Challenger Selling

Software Sales Ideas Leave a comment  

        How many times have you heard it?  A software company wants to be a solution seller, a consultative seller, utilize the Challenger sales model, blah, blah, blah.  Yeah?  Well talk is cheap.  When I recruited high-level software sales people, every prospective hiring manager said the same thing – “We need someone who knows how to sell consultatively.”  Yes, every single one.  The problem is that they THINK they want that person, but the reality is they are almost NEVER prepared to make the investment in that type of selling process.  Whether you go back to Consultative Selling by Mack Hanan, or today’s Challenger model, they boil down to the same thing: a good sales person has to be able to tell a prospect something about their company they don’t already know.  Whether it is a flaw in their operation, a gap in their market presence, or a competitive trend, the consultative sales person leads a prospect to their solution by solving a material problem the prospect didn’t already know about.  Being able to surface that info takes RESEARCH and it is best done by your marketing team.  If you think your sales people have the time to research at that level, and prospect, and manage some existing accounts, and fill out pipeline reports, and create presentations, and send/answer emails, you don’t understand the depth that this information has to achieve.  Do yourself a favor and re-read the book, give it to your marketing team, and tell them to stop creating content and start finding actionable information that will separate your sales people from the pack.

Get the CFO in Your Corner

Software Sales Ideas Comments Off

On the Hunt:  Few people in the software sales cycle can provide you with as much momentum or inflict as much stress as your prospect’s CFO.  After all, they are the keeper of the purse strings and can undermine deals even when budget is allocated (try closing a deal with a weak ROI).  So, it behooves you to get this person in your corner early.  It is now the right time to approach the CFO.  Annual reporting is wrapped up – unless they are on an odd fiscal calendar.  As summer gets here, they will be constructing budget packets with guidelines about cutting costs, doing more with less, and finding more value in purchases.  If you are not in the closing rounds with a deal for their company, they can often give you insight that will help get you there – IF they see the value of your solution. Here are three things to help you get off the ground with prospective CFOs. First, tailor a message specifically for them. Focus on how your solution impacts bottom line and EPS. Second, keep it simple. CFOs more than anyone are bottom-line oriented. Pitch your value in the first two sentences of an introductory letter or they will pitch your material in the trash. Third, they all read CFO Magazine. Get your hands on the latest copies (subscriptions used to be free) and tie your message into one of the articles.

Rethinking Sales Layoffs

Sales Management Comments Off

Rethinking Sales Layoffs: Every sales organization needs an occasional change. A sales exec just stops getting it done and shows no sign that they really have their heart in it anymore. Or, a bad hire wiggles in. You wake up one day and realize there is a big problem and you’ve got to cut him. Two instances when a shake-up is certainly in order. However, we see more and more often, a sales manager cutting 40% or more of his team – “looking for the mix that works.” Think long and hard before you do this. There are a couple reasons why. First, prospects want sales exec continuity. They don’t want to have to retrain your next sales exec about the direction of thier organization, past successes and failures, decision processes, power centers, personal agendas, and so on. They want to work with a rep who will still be around after losing a deal and will then use his knowledge of the prospect to add value to the relationship on the next deal. Rick Page, author of Hope is not a Strategy and one of the most successful sales process consultants in the country, notes – if you are going to have high sales force turnover, you might as well sell off the web!

Second, most IT companies have fairly sophisticated hiring processes. When you hired a rep you looked them in the eye, asked questions about past successes, evaluated sales capabilities, checked references and maybe even had them take a personality exam. You talked to them, team members talked to them, your boss probably even talked to them. They drove business for other companies in the past and did it well – or you wouldn’t have hired them, right? So, what changed? Why were they successful before, but not now? Are they sitting at home watching Jerry Springer and drinking beer? Of course not. So, if you have a strong hiring process and more than 20% of your sales team just isn’t getting it done, it might be time to look at some other factors.

