Great Selling Lessons in The Martian - But Should You See the Movie?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Oct 05, 2015 @ 15:10 PM

Most of the great books I read are disappointing, at best, when they become movies.  The Davinci Code, Gone Girl, Absolute Power, Lone Survivor, Hunger Games, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, The Lincoln Lawyer, 127 Hours, and Heaven is for Real are just some of my recent disappointments.  Unbroken, The Blind Side and Moneyball didn't get botched up too badly.  So it was with great anticipation, but limited expectations, that we went to see The Martian this weekend.  Not only was it the first book that I read where the movie was even better than the book, but there were some great, important lessons on selling to large organizations too!

Two of the great lessons occurred when the director of the Mars program tried to get the Director of NASA (played by Jeff Daniels in a role 180 degrees opposite Dumb and Dumber) to approve what needed to be done.  In the first instance, it was to get some satellite time so they could take a look at Mars where their mission had been aborted.  Later in the movie, after it was determined that Astronaut Watney (Matt Damon) was still alive, he made another attempt to convince the Director to rescue Watney.  In both cases, the Director said "No" because it was the safe decision, wouldn't jeopardize NASA's funding, and wouldn't cause any additional scrutiny of him personally.  Isn't that just like selling to the government?  Oh yeah, NASA is the government!  Isn't that just like selling to a major public corporation?  

So how did they eventually get the idea sold?  In the most unconventional of ways - but not inconsistent with what salespeople must do when they need to differentiate themselves in a large organization, with lots of options, limited budget and executives that are predisposed to maintaining the status quo.

:In this case, Vincent, the young scientist, made his case to the Director of NASA by walking into the conference room, and saying something along the lines of:

"You, stand right there.  And you, move over here."  Then he asked the Director, "Who are you?"  

The Director said, "I'm Teddy - I'm the Director of NASA."  

The kid said, "Cool."  

Then, getting both executives to pretend to be planets, he used a stapler and sound effects to mimic a spaceship and demonstrated the ship accelerating toward Earth, looping around Earth instead of landing, returning to Mars, intercepting and rescuing Watney, looping around Mars and returning back to Earth. 

Most differentiation takes place in the field, not on websites!  Some of the things that are important when it comes to differentiating in the field are whether or not the salesperson:

  • Was Memorable
  • Taught Them Something They Didn't Know
  • Got the Prospects Engaged
  • Got them to Share Information Freely
  • Cared
  • Listened
  • Had the Conversation Nobody Else Would Have
  • Developed a Relationship
  • Pushed Back or Challenged

In addition to Vincent, who convinced them that this approach would work, it would take the work of another NASA executive.  After the convincing demonstration, when the Director still said "No" to a rescue mission, Mitch (Sean Bean), covertly sends the Mars crew a maneuver that convinces them to commit mutiny and begin the rescue mission against the Director's orders.  

When selling to large organizations, you need more than a champion.  You need a chauffeur like Mitch, who forced the Director's hands.

So there you have it.  Good movie, great selling lessons, and since it's a new movie and there aren't any online scenes available that I can link to, you'll have to go see it.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling tips, selling to big companies, matt damon, the martian

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

Best Sales Strategy For Your Company

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 18, 2010 @ 05:05 AM

angry on phoneWhat would you do if one of your sales reps called at 5 PM on a Friday, the last day of the month, on the final day of a bad quarter and said, "Good News - I closed ___________!"(insert any huge company here)

You'd get excited, your heart would beat a little faster, you'd feel relieved because things seem to be turning around, and you're thinking, "This is good, damn it."

You ask, "What did you close them for?"

Your salesperson responds, "They bought a ___________."
(the least expensive thing in the smallest possible quantity)

You know that  it would have been more appropriate for them to buy a _________________.
(the most expensive thing you sell)

You yell, "What?  Are you kidding? How did that happen?  And you're calling me to brag about it?  Are you crazy?"

The salesperson says, "But we're in!"

So here are some questions for you; 

Is it better to "be in" with something sold today, or to still be out, and hoping to sell them the appropriate solution tomorrow?

Is it better to say "they're a customer" now, or is it better to wait and do it the right way later?

Is it better to know you have to sell them one more time, or take a chance that you may never have the chance to sell them what they really need?

Let's explore the opposite scenario.

Let's say that you failed to close a company who decided against buying what you were trying to sell them.  Does it make any sense to return to them and offer to sell them what they are willing to buy?

These situations occur on a daily basis in most companies, (at least the companies with enough activity taking place) and everybody has a different preference as to how they should be handled.  What would you do?

Scenario 1 - happy to sell them something or wait to sell them the right solution?

Scenario 2 - return and try to sell what they're willing to buy or move on?

Here's another way of looking at it. In scenario 1, you waited to sell them the right solution and they wouldn't buy it.  So now you have moved to scenario 2...



Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Force, sales strategies, salesperson, selling to big companies

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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