I’ve come to learn that Bob Terson is a classic. So is his book Selling Fearlessly.
From the title, so innocently cutting to the core of why some sellers never reach their peak.
To the dedication that is explained in his introduction, that tells you Bob understands respect and loyalty.
To Bob’s favorite book on selling, a 1947 work that shaped him to be the salesperson he has become.
I can honestly say I’ve never read a book on selling like Selling Fearlessly and I’ve not been moved more by any book on selling I’ve ever read.
Why should you read Selling Fearlessly?
To be inspired.
Bob is a master story teller. If you have to know why this is inspiring you haven’t heard a good sermon or homily lately and that’s too bad. He tells stories about winning over Donald Trump, never losing faith (The Mound Road Story), not being intimidated (Captain Bly), being memorable (Make Sure the Customer Remembers You), and many, many more.
To be educated.
Bob offers plenty of advice that can make you better or help you stay on top of your sales game. And because the game of selling is changing that’s pretty important.
To be moved to take action.
He reminds you that while you need to keep your eyes and ears open to witness the lessons before you life isn’t a spectator sport. My favorite line of the entire book: A salesperson is the engineer of commerce. Until he takes action nothing happens.
There is one downfall of Bob’s book. It’s such an easy, enjoyable read that before you know it you will have reached the last page.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Several years ago Public Television sponsored a competition called Frontier House. Several families traded in their comfortable homes and modern day lifestyles to live a simulated life in 1880s Montana. This was no walk in the park, fake reality TV experience. From late spring to fall these families lived the frontier experience, Montana style 24/7.
The goal of the competition was to prove they could survive the coming winter. This meant stockpiling food in underground pantries they made with shovels; equipping the home to withstand the cold; chopping enough wood to heat and cook during the winter months. Without wood there’s no fire. And without fire there’s no heat and no way to cook foods. Like Jeff on Survivor tells us, fire represents life.
It was critical that the families correctly calculated their needs to get through the winter. Then they worked back from that to know how to spend their time every day preparing. If they calculated wrong, or worse just got lazy in their execution their ‘lives’ would be in jeopardy. Of course back in the real Montana it was no game. Surviving was the incentive.
A panel of historical experts judged the competitors on how well they prepared. In the end only one family won, but the judges said even this family would have barely survived.
If you think of your sales funnel as a pile of wood to keep you warm throughout the winter, the question is are you chopping enough wood to survive?
Just as a furnace produces heat only if it’s full of wood your funnel produces revenue only if it has qualified leads that eventually close. Keep it full of enough qualified leads throughout the year and you achieve your quota.
The coming year is already here. Here are some strategies for keeping your sales funnel full and enjoying the fruits of that labor 12 months from now:
1) Manage to Target TVR. Measure the health of your funnel using TVR, Total Viable Revenue. TVR deals are only the deals that have reached a stage where the customer has committed to making a change or purchase. Working back from quota you can clearly define the Target TVR, that is how big you need your funnel to be. A $3M quota with a 50% win rate means your funnel needs to be $6M of TVR. As sales go up throughout the year the Target TVR goes down, but the key is to manage to the Target TVR, not to your quota gap.
2) Be selective in the opportunities you pursue. Nothing improves sales performance efficiency like purging the deals that take too much time to win and are not worth winning in the first place. Winning the right deals takes no more time than winning deals that are not a good fit or profitable.
3) Re-win the business you have at your best customers. Like the couples who renew their wedding vows after 40, 50, or 60 or more years go back to your current, best customers and show them how much you appreciate their business. Show them the love! This is an annuity that you cannot afford to take for granted.
4) Get into a Funnel Audit plan, do, check, adjust routine. There’s no better habit than one that commits you to a regular schedule of diagnosing your funnel and setting monthly action plans. Spotty diagnosis is a sure way for execution to suffer.
5) Every time you close a sale commit time to replacing it with 3-4 new opportunities. There’s no better time to add TVR to your funnel than after you have closed a sale. You’re feeling good, you can take the rejections, you’ve got energy. Get back out there and build funnel value now.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Years ago, Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling and Rethinking the Sales Force published a paper that showed how the sales forces of three well known companies were failing to meet sales expectations of each company’s newly launched products.
