Strategic Selling

How I Close Million Dollar Deals - RSVP Strategic Selling Framework

Tony J Hughes

This video is a few years old now but introduces strategic selling and the RSVPselling™ concepts which enable sales managers and channel managers to be effective with a low overhead approach for complex enterprise selling. It's a meta-framework that sits over the top of whatever you're currently using including Challenger, SPIN, TAS, Battleplan, Blue Sheets, and others. The framework enables a leader to manage a sales person's pursuit of an opportunity anywhere at any time and can be utilized in a boardroom within an account plan or in a coffee shop on the back of a napkin.

Importantly, it drives clarity amidst all the data and it creates laser focus on what actually matters in winning regardless of how early or late you are in the opportunity. It's an efficient and effective framework for strategy and execution as you simply keep asking questions in the four RSVP areas to relentlessly focus on what's important.

R)elationships: Do we have the right relationships? Followed by: Are we selling at the right level? Do they have genuine political and economic power? Do our relationships provide differentiating intelligence, insight and genuine influence?

S)trategy: Do we have an effective strategy for managing relationships and competitive threats? Followed by: Do we understand the power-base and have we identified the competition (external and internal including the risk of them doing nothing)? What's our strategy for winning while engineering a positive bias in the customer's requirements toward us?

V)alue: Are we leading with insight and uniquely creating compelling business value in the eyes of the customer? Followed by: Why will they buy anything at all and is there a risk of the status quo prevailing? How are we differentiating and evidencing our credentials as lowest risk and best value?

P)rocess: Are we aligned and do we truly understand the customer’s process for evaluation, selection, approval and procurement? Followed by: Do we understand how they define and assess risk with suppliers and solutions? Do we have a close plan validated by the customer?

Excellence in execution underpins the four RSVP elements with pragmatic tools for qualifying, closing and understanding the players in the buyer organization. RSVPselling™ also incorporates concepts such as the Value Quadrant for Professional Sales Agents© and The New ROI©

This meta-framework supports the concepts of progressive qualification and close plans to manage an opportunity and it won't confuse your team regardless of what they're currently using. The reason the wheel goes anti-clockwise is that the approach is counter-intuitive. It simplifies complexity and creates insight without excessive overhead. Everyone is time-poor and this works.

Now it’s over to you. Do sales people use their company's selling methodology well? What are the most important aspects to focus on? How do you create focus in winning with a team?

Please feel free to personally email me if you're interested in me enabling your company or team with these principles attony@rsvpselling.com. Let me help you increase revenue sustainably.

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.

Whale Hunting Part I - The Rate of Decay

What do complex sales and the radioactive decay rate of atoms have in common? "The rate at which these unstable isotopes [deals] undergo decay varies greatly between the different isotopes [customers]. The process is random for each atom [customer]. However there is a fixed probability that an atom [deal] will disintegrate over a fixed time scale [quarter(s)].The time it takes for the radiation to decay to half of what it was previously is constant and is called the half life [closed lost]."

Believe it or not, I always think of these decay rate charts, a phenomenon occurring in many natural systems, when I'm looking at enterprise selling. What is the said radiation? It's the emotion of senior decision makers and their propensity to overcome the status quo and make a change. It's the heat of the moment and the inspiration to take risk. Draw a graph like this on the white board and map Deal Size and Propensity to Close on the Y axis and time on the X axis. Then draw another horizontal line or watermark halfway up the Y axis to express the status quo. When a customer gets excited about the possibility of change, you've touched a nerve or uncovered pain; emotion flares up and just like a whale tail breaches the water line of the status quo. The fear of not changing outweighs the fear of changing for only a very short amount of time. If you do not get on site, Skype or meaningfully connect in that timeframe (actively listening) to help them make the case with the appropriate deciding stakeholders in the account, the deal will fall back down into the water and decay rapidly to the half life of 'close lost.' Ask yourself this question, how many opportunities have hit the "half life" and are hiding, decaying in your pipeline? It's time to Spring clean out your customer relationship management closet, observe the following universal truths and start to win.

Although enterprise deals ($250K+) on average can often take anywhere from 6 to 16 months to close, if you haven't made a major impact in a quarter or two, you're talking about a massive pull of inertia catapulting deals with whales back down into the dark ocean of "do nothing." Your likelihood of closing the deal is exponentially smaller with every month that goes buy from the original point of high interest. Customers buy on emotion and close on pure logic. Many call this striking while the iron is hot when opportunity knocks, before dying on the vine. Andy Paul has taken this to an even further level of real-time selling or zero-time selling as others like Craig Elias have dubbed the concept as 'first in.' This is a tricky expression and I'll uncover a new way to look at time and engagement in this post as well as a follow-up. There are nuances here that I feel could be more thoroughly explored. I wanted to share some of my unique thoughts about this concept as it relates to the natural world and how I see the ramifications of decay rates and how they're impacting enterprise deals and influencing sales cycle stagnation, or acceleration. It seems like a big mystery until you just look at any system in nature.

Simplicity emerges...

First off, are you currently even hunting whales? With all due respect to these beautiful, mysterious and regal creatures of the undersea kingdom which I do seek to protect, in sales, as a metaphor whale hunting is defined as going full bore after your largest dream clients. Why relegate your team to mediocrity and tire-kickers? I would argue it takes an equal amount of time, money and resources to go after bad deals as it does to target the right ones. Time is money and you're in business to produce dramatic results for clients that are a key fit for your solution. Think as big as you can, then think bigger. Imagine the most incredible deal you could put together with the biggest client with the most complete suite of your solutions. Write this down on paper to memorialize it. What truly constitutes an ideal prospect? Understand every facet of the whale almost like a marine biologist. You are Jacques Cousteau! Which company could your firm foster a strategic partnership with and completely transform their business as well as yours? That's step one: defining the whale and not limiting yourself to that definition. If you can't spot it, how can you hunt it? OK, you may not feel ready but I guarantee you're more ready than you think.

So that leads to the next major question? How do I combat that rate of decay? How can I reconcile enterprise sales cycles with my lack of time, capacity or resources? I need to go raise a round of funding... I need to close in business now. My startup company is at risk... or, as an account executive, I have to make my number, right?

Check out this second graph. Now I can go find thousands of these charts but what we see here is a similarity of diametric motions in competing energy systems. There's the downward pressure of decay and then the acceleration up and to the right of growth and the confluence or crossroads of both. You have a chance to literally insert yourself into deal cycles other competitors have started for you. You can come in out of nowhere (or below from the depths if we stick to this analogy) with more power, force, insight and passion and completely disrupt another decay rate already in play causing your deal to accelerate back up to growth. I would relate this to a block in the game of billiards when you knock the opponents ball off course or position your ball to block the target.

This is why social selling and social networks are so powerful. You can literally generate demand rather than servicing it. The whole traditional idea of web leads, inbound phone calls and the reactive nature of whales coming to you is a recipe for RFP, stalls and low average deal size. Generally, CXO whales deploy and delegate to have several vendors spelunked at once. So waiting for the sector to come to you is a red herring. I've opined ad nauseam about the power of content marketing to create an octopus's garden to attract whales and that's an ongoing Challenge endeavor that Marketing and B2B salespeople should undertake together but that does not forego, the proactive whale hunting mentality each day. The boulder versus the sand is going after at least five whales per day before doing anything else. Don't answer your email, construct an RFP response, work the web leads or build that 55 slide presentation with your NASCAR slide. Don't do anything until you've identified, targeted, followed up with, cold-called or connected with on LinkedIn – at least 5 dream customers before lunch. Every single day. After all, you still have the name "sales" in your title. And if that title disappears industry-wide someone is still going to be responsible for bringing in the revenue of the company. I'd challenge any robot to close a six or seven figure deal. If we get there in my lifetime, I'll eat my shoe. Please hold me to it!

