The power and danger of words

All forms of communication require the use of words and while the well thought through use of individual or sequences of words can create a powerful impact, words can also be dangerous. A book was published in 1938 called The Tyranny of Words that looked at the dangerous side. There have been many books and other publications that look at the positive side.

Examples of well-known people who understood the power of words are Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy. Hitler is often quoted as also being a great user of words but is mainly associated with the use of words to support evil intent.

There is so much that could be said about words that my focus here is on words used in the context of business communication and in particular selling.

A research perspective

A limited piece of research undertaken in the 1960s concluded that prospects evaluating what a sales person is saying will assign 55% to the observed body language, 38% to the tone of the voice and only 7% to the words used. I have always had an issue with this as it simply does not tally with the way I behave when I am the prospect. I wonder, for example, how people cope when talking on the telephone; do they draw a conclusion from just 45% (they cannot see the body language) or is the 55% re-allocated to the other two areas and if so in what proportions?

If these figures are correct it could be argued that you don’t need to bother with the words at all. Just moving around miming should work!

But seriously and giving the original research the benefit of the doubt, it was after all limited in scope and reach, it could be said that communication techniques have adapted to suit the modern world and include many formats other than the sales person standing or sitting in front of the prospect spouting. I do not recommend that the sales person ‘spouts’ at all rather that questions are used to develop, guide and steer communication. So, this brings us full circle to the role of power and danger words in the context of sales engagement.

Words in business communications

Questions provide a powerful communication tool used in all areas of business activity and of course questions are a collection of words as are the answers. In addition to the individual words and the sequence in which they are presented, other factors such as volume, pace and tone form a key part of the total message and when face-to-face body language also plays a key part in the overall impact of the message being conveyed.

So, I agree with the research that body language (when face-to-face), tone and the words used combine to create the message but without the words the remaining silence isn’t going to get you very far.

Most people are comfortable asking open questions in their personal lives, in fact they come quite naturally to most of us; which parent hasn’t been driven mad by an unstoppable stream of “why” or “why not” questions?


But different folk have different views;key questions
I know a person small—
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!

She sends’em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes—
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!

from The Elephant’s Child; Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling 1902.

However, when it comes to the work environment many people are uncomfortable asking open questions as they feel they are perhaps cheeky, rude, abrupt or impertinent. When you look deeper into this, it isn’t the fact of asking a question as such rather the primary words used in open questions; who, why, etc., that seem impertinent. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of overcoming this concern allowing yourself to use the power of open questions and the words that define them.

It is common that people will use various devices to ‘soften’ the impact of the power words without appreciating that this can also dull their impact. While talking to an experienced sales manager recently he told me about a sales person who was uncomfortable about asking open questions so always started with something like do you mind – “Do you mind if I ask; what is your budget for the project?” Do you mind imparts an impression of nervousness, doubt, uncertainty that combines to weaken the overall impact of the key part of the question about the budget. It is also the case that there are two questions here; do you mind – CLOSED and then what is the budget – OPEN. This confuses the other person and gives them the opportunity to obfuscate when answering.

So, while there are power and danger words it is also about how those words are used.

Power words

A key group of power words are those used to create open questions; who, what, where, when, why and how.

Other power words are those that portray; certainty, commitment, agreement, etc. Words that help the other person to trust you and believe in your sincerity; you say what you will do and you do what you said you would. This is especially important when engaging with new potential customers as having not worked with you before they will need to feel they can rely upon you not to let them down.

A few specific examples of other power words and phrases are:

  • I don’t know. It is definite, there is no attempt to pretend and it cannot be misconstrued. This is even better when coupled with; but I can find out, or I know someone who does (exemplified by the AA), or we will put in the time to find out for you.
  • Thank you. Coupled with something like; that is really helpful and it will enable me to … The other person feels good that you have appreciated what they have done and it is a part of the process of “token exchange” whereby relationships are built from a whole lot of small tokens; things done for each other.
  • Yes. When you can do something, or you agree with them, say so. You can strengthen the yes by confirming what you are agreeing to; yes, we will deliver before the weekend. This is referred to as “yes, and”.
  • Because. If you are agreeing to do something that might be unusual or may typically be seen as undesirable to do, you build confidence in your answer by deepening it; We can provide cover on Saturday mornings because the technical team are always in the office undertaking weekly maintenance.

