Influence the Influencer.


How to influence when not getting through to the Decision Maker

It’s an occupational hazard in sales. Stuck with a gatekeeper who, whatever approach you take, is determined not to let you in until they know more. Or you get to talk to the ‘decision-maker’ – only to find out they are really an influencer. Part of the decision-making unit, yes, and have influence, but there are others who need convincing of the merit of your offer.

Sometimes you just can’t get to have that direct conversation with the person who holds the ultimate power to say yes or no. Indeed, with email filtering and call screening, it’s becoming rarer to get straight through to them. But it’s not the end of the world. You can influence the person you ARE talking to and give them the tools to convince the people that have the final say.

Here’s our top tips on influencing a decision when it’s not the decision-maker you’re talking to:

1. Identify who you are talking to and determine their role

You need to understand precisely with whom you are engaging, and importantly, how influential they are in the decision you want made. Are they a gatekeeper, whose role is to screen calls and deliver on information that is relevant? Don’t underestimate the importance of these people; they hold the power over what information gets passed to the decision-maker. Or are they part of a decision-making unit? They can certainly influence the decision but need someone else to give the final approval. Structure your conversations with meaningful questions to identify how much influence they hold, how long they’ve been with the organisation, and what relationships they hold.

2. Become an influencer marketer

We’re not suggesting you should try selling fad exercise plans, weird supplements or the latest gadget. But the methods used by influencer marketing work – you know what we’re talking about: Mr ‘I bought a Tesla because Elon Musk said I should’ – and can be used to great effect in a B2B sales development environment. If it’s good enough for the most successful networking and sales platform in the world, LinkedIn, then it’s good enough for us. Here’s some ideas:

  • Align yourself with the influencer you are talking to – ask questions about their ideas and why they think your proposition will work for their organisation. The key is to really listen and be genuinely interested in what they think and why they think it. The more you can align yourself with them, the more likely it is that they will prove to be your ally.
  • Hype things up a bit. In the world of Instagram, influencer campaigns are successful when they leverage our links to culturally relevant people with whom we empathise. On a B2B level, you can use relevant brands you’ve worked with to excite the person you are talking to. Referrals and word of mouth recommendations carry enormous weight. You need to understand which brands that you’ve worked with are important in your prospect’s marketplace – not necessarily big world-wide names, but key market players. Even better if you can get a testimonial to add credibility.
  • Develop a culture of sharing. Successful B2B interactions depend on the strength of the relationship as much as the level of influence. Ensure you create and develop a positive relationship with your influencer. Right now, they are the face of your brand within their organisation. With the right nurturing you can turn them into an advocate for you, making it easier for you get your proposition to the final decision maker and receive a positive response from them.

3. Critique your marketing

Is your marketing material up to the job? We’ve talked above about how to build a relationship with your influencer. Now you need to arm them with the right tools. Your message is being passed on through a third party, and we all know what happens when you play Chinese Whispers. By giving the person high-quality marketing collateral that articulates your message perfectly, you will help to ensure nothing gets lost in translation.

When you find yourself in this position, it’s certainly a challenge. But with the right approach, it needn’t be an insurmountable one.

Published: 26th November 2019

Dealing with moving goal-posts.


Goalposts

If you work in sales management, you’ll live and breathe your team sales targets. Agreed at the start of the year, it seemed stretching but achievable. Six months on, yes, you’re on track and feeling positive. The team is motivated. You’ve got your strategic plans in place for the second half of the year, and you’re all focused on the goal for final delivery of targets.

And then it happens…

Re-forecasting. Changed targets. You’re suddenly asked to deliver more than you expected. It’s enough to knock the most motivated of us back a bit. But it’s a fact of life, and you need to deal with it.

The status quo has changed 

Our advice? Accept it. Changing targets can be a fact of sales, accepting it is absolutely the first step needed in re-planning the next six months. Change is inevitable in today’s volatile workplace, and, as cited in the often-used change model by Kurt Lewin, acceptance is the first stage in understanding. Challenge the need for change, and you’re making it more difficult for yourself to implement the positive actions that you must to move forward.

Your team may be up in arms. It’s your job to help them accept the need for change too. Only by understanding why it must happen can you refocus people on the revised objectives.

Delve into the metrics

As part of the process of change, you need to understand whether it’s possible to deliver what is asked, with the resources you have. One way to help you with this is to examine how your metrics need to change to enable delivery of a higher target.