Recently, a CEO argued for the end of selling and how customer service agents could handle it all. He whined about how unfortunate commission plans are. Even if all that were true, somebody in the companies of the future will understand this post and hop on a plane, even go door to door again, and do all this old school analog hunting completely eclipsing the techy folks waiting around for $250,000 self-serve orders to come into the website. I don't know about you but I've never been more suspicious in my life in making a major purchase than right now. In 2015 everything including Ferraris can be purchased on a mobile phone with one click and how on Earth do I know it's not a scam? Is the engine full of sawdust? Am I sending a money order to Dubai? How do I get into the car and test drive it... I'd be shocked to hear of one Fortune 2,000 CEO spending $1MM without face time and even walking the facilities of the vendor. If you're a CXO reading this or you know one that has purchased million dollar enterprise software sight unseen, please comment. I would love a case study, perhaps I'm wrong (but I doubt it.)

You can set off the chain reactions in both charts and be there first, early. I think the thing that Corporate Executive Board research misses and Challenger Sale for that matter, is the goal of insight selling in a real-time ecosystem is to bypass the entire decision making process all together. The entire buyer's decision journey is reactive: they've already started and you're inserting yourself anywhere between 57% to 90%. So it's all focused on engaging early upstream. But who is teaching, don't even compete in an existing buying cycle that has a decay rate. What about the novel idea of triggering the buying cycle yourself? Right, the entire cacophony of "it's not a sales cycle," it's a "buying cycle" is juxtaposed to the sales people I coach actually closing six and seven figure deals with LinkedIn. They're generating demand not servicing it. I would counteract this with the Jobsian thought, "What customer ever knew what they want? We need to show them what they never knew they always wanted." Paraphrasing...

On Monday, hold a meeting with your sales team. Write down the top 10 companies you need to close and what exact deal you want to do: size, solution, stakeholders, etc. Who are you not closing you need to be? I'm sure it's on the tip of your tongue or in the back of your mind. What are the solutions you'll sell and the problems you'll solve? Chances are, you're no longer up periscope searching for whales; you're reactively dealing with a school of fish of smaller accounts - just as high touch, high maintenance - and they're reactively consuming all your time. Have you given up? Recalibrate! Now that you've pinpointed these whales it's time to share your team's knowledge of everything in the accounts: what were the past attempts, do you have paper with any of them, were there past proposals? Have stakeholders you've sold to from other accounts moved into them? Where are the people that signed the POs or SOWs now? All of this is very much a group trigger event tracking exercise and will serve as the wind in your sails to build momentum in this quarter and the next. You are simply getting to know the whales, identifying them before you go after them again.

Reinvigorated by this article? I certainly am. I do this every day and train groups and CXOs to look at their book of business and territory mapping in this novel way. So what now? Go look at the graphs again. Nobody is ever satisfied with what they're using, especially in software. Most people have creeping doubts. Ask someone if they're happy? 99% will mention they could be happier in this area of that. So essentially the flare of change, the breach of the surface of the ocean, the whale tail's rise if you will is happening right as we speak all over the ocean of our sector and customer base. You only need to get out a pair of binoculars, open your eyes from your CRM spreadsheet jockey repose and get out the S.S. Minnow. All you have to do is intercept the decay rate or better yet, CREATE IT! Waves, ebbs and flows - watch them. If you live by a major body of water, go study right now... It holds thousands of years of secrets in its movements. Enterprise sales cycles ebb and flow the exact same way. It's all right there!

When I call on a major customer and I have a cutting edge solution that is superior in many ways I focus on the outcomes and risk. I keep the conversation strategic with the business folks to win the business sale and technical/tactical with the operational technical folks to win the technical sale in tandem. I make a compelling and provocative business case that my competitor is not using. It's unique and data driven. I'm not parroting the magic quadrant report: I tell the story in my own way to deeply engage. It's about them, their quote in the annual report, the media, the blog, the conference. I also realize there's a 3% chance they're actively looking and 40% chance they're open to looking. That 40% is my ocean where I'll create the breach. Jumping dolphins are cool too, fast nimble high growth companies that I can sell into that will create the budget and still have the scaled need. The minute I get customers excited emotionally about improving the state of their business, the risk of change decreases, the system is frictionless and now I have a customer advocate and champion to go cause a Renaissance in the account. Value creation is easy. It's not a one time propositions. It's an upward spiral of how we're working together to either drive revenue or increase operational efficiency on an ongoing basis. Then the decay rate begins...

Let me simplify this for you: If you've got deals over $250,000 in your pipe and you are not actively engaging and moving them through your funnel with enough velocity they will [I repeat]: drown into the status quo of the Doldroms. No doubt about it. The minute something goes white hot in your pipe, you have mere weeks, maybe a quarter to accelerate it so you can be that red sine wave graph up and to the right. You must catch the egg of interest and intent or it will break. These are simple diagrams pulled right out of isotope and atomic decay rate research. But all these decay rates look eerily similar against infinite human systems, as they are fractal. The expenditure of emotion, energy and enthusiasm like echoes into a canyon, is guided by the limitation of Earth time. We all know the greatest enemy of quota is time. That's why we must ferociously protect our calendars against the forces of evil in our own companies masquerading as good. Endless admin, enablement and days of internal meetings does not a top seller make. It's just a law. Companies exist to block their sellers. That may be the greatest paradox of all. Often in an early stage startup I consult, the first step is to pinpoint the sellers who are literally "blocking revenue." Once a shift is made and the able folks are in the right location, a team of 2 can drive more revenue than 10. I've seen it happen too many times it's like some parable in Greek myth. Deal Blockers Anonymous. The anti-sellers reckoning!

Time is of the essence. Identify the whales. Think bigger. Build a sustainable, repeatable [demand gen] mechanism to engage them early before they "die on the vine" and decay and when you see the tail flare up, realize they're most likely engaged with all your competitors. In the enterprise, this is definitely always the case. To prove it, think of your own behaviour? When's the last time you bought a pricey piece of software? Did you not go to Google, submit to multiple web forms and request demos from at least three companies. I recently did this with GoToMeeting, Join.Me and WebEx and had reps from all three selling me, slide-decking me and romancing me for a few months. But if you're first, if you're the one to cause the flare up with a key insight, by helping them see their business or business model in a dramatically new way, you then have this shining moment to accelerate the deal. Is it audacious to think you can revolutionize someone's business who may be very senior to you? Not if you build enough industry expertise by assessing what the leading edge companies are doing you interface with. You generate insight by living it, being out in the field, walking the halls of dream clients and reading like a fiend.

Is it possible to close deals without an inside sales team, field sales team and solely as a CEO founder leveraging marketing automation and LinkedIn alone? Yes. I know of several using stealth social gen technologies now. I know of companies having success with companies like Frontline Selling and Carb.io. There's an inside phalanx of Predictable Revenue sellers too applying the Henry Ford Silicon Valley specialization models. The sales people of the future will understand this and form a strategic alliance with their internal C-Suite. By leveraging stealth B2B social lead gen technology to set unlimited meetings, bonding and having a close knit relationship with the leadership of their own company, and being more proactive than ever, they can pick from a grab bag like bobbing for apples. It will be possible to steal deals right out of the hands of competitors.

We've all had this happen to us. All's fair in love, war and business. And when I say steal, it's like stealing the ball in sports; it's a fair play. If you outsmart your competitors by thinking more strategically, being quicker and more cunning as the fox, it's still counts when you bank it. Technology levels the playing field but technology mixed with strategy is unstoppable. Study military strategy, study the classic strategic selling books you think are collecting dust on the shelf. Don't get too enamored with the Social Selling craze because many of these principles lack the foundation of strategic selling in complex matrixed organizations. You need to garner a very thorough understanding of SPIN selling, TAS, Solution, Strategic, Insight and Power Base before you attempt to do this in social. You will walk right into a hornest nest as you trigger multiple land mines with out a complete and thorough training in the Pantheon.