I think by now you have got the point. Spend some time thinking about the words you use and how you use them and ensure you are making best use of the opportunity you have when speaking to prospects, customers, suppliers, your boss or a direct report. Ensure you leave them with the impression you wanted them to have.

Double edged words and phrases

  • Who is the decision maker? It is perfectly reasonable that a potential supplier should want to know the answer but asking this is fraught with danger. What if the person you are speaking to has effectively purported to be in authority but is not actually the DM? This will embarrass them and is unlikely to lead to a good outcome for the person asking. So, instead, ask; who else will be involved in the decision or using another approach ask about the decision making process thus taking the focus away from the person you are speaking to.
  • Benefit or value. Both very important and we all need to know what benefit and value we will enjoy as a result of an action such as making a purchase. However, these words are so overused these days their true value and impact is often lost.
    The main problem here is when the person sitting in the seller’s seat says; this is the benefit or value to be gained they mainly use a generic position rather than a specific one. For example; the benefit is this will save you money. This is based on the assumption, or hope, that saving money is all that matters to everyone on every occasion and this is absolutely not the case. Benefits and value are relative to the individual and by assuming you know what will benefit them risks damaging your credibility.Agreement as to what is beneficial or of value must be established collaboratively between the parties and this is achieved through the use of well-structured questions built around power words.
  • Imagine. Helping someone to visualise what it might look like if they go along with what you are proposing is a good thing but the word imagine is over used in sales and is associated with tricks and techniques rather than good solid communication.

Danger words and phrases

  • I think so. So, you are not certain or perhaps you don’t know but don’t want to say so. Always be affirmative leaving the other person in no doubt as to what you mean and what you will do.
  • Maybe or possibly. Even if you expand on why it might not be so, you have created doubt and uncertainty that will damage the impact on your main message.
  • Yes but. Again you have introduced doubt.
  • The implied but. This is primarily a matter of tone of voice or a pause that is too long or is in the wrong place. In a face-to-face situation, watching the other person’s facial reaction will help you spot if you have inserted an implied but and you need to tackle this straight away otherwise doubt will linger in their minds.
  • No problem, OK, cool, or other automatic responses. This is fine when someone serving in a restaurant agrees to bring you extra bread but it is too general for use in a serious conversation where both parties need to fully understand what is going to happen next.
  • Does that make sense? So, you think the other person is too thick to understand? Much better to say “How would that work for you?”
  • Phrases like; let’s run it up the flag pole to see how it flutters or blue sky thinking or thinking outside the box should be avoided. They are basically quite meaningless and can leave the other person with the impression that you don’t actually have anything substantive to say.

The final group of danger words and phrases are associated with the use of language relevant to your product, business or the selling process. Some examples of things to avoid would be:

  • Internal language that you use to talk about your products and services. In most cases this will be meaningless to someone outside your company. Use plain language that is commonly understood, such as there are a number of features on the new X25 model that increase the intervals between routine maintenance calls and also reduce the time taken by the engineers, and avoid jargon and acronyms; they do not need to know that MTBF has increased due to new wiffly waffly widgets!
  • The language of business. If you put two financial people together they may use terms such as; ROCE, discounted cash flow, transfer pricing and they will both know the meaning. However, when a sales person uses such terms there is a real danger they will damage credibility unless they really understand the full meaning of the terms and can engage in a deep conversation with the FD. The one term that is used widely enough that it is usually safe is RoI.
  • The selling process. As sales people we think in terms of; decision makers, competitive strategy, dealing with objections, negotiation, closing the deal and the budget. While these are perfectly acceptable and useful when discussing a particular customer with your sales manager the terms are inappropriate for a conversation with that customer.
  • Ego. Don’t use words just to show how clever you are as it will probably have the opposite effect. Danger words and phrases in this context could include; strategic, commercial landscape, and gaining buy-in. Boastful terms such as; best in class, market leader and number one all carry the danger of damaging credibility unless you can back it up with evidence.