These products were not just new. They were ground breaking technologies that the market would have been excited to have.
Rackham’s consulting and training company was involved in training each of the salesforces. When sales did not meet early expectations his clients asked him to figure out what was going wrong.
Rackham is known best for his research based book SPIN Selling. He researched 35,000 sales calls and used that to create the sales method SPIN. In that research he and his team found a positive correlation between the number of questions asked and the success of the sales call. The more questions asked the more likely the call succeeded.
They also found that product features were negatively correlated with call success. In calls that failed salespeople described more than twice as many features of products and services they were selling as they did during the calls that succeeded.
For his three clients that were experiencing troubling results with their new products he and his team went on sales calls and observed the sellers in action. Since the products were complex and required more questions to understand the complexity of the customer’s needs, they all expected to hear more questions being asked.
They discovered something entirely different.
Sellers were asking 40% fewer questions in selling these new products. The average length of the sales calls were even longer than the length of sales calls for other products. What were sellers doing on these calls? Spending a lot more time describing features. Oops.
In a non research world we’d call that data dumping, showing up and throwing up, or throw it on the wall to see what sticks. Not exactly model behavior for fundamentally good selling.
This paper was published in the early 1990s. Mistakes like this still happen today. For example, while many of the exciting new technologies under the sales 2.0 era are shaking up sales effectiveness many of the products are sold by way of doing a ‘demo’. A demo is often done over the web without either party traveling. Demos focus on showing how products work.
One company with a pretty cool technology did a demo to me after I stopped by its booth at the Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco. The sales rep didn’t know what I did for a living. She hadn’t prepared any questions for the call. I gave her a bit of a hard time. The ultimate insult would be for me to buy the technology and reinforce her weak selling behavior.
In another demo example a client of mine was paying a hefty finders type fee to its channel partners in Asia to set up demos of its software product. Unfortunately my client’s sales and technical staff often showed up ready to do the demo and discovered that key people weren’t invited, or just as bad no clear reason for doing the demo was defined. In these situations the demo is a wasted, expensive selling resource. On the other hand, when the right people attend the demo and a call to action is identified and agreed to upfront demos can be a key catalyst in moving sales forward.
There are a number of reasons why this stuff still happens. Companies are excited about their new products and they forget that the customer still has to express a need for them. Let’s hope that the new products have been through a research process that showed there really is a need for them.
When salespeople are trained in a new product they are mostly trained in features and functions. They learn how it’s different from what it’s replacing. They learn how to price it. Usually the section on learning how to uncover customers’ needs get footnote attention. I don’t know if the Veeps of Sales are assuming “Of course we’ve still got to ask questions and do discovery duh!” Their assumption is a sign of poor leadership.
On your next sales call leave the product in the car, or do the equivalent online – leave the demo in the demo file. Ask some Stage 1 questions. Find out who the PFA could be. Seek an Advocate who has tremendous energy for change and is willing to take responsibility for it. Ask some Stage 2 questions to see if the customer has explored the financial impact of the problem or situation. And by all means do at least a little research to know business the customer is in.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Remember the scene in To Catch a Thief when John Robie, aka ‘the Cat’, aka Cary Grant, escapes into the restaurant of his old resistance friend to avoid the French gendarmerie nationale? Looking out onto the kitchen from inside the owner’s glass office suddenly an egg explodes on the window. His former resistance friends working the kitchen no longer want anything to do with him because they think he’s stealing jewels again and bringing attention to them. As ex cons they’d rather lay very low. It seems he’s run from one enemy into the arms of another.
If you’ve ever taken over a territory and walked into an account and found the natives ready to burn you at the stake you know how John Robie felt. Don’t feel bad for him however. He spent the rest of the movie being seduced by Grace Kelly.
A recent sales strategy session with a client reminded me of how as a new rep in a new territory you can turn a situation going south into an opportunity.
Joe works for a food service company in Texas. He’s the number one rep in his company. He’s set so many records the company will have to reset all standards. During a Funnel Audit recently he described his approach to an account that had problems related to a previous employee. He said when he walks into this account he actually senses the energy being drained from the room. He doesn’t dispute the previous problems. Joe had this account on his Buy Cycle Funnel because he felt it has long term potential.
