“Gimme Your Lunch Money!”

Remember that kid back in grade school who used to bully and extort other kids to get their lunch money or favorite treats?  It seems that in technology sales, the same juvenile antics are being played out again amongst educated, highly trained, generally confident adults who happen to be in sales roles. Are reps willing to fight for their deals?  I was recently doing an audit for a sales executive who wanted to know “Why are so many of our qualified opportunities mysteriously stalling or evaporating from our sales pipeline and revenue forecast?”

Over the next few weeks I quietly uncovered the issue:  While all  the sales reps knew their products and even their competition quite well, they had unknowingly or unconsciously allowed themselves to be subtly lulled into complacency or bullied and intimidated by: their prospects flawed buying processes, a competitors new marketing campaign or product release, or the unethical antics of their competitors. Why? Some weren’t trained to take action to aggressively respond to potential deal-breakers. Others were hiding behind their computer monitors – as there’s very little emotional investment made in virtual interactions. Others were unnerved by negative innuendo,  feared future non- buying threats and reprisals, and almost all avoided difficult or potentially contentious conversations for fear of rejection. (I know what you’re thinking: “Fear of rejection as an issue for a sales rep?”) Yup, especially when sales people aren’t hired by executives with sales experience but that’s a separate issue.

Fast forward in time: We’re no longer in the 4th grade and if there’s ever a time to fight for a deal and your business… it’s now. “Show & Tell” sales processes and activities have their place, but on occasion a sales rep is going to encounter a bully. While nobody’s lunch money is on the line anymore,  your company’s capitol investments and the future employment status of  you and your colleagues could take a hit.  Look at it this way:  Someone is taking the down-payment and mortgage money for your dream home right out of your  bank account because a rep chose to not to fight; Someone is attempting take away the choices as to where you vacation, where your kids go to school, what you can afford to drive, the quality of your retirement… and more.

So, now that you know…what are you going to do about it?

 

Six Olympian Tips for Technology Sales

Closing Ceremonies 2012 London Olympics

Now that the closing ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics are over and the world have had a chance to see the best athletes in the world, one of the questions I asked as a technology sales athlete was: “What did we see and hear that can be applied to enhance our performance AND make a difference in our profession?”

Both Olympians and sales athletes struggle with the demands of daily living, rejection, competition, and family matters but sales athletes also wade thru frigid buying cycles driven by global fiscal constraint, and a more knowledgeable and informed buyer. So, how can you keep winning in the technology sales profession for 5, 10, 15, or even 20+ years and still LOVE what you do? Here are 6 observations and tips from world-class Olympic competitors that might help:

  • Technology matters. Just because you sell technology products and services doesn’t mean you’re competent using them to become a more effective professional.  The velocity of change requires top competitors to leverage the latest tools and techniques to prepare, train, and win in a hyper-competitive niche.
  • Win today or find yourself sitting in the crowd watching others achieve your dream. Winning is habitual… and so is losing. Whatever you do once, your mind validates it as a possibility. Win and you can win again.
  • Schedule your rest like you schedule your work.  Reject the “always-on” trend. Without sufficient rest & recovery your performance will suffer.
  • Get a coach. If a world-class, gold-medal Olympian has coach, why wouldn’t a sales athlete?
  • Specialize. Just because you run a great 100 meters, is no guarantee you’ll finish a marathon. The internet can make anyone a generalist in a few days. Become an expert and others will call on you when they reach their limits.
  • Give Back. Few can understand the unique psyche, passion, focus, training methods, and intensity of a champion… except other champions, their closest competitors, and the ones who loved them before they were successful. Share what you know with a few select, disciplined, and dedicated professionals who will commit to do the same when they win.

Win!

Chrs

Don’t Jump, It’s Temporary – A Sales Recovery Scenario

I recently received a call from a colleague whom I’ve sold with and coached regularly. He was sending me his sales plan and recent revenue numbers for us to discuss together.  With a new job and in his first quarter with a new employer, one of the best revenue producers I’d known found himself bearing witness to the atrophy of his initial revenue forecast commitment.  The Result:  embarrassment, frustration and disgust at the thought of being at the bottom of a sales leader board. (Note – this was also a déjà vu moment for me.)

After listening to 10-minutes of venting, I asked: “Are you finished yet?”  He laughed when realizing his Type-A, hyper-competitive personality was both an asset and a curse… if it wasn’t kept in check. This scenario also provoked me to spend time in introspection as I asked myself “Do I sound like that too?”

Here are the Top 5 Actions we agreed to implement to change the view from the bottom of the leader board.

 Take a humility pill: step away from the ledge, and don’t jump!  You’re good – not God.  The view from the bottom is usually temporary and in transitional scenarios such as this, finger-pointing can be dangerous and self-condemnation is premature.  Share your perspectives with a supportive manager and winners on the team to leverage their experience for guidance.

Practice a Flawless Opening:  It’s true – first impressions count.  Be prepared and be certain you have articulated or presented clear, concise, and compelling business reasons for them to remain engaged with you… again. An acceptance for a meeting invitation is nothing. The question is, are you being invited back?

Think Big, Be Big: You’ll work just as hard for a $5,000 deal as you will a $50,000 deal… and won’t achieve your quota objectives. Re-prioritize your focus to invest 80% of your the time and energy doing those things that matters most, with contacts who are ready, willing, and able to buy.  Delegate non-revenue generating activities and engage in those activities that will make a BIG difference quickly.

Network with your peers & recruit new partners:  This company’s largest previous deal came from a lead which was supplied by a partner. Replicate success and recruit other partners who have ongoing access to the hottest projects, understand the latest trends and have executive-level access to the clients you want to do business with.

 Up-sell Existing Customers & Revisit Lost Deals: The fastest path to new revenue has always been thru an existing customer. Initiate account reviews to ascertain what’s changed, discuss new capabilities and ask for referrals.

Win,

Chris Bel, III

Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

 

If you’re in the sales/business development game you’ve already figured this out: You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. Here are 5 tips that may enhance your effectiveness and productivity:

Avoid Going Alone:  An “A” quality demo expert + an “A” quality business/sales expert = an “A quality” buying and sales experience for all parties.  The result: Bigger deals and better forecasts.  Demo experts can concentrate on delivering the best “Wow” moments and connect technical features with real prospect challenges or requirements. Business/sales people can strategically optimize every minute of a demo or proof encounter to note, nurture, and enhance business dynamics. Just as importantly, there’s no substitute for a 2-party post-demo debriefing. Everyone gets better.

 Take a Humility Pill:  Don’t always answer.  Where a prospect asks a question, find a way for someone else to get credit for the response to accelerate the speed of trust and reduce perceptions of risk in your engagement by introducing a SME.  Promote others.

 Delegate:   Maybe you can do it all. Great! Now let’s assume you have an annual 6-figure income and at a minimum you earn $50 per hour to engage in customer-facing, revenue generating activities.   Appointment-setting, CRM administration, cold-calling, social media activities, etc… are all absolutely necessary, but at $50 per hour?  Probably not.  Secure a virtual assistant at $10 to $15 per hour to put thousands of dollars of productivity values back in your wallet, and to provide a foundation of focused intensity back in your day allowing you to prioritize those prospects that appear ready, willing, and able to buy.

 Recognize Systemic Failure and Adapt:  One can keep doing what they’re doing and claim “I was just following orders” without regard to the results OR one can look at how their personal numbers are trending AND adapt. Some things take time to develop, but if existing systems and processes aren’t working for you, don’t complain. Personally develop your own “smarketing” (or corrective sales + marketing activities) where both marketing and sales outcomes are below mutual expectations.  Share the facts with management and get creative with your marketing organization.

 Collaborate: interact with a few trusted colleagues and peers outside of your sales organization. Fresh eyes can often see what you can’t while also providing excellent counsel along the way. Just as importantly, you may be able to recruit your peers to bird-dog and pre-qualify opportunities for you!  At CB3, we welcome the opportunity to share ideas, leads, and… revenue splits for closed deals.

Win,

Chris Bell III

Relaunching with New Products and Services for 2012!


At ChrisBell3rd & Company, LLC (also known as CB3) these are REALLY exciting times! A little more than two years ago, I started the company as a Solopreneur with only $395 after being laid off. The following year I was recognized as a Winner, in a 2010  $25,000 Entrepreneurs Challenge.

Today, in less than three years we’ve been able to expand our services, maintained several long-term partnership agreements, closed multi-million dollar contracts for our clients, moving into shared office space, and have become established as trusted advisors to CEOs and executives across the globe with an exemplary track record for performance. The net: we’re growing as a company, adding great professionals to our team, and we believe it’s a perfect time to TUNE-UP and:

  • Initiate a WEBSITE MAKEOVER
  • REBRAND the company
  • Introduce an impressive NEW BUSINESS VIDEO DESTINATION
  • Present our NEW SERVICES
  • Leverage EXCEPTIONAL RESOURCES
  • SUPPORT others in our COMMUNITY

Come back and visit us soon and keep up with activities related to our business re-launch here to…

Win!!!!!

-Chris Bell III

chris@chrisbell3rd.com

Telephone: 443.718.0977

Technology Sales: A CIO’s Perspective

So, You’ve Missed your Quota…

10408714_10201561443197425_939785768645081334_nHundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on sales books, CDs, motivational speakers, academic degrees, and formal training courses that are designed to teach people how to compete and win in their professions. Serious sales athletes spend hours and days away from the field-of-play preparing and training to compete in an arena where their value and successes are coldly annotated, empirically evaluated, and statistically justified by “the numbers.”

So what do you do when your numbers fall just a little short or when it becomes certain you’re not going to achieve your sales quota or revenue objectives? To the best of my knowledge, there’s not a lot of literature or support for teaching sales athletes how to react when they lose but here’s a reality check: most sales athletes are NOT going to be #1 all the time. While there is no single reference that covers all circumstances, here’s a list of tips to consider:

  1. Establish 360-degree awareness. Invite your supervisor to an after-work dinner with one caveat: ask her to remove her rank and title during the dialogue – tell her you don’t need a boss, you want a coach; Talk to a respected peer and request an honest assessment of your activity and skills; Confer with your pre-sales team and ask them for tips that may help your performance. Just as importantly, take time to discern the difference between personal failure and organizational systemic failure. Where the organization’s established policies or plans are clearly deficient and complicit in your personal failure, it should weigh in your decision to stay on.
  2. Probationary Performance Plan. After missing a quota goal, this dreaded document is often positioned and presented to a sales athlete with little opportunity to debate or protest. (You’re thinking OMG!!!) But be POSITIVE and show no fear! Thank your supervisor for giving you the opportunity to redeem yourself. Calmly review it, and where the performance criteria surpasses existing standards, edit the document and initial those areas that aren’t reasonable you may be able to softly negotiate a modification.
  3. Develop a 30-day plan of attack:
  • Assess whether the performance plan is achievable or if it’s a veiled request for your resignation.
  • Take a long weekend to recover. Get a massage, get-away, relax, unwind, and work on restoring your confidence & creative juices. Reconnect with friends and loved ones who’ll affirm you without a quota.
  • Get organized at work. Hire a virtual assistant for 30-days to help get you quickly organized, setup your meetings, manage your CRM, handle travel reservations, manage administrative requirements, complete your reporting, and attend to standard, repetitive customer requests. Your focus? Closing deals.
  • Get organized at home. Anything you don’t personally have to do, don’t do. Ration your time. Pay to get your laundry done, defer home projects, ask someone else wash the car, setup your bills for auto-payment via electronic banking, etc
  • Develop a territory/account plan and activities that map precisely to your performance plan. Bear in mind that the quickest path to new revenue, is by way of previous customers and/or their referrals.
  • Make your boss an asset, not a threat. Assuming your supervisor really wants you on her team, you should add her to your most important business account engagements and activities. Get her invested in your mutual success, and make them a contributor to your comeback. Plan to provide updates and confer with them at least twice per week.
  • Work the “intangibles.” Focus on your strengths let others obsesses over weaknesses; When everyone is working – plan; When they’re sleeping – work; submit all reports early and without error; be the first on all teleconferences; tactfully broadcast small wins; practice your presentation everyday; network, and make a commitment to deliver the #1 sales activity (never be out-worked.)
  • Work 6 days a week in 30 days you’ll have delivered an extra week’s worth of additional productivity focused only on those things that generate revenue.
  • Win early… every day. Workout and eat-well and when you do, you’ll have already beat 95% of the people in America, and have more energy when you need it most.
  • ABP – Always Be Positive. There will be days when the only positive thing you’ll hear is what you’ll say to yourself. Watch your self-talk.

Please feel free to add your tips, suggestions, and wisdom to this list… there are some great sales professionals who may be depending on you!

Win,

Christopher Bell, III

Because, The Customer Isn’t Always Right

SSI0009639_PThere isn’t one successful professional salesperson or business development specialist who hasn’t found themselves at the moral crossroads of having to make a decision to be silent, or to speak the truth to a business decision-maker and possibly put a deal at risk. The safest position in these cases has been to adhere to the code: “The customer is always right.”

The fact is, most buyers and sellers know the truth: sometimes customers do get it wrong, it’s just their being wrong may not necessitate comment and the prospect of them spending their money with you (or someone else) makes them “right.” If you’re a sales or business development professional and you feel conflicted in this scenario, congratulations! Your conscience and moral foundation are in fine operating condition.  Sometimes moral standards and financial issues do come into conflict.