It is always better to use simple plain language that describes things that can be easily understood and substantiated.

Intelligence Led Prospecting

Time is a precious commodity in any business so we all need to ensure we spend it wisely. When we commit ourselves to any activity we need to know, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that we will get an acceptable return for the effort invested. While this can be said about any business activity the need to spend time well is at its most acute when prospecting for new customers and new business as; to fail at finding enough new business can put the whole company at risk.

What do we mean by Intelligence?

In this context it is quite simply information that equips you to be more discerning and precise in your prospecting activities.insight7x4 Useful information can be readily gleaned through on-line and off-line research and should be a standard element of all prospecting activities. Before you leave the office or pick up the phone you should know what you are heading into.

What is prospecting?

It is any activity that enables a business to identify companies or individual people (depending on what your business does) who might want or need what you do and so could become new customers for you. We class these identified companies or individuals as suspects; all you have is an external view that suggests they have the potential to become customers for your business.

To be clear; you have identified them but this is just the beginning and you now have work to do to filter those suspects, convert them into prospects, then customers and eventually users of your products or services

How can Intelligence help you look for new suspects?

The classic sources of prospecting for new customers or opportunities of; cold calling (telephone and face-to-face), advertising, mailshots and exhibitions have been joined by; social media, LinkedIn, networking (face-to-face, on-line, organised and casual), e-mailing, in-bound marketing, blended in/outbound marketing, SEO and other website strategies, seminars and other executive speaking opportunities, referrals, introductions, recommendations and the list goes on.

This is not an exhaustive list and more are coming along almost daily – you must choose carefully the combination of prospecting sources you will use to protect the use of precious time and funds. This is the first point where intelligence will help you to focus your efforts – by studying what works and what doesn’t, you can decide on the optimum mix of activities for your specific business needs, market and products/services and thus create your ideal prospecting environment.

How else can intelligence help your prospecting?

Once you have decided on the mix of sources you will use, undertaking research to collect intelligence will make a significant contribution to the effective use of your time. To quote Peter Drucker, my favourite business expert, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” He also observed “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
Having decided upon the mix of sources you will use for your prospecting you now need to continue your research to further filter where you will apply your efforts. For instance:

  • LinkedIn – if you want to be seen on LinkedIn by organisations or people that might have the potential to become customers then you need to be in the right places. If, for example, you provide a commercial cleaning service in the home-counties there is no point joining/starting a group focused on business in Yorkshire or a group focused on, let’s say, baking.
  • Physical networking – as with the previous example you need to attend networking events that are most likely to attract people who might be interested in what you do. Before you commit to an event do the research; what type of people have attended in the past, if there is a speaker is the subject relevant to what you do and if a list of attendees is available look them up before you commit to attending. If you do attend make a list of people you want to meet and seek them out.

The basic principles established in the previous examples will also apply to; exhibitions, speaking opportunities, advertising, publishing blogs and articles. You need to do the research before spending time and effort on any prospecting activities to ensure you will be in the right place and with the right people.

One area that requires a special mention is telephone prospecting. Some call this cold calling but we see it as warm calling or more accurately and simply telephone prospecting. If all you do is pick up the phone and call anyone then it is cold calling and it is also a very poor use of your time. Fortunately technology provides us with excellent tools and facilities that enable detailed research to be conducted before a programme of telephone prospecting commences. The starting point is to create a profile of your “ideal” suspects and undertake the research to identify companies that match the profile.

