Hey tech sellers. Nick and Paul back again. Today we briefly chat about this whole “managing the pipe” thing.
Right, and what's the sort of big problems you're finding?
One of the issues we are finding is that some companies get good at having disciplines on how they look at the sales pipe, and understandably what they do is spend time and energy at the closing end, around sales proposals and closing the deal, and that's important.
Yeah as that’s how you get the money.
Yeah, get the money and get over the line, but sometimes that causes lack of focus on the top part of the pipeline, which is where your leads and opportunities are. So, what could happen is you can be so focused on getting the deals over the line, you forget you need to be doing some work on the leads, to qualify them, understand opportunities and keep in touch with them.
This is so that when we do manage to get some of those closing deals over the line, we don't end up with this big “lull", and that we keep our whole pipe moving.
Which impacts cash flow and all of that.
Yep, because if we don’t promote, or qualify stuff at the top of the pipe enough, we're going to lag and that's a terrible thing, as you say, the cash flow stuff comes into play.
There’s lots of you out there that go through the peaks and troughs of the sales as we have briefly described, and as we mentioned last week, we can identify gaps and opportunities for you quickly.
A couple of hours with a good sales audit process will give you that picture. A good place to start, understanding where you are at right now.
So, if you aren’t already, “manage both ends of the pipe.”
We all get excited about making sales and getting deals over the line. But what about after the yes? What about making sure they remain a customer and you keep doing business with them?
Do the numbers:
Play the odds. The benefits of having an account management framework in place are huge. It should be a crucial part of your sales strategy. Yet it’s often an afterthought or largely neglected unless a customer starts yelling or threatens to leave. Good luck retaining a customer who’s got to this point!
Building lasting relationships with customers helps sustain your business and makes it hard for your competitors. Companies that do this well get themselves into a trusted advisor position. Not only is this good for sales, it’s an enjoyable way to conduct business, often leading to enduring friendships.
Developing an account management framework is not hard to do. Essentially it’s putting a bit of structure around how you organise and track key interactions with your customers. Typical activities include arranging for your exec team to meet periodically with your key customers’ exec to discuss performance, product or service development and industry trends, ensuring there is regular contact with the customer and the sales team reviewing the status of each customer on a monthly basis.
Another dimension of account management is to surprise and delight the customer –send them an article on something they’re interested in (work or non-work related), invite them to a seminar or send them a thank you note or a good book. The only real cost of taking this approach is a bit of effort. The benefits will far outweigh the cost.
Play the odds. Look after you customers.
Watch our video below and learn more about how to look after your customers "after the yes".
Hi, Nick here again from Sell More Tech. I want to talk about the power of storytelling.
Stories are real and people get them
There's lots of research now that supports that people remember things and get inspired by stories that they can make a link to. I'm sure you can think of some stories that you've heard that do that for you.
I just think back to my first hi tech sale, to a C suite person, who just didn't believe in the product. So I said to her, "Just watch, let us prove it." And I've used this story many times over. She simply did not believe. So she watched the product at work so to speak and came back and said, "Hey, I get it now, you've proven it to us." And I've used the power of that real story with equivalent roles, selling again. Absolutely works a trick because they can totally relate to it themselves.
Potential customers love the power of the story where you're telling them that the solution that you have makes a really big difference. And as it’s directly relevant to them, it really reinforces that.
Take the story to the next level - let the customer tell it to your prospect
And it’s even more effective if you then say to them that they can have a chat to that customer. Now that's an incredibly powerful way to sell. It's a story that gets people interested, it gets them engaged and they're now prepared to go and do a bit of hard work to make it happen. Talk to that person and the opportunity for you to engage meaningfully and make a sale go quickly and well.
I would encourage you in your travels to keep a note of really good stories that potential customers can relate to, because it will help you with your sales. And on that note, we've written a “five insights” document covering this and other sales tips. So go onto sellmoretech.biz and sign up and enjoy.
Paul here from Sell More Tech. We’re often asked what the key attributes of effective sales people are.
The first attribute that springs to mind is persistence. Some deals particularly B2B can take a while for all sort of reasons from the prospect taking a long time to make up their mind to waiting on budget to be approved to the prospect being genuinely too busy with other projects.
Regardless, you need to keep knocking on the door until you confirm a yes or a no. Hence you need a fat sales pipeline so you can get on with other opportunities in the meantime.
Be a curious listener
You've got to be a good listener, and when I say a good listener, you've got to be genuinely curious and interested in the prospects you want to do business with.
