Online Sales

Closer.


The reason your sales calls aren’t turning into sales may have nothing to do with preparation, content, fit or numbers. They might just be too big. Repeat after me:

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

It’s counterintuitive, but very true. Many of us grew up doing classroom presentations, went on to practice doing the company pitch in front of our peers at sales conferences, and probably dream of someday doing our own TED Talk. So it’s understandable that we crave the spotlight that goes with a crowd. But in reality those presentations are not moving the ball down the field. And they never will.

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

When you get a group of 3, 4, 5 or more people together in a conference room, the politics get bigger and the opportunities get smaller. People don’t share in large rooms. They are less curious, more guarded, less honest. People don’t surface real objections in a crowd. They may listen to you, but they don’t work with you. Collaboration never gets started. Everyone is polite (well, except those jerk-offs checking email on their phones of course) but no one is truly engaged.

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Salesforce DMP. Salesforce DMP allows you to capture, unify, and activate your data to strengthen consumer relationships across every touchpoint. Find out more here.

In workshops with digital sellers, I preach the value of the intimate, collaborative, one-on-one or one-on-two meeting. With the right decision maker of course. You’d be better off having five small meetings on the phone with key customers than ten big lunch-and-learns. In small meeting about the right things, customers lean in, they share, they object, they tell you the truth…and they collaborate. It doesn’t just happen of course…you’ve still got to earn the opportunity and execute it well. If you go in and turn on the lawn sprinkler of PowerPoint and company bullshit, you’ll still get a bad outcome in a small meeting. But if you prepare and plan and focus on doing good things for the client’s business, your meeting will stand out like a candle in the darkness.

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

Marketing departments, stop cranking out newer and slicker versions of “the company story.” Nobody wants to hear them. Start helping your sellers tell the customer’s story and the heroic role your company can play in it. Sales managers, stop confusing activity with progress. Counting the number of rooms filled with warm bodies is a fool’s errand. Sellers, focus on really deserving the meeting with the CMO or Product Manager or Group VP and you will get more of them.

And for God sake, keep ‘em small. Intimacy is the new power.

This post was first distributed in May 2016.  Rumor has it that there are still too many big meetings taking place.


Yes is the New No.


Nobody says no anymore.  But then again, nobody really has to.

Much of the lore and literature of sales has the seller managing the objection, tenaciously staying in the conversation and turning the no into a yes.  But most sellers today wouldn’t even recognize this kind of mano-a-mano customer interaction.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Salesforce DMP. Salesforce DMP allows you to capture, unify, and activate your data to strengthen consumer relationships across every touchpoint. Find out more here.

First, most buyers effectively use technology to keep the seller at a distance until the time and circumstances of their choosing (like the very last minute when they need you to quote a price).  They hide behind RFPs, email, voicemail and other means of high tech cloaking.  If this was combat, the buyer would be operating a drone, far from the battlefield.  Most sellers have rather mildly accepted the terms of this new relationship and are paying the price for it now.

But even when they do get face-to-face or voice-to-voice time with the customer, sellers end up taking no for an answer … because the no sounds like a yes.

This is really exciting stuff.  We look forward to working with you guysTranslation:  I say this to everybody.  It’s a lot easier than arguing over merits or suitability. And you probably won’t ask too many questions. No one does.

We’re getting budget and direction soon and we’ll make sure you get the RFP.  Translation:  Sure, we’d send an RFP to a ham sandwich.  It doesn’t even cost us a stamp.  Knock yourself out slugger. You’ll never know if we’ve never read it.  In the meantime, ignorance is bliss.

Be sure and see my agency with this.  Translation:  If it was really something I cared about, I’d stay with the deal.  Let them be the bad guys.  There’s zero upside in me rejecting you directly.  I might need you someday.

Let’s get a master services agreement in place. Translation:  That should keep you occupied for a while. We pass out MSAs like free thumb drives. I’m not going to bother telling you that it won’t move a single dollar and that the hard work is all still ahead and it’s all on you.

Will you send me a proposal on this?  Translation: This is the 21st century version of ‘send me your media kit’ and ‘I’ll keep your information on file.’  I’ll ignore it later.

