Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Delighted to be Facilitating at Oxford Launch

I am always excited to be involved with start-ups, so having the chance to be part of Oxford Launch in November is a real bonus for me.

The details are below - it will be great fun, as well as helping you to get your start-up under way. Hope to see you there.


21-23 November 2014

Oxford Launch Weekend is a not-for-profit weekend-long event being run by members of Oxford Internet Professionals. It provides hands-on experience for entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to test the viability of, and then launch – a new business.

Whether or not you come with your own business idea, this is likely to be an event you’ll never forget. You will be part of a small team challenged and supported by experienced mentors. The pace will be – fast. The experience – intense. The learning – practical, on-the-job and priceless. Most importantly, we expect it to be highly enjoyable!

Here’s how it works : On Friday evening, participants that wish to have 60 seconds to make a pitch, and then teams are formed around those pitches that are selected. Over Saturday and Sunday teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building a Minimal Viable Product. The weekend culminates with demonstrations in front of an audience of judges and potential investors.

Who should attend? Existing entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone who has thought they would like to be a part owner in a new business venture. People of all backgrounds including software developers, marketers, designers, ux/ui experts, online business enthusiasts, and students.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Why Google and the word 'intrigued' is so helpful in sales!

Anyone who has been involved in selling for a short while quickly learns the importance of getting a prospect talking about what they want to do - what they are looking to achieve. Without such insight we are unlikely to be able to align our product or service as accurately as we should to the prospect's needs. Easy to say, but often difficult to do, particularly if we have never spoken to that person or business before.

Start with a Google search and find out something new about the prospect. Be it a product introduction, a new market they have entered, a take over, new personnel, whatever jumps out at you as being a bit different. Even better if you can align what you find, all be it in a relatively tenuous way, with your own offering. Maybe for example you have a client that you have helped in the past that moved into the same new market as the business you are researching or as simple as someone from one of your clients has moved to join them.

Now you have a reason to call and be 'intrigued'!

I was intrigued to learn that you have ........
I was intrigued to see that you .........

And when asked why you are intrigued? Because I have a client who did exactly the same and we help them in this way. Because I worked with this person when we helped them with that project.

Get 'intrigued'

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Open ended questions or just have a chat?

It worries me how many people who are relatively new to Sales, and indeed some who are not so new, get hung up with the need to ask open ended questions. In fact sometimes I see salespeople going into a panic about if the question they just asked was open ended and then rather than listen to the answer, they start to think about the next open ended question.

The trick is not to think in terms of specific questions, but rather having a simple conversation, just as you would with someone outside of work that you met for the first time. Of course, in your social world you probably have some standard question and/or phrases you use (consciously or subconsciously) to start or develop a conversation. Sometimes these may seem pretty corny, but once you get passed the first few, you are off and running – you are having a conversation! Then most of the time things go smoothly and you feel more and more comfortable.

With this in mind you may want to have a few kick-off questions – “Can you tell me about ....?”, “How do you currently....?” “What would you like to do differently with regard to....?” – but remember this is just to help you to enter a meaningful conversation that should enable you to learn what you need to know. Once you start having a conversation, you will find that prospects and customers naturally begin to tell you what you want to know, with less and less need for you to prompt! 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Understanding how long it takes to make a sale

Salespeople often find it difficult to work out how long it is going to take to convert a prospect into a customer. It can be very worthwhile creating a Prospect to Customer Formula (PCF) to help gain a better visibility to the likely time frame.

Start by analysing your sales over a period that provides you with a reasonable statistical sample. (Obviously if you are selling relatively low value product and generating a number of orders on a daily or weekly basis, then your time scale can be relatively short. On the other hand if you are selling high value products, over a long sales cycle, you may need to look back over a number of years).Your objective should be to construct a road map of the key activities that took place in order to win the business. Then map these over the time period it took, from first engagement to receipt of the order. Hopefully you will be able to determine a pattern and in turn probably identify the few activities that took the longest time.

Such an exercise will help you have a far better view of how long a sale is likely to take and thereby help improve your forecasting. At the same time you might be able to flex your selling process to address those activities which always seem to have a built in delay or lag.

Monday, 16 June 2014

TOP 10 sales competencies - not much changes

I was intrigued to find the following document in my files when I was having a clear out recently. I remember using it as an interview aid for sales people, asking them to rate themselves 1-10 with regard to their strengths. My best guess is that this 10-15 years old. What struck me was despite how products and the sales environment has altered, what makes successful sales people seems to have hardly changed at all!

Commitment - Willing (within reason) to take personal responsibility to do whatever it takes to succeed
Drive - Self-motivation leading to always wanting to excel at what you do
External Relationships - Constantly deliver additional value to both existing clients and new prospects on both a personal and business level
Goals - Know what must be done to achieve targets and have a clear written plan to achieve these objectives
Internal Relationships - Recognise the need and has a natural empathy and desire to engage with colleagues
Managing Yourself - Combining self control, confidence, resilience and handling of rejection
Product Knowledge - In depth knowledge of product/service that enables to offer solutions directly aligned to needs
Sales Process - Understand what it takes to build and implement a strategy to win business
Situational Awareness - Understanding the client environment, their goals and objectives
Accountability - Does not externalise, blame others, company, prospects, the past, etc.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Where is the money going to come from?

As we approach a third of the way through the year, many businesses are assessing how they stand Year-To-Date with regard to their annual target. Often a need is identified to undertake some short term tactical activity to get the required sales run-rate back on course.

Under such circumstances, I have noticed a tendency to immediately focus on which clients might spend more than forecast and/or which prospects can be moved to a higher probability of conversion. I believe a better starting point is to first consider the 'types' of monies potentially available. I have found that this provides a better context and rational when we then come to discussing specific opportunities, be they on a prospect, product or geographical basis.

The most common are;

a) A budget exists, they are going to spend with us, we just want them to do it sooner (a version of eating our own lunch, just at breakfast time!)

b) A budget exists, they are going to spend with us, we believe they could spend significantly more

c) A budget exists, they might spend with us and only us - they need convincing

d) A budget exists, they might spend with us or others - they need convincing

e) A budget exists, but they are not considering spending with us

f) No budget, but the client would like to spend with us

g) No visible budget, we can envisage how they could spend with us, but the client has not bought-in and/or been engaged

h) Contingency budget exists, we can envisage how they could spend with us, but the client has not bought-in and/or been engaged

Looking at such scenarios and then seeing how they apply to both general and specific opportunities can help to focus effort. For example, when looking at short term revenue generation, sales people often gravitate towards f) which is pointless (although critical for long term business development).

The premise is, if you want to turn on short term revenues, think about following the money, rather than just the client and/or prospect.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Prospects will not care about how much you may be able to help, until they know how much you care

In any sort of complex sale we know there has to be at least some elements of relationship building. Your client or prospect needs to have confidence in you as an individual and ideally like you. Sorry, I know it may be as 'old as the hills', but it still remains true - 'People buy from people they like'. Once a client or prospect gets to this stage, then they can then start to believe that you also 'care'.

So the challenge is, how do you show how much you care, without going over the top, without seeming to be fawning or sickly sweet? The answer is again one from the Sales Book 101, but is as fundamental a part of selling as you can get. You listen! In fact more than just listen, you listen hard. Even when you think you understand, you ask and listen hard again.

Too often in selling, the critical importance we attach to 'listening' is based solely on a need to get as best an understanding as possible of the client's or prospect's needs. But that is to miss another significant reason for listening and listening again - it shows that you care. It means that you really want to know everything you possibly can about the situation, environment, issues and problems. Without that knowledge how can you care?

The harder you listen, the more you will care and be seen to care.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Great salespeople know what they WANT!

I have recently been involved in a major recruitment exercise looking for new salespeople. It has led me to develop my thoughts on what seems to be the missing ingredient in certain people. It is that often intangible trait that is all but impossible to identify at interview. I have called it WANT.

Work ethic. (n) 'A set of values based on the moral virtues of hard work and diligence'.

Anxiety. (n) 'A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties'. (Despite how good at their job they may be and how confident they are, they still worry about getting the numbers done. I don't think I have ever met a good sales person that did not show this tendency in one form or another - it helps them remain focused).

Need. (n) 'A condition or situation in which something is required or wanted' (Hungry for money, success and recognition)

Tenacious. (adj) Stubborn or persistent.

WANT does not work in isolation, we still need all the other selling skills and outstanding product knowledge - but wow WANT really makes a huge difference - if only we could bottle it!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New Year’s Resolutions – Share yours with your customers!

Only at this time of the year do we really have the chance to informally drop into conversation with our customers just how committed we are to them.

Make it personal – talking in terms of how YOU want to help your customers achieve their goals during 2014. Try something like “I have made a New Year resolution to try and make sure that my colleagues and I have an increased understanding of your goals this year, so that we can even better align our services and products to your objectives”.

At the very least it will show that you are committed to your customer and willing to take some personal responsibility. After that it is all upside. Perhaps your customer will immediately start to talk to you about developments and changes within the business and their aspirations for the New Year. You might even get the opportunity to suggest a management briefing covering their plans for the coming 12 months – so that you can make sure you deliver in a way that helps your customer be even more successful this year.

Happy New Year and have a great 2014.