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Walking down Memory Lane…

One little-known, under-appreciated aspect of the sales profession is the presentation tools our companies equip us with.  If Noah was similarly equipped by the Lord, the Ark would have sunk.  When things go wrong, is it the sales people; the product; or their presentation tools?

Several years ago, a car dealer in St. Petersburg, Florida fired his entire sales force and sales went up twenty-six percent.

Rick Page

Recently, I presented at the international client and partner conference of my leading Cloud Computing company.  The topic was Selling Value and my audience was our resellers.  I was also able to attend the Cloud application and platform presentations – “stimulated demos”.  Screen shots; report shots; workflow examples; the works.  Those simulations took me on a walk down Memory Lane…

You see, these latest and greatest, Cloud Computing products and platform presentations were delivered on today’s-most-widely-used-(and stable)-sales-technology-platform of our modern and sophisticated era – PowerPoint.  Yep; selling the Cloud with presentation software launched May 22, 1990 – 22 years ago!

Back to Rick Page, from his book Hope Is Not a Strategy ©:

Before computers, tellers showed with slide trays, showing feature after feature:  “Stop me if you see something you like.”  Today we have presentation software with even greater capacity to bore our prospects. 

I remember when PowerPoint replaced the-then-most-widely-used-(and stable)-sales-technology-platform of the time; Harvard Graphics; launched in 1986.  Not the most user-friendly application, Harvard Graphics took a great deal of effort (and intelligence) to create presentations.  Ergo the name “Harvard” I suppose.

The first person I remember who created presentations in Harvard Graphics was my friend and fraternity brother, Dushan Petrovich.  Dushan was not a sales professional.  He was an accountant at the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, assigned to their Chicago Cubs division.  He built internal financial projection presentations in Harvard Graphics.  He was smart enough to operate the software – smarter still, “Duke” rose all the way to become the President of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company before retiring in 2011.  Great presentations no doubt!

In 1986, I was a Sales Rep for Integral Systems (Dave Duffield’s preceding company to PeopleSoft; which preceded WorkDay).  It was a mainframe world in those days.  Integral’s claim to fame in the mid-1980s was our “native database implementations” of payroll and human resource management software.  We ran on the then-famous IMS; IDMS; Adabase; and IBM’s DB2 database platforms.

The-most-widely-used-(and stable)-sales-technology-platform of that era?  35mm slide projectors!  Screen shots; report shots; workflow examples; the works.  Here I was selling the most technologically sophisticated, business applications of my time and carrying in to the meeting rooms at companies such as Motorola and PPG Industries a slide projector with a 200 slide carousel.  (Hello Rick Page.)

For the technical presentation accompanying my 35mm simulated demo, our subject matter expert at Integral Systems, Nelson Russell, used the-second-most-widely-used-(and stable)-sales-technology-platform of that time – overhead transparencies!  There he was, presenting Integral’s technical implementation, adhering to IBM’s “System Application Architecture” blueprint for the future of mainframes; mini’s; and micro’s – hoping the light bulb in his overhead projector wouldn’t burn out!

Of course, sales presentation tools aren’t limited to selling technology.  In 1959, my Dad used a Dukane film strip projector equipped with a 78 rpm-LP album and wired remote control for a multi-media, life insurance presentation to families at their kitchen tables in the evening.  The Dukane remains in working condition today.

Maybe if those sales reps at that car dealer had better presentation tools…

GAP

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Consultants, craftsmen and building inspectors…

As with executives, I like to poke fun at consultants (and building inspectors) from time to time.  We often associate “consultant” with “outside expert”, true?  Yet, many an Unknown Sage suggest otherwise:

A consultant is just some guy from out of town, with a briefcase.

Nonetheless, paying for outside expertise is a generally accepted business practice in Corporate America.  So how does one decide when to call in an expert?  And, would the customer ever believe that the best, outside expert they can retain is actually a sales professional?  (Don’t laugh…)

Recently, I wrote about my Father-In-Law and his master craftsman skills as a carpenter.  Of course, being a master craftsman in one trade does not make one similarly skilled in other trades, does it?  We called in an “outside expert”.

