Signature Insights Blog

July 14, 2014 - by tsigna

The seventh (and final) secret to becoming better at engaging executive decision-makers and ultimately winning more deals:

Be focused. By capitalizing on our strengths as “client discoverers” or “client developers”, we maximize sales success.  

One problem associated with today’s complex sale is that sales leaders are pulled in too many different directions. But the other secrets I shared all point to a necessity for greater specialization.

We need both Client Discovery Specialists and Client Development Specialists because both roles are exceptionally demanding. By expecting a field sales leader to spend an inordinate amount of time on prospecting, we are almost certainly guaranteeing sub-optimal results. What we need are demand creation specialists who can set the stage for value creation specialists. Then, we can truly capitalize on economies of skill. We can engage executives in outreach efforts with far more precision, care and follow-up.

But we also can be far more prepared when we meet with these executives. We can run meetings that set and meet clear objectives, address meaningful issues and concerns, and uncover the essentials of a successful outcome.

  • Implications for the Client Discovery Specialist. Individuals in this role can truly excel when they bring skill and experience to it. Being specialists, they develop expertise in conducting credible conversations on key business matters. They don’t read scripts – though they are thoroughly rehearsed in the “discussion points” to be explored in an initial conversation.
  • Implications for the Client Development Specialist. Individuals in this role have the most to gain from specialization. The big problem that sales specialists have always had is the scope creep of their jobs. They end up spending lots of time on prospecting – and not enough honing their skills as trusted advisors. By getting focused, they develop the capabilities necessary to guide buyers through today’s increasingly complex and high-stakes decisions. They learn how to effectively diagnose the full scope and magnitude of today’s business problems and design solutions that are fully aligned with the buyer’s value drivers.

So there you have it!   Here’s a summary of our “7 Secrets”:

July 7, 2014 - by tsigna

My next secret for better engagement with C-suite buyers:

Be value-driven. Align yourself with your prospect’s value drivers if you want a commitment to change. 

If our advice and perspectives are to truly resonate with executive decision-makers, we must have to be fully aligned with their “value drivers.”

In other words, what are the key issues motivating or concerning them? They may be focused on internal factors such as operational or financial concerns. Alternatively, it may be external factors – such as customers, suppliers, competitors or regulatory issues – that concern them the most.

By locking on to these value drivers, aligning our questions with them, and ensuring our proposals reflect them, we engage our prospects and earn their confidence. We show we’re committed to their business success – and not just the attainment of our sales quotas. We are on their side.

  • Implications for the Client Discovery Specialist. Your initial interactions represent an opportunity to identify the initiatives or value drivers that are most critical to your prospective client. Probing questions upfront may enable you to determine what matters most. To some extent, this research can precede your outreach efforts. Critical to being relevant is having messages, discussion points, and marketing content (such as white papers, case studies and webinars) available to attract your prospect. Relevant messages and content speak to a “value hypothesis” reflecting assumptions about the prospect’s apparent value drivers.
  • Implications for the Client Development Specialist. Once you’ve had an opportunity to further examine the prospect’s concerns and challenges, you are in a strong position to develop a “value proposition” that accurately reflects these issues. The more this value proposition reflects specific value drivers, the more engaged your executive level buyer (and his/her decision team) is likely to be. Indeed, it will be difficult for a rival to present an offer/proposal that is as relevant as yours – or establish trust on par with what you have established. That’s why you will win.

We’re coming to the end of our series. Our last “Secret” – BE FOCUSED – will be coming your way soon.

 

June 30, 2014 - by tsigna

My fifth secret in my series exploring winning ways to engage executive level buyers.

Be diagnostic. You differentiate yourself through the questions you ask more than through the stories you tell. 

Everyone’s got a prescription for what ails the buyer. But what kind of doctor would write a prescription prior to conducting a proper diagnosis?

As I view it, the diagnosis represents one of the key ways to differentiate yourself, build trust and confidence, and set the stage for a successful sale and implementation.

What sets us apart is the thoroughness of our diagnosis. Do we understand the full scope and magnitude of the customer’s problem? Do we ask questions that guide the buyer through a smart decision process? Do we know the full cost of the problem relative to the full cost of a potential solution?

If we are curious enough to acquire such insights, we are likely to be far more credible to our prospective clients – and give them the confidence to change and the incentive to invest.

  • Implications for the Client Discovery Specialist. You are not a script reader. Your objective is to identify, engage and qualify executive-level buyers who fit a particular profile. And what sets you apart is not merely the messages you present, but the questions you ask. By asking probing and insightful questions in the outreach process, you signal to prospects that your company is focused on their success and not merely sales.
  • Implications for the Client Development Specialist. When the prospect is transferred from your Client Discovery counterpart, you recognize that there is much more to do in terms of diagnosing the buyer’s problem.  By probing deeply and thoroughly, you learn why the problem has not already been solved and gain insights into what you can do to ensure it gets successfully solved this time. Just as importantly, the buyer begins to comprehend the case for change in the midst of this diagnosis. Your biggest competition, it should be said, is “no decision.” Your questions, however, help you discover the factors and insights that will make the status quo unacceptable.

“Secret” #6 – BE VALUE-DRIVEN – is the next tip. Watch for it soon.

 

June 23, 2014 - by tsigna

My fourth secret for engaging executive buyers more effectively:

Be consultative. You’ll earn trust and credibility – essential to selling in our highly skeptical and risk-averse times.

Executives welcome the assistance of trusted advisors. They value the perspective of sellers who have a wider perspective on trends in the marketplace, understand best practices and have seen many implementations. They value the ability of a sales professional to provide insights that they cannot obtain from their own team members.

But part of being a strong consultant is understanding the wider dynamics of the decision team. No executive decision maker decides alone, particularly when the stakes are high and the solution is complex.

To engage the executive, sales professionals must understand (and convey understanding) about the challenges of the team overall. It’s vital to understand who is involved, what their concerns are, what has been tried in the past and what the outcomes were. Being consultative means taking an active interest in these factors as opposed to focusing on the solution at the outset.

  • Implications for the Client Discovery Specialist. Sometimes companies hire inexperienced people to engage in “telesales” or “inside sales” efforts. They are intent on generating leads – and often take the quality of those leads for granted. It’s our experience that the quality of new prospect engagement will be much higher if prospects are treated consultatively from the first moment they are contacted. You differentiate your company and set the stage for successful interactions by acting as a consultant – a guide and a resource – as opposed to yet another unimpressive salesperson pushing a product.
  •  Implications for the Client Development Specialist. It goes without saying that a sales person engaged in a complex sale should be consultative. We have heard this point made for years. What’s different is the relative complexity of the complex sale. It is more difficult than ever to guide a prospect through a high stakes sale and manage all of the factors associated with success. You have to deeply understand a business problem and design a sophisticated solution. You have to build a convincing business case based on defensible numbers. That’s why you as the Client Development Specialist need to be more focused than ever on guiding the buyer – a decision team, really – through a difficult decision process. You generally won’t have time to prospect. You have to develop your skill set and concentrate your energies if you are to excel at Client Development. You are no longer just a sales person, after all. You are an advisor.


PS – Be on the lookout for Secret #5: BE DIAGNOSTIC.

 

 

June 16, 2014 - by tsigna

Here’s the third secret in my series exploring winning ways to engage executive level buyers.

Be “smartly” persistent and you’ll engage more buyers.

Too often, companies lack the focus and resources to acquire and cultivate enough business to meet their sales objectives. Their initial outreach efforts often tend to be insufficient in terms of volume, consistency or credibility to meet their numbers.

It may not make any sense to blame the sales force. Sales professionals are already engaged in complex and demanding deals. They are asked to act as account managers quite often. They lack the time, energy or resources to persistently reach out to prospective clients and consistently follow up.

They are unable to manage multi-touch, multi-channel outreach efforts to identify, engage and qualify promising new buyers – much less rigorously cultivate and nurture them over time until they are truly ready to buy.