There’s zero upside for any customer to communicate a negative outcome.  At best, they’re inviting an argument and at worst they’re causing their team more work.  You’ve got to ask and then ask again.  You’ve got to stay in the conversation just as it’s starting to get uncomfortable.

Yes is the new no.  And you can’t take yes for an answer.

 


The Interview That Doesn’t Suck.


If human talent is the killer app in our industry, why do we suck so badly at attracting, evaluating and retaining the best people?  And how does a flawed candidate manage to slip through the interviewing gauntlet that you and the rest of your management and HR team have set up?  Clearly these are huge topics worthy of books, not blog posts.  But I’ve never met a topic that I couldn’t try to oversimplify, so here goes:

Your interviewing process is misguided, your execution is awful and you’re focusing on all the wrong things.  But please, let me elaborate…

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Voicera. Are your teams 100% focused?  Do you wish your teams had a 100% accurate Salesforce?  Sign up for Voicera and give them EVA; the Enterprise Voice AI.  Eva listens, takes notes and automatically updates Salesforce!  Act now and get special discounted pricing as a reader of The Drift.  Visit www.voicera.com/upstreamgroup.

Interviews are Not about Fact-finding:  Make your minimum standards on skills and experience clear to your HR team or recruiter.  Then leave the candidate’s resume in your desk.  Too many interviews end up being about the facts on the page (“…so you worked at AOL?”)  You’re wasting a lot of time confirming data points, which could be better spent on higher order discussion.

Focus Instead on Understanding the Candidate’s Process:

  • Tell me about an important deal or achievement at your last company:  what would not have happened if you hadn’t been part of it?
  • Tell me about the last time you had to deliver really bad news to a customer:  how did you handle it and where did things end up?
  • Tell me about a time when you’ve had to manage conflict with someone in your organization:  were you able to turn the situation around?

Seek Beliefs and Core Values:  The best hires and most-durable employee relationships are always built on the overlap between what a candidate believes and what the company stands for.  But we learn very little about what our candidates truly believe because we don’t ask.

  • Tell me something you believe in very strongly that’s not about religion or family.
  • Looking out at the next 10-15 years of our industry, what’s a trend or behavior that you’d bet your career on?

Stop Acting Like Lawyers:  (Please no hate mail from the Bar Association.) If you ask a dozen lawyers to review a document or agreement, each will find something to disagree with or object to.  Likewise, if you subject your candidate to a dozen different interviewers, each will only feel valid or whole if he or she finds a flaw.  First cut down on the number of interviewers; after a certain number, the evaluation doesn’t get bigger, it gets worse.  Second, make it OK for other interviewers to say “neutral” or “nothing to add.”

This is Not a Democracy:  Try to get everyone to agree on a candidate and you’ll end up with a very safe, very vanilla, compromise candidate.  No edge, nothing strong, nothing special.  Agree ahead of time who “owns” the hire and who he/she should truly consult with. (Hint:  who will be economically dependent or physically close to the new hire?)

Listen for Intent:  There’s one more thing we also fail to ask potential hires:  Do you want to work here?  Of course it’s probably not smart to signal your own intent to hire this person, but you can certainly find out whether they’re really into you – of if you’re just “one of their safety schools.”

  • We’re not there yet, but if it all came together tomorrow and the package and responsibility lined up, would you jump at the chance to work here?

Notice that this is the only “yes or no” question I’ve suggested.

I’ll be eager to hear how your next interview goes.  Happy hiring.

This post originally ran in 2014.  Unfortunately too many interviews still suck.


One Tiny Change.


If swapping out just a single word in your vocabulary would create enormous positive change in you and those around you – massively shift attitudes and perspective for the better – would you do it?  It will take discipline and consistency to normalize the new word, and it will feel awkward at first.  So…would you make the change?

You just need to start using the word for in place of other prepositions like in and to.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Voicera. Are your teams 100% focused?  Do you wish your teams had a 100% accurate Salesforce?  Sign up for Voicera and give them EVA; the Enterprise Voice AI.  Eva listens, takes notes and automatically updates Salesforce!  Act now and get special discounted pricing as a reader of The Drift.  Visit www.voicera.com/upstreamgroup.