Bam! Lesson one – don’t be afraid to go back into an account that your previous rep screwed up. This sounds simple, but it’s tempting to avoid things that cause heartburn. In this case there’s no purple pill you can take.
Joe continued. He said he doesn’t take it personally that this account doesn’t like his company.
Bam! Lesson two – it’s not about you when you inherit a gnarly situation.
I asked Joe what his objectives are when he goes into this account and he said it’s to repair the relationship first, then qualify some new opportunities if possible.
Bam! Lesson three – Joe’s not selling because there’s no buying going on. Over time Joe’s salve on the relationship will heal it to a point where the stakeholders give him and his company another shot at business.
About twenty years ago I learned a valuable lesson like this when I inherited a trouble account in a territory selling medical devices to hospitals. My predecessor was so good that he sold more stuff than the hospitals needed. Impressive right? Hardly.
The operating room manager wanted to take my head off when she learned I worked for the company whose products were sitting idle on her shelf. After confirming there was no doctor who would use these products I agreed to return them. She never forgot that. As a result she gave me access to doctors later and eventually I sold them the products. Everyone was happy.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
The highlight of the trip was something I wasn’t expecting.
The first stop was Mumbai, India. It was tempting for me to treat the Mumbai segment as a warm up to the excitement and intrigue of Shanghai and the exoticness of Singapore. It was the beginning of the monsoon season and western India summer heat can easily top 100 degrees.
I got a lot of advice before leaving. “It’s not safe to walk around the city”, one person told me. Mumbai was the site of the 2008 terrorist attack that killed nearly 200 people so I took this advice seriously. “Don’t drink any water from any source”, another person said. A client from another company told me to pack a suitcase of Power Bars. “Get vaccines for hepatitis A (liver inflammation caused by ingesting bad food or drink) and B (same caused by the transfer of bodily fluids)”, someone else told me. Whatever I do, said one more, take plenty of Immodium for diarrhea.
The interesting thing that I didn’t realize until after my visit was that no one said to be sure to take notice of the spirit of the Indian people.
Mumbai didn’t start well. I arrived in Newark to find an email saying my direct flight was cancelled. I would have to taxi to La Guardia (90 minutes in traffic, $130) to catch a new flight. Instead of direct to Mumbai we first flew to Paris (8 hours), then to New Delhi (9 hours). It was now midnight the next day for me. We left Delhi but stopped 45 minutes later in Indore for no reason. I was told this by the guy next to me in business class, an Air India pilot who said the pilot’s strike now in its second month was causing much havoc. We left Indore at 1:15 AM and landed in Mumbai at 2am. I had been traveling for 31 hours. My meeting would begin at 800 sharp.
Mumbai is a city of contrasts. My 5 star Hyatt had exceptional service and amenities but the scene outside my conference room window was different. Security guards at the hotel entrance were busy checking the underside of all cars for bombs; my hotel was all glass and steel and marble, yet across the street was a row of old shack type structures, maybe businesses, with dirt sidewalks; I saw a cow feasting on a pile of roadside garbage the size of half a basketball court, yet inside I feasted on a phenomenal buffet of fish and vegetables and spices and herbs that made my taste buds do the tango; I saw feral dogs wandering the streets desperately in search of a meal. I started every day by piling on my plate large slices of deeply orange alphonso mangos that were perfectly in season.
The pleasant young man serving breakfast was deeply interested in where I was from. He stayed around my table for at least five minutes. He could picture New York and California but Ohio and the Great Lakes were unclear.
At lunch a woman escorted me from the conference room to the dining area, something completely unnecessary but refreshingly memorable. I said I needed to use the toilet (it’s not a bathroom) and as she walked me to the hallway she slipped and went crashing down, but somehow I grabbed her and prevented her fall. She was embarrassed, but each day her good morning smile had a touch of personal meaning.
One evening we taxied into the city to the Gateway of India, an 85 foot high arch built as a welcoming place for dignitaries traveling by sea. Then we went to the famous Café Leopold, a chic place that was the first target of the terrorist attack in 2008. The streets were overcrowded with taxis, tuk-tuks (3-wheeled taxis), motorbikes, trucks, trash, debris, people, all converging like traffic leaving a state fair parking lot after a Jason Aldean concert. At the restaurant, we immediately were handled by several staff getting us to our tables, getting our beers and bringing appetizers. We seldom waited longer than you’d expect for anything.
