You have a buying process problem, not a selling problem

This week’s blog is blog is by Sharon Drew Morgen, the visionary and thought leader behind Buying Facilitation®, the new sales paradigm that focuses on helping buyers manage their buying decision. She is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and the recent Dirty Little Secrets. She is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant focusing on buy-in and decision making.

You know your solution. You understand your buyer’s need. You know how to sell. You understand the competition. You know how to price your solution, how to pitch it, how to run a presentation, how to follow up. You know the pitfalls, the follow-up procedures. Why aren’t you selling more then? Why aren’t prospects closing more?

I recently got a call from a prospect who said all of the above. Yes, they know everything – and do whatever they need to do, and do it well. Why aren’t they closing more? This is the perennial problem for a sales professional. It makes no sense: sellers can see the problem – seen it hundreds of times. You know your solution fits. Perfectly. The buyer knows they need you. The buyer is ok with the price. You two have a great relationship. And then they disappear, with about 90% of the other prospects you’ve been nurturing.

It’s an age old problem, one I’ve been talking about for 20 years. But after the conversations I’ve had this week, I thought it might be time to review.

THE SALES MODEL ONLY MANAGES 10% OF THE BUYING JOURNEY

It’s not the fault of your solution. The problem is with the sales process. It merely handles a tiny part of the buyer’s decision making. They actually have a rigorous set of change management activities they must complete, among colleagues and departments (or family members), before they can consider making a purchase. I’ve written a whole book about this (Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it). Let me share some insights (and then, if I’ve made some sense to you, go buy the book! or at least read the sample chapters).

  1. you are acting as if the buyer’s need/problem were an isolated event. Stop it. It’s not. It’s part of something larger that you aren’t privy to and that has sat there, functioning ‘well-enough’, for some time.
  2. if the buyer really believed they needed your solution they would have gotten it – or something like it – already.
  3. buyers don’t want your solution. They want to resolve a problem in the most efficient, effective way that creates the least disruption.
  4. understanding what the buyer needs is not going to help them make a buying decision, even if you’re right, and even if they need your solution.
  5. sellers can only understand that part of the ‘need’ that they can see or surmise. There is much more going on that is unseen, endemic, and visible only to insiders.
  6. whatever data you collect from technology does not give you what you need to help buyers navigate through their behind-the-scenes political issues.
  7. just because someone looks like a prospect and acts like a prospect doesn’t mean she’s a prospect.
  8. your problem is not a sales problem; it’s about what buyers need to go through with colleagues and business practices before they can decide to buy. You know how to sell. That’s not what is going on here. That’s not keeping the buyer from buying.
  9. if you hear yourself saying “That buyer is stupid” please consider that it isn’t the buyer who’s stupid.
  10. until or unless the buyer figures out how to manage all of the off-line, behind-the-scenes decision issues they need to address amongst themselves and colleagues (and vendors and investors and and and) they will do nothing regardless of their need. They never need it as bad as you think they do. They have work-arounds.
  11. to make any change or purchase, the buyer must go through some private stuff that you can’t be a part of so long as you continue operating out of a sales mind. They’re going to go through this with you or without you: might as well be with you. But the sales model doesn’t offer skills to help this part of the decision journey.
  12. buyers buy using their buying patterns, not your selling patterns. Buying is a change management problem, not a solution choice activity. Choosing a solution is the very last thing that happens.
  13. buyers don’t even know how to make sense of your solution data until they are far into the choice process.
  14. with the capabilities of technology the sales job is doomed. Unless you add some new skills, what you are doing is not going to be needed for much longer.

Surviving the mid sale crisis

In this article, SalesMagazine.com explores the skills and strategies, which help to win major sales. They examine the issues arising in the evaluation of the options phase of the Buying Cycle.

This is one of the most misunderstood stages of the sale where all too often sellers simply submit a proposal and hope for the best. Yet this should be one of the most active parts of the sale since the buyer is evaluating the options available and short-listing those suppliers, which seem to offer the best fit, in terms of meeting their needs and selection criteria.

