Insights from the field of Selling
"Happy Has a Short Shelf Life": For those operating daily within existing client relationships, you have to anchor the value you and your firm are providing everyday. Resist the desire to reflexively jump at every client request - rather take the time to seek clarity and always come back to the client with context, especially if it's a negotiation.
"Break Some Dishes": In sales, if you want things to be different, you can't be afraid of change. Achieving something often involves things going wrong and encountering difficulties.
"Mean More to Clients": Meaning more to clients is about being more relevant and valuable than your competition to your customers.
"You'd Rather Have a No Than a Maybe": When managing a sales pipeline, it must be real or take it off. With a "no" you can free yourself and move on to another opportunity.
"Equal Business Stature": What you achieve by enhancing your business acumen in your client's chosen field. You don't have to be a CFO, just have empathy for the pebbles in their shoe.
"It's Your Time Too": Too many business people surrender themselves when they get that all important meeting with a senior exec. If you prepare, and you have insights to offer, ask for what you want. Get what you need from YOUR time investment.
"Avoid the Melt": When you leave a sales call, the experience you created is like a fine ice sculpture. It looked wonderful at the party, but started to melt as soon as the guests left. Keep your follow-up relevant and pointed to avoid the "melt".
"Clients Like to Hear Their Name in Lights": When in conversation, play back the critical spoken words of your client or prospect when shaping your recommendations. People love to know that you listened to them.
"Value is Role and Industry Specific": Most salespeople sell to a body across the desk. The that body has a day job and works within an industry with opportunities, pressures and challenges. A CFO in Aerospace & Defense cares about different things than a CFO of a Consulting firm. Bring relevant industry insights to the role in which you are connecting.
"The Proposure": Too many salespeople rush to creating a proposal for their clients. At early stages, any price you include will be too high. Instead, create a proposal without the money that sells your approach, not the financed amount. Proposal + Brochure = Proposure.
'Rough Layouts Sell Better that Finished Ones": A line from Paul Arden's book It's Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be., finished proposals can be too final too soon for the client. If they haven't had time to influence it or socialize it internally in their organization, they will likely reject it. This is the reason for the "Proposure."
"Plan Hard, Sell Easy": For client meetings, prepare in such a way that you are prepared to be spontaneous. There is no guarantee on how a meeting will go, but you can guarantee how you can influence it's outcome.
"Zero to 80 Will Get You a Ticket": Long presentations, those that are 80 pages in length for example, will not reach their intended outcome. The average attention span lasts 20 minutes and 20 slides takes an hour on average to present. So 80 slides is the wrong number.
NewsThe team concept among financial advisors is nothing new but the best are getting better. Not only are their firms supporting them with coaching and cumulative compensation tied to production, they are helping them understand where they are as a team and how far they can go.
As a coach, I look at advisor team evolution across a span of 7 phases:
1. Recognition: Many advisors come to the recognition that they are not going to go as far on their own as they would with a partner or a team. In this case, the question becomes what happens if I don't “team up”?
2. Who's Right? Trust is the foundation of any team and you need to determine who is right. Here you’re looking for complimentary skills. If you’re doing to do a good deal of trust work, it might not be a bad idea to team with an advisor who’s also a CPA. Skills balance and fit are critical.
3. Goals: What is your joint work for? What do you want to accomplish together? Here I coach advisors to make explicit assumptions on what the future could and should look like. It’s at this stage that I encourage advisor teams to tightly identify their ideal client profile.
4. Joint Planning: Now that you found the right folks to collaborate with, how will you do it? Who’s the prospector? Who’s the closer? Who’s the one in the client meeting that can cut through the clutter and put the golden egg up on the table? These roles are critical to functioning, but they can also be celebrated and sold to prospects. In many cases, prospects are buying your capacity to get things done on their behalf with an expectation that the right hand offs will be made.
5. Implementation: Building in practice management policies and procedures is key. It’s also important to articulate your brand of service and to create a team culture that understands how to define levels of service. Being responsive is not enough; teams need to be reliable across multiple interactions.
6. Mastery: Advisor teams at Mastery are hitting their marks and then some. They feature seamless client and team interactions, front and back office support, and regularly surpass self-imposed goals of excellence and production.
7. Refresh: Over time, it will be important to advisor team evolution to clear your lens and reflect on the work that you’ve done. The best teams capture client feedback and survey their own people internally. Then they ACT on the data. In some cases, team members decide to go back to an individual contributor role, or focus on more client-development activities within the team.