Consider a relatively simple example of a profile; insurance broking firms, turnover between £5m and £10m, no more than 40 employees and based in the Thames Valley. Using web based tools you can quickly identify a short list of companies that match your criteria but you can also find out contact names, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, web presence (or not), and other useful information about the current state of affairs that will empower the conversations you have when you call. Now your telephone prospecting activities will be much more focused and productive.

If you don’t follow the research based process outlined above, then you will effectively be taking a business directory, calling every insurance broker in the book and suffering time wasting rejections. This is the needle in the haystack approach not the intelligence led approach.

Sales and selling is at its most effective and productive when approached systematically and research to equip yourself with intelligence is the most effective way that I have found to make it systematic and to make the outcome from my prospecting effort predictable. Try it; you never know, you may even enjoy it and it is mainly free – how bad can that be?

If you would like more tips and advice on original ways to improve your sales and selling performance take a look at some of our other articles or contact me directly: phil.shipperlee@performative.net or call me on 07974 914 557

Image courtesy of newsalescoach
Courtesy of Microsoft & Bing

21st Century Sales – don’t let the myths stifle your success

Courtesy of Microsoft & BingThe overarching myth is that selling in the 21st century is in some significant way different to the approaches of earlier times. You only have to consider the many cold calls made to your home phone or the PPI/accident compensation texts to your mobile to realise the worst techniques of the past are still alive and kicking albeit under a different disguise.

Then there are the “new” approaches to selling that you might find under titles such as; Modern Selling, The Challenger Sale and Sales Enablement. When you explore these ‘new’ phenomena you will probably find they simply describe how professional selling has always been conducted. Current technology has certainly provided new tools but we question whether technology enables you to be more effective and productive, and if it always make doing business easier?

This post will help anyone struggling with questions such as; “is the B2B sales person a dying breed?”, “is the cold call dead?”, “what is best in 2015; in-bound or outbound marketing?”, and “can technology solve all of my marketing and sales issues?

Myth One – buyers have changed significantly

We have written on a number of occasions about the savvy well informed buyers that many consider a significant feature of the commercial landscape of the 21st century. You know them; they are 57% of the way through the buying journey before engaging with suppliers. Belief in this fact has led to a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’; if your sales people don’t put in the effort to engage early then of course the buyer has no choice but to make the journey towards a decision on their own. When the buyer eventually needs to contact suppliers they will have made many decisions for themselves leaving the suppliers in a position that all they can do is react and comply.

However, the evidence is that sales people who do engage early in the buyer’s journey, or better still before it commences, are seen as a valuable resource to the buyer and they will get a bigger share of the business that is going to be on offer.

Debunking this myth is the foundation to dealing with the others.

Myth Two – B2B sales people are a dying breed

They certainly are if your go-to-market strategy is based on the assumption that the buyer will come to you when they are ready. In this case all you will need are good sales order clerks empowered to give discount and offer special terms to secure the business. However if you take into account the fact that 75% of the orders for new business go to companies who engage early then you need well equipped B2B sales people who will be out hunting for you if you don’t wish to be left scrapping over the remaining 25%.

To make sure you are out there fighting for all 100% of the business you need sales people who are able to engage early and ideally before the prospect even realises they have a problem to solve. Sales people need to be equipped to help the prospect through the awareness stage which includes the vital process of education; when the prospect needs to learn about the various solutions that might be appropriate.

Fresh off the press research from SiriusDecisions states that B2B buyers want to interact with sales people at every stage of the buying journey. The findings “challenge the common industry view that b-to-b sales representatives’ roles and importance are declining due to a disintermediation by digital buying behaviors.”

Myth Three – The cold call is dead!

The truth is, the cold call was never alive. What has changed is that people are now very unwilling to take unsolicited calls, which generates that feeling that the approach is dead. However, even when times were different and most people did accept unsolicited calls, they rarely produced anything of value. This is a classic example of mistaken identity where activity was assumed to equate to progress.

