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Sales Qualification Methods

Given my recent finish of SPIN Selling, sales qualification/ discovery processes weigh heavy on my mind. So, it’s no surprise then, that when I run into a new acronym that I wonder what it’s about – and how it’s different.
Here are a few sales qualification acronyms: BANT – this is a real popular one that was the foundation for many sales processes. It stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing.ANUM – evolution from BANT and heavily promoted by InsideSales.com for years, this stands for Authority, Need, Urgency, and Money.SPIN – this is more about the process rather than qualification criteria. However, this comes from Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling – Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need pay-off.MEDDIC – this is a new one for me after hearing about this from a sales leader recently. This stands for Metrics, Economic buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Identify pain point, and Champion. This one is more comprehensive than the others. It aims to understand the buying proc…

300! Reflecting on How I Started

Yes, this is my 300th post!
My very first post was back on May 3, 2012 – “To be an effective consultant”. Yes, back in the day, I started the blog as SC Ninja Skills (SC = Supply Chain). I remember it – I wrote the first post sitting in a hotel in L.A. I went there before starting my MBA program at Emory. I remember having this idea to start the blog a year or so before. However, I thought I needed more experience. What did I have to offer?
In that seemingly random moment in the hotel room, though, the question flipped: “why do I have to wait till I’m in my 40s to influence others? To teach? To be influential? Haven’t Fortune 500 companies been hiring my consulting firm or requesting ME as a subject matter expert? I do know a lot even in my short career so far!” This was a huge moment for me as I realized my own worth. Confidence just flowed from there.
I started my pivot in September 2012 towards startups and entrepreneurship. I was in the throws of building Body Boss, and was help…

Book Review: SPIN Selling

Continuing my quest to read books and get more educated on all things sales, I wrapped up SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. I went through this book twice. First, to pick up the low-hanging fruit, and then a second go to better absorb.
SPIN is one of the preeminent B2B sales books. In fact, the book broke ground on the factors for successful complex sales vs. transactional. In fact, Rackham identified why many sales training methods at the time were ineffective –methods were well-suited for transactional sales, but fell short for complex sales. The book lay the ground work for other sales studies like The Challenger Sale.
My take-aways: Transactional vs. complex sales… The book did a great job at identifying why many closing techniques worked for simple sales, but failed for complex sales. Two of the more important points here were how the product/ service held such a primary role in the buying process of transactional sales. However, complex sales were about risk mitigation and addressi…

The [Employment] Struggle Is Real

I’ve talked to several people recently who have voiced their desires to strike out on their own and others who are toying with joining a large company. So, the question becomes of staying employed or being employed. I admit that I’ve struggled with this one, too, as I’ve now been an employee since early last year. Truth be told, I struggled with this a month-and-a-half into employment. (Yikes.)
Over the last several years I’ve spoken to many who jumped in both directions only to regret the jump only months in. Then, they’re looking to change again. No surprise many jumps occurred because not “feeling valued” – either in responsibility (/ growth) or pay – most commonly.
My advice (and yes, the same advice I give and take for myself) is to think about the bigger goal (the WHY) and realize what you (read: “I”) hope to achieve here and now, and the near-future. Yes, near-future – not necessarily long-term.
It’s easy to get enamored these days with something shinier… something that pays …

Book Review: How to Win Friends and Influence People

I just completed Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People. I’ve been excited for so long to read it as it’s all about psychology.

The book was different in style than what I was expecting. Perhaps because I’ve read many sales books recently like The Challenger Sale and SPIN Selling (review to come). The book was focused from a point-of-view what Dale Carnegie’s identified as effective tactics as well as stories from either his students or great leaders – notably several U.S. Presidents.
Each chapter was a lesson, and as I read the book, I was wondering how I would employ each lesson. However, I realized it’d be too challenging being literal and narrow. Instead, the book could be best understood and employed by collapsing the lessons into broader concepts.
Here are my take-aways then: It’s never about you. Influencing others and creating a positive relationship starts from a place of empathy. Whether someone has done something wrong or has a contentio…

