Innovation Feed

Lean Out: 3 Steps to Increasing Revenue in Your Company

20063a0Today's blog post is by Dan McDade, author of The Truth About Leads.

 

 

ThetruthaboutleadsRecently, over a cup of coffee, Dan Waldschmidt (Waldschmidt Partners) and I talked about the herd mentality that causes many well-intentioned businesspeople to follow the crowd blindly – often in the wrong direction – based on one so-called expert or another proclaiming that “cold calling is dead” or “content is king,” as though it were all that simple. Dan subsequently published a blog post called “Sometimes the experts are idiots. So just go be awesome.” Read the post, but here are some thoughts he shared.

He wrote about some dubious statements:

“In 1899, Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the US Office of Patents, astutely noted, ‘Everything that can be invented has been invented.’ Since then, 7,673,820 inventors have received patents from the USPTO.

“In 1943, Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, observed, ‘I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.’ As of June 2010, there were approximately 1,966,514,816 computers connected to the Internet – accounting for roughly 28% of the global population.

“In 2007, Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, proclaimed, ‘There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.’ Since 2007, Apple has sold almost 430 million iPhones. Microsoft has only sold about 2% of that number.”

Also in his blog post, Dan advised the following:

“You should keep dreaming big dreams. You should refuse to believe that things won’t change.

“What you feel doesn’t need facts yet. It just needs you to believe. To believe so passionately that you move past logic, criticism, and everything that you think is possible in the pursuit of making it reality.”

Dan also shared these ideas with me:

“My problem with the crowd mentality is that it lacks an authentic environment for replication. From weight loss to financing to working from home and business growth, experts will try to convince the crowd that the expert's plan is easily replicable. Even if the experts are sincere, they are sadly misguided.

“Regardless of the specifics, the crowd mentality focuses on what everyone else is doing, rather than what each specific member of the crowd should be doing. Adherence, rather than creativity, is rewarded, and that by itself is a pretty big problem.”

There was a time when “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” Today, it seems that nobody ever gets fired for abandoning outbound marketing in favor of inbound marketing. It’s now possible for marketing to pass a higher quantity of poorly qualified leads to sales faster than ever before. The result: sales mostly ignores the avalanche of poorly qualified leads that scored high enough (according to the marketing department) to be sent to sales as marketing-qualified leads. One marketing organization we work with passes thousands of leads to sales knowing that only 1.28 percent of what is sent is qualified. Honestly, people – this has got to stop!

There are three things that organizations can do to stop the insanity:

  1. Sales must proactively accept or reject marketing leads within 48 hours of receipt. If rejected, a judicial branch made up of senior marketing and sales executives, along with a C-level executive (in larger companies), should determine if the lead did not meet the agreed-upon lead criteria or if sales follow-up was insufficient and/or ineffective. This will reduce lead leakage by not allowing a lead to go into a black hole. Neither marketing nor sales can maintain the status quo. Statistically backed accountability will drive continuous improvement.

  2. Once a lead is accepted by sales, a realistic close rate should be agreed upon and worked toward (including eventually working toward improving that rate). Ask reps today what percentage of qualified leads they can close, and they will tell you 60–80 percent. What they are really saying is that they will close 60–80 percent of the leads they thought they were going to close. According to some industry analysts, average companies close about 20 percent of sales-qualified leads, while best-in-class sales organizations close closer to 30 percent. No sales rep wants to take credit for losing four out of five times, so organizations do not have visibility into lead status unless the lead is close to being won or it is too late to do anything about it. Sales reps will sell more when they are focused on fewer opportunities but held accountable for the process their company has put in place for lead pipeline and forecast movement. Without step 1, step 2 is impossible.

  3. Kill the insane preoccupation with the lead-definition “god” called BANT (budget, authority, need, time frame). In The New Solution Selling by Keith Eades, there are two important “truths”:

            “The not-looking buyer has great potential.

            “When the salesperson sells into latent pain, that salesperson has an excellent opportunity to set or define the buyer’s buying requirements.”

    Yet most companies’ sales reps are uninterested in leads unless they are BANT qualified. Unless you are selling an inexpensive solution or a commodity, you are too late to the game when you wait for a lead to be BANT qualified. But here is what “general-interest lead” means to different audiences:

    AVERAGE SALES REP: “No budget, no timeframe, no interest in working it. I would rather take someone who is nice to me to lunch, rather than work strategically on a sale.”