Unsolicited calls are still a very useful tool in the prospecting kit bag but those calls need to be well researched and informed by the facts. When the call is made the caller must demonstrate an understanding of the individual prospect’s business, potential business issues and the state of the prospect’s industry. The caller needs to be able to educate the prospect based on their wider general knowledge of the issues at hand and the potential solutions.

Myth Four – outbound marketing is dead; inbound is the only way

Our view is that some businesses will do better from outbound, others from inbound but most will benefit from a blend.

In a recent conversation with Michael Packman of Nexus B2B he explained how their research had led them to create a blended or, as he calls it, a hybrid solution which provides both outbound and inbound in the appropriate proportions for each customer. Michael runs what I consider to be one of the very best outbound lead generation businesses so I feel very confident in his findings.

When you drill below the surface of this issue, outbound vs. inbound, another issue is exposed. Although people talk about inbound marketing replacing outbound marketing a subtle change occurs in the expectations where “inbound” not only replaces outbound marketing it also replaces the need to sell. If this is what you want then there is no issue but beware of the hidden change that could occur.

So we bust two myths for the price of one; inbound will generally be most effective when blended with outbound marketing, and inbound marketing is not a substitute for selling.

Myth Five – technology can satisfy all my marketing and selling needs

I am no Luddite, in fact I have worked in the IT industry since 1969, and I have made extensive use of technology in my own businesses since I first started in 1980. I was sending e-mails to selected customers from 1982 and commencing in the same year I provided a cloud (wasn’t called that then) service to companies with mobile sales forces.

So, if not a Luddite what am I? Answer; sceptical. Having mainly worked on the supplier side of technology I know only too well that we can get carried away with the claims we sometimes make. Most technology companies are fundamentally genuine in the claims they make but all are commercial businesses who need to make sales to survive and it is this simple commercial fact that sometimes applies a rosy tinted filter to reality.

In the interests of keeping this short; technology can be extremely useful in marketing and fairly useful in selling. In certain circumstances, technology can all but replace the need for human involvement e.g. when you are ordering something on line. However in B2B sales human-to-human engagement is essential and some of the reasons why have been covered earlier.

Don’t be seduced that technology can do it all and don’t be seduced by the cost argument – technology may be cheaper than human beings but when you find the orders are not flowing as expected the outcome might prove very costly.

Myth Six – technology enables my sales people to be more effective

Always? As a result of technology your sales people can access huge amounts of data both internally and externally about your prospective customers and their markets. All very empowering! However, we see a lot of cases where sales people are literally swamped in data.

Before making a call they check; CRM, LinkedIn, Social Media, Google, credit rating agencies, maybe Companies House and they will typically access internal documents such as call reports. After the call they send a meeting invite, populate the calendar, send a confirmation e-mail, prepare some material for the meeting (perhaps a PowerPoint), and check with marketing for case studies and other sales enablement material. Then a further set of activities follow on from the meeting, and so it continues.

All of this activity looks like work but the ultimate test is whether it makes the sales people more effective and productive or just busy.

Technology should be used sparingly to empower the sales people to make better calls and conduct better meetings but ensure the proportions are right. If your sales people are spending more time in front of the screen than they are on the phone or in the customers’ offices the proportion is probably wrong. The other thing to ensure is perfect alignment between the needs of the sales function and what marketing is delivering to support it. All too often sales people have to spend time re-working things to suit their needs.

A myth is defined as something fictional or unproven
– not a great foundation for business success!

What is Networking?

How do you know when you are doing it?

How can you use it as a new business development technique?

The word networking is used very freely these days and as a result the real meaning and value of networking can be missed. Some might argue that this does not matter as anything that helps you to meet others is all good. However, it seems to me that if you are going to spend say 10% to 20% of your time networking you really do need to know what you will get back for such a significant investment of time.