The Elmhurst, Illinois Building Inspector confirmed our suspicions during his walk through of my In-Laws’ house, after they passed away a few years ago.  The carpentry was excellent, as you would expect; but the electrical?  “Well, I never saw it done that way before”, was an often repeated phrase by the building inspector that day.  (My Father-In-Law had “helped” and our “rate went up”…)

            Labor Rates

     Regular                                   $ 24.50

     If you wait                                 30.00

     If you watch                              35.00

     If you help                                 50.00

     If you laugh                               75.00

                                  Unknown Sage

Now don’t laugh, but a key concept professed by Tom Hopkins, Sales Trainer and Motivational Speaker extraordinaire, is that the sales professional is responsible for making the prospective customer’s decision.  That makes us the ultimate outside expert, doesn’t it.  (For Tom Hopkins followers, recognize this “tie down”? But I digress…)

True – we always make the customer “feel” that they are in control.  Our Unknown Sages again:

The customer may not always be right; but the customer is always the customer. 

I do not believe that we are ever the customer’s “peer” as some sales methodologies profess – the sales professional is always below the customer in the pecking order.  Yet, making the customer feel like they are in control, while we decide for them, requires the highest degree of sales skill – I refer to this technique as giving the customer the “allusion of control”.  (And if they laugh; the rate goes up.)

When making the buying decision for the customer, the sales professional must always be respectful.  Figuring out an appropriate solution for them is hard enough for those of us that do this for a living – the customer rarely has the required amount of knowledge or experience.  (And if their consultant “helps”, the rate goes up.)  That is why Tom Hopkins says it is our responsibility to make the buying decision.

Sales professionals accept this responsibility for our customers’ success (and for their failure, too, if we’re not careful).  Backwards, you say?  Well, just because they will use our product or service doesn’t mean they know how it works.  We are supposed to know what we’re doing – they probably don’t – yet. 

Master craftsmen take a customer-centric sales approach; vendor-centric selling is done by “sales apprentices”.  Customer-centric selling means we sell them “the one that works”.  Very few (if any) vendor-centric, sales people stay in the profession by “tricking” the customer just to get the commission. 

So let’s be the ultimate master craftsmen and outside experts and help our customers buy the one that works.  Even if this means less work for the “business building inspectors” (i.e. consultants) and vendor-centric, sales apprentices, OK?

GAP

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Lookers vs. Buyers

Rick Page once said: 

Sell the way the customer buys and allocate your resources accordingly. 

A key resource for sales people is time, yes?  And a key challenge for sales people is separating prospects that are “just looking” vs. customers that are actually buying.  However, lookers so significantly outnumber buyers, that wasting time is virtually unavoidable in our profession.  Unfortunately, to combat this problem some sales people take time management to an extreme.  

We might agree that in sales, cold-calling is tough; trade show leads (an example of which follows) are not much warmer.  How many deals do sales reps lose simply for lack of follow-up?  An Unknown Sage provided this perspective: 

At a recent annual meeting of the International Association of Clairvoyants, the meeting began by reading the minutes of next year’s meeting. 

Most sales reps aren’t clairvoyant when it comes to “leads”, true?  But taking time management and efficiency to the extreme can impact effectiveness – not to mention professionalism. 

Here’s an example: Each year my wife and I peruse the vendor booths at the National Western Stock Show from the “prospective customer” and in this case “buyer” side.  Since I’m a sales professional, too I wanted to be specific with each vendor: Here’s what we wanted; when we wanted it; and, most importantly, who our decision maker was.  For this project my wife was “VITO” (from the book Selling to VITO – Very Important Top Officer).  So far pretty straight forward, yes?  Guess not.  

Either we didn’t’ come across as credible (under the “these people are too good to be true” syndrome), or the sales reps we spoke to were overly efficient.  My wife was looking for a custom-built, indoor riding arena for her horses.  The final design was a 110’ by 65’; two-story building; that sits on a quarter acre of property.  One would think sales reps would want to follow up on this lead promptly and professionally.  Guess not. 

We visited eleven vendor booths; four called us back.  Four.  Were we worthy of a call from the other seven vendors?  Guess not. 

The first vendor quoted us a price per square foot over the phone.  No appointment; no explanation on useable vs. total number of square feet; no company description.  Very efficient, but we were hoping to meet with him at our site.  The second vendor would only meet if I were present (for efficiency purposes no doubt).  He refused to believe my wife was VITO.  Was she amused?  Nope – just insulted. 

The third vendor scheduled an appointment.  He shard drawings and a pricing worksheet.  He set up two references so we could see examples of his work and talk with his customers.  Then he returned for a final consultation which was followed by his proposal.  He won the job. 

The fourth vendor?  He called in June.  The Stock Show was in January; the arena was finished in May. 

Now I believe in winning business or losing it quickly to save time, too.  However, since sales people are not clairvoyant we should treat each lead professionally, don’t you think?  The most efficient way to lose business is to assume each lead is “just looking” and then not bother following-up.  

“Make them beg.”  That seems to be the motto of some reps; and Norman R. Augustine commented on business executives condoning this type of efficiency: 

It nonetheless spoke highly of the firm’s management that they seemed to be going out of business in an orderly fashion. 

                                                                           GAP 

How’s your day?  When life gets tough you could get a helmet – or, you could buy my book The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©  Please visit www.TheQuoteGuys.com.

March Madness – Final Four

You may remember me mentioning how much I enjoy college basketball this time of year. For a few weeks the intensity of competition is raised and sustained unlike any other seasonal sport we enjoy.  Oh, other sports have big games; but we’re talking about dozens of big games played back-to-back in a “Win or go home!” setting. 

So what makes March Madness so different?  Why do we watch tournaments when we might be less avid fans during the regular season?  And why do we celebrate “Cinderella” teams in NCAA basketball, while we berate as pretenders the same “Cinderella” teams in NCAA football?  (There is only one Cinderella, isn’t there?)  Is it that we are attracted to the heightened level of competition?  Win or go home!  I love the competition, don’t you?

There are many parallels between sports competition and business competition.  We relate because we compete in our jobs on a daily basis, yes?  Of course, maintaining a high level of enthusiasm, maintaining our “edge” can be difficult day in and day out.  Hence the average business person in general and the average sales person in particular have a continuous need for motivation.  OK, then what are common motivational sources?  Here’s Scott Deeter’s view:

Our competition got me out of bed in the morning; paranoia is a wonderful motivator.

Paranoia – now there’s a source of motivation!  Lord knows I have felt paranoid on more than one occasion when I’m trying to get that big deal; finish that big project; or win recognition from my Manager.  However, we might all agree that a little paranoia probably goes a long way.  If we get too carried away they might start padding our cubicles.

Let’s think about other sources of motivation we can draw on.  How about the personal pride we gain by not giving up; not quitting; staying the course no matter how difficult, until we reach our goal. That mind set can be very motivational; and we can leverage it individually as well as with a team.  We see that “never give up, never give in” mentality on display by teams in the NCAA tournament.  How fun!  And we occasionally see those with weaker mental toughness, and we see them collapse in the face of competition.  “Over-rated” they get labeled.   “Pretenders”.

Same thing can happen at the office and when it does, those of us that are committed get mad at those that give up, don’t we?

There’s only one thing worse than somebody who quits and leaves – and that’s somebody who quits and stays.

                                                                           Kevin Davis

Getting the job done right; contributing to the best of our ability; being a dependable teammate; helping the company; our department; and ourselves win – that’s motivating!  And when we’re with our family; at a cocktail party; or in any other social setting, we can tell the people who have great pride in their work and the company they work for.  We’re attracted to them.  These winners stand out.  And no matter how difficult the tasks can be at times, they are motivated by a “never say die” attitude.  Maybe they take the perspective from Jean Girandoux to heart:

Only the mediocre are always at their best.

So let’s enjoy some round ball and leverage the hype of March Madness towards meeting our business goals.  And every day I’m going to visualize success by repeating the mantra over and over and over again in my mind – nothing but net!

                                                                           GAP

How’s your day?  When life gets tough you could get a helmet.  Or, you could read The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©  Please sign up on www.TheQuoteGuys.com.