    ELIGHTENED SALES REP: “Authority [decision maker or coach influencer] and need or pain [backed by some form of compelling event] – I’m on it! I know that I have a better chance of closing a strategic deal when I’m in early. Let my lazy brethren fight for the crumbs.”

Break away from the crowd! The next time you hear someone say, “Seventy percent of the buying process is complete before sales needs to get involved,” respectfully but forcefully disagree. Do something different, because following the crowd is not going to work. As Dan says at the end of his blog post, “No one can stop you if you won’t be stopped. Choose to be awesome.”

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Get Executive Sponsorship for Your Great Ideas

LisaG_2_v2Today's blog post is by Lisa Gschwandtner, Editorial Director at Selling Power. Follow her on Twitter @SellingPower20.

 

Many sales leaders have great ideas about how to help the sales team improve or exceed its goals. No matter what your idea is, it probably represents an investment of time or money (or both) to carry it out.

In February of 2012, two sales leaders, Ken Powell and Jim Neve, had a great idea for SunGard, a financial-services company: undergo a complete sales transformation. The plan was to maximize channels, sell the broadest set of solutions, and go to market in a coordinated manner -- all with the goal of creating a sustainable revenue engine.

All told, Powell and Neve planned to invest about $4 million to purchase technology solutions and work with vendors who could help them achieve their goal. In a workshop at the recent Sales Performance Management Conference in San Francisco, Powell said that a key element of success was to secure executive sponsorship. Here are five tips he shared for getting the boss to support your great ideas:

1) Align your idea with existing strategic priorities.

You’ll have a much better chance of convincing executives to support your idea if it complements stated goals for the organization. Given the challenges SunGard faced at the start of the sales transformation, it was pretty easy to make a strong case for building a sustainable revenue engine. As long as you can connect the dots, your company’s strategic goals could be a great springboard to garner enthusiasm for your idea.

2) Don’t ask for new money.

There’s a budget for your idea -- it’s just sitting somewhere else right now. Before you ask your boss to divert funds from other departments, however, make sure you truly believe your idea will bring the highest value to the company. If you don’t feel that way, wait for a better idea to strike.

3) Build an internal coalition among peers.

The boss isn’t the only person you should be chatting up. Build a coalition of support among your colleagues for your idea. Ideally, they’ll talk it up without your involvement. Powell calls this “seed planting.”

4) Offer your boss at least three options.

Powell said it’s rare that he doesn’t provide executives a list of at least three options, along with a list of the pros and cons of each. The reason is simple: if the boss feels he or she had a part in crafting or selecting the idea, it might be easier to secure support for execution. Allow your boss to decide in which direction the company should go.

5) Present and refine those options multiple times.

As a rule, don’t expect to get a yes from top-level executives on the first go-around. In fact, Powell says it’s a good idea to assume that execs will be either neutral or negative about your proposal. Use the presentation as an opportunity to test and refine your idea. Although it can be frustrating when the boss doesn’t see its value right away, taking the time to listen to feedback and refine options can get you one step closer to yes.

You don’t have to embark on an idea as lofty as a sales transformation to try out Powell’s advice. Investments in change (even tactical ones, such as outfitting the field sales team with mobile devices) typically require resources and internal support. Use these tips to get buy-in from the boss and make your mark as a great sales leader.

For more behind-the-scenes information about SunGard’s sales transformation, download this free white paper

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Seven Strategies for Maximizing Account Success

Today's blog post is by Ron Snyder and Marty Levy. Ron Snyder is the President of Plan2Win Software. Marty Levy has held various VP of Sales positions in Silicon Valley companies.   
 

One of the most important sales battlefields is the account. Winning an account is more than winning a deal.  In account management, you are seeking to earn a position of trust that enables you to grow and build your business over an extended period of time. Maximizing your share of the dollars each of your most important accounts spends in your product/service area is a key driver of overall sales success.

The strategy decisions you make that position you to participate in and win an ever-increasing share of your customer’s business are critical.  Account managers should carefully choose the strategies that will, over time, yield the maximum results.

There are seven fundamental account strategies. To select the best approach in each case, you must analyze your position in the account, the account’s needs, and the competitive situation. This gives you the highest probability of success and optimizes your use of time and resources.