To make short-term changes, there are two things to examine – the quantity and quality of the work. For example, if you measure conversions, how much higher does the rate need to be? If salespeople are making four appointments a day, how many more do they need to achieve to increase sales? Depending on where you are now, both of these may have a positive impact – or neither of them may work. If your team is already filling every minute of every day, asking them to make more appointments is futile.

Examining your resources

When looking at your team, you not only need to consider whether you have the capacity you need but also whether you have the right skillsets in place.

If you feel there is additional capacity in your existing team, you can tap into that and extract the higher work rate you need. Implementing incentives is one way to go, rewarding the salespeople for delivering more. If you don’t have capacity or are missing key skills, this is a longer-term issue for the organisation. But that doesn’t help you right now, with six months to make an impact. Here’s where outsourcing may help.

The beauty of outsourcing is that it lets you implement more resources, at short notice, for a set period. The outsourced team will have one focus alone – to help you achieve your goals. And you can focus then wherever the gaps in your own team may be. For example, they can work on generating genuine opportunities, with the qualification completed, so that your team can improve conversion rates.

Many agencies will say they can supply such outsourced professionals – but a note of caution. The types and quality of these companies and the staff they can provide do vary, so research carefully. And be clear about the type of role you need to add to your team. We have compared two types of outsourcing options here in our blog – telemarketing vs business development – which may help.

The bottom line is that a change targets halfway through the year is never fun; however, with careful management, it needn’t be as problematic as it initially seems.

Published: 13th November 2019

Your sales team sound like robots!


Business Development, script to not sound like a robot

There’s nothing worse than taking a business call and realising very quickly that the person on the other end is simply ploughing through a list of questions sounding like a robot. Regardless of your input or feedback, they are going to get to the end of that list, whatever it takes! Every question seems to be read in a monotone voice, making it impossible to engage with them. And unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence. But surely there is a better way to structure a sales call.

Should I dispense with a script?

Whilst a fixed set of questions will not get you far, neither will a totally unstructured call that ends up being a waste of everyone’s time. So no, we would not recommend a totally unscripted approach. But we do suggest you move away from the idea that a script is a rigid device.   

When you turn on your TV or go to the theatre, what you are seeing is, of course, scripted. But you don’t tend to register it as such, because any actor worth their salt will bring the script to life in the way it is delivered. And the writer will have structured it in a way that sets a scene, tells a story and draws a conclusion.

You can take the same approach with your sales calls. You just need to find a structure to work to.

Getting the structure right

There are various different ways to structure a sales call, and you can test out different ones until you find the one that is most effective for your organisation and your target market.

Here at Intelligent Talk, we find a combination of two methods works well.

The Inverted Pyramid method helps you to prioritise the information you want to impart, and in what order. Originally a tool for journalists, it is just as useful for spoken conversations. Think through the information you want to get across in your call and where in the pyramid it should sit before you pick up the phone

The other method we like is PASO. This is a tool that marketeers have used for years and works on the basis that resolving ‘pain’ is a key motivator for most people. Focus in on the problem that your target is having. Then turn the knife. Make it hurt just that bit more! At that point, you present the solution that will make that pain disappear.

Asking questions

A key tool in the armoury of any sales call is to ask open questions – and crucially, to really listen to the response. The reply you get will give you information on where to take the call next. So your structure needs to be flexible, enabling you to be responsive to the answers you receive.

Think about delivery

Remember what we said about actors? How you speak is arguably as important as what you say. Think about times you have sat through a presentation delivered in a monotone – you just switch off and stop taking in the content. You need to express empathy with your prospect so that they really feel you understand their issues. Using variation in tone to convey interest and recognition will help you to come across as genuine and passionate about your subject. 

In a nutshell, the key to effective telephone scripts is to ensure you are talking about what your audience cares about. Instead of a hard sell, create an environment where the prospect realises you can solve their problem. And condemn that list of fixed questions to the bin forever.

Published on: 30th October 2019

Why your sales process probably sucks!


We have to be honest; we come across a lot of companies whose sales process, not to put too fine a point on it, just plain sucks. Now, of course, you’re not one of those……. are you?

But how can you tell if your sales process sucks, and if it does what do you do about it? Let’s take the blinkers off and see what the reality is.

It’s easy to let processes slip 

Deadlines are looming, and you’re rushing to meet them. A huge prospect is on the horizon – it feels like a done deal. Or the procedure of going through every step in the ideal process just feels a bit, well, long-winded.

