Monday, June 29, 2009

Sales scripts in today's business climate

This post is in response to a suggestion that "sales pitches and scripts are a thing of the past." I think not.

Years ago, I developed a system I called "The selected use of pre-memorized language." I discovered that successful salespeople in the same company had evolved to fundamentally the same words but, strangely, they had never talked with each other about it. This gave me a clue that "words mean things" and certain phrases were more persuasive than others.

I'm suggesting a mindful process whereby the salesperson connects with the prospect through listening, then "selects" phrases that resonate with the client. Again, a computer cannot do this - yet. The scripts are designed to describe certain aspects of the offering.

In contrast, salespeople without a script tend to ramble on or simply give the whole "pitch" without considering the prospective customer. I just had a travel agent give me five options for dining on a cruise I'm booking. I finally had to say, "I'm looking for advice - suggestions, not a list of benefits. I can get that on the web." However, when she describes the offering, I'd like it to be tight, well thought-out and clearly descriptive of what I can expect.

Where I use a script is describing the typical clients we have to ensure the prospective client can relate to this description - or not. Where I use a script is describing the typical clients we have to ensure the prospective client can relate to this description - or not. I want each client to hear it described clearly and concisely.

I worked with a salesperson who insisted she did not, and would not, use a script. I followed her around all day and was able to cite her script almost verbatim. She was unaware of her natural tendency to use similar phrases over and over. She became much more effective when she did this mindfully, rather than unconsciously.

The art is in hiding the art. If it sounds memorized or "canned" - you're an amateur. The pro can say the same thing over and over with the same energy and enthusiasm as well as personalizing each conversation to each prospective client.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Building a world-class sales organization

Most sales teams are under-performing. The shift in our markets and buying patterns is frustrating many organizations. Sales in most sectors are down. Even where sales are up, there's a gnawing feeling that it may not last. Increasing sales often mans taking business away from competitors and takes more than "differentiating" ourselves or "making more calls."

In the past two months I learned of organizations that have invested in technology (CRM, automated marketing etc.) to the tune of several million dollars and are wildly dissatisfied with the outcomes. One organization invested over 2 million dollars over a two-year period and just shut the whole project down. It's over - done. No increase in sales, no account penetration, no time saved for salespeople, no maximized time in front of qualified prospects, no shorter sales cycle. . . OOOPS!

The sad truth is that this was avoidable and unnecessary.

Building a world-class sales organization requires a synchronized approach using three main components - People, Sales Process, and Technology. Failure rates of CRM installations is as high as 50%. Organizations buy the software, install it and try to get salespeople to "buy-in." They are often faced with sales pitches on the technology that over-promise and under-deliver. It's the human factor that baffles technology types and technology baffles the people or process types.

The good news is that it's possible to synchronize all three components, at about a half to one-third of the cost most people invest in technology alone. While it's not easy to implement [if it was, everyone would be doing it], but it's simple to do. The major errors are simple to fix, but I warn you, this approach is counter-intuitive. Don't be fooled by its simplicity. A warning, it does require focus and discipline, but successfully building a world-class sales organization is actually easier than what it took to be in the 50% failed installation group.

We're not going to hold anything back here - we'll put it all on the table!

Click here to hear Part 1: Building A World-Class Sales Organization

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reality of Change Management Part I

A week does not go by without hearing the word "change" or "culture change." Owners, managers, and executives seem to constantly want things and people to be different. Unfortunately, most of the desired changes we hear are based on conclusions about reality rather than a clear description of what's going on, what changes are required, and how those changes actually advance a clear strategy. For example, here's one executive's contention, "We need to change our culture. It does not support what we're trying to achieve."

When asked, "What is the current culture?" this executive replied, "People aren't proactive enough. They don't understand where we're going and are unable to get buy-in from the people that report to them. We need people to step up and take more initiative."

Notice he adds the "problems" of "being proactive" and "taking initiative." This conversation is going nowhere and represents a common pattern in today's business discussions.

Many of today's managers and employees are cogs in obsolete machinery. The corporate death rate is increasing. In the near future, perhaps as many as half the nameplate companies of today will no longer exist.

Here's the dilemma of change. Today's business owners and executives are tasked with increasing today's level of performance while simultaneously making radical changes. This involves two conflicting forces - optimization and growth. This can be a deadly conflict as the organization oscillates between a desire for change and the tendency to seek balance, predictability, and equilibrium. The mental models of most executives come from their experience, yet many organizations have been ruined by executives clinging to their "proven" assumptions that are no longer valid. Outsiders are better equipped to detect and challenge such deeply held beliefs. Unfortunately, some outside consultants bring their own obsolete assumptions to the table further clouding the waters.

For example, in most organizations IT is an integral component in any change effort. Even the smallest upstarts are required to invest in technology. In spite of this, in one Canadian corporation, business management referred to IT people as "Martians" who ask questions with an astonishing lack of knowledge about our business. Another referred to IT as a "black hole" that sucks up our resources.

Large corporations regularly spend a fortune on computer systems and programs to reinforce obsolete corporate structures and work routines. For example, a recent report by ESR Research, a firm that focuses on studying sales effectiveness, states clearly that "CRM systems may, in fact, hamper the effectiveness of a high-performance sales force."

Today's business models require joint creativity between business processes, technology, and people. Changing technology alone is doomed to fail. Process reengineering is initially attractive, but often fails to hit sustainable gains. Reengineering, according to its creator Michael Hammer, had a 70% failure rate. Failures occur when a sledge-hammer approach is used to change corporate culture. Executive's attempts at creating their desired future by asking others what they think "we should" do often create more confusion than clarity. Even asking customers what they want, while important, does not give an organization much more than ideas to retool past processes.

For a change effort to be successful it is critical that a crystal clear view of reality be connected to a strong vision of what the enterprise aspires to become. This includes accepting brutal truths about reality and uncovering deeply held, but flawed assumptions about change. In addition, it's critical to connect people's deepest aspirations and values to the aspirations of the enterprise.

Click here for Dave's 7 minute presentation on Change