One of these strategies will be primary in your approach with an account.  You may also consider applying more than one of these in combination with your primary strategy in more complex or changing account situations.

  1. Defend and Grow
  2. Land and Expand
  3. Direct Attack
  4. Niche
  5. Change the Game
  6. Maintain and Support
  7. Develop Over Time

1. Defend and Grow

When you are established in an account, it is critical to defend your base so that you do not lose account share, future revenue potential, or influence in the account. From a strong account position, you build on your successes and promote the impact they have had on your customer’s business.  In defending your base, you are establishing a foundation from which you expand your presence and increase your share of wallet (the percentage of dollars spent in your area of expertise) at the account. Use this strategy to grow your business by mounting sales campaigns designed to expand your position in the account into other business units, functional areas, and departments.

2. Land and Expand

This strategy is used in accounts where you do not have an established position. Here, the objective is to win the first piece of business, creating a foothold in the account, and use that foothold to expand. It is critical to make this installation/use of your product or service successful. Then use this success to expand to other users, business units, functions, departments, etc. in the account. Ensure that early users achieve maximum benefit from your product or service, and communicate those successes. Use the benefits gained and referrals by that set of users to establish a strategic position that supports your expansion effort with others in the account.

3. Direct Attack

This approach is used for capitalizing on a strong market or technical position or for displacing a competitor. You must determine your significant advantage and build an account plan that delivers the benefit of your advantage to your account. Knowing your account’s needs, business goals, and priorities is fundamental to the effective use of this strategy. These account scenarios typically pit you directly against your competition. Effective and intensive use of your company’s resources and external resources is necessary to win the deal and ensure a strategic position.  Focus, engage, and attack the account’s needs for which you have a significant competitive advantage.

4. Niche

The objective is to demonstrate that you are the expert or leading provider of solutions for a specific problem, industry, or vertical market. Here, your company and solution address a clearly defined, often narrowly focused need or problem. You target a specific area within the account, such as one business unit, function, department, or even individual. To manage your resources effectively, it is especially important here that you focus on only those accounts that match your target account profile.

5. Change the Game

Bringing to your account unique insight on a business issue or industry dynamic will provide the opportunity to change the game to your advantage. Changing the way your account views its needs and how to solve them is your objective. This strategy dramatically builds your credibility as a trusted source of valuable perspective in your domain and weakens your competition’s position. Thus, it makes it much easier to become the preferred provider of the solution, regardless of your previous position at the account. As long as key decision makers can be influenced to agree with your perspective, you become the only choice.

6. Maintain and Support

If you have no significant new growth opportunities, then applying substantial resources to win marginal new business opportunities is not justifiable. Identify objectives for the account that maintain current business levels without overcommitting your resources in pursuing marginal incremental revenue. Your objective is to maintain a reasonable level of business with the most cost-effective deployment of resources.

7. Develop Over Time

In this scenario, the account has the potential to be very important to your business; however, there is either no compelling event driving the customer to buy now, or the customer is satisfied with its current solution. Good information about your account will provide insight into your opportunity potential. You anticipate having a better chance to win in the not-too-distant future. For example, you may be waiting for a new product/technology to be released. You position your offering to be the future solution of choice by investing now in building relationships and champions at the account.

In Conclusion

It is very important that you select the appropriate strategy for each account. Develop and implement a plan based upon a strategy that enables you to optimize the use of your time and resources and maximize your results. With a focus on the long term, your strategy will determine the action you take to win business now and develop a trusted relationship with the customer.

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What Happens When Sales Reps Game the Comp Plan

 Cabrera_newToday's blog post is by Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation, the industry leader in sales compensation automation.

 

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar.

You’re presenting your company’s new incentive compensation plan to the sales team. Before you’ve clicked through the final slide and turned up the lights, your sales reps are already manipulating the numbers up, down, and sideways.

I say this with love, but they are scheming to game the plan.

That light bulb that just went off? That’s the reps whose commissions are based on top-line sales revenue realizing they can close a lot of deals if they cut prices and undercut competitors. Result? They rake in the cash, while the company loses money.

The gal in the back who’s eligible for a monthly objective and achievement bonus? She’s got a big deal in October that will put her in her accelerators, so she’ll earn a nice fat check, then spend November binge-watching Netflix and shopping for the holidays. That’s a month’s worth of productivity and profit that your company will never see.

