A reader writes:
Help! My boss is a complete idiot! He doesn't bother to get into the details of my reports or work assignments. He just makes motherhood statements and when asked for details, he turns to his staff. He delegates everything, even assignments that should be done by him. He also relies on his staff for fresh ideas and makes it appear that they are his own. He demands submission of work assignments but does not review them comprehensively. In short, he is not worth what the company is paying him.By an odd coincidence, your question got into my queue right about when an important and interesting feature package was posted on BNET: "The Return of the Crummy Job." The article is intended to help managers better navigate their jobs amid reductions in staff, resources, perks, team spirit, and so forth. You need to read that article carefully because you don't know when you've got it good. According to your email:
- Your boss doesn't want to get into the nitty gritty details of your work. So? Why should he have the time to worry about your job at more than a top-line level? It's your job to worry about the details, not his.
- Your boss delegates work to his staff. So? It's his call, not yours, whether his staff can do a task better or more efficiently than he can. Where do you come off deciding what he should be doing or not doing?
- Your boss relies on his staff for fresh ideas. So? That's what staffers are for. Would you rather have a boss who thinks he knows everything and won't listen to anybody else?
- Your boss makes "motherhood" statements. So? Are you such a paragon of stark originality that your delicate shell-like ears are offended when somebody trots out a bromide? What's the big deal?
- Your boss makes it appear as if his staff's ideas are his own. So? He assembled a staff with good ideas, so that makes those ideas his to use. If the staffers are smart, they'll want the boss to "own" their ideas.
- Your boss demands work assignments but doesn't review them "comprehensively." So? Did it ever occur to you that he trusts you to get the details right? Or were you maybe expecting him to be your fact-checker?
- Your boss is overpaid, in your opinion. So? Who put you on the executive compensation committee? While it's true that some bosses make obscene salaries, your boss's salary is none of your business.
A reader writes:
I am an MBA who has been working in the web design industry for more than 2 years and have always surpassed my monthly targets. I recently joined a new company. We charge four to six times the normal market price and building a website takes twice the time my previous organizations took. Since joining, I have contacted many clients but have lost all but one client on price.
It is not just me; all five sales reps are encountering the same problem. We try our best but prospects simply run away after hearing the price. I've gotten some emails saying we were not shortlisted because our price was too high, even though they liked our work. I showed the emails to my boss, but he is not willing to come down on the price. What's your advice?This sounds like a problem with your management, but the real problem is in your sales approach. You're trying to sell based upon the reality of price rather than the perception of value. Here's what you need to do:
- Upgrade your Appearance. Buy yourself the highest-quality, most expensive suit that you can find. Get yourself a fabulous pair of shoes and an expensive watch. Buy silk underwear. Get a $100 haircut, and a manicure. The top-to-bottom makeover is absolutely necessary because when you're selling something overpriced, you've got to look and feel successful. In addition, buying top quality reminds you that the BEST costs $$$$$.
- Reframe Your Value Proposition. Some people are willing to overpay in order get what they perceive to be the best. You are the BEST. How does the prospect know? Because you're better dressed than the competition. Your firm is the BEST. How does the customer know? Because you charge more than the competition. Your firm is EXCLUSIVE. How do you know? Only the best can afford to hire you.
- Surface the Price First. When you initially contact a customer, tell them right off the bat that your firm is significantly more expensive than the competition. Tell them that there's a reason for this, but that you want them to know that YOU are not interested in getting involved with a customer who's looking to cut corners. Tell them that if they want a cheapie website, you'll be happy to recommend a cut-rate firm that does adequate work.
- Sell the Differentiator. Once you've planted the notion that they'll be slumming if they go to a competitor, explain that your services are more expensive because you only work with a small number of clients and spend extra time and energy on each site that you build. Explain that that the top quality appearance of your sites is matched by the effort your firm lavishes on the back-end programming, which is where your so-called "competitors" skimp.
- Never, Ever, Discount. By doing the above, you've linked a high price with quality work in order to create a market differentiator. Because that's your competitive advantage, you must never discount. Not a single cent. Ever. Will you lose some business? Sure. Will some prospects choke? Absolutely. But the business that you do land will be highly profitable and your customers will be happy because they'll know they bought the BEST.
To be successful in sales, you must have an attitude that supports you through the ups and downs of the sales cycle. You must be able to cope with rejection, move quickly to take advantage of opportunities, and all the while impress clients with your enthusiasm and energy.
A reader writes:
Great blog; I look forward to it every day. I am trying to sell our new concept to potential strategic partners, but in order for us to move this project forward we need to get some cash from them to get the concept up and running. We are positioning our presentation on solving "their pain" with our product. Is that the approach you would recommend?Probably not. Traditional sales wisdom says that you should find a major pain point and address it with your solution. But that's not always the best approach to take in complicated B2B sales. (And anything that involves seed cash is, by definition, complicated.) I recently had a conversation with Jeff Thull, author of several business bestsellers, including Mastering the Complex Sale. Thull puts sales models into three basic categories:
- The Presenter Model. This model assumes that the customer understands their problem and knows basically what they want to buy. Because of this, the sales rep focuses on qualifying leads, presenting, handling objections and closing, hopefully before the competition does the same.
- The Consultative Model. This model assumes that the customer understands their basic needs and knows what outcome they'd like to see, but need help figuring out how to get there from here. Because of this, the sales rep asks questions about needs, listens to the answers in order to understand the difference between what the customer now has and what the customer wants to have. The sales rep then proposes a tailored solution that meets those needs.
- The Diagnostic Model. This model assumes that the customer knows something is wrong and feels pain (like competitive pressure) but probably lacks a complete understanding of the problem or may think the source of the pain is something completely irrelevant. Because of this, the sales rep asks questions about the customer's business situation, locates the root problems that are causing that business to run less effectively, and then propose ways to work together to address the root problems, rather the addressing the symptoms of the problem (the pain.)
A reader writes:
I have just joined a a new firm which suffers from what Gen. Colin Powell once called "Analysis Paralysis." My job is to gather statistics from a myriad of information systems and then present that data to my manager, who makes the final decision. But usually by the time that has happened, the window of opportunity has closed, because in our market, agility and speed are the keys to success. I present my strategies and seem to gain the requisite approval and buy-in. However, I do not have the slightest decision-making authority, even though I remain accountable for success and failure. I have been reduced to the role of a statistician and don't feel that I'm growing in my career. Any suggestions?Happy to help, but I'm not sure you're going to like the answer. At the root of both your manager's behavior and your reaction to that behavior is fear, plain and simple. Your manager gathers too much information because he's afraid of making a bad decision. Similarly,you allow yourself to be manipulated into feeling like a "statistician" because you're afraid of earning the manager's disapproval.
There are few really profound truths about selling, and fewer still are the people who know how to communicate them. One of these rare creatures is John Asher the CEO of the eponymous sales training firm. I interviewed John a few months ago -- a fantastic conversation in which I learned a great deal.
In the recent post "Best Sales Tool: Smartphone or Notebook," I explained that I always carry an ultra-portable notebook when I travel. However, I didn't explain why I'm a fan of ultra-portables. The reason is of a travel tip that's really made long flights more tolerable for me and which I'm going to share with all of you later in this post.
A reader writes:
I recently was interviewed for a sales managment position. The company uses Caliper, a personality assessment tool to make hiring decisions. It's the first time I have ever had to take a test in over 15 years of sales managment. I was amazed how strongly this company felt about the tool as opposed to face-to-face interviews, references, and experience. While I met with three people, the interviews were NOT assessing whether my experience and the job was a good fit. I filled the gaps by offering up my experience and probing for information to determine exactly what the position entailed. I found the process a bit offensive. How can a test really provide anyone with what could be gained in a well-conducted interview?As it happens, last month I spent an hour talking with Patrick Sweeney, Caliper's executive vice president of marketing. He makes a pretty compelling case for the importance of testing when it comes to assessing the ability of a sales professional to fit into any given sales organization. The reasons that companies don't always trust interviewing if I understand correctly, are:
- Most people can't interview worth beans. How many times have you been asked a bonehead question like "what's the last book you read?" or "what's your greatest weakness?" Since the "correct" answers to those typical interview questions are available all over the web, it would probably make sense just to print them out and hand them to the interviewer at the beginning of the interview.