Closing Techniques Noticed From Car Sales

Tuesday’s post about an assumptive close (link) got me thinking of other recent events where sales pros used closing techniques – both were at car dealerships. Car sales seems to elicit the shudder of many people, and my recent experiences at car dealerships just played into the common stereotypes. I have both bought a car and went perusing with family recently.
Here were two primary closing techniques used: The Alternative Close I went to a dealership recently to buy a new 4Runner. I already knew what I wanted having owned a couple 4Runners including the vehicle I was replacing.
I’ve always loved having 4x4, and I wanted the following options/ packages: Limited, dark exterior, and a redwood interior. I first saw the redwood interior and loved it, and knew that’s what I wanted. I had pretty much closed the deal for the salesperson – coming in to buy. However, the exact vehicle was not in stock, and needed to be custom ordered. This would incur two months of delays.
The salesperson…

Assumptive Closing

I recently bought some 1400-thread count bedsheets. I never knew there was even such a thing. I was, however, in the market for bedsheets for a while now. So, when a salesperson approached me in a big box wholesaler, I happily picked up a set.
I remember a lot about the interaction, and remember how the salesperson used an “assumptive” closing technique. I remember, also, being perturbed by it. However, I was in the market for bedsheets, so picked up the set anyways.
The interaction went something like this: I’m walking with my brother with a cartful of things. We’re nearing the checkout lines when a woman approaches us. The woman talks about these ultra-soft bedsheets she’s got. I happily listen while my brother continues to the registers. Woman places a set of bedsheets in my hands. “These are 1400-tc sheets, so you can feel they’re incredibly soft”. (Okay, I’m paraphrasing.) Me: “Yeah, they are.” Woman: “These sheets also have a warranty of 3 years!” Me: “Okay, great.” Woman: “Th…

Deliberating New Product or Feature – How Far?

All the brainstorming and hypotheses about a new product or feature mean nothing until it’s in the hands of users (customers). They’re all ideas, but ideas don’t build great companies – execution does. I catch myself being quiet in a lot of brainstorming sessions for new products and features. I start out hot speaking based on whatever thoughts I have before quickly going into silent mode. I’ll speak up when something is so counter to what I believe, but otherwise, I find myself quiet.
I’ve noticed this a lot, but was never sure why my default mode is quiet, absorbing. I always thought I just had to think more to myself until I read this passage from SPIN Selling. “I remember going to a product launch in Acapulco some years ago. The event was splendiferous. Big names from the entertainment world had been hired at unbelievable cost, and the place swarmed with public relations people, media specialists, communications consultants, and a variety of similarly expensive people. The sales…

Before Any Startup Planning, Answer This One Question

I’ve had a couple wantrepreneurs ask me recently what administrative tools to use – email, website, CRM, etc. to which I’m happy to help with. However, those are all moot points compared to the most important question of all – How can you build a business around the product or service?
Of course, I’m speaking broadly when I say “how can you”, “build a business”, “around the product or service”. I break up the question this way to capture the most important facets of starting a company – “How can you…” – the entrepreneur (or team) referred here. This includes experience, skills, network, and emotional capacities of the entrepreneur or the co-founding team. The “how” touches, too, on the execution.“…build a business…” – is there is a sizeable market? Is there a trajectory for success? Are there competitors? Are there other pieces required to build and sustain a business?“…around the product or service” – this one is pretty self-explanatory – do you have a product, or are you still buil…

Starting From A Place of Empathy: A Lesson from the Weekend

I’m reading a couple books right now including: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegieand SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. SPIN has been a big focus in my day-to-day at SalesWise. However, Dale’s composition is arguably the focus of every day life.
This weekend led to a perfect opportunity to employ one of the lessons from How to Win Friends from Chapter 3 – “Be empathetic”. What could have started out as a formal complaint or accusation, instead, turned into a moment of empathy and understanding.
The situation: I was at an apartment complex when two women were talking to one another while looking visibly curious and annoyed at an apartment balcony. It turns out that they were looking at the balcony because water was being poured intermittently from the top door to the two balconies below. The two women happened to live on floors directly below.
The women mentioned the water was landing on their balconies and it smelled terrible. We started hypothesizing what was hap…

Consulting Lessons In Sales – Empowering the Champion

There are many subtle lessons I didn’t recognize from consulting that have been hugely valuable since building startups, especially in the role of sales. One of those lessons is (two-part) the role of the champion and empowering the champion to overcome internal hurdles.
I remember a project I was working on many, many years ago. We had just done a tremendous amount of work after developing models and recommendations on the client’s technology stack. We also helped the company choose a large transportation management system (TMS). We delivered our recommendations and findings to the company’s C-suite. We completed our 3-hour discussion, and yet, were only able to get through half our recommendations. As a consultant only a few months in, I thought things went well other than missing half the slides. Our internal debrief, however, highlighted how our team had missed the mark. Our recommendations focused too much on the TMS and did not deliver on IT infrastructure improvements we neede…

