motivate your prospects to move forward, to take action! In lieu of being able to motivate the prospect to take action on the first call, attempt to secure some form of obligation or commitment to green light a follow up conversation.

Lawrence Rosenberg

 

Supercharged With Sales Training

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Is the company you represent, whether you own it or sell for it, sales driven? Just because you are part of a sales team does not mean the company (of which the sales team, in many cases, is but one of many divisions) is sales driven. Does your firm have a “sales culture,” flexible strategies, and a competitive sales philosophy? And, is that philosophy inculcated into the team on a frequent basis and buttressed with external sales materials and training? Hopefully you do not work for a firm that merely dumps you into a vast, high turnover bullpen to sink or swim, your only training provided through “sales floor osmosis,” relying only upon your ability to cannily pick out which sales reps to mimic. This approach does not lend itself to the development of a high performance sales career, and if this is where you currently find yourself pounding the phones, then your tenure at this short sighted organization will most likely be short-lived.

span style=”font-family: arial; font-size: medium; color: #ffd700;”>Best in class sales teams are always part of a sales driven company that invests in the team and put the needs of their closers front and center. The most competitive companies often ensure that all its divisions focus on supporting and empowering the sales team, guaranteeing the reps have all the tools and back-up necessary to generate revenue. And, of the many things a sales team needs in order to compete effectively, one of the imperatives is a sales process which is flexible and always evolving. The fundamentals might remain the same, but as prospect organizations evolve, economies become more complex and technologies change, so must the nuances of your approach, presentation and closing methodologies. The best firms don’t just stand on ceremony and count on one way of getting the job done, they invest in materials, literature, technology and sales training tools that allow the skill-sets of there reps to remain fresh and sharp. In fact, according to an Aberdeen Group study, start-ups, early adapters, and innovative companies were 52% more likely than traditional organizations (the type that cling to the “old ways”) to make use of external forms of sales training. Consequently, these fresh-thinking, supercharged firms outperformed laggard companies in many key areas, from achievement of quota, to year over year revenue increases.

Read the full article here

Seven Minutes

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Are you all about the one call close, or are you more inclined to allow your prospects to put off today what they will never do tomorrow? Do you spend more time sending reams of information and creating pipelines than you do pitching and closing decision-makers?

If you feel that you may be more messenger than closer, then you may want to take a dose of medicine from those who chase the championship and pitch for venture funding (and the leviathans of capitalism they pitch to) the next time you decide to let a big fish slip out of your hands.

Entrepreneurs in search of funding are not pitching for commissions, they pitch for life, limb and future. And, when odds are that the company you are incubating will most likely go stillborn unless you close the deal, every wasted pitch is one more nail in your coffin. Such is the world of the innovator seeking start-up capital; a no holds barred, pit fight with Venture Capitalists and Angel investors (sharp, savvy, opportunity hungry sharks that have little patience for wasted time and useless information). Those with the power to write checks suffer through thousands upon thousands of pitches from all manner of pie in the sky dreamers, all with the next “best thing since sliced bread” idea, and all in a mad scramble for seed money.

When it comes to winning venture funding, bare knuckled entrepreneurs and the tough-as-nails VC’s who hold the purse strings say, when pitching, if you can’t get it done in 7 minutes, then you can’t get it done! That’s a balls-to-the-walls sales training truism that any contender who wants a shot at doing big deals should take to heart. The fact is, you have a miniscule amount of time with which to present your idea (and make it stick) to an impatient heard it all before VC. Under these circumstances you have no choice but to come out swinging and make a big first impression. It’s a lesson that all cold calling hunters should take to heart. Whether pitching for start-up capital or advertising space, chiefs and decision makers (if you have the gumption to call them) can make your month or make your life. And, if you intend to make a real impact and draw first blood, then you’d better steel yourself for the stone cold fact that there are no tomorrows, “tomorrow,” a real closer cashes your check and lives your dream!

