Contrary to popular perception, a company’s success is not solely based upon the products and solutions the company offers. Whether a company succeeds or fails is determined by people; the leadership team that sets the company’s direction, the teams of people who build and market the products, and most importantly, the sales department’s ability to winover new customers. Steve Martin’s consulting helps companies solve four of the most critical problems they face.
- Revenue Growth Programs
- Sales Strategy: Why We Aren’t Selling More?
- The Synchronization of Engineering and Marketing with Sales
- How Start-ups can Compete with the Goliaths in their Marketspace
- Executive Team Alignment: United We Stand, Divided We Fall
Steve Martin’s consulting goes well beyond the traditional examination of processes and procedures. He takes the customer's point of view to identify and ensure you are creating the best circumstance for success.
Revenue Growth Programs
Why aren't we selling more? While everyone has an opinion, research has shown that businesses experience three significant sales and marketing problems that prevent top line revenue growth:
- Sales Execution: The sales force is not adequately trained to penetrate new accounts, conduct effective sales, outsell competitors, and close deal
- Market Differentiation: The company does not correctly message to attract new clients and is unable to differentiate itself during the sales cycle.
- Client Interaction Strategy: The sales force wins business sporadically and unpredictably. There isn’t a methodology and process to ensure repeatable sales success.
Steve W. Martin provides three revenue growth programs for our organizations that are experiencing these critical business problems. The Sales Execution Improvement Program is an intensive two-day on-site sales training workshop that is customized to your specific sales challenges. The Market Differentiation Program is an extensive analysis of your company’s competitive positioning and marketing messages along with an integrated on-site sales training workshop. The Customer Interaction Program includes a comprehensive win-loss study based upon extensive customer interviews to determine the best engagement strategy to achieve repeatable sales success. It also includes the company competitive analysis, marketing review and on-site sales training workshop.
High-growth companies have trained their salespeople on the process to educate customers about their products and procedures to determine customers’ business qualifications and technical requirements. Their sales organizations understand how prospective decision makers think and can differentiate themselves from the competition. They know how to win and why they lose. They analyze customer interactions and provide their sales force real world tactics so they can predictably close business.
Sales Execution Improvement Program – Comprehensive On-Site Sales Training Workshop
The Sales Execution Improvement Program is a comprehensive two day sales training workshop that is conducted on-site at your company. Prior to your workshop, Steve Martin interviews your company leaders, key salespeople, and conducts an in-depth examination of your sales challenges. He performs background research to understand your market, products, and competition to ensure topical relevance. The workshop is extremely interactive including extensive testing, case study review, team exercises, and interactive role-playing. Sample topics included in the workshop:
Sales Strategy Creation Closing Strategy and Techniques
Sales Process and Methodology Selling to C-Level Executives
Sales Call Strategy Tactics to Defeat Competitors
Prospecting for New Business Presentation Strategy and Skills
Sales Skills Development Cold Call Strategy and Social Media Skills
The program also includes four follow-on conference calls to ensure the concepts covered during the workshop are being successfully implemented. Below, is a timeline of deliverables for the Sales Execution Improvement Program.
Market Differentiation Program - Sales and Marketing Diagnostics Review
The Sales and Marketing Diagnostics Review is an extensive analysis of your existing business plan, customer messaging, and client engagement process coupled with a custom sales training workshop (see Sales Execution Improvement Program). Here is an overview of how the three day on-site engagement is spent.
Company messaging and positioning: What is our mission statement and why are we here? How are we different from the competition? Where do we want to compete in the marketplace?
Core Selling Messages: Why should someone do business with us? What are our key selling points? What are the key messages that differentiate us from the competition?
Sales Engagement Process: What is our sales plan to grow the business? What is the process to penetrate new accounts? How will we penetrate new markets? How do we qualify which deals we will compete for? How do we leverage our install base of customers?
Marketing Collateral to Support New Positioning and Engagement Process:
Web Site Review: Given the new messaging, we will “map out” the flow to your web site. Where web site revitalization is necessary we will select a new look, feel, and actually prototype the pages.
Company Presentation Review and Redesign: Review your sales presentation and change the messaging, look and feel to match the web site.
Company Proposal Process Review and Redesign: Review of the process and documents that you use to respond to client requests and RFPs.
