A Bit of Holiday Tradition to Spice up your Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Dec 05, 2016 @ 06:12 AM

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What is your favorite part of the holiday season?  Do you have traditions that you follow every December?  For the past 15 years an important part of our holiday season is going to see the Boston Ballet perform the Nutcracker.  You wouldn't think that a show like the Nutcracker would correlate to selling, but it does.  As a matter of fact, if you read a little further, you'll see that the Nutcracker is very much like selling to a major account!

Buyers and sellers have their traditions too: habits, learned behaviors, and standardized questions and comments.  

If you have ever attended a performance of the Nutcracker or simply listened to some of the Suite during the holiday season, one of the selections you'll hear is the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy".  Perhaps you can't match the music to the title, but if you listen to the first 30 seconds of this version, you'll instantly recognize the melody.  Go ahead - give it a listen.

You've surely heard this before, even if it was only in a television commercial.  But can you identify the 4 musical instruments used at the beginning of the composition?

You heard the Glass Armonica, oboe, bassoon and flutes.  Were you able to identify those instruments as they were played?  Outside of the readers who are weekend musicians, the rest of you are probably unable to do that the first time.  It's OK, it's even difficult for musicians!

Similarly, salespeople find familiarity in the sounds (questions, comments and discussions) of their sales calls.  As much as you might not be able to identify the specific instruments creating those sounds in "Dance...", salespeople may not be able to identify the most important comments and questions and distinguish them from the noise on their sales calls.

During a first sales call, suppose a salesperson hears one prospect say, "This has been a very interesting and productive conversation and we might have some interest in this."  And at the same meeting, another prospect says, "We'll get back to you next month and let you know what kind of progress we've made."  And a third says, "In the mean time, please send us a proposal with references and time line."

There are three distinct lessons that can be taken from this scenario:

Lesson #1: (based on Objective Management Group's data) Out of every one hundred salespeople:

  • Seventy will return to the office to begin working on a proposal and tell their managers that the "large opportunity they are working on is very promising - all three prospects in the meeting were very interested";
  • Nineteen will leave the meeting, make two entries in their CRM application - "propose" and "follow-up" - and will likely do that at the appropriate time;
  • Eleven will remain in the meeting, ask more questions, and get additional clarification.

Lesson #2:

  • Prospects' voices are like musical instruments.  Each instrument in "Dance..." has a specific assignment in the performance.  If the wrong instrument or notes are played or they are played at the wrong time, the entire performance is ruined.  In the scenario above, prospects' comments have different meanings depending on their business titles and their roles in the buying process.
  • If "please send us a proposal" or "we're interested" or "very productive" are spoken from an Executive - the CEO, President or VP  - it has far different meaning than if the comments come from procurement.
  • When any of those three comments are spoken by a user - an engineer for example - rather than a buyer or an executive, the comments may be much more genuine, but they carry significantly less authority.

Lesson #3:

I enjoy listening to a song, symphony, or simple melody and try to figure out why the composer or arranger selected the particular instruments to play the particular parts of the selection.  Your salespeople should apply that wonder and analysis to their sales calls.  In a mid-market or large company, the prospect could be any one of the following musicians or roadies:

    • the composer (started the initiative), 
    • arranger (selected the vendors to talk with), 
    • director (charged with the initiative and conducting the process) or 
    • musician (following directions of the conductor)
    • chauffeur (can drive you directly to the person who cares enough and has the authority to make something happen).  

A salesperson's responsibility is to figure out who they're dealing with, the role they play, what influence they have, and how to get all of the various players aligned on the compelling reasons to buy your ideal solution.

Homework Assignment - Review Lesson #1 and answer the following two questions: 

Which of the three endings is your default?

Can you identify any of the additional questions that the eleven salespeople stay and ask?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, Nutcracker, major account sales

School of Rock the Musical Demonstrates Selling to Existing Customers and Customer Service

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 @ 06:02 AM

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This weekend we had seats to the new Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway show, School of Rock.  Our son has watched the original movie around a dozen times and didn't think there was the slightest possibility that the show would be as good as the movie.  Did the show meet expectations?  I'll share that in a moment, but first, let's discuss the dynamic of the show versus the movie and compare that to an ongoing sales challenge.  While salespeople have expectations for meeting outcomes and sales results, prospects have expectations too - for the meetings, salespeople, products, services, prices and terms that a company will provide at various times during your sales cycle.  In the case of movie versus show, there is a better analogy to strategic account management and even customer service.

With an existing customer, you represent the movie, School of Rock.  You are known, there is history, and the customer knows what to expect, both good and bad.

When you schedule a call or meeting to upgrade, upsell, or simply renew your contract, you represent the Broadway show, School of Rock.  Will you be the same or worse, will your prices go up and will your service go down?  It could be extremely difficult for you to improve upon the performance you already provided or impress them further.

