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Sales Tips — Page 3

From the category archives:

Sales Tips

Asking right

by Lilia Shirman on May 19, 2009

in Customer relationships,Sales Tips

Idea Design’s blog about asking is right on – and applies to businesses as much as to charities. At the end are three points that may as well have been written for businesses – here they are,  with business terms inserted:

“1. Be where your [customers and prospects] are. Hang out with them. Learn their language and be relevant to them.

2. If you want to [close deals] sooner or later you are going to have to ask for [the sale].

3. And when you do ask, ask in a way that is appropriate to your [customer]. ”

In a business, these apply to the sales reps, and to the rest of your organization.   Get your messages into the places customers look to for information (note – first place they look is not your website).   Your marketing, services, and product development / design staff should be attending the same events, reading the same publications, and participating in the same discussions on and off-line that your target audiences do.

Most sales people don’t have much trouble asking for a sale – but they often fail to do their homework and communicate why their offer should matter to the customer in the customer’s terms.  That makes the ask inappropriate.  To increase the frequency of yeses, increase the relevance of your offers.  To make that relevance natural, as Idea Design suggests, hang out with the customers.

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I hate hate hate pricing my consulting work.   There is always a tension between the value it brings to the client (which gurus like Alan Weiss will tell you is the only thing that matters), the reality of the client’s budget, the amount of effort and expertise required, internal company politics, etc.

So even before reading the article about a coffee shop that does not post prices, I had tried handing the pricing reigns to clients by asking some version of, “What do you think this work should cost, given the value you expect it will bring?”

Results?  Some clients did not want to name a number, and I ended up pricing the project as usual.  Some DID name a price: always higher than I would have quoted.   The difference:  Clients who were comfortable naming a price already knew me and had worked with my firm before.  It seems letting your customer set the price may be a great model when:

1. The customer is well-informed about the product and its value, or can become informed easily and quickly as in the case of the coffee shop. (This is the basis for free trials: Assume the customer will assign little or no value when first encountering a product. Depend on familiarity leading customers to agree with you on price.)

2. The customer has had some exposure to competing products and prices, and has a basis for comparing the relative worth of your product vs. the others.

3. The customer has a relationship with you, even if only a momentary one (note in the video that the cafe owner describes people “looking him in the eye and stating what they think is fair”)

Share your thoughts on if and when letting customers set the price is the right thing to do.

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After 2 days at the Sales 2.0 conference, I fear we may be on the same path CRM took in its early days.  Though some of the new tools are great, and MUCH easier to adopt, there is too much talk of technology, not enough  about behavior and cultural changes.   All things 2.0 are really about interaction and collaboration with customers. And that requires a change in mindset.

Basic example of 2.0 principles in action, that actually requires less technology.  (A version of this focused on customer references was used very successfully by Beverly Chase and the  BEA marketing team)

Instead of arming your reps with the new and improved power point presentation, design a white board talk.  Script it with questions and discussion points instead of spiel.   The result is a conversation where customers contribute ideas, and the content evolves based on the here-and-now in the room, and not what marketing thought up a month ago back at corporate.

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Sales 2.0 conference – day 1

by Lilia Shirman on March 5, 2009

in Marketing 2.0,Sales 2.0

Spent the day at the Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco.  Lots of insightful speakers including Judy Fick of Unisys, Jeremy Cooper of Salesforce.com, my friend Gail Ennis of Ominture, and David Satterwhite of newScale.

A few noteworthy quotes:

  • To find the buyer, “find out who will get fired if the problem isn’t solved.”
  • “If you’re following up on the leads that already have a budget and a time line, you’re too late”
  • “Never confuse activity with results” – Judy Fick
  • On the importance of metrics in a recession: “When the tide goes out you know who’s been swimming naked.” – Warren Buffet quoted

The big themes:

  • Instant information about customer behavior, and instant response
  • Sales and marketing alignment and collaboration
  • Value creation as part of the sales and marketing processes  (see solutions marketing post that touched on this same topic)
  • Technology helps create unprecedented visibility and responsiveness – and you need a collection of vendors to cover the entire customer life-cycle. Average # of sales / marketing 2.0 software products shown on presenters’ slides was 8.

A few dozen exhibitors showing all manner of cool software and services for deeper, more detailed, more responsive insight into customers and their behavior.   Spoke to some very happy customers of Genius.com, LucidEra, and ConnectAndSell.

More info and some conclusions tomorrow after Day 2.

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