After all, until they 'sign on the line that is dotted,' it's a free country, free market and the customer or "whale" is in charge. We'd never harpoon the whale, we'd let them harpoon us into a meaningful business relationship of trust that lasts and strengthens itself in an anti-fragile manner where we're providing so much recurring value creation that they'd never sever that tie in the chaos of high growth technology acceleration. We're out ahead innovating in permanent beta. Maybe this post should have been called Whale Rider because I've featured a picture of a photographer capturing the stately mysterious whale shark. You truly want to co-exist with your best customers and forge alliances of trust. It's a simbiotic give and take after all. That's why I love the book Go-Givers Sell More!

If you're limiting yourself on the size of deal you can close, speed you can close it and level of dream customer, you're wasting precious time in your career and taking commission money out of your family's pocket. Go big! Dream bigger and think bigger. There is a ton of great information on trigger events that Tibor Shanto and Craig Elias put out so I must tip my hat to that in this article. I'm going to write a follow up post to this all about "anchoring the sale." This will cover the psychological components and where Cialdini's influence factors in when you do get in "early" and chase the rainbow to find that mythical pot of gold. Don't get bitten by the procurement leprechaun!

Once you spot a prospect that is "whale size" and has embarked on the decay rate journey there are ways to anchor the deal before it falls off that are critical to bringing the revenue home and booking it. The role of social media, LinkedIn, Twitter and persistent cold-calling techniques coupled with them as well as how to leverage on-site and interactivity become key here. Look for Part II.

Happy hunting and closing! Once you catch the whale, psyche! realize they caught you and coexist with them. Admire their beauty. Go for a swim in the ocean of healthy profit margins, recurring revenue and a virtuous cycles of mutual growth!

Now it's your turn: What makes deals die? Why do some accelerate and others stall? How are you leveraging strategic selling systems, processes and technology to compete in big deals or accelerate your sales cycle? Curious...

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: Marcel Ekkel

How To Win Huge Deals When The Stakes Are Dangerously High [Checklist]

What exactly do you do?

Bond: 'Oh, I travel... a sort of licensed troubleshooter.'

We've all been there before. The Battle Royale or maybe we've bet it all on red 16 at the roulette table. We're under deep cover in Monte Carlo and it's time to jettison the casino before the scorpions find us in our beds. We may just feel like 007 – pick your favorite scene...It's life or death in strategic selling! The competition has its hooks in the deal. The prize looks too sexy to be true. Procurement is shaving us down like a Bond villain calmly stroking a Persian pussy cat whilst openly revealing a sinister plot to choose a commodity supplier for total margin domination.

The quarter is about to close and we're banking on this one key moment to make or break our chances of the commission check. It's New Year's... somewhere. The RFP response has gone out. The SOW is sent. It ain't cheap to put gas in this vintage Aston Martin or keep a tuxedo pressed under scuba gear 365. The shot clock is ticking. The client will invariably demand a 'friends and family' discount. Haven't we trained them to wait until the last minute? Truly...what do you do? How do you navigate the island of Dr. 'No' to still engineer winning the deal, saving the world and booking the revenue. What is the role of social when the stakes are extremely high?

Sales is simple, right? Well yes, you may not need the mathematician's mind of Ian Fleming but you will need to know how to take calculated risks. Bonus points for getting away with quippy one-liners! If you prepare incredibly well, anticipate competitive threats and risks and leave no stone unturned in your close planning process you just may have a shot at diamonds forever. You must maintain a rigorous focus and discipline as the best military strategist would. When I'm working a six, seven, eight and even nine figure deal, I remain constantly vigilant and many questions race through my mind, many of which I outline below for your Youtility belt. Confidence is the feeling you have just before you understand the situation. Don't let your ego blind you. Cockiness can get you iced by Odd Job. For many of us, earning a living in complex B2B sales is a roller coaster ride and 60's spy novel with a cliffhanger ending. I've been there... Use this checklist to live to die another day, keep your golden eye on the ball and emerge victoriously to make a lucrative sequel with Cubby Broccoli:

  • Are you proactive or reactive in this deal? Are you levering it forward with leading vs. lagging measures? Have you evaluated the execution aspect of your sales process? Are their leading indicators and pattern recognition from past Win and Loss Reviews that would indicate impending victory?
  • Did you anchor the deal? Budget, Timeline, Compelling Event, Success Criteria – Are you pre-radioactive in your decay rate?
  • Did you RSVP? Relationships, Strategy, Value Creation, Process
  • Did you thoroughly perform discovery before you presented? Was your presentation Jobsian under 10 slides? How many Ahas and Wows did you garner? Better yet, did you simply Venn diagram it out on a white board with a dry erase marker keeping eye contact and addressing all concerns?
  • Do you understand the political power base and situational power base Mr. Fox? Do you know who your frenemies are in the account before you dodge friendly fire? Who ultimately holds the P & L and is authorized to sign a Production Order?
  • Did you 'beestorm', meeting with various stakeholder groups to build consensus? Who is mobilizing the deal? Talkers, blockers vs. advocates?
  • Who is the incumbent supplier and which exact sales people are you up against? Are there rogue consultants circling who can tip you off as to your status as a third stringer to simply check the box on three required vendors in a bureaucratic government tender process?
  • Are you missing requirements? Is there FUD - fear, uncertainty and doubt - that you can utilize to your advantage? Did you highlight their weakness, set traps and lockouts and differentiate by demonstrating unexpected value?
  • What's the outcome VITO is looking for? What are the risks if they don't change from the status quo?
  • Did you ask Situation Problem but especially Need-Payoff questions to dive deep enough to the root cause of the problem(s)? [SPIN] Did you peel the onion? Honestly, are you addressing a symptom or the true problem?
  • Did you win the business sale as well as the technical sale? Did you produce a tailored insight-driven presentation and proposal to each group? Did it highlight the competitors' weakness and position you as the leader? Oh no... have you said to much. Oversharing requirements can inversely increase perceived risk!
  • Have you personally met with the signer off-site? Have you leveraged risk as a weapon?
  • Have you leveraged LinkedIn Sales Navigator to gain intel and TAS Dealmaker to politically map the account? Have you honestly qualified hard enough?
  • Based on RAIN Group research did you Connect, Convince and Collaborate effectively? [The 3Cs are why Winners win, 'based on 700 B2B purchases with buyers responsible for over $3.1B in annual purchasing and interviews with 150 corporate buyers about their recent purchasing experiences.']
  • What is your military strategy or battle plan? Did you plan and execute it? Land and expand, Direct, Flanking, Attrition, Containment, Guerrilla etc.
  • Did you deftly leverage social media at every phase of the funnel? #strategicsocialselling
  • Did you speak CXO? Did you respectfully challenge but make sure to build rapport and trust advisor status prior? Did you build a provocative business case? Did you ideate enough with first principles thinking? Did you deliver a commercial teaching pitch? Teach, Tailor & Take Control [CEB]
  • Do you understand the trigger event(s) in play? Is the trigger strong enough? Better yet, were you first in, pre-trigger? Was that trigger a change or transition opposed to awareness or bad supplier? Did you analyze previous wins to influence this one?
  • Does the most senior executive truly understand why you're different? Did you present a convincing value hypothesis? Did you build a conservative, believable ROI or lift calculator?
  • Have they called a raving reference client? Have you presented hyper-relevant case studies?
  • Have you ghostjacked your own CEO's profile to directly connect to their CEO or Board via social profiles? Have you flown out on-site with your own internal executive sponsor?
  • Have they talked 75% of the time? Have you shared a powerful sales story? Have you brainstormed and white boarded with them? Did you perform gap, white space or SWOT analysis?
  • Have you connected emotionally and cerebrally? Have you had coffee independently with each to understand the politics?
  • Have you embedded yourself into a burning business case? Will she get promoted by choosing your solution? Will you transform her business? Will you make the customer look like a hero?
  • Have you communicated why and how you will save or make the company millions? Do you understand the health of the company? Are they in growth, stasis or crisis mode? What does the annual report tell you? What are the clues from the balance sheet?
  • Have you built a Gantt chart for execution and delivery stages ratified by the client? Are you holding each other accountable?
  • Have you established a cogent close plan?
  • Have you bubbled this up to your internal executive team to make this deal a priority and leverage their networks to triangulate into the power base?
  • Are you leveraging all your resources including pre-sales engineers, solutions consultants and client services? Are you the conductor of the symphony?
  • Did you put your CTO, CIO, CFO in touch with theirs?
  • Do you have empirical evidence and proof the deal will actually close? Hope is not a strategy. Has legal cleared for the MSA or PSC? Have you moved the deal into the end zone 15 days before the quarter closed?
  • Have you been tenacious in your follow up always adding value but never violating the principle of non-hunger?
  • Is the customer buying IBM? No one ever got fired for choosing them thus they were always happy to pay more for job security. Did you build a strong enough business case that the risk not to change is far greater than the risk of maintaining the status quo? Did you reduce friction early in the sales process? Did you make it easy to buy from you?