13 Reasons for Poor Sales Hires by Hard Working Sales Managers

Lance Cooper of Sales Manage Solutions invites you to imagine this picture… Turnover occurs – sometimes at an excessive rate. Sales managers work hard and struggle to find quality candidates for open sales positions. They place ads in local newspapers and get many responses. Some use Monster. Some use recruiters. However, many of their candidates come from people who cannot find a job anywhere else. Sales managers then sift through dozens of resumes to find only a few candidates worth an interview.

When the candidates arrive, the resumes look better than they do! Even so, sales managers decide to move ahead with the best candidates. They sell themselves – they make themselves see what isn’t really there. This results in hiring people who do not possess the personality traits of high performers.

Eventually, sales managers begin to lower their standards. They shift the focus and blame a difficult career for the inability to recruit high quality people. For every three to seven people they hire, only one seems to start off well. First year production decreases, turnover increases, and overall team production decreases. A negative sales culture forms.

What do these sales managers do wrong in the recruiting process?
Sales managers make poor hiring decisions when exhibiting the following behaviors…

Who’s Most Likely to Fail the Background Check?

Original Post: Monster.com
By Dona DeZube, Monster Finance Careers Expert

If you’re working in construction, there’s a good chance you’re laboring next to someone with a criminal past. But if you’re working in the nonprofit sector, you’re more likely to be sitting next to someone who has lied about his education.

Those differences came to light when Kroll analyzed “hit ratios” for the eight most common employment screening criteria to calculate what proportion of the potential employees it screened for various industries stretched the truth or left important information off their applications.

It found that more than 51 percent of real estate industry folks had at least one late payment on their credit history, 48 percent lied about former employment and more than 40 percent had a not-so-clean driving record. In financial services, nearly 7 percent of applicants had criminal records, nearly 48 percent fudged something about former employment and 21 percent lied about their educational credentials. Those in education flunk drug testing at the highest rate, nearly 9 percent.

“Based upon the results we see, people at all levels stretch the truth,” says Barry Nadell, a senior vice president of Kroll’s Nashville-based Background Screening division.

When Embellishing Goes Too Far

Sometimes an omission can be an innocent mistake. You think you started working somewhere in March 2004 when you really began in July 2004. Other times, omissions are not so innocent. “I can’t imagine any individual who when asked, ‘Have you ever been convicted of a crime?’ not knowing if they were convicted,” Nadell says.

Everyone embellishes a bit when describing their experiences, accomplishments and achievements, just as companies embellish when they tell you how wonderful a job is going to be, says Professor Anthony Buono, coordinator of the Bentley College Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility.

Embellishment turns into misrepresentation when you stretch the facts beyond credibility, such as when you make up degrees or positions. “People do that because they don’t have confidence in themselves, so they want to make themselves look better,” he says. “That’s true misrepresentation of who you are, and that’s unacceptable.”

Even the smallest of lies can trip up a job hunter. “People will lie about the degree they have,” says Jason Morris, president of employeescreenIQ. “They’re going for a position in finance so they say they have a finance degree when they have a business degree.” Morris says he’ll catch that lie. “It’s very simple to check someone’s major,” he says. “We call to verify the information on the resume.”

Truth Is Power

So what’s a job seeker with bad credit, a conviction for a youthful indiscretion or a six-month employment gap to do? “My advice is always to tell the truth no matter what the stakes,” Nadell says. “Being caught in an untruth is worse than being honest. Oftentimes you can explain your situation in advance.”

Chances are your interviewer knows that poor credit can follow a divorce, that teenagers do stupid things and that people are sometimes out of work. Be ready with a contrite explanation that admits your fault in the incident, shows how you rectified the problem and then brings the conversation back to why you’re right for the current position.

If that strategy doesn’t work, seek work with a firm that doesn’t do background checks — small firms and temporary agencies are good bets. “We’re seeing more small organizations make background checks mandatory for employees, and companies of all sizes are increasingly screening temporary employees,” Nadell says. “However, some temporary agencies and smaller organizations conduct less-thorough background checks or do so when you go from temporary to permanent.”

By that time, your employer should like you and may be inclined to overlook indiscretions if you’re honest about them.

The Sweet Spot: A few salient questions about ‘smarketing’

This week’s guest post is an interview with Naviga CEO Kathleen Steffey and Matthew Schwartz, editor of Follow the Lead and a contributing writer at Crain’s BtoB and BtoB’s Media Business magazines. He can be reached at matthew.schwartz38@yahoo.com.