As part of this you need to become adept at getting into their shoes to understand what their pain points are so you can develop a relevant and compelling pitch. Show them you’ve done your homework, you understand their key issues and how you can help make them more successful.
Be great at developing relationships
The other key attribute is you've not only got enjoy relationships, you’ve to be great at building and nurturing them. The reason for this is simple. Its effective relationships that generate sales and repeat business, not hard sell tactics.
Hunt as a team
It’s often a good idea to work in tandem with members of your technical team (sometimes the founder) when hunting sales. It can be very effective to have the sales person navigate the sales process and the relationships and then bring in one of the technical team to talk about the technical aspects of the solution or product.
Other benefits of adopting this approach are it’s a more enjoyable experience working together, it builds teamwork, you can provide each other with feedback and it can be good for the sales person, particularly if you only have one, as it can be a lonely gig at times.
More tips and thoughts on sales can be found by downloading our free guide and you can sign up to receive regular updates.
Nick Burns from Sell More Tech here again. Today I'm going to talk about buyer behaviour, and a couple of facets of that. Often when people sell, particularly technical products, they focus on all the technical stuff - The cool algorithms or functions that it does. That's quite natural to a technical person to focus on those things.
The problem with doing that is, the audience doesn't look at that stuff first. That actually comes second. What comes first is the emotional side. You would have all heard that we've got two sides to our brain. Left brain, which is logical, and right brain, which is emotional.
If you try to sell with the logical side first by showing all these features and cool technical stuff, you're not actually guaranteed you're going to hook the end user. Unless they're a real technical person themselves who likes that sort of stuff. What you need to do is, you need to tap into the emotions of the buyer, which is the right brain.
Taking that a step further, have you ever thought about whether pain is more important to someone, or gain? In other words, avoiding something that hurts, or running towards something that's a pleasure. Again, a lot of people think you need to sell the pleasure side - What's good about this product or service and what you will benefit from it.
The reality is though that we're twice as motivated to avoid pain.
Therefore, questions like, "Tell me about your challenges", and, "What's keeping you awake at night?", just to use those two, are great questions to talk about. If you can probe in those areas, you're going to find emotional hooks around pain that you can then describe how your features, so using the left brain, will solve that pain.
By doing it that way, tapping into the emotions and particularly areas of pain, you're more likely to speed up and get the sale because you will get the buyer emotionally attached, and confident that you can solve their problem. Then you hammer the sale home with all the logical stuff that they're going to like, which I'll talk about in a future recording.
No-one in business has bottomless pockets so it is important for you to focus on the right places to put your money. The more you spread your wings, the more you will need to effectively manage your time and money,
I would suggest signing up for a free version of a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM). To this day I continue to use a free CRM.
You need a CRM as it allows you to record, measure and access all sales activity. In turn, that enables you to answer fundamental questions on how to manage sales, namely:
• How many prospects do you have in play?
• What stage of the sales journey is each prospect at?
• What’s the potential value of the deals in play, if known?
• What are the most pressing sales priorities, based on these prospects?
• How effective is your selling?
In short, a CRM provides a framework to manage sales - and you don’t need to be fancy. Like all good technology, a CRM is available free on your mobile device.
Fundamentally though, whether you use a CRM or not, I have learned that every interaction is a potential sale.
One way or another, a person needs to sell something and another person needs to buy it.
The practice of selling is really all about communicating. So why not practice selling EVERY time you communicate.
Why not try communicating clean sheet style by finding out the motivations of your team.
Ask questions to understand and listen, before asking for something or telling people what you want.
So, tech enthusiast, take that passion you have for building the best technology and apply it to building the best relationships.
Next time you have a chat at the water cooler, ask questions, listen to responses and learn how you can help. Then take what you know and apply that to what you have just learned.
You might be surprised at the results you get. And don’t be surprised when you start selling more.
Technical founders and owners often make a real point of being very well prepared with a formal presentation when going to an initial sales meeting.
Through trial and error, I have learned that clean sheet selling can be a much more effective tactic.
I remember the day I went to a meeting at a major healthcare facility and arrived without my prepared presentation.
Panic set in!
Deciding to press on left me with two choices:
I chose the latter, and that meeting was the start of a new and more effective way of selling.
Clean sheet selling can seem intimidating, if you like the security that comes with being super prepared.
However, it is a very effective way of approaching that initial sales meeting, particularly if you go into it with an open mind and a willingness to learn about your audience. You need to be prepared to back yourself. You know your stuff and that means you will be able to communicate what you offer and how that could benefit your audience.
This freer approach is much more interactive and productive; a more formal product presentation runs the risk of losing people from the start.
