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    Here is ESR's highly acclaimed Sales Training Vendor Guide, Third Edition.

There Are No Shortcuts To Sales Effectiveness

My friend Alan Ganapol says, “Always read the signs.  They’re out there.  You just have to read them.”

The signs today came in the form of notices that two of my recent articles were published.  They’re both on essentially the same subject. I felt compelled to share those with you.

The first article is in Business & Leadership, a Irish print and online magazine.  It’s entitled, appropriately enough, No Easy Answers

The second is my November/December column for Sales and Marketing Management magazine.  That one is When Sales 101 Isn’t Enough.

Yesterday I spoke with Dan Brown, VP of Marketing at Payformance.  I love talking to Dan because he’s a marketing guy that really understands selling.  When I consulted with MAPICS a number of years ago, Dan was on the marketing team and did some very effective work around competitive positioning and customer value quantification.  Dan, with great support from Al Barrenechea, enabled MAPICS to be quite competitive under some very tough circumstances.

Dan and I commiserated about the uphill battle getting sales leaders to understand that sales effectiveness isn’t something you can accomplish quickly or easily.

But there are those that get it.  Here’s a nice email I received just this afternoon:

Hello, Dave.

FANTASTIC article on “Sales 101 Isn’t Enough.”

Spot on.

We pride ourselves at the American Heart Association to go beyond the basics. I wish I could tell you we are all at the advanced level. Not yet. But hopefully on our way there.

Much thanks for your insight. I made it a point to seek out your website and subscribe to your blog on my personal email.

Looking forward to your next pearl of wisdom.

Happy Thanksgiving.

E. Scott Murphy
National Consultant, Affiliate Corporate Prospecting
National Corporate Relations

American Heart Association National Center

Scott’s email is another sign.  It’s a good time to give, even a little.  If not the American Heart Association, then your favorite charity.

Big Three CEOs Send Wrong Message. What About You?

I read an article today about the Big 3 Automaker CEOs flying their jets into D.C. to plead for public funds.  What a bad message to be sending Congress, their employees (I’ll stay out of the union discussion at this point) and the American people. 

As a pilot, airplane owner, and salesperson, I can justify the use of a private airplane as well as anyone. 

But the message these execs sent was all wrong.  I don’t care about their importance, or their hourly pay rates versus travel inefficiencies at Detroit and Dulles airports.  They should have flown commercial.  Period.

My question for you is this:  Are you and your company sending the right messages to your customers and clients during these challenging economic times?  Here are some considerations:

  • Are you careful with your clients’ money?  Our policy at ESR is to save our clients money wherever possible.  I’ve recently taken trips where we saved clients many hundreds and more by forgoing a direct flight, where I’ve rarely done that in the past.  That’s a strong message to send to the client. (We indicate their savings on our invoice.)  Saving them money when it’s possible is the right thing to do.

  • Are you sensitive to perceptions that your customers may have about how you and your team spend your own company’s money?  Think about the message you send your client by staying at the Hyatt when you visit. Is it positive (that you’re successful) or negative (your client is struggling to pay their bills and you’re oblivious to that)?  Think twice about what your customer will think if you take them out for an expensive meal.  It could be the only one they will have had for a while.  It could also been seen as totally inappropriate, especially if the purpose is to tell them about a price increase.

  • If there have been layoffs at your company or a hiring freeze, do your salespeople behave like money just isn’t an issue for them?  They’ll need to tone that down a lot if they want the continued respect and support it took years to earn.

Messages don’t just come from marketing.

Has Your Company Recently Rationalized Your Prices and Fees?

I read an article in Fortune (10/29/2008) that reminded me again how important it is that companies rationalize their prices and fees during this tough economic time.

Sales people and their managers have enough of a challenge without having to overcome customer objections and competitive pricing pressures because their prices are artificially high or their fees have been calculated on top of the healthy—but perhaps no longer appropriate—margins that we all enjoyed a few years back.

At General Mills, the Holistic Margin Management system has helped them sustain higher margins than their peers.

From the article:

[General Mills CEO Ken] Powell’s team first applied the system to struggling Hamburger Helper. At the time the company sold 50 versions of the product, with 25 pastas ranging from wagon wheels to spirals. Executives researched the costs of producing the different options as well as how much consumers liked them, then eliminated half of them. They excised unimportant spice and cheese pouches. They shrank the size of the box while keeping the serving size the same. The upshot: Hamburger Helper now costs 10% less to make.

I’m using this Hamburger Helper example to make this point:  If you find that your salespeople are losing on price these days, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is, “Can we justify our price in today’s market?”  If the answer is yes, your salespeople need some help, and fast.  If the answer is no, maybe your competition has already figured out that if they win more business at lower margins, they come out ahead.

Photo: Amazon

Wondering About All That Spam You’re Getting? Someone Is Getting Rich

Joel Cere wrote an enlightening blog post about some research that was done on those massive spam campaigns: The economics of Spam: 0.00000008% response rate = $3.5M turnover.

I’ll take the liberty of quoting Joel’s whole post here, since it’s a short one:

Academics at Berkeley used the “Storm botnet” network to blast 350 million emails for “male enhancement products” at a cost of about $80 per million emails sent. 28 sales resulted with an average purchase price of $100. They estimated that such campaigns when fully utilising the network could mean gross revenues of $7,000 to $9,500 a day, or $3.5 million a year for the spammers.

First read in The Register.
Full study here.