Networking has been going on for centuries although those who consider ‘events’ to be the epitome of networking often think it is an invention of the 21st century. While organised events can play a role in networking they are not the complete solution and typically only serve to provide very early introductions. The main problem with events is that most people are strangers to each other so this is only the first step, as you can only effectively network with people who you already know. I have heard this summarised as “know, like, trust” and, as well as being a necessity for effective networking, this formula is an essential foundation upon which to build new business relationships.

A well-documented example of formal networking is the coffee houses of 17th century Britain and perhaps the most famous example is Lloyd’s coffee house which morphed into Lloyd’s of London, the insurance market. The coffee houses were in effect clubs, some even required an entry fee, and the members knew and trusted each other so were willing to transact business together. It could be argued that the same atmosphere is created in a branded networking organisation such as BNI or iiB involving regular meetings with the same attendees; a community. The more randomly organised events, that are so common today, do not have the same organised structure so lack the continuity of the coffee house. On-line networking provides an equally fragile connection where it is impossible to “know” and therefore to “like or trust” the other participants so can be risky unless you can validate their on-line persona.

My brief answers to the original questions;

  • Networking requires one-to-one engagement with people, where you have an established relationship, who might be able to help you or who may have a need for something that you can do for them. I call this relationship reciprocity and if the relationship survives even when there is no specific need then the parties are genuinely in each other’s networks.
  • You know you are doing it when communication is interactive being triggered by both parties, not just one way, and it continues well beyond the first contact or the event.
  • Networking events can deliver a useful early stage in the process of new business development but will rarely be a complete business development solution. Read more on this

So, what is networking?

Let’s take an example; last week I was contacted by someone I had put into a job 5 years ago. He introduced me to someone who was looking to recruit a senior sales person, so I called another person I’ve known for 33 years who I know can do the job.

In another instance last week, I went through the LI contacts of someone I have known for 26 years and identified around 10 people of interest to me to whom he will happily effect introductions.

 That is networking!

Business growth

Business Growth

Are you an owner manager or business leader, looking to take the next step?

As your business grows, so too the C level team may need to evolve; focusing more on strategy and less on operations, or delegating specific functions. Sometimes, trying to achieve this on your own can be frustrating and risky, requiring a steep learning curve.

In such times of change it can be more cost effective to use external resources to provide the particular skills to successfully design and implement the changes as they are likely to be significantly different to the skills required to maintain the new environment.  An interim appointment is often ideal for these circumstances.

We can work with you and your top team to develop strategic and tactical (sales) plans for:

Growth: providing support, advice and guidance for directors and owners who are dealing with the many problems arising from growing a company in today’s tough business environment.

“Performative has helped us to refocus on our current products and also to look at new markets and we are working as a board far more efficiently.” Director, International Mailing company.

“The work done by Performative created a great foundation for what is now a very successful business.” MD, IT Solutions company.

Succession: If business success has been heavily reliant on your involvement, it is natural to be apprehensive when handing the reins to others so you can devote more energy to the future of the business and coaching your successors, or to freeing you for your next business. We identify the profile of your ideal recruit and shortlist appropriate candidates for your final decision.

“In early 2010 we decided to recruit a Commercial Director to take over the management of the sales and marketing function from me and Performative designed and ran the entire recruitment project. The service provided was excellent as it allowed me to spend more of my time on business, both operationally and strategically, while Performative ran the recruitment project.” MD, IT Parts company.

“Having Performative involved in recruitment of crucial sales appointments gave me peace of mind to leave the UK and build our US operation.” CEO, On-line Education Support company.

Structural Change: drawing on a wealth of practical experience to support you in the preparation and execution of strategy for; new market penetration, acquisitions, mergers, outsourcing, floatation or post-acquisition/merger harmonisation.