Software Trends for 2013

Software Sales Ideas Comments Off

Software trends are the ever-present winds that smart sales people let guide them between deals.  It is a balancing act that is never easy.  We are pressed for time, we have relationships to cultivate and deals on the table RIGHT NOW.  We can’t let anything fall through the cracks.  Yet, if we simply press on, and on, and on, head down and focused dogmatically on the current deals, we will one day raise our heads to realize we’ve plowed off of a cliff.  We MUST keep an eye on the horizon and recognize the changes that are coming in order to stay relevant.  Is your company addressing the changes that will shape the future?  Do you intentionally position yourself to stay on a relevant career track?

While change happens faster and faster, it doesn’t mean you have to bet the ranch on every new technology; it simply means you need to be aware and always prepared to act.  COBOL and Assembler systems are still out there – albeit fewer and fewer all the time.  One day we will view Java as an antiquated language – it’s just the way things are.  But the transition to new technologies is usually not overnight or unanticipated – as long as you stay abreast of what is vital today, what is emerging as vital for tomorrow, and what is being talked about as possibly being vital in the future.

To help you along, here are links to a couple Gartner studies on the trends in technology for 2013 and for the next five years.

 

Gartner Top 10 Trends for 2013

Gartner Critical Tech Trends for Next 5 Years

Software Sales Mistakes – What’s NOT Working

Software Sales Ideas, Software Sales Process Comments Off

What’s NOT Working: Consider these ideas from some of the top deal people we know. We asked them what mistakes they see most often being made by junior sales people. The key phrase here being “most often”. All sales people can make these mistakes, and all sales people should keep them in mind to avoid them.

  • Happy Ears – Junior reps are so happy to be talking to someone, they fail to ask really tough questions. It sounds simple, but more than one veteran has made his life miserable by wasting time on a bad deal that got into his pipeline simply to get a badgering manager off his back. Qualify hard every time!
  • Yes Men – Legitimate prospects don’t want to hear “yes,” they want to hear the truth. Know why your “yes” means yes and your “no” means no – be able to explain your answers and get back to the customer if you have to. Answering “no” to a painful question builds as much credibility as a half-hearted “yes” destroys it. Take the time to build real trust.
  • Missing the Connection – Sometimes this comes from giving the prospect more credit than they deserve, other times it comes from laziness. Either way, it amounts to failing to listen well enough to the customer’s needs or wants because the sales exec is too busy thinking about what they want to say. Then, when it is time to pitch, they are not prepared to tie the features/benefits/value to the needs of the customer. It is like a trucking company who needs paint for the trucks. While the prospect is talking about how many accidents they’ve had, the sales person is thinking about how they have the highest quality paint in the industry. He completely misses the chance to talk about their fluorescent yellow color (feature), which is extremely easy to see (benefit), AND could thus reduce the customer’s number of accidents, the cost of repairs, insurance premiums, workers’ compensation losses, down time for trucks and workers, etc. (value). The rookie is too busy planning his comment about the paint not cracking this winter.
  • The Reference Crutch – Many rookies want to whip out the reference list as soon as possible. It is important for prospects to know that other reputable companies are trusting you with their business. But it is a rookie mistake to expect your customers to do your selling for you. If a prospect won’t let the deal advance without references, and you are still in the early to middle stages of your sales cycle, check your relationship – there probably isn’t much there.

Managing the Pack

Sales Management Comments Off

Managing the Pack: Every sales organization needs an occasional change. A sales exec just stops getting it done and shows no sign that they really have their heart in it anymore. Or, a bad hire wiggles in (VERY expensive – See the PDF: The True Cost of a Bad Hirehttp://www.saleswolves.com/employers/employer-resources/.) You wake up one day and realize there is a big problem and you’ve got to cut him. Two instances when a shake-up is certainly in order. However, we see more and more often, a sales manager cutting 40% or more of his team – trying to upgrade the team before actually mentoring, managing, coaching their people to higher performance. Think long and hard before you make quick cuts. There are a couple reasons why. First, prospects want sales exec continuity. They don’t want to have to retrain your next sales exec about the direction of their organization, past successes and failures, decision processes, power centers, personal agendas, and so on. They want to work with a rep who will still be around after losing a deal and will then use his knowledge of the prospect to add value to the relationship on the next deal. Rick Page, author of Hope is not a Strategy and one of the most successful sales process consultants in the country, notes – if you are going to have high sales force turnover, you might as well sell off the web!