On the other hand, your competition, finally getting their chance to compete for the business, comes in with guns blazing. They represent a different show altogether so your customer or client has more of an open mind, lower expectations and becomes easier to impress.

How did School of Rock, the Broadway show compare to the movie?  They rocked, of course.  They brought a raw energy to the stage that could never be achieved in the original movie.  It would be quite the accomplishment for the Broadway version to impress our nearly 14-year old son, but they pulled it off.  He even walked away with a School of Rock guitar pick, tossed into the audience by the Dewey Finn character.

How can you  exceed expectations with your existing customers?  Step it up, bring more energy, bring greater creativity, bring your best ideas, and commit to completely wowing your existing customer.  If you don't, your competition will!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, account management, major account sales, school of rock

Top 10 Reasons Why it's Hard for Salespeople to Land BIG ONES

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Nov 08, 2011 @ 06:11 AM

I'll be the first to admit that selling to big companies can take much longer, may include many starts and stops, musical chairs, committees, task forces, layers of management and additional competition.  But beyond those considerable annoyances, what makes it so difficult?

I'll offer my thoughts and you can feel free to add your own:

  1. Staying Power - some salespeople become frustrated by these opportunities tending to either not gain traction early on, or stall after gaining traction.  They become impatient and simply do not pursue them.
  2. Royalty - some salespeople become intimidated by the additional zeros that could be part of a possible deal and treat the opportunity quite differently from their regular opportunities.  Instead of asking tough questions, pushing back and challenging their prospects they become facilitators, failing to differentiate themselves from their competition.
  3. Decision Making - In large companies it can be difficult to figure out who is actually making the decisions and even more difficult to meet that person.  There must be a compelling reason for the decision maker(s) to get involved early in the process and failure to ask tough questions means it may not be very compelling for them at all.
  4. Money is no Object - For some reason, salespeople tend to believe that big means unlimited funds.  As a result they invest an awful lot of time pursuing opportunities that they never completely qualified.  Being big does not mean they will spend whatever you charge them and, in many cases, they expect to pay less, not more than their smaller cousins in business.  Some may even expect you to conduct tests and trials at no cost to them.
  5. Happy Ears - Because salespeople are hearing signs of interest, they may pursue big opportunities for much longer than they should.  Slight interest should tell the salesperson to turn around - dead end - but instead seems to invite them to play it out.
  6. Relationships - Most salespeople fail to develop strong relationships with all the various players and as a result, may have a champion, but fail to have an entire team on board with their solution.
  7. Chauffeurs - I've never been much of a believer in the Champion or Influencer goal.  Instead, I believe that salespeople must identify a Chauffeur - someone who can drive you to the person who cares and has enough power to do something - like make a change or pull the trigger.
  8. Fit - Just because a salesperson is trying to sell the big company, does not mean that her solution actually fits the big company's needs.  Back to thoroughly qualifying; will your size, location, track record, capacity, team, references, timeliness, delivery, availability, expertise, experience, pricing model, quality, country of origin, contract, compatibility, ownership, terms, or billing/payment method be issues?
  9. The salesperson - Sometimes, a salesperson who does fine with smaller companies, just does not have the self-presentation - poise, posture, wardrobe, polish, look, vocabulary, accent, hygiene or eye contact to take it up a notch and present in the board room.
  10. This is where you can contribute - simply enter your comment for what you believe is the 10th reason and I'll choose a winner!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, key account sales, major account sales, selling to big companies, national account sales

Mass. Senate Race Alternate Ending Compares with Major Account Selling

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 @ 13:01 PM

By know you must know about the recent special Massachusetts senate race between Democrat Martha Coakley and relative unknown Republican Scott Brown, the eventual winner.  Well guess what!  If this hard fought campaign had taken place at the same time 49 other states were holding their senate elections, Martha Coakley would have crushed Scott Brown.  But, since it was only such election being held, attention, and far more importantly, campaign contributions, endorsements, support and actual campaigning came from all over the nation.  All of that extra attention and support got him elected.  It was a full-court press!  Of course it helped that Martha did not run her campaign very well. 

Relate this to a major account sales initiative. What if you had the ability to do what Scot Brown did, each and every time you had a major account opportunity?  What if those major accounts could be leveraged in the same way as Scott Brown's senate seat?  What if you could amass the focus and attention to that opportunity?  What would your full-court press look like?

Elections and Major Account Sales Opportunities are essentially the same thing. Convince more people to vote for you than your competitor.  

Hint: It wouldn't be about price...so what would it be about and how would you run your campaign? What normally untapped resources are at your disposal? Especially if you are the underdog, the lesser known, the small company, or the niche player, how would you win your prospect's vote?  Comment here and let's see how creative you can be!

(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan


Topics: Dave Kurlan, Scott Brown, Senate Race, Martha Coakly, landing the big sale, major account sales

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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