Posts

What The Martian Can Teach Sales Professionals

This week, I finally watched the movie “The Martian,” starring Matt Damon. Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut trained in botany who is left for dead on Mars. Watney must stretch his food rations to keep himself alive in case help arrives. Using all the tools in his mental toolbox, and with no way to communicate with NASA, he engineers methods to keep certain death at bay until the next planned Mars mission touches down. In four years. Thousands of miles across the freezing cold planet. Not that I’ll ever be alone on Mars—I hope I’m never on Mars at all … they have the worst coffee there—but I do know that in this business you can sometimes feel like you’re on a strange planet. It’s called Sales. And if you’re going to survive here—and hopefully thrive—you need to use your inner resources to get ahead. But unlike Mark Watney, you’re not alone.

Don’t Give Up!
Damon’s character goes up against impossible odds, yet he never crumbles, instead finding solutions to whatever problem he faces. In sales, we also must contend with issues that could undo us—objections and other roadblocks that can shoot our deals into outer space and negatively impact our livelihood if we’re way behind in our numbers. If the “Martian” were in sales, he’d take a systematic approach, looking for the root cause and then finding a fix. There’s a good chance that what you’re facing off against is not an alien presence, but something that starts with your own behavior, or stems from a team issue. Whatever the problem is, share it with your manager and find a solution together.

Respect the Process
In “The Martian,” the main character changes his destiny by taking small steps that lead to a better outcome for himself—getting his feet back on the ground on Earth. Process is key in sales as well. To be successful in this business, you must trust in the process that works best for getting you and your team where you want to be. Don’t skip steps! Damon wouldn’t neglect to put on his space helmet before exiting the airlock. Dur. Similarly, avoid suffocating out in the sales-verse because you skipped a pivotal process point. You’ll never make it if, for example, you try to rush the discovery or presentation phase. Adhere to your process to the letter.

Expect the Unexpected
An unfortunate series of events comes together to maroon Damon’s character on Mars, despite his being a good astronaut and doing everything by the NASA playbook. It’s all sadly out of his control. But he makes the best of being trapped, troubleshooting right away—and using copious amounts of duct tape. A good salesperson is no stranger to circumstances that are beyond their influence. Customers experience budget shortfalls, key contacts leave the company; maybe bad weather brings everything to a halt. Basically, any number of internal events can result in lost revenue and cancellations. Take your losses and move on to other opportunities in your pipeline.

You Already Have the Tools for Success
Being marooned on Mars, Watney uses knowledge and ingenuity, MacGyvering together modes of survival by salvaging NASA equipment left over from previous Mars missions. In sales, it’s easy to get caught up in the notion that you need the latest cyberspace gadgets in order to do your job. Yes, the past decade’s technological advances have enabled us to work in a more streamlined, efficient way; we can connect with customers in ways that are universes beyond phone and email. But in the world of B2B sales, even the latest gadget is no substitute for those crucial human moments between buyer and seller that happen during the sales process. Sure, up your game with the tools of the trade, but remember that people still buy from people—and always will. Keep your focus on the basic elements required for a successful sale.

Out of Adversity Comes Success 
Whether on Mars or on Earth, the best way to improve your outcomes is to learn from failures and mistakes. We all flub things—it’s what you do from there that matters. Be like the “Martian” and know that there’s no perfect method for getting ahead. Trial and error come with the territory of making customer connections, architecting great deals, and nurturing long-term client relationships. Figure out which steps and processes work best for you, and then replicate those methods as you make first contact with each potential client.

If you haven’t seen the “The Martian” yet, give it a look. You’ll learn a lot about inner strength—and maybe come away with more of an appreciation of having your feet on the ground, on planet Sales. (Duct tape not included.)

How To Overcome B2B Price Objections

Bar none, the biggest objection a customer ever raises is price. Often they don’t comprehend the value of your solution, therefore concluding that the number you’ve quoted is completely arbitrary, maybe even greed-based. It’s true that today’s customers exist in a climate of global competition; they know how to “Google it,” etc. But information isn’t always knowledge, so they’re not necessarily well-versed when it comes to your products and services. At the decision-making phase of the sales cycle, act as a trusted advisor and guide your prospects toward a deeper understanding of how you can fill their need.

In the early stages, be prepared for price objections to rise like odors from an ancient sea chest. It’s your job to both anticipate and neutralize those objections, “Fabrezing” them with explanations that will get prospects to understand that your price corresponds, as we’ve said, to the value of your solution. Below is a list of common price objections and how to effectively respond to each.

