Sales Calls

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.

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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.


Silent Selling.


Michael OverbeckQuiet down now.  Don’t speak, just for a little bit.  Let the moment marinate.

Most of us in sales are running over-programmed sales calls in which every pause, every quiet second, is something to be filled and patched over like so many cracks in a leaky boat.  We believe that there is just so much to say and explain that to waste even a second means perhaps missing the one point or feature that might create the magic moment.  But it’s a fool’s errand:  the magic moments were there all along….we just talked over them.

Those empty seconds of silence are actually filled with anticipation, consideration, curiosity.  They are the wellsprings of customer collaboration and commitment to the idea.  But as the seller you have to do more than just listen.  You have to program these white space moments into your sales calls.

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In the sales workshops I conduct for media and technology sellers, the problems to be solved are always remarkably similar:  the seller has far too much information and detail to share; the buyer is far too jaded, distracted and evasive;  the marketplace is confusing and filled with far too many competitors; the time together is brief and fleeting.

Too many managers – and sales trainers – give the shallow admonition to “do your homework” and “listen more than you talk.”  But that means little to the seller.  What she really needs is a plan…a plan to provoke and manage those quiet moments of consideration and commitment.  That’s what I try to provide, and there are just five parts to the plan.

  1. First, show the customer a slide that tells them a few things you’ve learned about their business, their situation, their needs, their competitors. Ask them what they think is most important on this slide and what else you might have missed.   Then shut up and listen fully.
  2. Next, show them a slide or page that clearly (and briefly) outlines the problem you hope to solve for them. Ask them how much this issue means to them and what else is critical to talk about.  Then shut up and listen fully.
  3. Before talking about your solution, show them a page that makes a handful of promises about the standards and practices your company will employ in solving the problem for them. Ask if these are important considerations and what else they value.  Then shut up and listen fully.
  4. Now talk about your potential solutions. Stop the conversation at several points and invite some silence by asking “How do you feel about this? … What would you do here?” At each point, shut up and listen fully.
  5. Finally, ask the customer for a commitment: If we can deliver this will you approve $X budget for it?  This may be the most important silence of all.  Shut up and let your customer fill the void.

This is what programming the silence looks like.  At each step in the process you are provoking a thoughtful response from the customer.  The opposite of talking isn’t just listening.  It’s being in the moment.  And it works.

Want to know more, or to teach your team this approach?  Just let us know.


5 Slides.


5 SlidesI’ve been working with clients on a new strategy for engaging clients on sales calls and navigating them through complex programs and offerings.  From introduction to agreement in 5 slides.

If you’re like many digital publishers, ad tech companies or other sales organizations, you’re probably a little intrigued by the idea.  You’ve probably seen first-hand the emotional and human cost of a PowerPoint culture run amok.  Your marketing and product people labor over the perfect company narrative, generating dozens of detailed slides containing heavy images and intricate builds and animations.  Your sales people feel the pressure to show all these slides to customers who not-so-surreptitiously check their phones and look at their watches.  Wasted opportunity follows wasted opportunity. And the worst thing happens:  nothing.

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So here’s the radical idea:  run the entire sales call with 5 simple slides.

Slide 1:  The Phrase Cloud.  This is a technique I’ve been teaching over the last 4-5 years.  Research the client’s business online and put up 5-10 phrases (headlines, blurbs, quotes) that relate to important business and marketing issues they may have in mind.  Your PC doesn’t have to be perfect or even mostly correct.  It just needs to be a credible effort at some homework. Let the client read the slide while you sit quietly.  Then ask them what they found most interesting and valuable.

Slide 2: The Challenge.  Write out a brief statement that answers the question “Why are we here today?”  This is the moment where you clearly call out the unsolved problem you are prepared to tackle for the customer.  Ask them how important they think this issue is and what other detail they’d like to offer.  Listen to what they tell you.

Slide 3: Process and Values.  On this slide are several statements and headlines that detail the process and values your company will employ as you work for the customer.  You’re establishing how it will be to work together before you tell them what they should buy from you.