Growth-Oriented or Lifestyle-Oriented Entrepreneurship – It Begins with Why

I was talking to a mentee this weekend, and he made reference to the lifestyle entrepreneur vs. the growth entrepreneur. He believes he’s a growth-type of entrepreneur, or at least, he’s growth-oriented. This led to friction when he was working with a friend who was more lifestyle-oriented. He pointed out how the business could have done more. He came into his friend’s company with suggestions on where and how to grow. The business owner, however, was less than interested. They eventually went separate ways.
There’s an important realization here– we have different aspirations. As much as everyone wants wealth, we should recognize that wealth comes in many forms. To that, folks have varying views on what their purpose and drives are. Where do they want to go? Why?
Yes, lots of folks these days look at successful entrepreneurship as billion-dollar exits. That’s extremely, extremely rare. Getting to millions in revenue is difficult. It requires lots of work to build a sustainable busine…

What Now Before Then?

I chuckle to myself at the irony when I see gym-goers drive their cars up and down aisles in the parking lot. They’re looking to win the lottery to be as close as possible to the doors. Though, travel two aisles over and there are spots aplenty. Getting fit seems to start only through gym doors, but not leading up to them.
I love the gym because it’s a setting where you see the gamut of those who work hard, those who go just to go, those who make excuses about not having time, etc. There’s a lot to absorb at the gym, and lots of great lessons from observation.
When it comes to achieving greater goals, consistency is absolutely key – true for building a startup and true for being fit. Few transactional decisions and actions achieve long-term objectives. Worthwhile objectives are achieved through journeys. It’s this very reason that time management, then, becomes the tactical execution of consistency – to balance priorities.
 But if we stop for a moment and think about Day 0, Day 1, …

Context Shows the Value Beneath the Counter-Intuitive Surface

I was shared a lesson about context through a story of the fabled NASA rockets that helped NASA reach space, orbit the earth, and reach the moon.
Paraphrasing, the rockets evolved a great deal, especially captured in their sizes with the Saturn rocket (took the astronauts to the moon) greater than 35 stories tall. The earlier iterations propelled the rockets only so far. To reach the moon, the rockets had to be bigger. Common wisdom would suggest that bigger rockets added heft. Heft is counter to the goal of going farther and faster. Except, size hid the real need for “bigger” – more fuel.
Greater context can reveal the real value of an investment. What looks on the surface to be counter-intuitive can actually be a catalyst for a desired outcome.
A few examples where this plays out: Instead of working, taking an hour off. That one hour may seem counter to the need for greater productivity. However, context of that hour may reveal an hour of exercise which has shown time and time aga…

The Silent Benefits of Working in a Startup Co-Working Space

It’s been about a year and half of working in Atlanta Tech Village (ATV), and being in the office full-time. There are a lot of advantages touted about when working in a co-working space/ startup hub. Being one of the largest spaces of its kind, ATV boasts some great strengths including: Fantastic facilities with the latest tech gear (this is Atlanta TECH Village, of course)Energy from 300 startups, >1,000 people buzzing aboutNetworking opportunities with companies in similar stages as well as a bevy of individuals who have “been there, done that”
I had been in and out of ATV before joining SalesWise, so I was well-aware of many of the benefits. Prior to then, I worked out of Starbucks quite often, and camped out at other offices of companies I knew. But as I said, 18 months working full-time at ATV has taught a few things I didn’t consider before… A sense of normalcy amid fast pivots and new “tests”. Though many elements of an early-stage company change (sometimes on a weekly basis…

Management Keys and Recommended Reading

There’s something in the water because I’ve run into several instances in the last week where people have become new managers. I’ve managed folks in many different capacities over the years including soccer teams/ organizations to consulting project teams and to direct management like today.
There’s an art and science to management of people, and as I think back to those who have managed me (or do still), the key ingredients include authenticity, trust, and goals/ challenges.
Here are some thoughts on management and accompanying books I recommend: Maximize total motivation (TOMO) by implementing the Play, Purpose, and Potential motives while mitigating Emotional, Economic, and Inertia motives. (Check out Primed to Perform.)Understand the role of culture as the “invisible hand”. Build a culture that enables emergent opportunities while mitigating “slippery slopes”. (Check out How Will You Measure Your Life.)Managing a team requires a leader to effectively communicate, trust, and deleg…