It’s Not in My Budget
When customers are bound by a budget, they’ll naturally base their range on its restrictions. But they may also use the old budget excuse for insisting on a lower price. Be a proactive seller, throwing out a number before the customer does. And then, if you choose, ask if that price falls within the range they’re comfortable with. If the customer does trot out a number before you’ve had a chance to name your price, ask how they’ve arrived at that figure, and then explain why, based on your value proposition, you can or cannot meet them at the price they say they’re locked into.

Shock and Awe
We’ve all witnessed the wide-eyed look of shock on a customer’s face, as if the price we’ve put forward has physically harmed them. The shock can be real, but it can also be a bit of theater. Don’t cave in to their emotion, real or “academy award-winning.” Just be direct and ask why they feel your price is too high. See this as an opportunity to link your benefits and features with their needs that you should’ve uncovered by now.

The Price Is Wrong
You could say, “This product is free” and that would still be too high a price for some customers. That’s because they’re poised to balk at the price before you’ve even begun the conversation. When they object to the quote, ask them why. In order to reason with them, you need to understand their rationale. Many things can account for customers’ unrealistic price expectations, including misinformation and limited information. They may have done bad research. When they say they’ve paid less in the past, gently point out that if they’d been satisfied with their last supplier, they would not be looking for alternatives now. Again you’ve got an opportunity here to make the connection between their needs and your goods and services.

Bait and Switch
It’s sometimes the case that a prospect asks for a quote for a large order, but then decides they want a smaller order, only at the same price per unit. Never give them your answer without first reviewing the pricing based on the new scope of the order. As a trusted adviser, look at the sale as part of a whole—you’re building a long-term relationship, not cutting a deal and then never seeing them again. Get more insight from the buyer, and then build on that conversation in order to reach a happy pricing ground. Even though the order is smaller than what you’d bargained for, offer concessions. Keep the relationship going.

Playing the Urgency Card
It’s not only bad sales reps who play the urgency card; customers will sometimes make it sound like a decision has to be made right away or the whole deal is going to blow to smithereens. They might use the line, “I’ve got a meeting in one hour and need to present my options. Is this the best you can do for me?” At which point, you’ve got a choice, you can get scared and cave, dropping the price to suit the “emergency.” Or you can say, “I can’t make that kind of concession without in-house approval. If I’m not able to meet your deadline, I hope we can discuss working together once your meeting concludes later this afternoon.” If you do get a reaction from them later in the day, you’ll know they were never going to dynamite the bridge.

Buyers whose sole focus is price will try one of the above to lower the dollar amount for what they want. They may pull two or more tricks out of their bag. Don’t lower your need based on their price expectations. What they really want is a good product; they know it and you should too. Remember that price isn’t the only thing that makes a sale. What you have to offer are great goods and services—stand behind the power of your solutions. Keeping that in mind will help you stay calm. Focus on asking about their objections and addressing those concerns. Be a trusted advisor, making sure that everyone walks away happy—and comes back for more.

Plan and Prepare For Your Sales Call

Research shows that salespeople will never reach their performance potential without a well-defined sales-call procedure that they can follow and learn from. “Winging it” on sales calls has grim consequences – lost sales, extended sell cycles, margin erosion and no clear path to improvement. Bottom line: Your entire sales career can be mediocre if you “wing it.”

Performance improves by as much as 50% when salespeople have a consistent game plan for their sales calls.

Most salespeople make the same mistakes over and over without realizing it. Without a logical sales call plan to follow, they can’t even identify specific problems, let alone correct them. A good sales process mirrors the pattern by which customers make buying decisions.The nine acts of Cosine break a sales call into its most important components, sequenced in the order of the five key buying decisions every customer makes. By analyzing each segment of a call and testing against the customer’s buying decisions, salespeople can quickly recognize problems and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Without a system like Cosine, the only thing salespeople can look at is whether they won or lost the sale. If you don’t know what went wrong or why, you can’t improve your performance.

In The Field

A leading architectural services faced a common problem. They were having trouble trying to sell an intangible service that was seen more as a luxury than a necessity. The firm’s growth had stopped and they were losing business to far less capable competitors.

The Sales Board delivered a 2-day onsite Cosine sales training workshop for their sales staff, teaching the Cosine process and documenting the company’s Best Sales Practices. Twelve weeks of Skill Drill Modules followed, further honing the new selling skills the group had acquired.

Within only three months the CEO reported business grew by 20%. In addition, he said, “My sales team’s professionalism and sense of confidence increased as a direct result of the Action Selling program. Having a clear understanding of the selling strengths and weaknesses of each sales team member has made sales management both focused and effective for the first time.”