- Sales success doesn't always transfer. It's a myth that really great sales reps can sell for virtually anybody. Somebody who's been a "hunter" for a high tech firm is highly unlikely to be a good "farmer" for a social services provider. Even in similar sales environments, sometimes one's success is more dependent upon management coaching and the lead generation process, rather than on a rep's sales skills.
- First impressions are highly unreliable. Great sales professionals usually present themselves well and make a great first impression. Unfortunately, so do a lot of other people, including con-men, shirkers, and other assorted deadbeats. Job interviews are inherently artificial situations. While an interview can help assess whether you can sell yourself, it doesn't really tell an employer much more than that.
- Most of the information is already available. With the advent of the Internet, there's usually a wealth of information already available about a company, its business model, its culture, and so forth. Because of this, the traditional "let's talk about where I fit in" discussion is more or less a waste of time. You should already know most of what you need to know about them, and they've already checked your LinkedIn profile.
- The job may require a non-interview sales style. Sales professionals typically think of a job interview as a "sales audition," with the (logical) assumption that if they demonstrate how well they sell themselves, they'll show they're talented at sales. But the company's business model may require a completely different kind of selling (like long-term account development), in which case the "audition" is wasted effort.
I've been catching some buzz among the salesfolk community that they're in love with their smartphones. Today's smartphone (whether Iphone, Blackberry or whatever) is now capable of reasonably-sized emails, CRM support, contact management, and even simple presentations (fed through a monitor, natch.)
Here are the fourteen absolutely indispensable power tools that should be in every sales rep's bag of tricks:
- What can you tell me about your organization... and yourself?
- What do you like about what you're currently doing?
- What don't you like about your current situation?
- What would you like to be enhanced or improved?
- What can you tell me about your priorities?
- What prompted you to start this project now?
- What can you tell me about your decision-making process?
- How do you handle budget considerations?
- What other options are you looking at?
- What can you tell me about the people involved in the process?
- What obstacles are in the way of moving this forward?
- How will you be evaluating different options?
- How will the funding for the project be justified?
- How much support does this have at the executive level?
A reader writes:
I purchased a staffing agency that provides outstanding customer service. The company has literally been open everyday for the last 52 years, including every holiday and every weekend. We have two vans and two drivers that ensure workers are dropped off and picked up from jobsites 24/hours per day. The company has done absolutely no advertising or marketing of any sort in 52 years. So the question is, where is the best place to start: website, direct mail, brochures, etc.Let's start with some basics. The sole purpose of marketing in a B2B firm is to generate qualified leads that convert easily into customers. The trick to doing these things well is figuring out how to get the most for your money.
A reader writes:
Hi, I've worked in this local company for almost 3 years. I have been struggling to convince the owner that promoting our product is an essential element for the product to succeed in the market. How do I make a great Integrated Marketing Communication proposal so he'll be convinced to throw big money at the campaign?Let's start with a quick diagnosis. You've been working in a company for three years, so naturally you know more about how to make your company successful than the man who owns it (and probably built it). You're finding it difficult to do your job, so you want the owner to spend a lot of money on marketing, presumably in the hope it will make your job easier.
A reader writes:
I love reading your articles! I would like your input and advice on what measures are necessary to determine if a rate increase is appropriate, the time frame to inform clients of this increase and the etiquette too execute. Our firm is a web development and online marketing firm. My boss wants to increase our hourly rate from $150 to $175, but several of us believe that this is a competitive mistake. We have a huge client base that may not appreciate a price hike through their contract term. What your opinion?There are three basic ways to raise prices without losing customers: