Words Never Uttered!

Because we can all use a laugh, I’m re-sharing one of the most popular Drifts I’ve ever posted. Feel free to add your own examples of “Things No Customer Has Ever Said.”  And have a great day.

“I just wish there had been more PowerPoint.”

“That was great! Could you play that sizzle video one more time?”

“So, you’re really that much bigger than your competitors? Who knew!”

“Wait… don’t leave yet. I haven’t really committed to anything.”

“Forget what I paid last time… let’s start fresh.”

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“Would you look at all those logos! Wow, if those companies are buying from you then I’d better get on board too, right?”

“Oh absolutely! Bring a whole bunch of your managers to the meeting. It’ll be so much more productive that way.”

“Wait… you mean you’re the leading company in your space?  Heck, I had no idea!  That changes everything!”

“You know, we’re just talking way too much about our issues. This is feeling a little too much about us.”

“Hey Jenny… call everyone in here please. This guy brought in his general presentation and I don’t want anyone to miss it.”

“I’m sorry, but there just weren’t enough acronyms and buzzwords in this for me.”

“Are you sure those are all the products you have? I’ve got more time.”

“Would you mind flipping back to that slide with the map of all your offices? I forgot whether your APAC headquarters was in Singapore or Hong Kong.”

“I’m actually just telling you that we’re waiting on direction.  You actually don’t have a chance in hell to get this but I just hate when things get awkward.”

“I was confused but those cylinders, arrows and triangles really sorted things out for me. Thanks!”

“Tell me more about your founder! He sounds like a fascinating guy!”

“You’re launching a new site? Well by all means come on over!”

“You say your CEO is in town? Shoot, that hardly ever happens! Of course I’ll make time on the calendar.”

“Wait… that’s it? It’s over already? Are you sure you don’t have a couple more slides?”

Getting to the Client.

Gettign to the ClientThe headline for this week’s post is one of those sneaky little bits of irony.  A lot of us spend a lot of time and effort “getting to the client.”  But when we do, we don’t end up “getting to the client.”  Let me explain.

Many digital media and tech sellers work diligently to close transactional deals with buyers.  We respond to their RFPs, try to decipher conflicting signals and contradictory requests, and – to the best of our ability – bring them proactive ideas and opportunities.  But when these efforts predictably collapse in despair and recrimination, our boss inevitably says “we’ve got to get to the client!” And he’s right.  Well…half right.

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We take the cue and pursue the client meeting.  But, fatally, we don’t bother to upscale the agenda.  We bring the client the exact same buying decision that got turned down or ignored at the agency.  The client either ignores our outreach, sends us back to the agency or politely listens to our pitch and then does…nothing.  Without realizing it, we brought this customer an issue or opportunity that was below their pay-grade.  We’ve treated them like the appeals court…asking them to overturn the verdict that we lost in the lower court.  To the client, this is no opportunity:  if they change the outcome and put you on the plan, they’ve created a whole new set of problems – an alienated agency, political risk and potentially a shit-storm of POVs and meetings that they really don’t need.

Don’t just get to the client:  get to the client.  Make sure that your client-side agenda is squarely focused on business issues and marketing opportunities.  Don’t help them spend an existing budget; help them justify a new one.  Don’t show them how you’ll reach their current customer; introduce them to the one they haven’t yet met.   Work with the media planning team to fill existing orders: help the client decide what to order next.

I’ve always believed that big decision makers only want to make big decisions.  If you’re going to knock on the client’s door, don’t show up with an agenda that’s two sizes too small.  If you do, she’ll send you packing.

And she’ll be right to do so.  Totally right.

The Truth, Points 1-5.

This post and the one that will follow it on Tuesday are the republication of  “The Truth,” a Drift I wrote back in 2007.   As I’m sensing a desire among many digital and media sellers for a return to the core basics of selling, I’m offering it up again.   Sales managers, nice weekend reading for your team members.  Evergreen.

The Truth about your career in sales (in 10 simple points):

1.  THE OPPOSITE OF YES ISN’T NO.  The opposite of yes is anything except yes. Buyers just don’t say no. To quote Guy Kawasaki, “there’s just no upside to communicating a negative decision.” If you haven’t heard yes; if you haven’t gotten true commitment – and you’re always sure when you do – then you’ve been turned down and you’ve got more work to do. Save hope for things like Middle East peace. It has no place in your forecasting.

2.  FAST IS GOOD, BUT GOOD IS BETTER.  All your digital appliances and constant connectivity are conspiring to make you look stupid. Just because you can respond instantly to every collection of bits that hit your e-mail or crackberry doesn’t mean you should. Some of the smartest things I ever said are things I never said. A minute or one extra reading can make all the difference in the outcome of a deal, the survival of a relationship, your career.

3.  STOP ASKING “GREAT QUESTIONS” AND START BEING INTERESTED.  A sales meeting isn’t the invasion of Normandy. Stop over-thinking and over-planning the conversation. Human beings want to be heard and understood. They want to be appreciated and to feel interesting and wise. The very best salespeople are those who bring a warm curiosity to the meeting. They delight in learning and they listen to understand.

4.  WHEREVER YOU ARE, BE THERE. Sales is a great job, but it can be pretty consuming. When you’re doing it, give it your all. But when you’re not supposed to be doing it – like, say, when you’re with your kids or visiting your aging parents – then let it alone. You don’t lose the spouse and kids because you travel or work long hours; you lose them because even when you’re there you’re not really there. We look back at the 1960s and bemoan a generation of executives who lived at work. Are we the generation who never unplugged?

5.  CLIENTS AREN’T MONOGAMOUS. They don’t even get married. If you’re waiting for a moment when you’ll achieve permanence in a customer relationship, you’re baying at the moon. Your life is going to be more like the one Adam Sandler experienced in “50 First Dates.” Assume you’ve got to keep proving yourself and making them fall in love with you all over again, every single day.

Look for points 6-10 in the next Drift post on Tuesday June 8th.