If You're In Sales, Ask Yourself This Question Every Day

If You're In Sales, Ask Yourself This Question Every Day

Working in sales has never been harder and easier than before - you have CRMs, email trackers, phone dialers, proposal builders, inbound and outbound content marketing, to help you prospect. At the same time, these things are easily a distraction, keeping your CRM up to date and accurate can really bog you down, too many of us live and die dealing with email overload and there's enough content out there to keep us "engaged" for a lifetime.

What we as salespeople forget are that these activities and tools are part of the sales process, they are in place to help you close more deals - but they shouldn't suck up your time. Too many of us get caught up in the management and administration of a sales job, this can have a devastating impact on your success.

So how do you stay on top of it all, prioritize and ensure that as a salesperson you are focussing on the right thing?

Make it a habit of asking yourself this question every day,

How many prospects did I to speak with today?

Let me clarify some things here, I did not use the word engage because this is too superficial - engagement is a characteristic of a great client conversation. But there's so much more that happens when you actually speak with a potential customer - you can pick up on body language and the tone of their voice which can tell you a lot depending on the situation. When you speak with prospects and customers it's easier to establish rapport because they share things about themselves that you can't pick up from a LinkedIn profile or Twitter exchange. In a conversation you can tailor the value you can offer, in real time. When it comes to people you need to have real conversations, you need to be exposed to your customer's emotions and pain-points as much as possible, it's a big factor when they make their decisions.

Sorry - Emails don't count.

When I say "speak", it can be by phone or video conference as well, since we live in a world where business is global and it's not always feasible to be meet your prospects in person. It's important to put a face to your name as much as possible with your customers. What I don't mean when I say "speak" is email - it's very rare to close an outbound deal based entirely on an email exchange unless your customer is seriously motivated. Emails are electronic, in mass production and generally, lack the emotion salespeople need to do their jobs. Sure you can add emojis, fancy subject lines and create email templates to blast through your contact lists - but everyone's doing it and it's just a one-way exchange, where you're trying to provoke a response. Email is a means to an end to get in the room or on a call with your prospect, don't rely on it to hit your sales quota.

One tool I'm beginning to use more of to help force myself to engage better with prospects by email is Vidyard's ViewedIt tool - it's a browser plug-in that allows you to record short video messages that are embedded into your email, with tracking capabilities. It's easy to use and more importantly, it provides you the advantage of really personalizing your message with context, emotion, and less text.

Vidyard-for-Salesloft-fb.png

Augment your sales process as much as possible with moments where you speak with your client or decision makers directly, preferably in a two-way setting.

Conversations need to have two-way communication.

n the world of SaaS and Software sales, live demos are a critical milestone in the sales process. Don't turn your demo into a lecture where the client doesn't have any input, they need to speak as much as you do since there is no one else better to tell you their own situation and problems. We often hear the term story-telling when it comes to marketing, but in sales when you are having conversations with your customers - its about story-sharing.

During an initial meeting, you should ask more questions of your customer, if you get them to open up at the beginning of a discussion you can pinpoint key issues early on and maximize the time you have with them. Clients usually don't need the 20 features you offering as part of your product or service, they probably need 1-3 features that are critical to their situation. What will happen when you invest time in speaking with and listening to your prospects, is that they will start to ease into the conversation and gradually let their guard down because they will begin to trust your genuine interest in helping them. Conversations allow you to get to know people, the more conversations you have, the better you know your prospect, the more you know about what their thinking and how to act.

Conversations 70% Everything else 30%

Conversations are your most important prospecting, negotiating, closing activity. The more time you spend in front of clients the more likely you are to be successful in meeting your quota. I would say if at all possible push to spend 80% of your time on conversations. The remaining 20-30% of your time can be spent on updating your pipeline, training and developing sales collateral - all important activities but not your main focus.

Have conversations and then reflect on them

Conversations are so great as they provide one of the most intimate touch points with your customers. You are delivering value, they are telling you their needs and desires, you're receiving a whole lot of information - so take notes, if not during very shortly after to ensure maximum recall. With the rise of CRMs, salespeople just log their meeting notes and minutes and never look at them again. It's not a management objective to log your activities into Salesforce so you don't get fired. Take the time to reflect on what you've learned from your conversations, look back at your meeting notes - try to find a pattern between similar clients, remind yourself of past conversations where key issues came up and most importantly share what you've learned in those conversations with your team.

Source: Salesforce via RingLead

Source: Salesforce via RingLead

For our customers, buying something is still an emotionally driven transaction - they have a need, a pain a desire to solve a problem we have. Having meaningful conversations with our prospects and customers exposes us to those emotions and allows salespeople to narrow down how they can help them. Don't get caught up with the tech and administration duties of your sales job. Selling still dominated by person to person interactions, so keep your focus on having as many conversations as possible.

If You're In Sales, AI Is Going To Increase Revenues by $1 Trillion And Create 800,00 New Jobs

If You're In Sales, AI Is Going To Increase Revenues by $1 Trillion And Create 800,00 New Jobs

New research released by IDC, in collaboration with Salesforce claims that that Artificial Intelligence connected with CRM activities will boost global business revenue from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2021 by $1.1 trillion. Furthermore, new direct jobs associated with the increase in revenues could lead to 800,000 positions and 2 million indirect jobs.

AI has already impacted nearly every aspect of our consumer lives - think of Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa and Netflix's personal recommendation engine. AI has redefined how we engage with technology and each other. With the rise of increased computing power, big data and breakthroughs in machine learning, AI is also poised to transform how people work, especially when it comes to the sales process.

IDC carried out a survey of over 1,028 organization globally from countries like the US, Canada, Japan, Germany, Australia and the UK. The results are especially interesting if you look at the impact AI will have in helping salespeople with: speeding up sales cycles, improving lead generation and qualification, as well as solving customer support problems faster.

Salesforce's very own Einstein AI solution allows salespeople to automatically capture sales activities and log customer data. It also allows suggests next best actions and recommended emails responses. The main benefit to salespeople is that they will spend less time on non-revenue generating sales admin activities and thus be able to focus on delivering more personalized and valuable assistance to prospective customers.

Canadian based e-commerce solution provider Shopify recently began offering Kit, an AI-powered virtual assistant for retailers. Kit enables Shopify customers to leverage its virtual assistant features to launch Facebook Campaigns (including pixel tracking and retargeting), promote Facebook posts and send out thank you emails to customers upon a purchase. For merchants, this powerful bot acts like their virtual marketing employee.

There's been a lot of news and research produced regarding how AI will replace humans and actually result in the decrease of jobs. Part of the research conducted by IDC was around attitudes on AI. Participants tended to be positive on AI. In one question, they rated their agreement with several statements about AI — on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest level of agreement — as shown in the image below.

For the most part, respondents felt that AI would allow them to prioritize and increase performance when executing their work. There is still some concern about transparency and AI putting jobs at risk, however, this may change as more businesses implement their AI programs in the upcoming years.

IDC's research shows that the majority of the respondents in the survey are spending 2017 in the pilot phase, with the bulk of AI projects being implemented between 2019-2021.

Is this adoption profile realistic? IDC believes it is, as analysts have reported that vendor investment in embedded AI for enterprise applications has picked up significantly in the past 6 months. Technology vendors offering embedded AI services in conjunction with other cloud solutions can make implementation a near-automatic event for most customers. What remains to be determined is how quickly organizations investing in AI solutions will recoup lower expenses, high revenues and improved productivity - either way this is definitely a space to watch, in IDC's view: Implementing AI could change our organization's culture, workforce, and operations entirely.

For the full report visit IDC's website here.

Four Reasons Why Sales Is So Hard

Four Reasons Why Sales Is So Hard

Having a career in sales can be lucrative, from selling real estate to stocks and enterprise software deals, there is some serious money to be made. Often forgotten is that to achieve the glory, requires much sweat and sacrifice - so if you're considering a career in sales, or have come across the individual or two whose questioned whether sales and selling is hard, this article is for you.

In Sales - Performance Is Everything

Great salespeople are competitive by nature, but what motivated employee isn't? Everyone wants to win as much as possible, but this is thing about sales - when you lose, everyone knows. If you commit to five deals closing in your pipeline and fail to win them, everyone from sales management, finance and HR will be on your case. And its more than likely that you'll be on the chopping block.

Alec Baldwin couldn't have said it any better in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, "first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

Alec Baldwin couldn't have said it any better in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, "first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

A career in sales means very few second chances and almost no warnings. Like any sports team, if you fail to perform and don't rectify the situation quickly, they'll cut you and draft new talent. It doesn't matter how long you've been with a company, how experienced you are and what you've accomplished in the past, if you don't deliver, you'll be fired, end of story.

When It Comes To Sales - Change Is Constant, Control Is Not.

In sales the situation is always fluid, no one deal is the same and even with the best information available, you can't control the outcome. You may have been working on closing a sales opportunity with two senior executives at a prospect, the demo and pilot with the end users goes amazing but out of the blue one of the decision makers is let go in a round of layoffs, and now the decision is sitting with someone who you've never met. It's downright frustrating and there absolutely nothing you can do it about it, except reassess the situation and adapt.

Change isn't happening with your clients either, its' internal as well. One of the things that can distract and demotivate salespeople is internal change. Products, services, systems, processes, people and compensation are just some of the areas that are often simultaneously being adjusted, as a salesperson you can't control the variables but it's vital that you adapt to them as quickly as possible. It's hard to keep your head down, whilst everything around you is constantly in chaos, but it's a must if you want to survive. Stability and consistency, is the dream we chase as salespeople.