For example, when composing your team or company mission, you might be tempted to write something like “Our goal is to be the best digital marketing company in the world.”  This may sound positive, but inherently it says there is a contest out there that we will win…we will be recognized…. we will be respected.  Being the best in the world….is about you.

But with one tiny change, your goal becomes being the best digital marketing company for the world.  It becomes about them.  It morphs from self-aggrandizement and recognition to generosity and service.

All day long, sales teams and the in-house marketing, technology and client service folks who support them focus on building and delivering the things that we can sell to the customer.  Small wonder that so many sellers feel a sense of creeping unease in their customer relationships; who wants to be thought of as a seller when selling seems to mean taking?

With the same tiny language change, we turn the whole thing around.  Instead of selling to the customer, we’re selling for the customer…. building for the customer… creating for the customer.  The relationship is no longer a transaction we hope to win, no longer a beauty contest in which we hope to end up with the crown.  It becomes about the work.  About deserving the client’s trust, respect and – ultimately — their investment.

In an age of ubiquitous video and visual overkill, this focus on words may seem dated. But words matter.  And in the culture you’re aiming to create and the career you are aspiring to enjoy, your words will either work against you…or they will work for you.

This Drift was inspired by my good friend Charlie Thomas, legendary seller and digital sales executive who has always been a great source of inspiration and ideas. 


Sales Christmas.


As this is the last Drift of 2017, I want to use it to thank and appreciate the sellers in our industry; the women and men who put themselves on the line every day and who monetize all the great digital content and services that the other 99-plus percent of the world take for granted.  I also want to send along a few gifts – sales ideas and insights I’ve shared with salespeople like you in workshops throughout the year.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by Digital Remedy, a digital marketing and technology solutions partner to publishers, advertisers, and influencers. Digital Remedy delivers performance-based and cross-channel solutions to increase monetization and operations potential of any organization while exceeding standard KPIs. Visit Digital Remedy to learn more.

Don’t Tell Me What You Sell, Tell Me What You Solve.  The era of the product describer armed with his dense PowerPoint and techie demo are over. You will succeed because you obsess over the client’s business and marketing problems and start every note, every meeting, every sentence with them.

Presence is Power.  We all live in a multi-screen world of perpetual distraction.  Your customers and co-workers feel alienated, unheard and ignored.  You will be amazed at how much your full, undivided attention and empathy can do.  Once they feel truly seen and heard, most of your job is done.

People Always Buy the Same Thing.  A Better Future.  It’s always been true.  Don’t tell me about your tech or content.  Tell me how my life will be different when we are working together.  And then work hard to live the promises you make.

Action Forms Around a Point of View.  Many sellers are afraid to take a position, to commit, to adopt and defend an opinion in the presence of the customer.  So they wait and see what the customer thinks and then change their own colors to fit the moment.  In doing so they leave their most powerful tool on the shelf.  Your informed point of view is fuel to the client relationship.  Bring it.

You Get Delegated to the People You Sound Like.  In our comfort zones we all speak the local language of tech and media arithmetic.  And we rarely realize that senior customers don’t speak those tongues at all.  So they send us to the people who might understand what we’re saying.  Commoditization ensues.

Do the Math.  Then Show Your Work.  When we estimate the actual size and cost of our customer’s marketing and business problems, something magic happens.  Don’t tell me you can help me be more efficient:  tell me how much money you think I’m losing every month I don’t work with you to fix my problem.  I’m not going to ding you if your math is off.  Show me your work and I’ll help you adjust your numbers.  I’ll also appreciate your vision and lean into our relationship.

#deserveit.  Nothing more needs to be said.

Live and Work in the Present.  The past is all nostalgia and regret.  The future is all hope and anxiety.  None of it does you any good.  The best sellers – the best people – are the ones who stay focused on what’s right in front of them.  If you get sideways or lose your bearings, sit down and make a list of what you’ll accomplish in the next few hours.  Win today.  Be happy today.  Do it often enough and you will build a truly great life.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a wonderful 2018 to all of you. We never stop thinking about you and send you our very best wishes for health, hope and happiness.