“THE NEW SALES DRIVER
A. Select targets.
B. Create and deploy weapons.
C. Plan and execute the attack.”
-- Mike Weinberg, New Sales. Simplified. --
I'm a big fan of Mike Weinberg's blunt, back-to-basics new business development approach so I share his core strategy here with this stipulation – please go and buy his book at the above link, ASAP. It's truly worth your while and features one of the simplest, most effective and efficient of all models for driving new revenue. It will revolutionize your process and bring fresh consistent, new-business pipeline creation back into focus. For many organizations this has gotten very blurry with an obfuscated (or nonexistent) sales process mucking things up and more stages in the funnel than chocolates in Willy Wonka's proverbial factory.
My process for winning new business is RSVPselling and it's aligned o opening up business in disruptive new markets and I would add the following ancillary supplements as you roll it out this year to capture latent buying intent in the marketplace:
A. Laser focus on what constitutes a prospect - Hone your definition
B. What are the sub-verticals?
C. Who are the top 10 companies in each of those segments?
D. Research on LinkedIn, target customers well with tailored, trigger-event based outreach
E. Sell to VITO - the Very Important Top Officer (Remember, strategic selling is about engaging early, upstream at the highest levels, knowing their business, leading with insight and talking their language.)
Caveats & Nuances:
- Avoid the 'busy fool syndrome' - work smarter not harder; the 'it's a numbers game' mentality can paralyze forward momentum with endless lateral churn. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step but you must put one foot in front of the other. Move towards the target – deeper over wider – endless criss-crossing of the horizon is not only exhaustive, it will never allow you to ride into the gloriously fulfilling sunset of CLOSURE.
- Anchor with your CEO or Sales Manager: If you're forecasting several million dollar deals this year in the plan, account for your historical sales cycle and level-set that the majority of them may fall at back end of the year. It's unlikely you'll be dropping a symmetrical million per quarter. Like any organic system, there's irregularity. I have written about the flaw in forecasting and 'predictable revenue'. Year over year consistent growth is possible but only with peaks and troughs. Do it right, don't rush it! You can't get blood from a stone and if you pull the line too hard you'll snap the marlin right off. Remember to drive even harder when in peak times to buffer performance during valleys that will ultimately exist in even the best executed sales system.
- The only way you’ll fail is if you’re targeting organizations that weren’t going to be able to buy from you in the first place, so ask yourself daily, 'Where do I invest my time?' Are you a top gun at opportunity qualification?
- Go deep into research, deep into the context of the account.
- Understand the politics and power base within the account, some of these power bases are hidden or situational (forming for the duration of the buying cycle). Adding everyone in the decision making team on LinkedIn is dangerous, you may have frenemies in the bunch that will block you or secretly favor the incumbent supplier.
- Only do this for the most important opportunities and go deep, spend huge amounts of time figuring out who you’re going to target. Imagine Lincoln as an Account Executive, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
- TARGET THE RIGHT ORGANIZATIONS AND ROLE.
- Build a business case, provocative insight and close them catalyzing "mobilizer" (Challenger Selling) advocates who will establish a consensus within the power base - avoid 'talkers and blockers'.
- Obsess about how you will find the right organizations and the right lists of people to try and target. LinkedIn has huge tectonic shift value here. Hours of due diligence and research here is not wasted time if you can leverage it for targeted outreach to stakeholders who will grant you access in respect of the time you've invested. By knowing every aspect inside and out, you'll develop a sixth sense, an intuition compass for where to navigate strategically. Blue ocean strategy is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand, so what's yours as a seller or organization in your go-to-market?
We must take back control of our calendars, stop allowing others to put work on our desks, and selfishly guard our selling time. - Mike Weinberg
Weinberg hits the nail on the head with this dictum; it's a constant battle to manage your own time. I hear horror stories of fundamentally flawed cultures where sellers are only selling 25% of the time. This is backward. The overarching trick of mastering new business sales and new business development is moving your process from reactive to proactive new business hunting. The best sales people are always hunting, even in named accounts. Farmers then are really wolves in sheep's clothing.