The Customer is Always Right is a powerful lie. What’s interesting is that over the years after hearing this same statement repeated over and over again from the mouths of intelligent, well-meaning business owners and executives, we should be impressed with the longevity and power of this falsehood. Why? Because ironically, there’sa contradictory but viable measure of wisdom that professional sales andbusiness development specialists understand:

  • Customers have a right to be wrong. Be quiet and let them be wrong UNLESS the consequences would cause harm or injury.
  • You’re not in the “Business Prevention” business and you probably don’t work for a non-profit organization. You’re in sales.
  • When doing the morally right thing means it’s the wrong for your client OR your employer’s business… surrender the business opportunity – don’t do the deal and/or pass it on to a supervisor. There’s power in a clean conscience, and prosperity without peace-of-mind… is hell on earth.

Win,

Christopher Bell, III

5 Appetizers for the Whiners in Sales

Assorted appetizersThis week I was invited to meet with a small gathering of so-called sales and business development professionals at a local Maryland bar and grill.  I attended the event hoping to get a lift and a laugh by listening to exaggerated stories of success, big deals being closed, and the conflict of deciding the next vacation destination (Maui or Bali?) Instead, what I stumbled into were two dull, disillusioned, whiners, and adult cry-babies with six-figure incomes and attitudes of entitlement so large they should have their own zip code who were clearly affecting the larger group’s attitude.

To keep the peace (and my sanity) I muted my thoughts until the persistence of a few to “share your perspective” overcame my ability to resist. I’m not sure I’ll be invited back, but these are the 5 verbal appetizers I served up before the main course was served:

  1. One of the few things you can control in life is your attitude. If you can�t get this right you�re in the wrong profession and a quota is the least of your worries.
  2. You don’t have a right to be successful, and SECURITY is an illusion – anything you have can be taken or lost in an instant. Be grateful and act like it.
  3. No” is one word, two letters, and has one syllable so don’t make it more than what it is. Learn to manage rejection, as it eliminates amateurs and most of the average competitors in our profession.
  4. We’re not paid well because our clients say “yes.”  We’re paid well to handle more rejection (than most people can) until we can get to “yes.”
  5. If you’re encountering potential clients with big problems, celebrate!!! Then continue to make it your mission to look for trouble. Your total compensation will be in proportion to the size or seriousness of the problems you can solve for others. Big problems and pain = big income opportunities.

Bon appetit, 🙂

Christopher Bell, III

When Sales Performance Isn’t Enough – A sales reps view.

If you’re a sales manager or executive managing a sales team, you may have hired people on your team you’ve worked with before or have had a previous personal connection with. That’s great unless sales performance becomes secondary to the personal relationships you’ve established. Here’s a question that was recently posted by a sales professional in one of myLinkedin Groups, and my accompanying response. What would your counsel be if you were an external advisor to this rep?

“What to do when you are getting zero love from your boss? If you are a sales rep doing your job hitting your numbers and you feel that your boss plays favor to other reps he knows on a personal level, has short handed you on territory what would you do?

“This is an excellent question… thanks for posting it. Here are 3 cold realities and remedies you may want to give some thought”:

  1. Maintain focus on your purpose. Your boss is your boss. He’s not a chaplain, parent, or little league football coach. You’re in the profession for the compensation and collateral benefit of helping customers get what they want. Be lead by your purpose.
  2. Sometimes sales production isn’t enough. Do what we do long enough, and you’ll run across a bad manager count on it. If you can’t gain favor with your own boss, confidentially contact his supervisor by telephone (no email trail), compliment her on the manner in which she manages important matters in her organization, and ask her if she’d be amenable to mentoring you now and then as you view her as a professional role model. Most likely the response will be positive and you�ll get some measure of protection and visibility from the top, as well as indirect influence over your boss as your mentor will hold him accountable to take good care of you. Be assured, your boss will loathe your new relationship, but you’ve changed the game and put in place an access point of accountability to help protect and ensure the visibility of a consistent track record of sales performance.
  3. Give up on “fair” in the sales profession. The principle of fairness in the sales profession should stay in the archives and sandbox of childhood memories. Sometimes ones performance won’t be enough to gain favor- it’s just not fair; your quota will rise and your territory will be cut – it’s not fair; If your boss has established relationships that manifest in overt favoritism, that isn’t going to change. But you can.