Thursday, May 17, 2007

Who Would You Rather As A Salesman - Maverick or Goose?

David Kurlan at Understanding the Sales Force has an excellent post on mavericks in your sales team.

If you recall some earlier posts here and here, one maverick I managed taught me more about selling than the hundred others.

David's ideas on managing the maverick work:

I would want the maverick to know that as long as he performs and behaves he can do his thing. As soon as the performance fails to meet the expectations, he'll have to fall into line like everyone else. I would also want to make sure that he isn't around the office when the other salespeople are there. I wouldn't want him at meetings or group events.

I would add a couple of other points:

  • Mavericks love a challeng and love to challenge. They will challenge every boundary and push others to do the same. Its the others that you need to watch. Mavericks can make members of the support (operations, finance, HR etc) team uncomfortable.
  • You need to communicate clearly to the rest of the team that the maverick has the license because of their results and not the reverse. They need to be aware of that while its not the 007 licence, you still need to earn it all the same. They must also clearly understand the circumstances in which it gets revoked.
  • You need to watch them like a hawk. Strangely, no matter how black and white your polices on pricing, fulfillment and service might be - they still manage to discern avalable shades of grey.

Mavericks are good. They're our internal entrepreneurs and they can pioneer new markets, channels and drive the business further. But sometimes every silver lining has a cloud.

Maverick or Goose - are you a risk taker?

Jason Wenn

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New Product Launches - Briefing the Sales Team

In my last post on NPD I examined the Presenter. Many people call this the deck, the focus, trade folder etc. Whatever you call it though, get it to the team early.

Bring your sales team together in a forum that focusses on three essential areas. Knowledge – what they know about the new product. Skills - how they apply what they know. Attitude - how confident they are with the new line.

Too often time and budget constraints create a “technical handover” by marketing and leaves the sales people to their own devices. This creates an inconsistent message to your market. Again, if one of the biggest issues in NPD is speed to and traction in the market, how many favours are we doing ourselves when the sales team’s only opportunity to develop and practice their sales conversation is in the field?

Most sales organisations target their top 20% of outlets in the first couple of weeks of any new product launch. An underprepared sales team will undersell and possibly damage your relationships through sales calls that take too long and fail to meet buyers’ needs.

So bring the team together and develop an integrated agenda that gives them the knowledge they need:

  • Technical information (pricing, ATL spend, POS, trade support etc)
  • Anticipated retailer needs for the product
  • Features, advantages and benefits that we can link back to their needs
  • Expected buyer objections and useful responses
The skills to apply that knowledge:

  • Building rapport
  • Questioning and Listening
  • Selling Benefits
  • Overcoming Objections
  • Closing the Sale
  • Negotiating the Terms
  • Use of the presenter

And fosters the attitudes needed: confidence, enthusiasm and tenacity.

  • Sharing experience in discussion and syndicate groups
  • Skills practice to trial, customise and cement their approach to the trade

Imagine! A salesperson that uncovers needs quickly and uses the right benefits to maximise the retailer’s value proposition. Exactly the grounding you need to seek more facings, better display, less trade spend, promotional compliance and greater stockweight.

If you're looking for a suitable agenda and suggested content, email me.

There is one last thing that needs to be done before the team is unleashed:

Measure Your Message
Don’t limit measurement merely to distribution or display objectives. Focus the sale on the drivers necessary for sell through:

  • Prominent positions
  • Facings
  • Correct ticketing
  • Off locations
  • Correct and attractive POS
  • Speed to market. Set it up now.
  • No out of stocks
  • Compliance to the promotional program
  • Outlet level marketing to enhance the launch for local conditions.

Design a measurement tool specifically for your launch. Designed correctly it allows you to:

  • Develop timely strategies for specific Trade issues, for example low facings.
  • Develop timely strategies for specific Team issues, for example high trade spend may indicate poor negotiation skills.

Again, let me know if you'd like some pointers on suitable measurement approaches.

There is no silver bullet for successful Sales Launches. However, with the right research, preparation and measurement you can reach higher distribution, more display objectives, better coverage and lower trade spend. After all, that’s why you have the sales team in the first place.

Jason Wenn

Cold Calling and Gate Keepers

I recently made a couple of posts over at LinkedIn on cold calling and gate keepers. And its prompted me to spend some time on the Bold Advocate approach to cold calling.

