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The Sales Cafe
A Place to Get Smarter about Sales

Today’s Special – Friday, April 1, 2011

A list of sales and marketing linksNo foolishness at The Sales Cafe today. We’ve got far too much reality to spend time creating silly pranks. A little too crankypants for you? Just working through our email offered enough hijinks for one day, even if it’s only one day a year. If you enjoy tomfoolery, the New York Times’ David Pogue serves up the best of the Web for the day.


Here in The Sales Cafe, well, we’ve got a lot of work to do, like getting the new and improved site launched (really, that’s not a joke) and providing you with a short list of hot links (no jokes included):

1. Transform Your Salesforce from Inside-Out to Outside-In. Does your company operate Inside-Out or Outside-In? Do you even know what that means? Well, here’s a white paper from ELA Consulting Group that has all, well, many of, the answers.

2. Why Sales is Still Missing from Social CRM. Selling Outside-In requires a lot of communication with your customers. Makes sense that social media would be a great way for sales people to connect with current clients and prospects, right? Not yet, it seems. This article spells out why.

3. Why modern sales practices are illogical. Sales expert Sharon Drew Morgen gets right to the heart of the matter in this blog post:  If our sales practices achieve a less than 10% close rate, why are we still doing them? Morgen’s Buying Facilitation ™ offers a better solution.

That’s it for now. We are really hard at work creating a new site, with lots of features and interesting content. We’ll ask you to visit there soon.



Today’s Special – Spring, Surveys and Sales

It’s finally Spring! We don’t know about you, but here at The Sales Cafe, we are mighty excited and a bit relieved to hear the birds singing again. Not sure what to do with the moss from all the rain, but that comes with the territory.

There will be no moss growing when the new, improved Sales Cafe launches. We are behind the scenes getting the place ready to open. In the meantime, we thought we’d get the specials out for today — a mishmash of sales information including a Webinar, a survey of information and a survey to t to get your week in gear:

1. 10-minute Guide to Annual Reports Webinar. Here’s a show that we don’t want to miss. One of the most valuable tools in a salesperson’s box is the Annual Report. It always includes an income statement and critical information on trends, performance, objectives and goals for the coming year – all information a savvy salesperson can use to gain insight into budget allocation and decision-making priorities of key prospects and customers.

2. OneAccord SMB Business Survey Results. Things are looking up, according to consultant group, OneAccord. Fifty-five percent of the SMB leaders they surveyed are optimistic about their business strategy in 2011; 79% expect higher revenue growth.

3. Take the CSO Insights Survey. Take out your (virtual) No. 2 pencils! Finally, here’s a chance to participate in one of the industry’s most valued research:  the CSO Insights’ 2011 Sales Management Optimization survey. As a “Thank You” for your time, the folks there will send you a copy of a 100+ page study analysis when it is published in April.

Sales 2.0 – what about the buyer-seller conversation?

Last week’s amazing Sales 2.0 conference has me contemplating the trendmeisters’ predictions of the demise of the salesperson as we know it (Headline: 15 million sales jobs in the US will be destroyed in this decade). First, I believe the headline is true, or mostly true. It’s already happened in B2C. It will happen in B2B. You can give me every reason in the world why machines won’t replace salespeople, but you’d be denying everything that’s going on around you.

What will the world will be like when the brilliant technology of a very-soon-tomorrow takes one of the two humans out of the buyer-seller conversation? Will the engineers remember to program in a little empathy for the buyer? Will their frustrations over not being able to find an answer to a simple (or complex) question, not knowing how to reach a decision, or not understanding how an offer connects to their problem be understood by the computer they’re interacting with? I sure hope so. Or are we just going to electronically feature and benefit at each other using the worst of our current human-human processes?

Here’s a little bit of experience that happened just a few hours ago. I got a cold call from someone. Being in sales training business, I think it’s morally correct to take cold calls. As usual, I was crazed. About 10 seconds into the call, the salesperson said, “It sounds like you’re really busy, should we talk later?” Empathy – just a little bit, and I appreciated its simplicity. The spam her competitor sent this morning (yes, her competitor did spam me) had no empathy. It was in-my-face, look what I can do, look at what all of your successful colleagues are saying – the usual crap.

I’m not advocating for a return to cold calls. The world has done away with them and good riddance, too. But this experience of mine is a small snowflake on the tip of the iceberg. In one part of the buyer-seller conversation, we’ve lost empathy. That is, unless you believe that the spam was a serious attempt at getting a conversation going……

Today’s Special – It’s a Sales 2.0 World

Here at the Sales Cafe, we have been obsessed for a whole week now. We can’t stop talking up both the notion and promise of Sales 2.0 we experienced at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. Not sure just what Sales 2.0 is? Well, that’s been the hot topic over lattes here and we’d like to help out. Here are a few links culled from our time spent at the conference and researching:

Sales 2.0 Conference 1. 8 Impressions and Practical Tips on Sales 2.0. Direct from the conference, here is a fine wrap up of the buzz from the two-day forum. One of the most provocative statements came early Day 1 from conference host and emcee, Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and CEO of Selling Power, when he proclaimed: “Of the 18 million salespeople in 2011 in the USA, less than 3 million will be needed for these jobs in 2020.”