For more on advisor team evolution or for help in getting your team to the next level, contact Bill Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org .
I loved being a sales manager. Not only did I enjoy staffing teams and training them but also it gave me a great opportunity to think strategically about how I attacked my region. My people responded well to my coaching and my commitment to them became a commitment to their number. I should also mention that when I was a Sales Manager the laptop that I was using needed a full lap to operate it. But I digress.
But the sales process has gotten so complex for sales organizations today. Their solutions are more complex, more selling team resources touch an opportunity than ever before, and the list of buying stakeholders has increased four fold. The job is tougher today as a result and sales managers are spending more time in front of their PC than coaching winning selling behaviors.
The solution is to split the job. Selling teams should have a sales coach and a sales operations director.
Let me start with the sales operations director role. This role would mine the CRM system for leads, track activity, translate what shipment reports are saying and make coverage and contact recommendations to the team. They would ride heard over RFP teams and help produce PowerPoint presentations and other sales tools. This role would still have contact with the team – they would not be just a sales admin department.
The sales coach would be a thinking partner for their reps – someone who could analyze an opportunity and provide feedback and coaching on how to advance it. A common complaint among salespeople is they lack face time with their sales managers and when they do get it, they rarely receive undivided attention. And often what they hear is more punitive then constructive. Sorry for the gross generalizations but this is what our clients are telling us.
When you split the job, you satisfy the ops piece, and the production piece. You also create greater advancement opportunity for those who want to go into sales management, but may be better at the quant and tech, vs. the coaching role. No organization wants to add additional headcount that doesn't produce, but I’m seeing great leverage in these two roles in the era of Value Creation and enterprise-wide solution selling. More is more in this case.
For more insights or to structure the right sales management team for your organization, contact Bill Walton at email@example.com
If you've been following my posts on doing the finals process differently, I've talked a lot about stakeholder alignment. Not so much around where they went to school or their view of your firm, but the challenges of their day job and the pressures facing their industry.
Most of our clients wrestle with another issue around getting ready – availability. Many firms have subject matter experts that parachute in and handle their “slice of the deck”. If this is working for you, carry on. If not, here’s why. This meeting is a test for what it will feel like to work with you. The stakeholders in front of you want to hear your story, how you're connected to one another and the ownership you will collectively demonstrate over their plan. Add to that, any business procuring services is going to demand a higher level of business acumen and an intimate knowledge of their industry.
Point: Since you may not have time as a team to practice your entire presentation, master your piece and master the transitions. Here are a few steps and processes to help you and your team get ready:
To learn more about how to get ready for the next generation finals presentation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This marks the 17th year I've worked in the training and development industry. I've really loved teaching people how to sell, how to build relationships and how to articulate their value. I've especially loved teaching people how to present. But as it relates to those who participate (present) in the finals process, the standard touch, turn and talk just doesn't cut it.
They've seen it all before
If you're lucky, you're the first team to present in the process. At least then you'll have fresh eyes on the standard 80-page deck. Companies in concert with their consultant put a great deal of effort into the finals process (in addition to the consultants fee) and are thirsty for better outcomes. The presentation process is getting so predictable that I've even heard finals evaluation teams joke about picking the firm that made them sit through the least number of slides. But there's more to this. Companies are being more intentional about the stakeholders assigned to finals evaluation teams. They expect more role and industry-related information related to their industry, their company, their job and their plan.
Zero to 80 will get you a ticket
The stakeholder teams to which salespeople present have already seen the RFP. If they've used their best Evelyn Wood speed reading skills they've reviewed the areas pertinent to them. By the time they visit your site or invite you to theirs, they are looking for different things. There is no need to power through every slide in every capability area. The RFP took care of that. Rather they are looking at how you interact as a team and what it would look and feel like to work with you.
Practice defining moments, not the whole deck
Rehearsing content and who's going to present what will always be important. But today, that's table stakes. Instead, what really impresses stakeholder teams is how you open, advance and close the finals "experience". Here's what I mean. As for openings, the team leader needs to present the collective asset called the team, and then segue to individual intros. I recommend the I/WHAT/YOU format - an introduction that shares who you are, what clients find valuable in your contributions and why the stakeholders might be interested in that. POINT - you must nail the meeting opener. You never get a second chance to open. Advancing the dialog is about getting the meeting off to a good start by connecting the content to the audience. After each section, the best team leaders check in with participants to see if they'd like to add any of their insights or if they'd like more information. The team leader should let both teams know where they are in the process and work the agenda collaboratively. As it relates to transitions, teams have a choice. They can have the team leader drive hand offs or the team can rehearse transitions so everyone knows who they follow. I prefer the latter since it provides for greater impact.