“Following the successful completion of a Sales Performance Transformation programme, Performative continued to work with us in support of a plan to effect a management buy-out by existing senior executives. Their wealth of business experience and specific knowledge of the M&A market enabled Performative to provide me with real practical help in finding my way through the minefield of the MBO. In particular it helped me to understand what to expect from the accountants, lawyers and banks, and thus prepare for their processes in funding an MBO. Performative also provided invaluable assistance to the members of the MBO team. Without the support of Performative this would have been a much more difficult exercise peppered with pitfalls.” CEO, Communications company.

Exit: providing expert assistance in preparing your company to make it an attractive proposition for trade sale, divestment or MBI/MBO, enabling you to focus on business as usual and retain business value.

“Performative drove the process throughout, without which support either the business would have suffered or the deal would never have completed. Since completion Performative have continued to support us through the early stages of integration. I am extremely happy with the result they have obtained for us.” MD, Media Agency.

Feel free to contact us for a confidential discussion on achieving your growth plans.

Sales Performance Improvement

When something is not right, the pain points we recognise first and seek to address are often only symptoms.

  • Are the sales team are struggling to meet their targets?
  • In the search for new customers are marketing initiatives generating the response you need?
  • Do you find sales training effects are short-lived or negligible?
  • Do the new sales people you recruited live up to their promise?
  • Are you losing more deals to your competitors?

Individual symptoms, addressed in isolation can give short term relief but rarely provide a lasting result.

Performative recognises that while a remedy for the immediate pain is a priority, a holistic approach, diagnosing the root causes of under-performance would enable them to be addressed in the most appropriate sequence to assure sustainable improvement.

So how will it feel once we have completed a programme for you …

  • Customers will be happy and communicative at multiple levels, giving you advance warning of upcoming opportunities.
  • Your senior management will be able to identify and focus on strategic activities.
  • Sales management will have the tools to be in control, avoiding unpleasant surprises.
  • The sales team will be motivated and operating in harmony with the business goals.

arising from …

  • Your proposition, target markets, routes to market and collateral will be consistent and your outbound sales and marketing activities will be sharply focused.
  • You will have a defined end-to-end process from the initial identification of targets through the evolutionary cycle from suspect to prospect and eventually to customer, resulting in more closed deals.
  • Contacts and opportunities with least potential will be weeded out early; sales activity will be focused on contacts with the greatest potential.
  • Your staff will be fully familiar with the process and supporting tools, and understand the methodology sufficiently to immediately adapt to varying scenarios and customer needs.
  • Key customer account and new business activities will be balanced to achieve your business goals.
  • Your pipeline will be a known quantity, providing objective measures of business potential.
  • The pipeline will provide meaningful KPIs giving advance warnings of problems.

“Performative have unquestionably helped us to become better focused and more structured in all aspects of our selling activities. This has enabled us to accelerate the growth of the company with certainty which is a great foundation for planning and investing in our future.  Throughout the period of involvement with Performative we have found them very supportive and responsive and they have provided advice on a diverse range of topics. They are a great partner to have. “

If this is how you’d like your organisation to be, contact us now!

shorter sales cycles, new customers, more business, increased profilts, better cashflow
archer aiming arrow

Fire, Aim, Ready!

How to focus your sales team’s effort and what lessons we can learn from a typically B2C environment in terms of helping us improve our chances of hitting our true targets.

freeimage-245875-web

Despite the best efforts of the fletcher …

Yes, it should be Ready, Aim, Fire but sales people are always keen for “fresh meat” in the form of a new proposition or new prospects or both.  So, the arrival of something new is a time of excitement and expectation which often leads to over eager behaviour.  “Let’s get out there and sell it” will be their battle cry.

While I applaud the enthusiasm, there is a danger that all the hard work done during the product or service design stage could in part be wasted unless the same care and diligence is applied to the selling activities.

At some point the proposition must move out of the “laboratory” into the hands of those who must; engage prospects, turn them into customers, and actually sell them something.  This implementation of the go-to-market strategy and tactics is typically the responsibility of the sales force, channel partners, re-sellers, agents, etc.

archer aiming arrow

… it’s the archer has to put it in the target!