Situations like those are all too common, so it’s easy to see why company leaders try to stay a step ahead of reps to stop them from gaming the plan. You want your salespeople to be successful, sure, but not to the degree that it damages your bottom line.

I’ve thought about this problem a lot, and came up with my own solution:

Don’t fight it. Encourage them to game the plan!

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. See, the reason those examples are such lopsided win/loses isn’t because your sales reps are such a devious lot. It’s because without meaning to, you’ve created an incentive compensation plan that drives all the wrong behaviors.

What you want to do instead is build a plan that aligns the sales team’s goals with your broader company goals. Salespeople will still be motivated to earn as much as they can. But with the right incentive plan, the company benefits too. The more ways reps find to make money, the more your organization will earn. You’ll have nothing to fear.

OK, but how do you build the “right” incentive plan?  Here are some ideas:

Those are just a few of the techniques I’ve learned about incentive strategies and employee motivation in my years in the compensation space. The rest, as they say, could fill a book. So at the urging of friends and colleagues, I spent this year writing Game the Plan: Every Sales Rep’s Dream, Every CFO’s Nightmare, to be published later this year.

In it, I take a comprehensive look at compensation and incentives, from the present back to the days when Captain Morgan had to incent his band of pirates to keep their mitts (hooks?) off the loot.

Visit the Game the Plan website for more information and excerpts.

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The Power of Storytelling

Pat Rogers croppedToday's blog post is by Pat Rogers, VP of Sales & Business Development at NimblePitch.

 

 

 

“So What's Your Story?”

Your salespeople get asked this question countless times, in meetings, at tradeshows and social gatherings, and yes, even in elevators. Do you know how they answer, how they represent your value to buyers?

Since sales began, a seller’s ability to present a relevant, compelling, and memorable story has pretty much dictated how successful he or she is versus his or her competitors. Even from the beginning, these expert storytellers had to know their product inside and out, but more importantly, they needed to know their customers’ world and how using their offering will make the buyer’s world better. Admittedly, this is Sales 101, a premise so fundamental that most of us in the sales trade cannot remember the first time we heard it; nevertheless, this knowledge has not stopped many so-called pros from leading with product, engaging with nonbuyer contacts, launching into mind-numbing slide presentations, and generally maintaining high activity levels only to be frustrated by disappointing results. 

If the Story Is about Your Product, Prepare to Be Commoditized

In today’s brave new world of complex offerings, increased competition, me-too products, and an ever more informed (and many times, confused) buyer, sellers must rely less on the strength of their product as a differentiator and focus on the process itself. That is to say, in a complex, technical sales environment, how your offering is presented and how effectively your sales process involves and connects with an engaged buyer will determine how well the buyer can envision using your product to be more successful.

At the recent Sales 2.0 conference in Boston, one overriding theme was sounded again and again: the buyers have spoken, and if you're not listening, you're in trouble. For us at NimblePitch, the program's agenda helped to underscore our belief that insight-based selling (IBS) demands a fresh perspective on the needs and expectations of buyers. IBS requires a new generation of tools that do more than report on activity; they should actually help salespeople execute their “sales moment” tasks: preparing for a call, engaging and relating to a qualified buyer, crafting follow up that puts the buyer into the story, and then informing and encouraging further exploration.  

Cutting the Cost of Sales

Next-generation sales force effectiveness (SFE) tools are closing the knowledge gap between new and experienced salespeople, enabling even the comparatively inexperienced rep to discuss intricate buyer issues at a business-case level, answer seemingly random questions, skip around, and point out details when called for.  This enabling technology that guides the conversation, rather than dominates it, can shorten the ramp-up time for new reps and minimize the need for multiple company resources to participate in informational, on-site sales calls.

Leverage Insight, not Opinion

Sales teams are also using SFE technology to gauge prospect interest and level of participation in the sales process. Follow-up emails and voicemails can often become a black hole in the sales process. Having insight into how and at what level your buyer is actually connected to and interacting with the follow-up material you provided offers sellers a critical piece of intelligence that can help steer the direction and scope of the next sales interaction. In addition, this level of insight will help salespeople and managers more precisely grade pipeline opportunities, resulting in a more accurate assessment of overall forecast value and timing.

