Saturday, December 08, 2007

Selling Your Ideas: The Art of Persausion

"You can have brilliant ideas; but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere." - Lee Iacocca, former Chairman of Chrysler Corp."
How do you develop a systematic approach to selling your ideas that results in effective persuasion? Answer: Learn how to “woo” people to your way of thinking. “Woo” stands for Winning Others Over. It is the ability to move people to your way of thinking without coercion or force, using relationship-based, emotionally intelligent persuasion. To “woo” someone has many different meanings, but they all come down one thing - focusing on the other person, the person you want to persuade. You “woo” people to get their support and approval. It is also the ability to easily establish rapport with many different people. However "woo" may also be defined as effectively selling ideas - using persuasion rather than force - is one of the most important skills that everyone from CEOs and entrepreneurs to team leaders and mid-level managers need to learn if they want to be effective in their organizations. The 4 Step process to selling your ideas: based on “the art of WOO. Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas”, by G. Richard Shell & Mario Moussa, Portfolio, 2007

Step 1) Survey Your Situation: The Idea:
- Exactly what problem does your idea solve?
- What are the causes of this problem?
- What makes my idea better than the available alternatives?
Selling Strategy Stepping Stones:
- Who is the decision Maker?
- Where does the person I am approaching fit into my stepping-stone strategy?
- What are my specific goals for this encounter (gain input, access, positive attitude, authorisation, endorsement, decision, resources, implementation)?
- What medium (face-to-face, phone, e-mail, etc.) should I use?

Step 2) Confronting the 5 Barriers. Be prepare to overcome the 5 most common obstacles that can sink ideas before they get started. The 5 barriers are:
1. Unreceptive beliefs. What beliefs and values does this person hold that could block or support my case?
2. Conflicting interests. What are the other party’s interests and how can I address them?
3. Negative relationships. What characterises my relationship to the person I am trying to influence? Can I improve that relationship?
4. Lack of credibility. What is the basis for my credibility with this person? Can I emphasise this?
5. Communication. What channels should I use (Authority, Rationality, Vision, Relationship, Interests, Politics)? Do I need to adjust my style? Great persuaders throughout history have shared a natural “instinct” for overcoming this last barrier.

Step 3) Making Your Pitch. Frame your idea in a compelling way by answering the following questions:
- What evidence will best resonate with the other person?
- How can I personalize the pitch and make it memorable?
- Link the pitch to key organizational goals and objectives
- Address any potentially conflicting interests.

Step 4) Secure Your Commitments. Seek to secure both individual and organizational commitments.
- What public actions can I request to obtain an individual commitment?
- What political objections may arise related to turf, resources, credit, or careers?
- How can I create momentum to generate a snowball effect?
- What alliances and coalitions should I develop to secure implementation?

Avoid the mistake of thinking that your job is done when you get a “yes” to your proposal. Research shows that in most organizations as many as 8 sign-offs are required even for simple ideas. So, after you move the individual you need to move the organization and that can require a lot of effort to keep the pressure on to drive through new ideas and change within the organization.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pitching to Win. The 3 things you absolutely must do

How many times have you had to sit through a really bad presentation or pitch? What was it about the pitch that made you bored, disinterested, frustrated or even angry? We all know a bad pitch when we experience one, but what does it take to make a really great pitch?
The key to making winning pitches lies in being able to answer these two questions:
- What are the 2 things that they want to hear?
- What are the 3 things that you absolutely, positively must do if you want them to buy you and your ideas? Let me answer this question first.

The 3 Platinum Rules of making winning pitches:
1. The message is all about them and not about you.
Do a quick check of your next pitch presentation. Are you starting out with an overview of your company: its history and position in your industry and why you are so good at what you do? Here is the bad news. The group you are pitching to doesn't care about you or your company until they know that you understand and care them and their business, their goals for the future and the challenges they face getting there. When we talk about us and not them we fail to capture their attention and we fail to engage the group. But there is an other more serious consequence which is that we waste the best part of the groups attention span which decreases rapidly when we talk about “us”, and when we do finally talk about “them” they are at the low end of the attention curve (see diagram "Audience Buy-in"). In other words we actively minimise our chances to connect, engage and persuade our audience.
2. Establish relevance up front:
"Why" before "what", "how", "who" and "when. Focus on WIIFT (What is it for them) and avoid WIIFM (What is in it for me) thinking. Try this simple test. Take a yellow highlighter pen to your presentation pitch and mark every reference to your company, your brand, your product or service, your position in the market, your track record, your financials, etc. Then present what is left unmarked as your pitch. You may be alarmed to find that you don’t have much to say! Then do a quick check of your benefits statements. Remember the Golden Rule: Its not a benefit unless it has the word "you" in it. Example. At the end of the new campaign you will have revenues up by 15% in the current quarter and you will get complaints down by 25-30% over the following 2 quarters.
Focus on their better future not your brilliant past.
This means that you don’t talk about your reference customers, case studies, client testimonials, etc. until you have described how you will positively impact their business over time. This takes hard work. To have solid data on their better future you have to know where they are today, where they want to be tomorrow and know by how much you can help them get there and in what time frame. Once you have established this you can confidently talk about the After Effects: outcomes and results. By doing this you will be aligned with their No. #1 interest – how to achieve their mission, goals and objectives which will determine their success as individuals and as a group.

What are the 2 things that your audience wants to hear?
1) the After Effects. i.e. What do they get and when do they get it, and
2) they want certainty. Anticipate this need by answering the unasked question: How can I be sure and certain that you can and will deliver what you are pitching? This is where your case studies, customer references and client testimonials can be leveraged. As George Bernard Shaw said: “What men want is not knowledge, but certainty.” Make sure that your pitch delivers that certainty.”

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Getting Your Calls Returned

Do people always return your phone calls? Do you end up leaving lots of messages and still people don’t call you back? When people don’t return your calls what can you do? Well lots.....

Preparation is the key to getting your calls returned. Think carefully about the impression you want to create and outcome you want to achieve. Your preparation will be ‘felt’ by the person you are leaving the message for. People who are well prepared inspire trust and confidence and they give the impression of having something of value to offer.
Mindset before message: Before you make the call or leave a message check your thinking and your expectations. Ask yourself the following question: “Do I really believe that I have something of value for the person I am calling? If the answer is a clear yes it will come across in your message through your words, your intent and your tone of voice.
Building your message:
The first idea we want our message to convey is: ‘I am professional. I am structured and organised, and I am reliable because I am following up on our last call or meeting.’ We want to create psychological reciprocity whereby the person hearing our message feels compelled to return our call because not doing so would mean that they are unprofessional, unstructured, disorganised and unreliable.
The second idea we want to convey is: “I have something of specific value to you and your business.” This is fundamental to engaging the other person’s self-interest. People act in their own best interest. So, to get them to take action and return our call we need to give them one or several compelling reasons to do so. This means that we have to let them know the ‘what’ and ‘why’ with clarity, brevity and impact. The best way I know of to create maximum impact is to describe the potential pay back for them in their language.
The third idea is to state clearly the reason for your call and therefore the reason they should call you back. Your message should answer the question: ‘How I can be of value and service to the person I am leaving the message for?’
Mixing media. E-mail vs. phone messages: If you are not getting your phone calls returned try another communication medium. I find that email works best with a lot of busy people. Email has the advantage of being read, re-read and responded to at different times of the day and of the week. Example: I know of one International CEO who responded to an e-mail follow up message at 11.40 on a Saturday evening. Obviously this was the best time for her to go through her inbox and respond to unanswered e-mail.
End your message with a ‘Call to Action’: Simply asking them to call you back is not enough. You must tell them why it is in their best interest to call you back. Tap into their self-interest by describing the potential pay back and proposing a concrete next step to move forward in that direction. Example: “Hi Bill, I am following up from our last meeting where you indicated that an increase in production levels could justify a full review of your existing ERP system. I am calling to schedule our next meeting where I would like to present the findings of a recent study and explore how those recommendations could be implemented to drive up productivity at ABC Inc. By the way, the 23% improvement number we discussed seems very realistic. Who else from your team should be at the meeting?”

Make it easy for the other person to want to take action and return your call.... and they will!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Investigative Selling

Often the best way to approach a sales opportunity is the way a detective approaches a crime scene, by learning as much as possible about the situation, the circumstances and the people involved.

The 5 principles of Investigative Selling:

#1. Don’t just find out what the customer wants, find out why they want it!
Spend less time trying to persuading the customer of the need for your product or service and spend more time gaining a deeper understanding of the customer’s situation, from their perspective. Your understanding of the customer’s current position will give rise to new possible outcomes and this is when the sale really begins.
#2. Seek to understand and minimise the customer’s constraints.
Customers always have constraints and often these constraints can lead him/her to act in ways that don’t seem rational and that reduces trust which can destroy the sale. Smart investigative sales people attempt to discover the customer’s constraints and then help overcome them, rather than dismissing them as being unimportant or unreasonable. Never view the customer’s constraints as simply their constraints. These are your constraints also. Therefore, your job is to uncover their key constraints and work with the customer to eliminate or minimise their impact on the sale.
#3. Interpret objections and demands as opportunities.
Objections are indicators or sign posts that point us in the direction of a successful outcome. Instead of responding directly to the objection, focus on what the objection or demand reveals about the customer’s thinking, and expectations. When a customer makes seemingly unreasonable demands, often sales people adopt a defensive mind-set. Investigative sales people confront difficult demands the same way they confront any customer statement and ask themselves the following question: “What does this objection or demand tell me about the customer’s real needs and interests?”
#4. Create common ground with all members of the customer’s decision making team.
Understand that the customer’s needs are complimentary and not competitive to your position. Those who view their relationship with a customer as one dimensional – transactional – forgo opportunities for value creation. Whereas, investigative sales people appreciate the complexity of the customer relationship, explore areas of mutual interest and are able to find common ground.
#5. Continue to investigate the sale even after the deal appears to be lost.
Never assume that because the customer has rejected your offer that the deal is dead. Many times “lost opportunities” can be brought back to life by simply asking why your proposal was rejected and explaining that an answer could help you improve future proposals. Seek to gain additional information about the customer’s reasoning and decision making. Then explore alternative ways to re-position and/or re-price your offer accordingly. Always ask: “Based on this information, I am confident that we could have beaten ‘their’ offer. Would you consider a revised offer?” Or “What would it have taken for us to reach agreement?”

