Sles Process

Build Trust into the Sales Process

People buy from a person, not a company

How many times have you purchased a product from the second salesperson that came to your door or office…selling the exact same product at the exact same price? Why? Was the exact same product at the exact same price somehow better from the second salesperson? No. Chances are, you probably trusted the second person more.

Maybe you’ve heard this and maybe you haven’t but, at the end of the day, after all the marketing campaigns, after you’ve checked off all of the steps on your sales process flow chart, after all the PowerPoint presentations (hopefully not too many…please), after all the negotiations and after the reference checks have been made, people buy from a person, not a company. The prospect may love your company and your product but if they don’t trust you, well, there’s always the second guy.

We all know that you need to sell your company and your company’s qualifications and experience, that’s a given. But don’t just jump in with “my company this and my company that”.

Start a conversation

I don’t want to get into the basics here, you know, “my name is and my company is” but, start with a short conversation. You don’t want to make this too long and have the person at the door or on the other end of the line or across the table begin to think “wow, this guy’s wasting my time”. I’ve been on both sides of that and, as the sales guy, I’ve seen that look in the prospect’s eye. Not something you want to see. As always, be respectful of your prospect’s time. But start a conversation. Ask how their day is going and be sure to listen and respond…”yes, I understand how busy a Monday can be” or “yes, that was some storm that we had last night”.

Then, introduce yourself. Before you go on that first sales call, take some time to build your talking resume. Articulate your qualifications and experience. If you feel comfortable with it, mention something personal (not too personal). Maybe something about a recent trip that you’ve been on or a movie that you’ve seen. Again, not too long. Just enough to show that you have earned the right to be there. Let them know that you’re a human being and not just another salesperson looking to make a commission.

Sometimes we get so caught up in selling our product and our company that we forget to sell ourselves.

Of course, do your homework. Let the prospect know that you understand their issues, their problems and their needs. But build the trust in you first and continue to build on that trust throughout the sales process.

It doesn’t matter if you are selling a single product door to door or you’re selling a million dollar software solution to a multi-national company. Ultimately, you are selling yourself to another person or group of persons.

Merriam Webster defines trust as, “Assured reliance on the character, ability and strength of someone.” defines trust as, “Reliance on the integrity, strength and ability of a person.”

Show your prospect that they can rely on your character, your ability, your strength and your integrity. Accomplish this and your sales cycles will be shorter, your relationship with your prospect/customer more congenial and your efforts more monetarily rewarding.  As for the rest, well, refer to your organization’s “Sales Process Flow Chart”.

Sales and Marketing Fix

12 Quick Sales and Marketing Fixes

I write a lot about curing the chronic conditions of sales and marketing, but today will address the acute condition — when you need leads and revenue quickly. Here are 12 tactics to get you started:

  1. Stop doing what doesn’t work. Forgive me if this sounds blindingly obvious, but the fact is, inertia is a powerful force. We sometimes get caught up in our routines – even when they don’t produce such great results.
  2. Rebrand or reposition. I am not talking about a total rebrand or reposition here (which addresses the chronic condition), but rather modifying the messaging to match the needs of a particular target segment.
  3. Remarket to past prospects. There may be gold in your opt-in contact list, but you need to get out your shovel and mine that gold.
  4. Borrow an idea from your competitor(s). You may have competitors with large budgets and lots of marketing people whose entire goal in life is to take business away from you. Why not pay them back by borrowing one or more of their best tactics and modifying to your unique needs?
  5. Make a new offer. If your old standard offers are not working, try something entirely different. Do a drawing. Conduct a survey. Buy prospects pizza if they attend your lunch event or a coffee gift card if they talk to you in the morning. Test new offers until you find one or more that work.
  6. Send out a press release (or two). Although they are more of an awareness tool than a lead gen tool, press releases are a fast and inexpensive way to get the word out. And no, “My product is the greatest thing since sliced bread,” is not a proper subject for your release.
  7. Do 20% more. There are two major ways to improve marketing and sales productivity – do what you do better or do more of it. Sometimes the quickest fix is to focus on quantity.
  8. Measure and refine. If you aren’t measuring actual vs. anticipated results, you are likely not going to get better performance. I will be covering this topic in my upcoming webinar, How to Eliminate the “Promise vs. Reality Gap” of Marketing Automation.
  9. Incentivize your sales force. Smart sales managers know about the power of selective incentives to drive short-term gains in revenue. As one of my favorite CSOs often reminds me, sales reps are coin-operated — they go where the money is!
  10. Get rejected. Sales is both a quality and quantity game. If you are not being rejected often enough, you are probably not talking to enough potential prospects. When your revenue numbers are anemic, make sure your reps increase their activity at every stage of the sales cycle (e.g. do 20% more as mentioned above).
  11. Ask your prospects questions and then act on what they tell you. Here are four of the best questions:
    • What are you doing that is working?
    • What are you doing that isn’t working?
    • What is the one improvement that would add most to your success?
    • What does your ideal situation look like?
  12. Hire professionals. This may be a bit self-serving since my company does outsourced B2B marketing, but the fact is, those of us who have practiced these tactics hundreds, even thousands, of times usually have a good track record when it comes to getting results.
Sales Curiosity