I’d be interested in hearing about how innovative sales-execution tools will impact measurable SFE. Share your thoughts below or connect with me at Pat.Rogers@NimblePitch.com.

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Will Google Glass Revolutionize Buying and Selling?

Google’s Glass Marketing Act

Instead of creating a traditional PR or marketing campaign, Google used YouTube and Twitter as the predominant marketing tools to promote the idea of investing in a wearable computer that performs searches with voice command, takes pictures, connects you to social media, gives directions, and records videos. 

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https://twitter.com/projectglass

Google invited prospective customers to A) follow along on Twitter (and more than 88,000 did), B) Tweet ideas about how they’d use Google Glass, and C) buy Google Glass for $1,500.

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Google also promoted the new Google Glass experience with action-packed YouTube videos. Here is one that got more than 21 million views:

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1uyQZNg2vE

Google also engaged notable VIPs in Silicon Valley (e.g., tech evangelist Robert Scoble and Loic LeMeur, the founder of LeWeb).

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The Valley boys with toys created "Glass envy" at LeWeb in London. http://youtu.be/uR-6D2iaviY

In this video you can actually spot a flaw in Google Glass: when a Glass owner is within earshot of another Glass wearer, the voice command will be executed by both glasses.

Glass encourages people to create and share more images. Robert Scoble says in his blog that if you see a great scene, you can take a photo in real time – no more pulling your smartphone out of your pocket, clicking on the camera icon, aligning the camera with your target... Your ability to pull the trigger of your wearable 5MP camera (blink activated) allows you to instantly get more killer images and fun videos. Google Glass will make photo sharing and Twitter chatter skyrocket, and it will cause Google's database to balloon.

Faster, Better, Deeper Search – for Omni-Competent Living

In the video below, Google-ites demonstrate how quickly and easily they can tap into Google's gold mine of information using Glass. These wearers get instant answers to their questions.

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Imagine wearing Google Glass on Jeopardy!. Imagine salespeople saying, "Glass, search Bill Smith on LinkedIn" in the customer's lobby. Or imagine a customer wearing Google Glass and saying, “Glass, check price on widget A,” and then responding to a salesperson with, “I see that your competitor’s price is cheaper. You need to come up with a better deal.”

http://youtu.be/r7MRdBHz-cg

Say No to Oogle Glass

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Google Glass has created the need for greater privacy, and the device has already led to bans at gambling casinos, movie theaters, nightclubs, strip joints, and gyms. West Virginia legislature is already discussing a ban on using Google Glass while driving. The impact of Google Glass on human behavior has inspired many jokes. Conan O’Brien created a skit in which he announced a new, wearable device called Google Ass. SNL’s Fred Armison and Seth Meyers created a hilarious spoof on Google Glass. 

Robert Scoble said at LeWeb in London that he turns his Glass upward when he enters the men's room.

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An absentminded downward glance could send a wrong message to the man standing next to him.

Enhanced privacy may save Google Glass from turning into Google Crass. My idea for enhanced Google Glass privacy is to add red, yellow, and green tamper-proof indicator lights that show what the Glass wearer is up to.

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The Future Vision of Google Glass

Research conducted by BI Intelligence suggests that Google Glass sales will not skyrocket as they did for the Apple iPhone. 

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Find more statistics at Statista. http://www.statista.com/

Apple doesn’t see a bright future for Google Glass. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said at the 10th D: All Things Digital Conference that Google Glass would not have a broad appeal outside of certain vertical markets.  

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http://youtu.be/NzCf1CBD-Yk

Share Your Views

Will customers use Google Glass? Will salespeople wear Google Glass? Will sales trainers create Glass sales apps? Will sales managers be able to coach salespeople in real time? For what price would you buy Google Glass?

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How to Be a Feel-Good Millionaire

Many people say that one of their goals in life is to leave the world a better place than it was when they entered it. The thought of improving the world may show lofty ambition – but also hints at arrogance. Good salespeople don't aim to improve the world; instead, they work at improving themselves. If self-improvement is the first step to improving society, what would be the next logical step?

We bring to the business of selling more than just the knowledge of the product, people skills, and the motivation to win. We also bring to our customers our own set of personal and ethical values, values that communicate who we are and what we stand for. Good salespeople know that real champions are not measured by how much money they can collect but by how much meaning they can contribute. Real champions know that laughing all the way to the bank loses its appeal when you realize that, on a gloomy day, a fat checkbook won't hug you back.

