Tag Archives: Sales Strategies

Great Sales Sins – Trashing Your Competition

“Hi Bob, have you tried “natural” male enhancement? I saw the commercial on TV last night and immediately thought of you”

“Wow Barbara, that dress looks great. Did you get it in the “big girls” section at Lane Bryant?”

“So the wife and I just joined a swingers club……”

I would hope the readers of this blog would agree that these are lines that would exude a certain level of awkwardness and discomfort if they appeared in casual conversation.

However, as sales professionals we can generate similar feelings of discomfort with our prospects if we start to trash our competition.

I hate to burst your bubble, but you remember that great conversation you had where you felt like you and the prospect really “connected” and you shared how your competitor’s solution has been linked to Herpes Simplex 10?

Well here’s a news flash, your competitor had that same “connecting” conversation and when the subject of your company came up, he responded this with this:

“You are looking at ACME? You know they do very well in Java shops and I’ve seen some good press on them. However, knowing your internal infrastructure, project requirements, and with the fact that your CEO is sponsoring this project, I am confident that our solution, along with the reputation of our company, will not only surpass your technical needs, but offer a degree of comfort and validation that you are doing business with the industry leader.”

See the difference? Herpes vs. Industry Leader?

You should always feel comfortable asking your prospects which of your competitors they are evaluating.  If they respond with “Oh, you are the only vendor we are evaluating” you should start panicking because there is no way a serious purchase is going to be made without multiple providers being evaluated, unless, of course, you are Halliburton and you are selling into a Republican administration.

If you prospect is hesitant to give you the names of the others, calm their concerns by saying “The reason I am asking is that there are a good many vendors who do what we do, in their own unique way, some provide simple, cost-effective solutions while others provider enterprise-grade, robust systems.  If you are looking at vendors with whom I don’t normally compete, then I will know that one of us should not be taking up your time.”

If they still refuse, let it go.

If they ask your opinion about a competitor, start with a complement and then work in how you are different.  See example above.  If you have a good nugget of knowledge, like you replaced another vendor, save that until you get further into the evaluation.  You want to knock a vendor out when you are one of three, not when you are one of ten.

If you want an interesting exercise, call some prospects who went with the other guy and ask them “What do you enjoy about the system you picked?”  If you stay friendly, and polite, they will sometimes start slipping in the things they don’t like about your competitor as well.

Good luck.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

October 18, 2012 · 8:05 pm

Great Sales Sins – Trashing Your Competition

“Hi Bob, have you tried “natural” male enhancement? I saw the commercial on TV last night and immediately thought of you”

“Wow Barbara, that dress looks great. Did you get it in the “big girls” section at Lane Bryant?”

“So the wife and I just joined a swingers club……”

I would hope the readers of this blog would agree that these are lines that would exude a certain level of awkwardness and discomfort if they appeared in casual conversation.

However, as sales professionals we can generate similar feelings of discomfort with our prospects if we start to trash our competition.

I hate to burst your bubble, but you remember that great conversation you had where you felt like you and the prospect really “connected” and you shared how your competitor’s solution has been linked to Herpes Simplex 10?

Well here’s a news flash, your competitor had that same “connecting” conversation and when the subject of your company came up, he responded this with this:

“You are looking at ACME? You know they do very well in Java shops and I’ve seen some good press on them. However, knowing your internal infrastructure, project requirements, and with the fact that your CEO is sponsoring this project, I am confident that our solution, along with the reputation of our company, will not only surpass your technical needs, but offer a degree of comfort and validation that you are doing business with the industry leader.”

See the difference? Herpes vs. Industry Leader?

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Humor, Sales Strategies

Great Sales Sins – Spaghetti Selling

Spaghetti Selling is one of the reasons that former programmers make lousy software sales guys or why former bank examiners, or worse, consultants, usually stink at the revenue generation profession. Why?