Curiosity Killed the Cat (But It Made the Sale)

In my work with sales teams all over the world, I am often asked about what is the most critical trait for a successful salesperson. My answer is always the same: “Genuine curiosity.” Curiosity is like a Swiss Army knife with all the attachments. It gets the job done in nearly every situation and is easy to access once you’ve got it in your tool kit. Curiosity helps you:

  1. Build customer relationships. You will notice a different level of respect from your clients when you show an authentic level of interest in them as individuals and their company. Humans respond extremely well to this almost without exception.
  2. Increase your business acumen. Being curious about your own industry and the industries of your prospects drives you to learn more. As you satisfy your curiosity, you augment your ability to add value to your customer’s business. Clients want to know that you have invested in learning about their ecosystem: industry, customer set, products, services and impact trends.
  3. Be believable and sincere. You ask questions that uncover needs because you are genuinely curious, not because it’s in the training manual. People can tell from your demeanor that you’re being natural and not formulaic.
  4. Solve customer problems. Sales reps who aren’t curious about what makes people tick and why technology works (or doesn’t) don’t solve customer problems; they just sell “stuff.” Curiosity enables you to create unique solutions to their unique issues.
  5. Negotiate successful contracts. Your ability to understand the positions of the other party is directly dependent upon your ability to be truly curious about them. If you’re not curious, you’ll end up arguing about issues that aren’t important.
  6. Correct sales errors. When a customer buys from somebody else (or doesn’t buy from anyone), if you’re not curious about what happened, you won’t bother to find out why — and therefore can’t learn to turn your failures into future successes.
  7. In short, curiosity is at the core of truly successful business efforts. If you don’t have curiosity, you can’t expect to be successful as an entrepreneur, a salesperson or even as an engineer. Period.

Note: this post originally appeared at May 27, 2016

Sales Valley of Death

Sales and Marketing Valley of Death

As an entrepreneur who has been both the recipient and provider of angel investment funds, I really enjoyed a recent article titled The Rise of Angel Investing. There are lots of great nuggets to be found in this article, but I especially enjoyed the part about the timing of angel investments and how the ability to generate this funding can either make or break a company. Viewing the graphic below will demonstrate the point. If the startup doesn’t receive the needed funding at or before the valley phase, it might not be around for long.

B2B Valley of DeathSo how does this “valley of death” timing issue apply to sales and marketing?  Simply this: If you wait until the product launch or commercialization phase to crank up your marketing engine, you may be too late to generate positive results. This doesn’t just apply to startup companies; it is also important for each product launch at existing companies. Putting the word out today doesn’t necessarily lead to revenue today (or even tomorrow). There is a lag time to move prospects from “aware” to “interested,” and from “engaged” to “customer.” In some industries (e.g. enterprise software), this sales cycle can be six months or more – so the sales leads you close today first came to your attention quite some time ago.

The scary part about being in the valley of death is the fear that no matter what you do, a successful outcome is not assured. This is why it is hard to raise money and it is why we B2B marketers hold our breaths, hoping and praying that the next campaign will be the home run that leads to product launch victory.

So how do we improve the odds of victory? One strategy is to apply lean business planning and minimum viable product (MVP) principles to ensure that the investment in the product is reasonable in relation to the upside potential. Another important step is to test the viability of the marketing message and lead generation potential very early in the process. You can do this with online methods such as pay-per-click and SEO during the R&D part of the process. In fact, you may collect some data in your early marketing tests that help get your product development on a better path.

The good news is that the sales and marketing valley of death can be a lot more comfortable if you have a good sense of how the product will sell based on your early testing. As the book says, Hope is Not a Strategy, and when you ask investors (or your CFO) for money based on data, not just great intentions, you are much more likely to get that funding and achieve a successful launch.

Note: this post originally appeared at