What I've learned over the last 15 years can be defined by some simple rules:

Don't Be Scared

  • With the right approach and process, you can navigate even the most difficult conversations.
  • If the call doesn't go to plan, don't worry. Odds are, within 3 days they'll have forgotten your name and the company who you are calling for. You can (and should) call back again.

You Are Interrupting Them

  • So you better have a damn good reason for calling - and sound like it too
  • You need to find a way to disconnect them from their current task and focus on your call.

Never Ever, Ever, Ever Sell on the Phone

  • You are buying. You are buying their time - specifically 2.00pm on Wednesday for 35 minutes, or whatever it might be.
  • You don't sell on the phone, you set appointments. Simple.

It's Only A Matter Of Time

  • If they're in your target market and you have demonstrable benefits they are missing out on, then one day they will agree to see you. Its only a matter of timing. Your call needs to be at the right moment, the tipping point perhaps? Delayed deliveries, poor quality, botched invoices, smelly technicians are maybe all it takes for them to speak with you.
  • That's why you keep calling

Have A Script

  • Every great actor starts with a script. By the time they need to perform its memorised to the point that they can work it, weaving their individual magic. No two performances of Hamlet have ever been the same. If you prepare correctly, no two cold calls need sound the same.
  • A script keeps you focussed and gets to the point quickly for you and the prospect.
  • A script means you can focus on them and not on what you need to say next. It allows you to listen to what is said and not being said. It means you can listen.
  • Have a script for the prospect, their gatekeeper and their voice mail.

Gatekeepers Are Your Friend

  • Who would you trust first - your receptionist or secretary? The same applies to your prospect's secretary or receptionist - so don't annoy them and do try to enlist their support
  • Of course, we don't always have to speak with the gatekeeper - there are ways to avoid them.
I'm going to post further detail on some of my earlier rules, but I thought a few handy techniques for getting past gatekeepers might start the ball rolling.

Our approach to Gate Keepers should be different - we’re not selling an appointment - we're selling the value of them putting you through. You need to enlist their support and, if things go well, foster a sponsor.

We are interrupting them - they were doing something before we called. Remember and respect that. Your also need to remember that gatekeeping is one of their core duties. It is their job t
o put the right people through and stop the wrong people getting through. It is you job to make sure they look good!

You are the right person if:

  • You demonstrate respect for them and their time
  • You are sincere
  • You are confident
  • Disarm them, not charm them
  • Get and use their name and formally introduce yourself

You are the wrong person if you don't do any of the above, but also if you make the fatal error that they aren't capable of understanding what you offer.

Remember that your goal with the gatekeeper is to get through to the prospect. She is highly unlikley to set an appointment on their behalf for a salesperson they haven't met.

Your Gatekeeper Script is in three parts:

1. Asking to be put through

Always sound like you expect to get through. Start with confidence and imply authority:
  • Ask for the prospect by first name only. This is particularly useful if is a receptionist or someone who doesn't directly work for the prospect
  • “This is…” implies you know them. “My name is…” implies you don't. Use the "This is..."
  • I also like to assume that they are going to put me through, by asking directly: "Would you put me through to xxx please" or "I'm calling for xxx" in a confident manner.
  • Another technique for implying authority is to use the speaker phone, picking up once they've answered. I find this a little passe, although it does seem to work.

Step 1 often works alone, Most of the time, if they're doing their job well, you'll be asked for the purpose of the call:

2. Explaining why you should be put through
The best way to deal with this step is to what the prospect might say if the PA put the wrong person through: "Why the hell did you let that one through?"

How will the PA answer that? By justifying her decision. Over at Selling to Big Companies, Jill Konrath talks about bringing something of value. That's great and necessary, but be sure to also give them suffficient justification. The best justifications are referrals:

  • Direct, from other contacts within the organisation or related companies - "yyy over at ABC told me to call..."
  • Indirect where you refer to work you have done with a competitor or customer of the prospect - "We've done some work with DFE recently on (use a couple of hot buttons) and I thought xyz might like to be across that or even interested himself..."
Once you've given your reason, ask again to be put through. Don't even take a breath.
If they then say something like "Can you send some information..." or another similar hurdle, we move to Step 3:

3. Enlisting their support

Now if you've got the drift my blogs, you'll get that I believe in honesty in sales - I want to find the truth about this prospect as soon as possible [thanks to Steve Martin for that - I love it].

So I ask. And in the process I'll acknowledge its their job to filter salespeople and ask how I get to be one of those who are put through. For example, if they ask me to send information, I'll ask what is the best type of information to send xyz - case studies, white papers, references, brochures, samples etc. I'll also ask the form: hard copy, electronic - via email, CD etc. And I continue to probe - "[PA's name], I send out a lot of information and I'm sure xyz gets a lot of information. I'm interested in a yes or no here - yes he'd like to see me, no he wouldn't. Either way, what can you tell me is the best information to send him?"

I then make sure they understand that I will call back. I like to set a day and time for me to call them when the prospect is in the office. And I do.

What do you do if Steps 1-3 don't work? Say, if you meet a receptionist that Seth Godin seems to have met recently?

Well there are a few tricks. Jill Konrath at Selling to Big Companies referred me to this article which is neat. Some points there, and my own include:

  • Call Out of Hours. Most PA's/receptionists I know keep pretty regular hours: Before 8.30/9.00am, after 5.30/6.00pm or bang on 1.00pm for lunch (they're either leaving or going)
  • Call sales or accounts payable. Accounts payable are often quite friendly if you're looking to confirm POs before invoicing etc.
  • Play the system when you hit voicemail or answering services: hit 0, # etc
  • Dial the wrong extension. You might get someone who will put you straight through. Ask to be transferred, but also ask for the direct line - in case you get lost in the system again.
  • If you hit an answering machine, hang up & redial or put it on hold and try via a second line.
I call these hacks. Its not how I want to do business, but they're good work arounds. I've found that as I've got better at Steps 1-3, I've not needed to resort to them for some time.

Next we'll have a look at voicemail. In the meantime, if you're after some quick voice mail tips head this way.

Jason Wenn

More Commentary On the Sales & Marketing Divide

Ha! After my posts and Geoffrey James over at Sales Machine, seems that there is quite some discussion about the sales and marketing divide. Steve Martin over at SalesMotivation.Net has started up there.

Steve has some great comments. In particular I like this: The goal of Heavy Hitters (extremely successful salespeople) is to find out the truth about winning an account as early as possible.

Great sales people take risks. They seek the bully with the juice...

Jason Wenn

Monday, May 14, 2007

I need to think about it...

Excellent post over at Salesopedia on how to deal with the "I need to think about it".

We've all faced that hurdle. It's frustrating and hard to cross. Why does it happen? I think that many people don't like to say no - particularly face to face. It can make them uncomfortable. Secondly, perhaps there is a legitimate reason for them to defer the process. Could it be that they are having problems securing the budget? Or has their manager changed priorities? The real reason may be something that they are not ready to share with you.

One key point I like is to agree on the process for the meeting - at the start of the meeting. Let the customer know that you expect a decision at the end of the meeting. That decision could be the final sign off, but it also could be merely whether you and the customer will continue to spend time together on this opportunity.

Either way at every meeting I let the customer know that I expect a decision. I'm a salesman - its my job. They know that's why I'm there. If I think I need to, I let them know that it is OK for them to say no. I don't mind. In any case a no either gives me another crack at the sale, or it lets me get to the next prospect.

But you may still get the "I need to think about it...". Years ago, I was trained to ask "What do you need to think about?" And invariably I'd get the "Not sure, I just need to think about it...". Where do you go from there? Probably out the door to the carpark!

After a while (OK a couple of years) I started to get heartily sick of this. My instinct told me why I wasn't getting the sale, but I was still confronted by the black hole of "I need to think about it...".

Then one day I asked.

"That's great John. Is there anything in particular that you need to think about? Or are you concerned about the price on this contract?"

That's the solution. A variation on the alternative of choice close: "Is there anything in particular that you need to think about? Or are you concerned about [insert real objection]?"

Invariably you'll have a fair idea about the real hurdle - so just ask outright. Be bold. They keep talking, tell you what the real issues are - giving you more opportunities to secure the sale.

Jason Wenn

New Product Launches - Speed and Traction

In my last post, I was looking at many of the issues that occur in the field during new product launches. Too many it is exasperating. To me it is simple. We send the sales team out to practice on their best customers and consequently don't get the level of sell in required - hence our low speed to market. More importantly, the sales team aren't equipped to engage the customer in such a way that we maximise their commitment to the new line - hence our lack of traction.

Now before you go and cancel the NPD budget, consider this potential checklist of successful launches:

Do Your Research
Ensure that marketing’s research goes beyond the end consumer:

  • Anticipate retailers’ needs. For any new line we can usually nominate the questions they will ask and the needs they want met.

  • Determine how the new product and accompanying support will meet the retailers need for sales, margin and peace of mind.

  • Develop a matrix of features, advantages and benefits that meet your retailers typical needs.

  • Prepare for their expected objections with appropriate positioning statements.

Develop Your Message
It is important to remember two pertinent facts:

  • You don’t have a lot of time in the sales call.

  • Only 25% of the population prefer to receive information from a salesperson talking. The rest of us want pictures, charts, product and POS samples and interactive discussion.

The simple answer? Get a presenter and ask more questions.

Ensure that your team are equipped with a presenter that:

  • Is as short as possible. No more than 10 pages – we don’t want retailers thinking that they’ve got War & Peace to get through. Find a way to leave the folder of forms and out of date or marginal brochures in the car.

  • Starts with a front page listing typical retailer needs for this product. Our salesperson can use that list to start the conversation - “Before I start, this is a list of the most common needs our retailers want from any new lines. Can you tell me 2 or 3 that are important to you right now?”. This starts the conversation quickly and assists the sales person to get to the heart of the matter quickly – What’s In It For Me!. Its even stronger if your market research has determined more precise retailer needs for this particular launch.

  • Is a concise means of explaining the new product launch to the retailer - Simple but impactful language, Visual representation, Large print

  • Outlines the key features of the new product and accompanying support: Usually 1-2 per page, with a list of advantages and benefits that the salesperson can relate easily back to the retailers needs.

  • Durable. The presenter must last the distance of the launch.

  • Attractive. Make it different to your standard presentation tools. That way the retailer knows that something different is coming.

We only use the presenter to highlight particular points, provide a visual stimulus to the buyer and overcome issues of retailer misunderstanding through language, inexperience and lack of knowledge.

In my next post, I'll look at how you brief the team to maximise traction.

Jason Wenn

Friday, May 11, 2007

New Product Launches - Does This Sound Familiar?

In my last post, I looked at the huge issues that companies face in New Product Launches. Today I wanted to look some of the common issues that occur during the launch.

Let’s start at the beginning…

We’ve seen it so often before. At a monthly meeting, marketing turn up to brief the sales representatives on the latest new line. The salespeople are furnished with some brochures (occasionally), numbers about advertising spend and samples to help sell the line. They might get to view the relevant media, but the marketing collateral/POS might not arrive in most markets for a couple of weeks.

The real clincher though is the ‘deals’ offered to close the sale.

Then in the trade, the conversation will go like this….

“I’ve got a new line to show you…” - Buyer typically rolls eyes and mutters obscenities about out-of-date/seasonal lines that didn’t work either.

It…” - You fill in the gaps here. Generally a description of the vast list of features and characteristics offered by marketing. Sometimes accompanied by some pictures and charts.

“It’s a great product, you should try it…”. - Of course we’re going to say that. It wasn’t likely to get through R&D and consumer trials if it isn’t a great product.

“We’re spending $5 million on advertising” - Better, but what happens after advertising slows? What needs to be done at this location to maxise ongoing sell through?

Buyer interjects with an objection or two…

“No Space…” or “It didn’t work last time…” or “Too much stock” or “Won’t work here” or “Too many variants” or even “I’ll stock it when they ask for it”

Salesperson responds to each in turn, eventually resorting to…

“I can offer you a great deal…” - Typically a winner. But, what has happened to the brand? Retailers need stock. How committed is the retailer to a line that cost them little to range? If its cheap enough, they’ll try anything.

Result: Buyer ranges new line, at the minimum stock level. Display is good, but not outstanding. Trade spend increases. Both parties expect that the line will be specialled out within 6 months.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to where we find that the constant exposure to standard objections sees our salesperson more adept at putting their case – if only to the benefit of shorter call time and better coverage in their territory.

Assuming that the call cycles have been set to target your top 20% accounts first, the additional issue here is that your sales people have been practicing on those accounts that matter most. Hence a scenario that severely risks their volume sell in and ability to negotiate effective sell through strategies.

In my next post I'll be looking at what you can do to gain greater traction of new product in the market.

Jason Wenn