Sales and marketing alignment is all the rage right now, as companies grapple with how to blend the two disciplines together to create better efficiencies. But first they have to break down the silos, and we’re not about to hold our collective breath on that one. We caught up with Kathleen Steffey, founder-CEO of sales and marketing recruiting firm, Naviga Recruiting & Executive Search, to get her take on whether the debate about sales and marketing alignment will result in concrete action.

Follow the Lead: What do you think are some of the concrete steps organizations can take to meld the two disciplines?

Steffey: First, they need to talk about it and acknowledge that the revenue opportunity in the groundswell space even exists.  Most companies are not on the bandwagon just yet and are still only attacking old school/traditional ways to gain revenue.  Second, they need to either hire marketing experts in this space or assign a key person to lead this initiative inside the organization.  The head of sales or marketing needs to be the advocate(s) behind the overall strategy and approach towards the execution.  The sales leader [also] has to incorporate the groundswell audience into the sales performance.  There needs to be core training on the how, what, when and where in order to capture this audience and stay in front of them. Marketing needs to be the provider of information and act as an ongoing resource for tools and strategies for the sales team to be effective. It’s a very different approach/strategy for sales people to be involved in, so the training and process needs to be coddled, at least at first.

FTL: What are the some of the pitfalls companies can avoid when trying to bridge the gaps between sales and marketing?

Steffey: Acknowledge, meet, collaborate and align.  Make sure that the sales and marketing strategy for the business is agreed upon and go hand in hand. There are many questions to prompt discussions: How is our target audience utilizing the groundswell? Are they using it to socialize? Make decisions? Gain information? Research and observe? Companies then need to ask what they are doing to keep in front of existing clients that are utilizing the groundswell and what can their individual sales people do similarly to approach this audience and maximize revenue opportunity? [Lastly], you have to ask: How are we tracking the effectiveness of this approach?

(This piece originally ran on Follow the Lead)

Four Ways Sales Pros Close More Deals With Email

Craig Klein wants you to know that the emails you send to your customers, and the emails you’re not sending, could be shooting your sales performance in the foot. Believe it or not, changing the way you email your customers can do more for your bottom line than just about any new sales technique you learn this year.

Read more here.

Featured Company Q&A: Oasis Corporate Housing

This month’s Featured Company Q&A is with Steve Frey, President of Oasis Corporate Housing, who shares with us the value of the relationship between businesses, their employees, and the option of corporate housing.
Why did you start Oasis Corporate Housing?

To become the largest corporate housing provider in the country. We provide extended stay traveling employees, displaced families during a home fire or flood, and relocating families with a “home away from home”. We provide an alternative to a hotel room by providing fully furnished and all-inclusive short-term rentals throughout the US and overseas.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

What I enjoy most is when someone tries corporate housing for the first time and then hearing the amazement in their voice when they first experience the comforts & service level that corporate housing can provide them. I love when I hear, “I’ve never stayed in corporate housing before but this so much better than living in a hotel. I will never do anything else.” That is a win in my book.

What unique quality separates Oasis from your competitors?

Oasis is different in multiple ways. First, we service the world and do it with one headquarter office and a few key employees that work from home offices.  Our organizational structure gives us a tremendous leg up on the competition because we don’t have to set our price high to cover non-essential “bricks and mortar” locations.  In addition, we set an internal tone that each guest and accommodation must be perfect and we do this through the use of a 100-point quality control checklist that is completed with every move-in.

How do you think businesses can benefit from using Oasis?

We benefit businesses AND their employees in different ways. For businesses, we offer a streamlined method for obtaining temporary housing with one-point of contact for all requests (we make life easy for our clients).  Also, our temporary housing accommodations are typically 25-35% less than the cost a business would incur by housing their employee in a hotel.  For employees, a few of the benefits include having a full kitchen to be able to cook meals in, having a washer & dryer to be able to clean your clothes, being able to leave your belongings behind if you travel home on weekends.  And let’s not forget that the condos, apartments, townhomes, and single family homes are all significantly bigger than a small hotel room.