The greatest mistake any organization can make is to attach so many variable objectives to a salesperson's compensation, that they don't know what to do. The main objectives of your salespeople should always be to generate new business, followed by reducing the risk of losing existing revenue. Make it simple, straightforward and easy for them to understand how they'll earn their commission.

As A Salesperson - You're The Offence, Defence & Coach

It's easy to understand the logic of being the first line of offence when you're in sales. It takes strong willpower and persistence to overcome countless rejections. At Oracle it can take over 80 sales calls to close an app sale, even with web being the help of web automation.

You need to master the art of conversation, which isn't the same as the art of conducting a demo or presentation (where more often that not, something goes wrong). It takes alot of energy and investment of time to nurture and gain the trust of your clients, which can make all the difference if something goes wrong. This is where defence comes in.

Many salespeople struggle to play defence, ultimately things will hit the fan, the fires will start and spread fast. If you don't have strong relationships, you'll lose business faster than you can ever replace it. Defence is how you protect your own reputation, not just the company you represent. It's the difference between taking that call or letting it go to voicemail when your client contacts you because of that price increase letter they just received or the technical outage that is ruining their team's day. Client's don't forget when you come through and they are definitely less forgiving if you ignore them. That email you answer at midnight, to escalate an outage to the right people internally, could help save your businesss and perhaps help you earn more client referrals when the time comes. Learn to play defence.

If you're going to move mountains you better learn how to coach. Twisting arms, crying wolf and complaining will only get you so far. Being on the front line you will often receive the negative feedback first and in the harshest words. The great salespeople know how to absorb the vital information they receive from clients and distribute it internally to the right people to address gaps and capitalize on potential opportunities.

Sales is about implicit power, you may not have the product managers, trainers or finance people directly reporting into you but you can definitely have their interest. Storytelling isn't just for the selling to potential clients, you need to leverage it internally to influence different teams within the organization and help them understand the benefit of the direct feedback and motivate them into taking action. Easier said than done, but possible and critical to having a long term sales career.

Salespeople Can't Really Disconnect

Work-life balance is a pipedream for salespeople. This is a career where momentum is everything - you can't afford to not prospect, because tomorrow's success directly depends on today's actions. If you're not engaging with prospective clients and customers daily, your leaving the door open for your competitor and potentially missing out on a key piece of the puzzle that could help you clinch a deal. I'm not saying don't disconnect occasionally and lose sleep - it's just not going to be as long as you think.

Salespeople live in a reality where worrying about tomorrow is normal, where not responding to a call, email or IM within 20 minutes can be the difference between a record breaking quarter or a failed one. Salespeople have been living in an Uber, on-demand, when the client's wants-it, we-better-be-ready world, for a long time.

Some of the best and hard-working sales-people I've known have made huge personal sacrifices that some of us would question. From regularly checking-in whilst on maternity leave, to postponing vacations to save potential cancellations. It's something that's not mentioned anywhere in your employment contracts, but make no mistake when it comes to delivering the goods, month after month, it can be a mortal sin to turn your phone off. You're on call 24/7.

Top Salespeople Never Stop Prospecting

Top Salespeople Never Stop Prospecting

One thing I've learned over the years is that in sales, you never have enough time to celebrate because you always have to worry about tomorrow. You can never take it easy, and one of the main areas we see sales teams falter, is due to their empty pipelines that result from a lack of focus on prospecting.

Anthony Joshua knocks out Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium, London, England. (Image: Reuters).

Anthony Joshua knocks out Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium, London, England. (Image: Reuters).

Prospecting, your salespeople's most hated activity.

Cold calling, networking, cold emails, social selling - any one of or more of these activities are usually avoided by your salespeople. If you've had a career in sales, you've probably tried avoiding prospecting at some point because of the repetition and rejection involved. But this is the thing, if you don't actively ask or seek out new business, you'll never survive. Prospecting is a necessary evil - it is often a soul crushing grind, but it is also the surest way to generate more opportunities and close more deals.

0-VnaDAV-zUSUxSGv3.jpg

Dare to Interrupt.

So why do salespeople avoid prospecting?

It's not the act of picking up the phone or sending that cold email, that salespeople have a hard time committing to - it's that fear of the reaction from the prospect. After all everyone has a job to do, they have their own worries and here you are interrupting their day to ask them to spend their money on what you're selling.

This hesitation of interrupting your prospect's day has to be controlled and eliminated. This is why researching your prospect, delivering value from the initial touchpoint and tailoring the message are so important when prospecting. By investing some time in getting to know your prospect before you contact them, you mitigate the chances of an unfavorable reaction because you did not do your homework on their basic needs or desires. The fact remains, you have to interrupt their day to get their attention. Yes, they will be irritated and they may not take your call or respond to your email right away, but you must initiate the conversation and interrupt their routine.

Consistency is the key.

It's easy to get caught in the trap of focussing too much of your time on closing existing opportunities, only to realize the next month that you've got no other deals in the pipeline. This is why prospecting must be a part of your daily routine as a salesperson. When you are prospecting, you are creating your own luck for the future. The prospecting you do in a 30 day period will pay off for the next 90 days. What you do now, prospecting new business, will help you avoid that sales slump in the future.

Rowling posted two rejection letters on Twitter after a request from a fan. Rowling saw Harry Potter turned down several times before it became a bestseller with sales of more than 400m copies worldwide. Imagine if she had given up trying to get publishers to sell her novels?

One Size Does Not Fit All

Your prospecting system cannot be based on one method, salespeople often gravitate to a single prospecting tactic and they risk sub-optimizing their productivity. The key here is to develop a balanced prospecting regiment based on what works best according to your: industry, product/service, customer base, tenure and deal complexity.

For example, we often see new sales reps fail because they look at how more tenured reps on their team are prospecting and try to imitate them. What they forget is that tenured rep has an established book of business and has built strong relationships with their contacts over the years - the way they will prospect is completely different from someone who is just getting started building their book.

Define Objectives

Salespeople must define the primary outcome they desire from each prospecting touchpoint. Here are for core prospecting objectives to use as a baseline:

  1. Set a meeting or appointment
  2. Build Rapport
  3. Gather new information and qualify
  4. Close a sale

By having defined objectives, salespeople can avoid wasting time stumbling from one unqualified prospect to another. Make no mistake, prospecting is a contact sport - you have to be efficient in how you spend your time, when you connect with a prospect and you must get to the point as quickly as possible, before you lose their interest.

Closing a sale on your initial cold is often rare but it can happen so be prepared. The most valuable outcome from prospecting is setting a meeting or an appointment. This means your prospect is setting a time aside on their calendar to speak with you in person or by phone specifically about your product/service. A prospect who is committed to spending their time with you is much more likely to move a deal forward than a prospect who isn't willing to sit down with you.

4 Ways Creative Entrepreneurs Can Improve Their Sales

4 Ways Creative Entrepreneurs Can Improve Their Sales

It has never been a better time to be a creative, well designed products and experiences are in demand - yet many creative shops and entrepreneurs are struggling get paying customers. Here are 4 things creatives can do to help boost their sales:

Do The Work, But Share The Experience

The industry standard of posting your portfolio isn’t enough to stand out anymore. When potential customers look at the work you’ve done they are just seeing the final product you created for someone else, maybe even a competitor. This doesn’t given them the reassurance they probably need to make a decision to hire you.

A way to make your body of work more interactive is to convey the story behind the process of making the final product in an easily consumable manner for the your ideal client. Create a timeline of the project with milestones and details around the problem the client had when they approached you, show your firm’s unique approach and showcase the solution you created. A short video showing the behind the scenes work before and after engaging the client can also be useful, the goal being to visually convey to your prospect how you will help them solve their problem.

This material should be incorporated into discussions prospective customers, since it provides a roadmap for the potential project they may be hiring you for and can help you justify the value of your services. Buyers appreciate being educated on how to avoid mistakes and insights into how their final product will be made, it reinforces their confidence in your ability to deliver. Often, talking about what the process will be and the how the client will be involved distracts them from focussing on the price too much. When you advise them on how to get the best final product, they are more approachable versus being pitched or sold on hiring you.

10,000 Contacts vs. 10,000 Hours

In an article from The Atlantic it was mentioned that young designers are no longer interested in putting in their 10,000 hours because they recognize that 10,000 hours is less important now than 10,000 contacts. I can’t agree with this enough, whilst the quality of your work as a creative is still important, you need to have a market that will pay you for your efforts. Most creatives focus so much on their work, they don’t dedicate enough time to engaging potential admirers or paying patrons until the very end.

If you want to be profitable, you must invest time in building your personal network. Go where you potential customers are - don’t just wait for them to come to you. It’s not about just showcasing the final product, engage an audience by showing them how you work and how your creative approach is different - sharing the process is a way for you to share your story.

It’s also critical to build relationships with your peers - not just for competitive insight and inspiration, but as a way to garner referral business. In the ad world, agencies often rely on referral business from their counterparts that don’t necessarily have the expertise or resources in house for certain projects. Often you don’t have to actually sell anything, if you have invested the proper time to build a relationship and have kept in touch, when the time comes for potential work, it’s a much easier discussion on deliverables and budget.

Diversify

Something that impresses me the most about creatives today is their multidisciplinary expertise. Often they aren’t just photographers - they are photographers and designers, or illustrators and videographers. What bothers me is that they don’t mention it as openly, mostly because they consider their second skill as just a hobby or they don’t feel comfortable offering it as a service.

This is something creatives must capitalize on as it can help provide them additional revenue streams with past or existing clients. I’ve come across many design and creative agencies who make the mistake of only being known for one type of service with clients. When they make the effort to mention that they can provide additional services their customers are often surprised. This should not happen - once you have a prospect or client’s attention and trust ensure that they understand exactly what you do beyond just the scope of what they maybe looking for. It’s worth mentioning, as sometimes client’s aren’t aware of what other services can be of use to them.