Outbound Lead Generation Marketing Program: Create a new outbound lead generation campaign including marketing collateral, outbound scripts and systems to manage outbound campaigns.
Integrated Sales Training Workshop
The session includes on-site sales training workshop as described in Sales Execution Improvement Program.
The program also includes four follow-on conference calls to ensure the concepts covered during the workshop are being successfully implemented. Below, is a timeline of deliverables for the Market Differentiation Program.
Customer Interaction Program - Win-Loss Customer Analysis
The Customer Interaction Program includes a comprehensive win-loss study based upon extensive customer interviews to determine the best engagement strategy to achieve repeatable sales success. It also includes the company competitive analysis, marketing review and on-site sales training workshop. The goal of this program is to understand the difference between winning, losing, and when no decision is made by the customer. Based upon extensive interviews with prospective customers, patterns of behavior will be identified and the common themes collated so that the attributes associated with winning or losing can be catalogued.
The study results will help focus your sales organization, increase accountability, and improve forecasting visibility. They provide the strategic framework to prioritize deals, real-world strategies to improve overall sales execution, and practical tactics to maintain account control so deals close more quickly. The study results can also be easily communicated to new sales hires to encourage faster productivity. The information will also help improve overall product messaging, solution positioning,
The Customer Interaction Program also includes The Market Differentiation Program and Sales Execution Program. Below, is a timeline of deliverables for the Market Differentiation Program.
If you are in sales, you are perpetually in a state of war. All salespeople are warriors who must fight the relentless march of time and enemies who are trying to defeat them daily. Sales is an intense hand-to-hand battle fought between two people or two groups of people who are each trying to win over the customer. The victor outsmarts, outmaneuvers, and overwhelms his enemies.
In sales, just as in war, there can be only one winner, and today’s conqueror can quickly become tomorrow’s vanquished. The deciding difference is strategy. Strategy is the most critical component of sales wisdom. Without the right sales strategy, persuasion and common sense are inconsequential.
Steve Martin’s consulting takes the customer's point of view in analyzing why you aren't selling more. Do you have the right sales strategy? What is the optimum way to structure your message to persuade the customer to buy? Does your current sales staff know how to create the personal, technical, and political receptive states to win the deal? Do you have the right people and is your sales organization "wired" correctly to sell to your customers? Do you have sales intuition? Are you collecting and sharing important information about customer behavior during the sales cycle?
For a moment, let's put ourselves in the position of your customer. As the customer, you are going to meet with multiple vendors, listen to their presentations, read their marketing collateral, and take a look at their web site. Each vendor, most likely, has equally talented, friendly, and professional salespeople who come to your office. However, you will only select one product. Given that, how will you behave with each vendor?
Most companies are well versed on the logical arguments for selecting their product. However, the decision to make a major purchase is primarily based upon individual needs and desires, how the decision-makers receive information, and internal politics. Since many companies don't understand their customers in these regards, profiles are created of the key decision-makers involved in the selection process in order to perfect the sales strategy and message to them more effectively. Recommendations to improve the suggestive powers of the web-site, marketing collateral, and field presentations are made. In addition, the competitors‘ sales strategies and communication styles are defined so that you your of opportunity identified.
The Synchronization of Engineering and Marketing with Sales
Struggling companies all share something in common. Their sales, marketing, and engineering efforts are at odds. Sometimes, they are even at war. This ongoing conflict is a “pink elephant” at many high technology companies that no one will talk about the problem until it becomes so disruptive that it must be dealt with.
Engineering builds products without forethought to what customers really want or need. The marketing team lectures the sales department, saying that if only sales would take their advice, its problems would be solved. Meanwhile, the sales department always says it needs something else from marketing. It is clamoring for a silver bullet that will convince the most ardent skeptic to buy.
The root cause of this situation is that engineering, marketing, and sales have different views of the world. The engineering department believes that “their” technology will sell itself. They tend to focus on technology for technology’s sake that doesn’t match the real-world needs of customers. To the marketing department, selling is a series of steps that you guide a prospect through. These steps are based on the logic of purchasing the product, and the marketing team’s job is to provide the tools to move the prospect to the next step. Meanwhile, salespeople must work with the unpredictable part of the process: people. Their job is to formulate an account strategy based upon the people whom they are trying to sell to. They need intuition--what to do and say in a particular competitive situation. The figure below illustrates this dilemma between sales and marketing.