We are all coming off of a challenging year due to the economy, how has Oasis handled it?

We have been lucky. Our corporate housing saves clients significant amounts of money.  The 3rd largest overhead expense for the average Fortune 500 Company is travel. In a survey we conducted, we found that 70% of those polled did not know what “corporate housing” was. As a result, this means that there is tremendous opportunity to inform people about an easy method for reducing one of their biggest costs. Therefore, it is our job to inform potential users about our industry. Once we explain the comfort that our guests enjoy and the cost savings to the business, we have a fairly high percentage of clients that begin emailing and calling us with their temporary housing needs.

What do you have planned for 4th Q 2010 and 1st Q 2011?

In the 4th Q of 2010 we expect to have a new Director of Sales (thanks to our friends at Naviga) and to finish out the year with winning at least one government contract.  During Q1 of 2011, we look forward to finalizing our new proprietary web-based property management software, that will provide a centralized location for all sales and operations information while staying directly linked to our website.  It will also allow us to provide a client log-in portal where our clients can access all important information about their accounts with us.

What would you like SalesJournal.com readers to know about Oasis?

Oasis Corporate Housing is here to serve as a perfect housing solution for 30+ day stays. If you are working on the road for a 30+ day project, if you lost your home in a flood or fire, or if you are relocating and need a temporary place to hang your hat, we would welcome the opportunity to present you or your company with our options and services. We service companies and individuals. So, don’t let the term “corporate housing” make you think we don’t work with plenty of individuals – we do. If you are able to direct us in contact with your travel department or HR  department, we may be able to get your company signed on to receive special discounts or packages that include special upgrades.

As CEO, what specific goals within the company have you established for 2010?

During 2010, our primary goal was to develop systems and processes that create the ‘perfect move-in’. Through our focus on quality and the development of our sales team, we are looking to end 2010 with revenues in excess of 3 times that of 2009.

What current strategies are you using to encourage/influence the growth of your sales team?

Our current strategy involves a two-pronged approach. We have inside sales professionals that a wide reach and are assisting individual clients (ie, non-corporate clients that come in via the internet) with needs as well as some of our smaller corporate clients.  They are responsible for presenting these clients with amazing temporary housing options while keeping a keen eye out for potential larger opportunities that may exist with these prospects. Concurrently, we have our outside national sales executives that focus on specific industry verticals and prominent companies within those verticals. By combining the inside sales function and our outside national sales executives, we are able to maintain a focus on all potential opportunities and prioritize our efforts and focus. We are excited to be working with Naviga to reach the next level in sales production with the addition of a seasoned industry veteran to serve as our Director of Sales within the next couple of months.

What is your favorite methodology in business enhancement?

I believe that if you combine having a product that provides a client with value (value being defined as a good product and service and the best possible price) & an insatiable appetite for success, the sales will come. However, each sale has the potential to be short lived without placing the proper focus on quality and efficient business processes. I feel this is best achieved through the use of technology.

Are there any leadership related books that you use as a guide and/or would recommend?

Of course! I am a big fan of Walt Disney and Robert Mondavi. After reading about each of these men, the link between the relentless pursuit of perfection and their business successes is undeniable.  I also like to read Bob Parsons blog at www.bobparsons.me (the founder of GoDaddy). He has some great words of wisdom.

Do you have a mentor that you contribute your leadership success to? Do you feel it is important to have a mentor?

I have numerous mentors. I am part of an organization called “Bay Area Advisors”. As part of this organization, we have quarterly guest speakers that are all very successful local business leaders. These leaders come to speak with us about their own personal story and thoughts on leadership and success. Of all the local business leaders that I’ve met with, I connect most with one; Ron Laker, the former CEO of Trademark Metals Recycling, is unlike most business leaders. His priorities all revolve around leading a balanced life.  The premise of his “balanced life” is that when four areas of life are balanced, all prove to progress more successfully. The four areas are business, family, community, and personal health. It is so easy to get all consumed with work and business but it is important to take time to put the rest of life’s pillars in balance. When we do, they all seem to do better too. I’m pretty sure I am a novice at implementing this theory but its good reminder from time to time to try and pull life back into balance.  However, for now….back to work!