2. Sales 2.0 Technology. Okay, so there is not one single link we can post here to show a round up of the technology developing as a result of Sales 2.0. (If you know of one, please post it in the comments below.) Many would say that it starts with cloud-based, SaaS hero Others will tout the multiple CRM vendors who were (Oracle On Demand) and were not there. What’s a bit mind numbing is the tiny pieces of the overall puzzle:  data providers (Hoovers, OneSource, Jigsaw), presentation technology (Brainshark) and deal collaboration management software (Magnet), to name just a few.

3. Provocation-based Selling: proving pain does not close a sale. Speaking of provocative statements, our hero, Sharon Drew Morgen, takes on the ultimate business guru (and her very own hero), Geoffrey Moore, in a blog post that questions the “conventional hype that buyers must discover their pain in order to be ready to buy.” Essential reading and thought provoking for Sales 2.0 mavens.

And, finally, our other obsession is following the coverage, both online and onTV of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It could happen anywhere, really. The Sales Cafe offers a moment of silence for the people of Japan. Disaster has truly struck in the Pacific.

The Sales Detective – Lessons from a Cabinet Maker

By Bob Davis

A few years ago my wife and I went looking for some new kitchen cabinets. We visited several showrooms and announced, “We’d like to see some cabinets.” The salespeople responded by demonstrating their cabinets.  Their product knowledge was of the highest order. They all could describe the wood used, construction details, and hardware options. Enthusiastic presentations were typical. By the end of these presentations we had enough product information to convince us that the cabinets described were well made and, therefore, expensive. We did what all customers have been trained to do. We asked. . .

  • What does it cost?
  • Can we get it for less with different hardware?
  • How big is your discount?

By the end of the day we had an armload of product brochures and lots of price quotes. We were truly proud of ourselves as comparison shoppers. We were

Kitchen cabinet display in a store in 2009. Fo...

Image via Wikipedia

determined to get the best product at the lowest price.  Does this customer sound familiar to you?

At the last a cabinet shop, we approached an older gentlemen wearing baggy tan pants with a folded wooden ruler in his back pocket.  “Can I help you?” he asked the carpenter pants .

Confident in our abilities as wise customers, my wife and I said, “We’d like to see some cabinets.” With a slow, sweeping wave of his arm toward the cabinets behind him, the older gentlemen said, “We have lots of cabinets that I’ll be glad to show you.” Then he did something strikingly different from the other cabinet salespeople. Rather than walking over to the cabinets, he turned to us and said, “Would you mind if I asked you a few questions first? If I understand what you’re trying to accomplish, I’ll be able to point you toward the best cabinets for you.”

My wife and I felt our comparison shopping method was coming to a screeching halt. Oddly enough, we didn’t mind, because this older gentlemen was the first person who expressed interest in finding out what was on our minds.  His cabinets were secondary to our goals in making a change to our kitchen.

While this older gentlemen may never have taken the seminar I teach–Wilson Learning’s “Counselor Salesperson”, which teaches sales people to be consultative–he was doing it. (Too many people like that on the street and my business is in trouble!) There was no lack of product knowledge in Marco, as we discovered later when he explained how his cabinets and other services addressed our problems. The skills he demonstrated led him to sell us a complete kitchen renovation and brought a halt to our comparison shopping. He did this by demonstrating that he wanted to solve our problem, not just sell us a product.

Let’s examine how he accomplished the sale and differentiated himself:

  • Other cabinet salespeople were dressed in a suit and tie. This gentleman wore tan pants with a wooden ruler in his back pocket. His hands were calloused, as you would expect from someone who actually did carpentry. He listened to us and understood we were not technical experts on carpentry.
  • As we described our situation, he told us stories about other customers in similar situations. He had a picture book of work he had done on their kitchens.
  • He discussed his feelings about quality only after we brought up its importance to us. Consistently, he would discuss his values in kitchen remodeling only after we brought up the topic.
  • He always made it clear that his desire was to help by giving us a clear value propositions for everything he asked us to do. During our first visit, for example, he requested to visit our existing kitchen by saying:

“I’d like to look at your current kitchen to be able to draw an accurate model of your new kitchen. I’ll come to your home, ask you some questions about what you’re trying to accomplish and take some measurements.  This will allow me to create a drawing of the new kitchen you want. This will give you a clear picture of the kind of work I can do and allow you to decide if we should work together.”

The Sales Detective lesson:

Customers are less interested in the technical specs of your product than in how it solves their problem. As Ted Levitt the renowned marketing guru from Harvard once said, “People don’t buy ¼ inch drills, they buy ¼ inch holes.” Sell what it does, not what it is!