After dinner, around 11 o’clock, we took another adventuresome ride in tuk-tuks to the famous Juhu beach where many Bollywood celebrities live. There was a warm breeze coming in off of the Arabian Sea and there were people everywhere. My hosts were thrilled when I asked if Anil Kapoor had a place here.
Unlike in too many parts of Europe, in Mumbai this American felt welcomed everywhere I went.
My flight to Shanghai was scheduled for 1:30AM so we returned to the hotel. By the end of the Mumbai leg I was exhausted in a completely satisfying way. The Indian sales team was by far the most pleasant, upbeat and easy going group I worked with. They were rightfully proud of their city and country took nothing for granted. I can’t wait to go back.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Do you know your number?
I’m not talking about your cholesterol level (I did have mine checked recently) or the amount of money you’ll need when you retire.
If retirement is too far off or too painful to think about let me shock you into a reality closer to home – how big your sales funnel has to be to achieve your quota next year. Let’s call this ‘your number’.
Your number is key to your sales success for a simple reason – you don’t have a 100% win rate. Unless your sales funnel is big enough – your number – you’re not likely to hit quota next year.
Building funnel health for 2012 is pretty much over. You need to turn your funnel health building to 2013. If you haven’t aggressively begun doing that already you could be in for an unpleasant surprise next year as you slowly discover the naked truth of your skinny, anemic funnel.
Let’s use an example. If you’ve got a million dollar quota and you have a sales funnel full of a million dollars of opportunities you would need to win 100% of those opportunities to hit quota. A better way to ensure success is to have a sales funnel with more than a million dollars of opportunities on it. But how much more do you need?
How much you need, aka your number, depends on your win rate for an average sized sale. In addition to knowing your number you’ve got to know your win rate.
If you have a 50% win rate for an average sized sale your funnel needs to be twice as large as your quota. A million dollar quota should have two million dollars of opportunities on it.
If you have a 33% win rate for an average sized sale your funnel needs to be three times as large as your quota. A million dollar quota should have three million dollars of opportunities on it.
If you have a 25% win rate for an average sized sale your funnel needs to be four times as large as your quota. A million dollar quota should have four million dollars of opportunities on it.
There’s an important safety tip to this strategy. It’s not about ‘filling your funnel’. It’s about TVR – Total Viable Revenue. A sales opportunity on your funnel can be counted toward funnel value (TVR) only if that opportunity has reached ‘commit funding’ stage.
You can’t fool your number. The only way you’ll consistently hit quota with a funnel that is smaller than it needs to be is if your win rate for the average sized sale goes up. Of course that can happen, but a dramatic increase overnight is not something you should bet the farm on.
Keep in mind that I’m using quota to make the point that on day one of your new fiscal year your number is a function of quota. But as you win sales throughout the year your number is a function of how much sales you have left to win to hit your quota. Your number goes down as you win sales. For example, in June if you’re halfway toward hitting a million dollar quota your number is a function of the $500,000 you have left to win.
Here are a few things you should consider doing now:
One, determine your number. Start with win rate. Then divide the number 1 by the percent win rate to get a number we’ll call the funnel factor. For example, a 25% win rate would get you a factor of four and a 50% win rate gets you a factor of two. Finally, multiply the remaining sales you have to close by your funnel factor. That’s your number.
Two, commit time to aggressive prospecting. It’s easy to neglect this part of selling because you don’t feel the effect of the neglect until it’s too late in the year when you discover that you don’t have anything on your funnel. By then you can’t do anything about it. It’s like maintaining your car’s good condition with regular oil changes and more to prevent it from breaking down on the side of the road later. Book prospecting time on your calendar for the next 30 days right now.
Three, build a habit of inspecting your funnel every 30 days. You sales funnel is changing all the time as you find and qualify and win and lose sales. Your funnel value is also changing. It’s a leading indicator that puts you in the driver’s seat for proactively running your territory.
The value of managing to this strategy is that you avoid surprises of having a funnel that isn’t big enough to let your win rate do its job. You stay on the offensive. You give yourself time to take corrective action if necessary.
So don’t wait. Go find your number. And while you’re at it get your cholesterol checked.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )