Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cold calling for CEOs and Sales

Hey Mr/Ms Startup CEO, or first sales hire at a startup..

I know you hate cold calling but there's no way around it.. It's far too important a part of selling when your brand isn't quite established. How else would the world know you existed and that you can positively impact their lives and that they can pay-up in this quarter?? So here's my approach.. I've added a sample script below..

Prepare upfront and practice a lot:

#1. Less is more: Tell them as little as possible. Don't tell them what you do. Instead talk about a pain and what you have done with others do to address the pain. Short sentences.. Talk no more than 30-seconds in one go.

#2. Be direct, get to the point right away: No need to say courtesy crap.. like how's your day going?? People's time is valuable. Focus on why they should act.. now. Keep focus on wanting a 1:1 meeting.. to discuss a pain, a benefit or even better the money that a successful deployment will make. For example.. "I want to come by and show you how I helped the following companies save the following or earn the following.. what time next week can we meet??" Be prepared then for the rebuttal question about a potential incumbent solution. Have a one liner to say clearly why your offering is better. Don't let a objection spoil your chances of getting the 1:1.

#3 Prepare three to four key high impact questions: This is the meeting closer on the cold call. Be ready with some high impact killer sales questions. Look up my earlier post on the topic for more on that topic. The prospect should help you understand the current, the desired situation and the gap. Ask of the consequences of doing nothing? As they tell you more think if the gap is big enough for them to meet with you? If the gap isn’t big enough, be ready with additional 3-4 question.

Sample script:

Good morning.. This is Harpal Kochar … I’m the sales director at XYZ company,. We are in the business of delivery ZZZ capabilities our customers.. I’m calling you because your business profile fits others who have benefited from what we do. The following three capabilities of our solution that will interest you are.. A...B...C.. (you have to say this fast). That said and without knowing more about your business, this is what I’ve gleaned from my research, I can’t know for sure if what we do makes sense for you.. if I haven’t caught you at a bad time, I’d like to ask you a 2-3 questions. May I? (keep shut and let the prospect talk now)

If the prospect sounds interested, ask the following.. do you have 15-20 mins on your calendar next week Tuesday afternoon? I can tell you more, review with you what we’ve done with other clients in more details and learn about your issues to see if there’s a match? Suggest a time proactively

Happy Selling..

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Are you being a column fodder?

Hey Sales guy/gal...

Experienced sales execs do one thing well.. they are good at predicting column fodder opportunities early on.. This is critical in sales cycles where we work with a quarter end in focus. I recommend you view each opportunity (how-much ever promising it looks), critically from the column fodder lens. It might help you save critical time.. In the ideal case it will help you make a winning proposal and speed up the sales cycle.

Situation: You get a call from a prospect, saying they need a proposal with a quote right away..  They give you a set of defined RFP questions.. You aren't allowed access to decision makers, and are told to follow the "procurement process". On further probing your chances of success, they leave it at this.. All the proposals they have received so far are good and can't give you a reason why they perceive your value proposition as better or unique. They can't answer the "why you" question clearly. They can't even give you a hypothetical situation of what you'd have to do in an ideal world to win the business. They say price is the deciding factor of the vendor choice.

Analysis: Unless you are a rainmaker.. your chances of winning in such a situation are close to zero.

  1. If you did not write the RFP questions, someone in your competition did... 
  2. If you don't know you are winning and why, then you are loosing.. 
  3. In the decision making team, if you don't have a champion batting for you, either focus to create one or simply walk away.. 
  4. Forget believing crap like "we have the best solution and no one comes close to matching it.." I've lost several opportunities thinking just that..

Thursday, May 2, 2013

High Impact Sales Questions

High performing sales reps ask high impact questions early in the sales cycle. They are quick at identifying opportunities that will NOT close anytime soon. They attend to the ones that indeed will. Customers appreciate working with such sales people/teams simply because both parties mean serious business.

But it's hard to identify such questions and even harder to present them to customers. It takes practice, confidence and a few bad deals you did (for lack of this step), in your bag. The good thing is that high impact questions are more or less universal in all sales situations. Enterprise sales is a team sport. The entire account team should be comfortable asking them and should strive to elicit a predictable response from the customer.

Here's my list... Please note you don't have to ask all questions or ask in any particular order.. Most of these should be asked once a problem use case is defined by the customer. Lastly, don't try and memorize this. Feel the impact as you read this and make it a part of your sales lingo!

1.    Who in the business is impacted the most, by this problem?
[HK intent] Understand who’s ultimately going to pay the $$$.

2.    Who in senior management is aware of this problem?
[HK intent] How big is the problem? Does it have management attention? 

3.    Is this issue impacting other parts of the organization?
[HK intent] Who else will get involved in the buying process..

4.    What is the extent of the impact of the problem on you?
[HK intent] How important is this to you? Will you loose your job if this isn’t done quickly? 

5.    Who else will benefit most from this solution and to what extent?
[HK intent] who will loose his/her job if the project isn’t successful?

6.    How will solving this issue impact you personally?
[HK intent] Get personal.. Check out the pathos

7.    How do you solve this problem now?
[HK intent] If it’s really important then they must have some clunky solution in place.. What are the short comings.. Use the answer to build a value proposition in a business proposal. It will help you with procurement :-).

8.    Have you tried to solve this problem in the past?
[HK Intent] What should I do such that differentiates my approach from the past failure? Who is my ghost competition?

9.    Is someone trying to address this problem now?
[HK Intent] Is there a parallel initiative I'm competing with?