Numbers Matter, Do The Math

Many freelancers and creatives have a hatred of the hourly rate as it’s often a pain point in their negotiation with customers - “the rate is never the actual rate”. It is critical for you as a creative to know what your time and expertise is worth and to price both accordingly. Track your time accordingly, see where you can use technology to help speed or automate some of the work that takes you away from the creative process.  

I suggest moving away from an hourly rate and focus on developing packages for your services. This allows you to have the client focus on tangible outcomes, with a defined process and timeline for delivery. With package pricing you can build in profit margins, expenses and buffers in case you need to discount or cut back deliverables. This is why it’s critical to invest time in mapping out what you want to sell and calculating whether its feasible to do so.

Don’t be afraid to say “No” to prospects that demand too much for too little, often these clients can actually take you away from earning more business elsewhere by eating up your time and attention. Stress kills creativity. Your prices should increase every year as you add-on more projects - you must always be testing the market to see where and what the demand is for your expertise.

Everyone Is Not Your Customer Seth Godin HANALI Quote.png

A love of doing the work is a requirement, but so is the need to be able to convey how the work will be done for the customer. While mastering your craft make sure you spend time sharing your journey to your potential customers. Go show your work and meet your market where they are, don’t wait for them to find you - build an audience and connect with your peers. Experiment and always look to expand your creative services - you never know if you existing clients may need additional help. And remember numbers don’t lie, do the math and make sure you package your services to always make profit.

2 Things To Focus On, Before You Drop Your Price

2 Things To Focus On, Before You Drop Your Price

Price - the five letter word that salespeople love and hate. Sometimes we use it as the deal clincher and sometimes it’s the last resort. The common mistake we see salespeople and entrepreneurs make, is to drop the price when a prospective customer has apprehension about closing the sale.

My suggestion? Focus on the Process and the Output.

When speaking with prospects, you invest so much time convincing your prospect of the value of your product and service - WHY erode that built up trust in your value, with a price cut?

These days most of us are competing in markets where the client has plenty of options when it comes to a vendor or service provider. When it comes to information clients do their homework - they research, they seek the opinions of their peers and even their competitors. They visit your company website, where almost ever business advertises their product solutions, marquis customers and portfolio to establish rapport. It definitely helps to showcase your successes, but this is the thing: Your prospective client doesn’t care that you helped someone else succeed - they want to be certain you can deliver even more for them.

Process is the journey, you and your client embark on together, towards the end goal of helping them succeed.

Throughout your sales journey with a potential customer you need to constantly reassure them how your product/solution is going to solve their business problem and more importantly how you are going to get them there. Speaking about your process is an opportunity for you to showcase your firm’s talent and educate them about how you will create value for them.

It’s not just about price transparency, being transparent about your process builds trust.

When you focus on speaking about your process with a client, you make the conversation about them, it’s a personalized way to draw out the map and milestones to success, a map with you in it. Your conversations can help the buyer envision a future where you both are working together with phrases like:“We will work with you..” and“Once we start..and at this stage we will..”

Speaking about your process can differentiate you from a competitor offering a similar product or service. You can literally distract them from the price and it also allows you to probe for potential opportunities to discover other key criteria for making a decision.

Design agency IDEO has basically institutionalized the above design-thinking process as the approach for any client engagement. It’s been so successful that many of the world’s top companies, like IBM have adopted it as well.

Design agency IDEO has basically institutionalized the above design-thinking process as the approach for any client engagement. It’s been so successful that many of the world’s top companies, like IBM have adopted it as well.

Your process is a way to justify your price.

Your process shouldn’t be a secret, it should be something you openly share with clients as a competitive advantage. After all, you have assembled a team of talented individuals who know the market, you have invested significant time and resources to build and provide your product or service - you have insights the client doesn’t and your process is a way to justify the value of what you are charging them for access.

Your potential customer expects results - so paint a picture for them of the output.

If process is the journey, then the output you deliver to your customers is the destination. Often we see passionate entrepreneurs and salespeople get caught up in repeating the same features and benefits of their offering to prospects - this is a mistake, every customer wants to feel different, unique from their competition. Although it maybe difficult for you to guarantee a 100% success, you need to be able to set expectations early with a potential buyer that you will deliver with sale - more importantly you need to specify what success will look like for them.

Talking about output reinforces the client’s perception that tomorrow will be better because of you.

This is where speaking with prospective buyers about your process comes in handy, through your conversations you should be able to discover what key indicators, metrics or problems they are looking to hit by buying your solution.Are they looking to control costs, save time, increase efficiency - What will tomorrow look like once they sign on? These are the expectations you need to set and paint a picture of. Again by making the conversation about them and the output of your collaboration, you personalize the benefits of your offering and justify the premium you are charging them for that output.

Focus your sales conversations around the process of working with the prospect and the output that will come of it. It will reinforce your potential customer’s world view and deflect the conversation away from the price you are charging, because they will have a deep understanding of the value of what you are selling.

The Worst Time To Handle Objections In Your Sales Process

The Worst Time To Handle Objections In Your Sales Process

Most sales models involve a funnel where you get prospects in and then through a set of tactics and sequential steps are able to convert them into paying customers. Salespeople are trained to use specific techniques and language to over objections in order to provide a seamless experience, but the reality is customers have their own path.

Don’t leave objection handling till the end of your sales process

According to a recent article by the Harvard Business Review, buyers go through their own parallel process as opposed to a funnel where they are simultaneously engaging, evaluating and exploring their purchase options. They often look at websites, browse through social media, speak with their peers and analyze whitepapers way before they actually engage a salesperson. Overcoming objections at the end of the sales process is worst time to do so, this is because prospects go through their own evaluation of their objections internally, way before the closing of the deal anticipated by the salesperson. In order to avoid conflict and move on quickly, prospects will blame price or timing as a reason for their decision not to buy.

Reduce objection-handling risk by getting your prospect to make incremental commitments throughout the sales process.

Getting prospects to make small, cumulative commitments along the buyer journey allows salespeople to extract more information earlier and gain insight into how serious the prospect is about making a purchase. This is different from the prospect understanding your solution, buyers often shop around and may go through the sales process with you to get pricing information to use in a negotiation with another vendor they also engaged with.

Commitment requires Action

Sale teams are trained to pick up on body language and phrases that may indicate positive or negative buy signals. With commitment the prospect is required to take action - you may ask the prospect to provide you with data to help develop a quote or validate an objective you have identified. They key thing here is that each time you ask them to do something it forces the prospect to take action and provide you feedback. Should the customer take action it proves they are still interested in making a deal and you can move further - if they fail to comply you have potentially uncovered an objection early on that you may deal.

The sooner you identify and deal with objections the more likely you will get the sale

When you are trying to displace an incumbent, getting a prospective buyer to change is difficult. Using a series of incremental commitments to prove that the benefits outweigh the cost of change can help the desire to stay with the status quo.

An example of this highlighted in the HBR article is of premium truck manufacturer Paccar. They have design a custom online interactive tool that shows visitors the true cost of owning a truck over its lifetime. It will allow you to input gasoline costs, tire coefficients and vehicle weight to quantify benefits Paccar trucks versus the competition. Prospective buyers can also use the tool to determine resale value, financing costs and driver retention, which is great information if you run a fleet of trucks. The point is that these tools help prospects understand the full picture when it comes to purchasing a Paccar trucks and helps them make “meaningful commitments” to help them overcome any apprehension to make the change.

Technology, information and behaviour have changed dramatically over the years - the sale process is no longer a linear one and this means your sales process can’t be either. Using incremental commitments will help you align your sales activities to the behaviour of your prospects.

Work In Sales? This Is Why Everyone At Your Company Hates You

Work In Sales? This Is Why Everyone At Your Company Hates You

One of the biggest surprises you will find when working as a sales person or on a sales team, is that your prospective customers may not be the only ones who have a dislike for you - it's often people from your own company in the different departments that despise you as well.  Like any bad relationship, if you don't pay attention, the conflict can spill over and hurt other relationships that matter, like the one's with your customers. Successful salespeople and managers know that it is a balancing act between managing client expectations and internal politics, processes and people.

Have you heard any of these complaints?

"Sure we got the contract signed, but they brought us in too late and it's been a nightmare implementation " - Operations Team
"That discount wasn't approved by the right people, we could have made more on this deal" - Head of Finance
"The sales team promised way too much" - Service Department
"Sales keeps asking for more marketing material but we don't get any responses for feedback" - Marketing Coordinator

The common theme I find working with sales teams is that the conflict with the back-office and support teams comes from the disconnect in terms of communication and a lack of understanding on the part of salespeople of the roles and responsibilities of other people involved on their accounts.  


Yes, it's all about serving the client, but salespeople need to understand that each role and department does so in their own way.


Don't Judge A Person By Their Job Title


One of the biggest pet peeves I hear from people who work with sales teams in a support or back-office capacity, is how a salesperson will boast to them about being the only reason for their company’s success because they bring in the revenue that helps pay the salaries for other people in the organization. I've heard this many times, bluntly and subtly but in either case it just escalates an already bad situation. This lack of empathy is usually because salespeople spend most of their time working with clients directly because it generates not only the financial reward but also the appreciation that helps them overcome the enormous amount of rejection they experience before closing a deal. Because they are so invested in spending time with customers and prospects, they don't take the time to understand how their back-office team can support them in actually helping them close the deal.
 

Salespeople should make the time to meet, learn and understand the roles of people supporting them, it builds empathy.