You shouldn’t be getting into complex descriptions and demonstrations at that first meeting when you have no understanding of how and why that might be of interest to your audience.
In the case of the health care facility, we closed the sale and they became one of our closest and most successful customers. They really valued how we took that time to understand them, rather than just telling them our story with no context.
I continue to use clean sheet selling early in the sales process. And I find that it’s a highly effective tool for fast tracking sales process and creating deeper relationships with customers.
Most people I meet who have founded a tech company are wonderfully passionate about what they do. They have a real fire in their belly for what they are creating.
It is incredibly powerful. In fact, that passion and belief translates into 50% of the sale! That’s because selling is primarily an emotional process.
So how come so many struggle with closing the deal?
Sadly, technical people can often take the wrong path in how they communicate their expertise and their product or service.
One common shortcoming is that they spend too much time talking about what they know and, as a result, fail to connect with their potential buyer or audience.
Sadly, it can lead to a bizarre mismatch in perceptions, with the seller thinking they’ve knocked it out of the park with an awesome technical presentation, without realising the audience has switched off.
I am a technical founder who by default ended up selling as if my life depended on it. Through experience, I became a successful sales person who sold multi-million dollar deals.
One of the insights I’d like to share with you is that when someone says ‘that’s interesting’, it doesn’t mean they are actually ‘interested’.
It is a mistake to respond to that comment by providing more and more information on the product or service. Doing so risks leading you further away from making a sale.
It is far better to take the time to clarify what your audience likes about your solution.
Simply put, regularly pause and ask for feedback. Then discuss that feedback with the people in fornt of you.
Most of the time you will find you need to pivot or change direction on your presentation and that can be scary at first. Be confident - you know your stuff - so you can always backtrack to where you were once you’ve answered questions and continue from there.
It was great to be the keynote speaker this week at Christchurch NZ's Hi-Growth Launch Program Graduation. Having been through a previous version of that some years ago, and with an exit under my belt, I was asked to just provide some thoughts. And my theme was, thinking about it, was what these programs do, all the good work that these various bodies do to help companies grow, is it's to help companies “run the right lines.”
When you watch really good sports teams, artists, business people for that matter, they always make it look easy. They always look like they've got time. And of course, they run the right lines. And I go to a lot of sporting events and analyze the really good sports people, and they always run the right lines. And that's what I think these sort of programs do for businesses. And particularly in New Zealand, companies need to ask because there's all this great help out there for them.
I talked about my journey with the program, and there were three key takeaways for me. The first is “you don't know what you don't know”, and again, you need to ask for help. If you let the ego get in the way, you can end up making some really big mistakes, so it's actually a strength to ask for help.
Secondly, it all comes down to value. We read all the time about our value proposition, but it's exactly right. You’ve got to know what the value to your customer is and who is the customer. Often, a lot of high tech founders tend to focus on what they do in the core technology they’ve got, rather than the value it creates and for whom their value is.
Thirdly, the biggest and most important thing is about collaboration, working with people. I put a slide up that said collaboration equals multiplication. Just working with other people you can end up creating so much greater than you could ever do by yourself. And it just reinforces the power of learning.
It was a great honor to talk at this event, with 10 great companies including the company I'm mentoring, Well Health. Its going to be great to see them all continue to run the right lines in the future.
Once you've nutted out your value proposition, the tendency is to get excited (and why wouldn’t you?) and want to tell your prospects what you can offer and how good it will be for them.
Know their issues and problems
But there's a step before this and that’s to do your homework. Take the time to really understand what makes your prospects tick. What are their key business priorities? What are their most pressing needs? What major projects or developments do they have in flight? What issues or problems are they currently dealing with?
Researching companies or consumers is relatively straightforward as there are so many sources of information -websites, social media platforms, LinkedIn, your networks and don’t forget company annual reports and news items.
Show them you understand
Armed with insights from your research you are in a strong position to engage in a meaningful manner. Companies and consumers like nothing better than dealing with people who have taken the time to understand them or their business.
Make them more successful
In a B2B context once you secure a meeting with a prospective client, remember their aim is to make their business more successful. Your aim is convince them you can help them do it. Always start the meeting discussing their business and their issues and problems. Take the time to validate your assumptions and to demonstrate to them you are making the effort to get to know their business.
Now you are in a great position to pitch how your solution addresses their issues or problems and how you can make their business more successful.
In a B to C context the same principles apply. Understand the customer’s needs and issues so you get your messaging and language right, otherwise you're just going to end up shoving things down people's throats that they don't want to buy.