Processing the spam costs me time and money:

  • My time going through messages in the spam folder looking for legitimate messages from people I don’t know;
  • More memory and disk on my computer to process spam;
  • The cost of the spam filtering software;
  • Getting annoyed thinking about it.

I’ll invest in any company or product that can eliminate spam from the source.

Sales and Marketing Authors: Is Your Content Being Pirated?

For those of you who are arriving on this page from an external link, the next paragraph is a quick version of the story that resided on this page and an update.

During the past four years I attempted to get someone to remove my copyrighted material from their website, where it had been published with my byline and copyright information removed.  In fact, not only was my content published there, but anonymized content from a number of other authors was posted there as well. 

It took telling my story on this blog, complete with links and other proof, to finally get the attention of that person.  This morning (Nov. 14, 2008) all the pages in question were taken offline.

Please consider this is a temporary post.  I expect to have a rewritten version of the story posted here soon.  Please stay tuned.

Sales Lessons From The Presidential Race

peelNo matter what side you were on, here are a few observations, affirmations and truths, post-election, with respect to selling:

  1. Strategy and tactics are equally important.  The purpose of executing tactics in a sales campaign is to drive a well-founded strategy.  Tactics without a strategy is like playing darts with your eyes closed.
  2. Message! Not messages, messages, messages.  Decide what you are going to count on to win based upon research—a focused, objective assessment of the sales opportunity.
  3. You can successfully change the ground rules even if you temporarily lose ground.
  4. The understanding and leverage of political influence is crucial.
  5. Messages must be clear, concise and compelling and paint the vision of a better situation for the buyer.  One fumbled message can dilute the impact of a hundred perfect ones.
  6. Logic and the facts aren’t the only things buyers consider.
  7. Discipline rules.  Seat-of-the-pants doesn’t. 
  8. Knowledge of your opponent’s plan to win is vital for devising and refining your own plan.
  9. Direct and blatant “bad-mouthing-the-competition” doesn’t generally work. 
  10. Never underestimate the underdog.
  11. Want to win?  Look the part.
  12. Tell the truth before your opponent exaggerates it.
  13. Choose the right team.  The salesperson is CEO of their own virtual sales corporation.  Whom they choose to stand next to them and to advise them can make a big difference.
  14. Whomever has momentum at the time of close generally wins.  Its very difficult to build momentum just at the right time without a plan.
  15. Embrace technology. It permeates pretty much everything most of us do.
  16. Go broad and deep into the customer’s organization as appropriate. (Ideally effective marketing will have blazed the trail in advance. See the article How Better Marketing Elected Barack Obama.  Thanks, John Caddell.)  Build consensus where it matters.
  17. Don’t lose your composure or violate your own principles.
  18. Understand that energy, determination and relentless pursuit of the goal is the fuel that powers the engine.

I’m sure I missed some points.  What would you add to this list?

By the way, Newsweek’s Secrets of the 2008 Campaign has been published on their website.  It looks like a terrific read.  I haven’t tackled it yet, but I definitely will.

Photo:  © Ljupco Smokovski – Fotolia.com

Richardson Client Forum 2008

This morning I delivered the keynote speech at Richardson’s 2008 Client Forum at the Sofitel in downtown Philadelphia.  I was honored to have been provided the opportunity to address their personnel, their clients and a few important business partners.  Richardson is a company that continues to be a leader in the sales training arena. 

Linda Richardson herself is someone that I’ve respected for many years—long before I founded ESR.  She’s oozes experience and insight, is a wonderful communicator and a charming person.  If you haven’t read any of her books, you should.  Start with Perfect Selling to get an idea how she and her company think about selling. 

Linda has built a solid team.  David DiStefano, CEO and President, is an enthusiastic, committed and knowledgable leader. He comes out of PWC and brings that flavor of professionalism to the party.  I sat with Jim Brodo, VP of Marketing, last evening at their client dinner before the event.  Jim and I see many things the same way.  He’s got a tough job, but does it exceedingly well.  My sponsor was Debbie Antonelli, Richardson’s SVP of Sales, who hosted the event.  What a great job.

The topic of my talk was Sales Effectiveness 2012. I shared with the audience some sobering sales research statistics—what I’ve been writing about on this blog and the subject of much of ESR’s work to date.  The research paints a pretty dismal picture—high salesrep and manager attrition rates, disturbing forecasting statistics, the pains of mis-hiring, lack of sales process and measurement.

I then discussed five critical imperatives that companies must implement for them to maintain, if not gain, a leadership position in their market over the next four years.

We had a number of stimulating discussions during my time with the audience.  Richardson’s guests included learning and sales professionals from some well-known (mostly large) technology, financial services and other companies.  Additional presenters included Patrick Stakenas, CEO of Forcelogix and Chris Hens from White Springs.  Both are Richardson technology partners, providing critical components to Richardson’s Sales 2.0 technology-enabled selling strategy.  I was sorry that I couldn’t stay for the rest of the day.  Patrick and Chris, through the software technologies they provide, are making great strides supporting the deployment and use of sales process and measurement.  There can be no compromise in those area. Sales has a lot of catching up to do. 

Richardson is a class act.  Not only does ESR cover them as one of the leading vendors, but we had the opportunity to recommend that they be included on a long list for a client’s evaluation earlier this year.  Richardson won the business.  That project is underway.  We’ll be reporting on the progress of that engagement over time.

Richardson isn’t the perfect solution for every companies’ sales performance improvement requirements.  But they’re a serious player; they are making substantial forward progress, have a track record and history of innovation and customer success, and have an experienced and committed team.  All that adds up to make them a winner.

Photo: Cosmos.com