As an example salespeople often see the finance team as the obstacle - the people who they have to negotiate discounts with, but if you get them involved earlier in the conversation they can actually help you structure a deal that will sell both internally and with the customer.  This can reduce sales cycle significantly and help prevent salespeople from over promising discounts to their clients. 

Salespeople Your Account Team Is Not The Enemy


Often salespeople territories will change, but the support and back-office will stay the same - this means they may have specific knowledge about the customer, like key relationships or competitive intelligence that can really help the salesperson get ahead. Although salespeople will want to spend most of their time speaking with customers, management should encourage regular touch points or at the very least a clear channel of communication that provides a clear understanding of the key responsibilities for each person on the account team. This ensures that when a client raises an issues like billing, or service the salesperson can have the issue addressed in a seamless manner for the client.

quote-after-sales-service-is-more-important-than-assistance-before-sales-it-is-through-such-konosuke-matsushita-92-51-52 (1).jpg

If there is a gap, a regular touch point with all internal parties should help bring attention to it and help resolve the issue. Salespeople are often not in tune with internal changes at in their own organizations because they are so busy focussed on what's happening with clients - If there is a change in internal process with regards to service, by having a regular meeting the sales team can avoid any nasty surprises with the clients and set expectations ahead of time. As part of on-boarding new salespeople should be introduced to individuals in other department who may be involved in the post-sale process with clients. This ensures Day 1 that they know who they can call or connect customers with for specific issues that need to be resolved, like a billing issue.

Salespeople can build trust and establish rapport with clients by introducing the team supporting them. It frees up precious time so they really focus on selling vs. servicing.

If you talk to a passionate salesperson you will find what they enjoy most is closing the deal and the satisfaction it brings them when their clients are happy. Servicing is an important part of their job, but the financial reward really comes from bringing in business. Customers often complain that the cost of supporting a new vendor or servicing a new piece of software after the deal is signed negates any of the benefits. This is not necessarily an issue with the product the salesperson sold, it’s more of an issue in ensuring a proper hand off in servicing the client. Customers don't have time to deal with issues, they expect them to be minimal and resolved quickly. Introducing the appropriate people supporting your sales team and the client's account, can help you build trust with them - client's have accounts payable staff who could deal with your accounts receivable team, you have a training department for your software - guess what? The client has a training department that could help roll out your new tool.

Salespeople need to admit they can't do it all, if they understand the roles on their team they can then introduce back-office staff to help support clients and build deeper relationships. Clients appreciate knowing the faces that are helping them succeed. 

If You Work With Salespeople, This Is How You Grab Their Attention


One of the top complaints I hear from internal departments like marketing or training that work with sales teams is how they can never get them involved in their initiatives and the lack of response when they reach out. At the end of the day the marketing team and trainers are trying to help the clients too, so why isn’t sales invested?


If you work with salespeople, grab their attention by telling them how you can help them close more opportunities and help them improve client satisfaction.


Though your intentions might be pure, if you work with salespeople you need to understand that their top priority it being in front of clients, solving their problems - not yours. You have to position your ask to your sales teams in a manner that enables them to:
a) satisfy their clients and prospects
b) accelerate and improve the chances of their sales opportunities closing. 

Everyone wants to make the client happy but often many don’t know how to position their ask for the sales teams in a way that helps them do their jobs. Sales is a numbers game, so if you can add metric that relates to helping sales people hit a target like revenue, customer satisfaction or savings it more likely sales team will take notice. When salespeople have happy customers, they usually buy more, which means salespeople have a higher chance of success. So the next time your back-office or support team rolls out a new initiative remember you have to convince the sales team and the customer that it will help them both.

HANALI Client: U Remit International Joins MaRs Fintech Cluster

HANALI Client: U Remit International Joins MaRs Fintech Cluster

July 12, 2016

TORONTO, July 12, 2016 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- U Remit International announced today that it has joined the MaRS Discovery District financial technology (fintech) cluster. U Remit joins companies like CIBC, Moneris, PayPal and other fintech innovators within the MaRS fintech cluster to continue to push the boundaries of financial technology in international monetary transfers.

"We look forward to working with the MaRS team and collaborating with others in the community. As we continue to expand operations globally and further develop our technological capabilities, having access to an extensive network of startups, advisors and investors here in Toronto will be instrumental," said Ahsin Ashraf, Co-founder & Chief Financial Officer at U Remit International.

"I am pleased to announce that U Remit has joined the MaRS fintech cluster as part of a growing community of financial technology companies and entrepreneurs dedicated to driving innovation in financial services," says Adam Nanjee, Head of Financial Technology at MaRS.

U Remit offers an omni-channel platform that enables customers looking to send money abroad to save money, while incentivizing money remittance agents and increasing overall transaction transparency.

About U Remit International

U Remit International (www.URemit.ca) is a Canadian based global provider of money remittance solutions. Established in 2006, U Remit's network currently reaches more than 132 countries with over 150,000 payout locations and over 200,000 customers worldwide. The company is headquartered out of Mississauga, Ontario with offices in Dubai, London and Hong Kong.

About MaRS Discovery District

MaRS Discovery District (@MaRSDD) in Toronto is one of the world's largest urban innovation hubs. MaRS supports promising young ventures that are tackling key challenges in the health, cleantech, finance & commerce, as well as work & learning sectors. In addition to helping startups launch, grow and scale, the MaRS community is dedicated to cross-disciplinary collaboration, commercialization of discoveries and driving ideas to impact.

News distributed by PR Newswire iReach: https://ireach.prnewswire.com

Source: Yahoo! Finance

On Selling Meaning to Your Customers

On Selling Meaning to Your Customers

Innovation through creating new products or services and then selling their value, does not guarantee success anymore. We are in an age where being understood by brands no longer surprises customers because it's expected that every part of the buying journey caters to their individual needs and desires.  

Brands thrive for Attention and Awareness but need Affinity too.

Sales and marketing is no longer about coming up with new ideas to persuade customers to buy -  it is about understanding them, then making things they want that are useful in their lives. Brands can build loyalty and trust by being the ones to remove obstacles that will give customers back their time to do things that matter to them.  

Business has always been competitive and with the increase in options that it brings to the market, commoditization is part of the equation. Creating awareness and capturing the attention of your ideal customer isn't going to work if everyone is doing it. Increasingly, people are spending their money with those companies that really get know them and whose values and actions align with their own.  

Your job in the buying journey is not just to get the customer from Point A to Point B - it is to eliminate any uncertainties that the customer encounters along the way
Ikea has opened Space 10 a future-living lab located in Copenhagen where they co-create solutions for major challenges that their customers will face around the world when it comes to improving urban living standards and building sustainability  

Ikea has opened Space 10 a future-living lab located in Copenhagen where they co-create solutions for major challenges that their customers will face around the world when it comes to improving urban living standards and building sustainability  

As salespeople and marketers we need to understand what our customers want and be committed to innovating constantly to fulfill their desires. What your selling isn't the only important thing that's important, you need to focus on tailoring and personalizing the experience for each individual customer because they are why you built your product or service in the first place. New business models are being created by startups and disruptors who are willing to really understand, anticipate and cater to communities of individuals who share the same problems and pain points.  

Is this produce or service worthy of my customer and why?

In her book Meaningful: The Story of Ideas That Fly, Bernadette Jiwa emphasizes that understanding the customer is the first step that all brands should keep coming back to at every touchpoint in the buyer's experience. Great salespeople don't just try to understand what their customers want or need at the beginning of the sales process, they are constantly adjusting, challenging and questioning whether their solution is worthy of their customer. 

Actually giving a damn is a competitive advantage

Many of us have heard of the phrase "It's not personal, it's just business" which makes it seems that our interactions with customers are largely transactional, when in fact many of the purchase decisions we make are based on an emotional needs or desires. Of course many of us as brands, business owners and entrepreneurs already focus on providing a great customer experience, but the truth is that when you genuinely care about the people you serve and make things for, you can't help make the whole experience more meaningful. You can't fake true empathy. 

You’re a better designer if you love the people you’re designing for.
— Fred Dust, Partner at IDEO

Data is a Tool not a replacement for interpreting Human Emotion 

There is much talk of how data can help you grow your business and how your existing customer base can be the best resource for generating new revenue - but data doesn't really tell you how a person maybe feeling in that moment and customers tend to only recommend vendors who they trust - this is where the human factor and your ability as a salesperson to interpret your customers' emotions and build trust is so important. 

Negotiating With Irrationals: 4 Things To Remember

Negotiating With Irrationals: 4 Things To Remember

You can lose a lot of deals in the negotiation stage - the conversation can get very emotional and escalate quickly, to a point where one party may take a completely irrational stance that jeopardizes everything. An article by HBR pinpoints ways to tame the wildcard in negotiations - people.

  1. Recognize, acknowledge and often points of conflict: You can very quickly irritate a customer when you deflect away from their concerns. Often salespeople are trained to move away the conversation from price and focus on value that is being delivered in the form of features and benefits. Though the principle is sound, I often see sales raps continuously ignore a customer's attempt to have their issue with the price addressed. If a customer signals continuously or strongly that price is a concern, address the point of conflict directly - ignoring the inevitable will make them feel disrespected, irritated and ultimately cost you a sale.
  2. Discover and discuss the real problems: Understanding what the real issues are behind the wall of emotions is critical to reducing tension in tough negotiations. As the article recommends access the situation and ask yourself, “What’s really going on for me here?” If you have a feeling that perhaps there are other concerns around what the other party wants, probe and ask them what they are - don't try to read minds, you won't win.
  3. Create a safety net: No one likes to feel threatened or attacked - Although you may reach a point in your conversations where you have to let a potential client know may have to walk, don't lead with it as the only option. Drawing a line in the sand immediately can lead to a fright or flight situation in a negotiation, both of which for you as a salesperson are bad. Instead, make sure through out your conversations that you let the person on the other side know you care as much about their interests as you do your own and ensure they feel respected.
  4. Stick to the facts, threats will fail you: During the negotiation process the perceptions of your customers may need to be challenged. Instead of using language that maybe mistaken as an attack on their stance, you should reframe your statements in a more natural manner that explains the reason for your contention. Don't just aim for a concession right away, push for open dialogue so you can really address the customer's concern so it does not have to be revisited later.

We all make rash decisions and sometimes the pressure that comes with negotiating can get the better of us. When you negotiated your first pay raise, it was probably a tense and emotional conversation. Remember that vulnerability and tension you felt the next time you negotiate with a client - it will help you empathize and better understand them.

Why Relationships Matter: Your Secret Weapon In Sales

Why Relationships Matter: Your Secret Weapon In Sales

As a sales professional you will at some point in your career be moving between positions, companies or teams. Though you may not be able to take all the people, knowledge or tools with you - the strong relationships you build with your customers and peers will be portable and extremely valuable. Unfortunately many of us are choosing to sacrifice building long term relationships with customers in order to achieve short term sales.

Customers Relationships Not Just Knowledge, Are Your Most Valuable Product

Strong customer relationships could help you get a promotion, because often when companies are looking to hire experienced salespeople, they examine their network and existing relationships to see the potential value of bringing that person in. Hiring a sales professional who already maintains a relationship with C-level executives at a prospective client is a tactic used by many big companies. These relationships could be your future customers or net promoters that could help you hit the ground running in your new job.

A salesperson’s greatest asset is their relationships and a key part of their long term success is their ability to build powerful customer relationships that can continuously generate sales growth, no matter where they go.

 

Don’t Burn The Bridge While You Are Still On It

Unfortunately in pursuit of the shorter sales cycle, we as salespeople are not investing the necessary time and effort to build more reputable and loyal relationships with customers. Relationships that in the long run could prove to be much more valuable to both sides. With the rise of digital tools, analytics and competition - an increasing number of salespeople are being forced to adopt more aggressive tactics in the hope of reducing the sales cycle and going straight for the sale.

If you are a moderate LinkedIn user, I can bet you have received more than one invitation from another user you have never met - and within minutes or even a few hours of accepting that invitation (which we know shouldn’t have but did anyways) they have sent you a message pitching their services to you. Have you ever taken that person up on their offer? Probably not.

Robots Be Damned

There is no technological tool available as of yet that can replace the value and time that you as a salesperson can deliver to your customer. As salespeople we need to understand the importance of investing in the building relationships with our customers. Like any strong relationship or friendship in our personal lives - business relationships are built on trust, which is tested. More importantly business relationships are in the interest of financial gain for both sides. In the enterprise space the level of complexity in ensuring multiple decision makers are all satisfied and their needs address, has yet to be conquered by an algorithm - Why? Because human beings are emotional and irrational creatures. Therein is your biggest advantage as a sales rep, you are a person just like your customer, and they sign the cheques that get you paid.  

6a00e54ee3905b883301b8d0c8e31c970.jpg

Before You Hit Send...

Salespeople who are deeply embedded with the needs of their customers and the challenges they face in the market, will be always be at the right place and the right time when the opportunity arises to solve problem with their solution or product. Building relationships requires empathy, domain knowledge, personality and the ability to build rapport - skills which are a killer combo for you to possess as a salesperson.

So the next time you have that temptation to pitch without getting to know the customer and what they do - take a pause, rethink your approach, invest the time to reflect and get to know them. It will be more profitable and pay dividends for both of you in the long run.

In my next post I will lay out the process and mistakes to avoid whilst building customer relationships that will generate you more sales in the long run.

4 Steps To Follow When Sales Conversations Start To Go Wrong

4 Steps To Follow When Sales Conversations Start To Go Wrong

Thanks to the internet there is no shortage of sales literature about handling tough negotiations, retaining unhappy customers and winning back lost ones - but it shocks me about how there so little discussion on what salespeople should do when they sense their sales conversations are going south.

What should you do when things in your sales meeting or call start go wrong in the moment? Is it always a good idea to push forward or is retreating the right thing to do? 

The truth is that there is no one right way to handle a sales conversation gone wrong - for whatever reason when it happens, the main objective should not be to rush closing the deal at the expense of ruining a potentially long term relationship. Exercise caution, pick your words carefully, start listening and make sure you ensure you have a much higher sense of situational awareness because most likely your customer's body language and non-verbal signals will give you better direction than their words on how to continue.

Here is a basic four step process to follow, when confronted with a situation where a customer conversation starts to turn negative:

1. Acknowledge and Probe

You will at some point as a salesperson find yourself in a conversation with an irritated client, in fact they may be so frustrated with their experience that they may not even express it in words during your conversation. It is therefore extremely important for you to be aware of non-verbal signals - are their facial expressions showing anger or disappointment? Are they looking away or down when speaking to you? Are they using their hands when they speak? You need to be extremely aware of what the person on the other side is saying and doing - often unhappy clients leave without saying goodbye - as a salesperson you you need to watch for these signals.

Before you react, as a salesperson you should respectfully acknowledge your customer's mood - approach the conversation from their perspective, understand why they may be having a feeling of doubt about the deal - do not just say it, physically express your empathy and body language as well - nod whilst you say you understand, don't be a robot. Some salespeople find the step of absorbing their client's negative emotions difficult and instead of recognizing the perspective of their customers they either choose to overlook it or they reciprocate and get caught up in the negative emotions as well. This is probably the worst mistake you can commit - your job as the expert, advisor and partner in a client relationship is not to be the emotional one, you must stay objective and act a professional no matter the situation.

Imagine selling to this group of Sharks. What do you think their body language says about the sales pitch they are listening to?(Image from NBC's Shark Tank)

Imagine selling to this group of Sharks. What do you think their body language says about the sales pitch they are listening to?(Image from NBC's Shark Tank)

 

2.  Pursue, Reframe or Withdraw

After acknowledging and relating to the customer's you have to quickly assess from their words, tone and body language whether your efforts to empathize and appease their reasons for become agitated about the topic of conversation have been successful.

Pursue

Often in price negotiations the conversation turns negative because a prospect insists on a price break or discount. This is why it is important to ensure you properly pause the conversation to acknowledge their concerns and probe for specific issues and areas you can address to dissuade them from not buying. Given that sometimes the ask is not possible or you may not be able to provide the level of discount they desire, you may choose to take a stand and continue to pursue the same path of the conversation prior to the moment the prospect reacted. At the end of the day sometimes the price, is the price and it is better not to dance around the issue - I have had many clients say they have often felt disrespected when a salesperson danced around the issue or blatantly tried to deflect the conversation away from price. Be sure of yourself and confident of the value you are offering when choosing to continue the conversation with a prospect in this case.

Reframe

Given the availability of information and the high level of competitive intelligence that prospects have today, it is better not to deflect when customers raise an objection or issue in your sales conversations. Instead you should attempt to reframe the topic of discussion so they may better understand your perspective.These moments in a sales conversation are potential opportunities as an advisor to deliver your insights and educate the prospect. A customer may raise an objection to some of the features you may be proposing, thinking it is an unnecessary up-sell. Provide an example from your own experience of a similar client situation so they can better understand why your recommendation will help them save money, make money or address a pain point they may have not even considered.  Reframing also shows your potential customer that you are proactively think of different ways to solve their problems and address their needs. If used properly you can quickly adapt your conversation to stop it from going too sour and losing the opportunity.

Withdraw

Sometimes despite your best efforts your prospect will not react positively to any action you take and you won't be able to appease their concerns. Prospects can be irrational but they can also have valid reasons for being upset - it can be a recent customer-service situation or a change in their own circumstances with regards to a downwards turn in their business - it happens. You can't take it personally but more importantly you should not keep pushing the deal at the expense of the relationship. I have personally witnessed salespeople aggressively push a prospect at an enterprise client, to the point where the experience was so negative that the whole relationship was ruined and the result was the loss of a multi-million dollar account. Sometimes it's okay to withdraw, follow your intuition if a client is giving you clear and consistent objections pull back. It may not be the right time or situation to do the deal - perhaps pausing the conversation for a later moment is better suited. With large prospective enterprise client the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. 

3.  Evaluate & Adapt

Once you have chosen whether to pursue, reframe or withdraw from your sales conversation it is important to understand the client's reaction. If you choose to pursue, do you notice them getting more or less agitated? If things are getting worse, you need adapt immediately and withdraw before the client chooses to - at that point if they are the ones ending the conversation it means more than one closed door forever. Your objective with this part of the conversation process is to ensure that prospect is still interested and open to the meeting continuing -  you must always leave them with the feeling that they haven gotten some value from the time spent with you. If this is not the case you must adapt in real-time and if its not possible you should respectfully end the conversation. If you choose to withdraw, do so politely and without showing any agitation to the client - as the salesperson you cannot fall into the role of being emotional, irrational and hasty, this is often the position your customers are in - there's only place for one in the relationship to be that way. When reframing it's important to evaluate from your prospects reactions whether your perspective resonates with them and to adjust your conversation accordingly. 

Challenging Conversations are a Learning Opportunity

Your options are quite simple but the decision on which path to take is often not. You must rely on your own ability to actively listen and pick up on the non-verbal signals from the person across the table from you. It is even more difficult when doing deals over phone hence, you must train yourself to pick up on the words, tone and even pauses in your prospect's voice to help decipher next steps. Its difficult to practice these types of sales conversations because it is often more about dealing with  emotional response of a prospect which are hard to replicate in a simulation.

My advice is the next time you have a sales conversation that did not go well, write down what happened immediately after and map out your own actions and that of the customer to see where things went wrong and learn how you could change your approach the next time it happens. Preparing yourself for the inevitable is important because you need to have  a level of situational awareness that will kick-in naturally the for the next moment when your in a sales meeting or call that is about to go south.

 

WHY SALESPEOPLE NEED TO LEARN THE POWER OF SAYING "NO"

WHY SALESPEOPLE NEED TO LEARN THE POWER OF SAYING "NO"

If it's one thing that salespeople hate most of all - it is leaving money on the table or having to walk away from a deal altogether. But sometimes in the haste or desperation of trying to chalk up a win, salespeople forget the importance of saying "No" and standing firm - because in business, respect is a two way street and you need to earn the fair value for your products or services from your customers.

WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE...

Perhaps you are just starting out your career selling or your trying to get your business off to a running start or out of a slump - we have all been there, we want to charge $X,XXX.XX for solving our client's problems but they want to pay $0.XX - and be it desperation, pressure or the need to keep the lights on we relent and take the deal. And that's fine - I have done it, many of the veterans have done it, but I can also tell you almost all of us also regret it. And if we had time machines we would go back in time and beg ourselves to say No - Why?

FACT: 90% OF YOUR STRESS WILL COME FROM THAT ONE CUSTOMER YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID "NO" TO.

Because even though 20% of your customers may account for 80% of your revenue, 90% of your stress is going to come from that 1 customer you should have said "No" to. That one customer is going to take up so much of your time and frustrate you so much, you will never get around to closing the deals with those customers that actually value what you do for them and are willing to pay you for it.

 INSTEAD YOU DROP YOUR PANTS OR PROMISE THE WORLD...

One of the worst habits I see with salespeople, business owners and entrepreneurs is that when they see customers getting even a little nervous or negative they immediately drop the price. I have sat in meetings between vendors and prospects, where the salesperson quotes an inflated price knowing full well they are going to drop and do it before the topic of price even comes up in the conversation, expecting applause for being the hero, but instead the reaction is often more of disappointment like when a comedian whose joke bombs with the audience.

Warren-Buffett-Quotes-3.png

My advice, you should always do your best to go forward with your best price, you should defend it with the belief that you are charging the client fairly because of the value you are delivering.

Clients will always want to pay less - it is your job to make them understand that the reason they should buy from you is because the way you solve their problem or can help them is something they won't be able to find anywhere else for that price. You should respect your client knowing full well they will talk to their peers and do their research - they have their ranges and their own budget constraints. Coming in with an inflated price is a betrayal of that trust. Focus on charging what you believe and know can be proven as fair, because when you defend that price and show them how you will get them from point A to point B, the client will respect you for it. It shows you have confidence in your own abilities and the firms. Respect is a two way street, so don't drop your pants - it's not worth it.

On the flip side I also hear many stories from angry and frustrated clients regarding salespeople who promised them the world within a too good to be true price, usually in the form of hasty concessions to help seal the deal before a deadline or due to internal pressure to meet quota. In most cases the salesperson fails to deliver on those promises and the long term relationship with that customer is toast or never fully recovers. Respect and trust are hard earned and easily lost - so don't make promises you can't keep, in the long run it will come back to haunt you and the entire company. 

TRY THIS OPTION: SAY "NO."

No is probably the most under-used word in a salesperson's vocabulary these days. In blindly accepting that the customer is always right, we have forgotten the power of being firm, steadfast and taking a stand when being forced to do or promise something that we know is not possible or right for the customer.

When you take on a job that you are not being fairly compensated for, you will be forced to cut corners to save time and cost or you will not be motivated to do your best work because the reward is far outweighed by the risk - you are setting yourself up for failure. When faced with a customer who is demanding or asking for a concession that will hurt you, you should not just say "No," you should also explain why.

DON'T JUST SAY "NO" AND DO A MIC-DROP, THE WORLD DOES NOT NEED ANOTHER KAYNE. EXPLAIN WHY.

kayne mic drop gif.gif

Depending on the context of your conversation - saying "No" is an opportunity to identify the gap between your client's expectations and what you are offering. The client is allowed to be emotional and irrational, but as their partner you need to make them understand why you can't do what their asking.  

As a salesperson you must exercise empathy, situational awareness and a high emotional intelligence in these situations. You can't be negative or exhibit anger or frustration with the client - they are already feeling that hence they are in the room with you, your job is to appease them and guide them so that they may understand.

And if you can't do it, say it and tell them why - instead of promising you can or slashing your price, because you can't. Customer's respect and expect their partners, vendors, suppliers to be transparent and honest with them - they hate surprises. Your customer's most likely have their own customers they are trying to keep happy - you have to reposition how your product or service will help them in their own business and help them understand the justification for the value you are offering and charging for.

IF YOU CAN'T HELP THEM, REFER THEM TO SOMEONE WHO CAN

It may come to a point where you have said "No" and the client is not willing to go further - instead of letting them walk away empty handed, you may want to refer them to someone who maybe help satisfy their needs based on their own terms. Now I'm not saying refer your Fortune500 customer to your direct competitor - but depending on the situation you may want to refer them to a partner you trust who maybe willing to take on the risks your not. Your clients will appreciate this and perhaps when they go around and talk to other potential partners, they may learn and validate your advice and come back to you.  

You see this practice with good doctors and lawyers all the time. Despite situations where a person's health or freedom are at risk, they will often have patients or clients concerned with cost or their recommended advice. These doctors and lawyers are highly trained and confident in their own abilities, they know their value -  so if their customer's aren't willing to pay their fees or take their advice they say "No" with their reasons why and politely refer them to other professionals in their network for a second opinion. Often they find these same customers come back to them after finding out the hard way, why they should have taken the initial offer or because they get a better understanding from speaking to competitors of the quality of advice they received prior to being referred.

The lesson here is a salesperson must have confidence in their own abilities and be aware of the competition and what alternatives the market has to offer - sometimes you have to say "No" and let the customer find out on their own, why they should stick with you. 

In what could have been the ultimate (fire) sale: SnapChat CEO & Founder Eric Spiegel (pictured left) refused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's offer to buy SnapChat for $3 billion in 2013. As of February 2016, SnapChat's current valuation is $16 billion. Know your value, and stand by it - say "NO."

In what could have been the ultimate (fire) sale: SnapChat CEO & Founder Eric Spiegel (pictured left) refused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's offer to buy SnapChat for $3 billion in 2013. As of February 2016, SnapChat's current valuation is $16 billion. Know your value, and stand by it - say "NO."

Trust your Instincts!

One last piece of advice - many of us salespeople, business owners and entrepreneurs will be in a situation where we are trying to close a difficult deal with a prospect - you will have that nagging feeling that you shouldn't do the deal because its paying too little or your promising too much. LISTEN TO THAT VOICE. It's your instincts telling you to take a step back and have a second look. If the deal isn't fair to you, it will not be fair to the client when you fail to deliver. Respect their time and take a stand, explain why it's not fair to both parties and say "No." - trust me you will be avoiding a lot of trouble.

This post is a personal one for me as it contains a lot of hard lessons, I would thoroughly appreciate feedback. Share your insights with me via Twitter: @alihanif101

 

 

 

The $6.6 Billion Bet - Learn Why SalesForce Is Investing In Enterprise Sales Teams And DropBox Isn't

The $6.6 Billion Bet - Learn Why SalesForce Is Investing In Enterprise Sales Teams And DropBox Isn't

An article from Business Insider this week highlights SalesForce's concerns around enterprise sales challenges. In a recent 10-K filing SalesForce dedicated a whole section regarding it's concerns about enterprise sales under the "Risk Factors" section.

"As we target more of our sales efforts at larger enterprise customers, including governmental entities, we may face greater costs, longer sales cycles, greater competition and less predictability in completing some of our sales" - An excerpt from SalesForce's 10-K filing 

For SalesForce, investing heavily in it's sales and marketing is critical to closing enterprise deals and it seems to be working. In Q4 last year they booked more than $1.8 billion in revenues. On the flip side, Dropbox is betting on a strategy that it's CEO Duncan Houston calls a "bottoms-up approach" to convert enterprise opportunities, instead of scaling up its sales and marketing teams.

SalesForce has been killing it with annual and quarterly revenues jumping 27% last year

SalesForce has been killing it with annual and quarterly revenues jumping 27% last year

The question is, which approach is better? 

SalesForce invests more than half of its $6.6 billion annual revenues into sales and marketing - which shows the significant investment required to acquire enterprise customers. The reason they do this can be summarized as follows:

  • Enterprise sales cycles are long AND expensive: Yes once you get them to sign up, they usually stay - but it can takes months or even years to close
  • Accounting can be tricky: Despite cloud software revenues being recognized over time, enterprise sales transactions take longer to close and are often complex - the revenue-recognition process can get complicated. 
  • BIG customers ask for BIG discounts: Enterprise customers often buy in high volume, which means they have more power in negotiating discounts. For vendors like SalesForce this means increased pressure on their prices and margins.
  • Everything needs to be bespoke: In exchange for paying the premium, enterprise customers expect everything to be customized and implemented in a manner that fits with their current systems and workflow. This often requires additional manpower and expertise from the vendor to execute.

SalesForce has also recognized the need for its salespeople to have a high acumen of education not just about its own services and the customer's business, but also the laws regarding data protection and privacy which govern it's customers operations. If you want to sell to the enterprise, you need to stay one step ahead, anticipating change in their markets, in their technology and potentially in the laws governing them. 

the customer's decision to use our services may be an enterprise-wide decision and, if so, these types of sales would require us to provide greater levels of education regarding the use and benefits of our services, as well as education regarding privacy and data protection laws and regulations to prospective customers with international operations.

On the other hand Dropbox, which recently launched it's own enterprise offering is using the bottoms-up approach of targeting employees at companies who use their service and converting them in to paying business uses - so they don't even focus on the higher level decision makers like the CTO or Head of IT. CEO Duncan Houston suggests that their approach makes it easier to acquire customers versus investing in salespeople and marketing, as his major competitor Box does. Thus far this strategy seems to be working for Dropbox as they recently celebrated surpassing 500 million registered users. The question remains whether Dropbox will continue to win enterprise deals in an increasingly competitive market without the support of a highly trained and specialized salesforce.

Dropbox's biggest competitor, Box went public early last year and they invested heavily in coaxing away senior sales talent from Oracle and SalesForce prior to their IPO. Box's strategy seems to be paying dividends as well, with $300 million in annual revenue last year and anticipated growth of 30% for 2016. 

So what are your thoughts? Should companies that want to win deals with enterprise customers invest heavily in hiring and training specialized sales teams or is it worth exploring an approach that is focussed on converting end users and avoiding high level decision makers?

You Will Never Guess How Many Sales Calls It Takes To Close A Deal At Oracle

You Will Never Guess How Many Sales Calls It Takes To Close A Deal At Oracle

A recent article by Julie Bort of Business Insider focuses on the debate around whether firms selling enterprise software actually need highly-paid professional salespeople to sell their apps?

Australian based Atlassian which counts American Express and IKEA as clients. grew into a public business without hiring a single salesperson. Instead, founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes chose to sell their software directly through their website. Without having to pay sales salaries and commissions, they were able provide significant discounts to their customers and sell ten times as many copies of their software online than it would take a salesperson to sell them in the same amount of time. 

“At first people would say you won’t get past $20,000 without sales people. Then $50,000. And then $100,000, then a million and even a billion. You realize they were just picking a number in the future, because our company didn’t fit their world view.” - Mike Cannon-Brookes, Founder Atlassian
  Slack the $2.8 billion business collaboration software startup grew to 1.7 million users and 480,000 paid accounts without having a single salesperson or CMO. 97% of their new customers came through referrals. 

 

Slack the $2.8 billion business collaboration software startup grew to 1.7 million users and 480,000 paid accounts without having a single salesperson or CMO. 97% of their new customers came through referrals. 

At enterprise software giant Oracle, CEO Mark Hurd is investing in marketing automation to trim its sales needs. Oracle is using its own latest product, Sales Cloud to automate its own internal sales processes with the help of marketing automation tools from its $872 million  acquisition of Eloqua. 

It takes 80 sales calls to close an app deal. We're doing 30% of them now automated on the web, having conversations with CIOs, all done using Eloqua as part of Oracle marketing cloud." - Mark Hurd, CEO Oracle

This begs the question - If a $38 billion a year company like Oracle is automating its salesforce, are we witnessing a shift in the business model from highly paid salespeople to a more cost effective self-service enterprise salesforce?

Are you in a sales role currently? How is marketing automation influencing how you sell? Twitter: @alihanif101 

Struggling With Building Customer Relationships? You Are Not Alone, Try These 3 Things

Struggling With Building Customer Relationships? You Are Not Alone, Try These 3 Things

This post is dedicated to those brave business owners and entrepreneurs struggling to grow their business and connect with customers. The hard truth is that having great ideas, solutions and skills are only part of the equation when it comes to succeeding in business. The most underrated factor of your success, is your ability to convince people that what your selling is worth buying.

I often come across entrepreneurs struggling with low sales and cashflow, who feel that hiring a salesperson or spending money on marketing will solve their problem. Perhaps this strategy may work, it really comes down to the health of your business and your available capital. What you really should be doing is asking yourself:

How long can you pump blood into a bleeding body before it runs out?

When a gunshot victim comes into the ER, doctors they attack the problem head on, quickly moving to stop the bleeding. They don't use band-aids they use staples. Yes there is pain but you get to live. Your career and business should be no different. Instead of pouring precious cash into solutions that are risky and may only provide temporary solutions you need to invest in yourself. 

First banish these two thoughts from your mind.

  • I can't sell. You have been selling all your life - When you went for your last job interview, you were trying to convince your future boss to hire you based on your skills, experience and goals to do the job they require. You did your research about the company and the interview process, you tailored your resume to the job posting, you did the mock interviews and you made sure to send a follow-up note after everything was done. Congratulations, you have selling experience - you tailored yourself to do the job management required - You sold yourself as the solution to their problem.
  • It isn't personal, its just businessWrong! When you purchase a car, a phone, a vacation your spending your hard earned money. Your telling me if the car is broken, the phone doesn't work and the vacation sucks that you won't be upset and want your money back? Exactly. The whole process of handing over money for something is a human and emotional transaction that is extremely rewarding for both parties if done right.
"The NBA is never just a business. It's always business. It's always personal. All good businesses are personal. The best businesses are very personal." - Mark Cuban, owner of NBA Champions The Dallas Mavericks
Mark Cuban judging pitches ABC's Shark Tank

Mark Cuban judging pitches ABC's Shark Tank

As an entrepreneur you are probably involved in some form of sales or revenue generating work, but chances are you are not following a process consistently. This is why you should focus on auditing your activities and invest in training yourself to do these three things:

1. Background - Find insights hidden in plain sight. Technology and social networks are powerful tools when used together properly. There is no excuse for walking into client meeting not knowing something about them. In fact you should be able to surprise them in some way or the other that you know more about their situation than thought, it demonstrates initiative and genuine interest in your client's work.

This goes beyond following someone on Twitter or LinkedIn, or browsing their company website. Dig deeper. Look back at the history of tweets for that company, see who they were interacting with and note any critical events: A service outage or a negative customer experience. Don't hide your profile when surfing on LinkedIn profiles, if you are preaching transparency then you should be practicing it as well. Again go deeper, LinkedIn has made it very easy to see common connections, you should also read what your prospects publishing or sharing individually, with peers and in groups.

Company reports, blogs and research reports are often publicly available, you should develop an exercise where you gather this information together to build a profile of your customers. As you build this library of information you can map relationships that will help you get into the inside track faster and potentially uncover patterns and opportunities that can be applied with future prospects.

2) Pain - In this case, Pain is Gain. Your customers are people like yourself, they have jobs that keep them busy and their attention spans are extremely short, so they will do everything that will help them save time and money. If they are calling you, chances are they have done their homework - you have something they want. They are experiencing a pain or problem that you can address. Your job is to engage them in such a way that they reveal what that pain is, so you can quickly hone in on only those features or services that will solve their problem.

Similarly, when your prospecting a client and they get into a room with you, they should be doing most of the talking. Your customers are real people, like any other relationship trust is built mutually when both parties talk and listen to each -because you are the one trying to initiate that relationship you should be the one listening more in the beginning. Learn to pick up on the pain your customers reveal as they speak and adapt your approach accordingly to address those concerns. 

3) Context - Finding where you fit in. This is where the magic happens, you need to spend time piecing together what you learn from your own background research and the pain points from your clients. What you learn from your background research allows you to draw assumptions and step in to your client's shoes. Understanding their pain points allows you to validate those assumptions and uncover things only your clients can tell you. Context allows you to extract insights and build a story for your clients, where you are the saviour that saves them. Establishing context is extremely important to close the deal, a customer needs to understand your role and the process in which you will address their pain. 

The beauty of the investing in doing background, addressing pain and building context is that if you perform these activities on a consistent basis you will be able to dramatically improve the quality of your conversations with clients. A word of caution, like any good relationship this method requires investing time in the beginning, however with persistence you will find that depth of your relationships will increase and help you grow your business at a faster pace.

Your Brand's Newest Challenge? Picking The Right Moment

Your Brand's Newest Challenge? Picking The Right Moment

A recent article in the NYT discusses how brands are trying to tweak their ads due to the consumer's ever decreasing attention spans. From focusing on moments to "micro-moments," some companies are now shifting their approach to "marketing in the moment." How can the marketers of today develop their skills to deploy a moment-based marketing strategy?

The attention span of consumers today is, what, eight seconds? You get one shot.
— Umberto Luchini, Vice President for Marketing at Campari America

With a dying tolerance for interruptions, companies are being forced to change they way the approach advertising online. Google has been preaching the need for marketers to focus on "micro-moments," referring to the numerous times in a day people pick up their phones to search a local business, research a product or lookup reviews on a restaurant or store. 

Dunkin Donuts has attempted to capitalized on such micro-moments by creating a map showing their closest locations and wait times, for people searching the term "coffee near me."

Lisa Gevelber, a Google VP of Marketing says that the advertising game is "no longer about reach and frequency." Her recommendation as a pioneer of the micro-moment concept is that, brands should focus on "intent more than identity and demographics," and that "immediacy is more important than brand loyalty."

The pressure is on for marketers to have the right apps and social media presence. Being in the practice of producing useful content such as short how-to videos and an entire range of digital ads is also useful. But more important than format and channel is the need for ads to surface at the moment people need information. 

Red Roof Inn, a client of New York digital agency 360i linked flight data to Google's search ad system to target stranded travellers at precise moments, like when Chicago O'Hare airport had cancelled numerous flights. When such an event would occur the hotel chain's system would automatically raise it's bids for ad space to win top spots in a high percentage of search results for queries like “hotels near O’Hare.” By deploying a moment based strategy that would allow their system to capitalize on predictable demand for their service, Red roof Inn experienced a 60% jump in room bookings.

Of course you can't build a brand by creating a few moments. A consistent approach to moment based marketing is required, and skills like the ability to match customer data to the right context are critical. Marketers also need to know how to properly study the people and cultural characteristics of their customer base, so they may discover patterns or future opportunities to address a key need at the exact moment a buyer is looking to make a decision. According to a Forrester research report marketers must focus on three key areas:

  1. Identifying key moments of intent
  2. Delivering on needs in the moment
  3. Measuring all moments

By incorporating these key elements, into your marketing approach you will be able to create a customer experience that is both relevant and useful throughout the various touch points your target prospect will encounter on their path towards purchasing your product or service. 

Here is a short video from the Mobile Marketing Association's website that shots what Red Roof Inn did to deploy their moment based marketing approach targeting stranded air travellers, enjoy!

An Extreme Lesson In Empathy From A Video Game About A Father's Dying Son

An Extreme Lesson In Empathy From A Video Game About A Father's Dying Son

Yesterday I listened to a recent Reply All podcast which was about the story about Ryan and Amy Green, whose third son Joel was diagnosed with a life threatening cancer at the age of just one. What is truly astounding and inspiring about this story, is how both Ryan and Amy invited the world in, to experience profound personal moments in their lives as parents of a terminally ill child through their video game"That Dragon, Cancer."

A rare moment in the game, where you have the ability to calm your baby (image courtesy of Kotaku)

A rare moment in the game, where you have the ability to calm your baby (image courtesy of Kotaku)

We don't often see video games tackle serious issues and you rarely see anything tackle anything as personal as cancer - A nightmare scenario for any parent. The idea of creating a game came about after Ryan experienced one of the worst nights at the hospital with Joel. One of Joel's favourite things at the hospital was apple juice, but he had a stomach bug that night and he would keep throwing it up. Ryan wanted to give his dying son juice, but he knew it hurt him and Joel kept crying in a way that became more "frantic and animal" as time went on. Ryan couldn't even put Joel down, because he would start hitting his head against the crib. As the night went on it Joel's eyes start to sink in from all the tears and Ryan found himself breaking down as it was too much to bear. Finally in the early hours of the morning, exhausted he lay Joel back into his crib and prayed. To his surprise and ultimate relief, Joel stopped crying and fell asleep. It was a moment of mercy for both of them.

Ryan and Amy Green (image courtesy of Wired).

Ryan and Amy Green (image courtesy of Wired).

This is where Reply All producer, Sruthi Pinnamaneni says Ryan had a weirdthought,  "The whole ordeal reminded him of a video game," except in this game none of your choices to help the baby stop crying don't work. Ryan imagined a game where the player really didn't have control, where he could bring you to the place where you truly feel helpless, but receive grace. He shared his idea with his wife Amy and her reaction was,

And I said that’s terrible! That’s not a game and no one will want to play that.
— Amy Green on the video game ‘That Dragon, Cancer’

Ryan stuck to his guns and built a demo that presented it at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco along side blockbuster games, such as Battlefield 4 and Assassin's Creed. Noted game writer Jenn Frank played the demo and wrote"That Dragon, Cancer is about sustaining the hope and joy of life for just as long as we can.” Amy who herself had been skeptical about the idea, broke down in tears when she played the demo of that night Ryan was with Joel in the hospital, and she was completely onboard with the game, to the point where she joined the production team. 

The impact of playing the game and experiencing what Ryan felt, is best summarized by PAX co-organizer Mike Krahulik's review quoted in a recent Wired article about the game, 

[That Dragon, Cancer] has encoded the experience, his actual experience, of being a father to a son doctors tell you will not and cannot live. It is an act of incredible bravery to collect it at this level of emotional resolution

In most games you earn rewards as you beat levels or solve challenges which provide a feeling of accomplishment, in Ryan's game it's the exact opposite. Jane McGonigal describes what Ryan is creating best in the Wired article, "He is making a game that is as broken—as confounding, unresolved, and tragically beautiful—as the world itself."

Sadly, Joel succumbed to his cancer in March 2014, but Ryan, Amy and their team of continued to work on the game. In Ryan's case, finishing the game became critical and an outlet for his grief. Within just two days of Joel's passing he was back working on the game - they re-did over 70 percent of the game to focus more on the experience taking care of Joel. 

Thankfully the team has completed the game and should be released today, and Amy says “We’d love for it to impact people and for it to be commercially successful. But there’s a piece of me that says, maybe it’s just for us.”

A scene from the game, the doctors tell the parents the cancer is no longer treatable (image courtesy of Kotaku).

The story of Ryan and Amy's journey shows that games are not just experiencing entertainment and moments of accomplishment. Games can also be create immersive experiences, where you encounter moments of profound emotion such as sadness, helplessness and loss.That Dragon, Cancer turns game dynamics on its head - you avoid what will happen in the end and it's inevitable and that is a feeling that forces you to empathize with the whole experience throughout the game to till the very end.

Ads Are The Next Endangered Species & Brands Are Desperate To Save Them

Ads Are The Next Endangered Species & Brands Are Desperate To Save Them

Attention spans are declining, hatred for Ads are increasing. Pop up ad blockers are now big business and its costing publisher big money too: $22 billion in 2015 alone. So how are uber-brands like Unilever protecting their $7.7 billion investments in global advertising? Future-hunting, Improv YouTube stars and product packaging with built in microchips are just some of the creative solutions.

Sofar Sounds concert

Sofar Sounds concert

As part of its efforts to protect its spend on global advertising, Unilever has spent $15 million on its Foundry program, filtering through 4,000 marketing-tech startups as a highly organized "future-hunting" exercise. To date it has partnered with 80 such startups, one being with Sofar Sounds to provide intimate "secret" concerts sponsored by its popular Axe deodorant line (image above).

Ad Age just published an excellent article by Jeff Neff on "What Lies Ahead Of Marketing In An Increasingly Ad-free future." In it are some great examples on how brands are adapting and delving into more creative approaches to connecting with their customers.

Mainstream's biggest enemy: Simplicity

According to a Deloitte report for the first time more people are viewing watching TV on demand instead of live, with 55% of viewership coming from DVRs and video streaming subscriptions services like Netflix. That number rises to 72% within the millennials bracket of viewers aged 14-25. And with ad-blockers much easier to install on your mobile phone or internet browser with the simple swipe or click, brands are finding their ads blocked into extinction. As Unilever's VP media innovation Bob Rangaiah puts it, "Once simplicity hits, the mainstream gets affected." 

Content Marketing: Haters Gonna Hate

Despite Procter & Gamble's Global Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard's distaste for the term content marketing, spending in this area is significant, to the tune of $67 billion in the U.S. alone. Marc sees content marketing as "overused and undefined" term which he prefers to keep calling "advertising." Advertising or content marketing - tomato or tomato, whatever you want to call it, P&G is doing more of it, case in point the "Like a Girl" video which Leo Burnett produced and tailored for YouTube distribution and a SuperBowl ad spot.

Improv Comedians: Laughing All The Way To The Bank

One great example highlighted in the article was the rise of improv comedians like Forbes 30Under30 entrepreneur Rachel Tipograph (pictured below). Her ability as an improv comedian to hook the audience by packaging her quirky and humorous antics it into an entertaining 30 second "minimercial" of $100 or less non-apparel items, has viewers sticking around for 15 commercials per session on their smartphones.

Rachel Tipograph was named a Forbes 30Under30 entrepreneur, thanks to the success of her MikMak ecommerce app.

Rachel Tipograph was named a Forbes 30Under30 entrepreneur, thanks to the success of her MikMak ecommerce app.

Remember the funny video from the Dollar Shave Club? The one that got over 21 million views and helped it raise its crowdfunding campaign target of $1 milllion? It's founder Michael Dubin is a former improv comedian. He still creates and stars in his own videos, and his company secured $75 million in Series D funding last year. Still laughing? 

 Being At The Right Place At The Right Tim

Referred to in some circles as "POME" for "point of market entry," some brands are are attempting to get their product samples in their intended customer's hands at the right time. Case in point Gillette razors for your 18th birthday, or Pampers diaper samples in maternity wards. Exact Media's CEO, Ray Cao refers to this idea as, "native advertising for e-commerce."

If I’m getting a shirt, and I also get a sample of laundry detergent, it doesn’t feel like I’m getting a random banner ad.” - Ray Cao, CEO Exact Media

Marketers are also looking to innovate the use of packaging to connect with consumers, the article cites a collaboration between Amazon Dash and Clorox's Brita. Brita's water filters are equipped with chips that automatically generate online replacement orders on Amazon. In Europe a Belgian Beer company uses Near Field Communication to trigger a free movie download offer on people's phones. The danger here is that whilst it maybe a brand's dream to lock-in consumers with automatic online re-orders and subscription deals it can also be an absolute nightmare for brands trying to attract them to try something else. 

cd-header-409x434._V293545028_.jpg

The key message from this article regarding is summed up by Georgia-Pacific Chief Marketing Officer Douwe Bergsma on building a story with consumers and brands,

When an audience relates emotionally to a brand, the nature of that relationship is very similar to the kind of relationship they have with a character in a story.” “regardless of the surprises the world throws at them.”

Because technology is enabling people to avoid ads like never before, brands must accept that can't really "direct the story on its own anymore." Therefore brands need to improvise and focus on developing great stories and experiences that compliment their owns strengths and reinforce their role in helping consumers. 

I hope you enjoyed my post, please do share and send me your feedback!