Data is Nice but it Don’t Make Ya Cry

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I recently read an article and buried within, was a short research snippet on the power of stories vs. data.  It was pretty cool.   Got me thinking about how to influence your clients.

The research was a social experiment where students were given $5 to use any way they wanted.  Half the group was then shown a straightforward commercial about a children’s charity devoted to removing hunger; you know – the typical fare about how many children are helped with just so much a day, how your money can sustain so many children or a family – good stuff.

The other half was shown different kind of commercial for the same charity.  It was a little story about a single child and his suffering journey through life.  He of course had a name and it was repeated often in the commercial.  He eventually found happiness and health through the charity.

The students in the first group gave an average of $1.43 of their $5 to the charity and the students in the second group some of which were teary eyed, gave an average of $2.38 (a 66% increase over the first group).

Both commercials were short presumably – maybe 30 seconds maybe a minute long- not sure.  But I do know you have to ask yourself when you are trying to help a client solve some of their business problems with your solution – are you going to rely on the facts and data to make it happen or are you going to tell a short conversational story that inspires?

Don’t give me all that drivel about how consumers are not businesses.  People are people and there’s enough research to prove that business people make decisions as much on emotion as anything else.  That means that stories that elicit joy, optimism, happiness, relief, fear and even tears can influence business people.  Data is nice but it don’t make ya cry.

Tell a short story if you want to influence and motivate.    Here are 3 tips you might not have thought of on making that happen.

Steal The Stories:  Nobody believes you when all of your stories are first-hand experience. You once had a customer find that….and you once had this other customer that did this….. and that years ago you also had this other customer…” Truth is most people that use that approach all the time are making some of it up and it feels disingenuous.    What is more believable and often more truthful is “I have a colleague James in the Dallas office who had a client  who….”  Steal the stories from your colleagues and your company. There are many if you look for them!   If you are a leader—go find the stories and share them so your people can tell them.

Make Them HumanSure in the B2B world your stories are probably about similar businesses who found your product awesome but steal from the charity experiment and make it human.  “So AMC company was freaking out about the competition and Gary over there was working weekends and nights trying to stave off and protect his client base….”   You get the idea—people feel more connected and motivated with emotion, not facts.  Also testimonials are not stories.  Stories are told – not read.

Use Stories All Over the Sales Process:  Mini-stories that support a prospect learning more, a prospect working through the RFP process, a prospect working through risk assessment, price negotiations and /or lack of budget etc. etc. are as important as any story shared to close the deal.  Find those stories through the whole selling process because done well, those stories can influence the client to keep moving to the next step.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Role Players

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image from inthenetsportsacademy.com

Role Players

The New England Patriots are going about it differently this year.  The players have only received Playbooks; they are not practicing.  Sure, they’ve had lots of meetings at camp discussing and talking about the plays, why they are constructed as they are and why the plays will work.  But not a single player has practiced the routes, the blocking schemes, the throws or the running plays.

Why would they bother?  It’s not real.  Heck most of the time in camp they are playing against each other on the same team!  How silly is that? Nothing counts and someone could get hurt and what’s the point of that?  Besides, they’ve studied the plays; they get it.

Not.

Of course the Patriots are practicing this year.  Of course the Patriots are learning their roles by practicing these routes, those blocking schemes, the throws and the running plays.

But we either hate doing that stuff or just don’t care about doing it.

The day I walk through a sales site and see a coach and a sales rep leaning up against some old file cabinets on a sidewall spontaneously practicing a customer scenario about objection handling; I’ll just about have my coronary and end it right there.  I have never ever seen that in real life.

The day I can go to 3 training sessions in a row (live or virtual) where the role play portion wasn’t cut off, or skipped due to time or just wasn’t part of the session – I’ll have that second coronary (well hopefully not with the medication I’m on now and the life changing behaviors I’d have adopted) but—you get the idea.

The day that sales manager from half way across the country Skypes his sales executive and forces her to go through the competitive differentiation portion of the conversation that’s going to soon happen in the C-Suite with a real customer, I’ll have that 3rd myocardial infarction (metaphorically of course).

Maybe I need to get out more often and this stuff happens all the time now.  But maybe it doesn’t.

The sad part is I have a lot of memories when people do some intense role play and apply that Playbook in sessions with their coaches or in war rooms or in “bull in the ring” sessions.   I have lots of memories where those people said, out loud, that that was the best part of working their boss or in the team meetings or in the training classes.

The Patriots aren’t fools.  They know they have roles to play.  And they know they need to play these roles and practice even when stuff ain’t real.   They know because when the time comes; they need to be ready.

And so do we.  Hut! Hut!.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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2 Little Things Driving Me Nuts about Sales Advice

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2 Little Things Driving Me Nuts about Sales Advice

I’ll pontificate with the best.   And there are a couple of things I don’t agree with regarding sales advice of late that are bothering me enough to do just that.