Well first let’s clarify what we mean by spaghetti selling. You know when you cook spaghetti the easiest way to tell if the noodles are done is to throw on against a wall and see if it sticks, if it does its done. In spaghetti selling, you throw everything you know at your prospect and hope to hell something “sticks”. You pray for the “oh that’s interesting, I didn’t know you did that” moment.

Imagine you wanted to buy a car, and so you go to the dealership. When you get there two people sit you down and tell you the history of the automobile and the dealership, going into great detail about who invented the gasoline engine, when the dealership was started, how the pretty flags got hung in the parking lot, etc. Then after about 30 minutes, they start with the first car you come to and then show you ever other car on the lot. Then after the last car, you leave, they proclaim “call us if you want to buy something”.

When our sales teams competed against the bigger names in the business, a common complaint would be “they spent an hour talking about the history of their company, our CTO left after thirty min”. We loved these types of accounts!  We also found that our teams who kept their presentations relevant and focused on the needs of the client where far more successful than those who spent the first 20% of the meeting talking about the history, management, and market position of our company.

One of my prospects, who is now a client, shared with me at the start of our first meeting “What is it with you sales guys?  You are all the same.  I’ve had three presentations start with “Hey we are going to blow through a few slides then get into the good stuff.”  Then the first thirty minutes are spent talking about the least relevant and boring things.

I quickly turned to my Sales Engineer and said “Ixnay on the ideslay”.  We started the meeting with a dialogue with the client team and let that guide our presentation.  Not only was it far more effective for us, but we were able to expand the project so that it more closely fit our solution.

I am a big proponent of having only one slide dedicated to intros about you and your company, quite frankly the prospect has access to Google and can know everything they need about your company within a few clicks, don’t waste their time discussing the obvious.

To test your sales pitch for “spaghetti” find a big dude, someone bigger than you, to sit in on a practice pitch. The reason you want them bigger than you is because after a few minutes your desire to kick the crap out them will be overwhelming, and smaller people have a tendency to sue when you do that to them.

After each point in your pitch have the big dude yell at you “So what?”  Ex. “We have a virtual XML layer native to our architecture.”  Big Dude “So What?”  You “This will provide the ability to get broader distribution and use out of your content quickly and more cost effectively than other systems”.  If you do not have a credible reply, remove the point from your presentation.

Of course, this starts with effective listening. Know why the prospect is talking with you.  What problem is the client trying to solve?  What is the pain they are experiencing now? What are the direct and indirect costs of this pain?  Do they have written requirements? Whose budget will pay for this?  Who is the executive in charge of that budget?  What is their timeframe for making the decision?

To get you started, build one powerpoint slide with three bullet points and the title “We are to here to talk about….” With the following bullet points:

  • How we can help you <insert solution to primary problem> Example “How we can help you make your web presence more effective while lowering your operating costs
  • <secondary problem> How we can help you stay compliant with internal and external audit requirements, while speeding the flow of information internally
  • <monetary benefit> How we can allow your organization to accommodate future growth while maintaining a constant cost of ownership

Three bullet points that is it.  Trust me, the first time you build this slide it will be exhausting, because you will really have to dig deep into the client’s mindset to build this slide.  But once you do, you will have the attention of everyone in that conference room (or webex).

Good luck.

1 Comment

Filed under Business Humor, Great Sales Sins, Sales Presentations, Sales Strategies

The Wisdom of the Gatekeeper

One of the daily challenges for any sales warrior is trying to manage the position of the gatekeeper. These trained professionals a.k.a. “The Sales Prevention Team” are highly skilled at keeping us from sharing our incredible value with some of the most important business leaders in our territories.

After much begging, pleading, cajoling, and water boarding (just kidding), one of our favorite gatekeepers agreed to share a small amount of her infinite wisdom on how we should treat those who stand between us and our decision makers.

-From Michele Doucette – Gatekeeper Supreme

Having been a “hardcore” Gatekeeper for over 20 years, I have been asked many times, How does one get past the Gatekeeper? So many sales types are expecting that there is some set of magical words or phrases that will make me abandon my responsibility of protecting my executives and grant open access to some of the most important people in our organization.

Well, that’s not happening.

However there are some key “do’s and “don’ts” that will determine if your company gets included in one of our multi-million dollar projects or if you burned the bridge so badly we wouldn’t include you on a RFP for urinal cakes.

DO. Before calling, find the company’s website and see if they have a “Management Team” link in their “About Us” section. This way you may actually discover the name of the executive you need to reach BEFORE you contact the front desk. READ THIS AGAIN, absorb it into your pores, maybe even write it down. There’s nothing more annoying than hearing a LAZY cubicle monkey ask, “Can I speak to whoever is in charge of making your (fill in the blank) decisions?”

DO. Do speak to us nicely, we have feelings, and more authority than you can even begin to imagine. We deal with awkward phone calls and harassment ALL DAY LONG. We take a lot of abuse from telemarketers, recruiting agencies, irate clients, and occasionally our co-workers. Ask us how our day is going, how the weather is, etc. TRY to sound sincere; it can go a long way in helping you get where you need to go.

DO. Be aware of how Caller ID displays your company name. “Sell Co.” does not have a chance of making it through. If you block the name of your company with “Private Caller”, I will answer, keep you on hold while I Google the name of your company, and then tell you that no one is available. Sasser once suggested we try for “Free Beer, Hot Sex” as our Caller ID Badge. He really does think he’s funny.

DON’T. Don’t bother lying. Saying things like, “I’m returning (fill in the blank)’s call, or “I spoke with so and so last week and they asked me to follow up” just might get you through. BUT, if we find out you lied (the people we are paid to protect WILL let us know of our slipup), you will be our enemy, for life (this life term will not expire, we will remember you and your company LONG after we’ve left our current employer).

The next time you call, we will utter the words every salesperson loathes to hear, “REMOVE US FROM YOUR CALL LIST.” Ahhh, two years of silence from your pathetic spiels. We keep lists of who you are (I personally have a separate folder in my Internet favorites of each offending company’s website bookmarked for future reference) and we WILL contact the Better Business Bureau, the FCC as well as the FTC to file a complaint.

DON’T. DO NOT try to intimidate us. Many a salesperson (both men AND women, SHAME on you women) will revert to Neanderthal intimidation tactics when confronted by a diligent Gatekeeper. NEVER, EVER utter the words, “You’re just the receptionist” in anger, for this will be your death knell. The silence will be deafening just before you hear the almighty “click” of your last chance at getting through. EVER.

In your frustration and fury at my boldness for hanging up, should you feel the urge to call back and wish to speak with MY manager to complain about being treated with the same level of rudeness you instilled on me, (the Gatekeeper reports to EVERYONE, I can pick and choose WHICH manager to send you to), remember this…be careful what you wish for. I have no qualms whatsoever about passing you through, he/she will likely tear you a new one harsher than I because now you’re wasting both my time and THEIRS.

EXTRA CREDIT. If English is your second language and I have a hard time understanding you, YOU WILL NOT MAKE IT THROUGH. The kiss of death is to call, speaking in broken English, then ask for “whoever makes the decision on <insert topic here>”.

However, this may be a personal preference, but if you can affect an intriguing accent such as British, Scottish or Australian accent, you have a better shot at getting through a female receptionist. American women LOVE a bit of the brogue! Use words like lass, blimey, bits, ta, crikey, toodle pip and cheers. You will hear our voice light up! This will make it easier for you to “bond” with her while trying to “fish” for pertinent information.

A deep Southern accent, with a lot of “y’alls” and grammar that reinforces the fact that Georgia ranks 50th in SAT scores will not help. Mention that you have a blog, and I will hang up on you.

Thank you for calling and have a nice day,
Michele the Gatekeeper

Michele is currently protecting her executive team at a software company based in Boston, MA.

1 Comment

Filed under Business Humor, Sales Strategies