Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Part of No

A handful of years ago, an employer of mine had mandatory sales training.

Neither myself nor many of my colleagues were too excited. I felt sales training-all sales training- attempted to do the impossible. There is no blueprint for human behavior, unless you have 6 billion + sets of individualized blueprints. There is an infinite amount of variables when it comes to business and deal-making. I was hard headed but I kept my mind open.

The late David Sandler built what is now known as The Sandler Sales Institute. The program is tremendous, in part because it doesn't profess to know how ANYTHING is going to go down. Much of what they talk about and teach flies directly in the face of conventional wisdom on how to be a good salesperson. What follows is a very brief example of this and why it is so effective.

Sandler tells salespeople to " Go for the 'NO!' ". What does this mean? What it means is salespeople spend an INCREDIBLE amount of time with customers and prospects unable or unwilling to make a decision, including the decision not to move forward (No!).

If the answer is "no", do you want to know that now or after months of fruitless work?

Naturally, every business situation is different so this practice isn't meant to be a literal plug-in and needs to be on a case-by-case basis. Be especially prudent with people who know you and have already done business with you. But by all means, if you think someone is waffling, is shopping you or just doesn't have the heart to tell you the "painful truth", tell them that "no" is OK.

Or as Sandler also likes to profess, you'd rather hear 'no' than 'maybe'. At least you know where you stand and can divert your energies elsewhere.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Vito Corleone

The idea of top-down selling has been around forever.

Selling to the Very Important Top Officer was re-energized and popularized again about 10 years ago with the business book "Selling to VITO". The book did a good job of explaining just how difficult it will be for you if you attempt to sell/market into an organization at a middle or lower level.

I've read too many business and sales-oriented books...I'm not proud of it and I very rarely read books of that genre now. For every good one, there's 20 bad ones. Let's face it folks, there's nothing new under the sun. And that goes double in the world of human behavior...especially in relation to the world of business. I purposely didn't read all of "Selling to Vito" because: 1.) I had already been doing it for some time and 2.)much of it was recycled rehash. The parts I read and enjoyed served simply to sharpen my saw a little bit.

So briefly, here's why if you're not approaching VITO first, your odds of success are reduced exponentially.

Every item of importance on a corporate agenda rolls NEVER rolls down. And these items don't necessarily need to be time-sensitive and/or of critical importance in order for the CEO to be aware (e.g. operating capital, the price of their stock, short and long term strategy, capital budgets, research and development etc..). They have to think about other stuff too.

So, for example, if you sell software that improves the efficiency of a companies supply chain and logistics, go to the Boss. Go to VITO first.

That doesn't mean that, last night, The Board of Directors and the CEO were about to jump off The Sears Tower because of real or perceived IT-based shortcomings in their supply chain. What it means is what you represent is important ENOUGH to a CEO or a very senior manager that- if your timing is good- they MIGHT engage you OR delegate you down to one of their lieutenants. And not only does your timing need to be good, your approach needs to be impeccable.

Companies of several hundred or more employees, the CEO is the final decision-maker on only things of the utmost important. That's what their other senior managers are for. But don't think they aren't aware of a large number of other important issues. That's why they're in charge.

Chew on this: How different is the dynamic between you and the prospective senior manager buyer if you were introduced by the person who runs the company as opposed to, say, ANYONE ELSE?