Ask yourself these questions when considering your 007 strategy:

  • What is our relationship strategy and are we aligned with the power-base?
  • Do we truly understand the decision driv­ers and business case?
  • Do we understand their corporate mode and personal agendas?
  • Who and what is our competition and how will we position against them?
  • Does the customer have other projects competing for funding?
  • Which of our competitors is engaged with the customer?
  • How will our competitors seek to position against us?
  • What are our compara­tive strengths and weaknesses?
  • How will we engineer the customer’s focus on our unique value?
  • How will we prove or validate our capabil­ity and lowest risk?
  • Where will we position price to leave room to negotiate?
  • Do we have all necessary information and what don’t we know?

Here's a sensational true story and case study where I went up against an incumbent supplier and won against all odds. Read how we did it as you think about how all the above check points factored in...

Now it's your turn: What did I miss on the checklist? What do you ensure you've covered in order to increase propensity of winning major enterprise deals in the 11th hour? Managers... Are you out there? Care to open-source your clandestine thoughts on the comment thread faster than you can say 'espionage?'

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 Photos by: Johan Oomen

Don't Be A Face Sucking Alien

The Principle of Non-Hunger is one of the most critical strategic axioms for winning in enterprise sales cycles. Always, always maintain your cool. This is much like the relationship dynamics of dating. You can't be too interested! Just like Miles Davis reflected profoundly that the silence is often even more important than the music being played, mastering strategic pauses is a powerful sales weapon to fortify your arsenal.

You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and especially know when to run – aka qualify out that garbage in the pipeline. Remember, GIGO = Garbage in garbage out. Inflated pipelines and sales person 'happy ears' are almost a proverb in modern selling where technology is the crutch and hence why only 60% of salespeople make quota.

But this post is about something rather specific. This is about a grossly negligent group of salespeople that inadvertently snap the marlin on the line by acting too 'needy' in the crucible of the deal. Close confidently and lead the delicate dance with your business partner.

We all remember the scene in Alien when Sigourney Weaver gets trapped in the room with the baby alien that jumps up to suck her face and she narrowly escapes. This is not the tone you would ever want to set with a customer. Here are the greatest Face-Sucking Alien Violations:

  • Endless checking in or touching base via email
  • Constantly calling customers' cell phones and leaving messages that provide no accretive value
  • Over-confirming meetings
  • Sending an email every time they open the last outreach – you move from data driven business development to desperate
  • Status update or status check type communication
  • Hard-negotiating the close and then being sweet and unctuous – this reeks used car salesman and snaps the line
To be consultative, be assumptive. - Jill Konrath's Antidote

Sometimes being the most venomous snake in the outback is actually about knowing when to lay in wait versus when to strike. Once the deal is closed, knowing it has and holding a united front is paramount. Sales trainers in seminars in the olden days used to literally yell at the audience to 'Shut up!' Why? Because the sale has closed and the cardinal sin of strategic selling is a Yogi Berraism: 'Don't over-close the close.' Once they've made up their mind, don't unmake it or introduce creeping doubt by being overly urgent or smarmy. Pestering key decision makers blows deals. We get delegated down to who we sound like but we especially get delegated down to whom we act like. Leverage finesse, gravitas and oblique approaches to drive even greater value to unstick your reps' deals. If you are in the hot seat looking for that signature – command respect and act as an executive would with economy of effort, speech and veracity in your actions. Make each action count and hold them accountable to the process.

non-hunger (n.) Confidence, security and faith in your solution. Patience and sales swagger that breeds and sets the tone. Showing strength in strategic negotiations. Knowing your value and creating warranted exclusivity.

Here's how you build confidence and close elegantly:

  • Enunciate and open up your body language
  • Get the deal signed in person sitting at the board table
  • Make it easy to do business with you
  • Radiant confidence in everything that you do. It's better to fake it before you make it then to quaver. Customers smell fear and will balk.
  • Listen to audio programs on negotiation like Getting To Yes from the Harvard Negotiation Project so that you can master the art of debate.
  • Assume the sale and own the responsibility of what this is really about: execution and solving the customer's pain.
  • Always create value at every touch point!

Now it's your turn: What's your strategy for closing major deals? How do you maintain confidence? Have you put a policy in place to only touch the customer Nth times once the deal is closed to ensure you bring it in over the line?

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: Pug 50

My Last Post On LinkedIn!

This is my last post on social media or blogging of any kind in the foreseeable future. It’s been a tweetin wild ride but I've made a fortune in social selling and I'm retiring to become an organic farmer and micro-brewer. But I’ll also be working with Professor Neil Rackham to create his biography and document the history of modern selling.

All this became possible with just 4 months of manic activity in LinkedIn where I made enough money from Social Selling to pursue my dream of living on an organic farm in Tasmania to brew a revolutionary beer infused with beetroot juice. It's a Blue Ocean strategy inspired by an Australian juicing documentary that I saw in 2013. Now I've literally 'bought the farm' to start a healthy alcohol revolution. Tasmanian Red Beet Beer will be potent in vitamins and antioxidants to transform the inner-health of millions while masking digestive realities, eliminating any stress caused by visible blood in the stool or urine.

But back to Neil and the book we will co-write in Tasmania on the farm. The tome will be titled: The Consolidated History of Modern Selling – From SPIN to Social Solution Challenger Value Selling With All You Need To Know To Sell Succinctly In The Digital Age.

Neil visits Australia regularly and I remember him telling me the story of when he bought a Driza-Bone coat in Adelaide many years ago while on a wine pilgrimage down under. He has a love of the country… and goats, but not in any sort of inappropriate way. Goats are an important part of the blue ocean strategy because they weed and fertilize the farm and they’re much cheaper than importing child labor from the third world. The goats on the beetroot farm will live on blackberries, themselves fertilized by the hops left over from the beer brewing process and goat fecal pellets. It’s a virtuous organic circle of goats-cheese-fertilizer-beer-blackberry-love-goats.

During the day, Neil and I will walk the hedgerows of blackberry bushes and beetroot stalks with loyal goats in tow, positing the future of B2B social selling spiced with challenger solution value techniques jacked with back-to-the future ninja warrior social principles. Every evening we'll riff over organic red ale gazing down the valley with Tasmanian Devils howling in the distance.

Organic beer will be the fuel for our writing; but Neil was initially skeptical about the benefits of beets and he told me that beet-beer is only a benefit if it solves a specific problem articulated by drinkers.

The SPIN Selling courses I attended earlier in my life enabled me to nail the perfect response: "Imagine that you're being intimate with someone and they ask you if they're bleeding. You can provide great comfort in simply telling them you're sure it's just the coloration of the beets. But the benefits are not just psychological, beets can do for beer what red grapes did for wine, but without the tannin. Guinness pioneered with black but now the new black is a darkish red."

Neil had nothing in response and then I hammered it home: “The benefits of combining beer and beets are compelling! We all know that with enough beer ugly people appear to be attractive but the properties of beets provide clarity amidst the fog of inebriation. Surely everyone would like the ability to articulate their wisdom in a more compelling way while also uninhibited by intelligible thought processes at the end of a rollicking good evening at the pub.” He was speechless. No objections – closed.