In order to put yourself in the right frame of mind to go big game hunting, consider the Elevator Pitch as the only sure fire way to take down an elephant. In VC speak, the elevator pitch has you construct your presentation around the following concept:

Imagine that you are the only one in an elevator at the top floor of one of the best hotels in the city and, before the doors close, in walks a world famous billionaire who you’ve recently read is looking to invest heavily in exciting new ideas and bright, enthusiastic people. As the doors close you realize that you have a private, one-on-one audience with one of the most motivated money-men on the planet, and you have until the elevator gets to the lobby to give that man the pitch of a lifetime. What would you say and how would you say it? How fired up would you be?

Every pitch you deliver should be an Elevator Pitch. Getting face or phone time with a Chief Executive is a battle all into itself. The sheer determination and mind bending perseverance necessary to gain an opportunity just to go head-to-head with a real decision-maker breaks most sales careers. Why bother going through all the hassle and frustration of trying to get a chief executive on the phone if you’re not going to pitch as if your life depended on it. Make no mistake, the elevator pitch is the single most powerful and effective method ever conceived for presenting to those who have the power to decide, so sharpen your blade and be ready to pitch the dream at a moment’s notice. And, when the doors inevitably open on what should be the elevator ride of your life, just remember one thing: don’t forget to close!

Obligate or Terminate

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I’d like to share with you a conviction I hold that has served me exceedingly well throughout my career:

You cannot blow a deal you never had!

That brilliant little axiom has kept me alert and aware, on-edge and frosty. It has allowed me to cut through the bullshit and consistently separate the prospects from the suspects. Most importantly, dedication to this truism has kept me from wasting my time with time-wasters.

Too many salespeople put their faith in maybes, might do’s, and other various process extending excuses when trying to bag an elephant. Ever concerned that they may ruffle the feathers of their prospects, the mediocre tend to act more like messengers than closers, substituting desperate prayers to the deal gods in place of a zealous effort to gain commitment. Pretenders will go to all sorts of ridiculous lengths to avoid giving their prospects a bold faced ultimatum to “shit or get off the pot,” just so as not to offend, rankle or upset the customer, or rupture the deal.

Do not throw your lot in with this band of cowards. Do not leave the outcome of your deals to luck or worse, fate, as she will most likely kick you in the nuts every chance she gets! Take control of your destiny and dedicate yourself to becoming a first-class finisher. Never mind the namby-pamby, kid gloves approach, remember, “he who dares wins!”

So, when your prospect’s reply to a closing question is a veritable non-answer like “we’ll see” or a vague diversion designed to jog you on and pull their own ass out of the pressure cooker, do your customer and yourself a big favor, ask them to either put their balls on the line and take action or admit that they are just not that interested in what you have to offer. And, when an apparent condition (not an excuse) stands in the way of sealing a deal on the first conversation, attempt to make the deal conditional that will flush out the liars from the buyers every single time. Obligate or terminate!

Here’s the gospel truth, if your prospect is not sold or in love with your idea, if you haven’t managed to get him fired up about what you do and how you do it, then it matters not how relentlessly you close or how delicately you tread, the deal is DOA regardless! Any customer that tells you, after pressing them for a decision or some form of conditional obligation, that they are not going to move forward because you are too “pushy” or because you are “pressuring” them, was never, ever going to do the deal in the first place.

Prospects that cry “high pressure” are, quite frankly, full of it. Blaming a deal’s demise on too much pressure is the last gasp of a “suspect” (not a prospect) who is just as reticent to say “yes” for fear of regretting the decision later, as they are apprehensive about saying “no,” heaven forbid it turns out an incredible opportunity passed them by.

Don’t get me wrong, a clumsy, awkward salesman can certainly turn off a legitimate prospect. Acting like a “bull in a china shop,” full of unqualified assumptions and false sincerity during the sales pitch when you should be full of relationship building passion, relevant angles, and professional needs analysis questions will absolutely leave a nasty taste in a prospect’s mouth. And, if you hard close prematurely, before the prospect is sold lock, stock and two smoking barrels, then you will most likely appear inept and gauche. You will be viewed as a rank amateur, the kind who bunglingly endeavors to ram a sale down someone’s throat when they were never sold in the first place. However, if you have wined, dined and delivered one heck of a pitch, if you have sparked a love affair between the prospect and your concept and confirmed as much by asking strong qualifying questions, then it is incumbent upon you to motivate the customer to take action. You owe it to yourself and the prospect to not only present a clear and decisive path, but to confidently prompt and urge him to act on what it is he claims to be enamoured with. Under these circumstances, you are not going to blow anything by asking a prospect to commit. Someone who genuinely wants to buy understands the way business is done and appreciates a professional and firm approach. At worst, the real prospects and true decision-makers will be happy to offer a clear and legitimate explanation as to why they may not be able to move forward straight away and will be completely open to the suggestion that they put some skin in the game by promising action later if certain conditions are met.