The Sales Detective – The Ultimate Guide to Sales Planning

If You Plan Something, It’s More Likely To Happen

by Bob Davis

Alice came to the Cheshire Cat sitting on the bough of a tree and said, “Would you tell me please which way I ought to walk from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk,” said the Cat. “So long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if only you walk long enough.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Salesperson In Wonderland

In selling, we all have had days like Alice. We know we want to get somewhere, but we never sit down and thoroughly plan the where, what and how. Sure we find the customer’s place of business, but do we really develop a clear picture of the outcome we desire from the day’s activity?

If you have ever had a sales day when you felt like you were walking in sand, working hard and getting nowhere fast, read on. You may discover a whole new way of thinking about call outcomes.

We present an outcome-based sales call planning approach that is also customer focused. To accomplish this, we re-examine and re-frame the words, Goal, Objective and Tactic. By the end, you will have a quick method of sales call planning that allows you to measure your success and congratulate yourself for success more often.

The End of the Road

Goal — A measurable long-term outcome in the sales process.

The goal is the big picture, that is, where you ultimately want to be in the account. It is not what you plan to accomplish today. The goal helps you focus on what you want to accomplish at a point in time in the future.


“X” % of “Y” products used by this customer will be ours by the end of the 2nd Q

All users will specify our “Z” product on all “Y” applications

Only If You Faint First

Objective: A planned, measurable customer action that moves you toward your sales goal.

I frequently work in the field with salespeople in a variety of industries. One of my standard questions is, “What’s the objective of this sales call?” The response almost always sounds like, “To tell the account about X.” If we plan objectives like this, we aren’t being tough enough on ourselves. The only way we could fail is if we fainted half way through the product presentation.

Objectives should state what the customer will do, not what we will do. What we will do is our tactics. What the customer will do is the objective. Customer action is what we should always plan for in a sales call.

Buy Yourself a Rubber Stamp

Why do we focus on our activity (tactics) rather than the customers (objective)?  Listen to yourself as you tell your manager about an upcoming sales call.  Don’t be surprised if it sounds like “First, I’ll . . . . Then I’ll . . . . etc.” We often become self-focused rather than customer-focused in our sales call planning. Let’s present some guidelines for outcome based, customer focused sales call planning. Objectives should be:

Measurable. You must be able to say what did or did not happen. This will allow you to measure your success and congratulate yourself for a customer action that will lead toward the sale. Examples are — the customer will:

  • Set a meeting with the key stakeholders.
  • Commit to a product evaluation for one week.
  • Support a conversion to our product at the committee meeting.
  • Agree to a cost analysis

Realistic. You must be able to accomplish it on this call. While you want that product conversion, don’t forget that’s your goal, not always the objective of today’s call. Having a decision influencer call the key decision maker suggesting an appointment with you might be a better objective, because it can happen today.

Customer Focused. Customer activity (objective) should be planned for before you plan what you are going to do (tactics). The  desired customer outcome will drive your tactic. There is a simple formula to assure a customer focused objective every time.  Start all your call plans with — As a result of this call, the customer will . . . .

  • Write a letter to . . . .
  • Describe the evaluation criteria. . . .
  • Introduce me to . . . .
  • Let me observe . . . .
  • Support a conversion to our product at the committee meeting
  • Agree to a cost analysis

The key to success is to always think, “As a result of this call,” followed by a “do” word (i.e. action verb). We get paid in sales to create customer activity. Buy yourself a rubber-stamp that says, “As A Result of This Call, the Customer Will . . . .”, to help you implant this mental model. This will assure that you generate more income by staying focused on customer activity.

Can I Focus On Me Now?

Tactic: The salesperson’s planned activities that will lead to customer action.

If we don’t plan our tactic last, we will be as confused as Alice in her earlier discussion with the Cheshire Cat.  Desired customer outcome should always drive our behavior in selling. Now that we have defined that outcome (objective), we can plan what we will do.  Example of tactics are, I will . . . .

  • Ask about the challenges they face when . . . .
  • Ask how they would change the current system. . . .
  • Demonstrate appropriate use of X to . . . .
  • Perform an inventory analysis of . . . .
  • Describe our value added services and their impact on. . . .

If You Plan Something, It’s More Likely To Happen (Revisited)

Dennis Waitley, a motivational psychologist and well-known business speaker once said, “What the mind imagines, the body manifests.” We all recognize the correctness of this on the negative side. The child who is told, “You’re a bad girl/boy” becomes a bad girl/boy because we’ve created that model in their mind. Let’s look at the positive side of what Dennis Waitley has to say.  If you plan your goals, objectives and tactics, they are more likely to happen.  Using the planning guidelines we’ve offered, you can create the mental models needed to help you envision and implement customer focused outcomes.

The Sales Detective lesson:

Always plan calls by starting with the big picture goal, followed by the commitment/action you expect from the customer — then, and only then, plan your tactics!