The Different Viewpoints Sales and Marketing Have About Sales
As a result, friction between the areas develops. Salespeople feel they must translate theoretical arguments into a practical message while the marketing team believes the salespeople themselves are the problem. The solution to this problem is to define the intuition that sales needs. The first step is to understand the people involved in the sale: the different types of customer personalities, selfish interests that motivate the purchase, and languages the customers speak. Next, identify the circumstances of the sale: the competition, the players (e.g. the key decision maker’s authority and title) and the deal position (competitive, collaborative, or blind). Finally, a feedback loop for collecting win-loss information should be put into place.
True win-loss analysis is very important and unfortunately, it’s a lost art. Most companies never take the time to understand why they won a deal. They only examine losses. And they usually conduct the examination in one of two ways. In the “blame game,” the account team and various key departmental executives get together to hammer home their own personal agenda using the loss as a lightning rod. The sales team argues it needs a product enhancement or new marketing program while someone else may argue that sales is inept.
In the “cumulative dogpile,” the salesperson is put under a microscope and every account move is analyzed and criticized by management. It’s painful to witness and even worse to be the subject of one of these inquisitions. After the fog of war has lifted, it’s easy for the generals back at the corporate office to second-guess the battlefield actions and take potshots at their soldiers. Unfortunately, the cumulative dogpile and blame game impede the flow of critical information and dissuade the truth from being communicated.
Meaningful, impartial win-loss analysis is the first step in synchronizing the engineering, marketing, and sales arenas within a high technology company. The information must be objectively collected, common themes collated, and results shared between engineering, marketing, and sales in a non-confrontational manor. Only then, will these diverse organizations be aligned for common good.
How Start-ups can Compete with the Goliaths in their Marketspace
Cisco is one of the most recognized high technology companies around the world. With annual sales around $20 billion, Cisco is the gorilla of the networking communications marketspace. Beating the gorilla is a formidable challenge for any start-up. However, privately funded Veraz Networks did just that at Transcom, one of the world’s largest wholesales voice over IP carriers. In a deal valued at $10 million, it was recently announced that Transcom would be using Veraz Network’s gear to replace all of their installed Cisco gateways.
How did they beat the Cisco-- the gorilla?
The answer may actually surprise you.
Most people assume that business is based solely on logic. After all, the high-tech industry is comprised of learned people with advanced degrees in the sciences of computers, math, engineering, and business. Therefore, we logically assume we are dealing with rational decision-makers. As a result, we focus on the logical and procedural aspects of the sales cycle. We prospect for customers, qualify the opportunity, explain the merits of our solution, and hopefully, negotiate a purchase.
The majority of the discussions we have with potential customers are based on the rationale behind the selection of our products. We offer facts, features, specifications, performance metrics, ROI’s, and business benefits. And, our sales process is oriented around the communication of this information. Unfortunately, our competition offers equally compelling reasons and statistics. In fact, the confusion this creates many times leads to customer paralysis and decision postponement (another feared competitor).
Undoubtedly, Veraz Networks does have a great product, but so does Cisco. And as you already know, offering a better mousetrap doesn’t automatically generate sales anyway. The key reason why Veraz Networks won, was because Cisco lost. Cisco lost the relationship with their customer, while Veraz Networks successfully built theirs. As Chad Frazier, President of Transcom, said, "Cisco promised us this and that, but I couldn’t in good conscience go down that road."
The "real" sales process is the process of building a relationship with the customer. However, the entire high-tech industry is predominantly focused on technical arguments when there is very little product differentiation in the customer’s eyes. As an industry, we have become enamored with the technical mantras provided by our marketing departments. While they are important, there is an entirely intangible human side to the sales process that is actually responsible for the decision made. It is the art of mastering the human nature of high-tech selling that is the real difference between the winner and losers. In essence, it is the sales team that builds the greatest customer rapport and the strongest personal relationships that will command the day.
Three attributes are at the foundation of building the winning customer relationships. First, you need to speak each customer’s unique language. Successful communication is the key to all relationships. Your web site, marketing collateral, and sales and technical teams must speak the customer’s language. Second, as a start-up you must create an unbreakable bond between individuals. You accomplish this by understanding their personal needs, wants, and motivations. Finally, you must convince the "entire" person to buy. You need to persuade both the logical conscious mind and emotional subconscious mind. Remember, it is human nature to avoid risk.