I plan to spend many evenings on the porch with Neil in Tasmania on the micro brewery beet farm with our goats, ideating the future of B2B professional solution social selling. Mentor and mentee masticating on goat cheese, chugging beet-beer, ruby red lips waxing lyrical about the tremendous cottage industries that are micro brewing and sales training.

Only wankers drink Corona with a pretentious little lime wedge shoved in the top but we'll each have a beet stalk hanging out of our brew which is actually the most nutritious part of the plant and provides valuable fiber... another benefit on top of your nasal hairs being caressed by the beet foliage as you sip away. Using your tongue to maneuver the stalk to the side while swallowing provides a playful challenge and the whole experience truly engages all of the senses to deliver a genuine drinking solution and the ultimate customer experience.

Every morning we will emerge from the homestead a little hung over and milk the goats before checking on the micro-brewery copper vats. Then we'll stroll back to dig-in to writing the book. When we need a break we'll turn to poetry... most people don't know that Neil is actually a poet and it's one of the reasons he was invited to contribute to The Challenger Sale (see page 82) with his SAFE BOLD sonnet. I've entered us into a poetry competition at the local town pub where we've instigated the Community Poetry Night and we've already made it to the final with this.

All that is told is not Twitter,

All blogs in LinkedIn are not lost;

The told that is true does not wither,

Deep beet roots are not reached by the frost.

From the likes in social we'll be woken,

A goat from the thickets shall spring;

Reviews and shares shall be spoken,

The crownless again shall be king.

The publican, Mike Blunt, is quite sophisticated and I helped him optimize his LinkedIn profile on the basis that we all sell naked these days on social. Now the other 17 people who live in town, plus the 43 who dwell in the shire, can see his personal brand and comment in his LinkedIn group about why he prefers eloquent pros instead of karaoke or open mic nights with people singing off-key. My first act of philanthropy will be to provide WiFi for the whole town so that we can end face-to-face talking and drive real connection through social.

I've begun ghosting his profile to drive engagement and we're promoting "Professor Neil Rackham – International Poet Laureate Sales Anthropologist" as the major draw-card. I'm confident we can quadruple numbers – who says there's no ROI in social. Mike has no idea and reckons the only social feed that matters is a good T-bone counter lunch sold to a mini-bus tour group. Goodbye and farewell for now. Thanks for following my posts here in LinkedIn over the last 4 months and keep an eye out for Tasmanian Red Beet Beer and Neil's biography later this year... I am not fit to tie his sandals but it's such a privilege to serve the sales training industry in this way.

Sayonara ~ TJH (12:01am April 1, 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand)

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: David Goehring

Is SPIN still the best book on sales ever written?

Wherever I go around the world, speaking and training, the term 'spin' is ubiquitous. Granted, Challenger came along but salespeople in as diverse fields as electronics, manufacturing and even speculative verticals like high technology, still swear by it! It works in both B2C and B2B.

So what are your thoughts on this? Is the SPIN methodology still all you really need to know, the Holy Grail of selling and applicable in complex enterprise selling? Could it be that the level of real research that went into Neil Rackham's study is what made it withstand the test of time? There have been lots of shallow surveys, anecdotal observations, and manipulated 'research' that masquerades as 'empirical data and insightful findings' since, but in my opinion nothing has ever matched the integrity and depth of Rackham's ground-breaking work.

Neil Rackham is The Professor of Professional Selling, and his prescient methods fit into the DNA of Challenger Selling. His SAFE vs BOLD framework is included on page 82 of The Challenger Sale book and he writes the foreword. Is Challenger merely an offshoot of Rackham's thought leadership over decades? If you continue to study sales executives, won't the same patterns continue to re-emerge?

Has the sales cycle truly changed that much? Many argue that with increasing complexity and commoditization, and the difficulty in making a considered purchase, it's actually a preference of many senior level executives to seek out trusted advisors to shepherd them through the maelstrom of options.

I would define the SPIN acronym for you but I'm sure you're all very familiar. The book is about the quality of the questions we ask to uncover the deeper pain's implications and need-payoff scenarios as we peel the onion to the real root causes of problems. According to the data 'the result of millions in painstaking research,' that ability – which can be coached and trained on, thankfully – separates the winners in any sales arena from those that came in 2nd place or below. Unfortunately only one company gets to close.

I was pretty impressed that I can actually tag this post as 'spin selling' because it's that big. So this is a bit of a short punchy post:

  1. Would you agree that SPIN Selling is the best book ever written on strategic selling? Why?

  2. How has it impacted your life and career?

  3. How are you using SPIN to manage, train and get world class results out of your team?

  4. If not SPIN, what are you using instead?

  5. If you were to go to a desert island, is there really any other book that you would need?

  6. Is anyone having success applying SPIN methods to social selling? Sales management?

Now it's your turn. Please answer any of the above questions that inspire you and in regards to sales writings – What's your top 5 of all time? I have a big announcement coming concerning Neil Rackham but that's a post for a few days from now. More about Neil, please by all his books. He was gracious enough to review The Joshua Principle, Leadership Secrets of Selling:

"There are millions of sales jobs around the world today, but a large number of those are disappearing every year. As technology advances and consumer demands increase, the idea of a salesperson as a 'talking brochure' is no longer valid. World class sales forces understand this and are making every effort to adapt and maintain their positions of leadership in the marketplace. There is no greater authority than Neil Rackham on where the selling profession is headed and what individuals and organizations must do to distinguish themselves from their fierce competitors.

Having conducted the largest-ever study of professional selling – observing more than 35,000 sales calls in over 20 countries, at a cost of $40 million in today’s dollars – Neil presents objective, quantitative insights in a dynamic, interactive fashion that brings true learning to the audience. (The effectiveness of his teaching and training methods earned him the Instructional Systems Association’s lifetime award for Innovation in Training and Instruction.)

Many of of the Fortune 100′s largest companies in the United States, including IBM, Xerox, AT&T and Citicorp, have engaged Neil Rackham as an advisor on sales performance. More than half the Fortune 500 train their salespeople using sales models derived from his research. As a sought-after conference speaker, Neil has shared the platform with notable leaders such as Tom Peters, General Colin Powell, Philip Kotler and many others. Using his signature combination of humor, passion and group interaction, he stimulates and challenges his audiences to reach new heights in the world of professional selling."

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:  Simon & His Camera

 

Tony Robbins' Ultimate Success Formula Applied To Strategic Sales

  1. Know precisely the desired outcome.
  2. Take massive action to achieve the outcome.
  3. Notice quickly whether the action is working.
  4. Change the approach as required to attain the outcome.

I would imagine this post will find many a Tony Robbins fan. The above is excerpted from Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within. Applied to strategic sales, it's fairly remarkable how rapidly it can produce results. Let's take a quick look at the ramifications of each step on complex B2B selling.