The Close in the finals presentation is typically a review of what you've already told the audience, several statements about why the selling team is qualified and then an "ask" for the business. These are the right steps but good can be the enemy of great. The team leader must be the note keeper, being sure to track stakeholder comments and reactions to the agenda and the value provided by the selling team. The real art to the close in a finals presentation is the team leader's ability to summarize the 4-5 key points that fell out of the dialog, recap the spoken words of the buying team and to ask for greater clarity or input. After that, I love to hear salespeople of all types say "Based on what you shared with us and what we've learned, I believe we can uniquely support you and your participants." What should follow are the reasons why and an offer to connect post-meeting for additional questions and support.
This approach makes it feel different to prospects while staying true to your firm's message and platform capability.
One of the advantages of being an executive coach is that you get to sit in on boardroom conversations. I'm always excited when the conversation turns to revenue generation. Everyone around the table is interested in the why's and how's of where the numbers are and the question always arises - "do we have the right sales organization structure?" Most senior (non sales) leaders understand the concept of Hunters and Farmers but the lines are blurring between the two. Even the most seasoned sales leaders are wrestling with fielding the right balance of both. Here's why:
The term “hunter” is used to describe the type of salesperson focused on closing deals with new customers. Once one deal wraps, hunters aggressively move on to the next prospect and try to close another deal. This focus on deal-making and capturing new “prey” fills a need but is creating a drive for transactions. This drive is often frustrating the efforts of marketing and product groups looking to raise the bar of sophistication (and thus value) in their solutions. In addition, hunters are prone to action, not analysis. Today’s buyers are expecting business value and a high level of knowledge about their issues and challenges. Hunters detest administration and thus prep (what I call sleuthing). Most hunters abhor sleuthing because they are not “in motion.” Point – more sleuthing is needed to win the B-to-B sale.
The term “farmer” describes a sales role that cultivates and nurtures customer relationships. Farmers deploy a more consultative sales process than hunters. The farmer’s focus is on developing an in-depth understanding of the customer’s business in order to effectively identify solutions that fit well with the customer’s strategy and needs. Many Farmers are incented to grow revenue within existing accounts. Farmers must possess strong interpersonal skills, be able to develop trusted relationships over time, and have the ability to make and execute mid- to long-term account plans. What holds these professionals back are the administrative and firefighting activities required in ongoing relationships. This “stress” is sapping the intellectual curiosity of these groups, which oddly enough, is driving more hunter-type mentality. The challenge is that farmers need to balance the relationship and the next sale. Typically one wins out.
THE THIRD WAY
Sales organizations need hunters and farmers to meet in the middle. Hunters need to be more cerebral about their pursuits; savvier about the various stakeholders they’ll be engaging and more patient with consensus-based buying policies. But this is more than just adding more pepper and cooking with less salt. Farmers need clarity as to what is truly value adding to their customers and need to recommend incremental solutions by playing ideas upstream constantly. Senior sales leaders then need to think about their sales process and the types of skills their people will need depending on their roles.
High performing sales organizations are talking to their customers about how they prefer to buy and are aligning their sales and relationship management processes around that. In addition, more non-sales resources are touching the customer, both in transactional and consultative pursuits and they need to know where they fit in the sales process and what’s expected.
To learn more about how to achieve the right hunter and farmer balance in your organization, please visit ProDirect on the web at http://prodirectcoach.com or contact us at email@example.com .
If your firm wins and loses business as the result of a prospect-driven finals process, this note might be for you.
I very rarely run into salespeople that high five me because they’re on the way to prepare for a finals presentation. Finals are stressful, take a lot of time to prepare for, and often fall under the control of a consultant. So why all the stress? What I’ve found is that the trepidation around finals presentations may be unwarranted. Because the finals presentation shouldn't be about “presenting” at all. So many sales and support people say that they feel pressure to present a standard deck to some unknown mosaic of needs. They often struggle with not knowing what connections to make – what to say, and what to ask for from the stakeholders in front of them. But there is a solution.