Vendor relationships are expensive and they involve investments of valuable time by customers. Customers have to spend time to determine whether a product’s characteristics are as they have been represented. They have to spend time evaluating other suitors to determine whether they are picking the best possible partner to solve their company’s business problem. They will have to spend time learning to use the new products they select, implementing them, and most likely, debugging or fixing product problems.
These relationships also cost money. The customers will have to acquire the technology and pay ongoing maintenance fees to keep the technology current. They may have to pay for professional services or hire additional staff to help implement the solution. And they may need to buy additional technology in order to make the solution work.
Building relationships requires rapport. Building rapport requires the complex process of human communication. Unfortunately, most high technology companies today are making three common mistakes. The first mistake is that the company (engineering, marketing, and sales) is solely focused on rational arguments of selecting their products. Whether a start-up company is trying to win its initial customers or displace a goliath in an incumbent account, the psychological sale is far more important than the logical sale.
Thee second mistake is that the majority of sales training time is spent only on memorizing logical facts about their company, product, and competitors. Little or no training is given on communication skills. It is absolutely critical that start-ups understand the process of communication and how it determines the level of rapport that is established between people. Every aspect of the start-up must
The third mistake is made during the hiring process. Most companies make previous experience in the same industry their main criterion for hiring. Since experienced people command the logical facts, they are assumed to be qualified candidates. A more important hiring criterion is a person’s communication skills, mental agility, and the ability to build relationships. In other words, how quick-witted or fast on their feet are they, are they able to solve complex problems real-time, and whether or not you enjoy their company.
During the early `90s, the term "win-win relationship" was being used everywhere to explain how to successfully negotiate your position while still enabling the other party to achieve its goal. However, the concept of win-win relationships does not go far enough in understanding human relationships. Relationships are created when people share the same activities or when they are motivated to achieve the same goals. The secret to the start-ups success is based upon implementing the right sales strategy based upon building winning customer relationships.
Executive Team Alignment: United We Stand, Divided We Fall
The single most important factor that determines a company’s success or failure is its executive leadership team. Therefore, it is logical to assume that this team would be united together around the common cause of company-wide success. However, this isn’t usually the case. In reality, most executive teams are quite divided. Some executive team members serve their self-interests first or place the needs of their operational area of responsibility before the goals of the company.
When we examine the composition of the high technology executive team we realize that this situation should not be a surprise. The team is a collection of diverse individuals. There are scientists with advanced degrees in computers and mathematics, and businessmen with backgrounds in finance, marketing, and sales. There are people with varying degrees of career experience, levels of emotional maturity, and size of ego.
Given this diversity, it is highly doubtful that this odd collection of people would come together and befriend one another under natural circumstances. Even though they meet frequently, the executive team doesn’t “really” know each other personally since they have different orientations. The technologists speak differently than the marketeers and the finance guys think differently than sales. Because the team members range from intellectual introverts to expressive extroverts, they have a hard time working together as a team.
Over time, human nature dictates that team members band together into cliques that share similar backgrounds and political viewpoints. These cliques battle each other openly at meetings or covertly after initiatives have been seemingly agreed upon. As a result, initiatives are sabotaged, the reality about the company’s position is not discussed openly, and the truth is lost. This situation continues to worsen until a critical point is reached and members are ostracized. In fact, the central reason why senior leaders of high technology teams are fired is not over performance, but over their inability to function within the executive team.
Steve Martin’s executive team review is designed to bring the high technology executive team together as a true team. The review starts with an in-depth investigation and executive team member interviews. A blind survey is then created for each executive team member to complete. In the survey, the company’s current position, departmental strengths and weaknesses, technology and products, competition, target markets, and future plans are evaluated. The survey results are collated, themes are identified, conclusions are drawn, and presented back to the team in an interactive workshop session. More than an analytical view of the organization, this cathartic experience realigns personal thinking.
Today’s challenging times, demands the collaborative performance of the executive team solely aligned upon the company and its customers.
Steve W. Martin
Steve W. Martin is the foremost expert on Sales Linguistics and the Human Nature of Complex Enterprise Sales. He is the author of the "Heavy Hitter" Series of books for Senior Salespeople.
Heavy Hitter training is not the typical classroom lecture, it’s a completely interactive workshop. Learn how to penetrate, navigate, and conquer complex enterprise accounts.
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