Difference here of course is that when I pontificate I am right.  🙂

Presentations Should Never Lead With Info About Your Own Company.   Wait, what? If I had a dollar for every post, newsletter, tweet, LinkedIn post and e-book of late that said this I would be rich and then actually I would be poor cuz’ I wouldn’t sell anything.

I get it.  Everyone says your presentations should lead with and be about your client, the result of your research, your discovery and how your company solves problems or drives revenue.  Yes, I get it.   But the reality is your company, its credibility, its experience, the friends it hangs out with and the intelligence of its people are always a concern for a prospect especially in this democratized world where a 1 person operation with a slick website and a social media presence can look like a big boy that has done nothing but looks like it has.   Buyers and prospects are more wary than ever because while a national and global marketplace is advantageous to buyers, it is no assurance that providers are inherently credible.

I’m not saying blather about your years of experience, testimonial and client lists in slide after slide in your presentations but you must at least lead with stories that build the trust and credibility of you and your company with like clients and prospects and then move into your key learnings and what your company brings to the table for the client.

The Client Should Do All (or most) of The Talking:   Really?  I’ve heard and read this like from the beginning of time – and I still see it and hear it daily.   But talk to the best sales reps out there.  It’s not true.  These sales people who are killing it are experts, challengers, loaded with insight and play a consultant role with prospects and clients.  They do a lot of talking, a lot of teaching, a lot of the story telling, and a lot of the credibility building as well as some of the listening.  They don’t just sit back 80% of the time and just take notes through the sales process.    The key here is these sales folks inspire their clients to share and talk honestly about their needs and their ambitions as a result of sharing their insights and by asking great questions.  It is far closer in effective sales to be ~ 50%/50% between client and sales rep than 80%/20% in favor of the client.

These reps know that Interrogation is Not a Sales strategy.   These reps know that what they provide has to be different and more worthy than what the client or prospect can find on the company website or brochure and that requires communicating.  These reps know the mastery of communication and conversation is not excelling at a mute Freudian analysis absorbing the soliloquies of the prospect or the client.

***

You may disagree with my take on both of these nagging feelings about sales advice.  In fact, I expect many of you do.  But you would be wrong.  (Or maybe, it is possible, remote-though possible, that I am wrong).

Either way – only good comes from thinking about these two or discussing with your teams or colleagues; They are important places to focus

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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That Hero Formula

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That Hero Formula

In a recent post,   Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now I got a few questions about the 3rd piece of advice around storytelling, particularly about the Hero Formula.

  1. The customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck.
  2. Took the leap of faith.
  3. Ran into some unexpected challenges.
  4. Recommitted to the effort.
  5. Achieved mastery and had awesome results.

The hero formula has different iterations and is hugely popular in movies of course (think Rocky, Good Will Hunting, The King’s Speech and a dozen more).  But it is great in sales (no matter what you sell,  be it products or ideas).  And it is great in marketing and business (think Apple/ Steve Jobs, the band Aerosmith etc.).   Good stories stick and help you sell whatever it is that you do.

I got some questions about how it really sounds with a product or service.  Here is an example and it is true – I’ve heard it first hand from people in the trenches.   That is the key- don’t make stuff up.   Instead, craft (as I did here) the truth leveraging the formula- you’d be surprised how often success follows the formula.

  • “An electrician I know lost most of his commercial business in a bid. CVS stores were his life and now they were gone.  He needed to get into residential work in a big way and started smartly to build an online presence like a website, a Facebook page and trying to blog etc. as he knew the way word of mouth works is changing.  But he did it on his own and it was a huge amount of work for him and his family- much more than he thought.  He called us for a reorder of business cards one day and I started sharing how we could do a lot of that work managing his online presence making it so much easier for him and 4 months later he’s got close to 1000 followers on his Facebook page and gets about 30 solid leads a week off his website for residential work.”

The nice thing about hero stories is they don’t have to be yours.  You can share regardless.  “One of my colleagues has a client that…” will work just fine.   Hero stories are sticky sticky sticky.  They are centered on the Hero and how your product/ idea or service helped the Hero in their journey to success.   That’s nice.  And better, that’s effective.

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now

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Haven’t You Changed Yet? 3 Things Sales People Must Do Now

You know it’s true.

You know that when a prospect calls, fills out a web form or pings you with an email these days that they have already and absolutely done research about you, your products and your company.  Like a lot of research.

I’ve read a dozen studies that say most folks are 50% to 75% through the sales process by the time they get to you, the live breathing sales rep.

Well that stinks.  It’s sure not like the old days.

Remember the days when prospects or clients needed you to tell them all about your company, the products, the pricing and the options?  Yeah, I do.  It was like the early 2000’s was the last time that was real life.  But now there is the internet, the websites, the blogs, the reviews and all that good stuff.  What do the prospects need you for?  (Answer: to confirm pricing, terms and other such mundane stuff it seems).

But it doesn’t  have to be that way.   There are three things you should be doing all the time now dear sales person, before and during that time when that phone rings, that load leads or that email arrives.

