Tag Archives: sales

Subtle Cues And Crabs

15 Apr

If you tug too quickly on the string, the crab drops the chicken and sidesteps away.  If you drop the net in the water too aggressively, the ripples frighten off your prey.  It’s only when you pull the string in one finger width at a time, when the crab realizes it’s being hunted only after it’s in your net, that you land your catch.

Crabbing

Click to see some crabbing on a string!

I recently began using an iPad in sales calls.  It’s a powerful tool for product demos, but it scared away my prospects.  Why?

To ensure I could quickly launch into a demo, I flipped open the case cover and logged in before sales calls.  In an industry where prospects give sales people a very limited amount of time to present their wares, I thought having my iPad ready for action would be a strategic advantage.

But as soon as I walked into a prospect’s office, his eyes shifted to my open iPad and his pupils dilated in fear.  The iPad was my net, and I had clearly dipped it into the water too early.  Before I even got to qualify, nonetheless demo my product, the prospect darted away like a crab.

Revealing our sales tools too early and rushing to make our pitch is a sure way to scare off our catch.   And sometimes, it’s just a subtle cue, a signal of the demo to come, that alarms our prospects.  In my case it was the open iPad.

As soon as I realized my mistake and closed the case before walking into offices, my prospects opened up to me again.

Are you scaring away your crab?

The Scoreboard is Scoreless.

9 Feb

Business is a lot like football.  In both, we need to acknowledge two things when looking at the scoreboard:

1)     The final score is often a product of the environment in which we compete.   

A football team’s success is determined by much more than just team performance.  The strength of the competition, injuries to key players, even the referees have an impact on the season record.  Similarly, outside factors often determine our success in business.  A good market environment sometimes ensures success, even when we just show up.  A bad market environment?  It can crush even the most sound strategy.

2)     Results, therefore, don’t tell the whole story. 

Three point victories over an arch-rival and a cupcake, while the same on the scoreboard, usually mean very different levels of performance on the football field.  So too does 3% growth during a bullish market versus 3% growth in a bear market.

If the scoreboard doesn’t reflect the entire story, should we just ignore it?  No, but we must evaluate ourselves differently.  We need to track our processes, not just end the results.

In my career, a few processes I track include 1) returned correspondence from customers 2) conversion of focus group attendees 3) number of sales calls per day.

These processes are smaller metrics.  They no doubt affect the scoreboard, but aren’t swayed or skewed by the landscape in which I compete.

The point of focusing on process is not to ignore end results.  The scoreboard does matter–we should never afford ourselves excuses when the other team wins.

The point is that when you focus on process, you take the business context or environment in which you work out of your measurements.  The ups and downs that can be attributed to competition and the situations we inherit begin to smooth out.  When we have excel at the right processes, results ultimately begin to care of themselves.

Which football coach talks most about process?  Nick Saban, when he’s not busy winning back-to-back national championships.

nick saban

The No Name Game.

7 Feb

“How long can you last without mentioning our product?”

That’s the question my sales manager asked me my first week on the job.  He wanted to know this: in a sales call, how long could I have a conversation with a potential customer without mentioning the name of our product?

When the A, B, C’s of selling are “Always be closing,” this game seemed counter-intuitive.  How could I sell anything to anyone without telling him about my wares?

Only with serious suspicions did I at first play the “no naming our product game.”  By the end of my time as a sales rep, I played it religiously.  It was clearly making me highly successful.

Stopwatch

Nearly every book on sales mentions the importance of establishing relationships.  My sales manager had a deeper insight.  He taught me that as soon as you mention the name of your product, the nature of the conversation changes.  What was once a chat about the customer and his or her needs now at some level becomes transactional.  When you name your product, you’re now a salesman trying to make a sale, no matter how aggressive or pushy you are.

My manager begged me to hold off on mentioning my product because he knew that I needed to get to know my customers before becoming a salesman in their eyes.  He knew that as soon as I mentioned my product, I could no longer ask qualifying questions freely.

In your next sales call, should you bring a stop watch and clock how long you can last before turning the conversation to your product?  Maybe or maybe not.  But I beg you to ask yourself this question:

  • Am I ready to change the nature of the conversation by mentioning my product? 

Money Is Like Honey. It Attracts Every Bear.

30 Jan

If you’re trying to seed the market for sales reps.  If you’re trying to introduce big potential customers to your brand by setting up product trials and reviews.  Then incentivize those people with money.

Money is like honey; it’ll lure the big bears to climb your tree. 

brown-bear-climbing-a-tree-attracted-by-honey

But if learning is what you’re after.  If you’re really interested in feedback that will improve your product.  Then find customers who will try your product or attend your focus group for free.  Seek out those consumers that care enough about what you do that they’re willing to give up their time at no cost to make your product better.

The best feedback comes from those that don’t need to be paid to give it. 

If making a big sale is all you’re after, attract the big bears with lots of honey.  But if knowledge is your goal, often times the most important incentive is no incentive at all.

I Never Won The Fifth Grade Science Fair

24 Jan

But I run experiments now.

When I think about my first year in marketing, I remember the headaches.  The pressure that built in my temples as I obsessed over tough decisions.  Which product feature should I tell our sales reps to highlight with customers?  Is this a headline that will get customers to look at my marketing materials?

I was a perfectionist trying to make just the right decision.  But without enough information to do so. 

I was new.  I didn’t know my customers well enough—didn’t have the knowledge I needed to guarantee a confident, correct decision. 

I’d obsess, hesitantly make a choice, doubt it afterwards, and then wait for the results.  Flipping a coin might have led to more success, and definitely would have saved me stress. 

Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup changed my perspective on decision making.  It’s one of the holy bibles of startup culture, but it’s applicable to everything we do.  There are lots of lessons in the book, but the most important one (for me) is this one:

  • Do not stress over decisions in which you have incomplete information.  Your goal is not to make the right decision (or build the right product) under possibly false assumptions.  Your goal is to learn before you act by testing your assumptions.  Worry about learning and the right decision will follow.

One way to learn is through devising an experiment.  Which isn’t that hard to do—I sure as hell never won the fifth grade science fair.  An example from my work:

Instead of obsessing over which chapters and pages in my textbooks our sales reps should show to customers, I’ve created an experiment where I intersperse “highlights” picked by our authors with random passages from the book.  I ask a group of customers to rank these passages and explain their evaluations.  If the rankings are consistent (if customers pick the same highlights and have similar reasons for doing so), I can confidently present tested passages to our sales reps.

Fewer headaches.  Better, more confident decisions.  The Lean Startup is worth the read.

The Lean Startup

When Content Isn’t King

22 Jan

Telling someone content isn’t king is like telling a mom that you think her baby is ugly.  It always leads to a shocked look, and sometimes a slap.

Which is why I’m hesitant to tell you this.  When it comes to achieving higher click-through rate (CTR) in marketing emails, the content of the email is DEFINITELY not king.

In my first year as a marketer, I wrote prose worthy of publication, copy that extolled the virtue of our beautiful wares (textbooks…).  But I still had average to below average CTR.  I spent significantly more time than my colleagues worrying about the body copy of my emails, but that extra time didn’t lead to more customers clicking on links in my emails.

Which led me to examine more closely my marketing emails.  Which led to the conclusion that if I were a potential customer, I would have NEVER clicked on the links in my own emails.

That was humbling.  But also helpful.  I realized that the reason that I wouldn’t have clicked on my own links had nothing to do with the copy I wrote.  It had to do with what I now know are the two critical components of CTR:

  • The subject line
  • The link we ask customers to click on

For you to achieve high click-through, customers 1) have to open your email and 2) click on the link you provide them.  It doesn’t matter how good your copy is (and mine was good, damnt).  If your subject line is spammy or doesn’t convey that there will be clear value within the email, customers will just delete it without opening.  And if they open it, the description of the link you want them to click better be specific (“Learn more here” just doesn’t cut it) or they won’t click on it.

I now spend all of my time worrying about subject lines and my links…and my click-through rate is the best in my marketing team.  When I write the actual body copy of my emails, my goal is not to pen magic that will allure customers.  It’s only to keep the content short so customers make it to my link.

The content isn’t king.  It’s so intuitive to me now when it comes to CTR, it’s shocking I didn’t realize it sooner. 

Change your perspective on CTR.  Focus on the subject line and the link, not the copy.  And enjoy more success.

Introverts and Sales

21 Jan

I’m quiet.  I sneak off to avoid saying goodbyes.  I relish the lonely dinner.  Which is why I liked Grant Cardone’s short article on introverts and sales so much: http://entm.ag/UJ0CZi .

Why should you read it?  Because he makes a point that dismantles the often-held notion that sales careers are not for introverts:

  • The label introvert is imperfect because it’s situation sensitive. Our level of introversion depends on the social situation.

I’m an introvert, but I know the exact feeling Cardone alludes to, of being able to “turn it on” in a sales call or in a presentation.  Listening is the introvert’s greatest sales skill (of course it is, we’re introverts).  But Cardone makes a great point about introverts and talking about our products: if we’re passionate about something, if we know it inside and out (as introverts often know things), we can and will persuasively talk about it.

———————————————————————————————————————–

Many friends and colleagues of mine have career goals.  To make those dreams come true, they’ll have to go into the field and gain sales experience.  Yet they prolong taking a sales position because as introverts, they don’t see themselves as sales people.  They “could never do sales” because they can’t imagine talking to strangers or selling something.

They’re fooled by the stereotypes that sales is all about “the pitch” and that as introverts, they’re just too quiet for it.   They let these incorrect labels determine what they can and can’t do.  They avoid the uncomfortable at all costs, when if they embraced sales, I don’t think they’d find it uncomfortable at all.

 

%d bloggers like this: