Sales Secrets: The Power of Leading with Research and Relevance

I recently had the privilege to be part of a panel with Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the UK. While leading the forum, I said, “Mr. Prime Minister, we’ve all heard of the British Invasion. We know about The Beatles. We know about the Rolling Stones. But, I wonder how many people in this room remember a British Invasion band named Ugly Rumours.”

Blair cracked up with laughter. After he recovered, he looked right at me and asked, “Are you a musician?”

I replied, “No, Mr. Prime Minister, but I’m a big fan of music and all forms of art.”

Blair then explained that when he was at Saint John’s working on his Oxford scholarship he was actually the founding member of a rock band named Ugly Rumours.

This funny experience is an example of how leading with relevance and leading with a topic that was near to Tony Blair’s heart opened up rapport, built credibility and created an environment between he and I as part of the forum that was unprecedented and otherwise could not possibly have occurred.

There is incredible power in leading with research and leading with relevance.

You can view my entire presentation from the Inside Sales Virtual Summit, “Models for Authentic Revenue Capture: Avoiding Weapons of Mass Miscommunication,” in the YouTube video below.

Power of External Perspectives

One of the best books I’ve read in the last several years was the autobiography of Steve Jobs. One hundred years from now Steve Jobs is going to be mentioned in the same breath as Thomas Edison and other spectacular innovators over the history of the world. He transformed six industries and is the ultimate icon of modern-day inventiveness.

If there is any one theme in Jobs’ book, it was that organizations grow stale and inward when left to their own devices. The solution: there is power in external perspectives.

Take a moment to ask yourself if your core elements of organizational design in the function of sales are being challenged. Are they being constantly challenged? Are you regularly identifying functions that desperately need practical transformation? Are you committed to operational clarity that will drive unmistakable accountability? Finally, are you retaining external help to ensure that all of the aforementioned is occurring?

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I can tell you this, if you couldn’t answer “yes” to each of those questions, you wouldn’t survive five minutes as a direct report to the late Steve Jobs because of his passion for perfection.

Jobs knew that in order for things to become the best they can be at an organizational level, they need to get messy sometimes before they get tidy. There is power in disruption when the disruption is done professionally with knowledge and skill.

External perspective is critical to fully develop and bake a strategy. And highly-experienced professionals who have gone down certain rabbit holes can course-correct strategy gone amok quickly with methodology and with skill and craft.

Changing Language to Achieve Excellence

Sellers across our great nation and our great world are stuck in a language that is decades old, a language that is centered on product benefit and value proposition.

However, buyers think in a different way, especially executive buyers. They think in terms of topics, trends, metrics and outcomes. Leading with relevant topics that are germane to your prospect’s professional mandates is vital to widen the sales funnel and to get meetings with senior-level executives.

Politeness at the expense of persuasion is unacceptable

Competence and authority always trump politeness.

I observed a sales team making outbound cold calls targeting chief marketing officers from the largest insurance carriers in North America. Because the salespeople were calling prospects in such a high position, they would often get an administrative assistant.

The call would go like this:

Administrative Assistant: “Hello, this is Mr. Williams’ office.”

Sales Professional: “Oh, hi. This is Joe Smith with Global Enterprise Systems. Do you have a minute? How are you? Is this a good time for you?”

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Any of those three conversation starters are highly ineffective. They are called easy-outs.

Politeness at the expense of persuasion is hindering sales professionals from getting conversions and must be eliminated.

When a salesperson says, “This is Joe with Global Enterprise Systems. Do you have a minute?” the person on the other end is alerted the call is likely an unsolicited sales call, and sales resistance starts to occur.

Administrative Assistant: “Well, what can I do for you?”

Sales Professional: “Well, I’d like to schedule a 30-minute meeting with him. Can you help me with this?”

Administrative Assistant: “Maybe. This is Jane, his assistant. What is this regarding?”

And then it completely breaks down when the seller says this: “Well, I’d like to introduce him to Global Enterprise Systems. I’d also like to introduce him to our agent portal software solution, and I’d like to share with him how we saved Zurich International $1 million last year.”

I personally examined 331 outbound cold calls where this script was used and, sadly, the team scheduled zero meetings.

Using different language and taking a different approach changes the outcome completely.

That same seller, calling on that same chief marketing officer, getting that same administrative assistant, has a very different conversation with a very different result when making these changes.

Administrative Assistant: “Hello. This is Mr. Williams’ office.”

Sales Professional: “Oh, hi. Is he in?”

Administrative Assistant: “No, he isn’t.”

Sales Professional: “Do you keep his calendar?”

(Any time we get an administrative assistant, the first words ought to be “do you keep his calendar?” so we have an opportunity to negotiate for our meeting.)

Administrative Assistant:  “Yes, I do.”

Sales Professional: “Oh, good. This is Joe Smith with Global Enterprise Systems, and I’m calling to schedule his 15-minute analyst briefing. I plan to accomplish this no later than Friday of next week. I have availability on Tuesday in the morning or Wednesday in the afternoon. Which works best for him?”

Administrative Assistant: “Well, wait a minute. What is this regarding?”

Sales Professional: “The topic is Optimizing Agent Retention and Improving Agent Productivity.”

The administrative assistant would have a lot of other questions, but this team that went through the methodology and the certification process was equipped to manage every objection with excellence.

When utilizing this call script, that same team that went 0 for 331, scheduled 1,680 fact-based research briefings with the topic “Optimizing Agent Retention and Improving Agent Productivity.”

That generated $30 million in forecasted revenue, which converted into $10 million of net-new licensing revenue.

I want to give a disclaimer: there is more to the success than just this script. There needs to be excellence at managing objections, and there’s a whole simulation process for that to work.

In addition to that, you have to deliver what you say you are going to deliver. That next presentation must be put together like the best of the best Broadway theatrical production.

Replace ‘Product Demos’ with ‘Technology Briefings’

Research shows the term “product demonstration”  is ineffective; the cancellation rate is higher because the word “demo” and the word “product demo” are so casually used in today’s culture. We often ask teams we work with to stop using the word “demo” and replace it with other phrases like “technology briefing.” The results are astounding.

Prospect Should Talk For A Minimum of 30 Percent of Conversation

During a call, the prospect should talk for at least 30 percent of the conversation. Conversion rates dramatically increase when this number is hit. When the prospect talks for less than 30 percent of the conversation, conversion rates suffer.

Asking open-ended questions is an excellent method to increase the time your target is talking, or target talk time.

Poor Execution of Marketing Automation Drip Campaigns

Research is now showing a lot of concern regarding the over-dependence and the poor execution of marketing automation drip campaigns.

I listen to sellers when I do my observations, and sometimes after I hear them on a cold call, I think, “Oh my gosh!” You might as well just call the target and say, “Hi. This is Kraig. I’m just calling to confirm that you’re going to hang up on me in about 12 seconds. You are going to hang up on me, right?”

And then I almost wonder if they should say, “Wait! Before you hang up, I just want to confirm I’m going to send you this email, and I want to confirm that you’re going to delete that email in about seven seconds. You are going to delete that, right? Oh, wait! You don’t have to confirm that. I’ve got this expensive marketing automation tool that will confirm to me that you deleted that in three seconds, so we’re all good!”

We see this misalignment of sales and marketing and this misalignment and ineffectiveness in the emailing in particular. This is causing deficiencies that must be course-corrected.

De-Puzzling the Game

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The lyrics of a Rolling Stones song illustrate what I’m seeing with sales teams across the world.  “A storm is threatening, and if I don’t get some shelter I’m going to fade away.” Sadly, in my travels across this great world, I see sales organizations that are not getting the shelter that they need. The storm of poor process and the storm of revenue capture models that are not optimized are threatening the very life of the organization.

Another Rolling Stones song states,“What’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.” I disagree with those lyrics. You know the nature of our game. The nature of Kraig Kleeman’s game is not to puzzle but to de-puzzle. There are methodologies that are proven and can help de-puzzle the very obstacles that you face as it relates to creating an authentic revenue capture model.

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