John Landry and I had the opportunity to present the week before last to the 128 Innovation Capital Group at the IBM Innovation Center on the subject of angel investing. Great group of entrepreneurs and Annette Reynolds, the Executive Director, runs a tight ship. Check out her next Pitch Party at the Piranha Pond, which is coming up on the 30th at 6:00PM at the Tech Sandbox, in Southborough With the significant market shifts in angel investing in general and specifically regarding the very positive changes at Common Angels, where John and I are partners, it was a great time to wave the flag and talk about something we're both passionate about.
I also reconnected with a number of both old and new friends. One of those is Mike to whom I commented about the pocket square that he wore with his sports coat since I always try to do the same whenever I decide to wear a jacket (sometimes) or suit (hardly ever anymore). Mike's a talented sales manager, and I remembered talking to him about a month ago-during one of my 90 minute commutes back to the beach-about connecting him with a couple of my companies. Since I frequently use the commute time for either customer calls or calls like the one with Mike for talk time with students and with people that I meet who are looking for sales jobs, I didn't think much of the Mike call at the time, except that I remembered that he was talented and had solid sales management experience.
A few days after the Innovation Capital presentation, a package arrived at the office with a handwritten note from Mike along with two pocket squares-perfect for the summer. What a great way to say thank you and also gain my continued involvement and assistance in his sales management job search.
Mike's generosity brings up a few Good Ol' Basics for all of us in Sales to remember:
No question that I will remember Mike-clearly the gift of pocket squares made an impression on me enough to blog about it. In our day-to-day work experiences, there are countless ways that we can do the same with both customers and our associates. You don't have to be crazy memorable like standing on your head or growing a ponytail (What self-respecting guy would do that?)
Here's just a few that come immediately to mind for me...
- Each Christmas, years later, I still receive fruit baskets from friends like Bill and from Jim thanking me for helping them with their job searches.
- From my students, I frequently receive handwritten notes, which are proudly posted on my office wall. Last year, one of those notes came with a wonderful gift certificate to dinner.
- Recommendations on LinkedIn, which magically appear without a specific reason except that that person on that day decided that your product or your service was worth thanking you for.
- Even clips from a timely article in the WSJ or Forbes, Fortune or Business Week, with a short note about a specific interest is a way of expressing your personal interest in a person.
Define Your Value
It's simply not enough anymore to tell a potential buyer-whether it's a buyer of your products or a buyer of you as a potential employee about your features. You can do that by telling me about your product's features described in six colors and clever fonts on your website or your wonderful accomplishments neatly shown on your resume. Unless I'm really desperate to buy, after no more than two to three minutes (only 30-45 seconds for a resume), I'm either bored or not focused since I have 20 other more pressing projects that I need to pay attention to immediately.
I remember when I was new into the world of venture capital, I was pitching a perfect (in my mind) deal to a close friend of mine who just happened to be the head of a large venture fund. This opportunity (in my mind) was the perfect match. I had worked hard on the business plan, the fund invested specifically in this market, and the managing partner was a long time friend. Less than 60 seconds into my telephone call asking for a meeting, my friend asked the simple question: "Why is this deal a good value for our fund?".
I simply couldn't answer the question. I had focused so much on the business idea, the deal, and everything else associated with finding venture capital, that I failed to think of the direct value to the customer, which in this case was the fund and his obligation to his Limited Partners. I mumbled something using generic platitudes, which made no sense to either him or me, and it was apparent to both of us that I hadn't done my homework on what would be of value to him, his fund and his partners. I did get the company funded, but he passed.
Value Propositions are the most important Sales and Marketing tools that you can carry in your Sales Toolbox today, and unless you have them down perfectly and can specifically talk in terms of the three vital components of this Sales Best Practice...
- The business drivers that you will effect in their business
- The movement that you can make in their business
- The metrics that you can change their business drivers by
...then most buyers don't have the time or the interest to pay attention to you.
Respect Their Time
In today's world of lean organizations, no one has any "extra" time. If you're in Sales, when's the last time you went out to lunch which was not either a drive-through MacDonald's or lunch with a customer of prospect? My guess is "Can't remember" is the appropriate answer. The reality of the business world today is that our time has been chopped, diced, homogenized, pulled, pushed and then pulled again. No one has any extra time, so when you're trying to connect with someone, be extraordinarily respectful of their lack of time for meetings like yours.
- Remember you're an intrusion. Unless there's an overwhelming need on the part of the prospect to buy right then, every minute you're spending on the phone or in a F2F meeting is an intrusion. BTW, don't ask for "a cup of coffee"...at least with me. Breakfast times are the most productive meeting times for me, and I reserve those 7:00 and 7:45 slots for customers and students, and they're pretty much scheduled out a month ahead.
- Block out your time requirements. If you are going to take 10 minutes for a call, then state "I only need 10 minutes" rather than "Do you have a minute? If the requirement were really only going to take a minute, then there's really no purpose in having the call or the meeting in the first place.
Experience says that if you stick to your stated time request, if you remind the prospect during your presentation of your value proposition and that you want to stay within your stated 10 or 20 minutes, then assuming you're the professional you are, they will typically open up the barrier and allow you to take more time.
- Use video. To provide more impact to your meeting, prior to the call or the F2F, send them a short video outlining your product, focus on its value and remind them about the logistics of your upcoming meeting. Impactful, different, and memorable all in one. Plus, with video, they will retain 60% more of what you have to say rather than if they were to read some PDF that you send them. Assuming that they read the PDF at all. Think about using an easy-to-enable video platform like Brainshark for the best abilities to Prepare-Engage-Follow Up with your prospects.
Just a couple of ideas that came to mind as a result of meeting with a group of engaging entrepreneurs last week. Deep in the summer now with the heavy vacation month of August immediately in front of us, it's critically important that we remind ourselves of the Good Ol' Sales Basics in order to significantly build our lead generation and fortify our pipeline for the upcoming big push in Q4.
Now let's get out there and sell some stuff!
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During our upcoming 2013 Sales Management Boot Camp, we'll talk a lot about the best sales practices of...
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1. How can I improve my own effectiveness as a manager?
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