There is no magic bullet, never will be! Old fashioned honest work ethic coupled with thinking differently (and acting more conscientiously) will set you apart, signal in the noise. Here are ten action-based strategies, tactics and critical success factors that will turbocharge your progress and work phenomenally well in the field in 2015. My goal is to multiply the effectiveness of what you're currently doing.
Remember not doing the wrong things is worlds better than continuing with Einstein's definition of insanity, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." After all, revenue is a static "lag measure" and can't be managed in a CRM. Fuggedaboudit! So we must stay hyper-focused on the sales activities we can achieve daily to actually move the needle and lever the boulder up the hill. Don't get me wrong, the byproduct of well-executed daily sales activity and effective strategy is avalanches of new business bookings. It takes patience to position the odds in your favor: a greater number of better qualified opportunities. Remember, "Pipeline cures all ills!" The secret to success in sales is "action." Daily! Consistency meets persistency. I don't mean to fill this treatise with platitudes but Einstein's, "Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work" comes to mind or Edison's, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."
I've consulted companies that have a "no-meeting Monday" policy. This should never apply to a vibrant sales function! We ultimately are judged by our revenue results to the top and bottom line in a battle royale for preservation of margin against the forces of procurement commoditization, so procrastination, leaning on only digital as a crutch, capitulating with price concessions or just being asleep at the switch as if the fish will swim up to you and jump into the boat, will catch-up to you. So here are those 10 with one bonus for good measure:
- Add an unexpected UVP to the subject lines of your emails - "Something YOU have never heard before." It features WIFM: what's in it for them. Recently, I monitored my own LinkedIn inbox and waded through hundreds of messages. Most sounded akin to "Opportunity, Partnership, Checking-in, Let's Touch Base, Ideas." Very generic outreach like this disappoints me when I open the email to double check it, as it's a super generic message... delete. Anything remarkable in the title or pertinent to how they could help me increase business or drive efficiency would have caused them to stand out. What's your unique value or better yet, how can you continuously create value? This is what I call 'unique value creation'. (The V in my RSVPselling Methodology) – Customize communication in all media.
- Simplify your sales process: There are many enterprise level sales systems like SPIN, TAS, Solution, Strategic and Challenger. The bottom line is you need to have one and apply it religiously. Consistent sales processes applied over time create cut-through. Managers must hold sales people accountable and there must be a single source of the truth in a CRM systemto bring all the moving parts together.
- E-mail, call, social, e-mail, call, social. 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact. Staying power is everything in sales success and consistent quota attainment and it's rare. We must stick in deals and push through the resistance inherent in change management away from the status quo. Think of your channels like a cyclical wheel; it's important to cross-train your touch points and you want to get yourself into that hot zone of 5 - 12 touches. If you emailed, then call, then leave a meaningful message. Follow up by liking or commenting on something in their LinkedIn stream, then a relevant outreach based on what you read. Retweet an article, then call. What I call the "new sales mix" is key. 'Like' and also comment on content as only 20% of people even read an entire LinkedIn Publisher update while 80% simply like it. If you read the entire thing and comment about some of the subtleties in it, the author (your customer) will very much appreciate it. That could be the differentiator to gain access right then and there.
- Leverage your internal connections to breakthrough external silos- If your CXOs are connected via an alumni network, previous role or are close with someone at the target company, don't hesitate to get a referral. They'll often even make the call or write a personal email for you. Invite them to the discovery call or first meeting on-site; LinkedIn referrals are not enough. If you've properly qualified the prospect or opportunity and done your due diligence in advance, these internal C-Level relationships are extremely valuable and they will be onboard to help you, massively.
- Track and leverage trigger events, all of them are not created equal: "Changes and transitions" are Craig Elias' (Trigger Event Selling) top choice here out of the three buckets that include "bad supplier" and "awareness." In the first 90 days, CXOs will often spend six or seven figures on disruptive technology: be there and be first. The majority of marketers focus on awareness, or ROI. The problem with this strategy is it's ubiquitous so it's very hard to stand out. 'Bad supplier' comes down to human nature, many of us put up with a suboptimal situation in our lives because it's just comfortable to do so or we're procrastinating aka 'lazy'. In an organization this is the status quo rearing its seven headed hydra of complacency. If you're going to try to drive awareness or remind people their current provider is tanking, you'll usually get nowhere. Ironic, I know! There needs to be a substantive compelling event and a pain-point. Pinpoint the major pain and locate changes and transitions like: promotion, role-change, division-change, new job, etc. Watch for your existing or past customers moving into positions of influence at your target company. Many software platforms track this including InsideView, Avention, Gagein and now LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It's also helpful to understand the mode of the business, and I highlight three: growth, stasis and crisis mode. Very little will occur in the sales cycle in cryostasis mode.
- Nurture prospects and walk them up the ladder of engagement.Steve Richard of Vorsight shares, "At any given time, only 3% of the market you're prospecting to is going to be actively looking for your solutions, products, and services. But 40% more are open and are 'susceptible' to getting into the 'looking mode.' That's why we prospect within our target market – that 43% – we find those ready, and we nurture the upcoming opportunities by building trust over time and by adding insight to help educate our buyers."
- Think about demand like this – wouldn't you rather create it than service it? (Jim Holden Stage IV Customer Advisor) – When it comes to building a complex solution to solve a complex problem rather than being a prosaic commodity seller, you're moving up the value chain to creating "elasticity of demand," a construct that preserves margin as it bakes in acceptable "consultancy fees."
- Group participation on LinkedIn: Be active in customer groups on LinkedIn. Ask provocative questions and share insights but don't sell. If someone leaves a thoughtful comment, send them a relevant private message to engage. Provoke with knowledge and insight before trying to book an appointment or move to the target. Finesse selling is key in LinkedIn. The hard sell will typically fail.
- Become best friends with Executive Assistants, treat them like gold. Never call once, let the phone ring out and then ring again, only thenleave a short relevant message. Realize that the purpose of the first line of an e-mail is to get to the second line so think like a copyrighter or journalist in any exchange, in any medium. The purpose of the first sentence is to attract them to the second and this thinking even pertains to sales processes: 'The purpose of the first step is to get to the NEXT.'
- Neighborhood techniques and investing in on-sites: Weinberg takes a contrarian stance on this in that he advocates getting on-site a ton, in fact he calls Southwest Saleswest. He also doesn't believe in show-up and throw-up sales presentations. I frequently talk about a great meeting being one in which I speak 25% of the time. God gave us two ears and one mouth, as the old saying goes. Get on that flight to meet with qualified prospects based on the qualification elements of the "Caveats & Nuances" section I laid out above. Provide therapy; I'm reminded of the Dale Carnegie story where he shows up to a major interview never says a word and the executive says, "you're the best conversationalist I've ever met." Show-up in their vicinity and spend time actively listening, take masterful Evernotes. Prepare your questions; print out annual reports; research; Gartner, Forrester, analysis from thought leaders. Be prepared.
- Leverage calendar alerts in your CRM: The only way you're going to remember to e-mail, call and socially connect at a manageable frequency is to keep calendar alerts automated like a Swiss Watch. Very few people will send a targeted personalized email they wrote to a key executive, follow up in 3 day increments and then follow up in one week, then a week after that. Creating this cadence of accountability in CRM or Google Calendar can be the major difference in success or failure. As Jill Konrath writes in SNAP Selling, “Don’t wait around for your prospect to get in touch with you. Keep thinking of fresh reasons you can get in front of them, bringing them more ideas, insights, and information to help them achieve their desired business outcomes.” Yesware is a very powerful tool here as you can track them reading your emails in real time. It gives you a peak into the crystal ball as you develop the busines. Often, you'll notice a prospect open an email a few times so this is a great data-driven biz dev moment to leverage by giving them a call at that moment. I had a client call that out and buy just because he was so impressed by that tracking capability.
- BONUS: Always anchor the deal: Budget, timeline, compelling event and I'll throw in success criteria. It's critical to anchor the ship and anchor the deal early. Get these 800 pound gorillas addressed early. You can create your own personalized qualification document that serves as an anchor. 'Sell the dream' and stay focused on the business benefits rather than diving into the weeds and granular details or technical side, depending on whom you're presenting to. Here's a recent post by Tim Ferriss on How to Think Like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. "How do they create maximum leverage? How do they think differently?" Your customers are in the hot seat and they aspire to greatness. Psychologically anchoring the deal to tangible business value is going to be critical in how you present and the difference between prospects taking the bid to RFP for reverse auction, kicking the tires on a pilot (or POC)versus the coveted Production Volume - Purchase Order or Annual Commit. You want to leverage a sales story, testimonials, referrals and highlight your key differentiators. It should be second nature to you exactly how you're driving sound ROI for very similar customers and how to effectively communicate that. Open with a confident: "Here are the challenges we solve for customers like you." Know exactly why the conversation is important with the outcomes you can deliver for them and the risks you will mange.
Critical themes to remember:
- Map the political power base - white board it out, leverage LinkedIn or solutions such and TAS Dealmaker, Pipeline Manager, or Pipeliner to map out the organizational chart.
- Leverage the assumptive close, as Konrath's paradox states, "To be consultative, be assumptive."
- Focus on the wildly important goals (WIGS) weekly with your manager, quarterly and in helping clients 'transform their business'.
- Military strategy - Understand there are always competitors in the deal including the biggest enemy - 'do nothing'. No deals are bilateral, it's always triangulated.
- Be careful not to challenge before you've built rapport and trust - this can be disastrous. You can come off as condescending and holier than The Pope.
- Boots on the ground is critical at key conferences but overbook key meetings in advance of this. Ultimately some people will flake or get caught up in unforeseen travel logistics.
- Close plans are powerful so if you are a manager reading this, make sure to ensure your team is building rock solids ones and you're collaborating on these.
- InMails - Many of us have Premium LinkedIn accounts. Managers need to make this a KPI that all InMails are used each month. They reversed the system so you're actually rewarded now with credits when recipients respond. This not only incents the correct behaviors in the system but most importantly to you as a salesperson, InMails are exponentially more powerful than a telephone or traditional email as they're so infrequently even exploited, not to mention correctly with high value strategic messaging. Use it or lose it!
The number one reason sales people miss quota is the gap in prospecting. Mind the gap!
It takes massive self-discipline to carve out a couple hours each day to close a door, turn off everything with a circuit board and solely focus on driving warm prospects into the funnel. I would add, failure to segment and target the right prospects with a relevant, provocative message that triggers meaningful response is the second problem. It looks like Brainshark agrees. The most popular reason why reps fail to reach their numbers? Inability to articulate value in their sales conversations. We can't put the cart before the horse and say it's the 'sales story' if sales people are procrastinating and literally not selling or the organizational culture is so broken, the powers that be aren't absolutely prioritizing sales activity at the fore.
The above strategies should greatly augment your forward momentum as you look to crush your Q1 goals and surface through the cloud cover in Q2 to jet toward the stratosphere. Hard work pays-off and smart work reigns supreme. Big bold, daily action is not for the faint of heart and if you love sales, you probably enjoy it like I do. Go pick up a few really big rocks before lunch and then rest easy knowing the revenue is on its way. Nothing is certain but consistent, massive action invigorates you as the crucible of unlimited selling power, a life-enhancing force. Where do you get all the energy? How does one stay motivated and avoid burn-out? One word: 'results.' Results are energizing, the fuel to your fire, and results you will achieve if you start on this explosion of proactive to-do's today. When you start getting traction in your sector, it's a morale producing adrenaline rush. As you set key appointments and on-sites with your dream clients, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Success breeds more success and win-rates spiral upward and cause you to, you guessed it: win even more! There's been a bizarre emphasis on closing and I'll go into that in future post. This post is about opening often with the right prospects, the ones that will help you make and exceed your number this quarter.
What new business strategies and tactics work best for you? What books, blogs, white papers and authors are you reading on the subject? Which technology platforms, processes or advanced automations are you leveraging to boost results? Who is driving the most new business on your team and how are they doing it? What works for you? What are you putting off doing that you know would help you breakthrough? What are your challenges in new business sales? What's blocking you? Please share below.
If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.
Main Image Photo by Flickr: U.S. Pacific Air Forces