  1. Is the goal of what we are doing to close the deal, earn commission or toproduce transformational results in the client prospect's business? What's really your desired outcome? Visualize this clearly in your mind and ensure you have a close plan in place that includes the start gate, how you'll collaborate with internal stakeholders on your side and you understand the procurement process of the buying organization. At a macro level, take yourself mentally to the end result and play the event sequence back in your mind recalling it to ensure you've thoroughly accounted for every step.
  2. Massive action is a theme we've seen with Google 10X moonshots, Grant Cardone's 10X rule and even Nike 'just do it.' Everywhere in natural systems, we see abundance manifested in massive actions, seeds on the wind, explosive schools of fish around the great barrier reef, infinite expanses of space energy and stars. You have to balance this with the risk of busy fool syndrome and boiling that ocean of greenfield opportunity. So how can you take, laser-focused, effective action? The answer is to think strategically and execute the strategy that will be most effective informed by wisdom of experience, common sense, and a willingness to do an uncommon level of research. To do this, it requires being in the now: full there... aware. 
  3. This is where we start to get feedback in real time from the strategy that we are implementing. In a strategic sale, it's often high risk and there can be land mines in the deal, frenemies in the account, smiling forces that are secretly aligned with competition. You may take the wrong massive action and trip the wires. Over time, you'll start to be able to discern with pattern recognition and read these signals better. Keep focused on the goal, take massive action and then start to get feedback on what's working in a single deal or as you look back over your last year of selling.
  4. Adjusting the approach can take various forms: Perhaps you just keep going after the CMO and they've been totally unresponsive so you leverage a referral to the CEO, or a friend of yours in-network is on their board. Perhaps you leverage an InMail or a strategically placed cold call, maybe even a neighborhood technique to call the meeting on their home turf. Perhaps you're going to build a consensus to get sponsored up into the account. Maybe it's generating that one piece of provocative insight based on a trigger event like a new advocate in the account or something a CXO alluded to in the trades. Sellers that win pivot, they adjust, like Tony Robbins and Jack Canfield say they 'ready, fire and aim.' It's important to note you are never 100% in control. Man makes plans, God laughs. You can exert an effective process to provide prediction and give guidance but the obsidian rock of the status quo will break a diamond drill bit. You're going to have to sufficiently reduce friction via brilliant communication of risk mitigation and cement home clear articulation of a value creation scenario that inspires trust and fosters long term business results. 

So let's run one of these complex B2B scenarios through the basic formula: 

  1. Goal: Close a $1,000,000 sale this year. 
  2. Take massive action: Work collaboratively to build out a transformative solution across multiple business units and collaborate with teams on both sides to locate the suite of solutions that will have the greatest impact on the clients business (revenue generation, operational efficiency, outcomes and risk). Work to get the right people in the room in the right sequence, adding value each time, ensuring clients are talking 75% of the time. Massive action could mean getting training on this or training up your people. It could mean reading the top 5 books on strategic selling and applying them. It could mean simplifying your effete umpteen-stage sales process into a meta-framework like my RSVPselling: •Relationships •Strategy •Value Creation •Process 
  3. Has the account gone cold? Did you land the meeting? Are you tapping into the right insight? Are you getting the signals back that you have a shot at breaking through in this account at the highest level? Are you getting delegated down or is the CXO assembling her generals to meet seriously on the matter? Are you blocked, talked into oblivion or is this a Challenger mobilizer, cynical but continuing to grill you (indicating interest and latent buying intent)? Work with your team to understand the signal flares of desire to be able to properly qualify where this account is really sitting and turn off addictive, collective happy ears and cognitive bias. 
  4. You're not going to throw all the paint at the wall and see what sticks with Jackson Pollock Selling. By this time you have a scalable, repeatable sales process, understand the sales cycle, have a thorough SPIN based qualification methodology and have worked to win the technical and business sale. You've built out a value hypothesis and proved it out with your client both quantitatively and qualitatively (perhaps by utilizing an ROI calculator that factors in conservative estimates for lift or cost reduction). You've set traps for competitors and budget has been opened up to do this. Always focus here on reorienting clients and prospects to the state of full implementation and success. Ultimately, they'll endure quite a bit of a roller coaster to get through all the red tape and growing pains to have a fully customized CRM system, ERP configuration or new piece of cutting edge software starting to solve problems and create efficiency.

There are probably a million iterations of this four step formula. I will say, if the phone isn't ringing, there's no way you're calling enough clients. If the deals aren't closing, you aren't qualifying properly. If you're not building 5X pipeline, you're underestimating the level of action required in highly competitive markets where buyer's perceive all solutions at relative parity. Are you the best of the best? Welcome to commodotization where the only difference is you and HOW you sell it.

If your deal size isn't approaching six and seven figures you must work with product marketing on product-market fit but if it can be sold and others on your team are selling gobs of it, your own personal sales process is most likely broken or overcomplicated. Are you listening enough? Are you patiently peeling the onion with Implication and Need Pay-Off questions, what some call Tier 2 and 3 lines of questioning. There are many things that can go wrong but with massive action that is applied strategically and the above considerations, most results you seek in business and in life are possible.

Tony has proved anything is possible. Will power may be a myth; one has to establish new habits and routines to ritualize success. Mike Weinberg puts it eloquently as, "nobody ever defaulted to prospecting mode." The daily path of least resistance or high levels of 'easy' action is just more of the 'busy fool syndrome.' Taking a few challenging, hard actions before lunch that take quite a bit of effort and strategic thinking spiked with focus in execution is where the rubber truly meets the road. Crave the challenge and when it gets hard push through with massive focus. Massive action can even be ONE action with total force of effort and intent.

Now it's your turn: What has your experience been with the above Ultimate Success Formula? Has Tony Robbins played a role in your selling and motivation? What other systems do you use to break through?

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: Randy Stewart

5 Musical Secrets For Sales. Billy Idol Meets Pharrell Williams

We're all fighting for cut-through in a world where buyers have become masterful at positioning all sellers as mere commodities. This is why the way we sell, and our ability to build relationships of trust and value, will always remain the most powerful form of lasting differentiation.

I've been mentoring a sales person who was once a professional musician; and he has applied the lessons of musical performance to strategic B2B and social selling like no-one I've ever come across before. I never had any real musical talent which is why I became a drummer in my youth [joke but true] and we were discussing the nuances of musicianship and how it relates to professional selling. He wants to remain anonymous but here is his wisdom:

How do you become a rock star performer in professional selling?

1. Be a masterful technician. Know your stuff and be a master of your craft. It can take 10,000 hours to hone it so fall in love with the growth mindset versus fixed, curiosity and the challenge which is the journey itself. To improvise, you must first learn the fundamentals in order to break the rules. Don't distract with gaffes rather be thoroughly competent in using the tools of the trade. Remove distraction in the way you play – no bum notes, minimal fret noise, no popping in the vocals, and no feedback.

2. Be all about your audience. I went and saw the Eagles a few years ago with my teenage son and they were incredible. Vocals were pristine, musicianship impeccable, production mind-blowing... but they made sure they gave the audience what they wanted with lots of their hits from the 70's and 80's. I've seen resurrection bands focus too much on their new stuff which is interesting for them but not what the audience wants. Needless to say, John Cougar Mellencamp's greatest burden is "Jack & Diane" as Billy Joel's is "Piano Man" but as savvy business people, they almost always play them!  

3. Transfer emotion and give yourself fully to those you serve. Never just go through the motions; every song needs to be sold and to do so you need to 'be the real deal' – committed and passionate. Don't fall into the trap of allowing 'production values' (slides and slick collateral) to get in the way. You must be a true believer in your own message if you are to have any change of transferring enthusiasm and confidence to others. At the end of the day, you need to look the entire audience in the eye as if you're singing to just one person in the room. Just like transfixing all the stakeholders at the board room table, they each need to believe you.

4. Less is more. It's so easy for musicians to overplay. As Sinatra and Mile Davis remarked on, the most powerful note is often the silence. This equates to listening and reading your audience - the modern enabled buyer. Create space for the important points to sit. But also create context and ask powerful open questions... not to manipulate but to facilitate their epiphany – people are best convinced for reasons they themselves discover.

5. Shine though with humility. Be a Billy Idol screaming, "give me more, more, more"... prospecting and rejection; snarling at defeat. Also sing with joy likePharrell Williams being "happy, happy" but avoid the trap of hearing what you hope for. Be true to yourself in how you operate and sing a song of insight while also asking your customer to show you the way rather than assuming you have the answers before you even really understand their situation. Challenger, I'm afraid to say, in the hands of the inept and short-cut merchants, has done as much damage. Make sure they like you before you shake the snow globe of their world view! We need to go deep in our quest to serve our markets and clients. A little humility with passion goes a long way.

The greatest musicians of all time have often explained it as a higher power moving through them. So allow yourself as a salesperson to be inspired by those you seek to bring to an understanding of a new paradigm. Allow yourself to be constantly curious with the mystery of where the technology could go. Move it from a one way flow to complete collaboration over time where you grow together. Is that not the essence of great live music? 