Within the last decade, value-added selling and ROI selling became a key ingredient in generating more business. Given the increased complexity of our changing world, I believe that the next wave of progress will be value-added meaning. Sure, business will always demand that we produce profit, yet our minds always demand that we find meaning. Sensible business leaders help their sales teams understand the basic human need for creating both.

For example, the White Dog Café, a Philly farm-to-table restaurant formerly owned by Judy Wicks, used to hold Table Talk programs, during which interesting speakers shared ideas with the patrons. Anita Roddick, the late founder and CEO of The Body Shop, was invited to speak to a wall-to-wall Table Talk audience. Her talk was called, "The Socially Responsible Business: Where Profits Meet Principles."

The idea of “food served with thought” caught on quickly, and Wicks won the Business Enterprise Trust Award for building a greater sense of community. She created value-added meaning for her customers, and business boomed.

Technology giant Google routinely invites authors, musicians, innovators, and speakers to their offices for talks, interviews, and conversations designed to explore the zeitgeist of the day. Examples include Stephen Colbert, who discussed his new book, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t (October, 2012).

Youtube

While value-added selling creates dollars that we can take to the bank, value-added meaning creates a different currency, one we might call "feel-good dollars." While it takes a long time to become a millionaire in real dollars, we all can become overnight millionaires by earning "feel-good dollars." How? By adding meaning to our customers' experiences.

Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff has found a way to sell software in the Cloud while adding meaning to communities around the world. He does good because it feels good. He said in a speech he delivered recently, “Philanthropy is the best drug I ever took.” His Salesforce.com Foundation has contributed more than $40 million in grants and more than 440,000 volunteer hours.

You don’t have to be a billionaire like Benioff to feel good. We can increase our feel-good worth by how much meaning we contribute. Good salespeople ask themselves, “What can I do today that will help my customers feel good about doing business with me and my company? How can I bring more meaning to my customers and community at large? How can I add value to the profession of selling?”

Add to your treasure chest of values by getting better at doing good because it feels good when you do it. Become a feel-good millionaire, starting today.

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The Persuasive Power of the Zeitgeist

No, I’m not an economist, but I do have a theory about what influences financial decisions, and it has nothing to do with anything Wall Street ever discusses. It’s called the zeitgeist.

This is a wonderful German word for which there is no English equivalent. It denotes the collective thoughts and feelings that dominate the era we live in. While the word zeit means “time,” geist has two meanings: “spirit” and “ghost.” Loosely translated, it means “the spirit of our time” or “the ghost of our time.”

For example, the zeitgeist in the Y2K era was paranoia about computers crashing on January 1, 2000.

The zeitgeist of the dot-com boom was marked by euphoria caused by the illusion of growth without limits. It was a Pied Piper that invited people to join in a happy parade celebrating greed.

The zeitgeist of post-9/11 was like a fire-breathing dragon that attacked at dawn, killed thousands and vanished into an invisible cave, which left us in a cloud of fear and anger. It was marked by severe disappointment. We paid a heavy price for harboring the illusion that our financial, economic, and military power would make us invulnerable.

Today’s zeitgeist is dominated by the bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon, the nuclear saber rattling of North Korean leaders, the political debates about gun control and government spending.

Today’s zeitgeist is also influenced by mobile technology, social media, cloud computing, big data, a shift to an interconnected world that sets the expectation that delays are a thing of the past, since we want to do everything in real time. While technology mixes excitement and hope into the zeitgeist brew, the failings of humanity -- such as killings in schools and at marathons and other threats to our safety -- add a taste of futility and despair to the mix. HG Wells once described the character of civilization as a race between education and catastrophe.

The pendulum of time keeps swinging, and so does the zeitgeist. Psychologists tell us that people who suffer disappointment tend to retreat and rediscover their true strength. What feeds the zeitgeist in the month of April is fear -- fear of acts driven by human insanity or natural disasters. What will change the zeitgeist of our time is courage. It takes a lot of courage to objectively appraise who we really are and what we truly want to get out of life. Upon closer reflection, we begin to realize that the zeitgeist does not really control our lives, we do.

History tells us that periods of disappointment are always followed by periods of going back to basics. For CEOs, that means trustworthy and responsible leadership. For managers, it means that their actions must inspire trust. For salespeople, it means more genuine face-to-face contact and more handwritten thank-you notes instead of hastily punched out texts, tweets, or emails.