To engage executive buyers, persistence pays. You have to engage in outreach that is both consistent and sufficient. Otherwise, you’ll never get on their busy calendars.

  • Implications for the Client Discovery Specialist. One of your key strengths lies in your persistence. After all, most sales professionals struggle to relentlessly follow up in the prospecting stage. And yet, buyers are busy. Even when they are intrigued by a message that’s been presented, they are prone to be pulled in other directions. Smart persistence – not annoying messages about “just checking in” – is essential if calls and meetings are to be scheduled and discoveries are to be made.
  • Implications for the Client Development Specialist. Once a meeting with an executive level buyer has been scheduled, the opportunity to reach out to various members of that executive’s decision team may very well be granted. This is your opportunity to further explore the dimensions of the problem and gain “buy in” for a possible solution. But it may require you to persistently follow up with team members to fully evaluate the situation. Then again, it’s even more likely that doors will simply open because the executive level buyer has granted you access.

 

PS – Watch for Secret # 4: BE CONSULTATIVE.

 

 

June 9, 2014 - by tsigna

Here’s the 2nd secret in my series exploring winning ways to engage executive level buyers:

Engage them early for a powerful advantage over the competition.

Research suggests that executive level buyers tend to be most involved in high-impact decisions at both the early and late stages of the process. They tend to delegate many aspects of the decision process in between.

With this in mind, it’s critical to recognize the value of engaging executive buyers at the earliest stages of a decision. It represents an opportunity to become an advisor and resource throughout a decision process – even frame the way that problems are defined and solutions are considered. It differentiates you from your competitors and gives you a powerful advantage when alternative vendors and solutions are considered. In many cases, deals are sole sourced to the provider who has demonstrated clear business value throughout a decision process.

  • Implications for the Client Discovery Specialist (1st to contact executive). By engaging the prospect early in a decision process, you have an opportunity to “frame” the buyer’s thinking around a given issue. In fact, you are reaching them when “issues and implications” are still the key concerns of the prospect – long before competitors have entered the scene. Be credible at this point and you (and your Client Development counterparts) can earn the right to guide the prospect through the complex decisions they face.
  • Implications for the Client Development Specialist (salesperson). Because you have engaged the prospect at an early stage of the decision process, you have the opportunity to probe more deeply and focus on the dimensions of the customer’s problem. No expectations have been set. No decision criteria have yet been created. You have an opportunity to influence these factors – becoming a guide to your client that no rival will be able to match in the later stages of a decision.

 

PS – Watch for Secret #3: BE PERSISTENT.

 

June 2, 2014 - by tsigna

As I shared last week, a client asked me recently for advice on how his young sales team can have better first calls with executives….so I shared a few top-of-mind ideas but committed to give it some more thought….resulting in this series of blog posts on 7 secrets to engage executive buyers.

The 1st secret is: Be Relevant

The complex sale represents a demanding set of challenges in terms of gaining attention, building confidence and establishing trust. After all, the stakes are high – even if the potential payoffs are far higher.

To engage executive level buyers, it’s critical to be a valued resource and provider of relevant insight. Executive decision-makers are unlikely to find you credible unless you are reaching out to them with valuable content and resonant messages. They want to know that you are aware of the key issues affecting their business – and the business value drivers that are essential to their success. They don’t want to teach you about their business and issues, they want to be taught.

  • Implications for the Client Discovery Specialist (1st to engage executive). The challenge of customer outreach revolves around relevance. There’s no way to cut through and gain attention unless your approach speaks to the particular concerns and interests of the prospect. Relevance encourages prospective buyers to take action – whether that is downloading a white paper or returning a voice mail message. There is no substitute for it when you are engaged in outreach efforts.
  • Implications for the Client Development Specialist (sales specialist). Initial sales calls or meetings must build on the insights generated in the Client Discovery stage. What are the prospect’s immediate concerns? What is the cost of doing nothing? What are the personal implications of a given problem? How does a potential solution line up with the prospect’s perceived value drivers? These are all extremely relevant considerations from the prospect’s perspective. If you can speak can speak to these and probe more deeply, you earn trust and credibility with an executive level buyer.