Zig Ziglar famously said: "Information makes people think; emotion makes people act." We need touch people's hearts as well as their minds by understanding why our message is important and then deliver with integrity, harnessing everything we've got within us.

Last week, my good friend Joel Phillips delivered a solo performance to more than 8,000 people of a song he had written. He held people spellbound, alone on stage with his guitar. People wept and were blown away because of the genuine emotion he gave. Here's a shot of him taken by someone in the audience... the real deal.

Be an artist in how you operate with a song in your heart as you transfer emotion rather than mere information. Also be willing to fail... have the courage of an emerging artist authentically laying it all out there. Don't be afraid to bend the genre, although there are umpteen selling systems and methodologies, blaze a trail by changing the approach until you've customized one that cracks the code for your solution and works best for your company and experience in the field.

Now it's over to you, what 'performance' tips do you have for truly connecting with an audience?

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: Billy Idol by Dena Flows

How To Master The Art & Science of Strategic Social Selling

The secret to mastering social selling is to study what came before. The future is just a little history repeating. Have you thoroughly studied all the below listed or just Challenger? There are strategies and there are tactics. Social selling unto itself is simply a tactic. You're pushing on a rope. Dig deeper into this post to unlock decades of learning, quantum leaping you into a focused syllabus for powerhouse sales acceleration. 

You must read Challenger but what about everything that informed that method? Sink your teeth into these, infuse your social selling efforts with both art and science – the combination will be lethal: 

  • TAS
  • SPIN
  • Miller Heiman
  • Huthwaite
  • RSVPselling
  • Battle Plan
  • Solution Selling
  • Consultative Selling
  • Insight Selling
  • Strategic Selling
  • Power Base Selling
  • Diagnostic Business Development
  • Trigger Event Selling

People buy from those they know, like and trust. You can't start the relationship by bombastic disrespect. Lead with insight but build rapport before you challenge. I truly love the Rain Group's, "Connect, Convince, Collaborate" trifecta for a modern Sales Eagle approach.

Now go back into the new methodologies and mash them together with SOCIAL. Ask yourself, why the Challenger craze? Well, the SPIN craze preceded it. Why? But what preceded that?

History repeats in all human systems and ignorance is bliss as simpleton social sellers pummel through the bowling pins like a bull in a China shop without understanding the ramifications on the political system that's in play. 

If you seek to close the CMO of Coca-Cola and all your competitors seek them out too, going in and adding every executive in the company will simply stall the deal, trigger a frenemy and tip off the enemy. You've got to be a great deal smarter than that. 

I supply a summary of the evolution and history of modern sales in my first book,The Joshua Principle, so please leverage it as a resource to understand where I believe sales is going. In a phrase:

Strategic Social Selling WITH the phone

The basics and fundamentals won't work in navigating complex enterprise deal cycles in social media. The tools and tactics in LinkedIn Navigator alone need to be informed by an overarching and comprehensive attack strategy with lucid close plans that take many subtle factors into account. 

You can gain these nuances with 30 years in the field or simply read the history of sales, the memoirs of complex sales lions. Study them as the Pantheon, the greats and take a Socratic approach. Ask why? Implement them in the field, A/B test them as a sales scientist and devise your own hermetically sealed strategy. 

It boils down to this... You've been sold to your whole life and for big ticket purchases what were you thinking? Put yourself in their shoes. Understand their viewpoint. That's the simplicity and code crack of all strategic selling. The above methods will simply help you to understand a gestalt almost anthropomorphic in nature that is the beast of the modern bureaucratic government or large enterprise so it's navigable at long last. You must understand the motivations, intentions and ebbs and flows in the strongholds of power. 

What are they really thinking? Riddle me that! 

Now it's your turn: How are you elevating social selling? How are you truly making it strategic? What system or systems did you leverage before that are giving you cut-through in the new channels? Are you executing a cohesive close plan that takes into account the correct consensus or ultimate decision maker? Are you leveraging a mixture of strategies triangulated at both technical and business oriented groups? 

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: Christopher Michel

B2B Social Selling Demystified – Five Strategic Pillars

We live in the age of personal brands. This article will provide you with a framework for creating your own personal social strategy in the world of complex business-to-business (B2B) selling.

It’s important because the vast majority of buyers do research before a meeting. What will they see when they look at your LinkedIn profile or blog? We all need to show our value online before we’re invited to have a conversation.

This is the first of a series of posts where I define strategic social selling and the 5 pillars that enable the best results.

Before we begin, NEVER FORGET THAT A HUMAN CONVERSATION ON THE PHONE IS THE INITIAL GOAL WITH ALL SOCIAL SELLING INITIATIVES!

Understand that the term ‘Social Selling’ is a misnomer. Those who spam, push, annoy, narcissistically drone or aggressively sell are unfollowed and disconnected as quick as a click. Here’s my definition of ‘Social Selling’ for B2B:

The strategy and process of building quality networks online that accelerate the speed of business and efficiency of selling. It is achieved with human engagement through social listeningsocial publishingsocial researchsocial engagement, and social collaboration.

In this definition, technology is merely an enabler but can be leveraged to create truly incredible results with the right strategy. As an example, here is my own case study with the results from just 90 days of intelligent effort. Obviously, social engagement is supported by technology and social platforms but it’s really all about human interaction and providing real value through insight or assistance with relevant content.

Social platforms, especially LinkedIn have driven the era of personal brands and the reality that we now sell naked. The days of being able to project a manufactured persona are gone… people can quickly uncover the reality of who you are, how you operate, how well you’re connected, and the value you offer… all before you ever get to say a single word on the phone or face-to-face. Social proximity is a real factor that enhances or undermines potential connection, often without the seller ever discovering how their network (or lack thereof) helped or hindered their efforts.

Your social strategy will depend on what you’re seeking to achieve and where your market is but don't fall into the trap of becoming busy in social without having a strategy for both connection and content. As an example, think about the reasons for posting in LinkedIn Publisher. Are you seeking to attract and build an audience platform? Are you wanting to provide insights and credibility to support your new business meeting requests? Are you wanting to proactively deal with potential objections you could encounter? Are you seeking to associate yourself with admired brands and thought leaders? Are you perhaps chipping away at commonly held myths about your disruptive solution set to cause a sea change? 

Social selling is a strategy, not a set of technologies. Once you know what you’re seeking to achieve and have defined goals and metrics, then you can design your strategy and action plan to cascade down to the five pillars. I will cover these in detail with subsequent posts but here’s an overview.

Social Listening: The process of proactively searching and monitoring for trigger events that provide potential opportunities to improve your own customer service, intercept competitors' customers, or engage potential clients early in their own buying process. Hootsuite and TweetDeck are just two examples of tools that could be used. Salesforce Radian6 is an excellent tool for Analysis in enterprise environments. Oracle and others also have excellent tools.

Social Publishing: Publishing insights, opinions and valuable information to attract audience or evidence credibility and value. Here is a brutal truth for sellers today: If you can't write, then you can’t sell. You need to impress with both your business value (what you do for your clients) and the values by which you operate (your ethos and the way you engage and deliver). LinkedIn Publisher is the number one blogging platform on the planet based on mathematical network effects, propensity for virality and it integrates with your personal brand. Some pundits have named this "networked blogging." Twitter can be used to amplify your publishing efforts as the spokes to your LinkedIn economic graph hub. What are your potential customers looking for online before they look for you? You need to publish in a way that leverages search engines (SEO) so they find you as a source of insight and education early in their buying cycle. It's rare that a single meeting occurs in the software technology space, without a thorough scouting of LinkedIn profiles. Aren't you employing this type of research? 

Social Research: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” – Abraham Lincoln. Anyone who initiates contact or arrives at a meeting having failed to do their homework is an amateur. Social research allows you to identify social proximity, background, financial performance, industry trends, competitor relationships, common interests and much more. The amount of information freely available online to research individuals, corporations and industries is staggering.

