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The Capitalist versus the Communist

April 13, 2009


“Comrade Smith, we in Corporate Purchasing have ways of getting discount. My friend, you will pay up 5% on multi-year data storage agreement.” Ah yes the socialist ideals that brought down an empire are still alive and well in the procurement department of the average Fortune 500 company.   Commoditization, 5 Year Plans, Product Harmonization Codes, a fanaticism for hand-signed documents in the age of eSignatures…. They’ve got them all.

Procurement, or Contracting as it known by old schoolers, is the final step in the sales process, and often the most frustrating. Historically deals were rarely lost at this late stage but our margins frequently got royally screwed. In today’s recession hit economy though, get a deal stuck in procurement for too long and we’re liable to lose our funding in yet another round of budget cuts.
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Why I Won’t Get Out of Bed for Less Than 3% Commission

April 10, 2009


Salesmen are hated for two crimes: making cold calls and collecting commission checks.  Fortunately for our profession, at least one of the two is on the decline.

The concept of the sales bonus is quite bizarre; in no other corporate function do employees require variable compensation to perform basic tasks such as responding to email and returning phone calls. 

But no sir, I am a salesman!  Most mornings I wake with an empty glass of Veuve Clicquot in my hand, light a cigar and begin phoning through my rolodex starting with the prospect most likely to cover the next payment on my Bentley.  If only life was that simple…

Still commission checks nicely spice up otherwise dull customer interactions.  Negotiating a million dollar contract is much more fun when the individual recommending the solution personally stands to pocket enough dollars to purchase a small speed boat.
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Sales for Star Trekkers: WebEx for the Rest of Us

April 5, 2009


For years, mankind has dreamed of beaming itself across the universe with nothing more than a few flashing lights and accompanying spooky sound effects. After an early proof of concept was successfully piloted by the producers of Star Trek in 1966, the dream was finally realized in 1995 with the launch of WebEx…. sort of.

Just like robotic housemaids, flying cars and the paperless office WebEx and its peers haven’t quite lived up to their promise of making business travel a thing of the past. Every Monday morning an army of East Coast salesmen rise at 4:30 am to make the LA flight no doubt passing their West Coast peers somewhere in skies above Kansas. Still remote meetings are an essential part of the contemporary Closer’s toolkit if not a substitute for face-to-face meetings. So when should we use this marvel of modern office technology once thought to exist only in the realm of science fiction?

Virtual meetings are great in some scenarios… and really bad in many others, most notably when we’re pitching to someone three blocks away from our office who wouldn’t agree to a face-to-face meeting. WebEx is a step backwards when dialogues that should happen in-person are scheduled online because we lack the necessary credibility or our prospect is scared that we’ll steal their office stationary.
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Stinky Sales Collateral 101

March 29, 2009


Sales people get to do a lot of pitching in their professional careers but rarely have the privilege of being the umpire or even spectating in the bleachers with a Budweiser and a hot dog. Within our own internal sale teams we probably only observe our colleagues pass through the sales cycle once a year while hung-over at a management-sanctioned training seminar. There are unwritten rules of corporate etiquette, don’t look around in the restroom – don’t ask to watch another man selling.

As such we leave ourselves open to complacency and a slew of sales-related faux pas. In this article we’ll explore the essentials of preparing the sales materials itself saving the complexities of successfully pitching for a later blog post.

First-off: volume of material. Based on past experience there is a bell curve that plots the probability of closing a deal against the size of the proposal. As the document swells in page count the likelihood of closing initially increases, it then reaches some optimum level of tree destruction before finally plummeting into “Jimmy Cricket! Did I really just spend the weekend writing that?”
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Read This Next Time You Lose a Deal

March 25, 2009


Sales rocks. You get to drive hire cars, cash in free air miles and dine at the Outback Steakhouse once a month. If more kids knew about these secret perks there might be more budding salesmen in America than aspiring firemen and astronauts.

Still some aspects of the job suck – and perhaps top of the list is taking calls to hear that you have just lost a really big deal. Rejected.  Do not pass go!  No soup for you….

For some reason, we still manage to find the rationale to thank the messenger of doom… “Well Brad, I appreciate you keeping us all in the loop on your decision.” It’s really scraping the barrel when it comes down to complementing someone on how expediently they’ve crushed our dreams.

Still losing deals is an inevitable part of business. Period. In sales we just have more direct exposure to the triumphs and shortfalls of the capitalist marketplace. There is an optimum win rate: too low and you’re bidding on unqualified business; too high and you’re leaving those speculative opportunities on the table that drives growth. We rarely win business out the blue but all too often we lose deals unexpectedly. In the field it pays to be a daily optimist, in management balanced pessimism delivers growth.
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When Sales is Like Bad Sex

March 23, 2009


Around the early 1980’s, sales moved out of the dark ages and set sail for the brave new world of consultative selling. At the heart of the revolution were open ended questions. In training, I was instructed to “pick the vault of business” until I found the “code” that would unlock untold wealth for me and my employer. (Back home, a sledge hammer and a pair of pliers were generally accepted as the best tools for hotwiring the goods). Sales was simply a case of asking the right questions until the prospect broke down and confessed, between sobs, that their life was meaningless without my product.

Every sales rep, who has got beyond the issuing of his name badge, knows he is supposed to ask questions. Unfortunately for many, questions are a chore, something to be endured before getting to the main event… not unlike the average male’s attitude towards bedroom foreplay. It’s something we know we’re supposed to be good at and yes, we found that article in Cosmopolitan very interesting but really, what’s the point?

Still every year, sex lives and sales quotas go unfulfilled: foreplay and questions are things we could all be better at. On one of these two life skills, I can provide guidance.
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Personal Hygiene for the Modern Sales Professional

March 21, 2009


In the interest of travelling light, I have known committed sales reps to fly overnight with nothing more than a clean shirt and change of underwear crammed in their laptop bag. While such a devotion to minimalist travel is to be commended amongst Tibetan Monks, there are certain social standards that the modern sales representative is expected to live up to.

First off – stay away from hotel toiletries. Complementary shampoo = dandruff. In a 1999 study published by the American Society of Trichologists, hotel shampoo was shown to increase scalpel flaking by 67%. An unexpected correlation was also found between Motel 8 hair conditioner and the early onset of Alzheimer’s.

Based on my own personal experience, complementary hotel razor blades are no better for personal grooming than a Stone Age flint blade. It is rumoured the Holiday Inn purchased its razor blades in bulk from the Soviet army during the break-up of the USSR in 1989. As for toothpaste, I managed to go 2 years without purchasing this $4.99 commodity due to a steady supply of complementary Aqua Fresh from the W Hotel concierge desk. I was forced to give up this act of economic defiance after a supply shortage left me high and dry mouthed; I substituted (badly) with mouth wash and Wrigley’s mint gum. Say cheese.
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