 

  • Differentiation is Your Lead Story:  If the prospect is contacting you – they already have a need; so ease up on hitting the needs discovery so hard up front for criminy sakes.  Instead, focus on differentiation and do it presumptively.  An old colleague of mine taught me the critical question sales must always answer for prospects; “Why with all the competitive alternatives available to me, should I buy from you?”  OK – you know that is important but you need do this presumptively without being asked.  “Yes, it runs around $60 a month and what makes that unique versus others that may offer the service is….”  Or “My guess is you’ve looked hard at options here, one thing to consider unusual but awesome about how our products delivers is…..”    Your job with differentiation as your lead story is to snap the prospect out of price or terms shopping – that’s where they think they are when they call you – and that is what you must change.

 

  • Teach Existing Customers Something New Every Single Day:   Some of the best sales reps in the world don’t like the leads they get today.  They really don’t.  The leads they get today as I’ve said are often folks who have so much research available to them that by the time they contact you – you’re just a talking head sometimes confirming stuff they already know.   The best sales people create their own leads.  They educate and teach before the need arises or do so in such a way that they create the need and therefore are front and center playing the role of a human (and way more engaging) source of research and information than the web.  And they teach about new products and services for sure but in such a way that they are problems solvers and industry challenge averters and hurdles faced but that help to succeed.    Maybe you’re in the lead generation business in your role, maybe you are in the closing end of it too.  It makes no difference – teach, teach, and then teach some more.

 

  • Be a Story Teller:  You know what doesn’t work all that well on the web?  Customer Testimonials.  They really don’t.  No offense to any of the talented marketing folks who nurture, create and publish testimonials.  Some are effective for sure; some are even emotionally moving videos about using a product.  But by and large, the quotes, the blurbs and the statements supporting the products and services on a website or brochure are let’s be honest, not always believed to be credible to the prospect.  But a story told by a real sales person like you who had a real interaction with a real customer who better yet,  looks a lot like the prospect you are talking to;  A story told well that way – now that has influence!   Get good at telling stories.  You all have them.   You have those real success stories with real customers.  (Bonus tip; Fit your story into the Hero model for greatest impact;  1) the customer who feared/resisted change or was down on their luck 2) took the leap of faith 3) ran into some unexpected challenges 4) recommitted to the effort 5) achieved mastery and had awesome results!).  Story telling was never part of anyone’s sales training class – that I can assure you; but it darn well should be now!

 

Times change.  Technology changes.  Buying processes change.   Make sure you are too.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Say Something Nice (& 3 Ways To Do It)

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Say Something Nice ( & 3 Ways To Do It)

 

Your mother was right about having something nice to say.  Especially if your clients are businesses.

 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Scrabble

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You can call it volunteering if you want but I just call it “an old fashioned whoopin’ that keeps on giving”

It’s true I’ve been known to head to the local Sr. Center and um… volunteer to play scrabble with some of the folks that hang out there.   My objective is twofold:  give of my time and talent to these wonderful folks and of course, to win.

Scrabble is a great game. It’s a great game for anyone.  It keeps the mind sharp.

Let’s all agree to that helping drive interest in the playing of Scrabble is a good thing – especially at a Senior Center.  Let me make an argument that it’s even better when I do it.   Scrabble in my hands for a mere hour a week, is a series of important life lessons for all of us.

  • Losing never gets old.  Chances are overwhelming that you will lose to me.  (Ok, well 2 weeks ago was an exception – but I’ve got my eye on you Betsy).  There’s no age when losing should stop.  Life is funny like that; the only time losing stops pretty much is when you’ve given up trying something or are no longer literally getting in the game.  My trouncing you is therefore, good for you.
  • Chi is good, really good.   Chi is a word that means vital internal energy.  Good chi is exactly what you want in your Senior Center and exactly what you want in Scrabble.  With me as your Scrabble guide, you’ll get vitally energized when you learn that you can spell “chi” for immense points in two other ways with just two letters as in “xi” and “qi”.  What fun!  When I did this for 31 points, Kathy shot me a look and then spewed out  two other choice letters tied together that I can’t mention, but nevertheless, this is a teaching moment!  – Teaching never grows old, even if we do.
  • Without rules there’s Chaos.   Just because we may have a little more life experience doesn’t mean rules get lax.  I have a lot of personal rules about Scrabble I think are endearing and truly in the spirit of the game.  One rule is that you should never put down a word that you cannot use in a sentence.   Nancy disagreed when I asked her about “el” and then slammed down her 4 page print-out of acceptable 2 letter Scrabble words and said “That’s stupid-  it’s a word! But to make you happy, how about you shutting the el up?”  Funny now but she’ll think about it later and realize how much I’ve taught her.

This week at my suggestion, we’ve added a Scrabble trophy for the winner of the weekly matches. The winner keeps it for the week, snapping and posting photos of you and your trophy around town.  A nice incentive to work hard every week and improve your game I say.   My Scrabble mates liked the idea but suggested if I win, to take a photo of myself and the trophy at the end of a long walk on a short pier.

Not very nice but chi is xi baby– bring it on!

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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