 

PS – Watch for Secret #2: BE EARLY.

May 30, 2014 - by tsigna

A client recently asked me for advise on how his young sales team could more effectively engage with executive-level buyers. Because I’m a huge proponent of keeping it simple, yet memorable, I boiled my knowledge and experiences down to 7 secrets that I’ll share in a series of weekly blog posts over the coming weeks.

Before I dive in, I’d like to set the stage for what is to come. I see the sales process in two phases: Client Discovery and Client Development. (see more on this here)

The most successful companies drive top sales performance with expertly managed specialization. Instead of expecting highly skilled sales professionals to manage business development from initial engagement through the close of a sale, they segment their sales organizations into specialists focused on Client Discovery – creating demand in the earliest stages of the sales cycle – and Client Development – creating value by diagnosing business problems, designing solutions, and closing deals.

As I share each secret, I’ll do so from the perspective of both the Client Discovery Specialist, who is the first to engage with the executive, and the Client Development Specialist (the Sales professional).

I’ll share Secret #1 on Monday, but here’s hint #1:  As I see it, successful engagement begins with relevance.

April 15, 2014 - by tsigna

We’re several months into 2014 and the same old sales challenges remain:  too much info coming at buyers, too many similar-sounding options confusing buyers, and too little attention to give to you. You’re not only competing with others in your space, but the media, Google, and every other distraction in your potential clients’ lives.

Steady top-line growth depends on how often you’re having valuable conversations with the right prospects, so here 3 tips to get you coveted time with decision-makers:

1) Deliver value from the very first call. Are you focused on you (i.e. “We are the top-rated company, blah, blah, blah”) or are you focused on what the client could accomplish with you? Today’s buyers expect you to understand their business and bring them new ideas and insights. Unless you pique their interest, expand their thinking, and show you’ve got something interesting to say, you won’t get heard.

2) Complexity overwhelms, so keep it short and simple. Review your emails, voicemails, and presentations. Have you said in 300 words what could just effectively be said in 100? Remember, clarity comes from simplicity.

3) Pick up the phone! There’s a lot you can’t control, but you can control how often you pick up the phone. If you aren’t prospecting consistently, your business will eventually flat line. Repeat sales and referrals are important, but in the end, business grows because new customers hear about you and decide to buy. As Mary Kay Ash once said, “nothing happens until somebody sells something,” and you can’t sell without that important first conversation with a prospect.

Wishing you a profitable 2014!

 

April 2, 2014 - by tsigna

One of biggest reasons marketing efforts fail is a lack of clarity and focus on two important things: WHO and WHY….and a shot gun approach to sustainable revenue and market penetration rarely works.

So when we begin working with a new client, we develop what I call a Market Pursuit Plan to laser in on these two critical components to make sure our efforts hit the mark.

The first step is to identify a group of target clients who share a common problem that you can solve better or different than your competitors. This clarifies who you want to have conversations with.

You then identify who within those companies care most about solving the problem you fix. Which executive or executives derive the most unique value from your services?

We’ve now defined what companies and who within those organizations to contact.

The next step is the WHY.

Why would these individuals want to have a conversation with you? What value would they get from a 20-30 minute conversation with you?

This step is extremely powerful because it forces you to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes and really think through and clarify the unique value you can offer to his/her organization.

We can now craft several compelling reasons we’re calling the executive to secure a meeting. Think beyond just “we want to meet to introduce our services…”. Is there an event, an idea, or an opportunity that you can lead with? The last important part of the WHY is binding it by time. We’ve found we’re more successful securing executive meetings if we have specific dates (ideally a month or so out) we’re asking for.

Now the client’s work is done, and ours begins. After crafting each communication touchpoint (voicemail, email, intro script), my team is ready to pursue conversations that matter with specific executives within a defined market with focus, speed, and professional persistence.

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