Plan hard, present easy
I recommend finals teams (and I mean well-orchestrated, dedicated and trusting teams) plan hardand present easy. I coach them to engage in so much “sleuthing” that they’re prepared to be spontaneous in handling any concern or question. Done the right way, your research and discovery will guide you in your effort to assemble the right presentation based on the agenda provided. Most often, a finals presentation follows an RFP submission, so the prospect has all the nits and grits. Give them the stuff that lies between the lines – your knowhow and the tireless effort you put forth in providing insights, and thus value, to existing clients.
Present to PEOPLE
The folks that attend your meetings all have day jobs and pressing concerns within them. Your job then in preparation is to tell your firm’s story through the lens of the individual prospect role. Share with them the benefit they can derive from their participation in the selection process as well as what you can provide once you’re hired. A CFO will care about different elements of a plan than a Benefits Specialist for example. Play to that dynamic. While discovery can be challenged with the addition of a consultant in the process, it’s critical that you get the information you need to address individual prospect and client needs fully and uniquely.
Finals are hard
In addition to time, it takes a commitment from all those who participate in the finals process. For your team, take the time to really get to know their role, who they are as individuals, and how to promote their unique contributions. This part of preparation is a key piece of the collective asset you will build which is a well-rehearsed presentation.In addition, finals teams need to bring an unrelenting and authentic curiosity about:
– Each stakeholder’s strategy (CFO, VP of HR, Benefits Manager, consultant, etc.)
– Where each participant is in relationship to their view of perfection
– What they want to accomplish with their Retirement or Health plan(s)
Finals are hard - you must convey so much value in a short amount of time so that all stakeholders are convinced and committed to work with you.
Elevating your personal status in the finals process
The mindset of today’s finals teams has to be one that shifts from delivering the “deck” to conveying your thought leadership. It’s a shift from “here’s what we’ve got”, to “here’s what we’re seeing.” The best teams comply dutifully with the RFP response, but add even greater value by conveying to the client in the finals presentation that the team works well with one another. Whether you like it or not, the prospect is projecting what it will feel like to work with you. So give it to them. If your team is not in synch or not aligned, re-staff it.
As a trusted partner you are playing the matching game, bringing stakeholders and their organization the expertise they don’t have, coupled with the capability for producing value from it. In all cases, you should think of your role as a business consultant that comes with ideas for the stakeholder’s business - ideas even their own people aren’t providing. Get them to feel that your value transcends the plan.
Most teams allocate most of their effort on rehearsing the finals presentation. What often gets left out is what happens before and immediately after it. Every visit by prospects, clients and their consultants should be seen as an experience, not merely a presentation. The logical thoughts, emotional feelings, and short and long-term memories that these visitors take away will depend on how they experience the entire interaction. Since the buying decision rests on those takeaways, the opportunity that the finals presents is measured directly in client retention and closing ratios.
Steps to a Value-Creating Finals Experience
At ProDirect, we look at the finals experience as seven separate steps, each with a focus on what you are trying to achieve during each step, and what the visitor should experience:
The experience you orchestrate by delivering these series of highly coordinated tasks should yield a value-creating experience with your firm that feels different. So forget what’s on slide 73. Remember you’re selling an overall experience. You shouldn’t need that many slides anyway to convey your team’s value and if you’ve done your sleuthing, you can speak to it like the pro that you are anyway.
I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a client and friend of mine recently - a senior sales and service leader in the jumbo Retirement space. We had connected after a successful run with a start up. I asked the fated question – “so what’s the burning platform for your sales and client relationship strategy?” Answer: “We can’t afford to lose just one client…” So immediately in my mind I started thinking about what losing just one client would look like, who would be affected, etc. Then I snapped out of it and thought about what could be done to bullet proof all relationships – from best to at-risk.
While it will always be about anticipating ways to create value, it’s more than that.
The best relationship managers serve as a consultant to the client, delivering not just new products and services, but working to ensure client DELIGHT, loyalty and increased profitability for both parties. These often include service offerings beyond defined contribution, such as payroll services and personal investing services.
Here's a short list of other ways Relationship Managers are “Meaning More” to plan sponsors:
For more information, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Bill Walton Sales Training has over 60 years of collective Fortune 500 company experience in Sales, Sales Training and Field Sales Management. Our specialty is preparing individuals and organizations to present their value propositions in a way that results in higher close ratios. Our team are un-blurring the lines of differentiation between their client's fiercest competitors.