Slide 4: The Solution Placemat.  This is a simple schematic that visually depicts the elements of your proposed solution.  Screen shots of products, phrases and numbers representing audiences and scope, visuals illustrating thematic ideas.  (If the client’s feedback on slides 1 and 2 changed things, you can simply cross out or add elements to this page.)  This allows the rep to conversationally talk through the different parts of the recommendation without a lengthy trail of slides. (And if something needs immediate elaboration, you can take a detour for an additional slide or trip to the site.)

Slide 5:  The Close.    On this slide the rep notes the initial price estimate and specific ask of the client.  “If we can execute this program and help you solve problem X, will you recommend/budget/green-light $X over the next X months?”  (Tip:  Many sellers are scared to death of such a direct question, but it’s the only way to truly qualify the opportunity — and the decision maker — and shorten the sales cycle.)  Be sure to include both a number and a verb on this slide.

If you’re thinking “but what about my company introduction?” don’t bother.  Your sales people will define themselves and your company much more effectively by getting down to business and solving problems collaboratively with your customers.  These 5 slides may be just the vehicle to let them do so.


Just You and Me.


Just You and MeThe 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.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux. Krux helps more than 180 of the world’s leading media companies and marketers grow revenue and deepen consumer engagement through more relevant, more valuable content, commerce, and media experiences. Industry analysts have repeatedly named Krux a leader and visionary in the data management space, citing its agility, innovation, and independence. Download the reports today to learn more.

Small meetings are always better than big meetings.

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.


What Did You Bring Me?


What Did You Bring MeIt’s rare that I’m asked to re-post a specific Drift.  Who am I to argue?

The next time you’re preparing for a meeting with a prospective customer (polishing the slides, queuing up the sizzle reel, practicing the demo and making sure all the “partner logos” are up to date) force yourself to stop and switch customers.  Instead of the 36-year-old product manager or the 40-year-old group planning director, I want you to pretend you’re meeting with a five-year-old.

This is not to say that customers are childish or somehow incapable of digesting important, detailed information.  No, this is actually not about them at all.  It’s about you and how you’re over preparing and ultimately overshooting your target.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux. Krux helps more than 180 of the world’s leading media companies and marketers grow revenue and deepen consumer engagement through more relevant, more valuable content, commerce, and media experiences. Industry analysts have repeatedly named Krux a leader and visionary in the data management space, citing its agility, innovation, and independence. Download the reports today to learn more.

For those who have not yet had an up-close and personal relationship with a five-year-old (or whose memory of that relationship may now be clouded by intervening years) let me describe:  this is the human being in its most essential, most honest incarnation.  There’s relatively little depth or contemplation, and even less empathy.  As she should, she cares about her own needs, her own self-preservation.  Before you arrive, she’s probably not thinking much about you at all, and a few minutes after you’re gone she’ll have mentally and emotionally moved on.  Now I want you to consider your next sales call as if you’ll be meeting with this five-year-old.  How would you prepare differently?  Which assumptions would you leave behind?  How much faster would you get to the point?

Inside every human – every one of your customers – there’s a five-year-old, complete with all the fidgeting, self-involvement and impatience.  Preparing to speak to that primal creature means getting to the important stuff really fast…connecting emotionally….being clear.  As an assist, here are three questions that most five-year-olds like to ask, reinterpreted to help you prepare for better customer calls:

“What did you bring me?”  They’re not thinking about helping you out or what kind of day you’re having.  “What’s in it for me?” is the order of the day.  So… bring them something.  No, not a sweatshirt or US Open tickets.  Right away, first thing, hand them an agenda or a set of insights that specifically about them.  Talk about anything else first – your company history, other successful customer relationships – and you’re just spouting “boring grown-up stuff I don’t care about.”

“Where are we going?” Five-year-olds – and customers – want to know what’s next so they can get excited about it.  So describe the future:  What’s it going to be like when you’re working together?  How will things be better?  Bring the “shared destination” to life.

“When are we going to get there?”  Customers and five-year-olds are both impatient beings. Imagining them asking you this question every 3-5 minutes (as children do) will keep you honest, brief and relevant every step of the way.  It’s easy to assume you have more time and attention than you really do.  Sticking with that assumption too long will be fatal to your sales efforts.