Second, most IT companies have fairly sophisticated hiring processes. When you hired a rep you looked them in the eye, asked questions about past successes, evaluated sales capabilities, checked references and maybe even had them take a personality exam. You talked to them, team members talked to them, your boss probably even talked to them. They drove business for other companies in the past and did it well – or you wouldn’t have hired them, right? So, what changed? Why were they successful before, but not now? Are they sitting at home watching Jerry Springer and drinking beer? Of course not. So, if you have a strong hiring process and more than 20% of your sales team just isn’t getting it done, it might be time to look at some other factors.

Software Buyer Interests

Software Sales Ideas Comments Off

Separating Yourself from the Pack: Large software deals, even medium ones for that matter, are typically decided upon by a committee.  Yes you have a coach, have met with senior execs, and know the business issues to be resolved by your solution.  But, do you also know each of the Decision Makers’ and Deal Influencers’ personal needs? Do not kid yourself into thinking they are not there and that the whole decision will be based on your business case. The personal biases and needs are there, and prospects want to know you are taking these issues into account (albeit usually not publicly). Everybody involved in the deal will either gain or lose something when the project they signed off on goes well or not so well.  Career paths, scopes of responsibility, bonuses, and recognition are all on the line with software projects.  Thus, understanding and addressing those vested interests will help you close the deal. Clearly you have to be aware of the degree of sensitivity each of those needs carries, so you have to be careful and sincere when you ask “What’s does this project mean to you?”. Remember, logic and strong business cases support the buying decision – personal interests get the contract signed. Think about it, if logic was the only factor in a buying decision, cigarette companies would be out of business.

Prospecting – Customers’ Perspective

Software Sales Ideas Comments Off

What’s Working: We did a little informal survey of some senior executives in the insurance industry. The two basic questions were: “What does it take to get in to see you?” and “Once there, what get’s a real dialogue under way?” Believe it or not, “Persistent Contact” ranked dead last in over 80% of the responses – an average ranking of more than a position and a half below the next least popular response – “Seeing the Sales Executive’s company mentioned in the recent news”. Tops on the list, and ranked very close together were: “Sales Executive sending material that specifically addresses an upcoming need”, “Sales Executive’s company is working with someone recognized as an industry leader”, and “Sales Executive calls and mentions a solution that addresses an upcoming need”. In short, do your homework and tout your successes with major players.

Once in the door, “Knowledge of My Company” and “Strong Technical Knowledge” ranked a little above the mid point between Nice-To-Have and Important in getting the prospect to open up and engage in a real sales dialogue. The top three responses were rated between Important and Critical. The most highly rated was “A strong understanding of the insurance industry business issues” with “A solid understanding of insurance operations” and “An open communications style” rated just behind the top choice. Basically, the prospect does not want to educate sales people about the basics, they want to benefit from your knowledge, they want to work with people who bring creative solutions to the table in discussing their issues, and they want to deal with someone they can trust.

No matter what your industry is, it is highly likely that you’ve got similar interests in the minds of your prospect group.  Help your sales people understand what they are dealing with – people who need sales execs that understand their world, their problems, and bring proven solutions to the table.

Software Deal Break-Up

Software Sales Ideas Comments Off

Separating Yourself from the Pack: The prospect’s team is talking about breaking your deal into pieces, taking things a bit at a time. What is your competition doing? Chances are they are re-pricing their deals, begging their delivery teams for margin concessions thinking it’s becoming a price deal. PIKERS!  This is much more often a concern over delivery capabilities.  It is a TRUST issue.  Instead of being one more “bidder” that garners no more trust than the vendor who blew up an implementation and caused this heartburn – get creative, LEAD.  Look for a way to INCREASE the scope of the deal. If you can legitimately increase the value of the deal, reduce TCO, or increase ROI by expanding the scope and creating some economies of scale – pull it together and pitch it at the senior level. Sure the prospect executives are risk-averse and pinching pennies, but they are also looking to maximize value, and they understand deal economics. Improving the value proposition demonstrates your professionalism, earns trust, and elevates you above the competition even if they don’t agree with the strategy.