With the Annual Stratton Pond Skim held two weeks ago marking the almost-end-of-season events calendar, I finally hung up the snowboard last Saturday. Took a few turns with Mark Hahn, whom I've not seen since an ACG conference a few years ago. After reading last week's blog, he texted me, and we had a great time on a blue sky, mid-winter conditions morning.
Great way to end the season. After which, I carefully packed away boards, boots, gloves, and enough clothing to warm a small village of Eskimos. Won't be too long before Thanksgiving rolls around, and everything gets unpacked again along with the chorus of the typical start-of-the-season questions of "Where's my neckwarmer?", and "Where the heck did I leave my board?"
One season closes, one opens.
Not accounting for The Big VT Clean weekend at the end of this month, my time now shifts totally from VT to driving Q2 and Q3 business for our firm. Too cold to even think about heading across the street to the beach, so with most of the upcoming weekends "free", and my mental wakeup clock always stuck on being in the car to Boston by 4:00 AM, it's time for the next few months to sit back and think through more deeply a couple of new sales and marketing concepts that have been bouncing around in my head all winter.
One of these still-developing ideas has grown out of our now very focused work on executing Value Propositions. Without working through the complexities of what Value Propositions are (Click HERE for an explanation), a very simplified definition is that a value propositon...
- ...defines whatever it is that creates really unique differentiation of your company, your products, your services from those other guys.
- ...much more importantly, defines financial value to your customer's business and your customers' customers.
Creating and using Value Propositions correctly during a sales process is probably the most difficult and most complex of any of the marketing and selling tools in any salesperson's toolbox. Since we're salespeople, it's just really hard to hold back and not sell features "telling" (substitute words like-"pushing", "convincing" and "persuading") the person on the other side of the desk or phone why our products and services are the best. In order to stop, or at least slow down that impulse that's now baked into our DNA, a couple of operating tactics that we've been working on over this winter seem to be gaining traction , and you might want to try them out. I'd also love to get your real time feedback as to whether these work for you:
- Sit over there, not over here...
Since you will have done all of your prospect and Linked In research prior to your initial Discovery call, place yourself in the buyer's or champion's chair. Get totally on the other side of the desk mentally and push yourself to understand exactly what that person's objectives are. What's in this buying process for them? What are their MBO's and KPI's for this year? What value does this potential purchase specifically bring to them? Does it specifically drive to their objectives? Their bonus? Is it financial value? Recognition? ...or is it that they are just doing their job and going through the motions?
- Answer the "So What?" Question...
Still focused, not on you, but on the person on the other side of the desk or phone, play the "So What?" tape repeatedly in your head such that you proactively answer the question. If you don't, you can be assured that while you're spewing blah, blah, blah and if you have not answered that question, the probability of you closing the deal moves from merely low to non-existent. On the flip side, if you can answer that question up front and in a personal manner, your closing ratio will increase dramatically and your sales cycle shrinks by two to three times over whatever you're doing now.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Not so! If it were simple, most salespeople would get this Value Proposition down perfectly, but the reality is that very few do unless they are the best of the most professional and most experienced athletes. Having said that, Value Propositions are merely a practiced skill.
Watching the most recent final 4 basketball games, I once again made the comparison that the similarity between the most successful basketball players and the most successful salespeople comes down to two things:
1. The winning basketball teams and the very best sales teams have the best coaches and the most experienced managers.
2. The most winning players simply practice longer and harder, and that's what perfecting Value Propositions takes.
It's that time of year again, when I'm searching for six company projects for my seniors and juniors marketing class at Tufts for the fall semester. We have two companies already signed up!For the last six years, I've had the privilige of being a professor of Marketing at Tufts in a fast-paced, highly interactive course where the students are continuously immersed in the real world of today's marketing strategies, tactics and tools.
One of the means through which this is accomplished is that six teams of five students are focused for the 13 week semester on completing complex marketing projects for companies typically in the NE geography. These no-cost projects vary widely from developing market research reports, to new product launches, to creating full marketing plans for small and middle market businesses.
If you are at all interested in participating for the fall semester, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will send you an outline of what's involved.