However, if those sales people rush out, ill prepared, “knocking on doors”, whipping up interest in the functions and features of the new offering it is likely that although prospects will show some interest, in some cases out of pure politeness, they will not go on to make a purchase.  The reason is simple; good selling involves uncovering needs and wants and then proposing ways of satisfying both.  Good selling also involves identifying suitable targets before expending too much effort.

In a classic B-2-B selling environment, but it could apply to any market type, this can be summarised as:

  • Through a combination of desk research and questioning identify those suspects that have the potential to become prospects (and eventually actual customers).  By this process of filtering you have reduced the potential prospect base to a more focused and manageable group.  You are now READY.
  • Having identified the potential prospects use structured questioning to qualify them and establish their real needs and wants and determine whether your proposition can actually satisfy both.  The questions are used to further filter prospects against your “ideal” profile.   You have now identified your potential customers and eliminated most of those that will ultimately say no to your proposition.  You now know who to AIM at.
  • Now you have your refined list of prospects that match your “ideal” you can commence FIRE.  The make-up of the firing stage will vary according to your market and proposition but in a B-2-B environment could include activities such as; webinars, product trials or demonstrations, proposals, presentations, RFT responses, and site visits to existing customers.  This can be a lot of work so it is important to ensure before you Fire that you take careful Aim having got yourself Ready.

The most common example that I see of Fire, Aim, Ready is the sales person who eagerly offers to provide a proposal having had a first meeting with someone who typically is not the decision maker.  They do not refuse the offer, after all it is free consultancy, but the proposal is very likely to miss the target because not enough work has been done (getting Ready) to know what or even where the target is, so it is impossible to Aim with any accuracy.  Such proposals clog up sales forecasts rolling over from month to month because no decision is being made.

If a company follows the process outlined below they stand a very good chance of being in the right place with the right product at the right time.

To Cold Call or not to Cold Call …

Jack Dee gives the customers' perspective. But it doesn't have to be like this! Call us now to find a better way.

Jack Dee gives the customers’ perspective. But it doesn’t have to be like this! Call us now to find a better way.

… that is the question.  There has been a debate raging about whether or not cold calling is still an effective way to find new business. We say “still” because cold calling is one of the fundamental and original sales techniques but many people believe it has been completely overtaken by social media.

Our definition of cold-calling is; the act of contacting people who do not know you, typically by telephone.  The purpose is to initiate an engagement that will potentially lead to new customers and new business.  There is no dispute that the act of initiating contact has to happen, but the question being raised is whether cold calling is the right way to do it. We think there are three primary positions to consider:

  1. Cold calling is alive and well – get a list of appropriate contacts and just start dialling or knocking. It is, or should be, a key part of the total job spec for a new business sales person.  If the sales people cannot or will not do it, we would question whether they are truly equipped for the job.
  2. Warm calling is not new and it has always worked better than cold.  The “warmth” comes from doing some research to ensure the companies you intend to contact have the problems you solve.  You need to ensure the person you are going to contact is correct in the sense that they are the one feeling the “pain” of the problem so will be interested to talk to you about a solution.  Finally, your message must be “we understand your problems and we have ways of solving them”.
  3. Cold calling is dead.  So you have no real choice but to make yourself so high profile via social media, web sites, publications, blogs and so on, that prospects come flocking.

There is no doubt that some companies have genuinely made social media work for them, but equally many have not.  Levels of success depend on a number of things and the key one is the type of business you are in.  For most businesses, a blend of approaches to lead generation will always be required and for most warm calling will be an important part of the mix.

We have seen too many companies reject cold calling moving instead to an approach based entirely on physical and on-line networking.  If you are doing this and it is working great, if it is not, then perhaps you should consider an approach built around warm calling.

What do you think?  We’d like to know or help you to make up your mind!  Call us to discuss or send us an e-mail with thoughts or questions.