Social Engagement: By listening for relevance, attracting interest and establishing credibility through publishing, and by doing your research – you’re now ready to engage. Social enables you to be where your clients are in forums, blogs and special interest groups. The best social sellers engage with context and relevance and their success rate being above 90% for securing meetings. LinkedIn’s own research has found that those who use their platform extensively before initiating contact are 50% more likely to achieve their sales targets/quotas.

Social Collaboration: We live in a world of mash-ups for creating best of breed solutions for sales, marketing and project management. The best sales people execute flexibly and collaborate online using tools such as Skype, go-to-meeting, Drop Box, Google Docs and many others. They also utilize their own CRM software and other tools to rally internal resources and manage expectations. The very best sellers are engineers of outcomes rather than mere warriors of persuasion. Research from the Rain Group unearthed that "collaboration" is one of the rarest experiences for executive buyers. They crave this and social allows you to do it. Further, it transfers the psychology of ownership of the ideas to buy from seller to buyer. 

Have a strategy for engaging in a personal, human way before you jump into social media platforms and technologies. Where are your customers online and what are they looking for before they search for you? Forget push marketing and interrupt selling; instead engage buyers early in their online journey by attracting them to you with useful information, insights and value.

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: Brian, Revelation in Blue

Do We Ever Really Learn From Sales Failure?

I've recently had the privilege of getting to know Cian Mcloughlin as part of a Sales Masterminds group that's been formed in Australasia and led by John Smibert (Strategic Selling Group in LinkedIn). Cian has real insights into how to drive massive success in complex selling and I asked him about the role of win and loss reviews, why they're important and what mistakes companies make. Here is his wisdom... the rest of this post is from him (with pics from me).

“You don’t learn from successes; you don’t learn from awards; you don’t learn from celebrity; you only learn from wounds and scars and mistakes and failures. And that’s the truth.”  Jane Fonda.

Not all scars, in life or in business, should be seen as badges of honor. Most of my business battle-scars (with the possible exception of my grey hair) I wear on the inside. Earned in hard fought deals lost at the 11th hour or sales skirmishes over before a single power-point had been fired in anger.

The thing about scars, be they from life or business, is we should always learn from them. It’s one thing to lose a deal or miss out on a promotion at work, but before the scar has even begun to form, you need to be asking yourself “what can I take away from this experience, how do I learn from it and ensure I’m better, smarter and more prepared next time around?”

Unfortunately the vast majority of professional sales organisations, I’m talking big companies spending inordinate amounts of time and money prospecting for new business, actually spend very little time or money trying to understand why they won or lost a deal in the first place. We all know line attributed to but almost certainly never uttered by Einstein “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome”. You can guarantee whoever did say it, didn’t work in the b2b sales world!

The amount of wastage, duplication and chasing of lost causes which occurs across the business world is borderline criminal. I wouldn’t even hazard a guess at the real and opportunity costs associated with sales organisations (be they technology, professional services, engineering & construction, utilities, oil & gas companies) responding to numerous tenders, conducting lengthy cycles with would-be customers or undertaking hugely expensive proof of concepts, only to lose the deal and walk away with nothing.

My personal opinion (and I’ll be the first to admit I’m biased) is that win, lose or draw if you’ve conducted a professional sales process, you’ve earned the right to extract some value from the experience and the vast majority of b2b customers out there agree with me. So, the next time you’re conducting a major deal, whether you’re in the box seat or staring down the barrel of defeat, pause for a moment and ask yourself the following questions. Win, lose or draw…

  • What insights could this client give me to improve or refine my sales skills and do an even better job next time?
  • Could their feedback help me to distance myself from my competition in some small but important way?
  • Am I winning this deal on product, price or my ability to present a compelling, credible and believable story?
  • Am I losing on product, price or my inability to engage, inspire or educate my prospective client?

I suppose the real question you should be asking is what lesson could this new new scar teach me?

Follow Cian in LinkedIn and read his posts. He has held senior sales and channel management roles in a number of the world’s largest IT software companies, including Cognos and SAP, in 2011 Cian became the founder and CEO of Trinity Perspectives, a boutique sales consultancy firm based in Sydney. He also co-authored an Amazon #1 bestseller ‘Secrets of Business Success”, and is a regular sales and marketing commentator in the mainstream media including Sky News Business, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

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: Erik Charlton Fire Eater

Your Personal LinkedIn SSI Ranking Revealed!

If you want to dramatically increase pipeline and revenue then you must invest in social selling strategies, tools and techniques. Here's the proof. Independent researcher C9 Incsurveyed 36 companies and 9,000 sellers, finding that those who embraced LinkedIn's Sales Navigator tool created 7 times more pipeline and 11 times more revenue. LinkedIn themselves analyzed a cross section of new and existing sellers who increased pipeline by 45% and the probability of achieving their sales targets by 51% simply by improving their social selling index (SSI) scores using both free and paid editions of LinkedIn.

"For sales management and sales leaders; ignoring the power of social selling amounts to professional negligence."

I will provide you with a link for you to obtain your own Social Selling Index (SSI) score, where you'll receive a report just like mine in the screenshot below, but please allow me to first briefly state the case for why social selling matters.

Sales people need to become micro-marketers to build their own credentials and create opportunity pipelines. They need to engage earlier and at senior levels to create the necessary value for both the buying and selling organizations to fund their roles. Social selling techniques that focus on listening for trigger events and content publishing for attraction, education and credibility are all important but consider these points:

  • Social listen dramatically reduces customer churn. 68% of the reason that customers leave is because they think you don't care (Forrester). Listening and having empathy has always been the key to resolving customer satisfaction issues. Failure to monitor where customers are communicating almost guarantees substantial brand damage with unnecessarily high churn and low Net Promoter Scores (NPS).
  • Social strategies enable sellers to research and engage early in the buyer’s journey which is essential because purchasers are progressed somewhere between 57% (CEB) and 70% (Forrester) of the way through their own buying process before they invite non-preferred sellers to the table. It’s impossible to execute strategically in sales today without embracing social selling.
  • Social buying is a reality with 75% of buyers doing their research online before engaging sellers (for significant purchases as published by IDC). We must be where our prospective customers are and also attract them as early as possible in order to have the opportunity to influence.
  • When sales people use social well they dramatically increase their pipeline and revenue performance. Using social engagement platforms masterfully increases pipeline by 45% and the likelihood of a sales person achieving their sales target by 51% (C9 LinkedIn research). It’s not overstating the situation to say that it’s negligent for sales management not to invest in LinkedIn for their B2B sellers.
  • Social publishing transforms the way people sell.  Sales people need to learn to engage earlier and more senior levels by leading with insight. Publishing blogs is the key to them honing their narrative to move away from talking about who they are, what they do and how they do it; to instead lead with why a conversation is important for the buyer and how they can assist through insight and value in delivering the client’s most important outcomes and managing the client’s risks.

Achieving a strong SSI score is about a holistic approach and content publishing contributes only 12.5% of the overall SSI score (including updates and Publisher posts).

To see how you rank in the use of LinkedIn for social selling,click here and your own report will appear.

If that does not work, ensure you are logged-in to LinkedIn and past this into a new tab: https://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi

To understand how the SSI algorithm works and how to improve you ranking, click here. Also, this post by LinkedIn explains more. This infographic from LinkedIn reminds you why it's important.

If you've achieved a SSI score of 90 or above please let me know in the comments of this post as I am creating a honor board.

The highest SSI score I've seen is by John Dougan with 99 and he is a brilliant writer. Follow John Dougan's LinkedIn Blog here. Congratulations also to these other SSI leaders!

  • Ryan Rathwell... 90
  • Larry Levine... 90
  • Robert Chandler... 90
  • George Bronten... 91
  • Thijs van der Acker... 91
  • Tim Grosvenor-Jones... 91
  • Joe Sienkiewicz... 91
  • Tudor Saitoc... 92
  • Nick Ogle... 92
  • Anthony Margo... 93
  • John Dougan... 99

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 : LinkedIn