Taking a Look at Bezos’ Letter to Shareholders

Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon, recently published his letter to Amazon shareholders. It’s a good, inspiring read into Bezos’ vision for Amazon, and how he pushes the company to constantly stay ahead of its competitors. Here are a few key tenets: “Day 1”. Bezos opens the letter describing why he constantly focuses on Day 1 – customer obsession, eager adoption of external trends, etc. Beyond Day 1 is Day 2, “stasis” which leads to irrelevance and then decline and death. He focuses every day on Day 1.“True Customer Obsession” is at the heart of Day 1. Bezos claims every customer, no matter how much s/he says is happy, is dissatisfied. Customers always want more, better – even if s/he doesn’t know it. For Bezos, he pushes Amazon to always innovate on behalf of the customer.As part of true customer obsession is the notion of getting to the true crux of how customers feel about a product or service – “resist ‘proxies’” like surveys.“Embrace External Trends”. In this case, Bezos is referring to rea…

Book Review: Primed to Perform

In late October at the Sales Force Productivity Conference, I kept hearing whispers about a great speaker that I didn’t get a chance to hear – Lindsay McGregor. She talked about culture and what motivated employees. She also co-authored a book about high performing teams. This has always been interesting to me, so I sought out Lindsay to talk to her about her talk. I ended up running into her several times. When I told her all her books at the conference were sold out, she happily told me to send her an email, and she’d send a signed copy.
Well, I got the book in November – Primed to Perform – that she cowrote with Neel Doshi. After reading the book, it’s one of my favorites! I finished it a while ago, but I wanted the material to sit a little while longer before writing a review of it. Yes, it was that good.
McGregor and Doshi studied hundreds of companies and other studies about high-performing companies to find the key factors of what drove their successes – developing the Total …

Menu Options for Sales

In sales, you don’t always get the inbound lead who tells you exactly what their problem is. Even more uncommon is when your prospect just tells you how your solution can solve for said problem. Especially when prospecting, it matters to help a lead think about a problem you solve. In this way, menu options are a great way to do this.
Menu options are the value levers or benefits your product/ service can enable for prospects. A menu can uncover what a prospect truly cares about while tying directly to your product or service. Think, first, of three menu options. Tie each with a story/ path so you can demonstrate how your product or service meets each option.
The menu options for a prospect considering Airbnb may include: Experience an authentic experience in thousands of cities. (Experience value.)Explore a new destination by living with locals. (Experience and social values.)Save on lodging with hundreds of unique options. (Economic value.) For early-stage companies with few cust…

The “New Normal”

Atlanta is notorious for stress-inducing traffic, and it’s going to be even worse since one of the busiest roads collapsed on March 30th due to a fire.
Collapses (read: “failures”) have their way of teaching us. So, I want to take a moment to share a few reactions from this debacle. Enabling New Day-to-Day Experiences Atlanta’s traffic is well known, but to be honest, traffic is on par with other major cities. The difference is perhaps volume due to our limited public transportation options. (And poor take-rate for the options that do exist.)
This new challenge will motivate many daily commuters to try travel alternatives. The key here is how this will affect the day-to-day. By integrating public transportation into the daily lives of so many for an extended period, commuters can more accurately reflect on how public transportation can affect their lives.
Too often, in the past, public transportation services like MARTA have discounted transportation for special events. Commuters f…

Questions to Ask (and Answer) for Customer Case Studies

Continuing from last week’s 7 Tips for Customer Case Studies, here are some questions to think about asking (and answering). What does [Customer Name] do?What is your role?What was the challenge(s) you were trying to solve with [Product/ Service]?Why didn't existing solutions work for you?When you first used [Product/ Service], what was that initial impression?What are the results [Product/ Service] has been able to deliver for you? Your team?Was there another benefit [Product/ Service] enabled that you weren't expecting?Why would you recommend us to someone else? The goal of the case study is to, obviously, highlight your product or service. You also want to highlight the success and significance of the customer. This adds credibility to the customer, which gives you credibility.

7 Tips for Making Customer Case Studies and Testimonials Awesome

Sell, sell, sell. That’s what you’re going to do, and that’s what you’ll aim to do. But, your prospect will need more assurances. They need to know they’re not the only buyer. They need proof. Enter testimonials and case studies. “Nobody gets fired for choosing IBM.” Ever heard that before? The notion speaks to risk mitigation for the buyer. The subtle message: IBM is a reputable company with thousands of customers. As a buyer of IBM’s products or services, if it doesn’t work, surely it wasn’t because you chose a bad partner. (Versus choosing a riskier partner.)
Testimonials mitigate risk with social and professional proof – who they are, why they chose you, and what were benefits have they achieved.
Here are 7 keys to be mindful of when creating case studies and testimonials: Who is the case study coming from? Who is the buyer (person) and company? You want this person to be reflective of your target persona(s).90% about the customer’s experience and how you enabled them.Pain-Solutio…

Lessons from Soccer and Recent Mistakes

I recently recalled one of my most vulnerable experiences. (You can find a cut at the story here, too.) In this case, it was how I was cut from the varsity soccer team both my junior and senior years. I shared the story to illustrate the lessons I’ve learned through soccer.
As I reflected on this experience again and while meeting with a young entrepreneur recently, I recalled the following lessons from soccer: You’re only as good as your last game. This is actually not true, but it sets up for some great motivation for your next game.You will make mistakes during games. However, the game keeps going. You need to, too.You and everyone else will be caught up in the game. Realize that what happens on the field can affect what happens off it. Realize when mistakes and emotions occur. Realize there’s a season full of games. Realize there are years of seasons. I’ve thought about these a lot recently and the need for authenticity and vulnerability. In this way, a couple mistakes that have …

Understanding the Four Buying Modalities for Conversion

Angus Lynch of CrazyEgg.com posted an article about buying modalities titled, “35% of Web Visitors Are ‘Spontaneous’ Buyers. Are You Alienating Them?”. He describes the four buying modalities: Competitive (5-10% of web visitors) – buyer makes smart, quick decisions. These buyers are all about speed and quality to gain an advantage. They want to be the best… oftentimes, the first (advantage).Methodical (45%) – buyers are very logic-oriented. They want to understand everything about buying a product or service including advantages and disadvantages of competitive options.Humanistic (10-15%) – buyers believe in emotional/ altruistic purchases. They are looking for validation among consensuses.Spontaneous (25-35%) – these buyers make purchase decisions based on feelings and gut. That is, they make quick decisions.
The four buying modalities help to understand the type of prospect you are engaged with, and what their preferred buying process looks like. Lynch’s article touches, specificall…

Customer Dysfunction and Its Effects In Today’s Sales

I read an interesting article on LinkedIn the other day titled, “The New Normal in Sales: Customer Dysfunction” by Nick Toman, a sales effectiveness professional. The gist is buying processes are increasing at an alarming rate, and it is the dysfunction at the customer that drives this and “poor” sales outcomes.
I thought about this for a while, and related it to my post, “We Appreciate Everyone Except Our Vendors, and It’s Killing Sales”. Toman’s article provides a perspective at the customer and the ailments killing sales.
A few take-aways from Toman’s article that I’ve noticed over the last year in modern B2B sales: 2.5 years ago, the buyer group consisted of 5.4 stakeholders. Today, that number is 6.8 from 3.4 different functional areas. When you add heads into the buying process, there’s an expectation of a need to get consensus which, ironically, is the result of indecision due to more heads.Customers citing high amounts of dysfunction are 60% less likely to make an ambitious …

12 Years Later, My Lessons from Being an Intern at a Big Corp

As my journey through consulting, post-grad education, entrepreneurship, and startup leadership continues, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my co-op experiences at a big corp more than 12 years ago.
Especially now as I’m recruiting, oftentimes, less experienced candidates than in my past, I’m realizing the value of spending more time at a big corporation.
At Georgia Tech, I was a co-op for four semesters at a major 3rd-party logistics provider in Atlanta. I remember falling asleep at my desk more than a few times that first semester. It wasn’t the most exciting as I was the spreadsheet analyst at first. Over the semesters, my projects became more complex, and I earned my stripes with my own special projects.
It was some of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and laid the foundation for things to come. Here are some lessons now looking back at what I’ve learned. Politics – Implementing changes at a big company is like steering a massive ship – it takes time, and a lot of effort.…