Surely a few shortcuts can’t hurt?

There are some red flags to look out for

A key issue is the existence – or more accurately non-existence – of an effective sales process. If you fail to provide your sales force with a defined process, they won’t be successful.

Do your team think sales are won during the prospecting or closing? Actually, they are won during the qualification process. Having a framework for qualification is a crucial element of the sales process. In our experience, this is the reason why many salespeople struggle. They simply can’t effectively qualify their prospects.

Which brings us to the third red flag. Does your organisation have the data to be able to diagnose success and failures? If you can’t track activity and conversion rate, how can you identify where your sales process is failing.

If we’re honest, not many companies get every step right every single time. But it’s worth reviewing the practices in your own organisation. If things have slipped a little it could be having a disproportionate effect on your close rate. A few tweaks to your methods might deliver dramatic results to your bottom line.

So – what are our top tips to the perfect sale?

  1. Ensure you follow every step

As we mentioned above, every salesperson should follow a sales process. There are several established ones, but we recommend Kurlan’s baseline selling method – this video explains it well. It’s a simple to understand process that takes you through the stages of how a sales opportunity evolves, using a baseball pitch as reference!

Whichever process you follow, the important thing is never to be tempted to skip a step. Just like painting an old wall, if you miss out key stages, cracks will appear later in the procedure.

  1. Document, document, document

Your CRM system is your staunch ally in your pursuit of sales. But you know that old observation that holds so true – rubbish in, rubbish out. So make sure you document everything, correctly and comprehensively on your CRM system. If you don’t have a CRM system – well, that’s when the red flag of insufficient data gets raised. It’s a subject for another blog all by itself!

  1. Stay current

You need to keep your research on your prospects up to date. Organisations change, restructure, evolve on a regular basis. Each time it happens, you need to requalify the steps that may be affected. Retracing your path a little can seem frustrating, but is essential for a positive outcome. Miss out this important aspect, and you’ll find all your subsequent work is a waste of time.

  1. Your easiest sales will be to current customers

And that’s why it’s so important to get the post-sales service right. It’s just as essential, perhaps even more so than all the work you did to get the sale. To grow a business effectively, you need a solid base of loyal, repeat customers, over whom you can layer new clients, who in turn become part of that bedrock. If you lose business soon after winning the sale, you are constantly trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it.

So maybe it’s time to look at your sales methods and check that they are effective and that your team are following every step. If not, it’s time to do some coaching and training. We’ve got a checklist that could help as a reference and a starting point.

If we can leave you with one thought, it’s to focus on the processes rather than the outcomes. Get those processes right, and all the team following them, and the outcomes will look after themselves.

Published: 22nd October 2019

GDPR, what is the relevance?


GDPR, legal imagery

It is October 2019, almost a year and a half into GDPRs legislation release. We have had 14,000 data breaches reported in the first year alone within the UK, and the two largest recorded fines to date being dished out to UK firms British Airways and Marriot totaling £300m in July of this year. It would appear GDPR has impacted data and marketing communication in the UK. But how much of a bearing has GDPR had on marketing and sales activities? And is it affecting B2B marketers and lead generation in the same way as B2C?

Furthermore, what happens with Brexit? If we are no longer part of the EU, do we still need to follow GDPR, which only applies in law to EU countries?

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How do you demonstrate ROI in the service industry?


ROI, business, man with breifcase, service industry

Here in the UK, we are a service-based economy. According to the Office of National Statistics, it’s where over 70% of our GDP comes from, with over 80% of our workers being employed within the various service sectors.

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Motivation: How do you beat the post-holiday slump?


be the boss, beat the holiday slump, motivation

We’ve got some good news and some bad news

The bad news is, summer is nearly over. We’ve had our last bank holiday – and what a scorcher it was. The good news is, it’s only about three months to Christmas! Before we know it, we’ll be ordering the turkey and digging out the tinsel. But what about these few weeks in-between?  What happens to motivation?

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Telemarketing vs Business Development


Business Development

What’s the difference again?

Business Development. Telemarketing. They are similar, right?

Well no! Although these days the terms seem to be interchangeable – in truth to move away from the negative connotations sometimes associated with anything ‘telephone’ – they are very different beasts. Whilst there’s a place for each, it’s good to understand the differences so that you can choose which is right for your business.

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