By not going weak-kneed, by not cowering like some chicken-shit tenderfoot and avoiding the tough questions and if/then proposals, you are doing your prospects, as well as those that are suspect, a very productive service. For the buyers, you are showing consideration and respect for their position by offering them guidance and giving them what any true decision maker wants and respects: a clear, no-bullshit call to take action, an opportunity to be a decision maker and decide! And, for the liars, you are giving them the opportunity to either save face by blaming your aggressive manner for the deal’s demise (revealing them for the suspects that they are) or to simply admit what it is they were initially too polite to say, that your concept (or pitch) failed to impress and that they have no interest. Goodnight Irene!

Do not stake your career, your victories or your deals on a wing and a prayer. Count on obligation and commitment exclusively, they are your only true friends in a world rife with fear, political correctness and obfuscation. They will expose the ineffectual, the decision-fakers and the bureaucrats as efficiently as their use will garner the respect and loyalty of solid, tough decision-makers, multiplying your relationships with those that matter most (the power players). In the end the world might not always love a closer, but they will forever admire one.

Lawrence Rosenberg

Comfort Zone Coma

Monday, May 31st, 2010

In business as in war, when faced with pain, confrontation or rejection most able-bodied men and women choose to pack up their bags and retreat. For the majority, the fight or flight response is typically activated in favor of turning around and running for the hills as opposed to wading headlong into the storm. And, as selling for a living involves enough pain and rejection to choke a horse, most avoid a sales career as if it were the plague. The rank and file will readily opt for safe, plain vanilla office work or blue-collar humping and lugging before they will ever consider the maverick, kill or be killed lifestyle of a professional closer. Better the monotony (and mirage) of a secure, stable job, one that guarantees a paycheck (no matter how mediocre) than to suffer through the discomfort of having hundreds upon hundreds of doors slammed in your face, and the frustration of an endless string of no’s to live through all day, every day. Never mind the incredible fortune an unrelenting closer is capable of generating, the sheer unpredictability of it all multiplied by the unease at having to push and cajole impatient and uninterested prospects propels your average “Joe the Plumber” to pursue a common, unexceptional job sweeping the streets rather than risking salary and certainty.

Now, I’m not saying that most working stiffs don’t bust their asses in these unremarkable, everyman jobs, far from it. It’s hard work lifting hundred pound cement bags 12 hours a day in the blazing sun. It’s bloody hard work digging ditches on bitter cold days when you’d rather stay in bed and nurse a raging hangover. I recognize and respect the blood, sweat and tears many a man sheds in an attempt to scratch out a life and I understand just how brutally tough and thankless these blue collar existences can be. However, as ball-busting as manual labor most assuredly is, it is also comfortable, as a matter of fact, it’s as comfort zone as you can get. What?! Did you say comfortable?! Are you out of your mind Rosenberg?! Cleaning up construction sites six days a week or digging holes in the ground until your hands are cracked and bleeding is anything but comfortable I hear some of you shouting, so let me make this perfectly clear: Is it grindingly hard work? Absolutely! Hernia-popping? Without question! Thankless and unrewarding? Undoubtedly. Proletarian toil is all that and more, but it is also comfortable – it is comfortable because it is routine.

Wake up, dig the ditch, don’t think, don’t question, punch the clock, day in and day out – a robot’s existence ad infinitum. And, let’s not forget the money. That unfulfilling, unrewarding, uninspiring remuneration you call a paycheck waits patiently for you at the end of every week, regardless of the heights to which you’ve risen or the lows to which you’ve sunk, that hourly wage is set in stone. No risk of blowing it, no risk of failure, no risk of going hungry if you don’t dig the day’s targeted number of holes, no reward for digging any more ditches than your colleagues because you’re faster, stronger and more ambitious – just follow the routine and all those nickels and dimes are yours, guaranteed! Waiting tables, flipping burgers, sweeping the streets, it’s no one’s idea of paradise. In truth, it’s a tough existence with few prospects or possibility – but it is safe, it is secure, and it is comfortable.

People sacrifice their hopes and dreams every day of the week, selling their souls for the safe road, the routine, the path of least resistance. They sell out at the expense of a future because for most failure and rejection are far more painstaking and heartbreaking in the short term.

Making it as a sales professional on the other hand, well that’s just as hard as laying bricks, but it is also extremely uncomfortable. Risking a paycheck and a safe, routine job in favor of taking your shot and going for broke as a fly by the seat of your pants, gun-slinging, “eat what you kill” closer is anathema to the herd. The resistance and rejection, the struggle to win, is mind-cracking and rife with the type of fear (fear of the unknown) that the common man refuses to face. Fear of loss, fear of rejection fear of the word “no.” No, I do not have the time to listen to your sales pitch! No, we do not have a deal!

No, there isn’t a commission check waiting for you at the end of the month!

That kind of existence is way too intimidating, uncomfortable and unnerving for most. For the huddled masses, mediocrity and invisibility is preferable to a life filled to the rafters with rejection and the never-ending possibility of failure after failure.

Even those with the courage to take a shot at a sales career are not immune to the comfort zone coma. The unwillingness to get uncomfortable and slug it out on the path of maximum resistance is the single biggest reason why most salespeople completely fail in their attempts to generate the kind of income possible from what would otherwise be home-run money-spinning career. It’s frustrating and uncomfortable spending months trying to bash through or find a clever way around a hardened gatekeeper in order to get the real decision-maker on the phone, instead of giving up and pitching the boss’s minions. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable rebutting all manner of objections and closing over and over again well after the prospect has already told you “no,” or worse: “maybe later”. It is so much easier to take the path of least resistance, even if, in the long term, the pain and frustration of not having all the things you dream about far exceeds the short term discomfort you feel when you willingly put yourself into edgy situations with prospects or push yourself beyond the cold calling pain-barrier to work harder, longer and more intensely than your competition.

As a professional closer there comes a moment, often many, many times a day, where you are faced with two roads, one leads you to the comfort zone, the other to pain, frustration and discomfort. One road is safe, easy and comfortably numb, the other prickly and unnerving. One leads to perpetual misgiving and underachievement, the other to glory, money and power. Be that as it may, in the heat of the moment, when faced with the choice of which road to choose most are blinded as to just where these two divergent paths will lead. When the moment of truth arrives and you are forced to decide whether or not to wake up two hours earlier, whether or not to stay at the office a few hours later or whether or not to ask for the business one more time and risk the ire and invective of your prospect, all that most really see is the immediate pain and discomfort that taking the distressful action will generate. However, you don’t have to go down without a fight, this can be your Damascene moment – the instant when you choose to change everything. The very second your mind conceptualizes that your actions will lead to pain and discomfort is the instant when you must walk into the knife pointed at your throat!

The unnerving sensations that a distressing situation produces is not a warning to back away, it is your signal to advance, to move forward. How do you know that your actions will lead to long term achievement or to phenomenal success? If it is bristling and uncomfortable then it is the right path, period, end of! Let the short term discomfort and uneasy feelings that taking overt and aggressive action generates be your guide to knowing exactly what to do and when the hell to do it. And, when an opportunity arises to take the hard way in or the coward’s way out, press on with the tough route, the bumpy road, have the mettle to get hardcore and uncomfortable.

If your job does not present you with unsettling, unnerving predicaments daily, situations where to do might mean to die, then you are wasting your time and wasting away, doing only what it takes to exist. In order to ensure a booming and prosperous future, one where you call the shots, set the terms and reap the bounty, your actions must lead you down the path that the listless are too tired to walk and the gutless too fearful to tread.

Lawrence Rosenberg