Archives For sales call

IMG_3863Last week I spoke to the High Performance Technologies Sales Team…

Delivering a Keynote on, The Secrets of High Priced Consultants…lessons I’ve learned from the Big Six and others, who know how to call on C-Level Executives.

There are 5 major disciplines I see high-priced consultants mastering.  For instance, they sell one of 4 things – Customer Experience Gains and Risk Mitigation being the two most compelling value propositions.  Technology is then just a means of achieving these things.

But perhaps the most important aspect of my message came from a recently interview with the CISO of Sodexo. From our 45 minute discussion I gleaned 5 important things sales people should stop doing if they really want to peer with C-levels.

  • Stop calling with generic messages like, “I wanted to introduce myself.” CIOs get thirty to forty of these every week from technology sales people. They don’t have time for this.
  • Stop Showing your generic corporate presentation. I know your marketing people think it’s great, but it looks like every other company’s presentation. There really is nothing unique or compelling about it.
  • Stop making things sound worse than they are. Security is a big issue, but without proper justification, you can’t just start throwing statistics at them.
  • Stop calling to tell them about the latest hack printed in your local paper. They probably knew about it before you did. It’s not interesting or insightful to them.
  • Stop showing up with nothing meaningful to say. Instead, start reading about the things they care about, become an expert in something they would find helpful, and then give them a call about something specific.

I’d love to hear more from anyone who has first hand experience with “What not to do” when meeting with an executive…

Copyright 2016, David Stelzl

PS. I was on a call years ago with a sales rep from the company I was involved in. The sales rep managed to get a C-Level meeting, which I attended. One of his first questions was, “So what does your company do?”  Big mistake…

 

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IMG_9025“What questions should I ask when meeting with an executive?” This question came up about three times last week during various marketing events, coaching calls, and emails with clients – “Can we put together a list of questions for the sales team to use when talking to executives?”  I usually get this question when talking about Marketing Events and Demand Generation follow up – that’s about the only time I see sales people really engaging with executives in a proactive discovery process.

It feels better to have a list of questions – a list of 5 to 7 questions that can be read from a script, with a place to record answers.  But don’t expect this to actually work.  If it were that simple, sales people would be in front of executives with a list like this all the time.  My experience is, once you pull out the list, you’ll lose your audience’s attention.  One size can’t fit all – and if you need a list, it’s clear that you don’t do this very often.  Imagine pulling out a list to ask your spouse how their day went.  What would they think?  Well, they might wonder if this were a conversation or a project for school?

What Questions Should I Ask?

Instead, I recommend using a framework.  A series of topics that guide the conversation.  This framework has to be second nature – memorized.  This takes some practice.  In my book, The House & the Cloud (available for free as a PDF from my blog sidebar), I provide an example of a security focused discovery conversation.  I start out by exploring things that my client feels are critical to their business.  The heading reads, “What are you trying to protect?”  But the essence of the question goes much deeper – because its not really a question; its a framework.  I am searching for those applications and data repositories that contain highly valuable data.  It might be client data, intellectual capital, or some application that allows the business to work ten times faster than it would if certain work were done manually.

The second line of questioning focuses on threats.  “What would threaten these critical systems?”  This requires some give and take.  The client may not know how to answer this – the sales person might need to explore this with the client, coming up with possible threats based on the business vertical, type of data, cybercrime trends, or current conditions of the business (for instance, on the cusp of some new invention.)  The final area deals with the company’s ability to detect a problem before it’s too late.  This is a shorter question.  At this point, the sales person would have most of the data they need, but would want to know how comfortable this particular “Asset Owner” (as I describe in the book) is with their company’s ability to see into the network.  Don’t confuse this with a technical question about intrusion prevention software.  What you’re looking for here is a clue as to how safe or vulnerable this asset owner (who owns some level of liability) feels with regard to their data and applications.

How Does A Sales Person Learn This?

How does a sales person master this process?  The simple answer is, “training and coaching”.  Unfortunately, at least in this industry (technology sales), companies have substituted product knowledge for sales training.  Knowing your product is necessary, however, product knowledge is not sales training.  The executive discovery process is something that takes practice.  It’s intimidating to walk into a business owner’s or VP’s office.  One bad meeting with a CIO might be the final nail in the coffin for a promising account.  But what if the sales manager were to set aside time weekly, during the sales meeting, to run through a few tips and to have a couple of people practice?  What if it were part of the regular routine to provide new insights and experiences shared by other team members?  Perhaps you could master this skill.

Getting Started

A great conversationalist has a skill – and great sales people need this skill.  When it comes to working with executives, and working through the discovery process at that asset owner level, there is no substitute for having been trained and coached on executive level conversations and interview skills.  Here are three things you can do right now to get started:

1. Read the CIO journal section of the Wall Street Journal – be able to discuss trends such as cloud services, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), social business, and information security, and be able to make application to business.

2. Read the books other executives are reading.  This might require you to ask around – which can’t hurt.  Recent books by Jim Collins are always a good place to start.

3. Practice…look for people in social settings and push yourself to listen and learn from them.  Ask questions about how they got into their profession, what has made them successful, how they would advise a young person entering their field, and what cautions they might give to someone entering that field.  People love to share their war stories.

© 2013, David Stelzl

 

Photo by Hannah Stelzl

Continuing on with the topic of white boarding – this is something someone should probably write a book on.  It’s one of the most used tools in the sales process, but often misused by ill-equipped sales people.  A few practical pointers:

1.     Always carry our own markers.  I started doing this about twelve years ago.  Many of my prospects thought it was funny, yet they appreciated my preparedness and the quality of the colors that brought my pictures to life.  You can’t close the million-dollar deal with a dead marker.

2.     There is no reason to recreate the wheel on every new sales call.  You use the same brochure wear, why not use the same illustrations.  Back to my comments on chalk drawing, I can think of several speakers that use chalk drawings as part of their gig.  It’s highly effective and the pictures look great every time.  Why?  Simply because they have practiced.  Get your storyboard together, learn to draw your diagrams, and use them often.  You can adlib as needed.

3.     Learn to draw while you talk.  There is nothing worse than watching someone draw with their back to you.  Practice drawing without thinking about it so you can put your attention on the client.

4.     Learn to write neatly.  It always amazes me when, in an interview, I ask someone to whiteboard something.  While writing in a falling arch format, they turn to me to explain that, “They aren’t very good at white-boarding.”  My response is, “You must be an expert if you want this job.”

5.     Use the entire board – I don’t mean the entire wall of the war-room…but I do mean, don’t make your pictures so small that no one can see them.  Spread things out so that the room can see what you’re talking about.

6.     Don’t call your white-boarding process a presentation.  One big advantage of white-boarding is that it gets you away from the canned presentation.  So even if it is well rehearsed, you can do it in a casual, ad hoc way.  This invite collaboration and interaction.

7.     Always ask if they would like for you to leave your information, or if you should erase the board when finished.  It’s the courteous thing to do.

© 2011, David Stelzl