Visionary leaders know that the zeitgeist is really a composite of the past that often ignores future possibilities. While today’s zeitgeist urges us to examine the past, we may elude its grip by envisioning and consciously planning a brighter future. Progress demands that we accept the basic insight that’s been taught time and again: our inner strength comes from hope, progress springs from our imagination, and greater meaning comes from building a better future for the generation that follows.

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How Well Have You Adapted to the Global Changes in Selling?

To survive in the sales world, global executives must be adaptable. Studies show that there are three ways people commonly adapt to foreign cultures.

The first is unconditional acceptance of the foreign culture with a critical view of home. For example, a VP of sales marveled that in Japan cab drivers wore white gloves and the hotel staff always welcomed her with friendly smiles. She complained about the lack of courtesy in American business and scorned the negativity of American workers.

The second approach shows a strong loyalty to "back home" culture and a critical view of foreign culture. A manager who went to France complained that everyone was rude, griped about the French taking too much time for lunch, and felt that the French were too slow to understand new business ideas. He concluded that the French could benefit greatly from American know-how.

The third approach is to selectively adapt and integrate the best characteristics from all cultures. A successful adapter will patiently sip green tea with a Japanese executive and refrain from drinking alcohol during a meeting with Arab investors while remembering to make specific notes for a board meeting back home.

Many salespeople don't realize that they need to adapt their sales strategies, as well.

The first style of sales adaptation is to cling to the past while being critical of the present. A seasoned sales rep told me, "I will not bring up the subject of business unless the client brings it up." This salesperson believes that social media is a waste of time, thinks that CRM is a hindrance to belly-to-belly selling, and refuses to leave voicemail messages.

The second adaptation style is to embrace new ideas unconditionally while categorically rejecting old practices. One salesperson I met declared that face-to-face selling was a thing of the past. Believing that the future of selling would be exclusively in electronic commerce, he built a Facebook page, tweets six times a day, started a blog, and built his own landing pages to attract prospects. After two years of hard work, he is still struggling yet scoffs at people who still travel to see customers in person.

The most successful style for adapting to the ever-changing present is to rely on those practices that continue to work well while searching for more effective ways of doing business. The well-adapted executive still writes thank-you notes and personally extends special offers to valued clients. Successful salespeople use social media to engage customers in conversations on their terms while not ruling out lunch meetings. And they know – executives and sales reps alike – that keeping up with what’s current is a demanding job. They realize that if they cling to the past they won't be free to seize new opportunities.

Conversely, people who think of only the future tend to live in their imagination. The best way to adapt is to constantly learn more effective ways to manage the present and be receptive to new possibilities. Adapting to the present demands receptivity and the desire to move into more successful ways of being in touch with reality.

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A New Way to Think about Customer Manipulation

Many books, blogs, and online sales videos suggest a non-manipulative, synergistic, consultative approach to uncovering a prospect's needs. These resources all advance the idea that manipulative selling is a thing of the past. But is it?

The word manipulation has many meanings. Its definitions range from "artful skill" to "to change accounts to suit one's purpose." Today, we seem to give the word one meaning: to make someone do what we want him to do against his will or better judgment. Of course, this is counterproductive in any selling situation. But does this mean that manipulation should not have a place in selling at all? Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanging; it is the skin of a living thought that may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances in which it is used."

Words are the tools of the selling trade, and their meanings change according to the circumstances in which they are used. Tone of voice, facial expressions, emphasis, and emotion are all in play when a salesperson uses any series of words. How we say something is often more important than what we say.

Consider this simple question: "What is it that you would like to think about?" Read it aloud three times, each time emphasizing different words -- "what," "is it," "you." Can you hear and feel the different meanings when you change the emphasis from one word to another? What impact would those changes have on your customer? Selling superstars can deliver the same sentence 10 different ways, depending on the customer and situation. They manipulate language in a way that harmonizes with the customer. But they never manipulate the customer!

Manipulating customers only antagonizes them. But manipulating yourself to suit the situation will bring you closer to your customer and the sale. Salespeople who try to manipulate customers break the rules of ethical conduct and violate the rules of professional selling. Salespeople who skillfully manipulate themselves break only sales records.

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