Investigative Selling requires a total focus on the customer’s interests, priorities and constraints. Building a value-maximising deal often depends not so much your ability to persuade, as your ability to: 1) ask insightful questions and 2) listen deeply to the customer’s response. Investigative Selling is an information game. Those who know how to obtain maximum information perform better than those who don’t. Investigative Selling requires mental toughness to always challenge assumptions, probe below the surface and avoid taking no for an answer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Beyond IQ. Social Intelligence (SI). A journey into S.P.A.C.E.

Have you ever wondered how highly success sales people navigate social situations so skillfully and seem to always know how and when to engage others in ways that are effective in any sales situation?

Success in sales is nearly always based on superior intelligence. Superior market intelligence, superior competitive intelligence, superior customer intelligence and superior intelligence of the sales team or sales person. Personal intelligence or IQ (Intelligent Quotient) used to be considered as the single best predictive indicator of Intelligence and therefore personal capacity and capability at work and in life. This was followed by the more complete concept of Multiple Intelligences (MI) which divided intelligence into 6 categories: Abstract Intelligence – symbolic reasoning, Social Intelligence – dealing with people (the subject of this post), Practical Intelligence – getting things done, Emotional Intelligence – self-awareness and self-management, Aesthetic Intelligence – the sense of form, design, music, art and literature and Kinesthetic Intelligence – whole-body skills like sports, dance, or music.
So what is Social Intelligence (SI) and more importantly how can I get more of it? Here is a simple 5 part model that you can use to develop your current level of Social Intelligence. Based on the book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success, by Karl Albrecht, Jossey-Bass, 2006

S.P.A.C.E.: The 5 Skills of Human Interaction:

Situational Awareness: the ability to read situations and to interpret the behaviors of the people in those situations, in terms of their possible intentions, emotional states and ease of interaction.
Presence: a range of verbal and nonverbal signals, one’s appearance, posture, voice quality, subtle movements, a whole collection of inputs that one uses to form an overall impression of a person.
Authenticity: how others interpret our behavior to judge us as honest, open, ethical, trustworthy, well-intentioned or otherwise.
Clarity: our ability to explain ourselves, illuminate ideas, communicate data clearly and accurately, articulate our views and proposed courses of action, enables us to get others to co-operate with us.
Empathy: a shared “feeling” between two people, a state of “connectedness” with another person, which creates the basis for positive interaction and co-operation.

By studying our performance in each of these 5 dimensions we can: i) determine where we are today, ii) decide where we want to be tomorrow, and iii) put in place a simple action plan to progress in each competence area as desired.
The best way to do this is to make your journey into S.P.A.C.E. an everyday exercise of observation, learning and development. By expanding your S.P.A.C.E. you will be more effective at tapping into your customers collective minds and that means more and bigger sales. Good selling!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Asking Questions in Colour

“You can tell a man is clever by his answers. You can tell a man is wise by his questions."

Asking questions is one of the best ways I know to get information. But not all questions are created equal. Insightful and profound questions invite equally insightful and profound answers. In sales great questions bring out lots of valuable information about the customer’s needs, desires and concerns. So, how do you ask great questions that uncover the real facts, opinions and feelings?
1) Get in the flow of Open -> Closed Questions: The first thing to keep in mind when asking questions is to start with open questions and then progressively move to more closed questions as you seek more specific information. Only when you have reached a clear and quantified response to a specific question should you move on to the next question area.
2) Ask White, Green, Black and Red Questions: This is a simple and easy way to remember a powerful sequence of questions that go directly to the real issue(s) that will directly uncover a maximum of information, rich in facts, opinions and feelings. How does it work?
You need to remember two things: 1) what each colour represents and 2) to always use the questions in same colour sequence - white, green, black and red.
White Questions: Current situation. Facts, data and information. Think of white snow: pure, cold hard facts. Example: “How would you characterize your Managed Services business in the Small and Medium Business market segment in Western Europe today?”
Green Questions: Desired situation. Future state. Think of grass, trees, growth, what a situation can become. Example: “Looking to the future, where would you like your business to be 12 months from now?”
Black Questions: Obstacles, contraints or limitations. Important and powerful, yet often left unasked. Think of night time or being in the dark, you can’t see in the dark. Turn on the light to see what stands between you (your current position) and where you want to go (your desired future situation). Example: “What do you see as being the major challenges or constraints you will face in getting there?”
Red Questions: Feelings. Fire, red is an explosive color, highly emotionally charged. Example: “If any one of these constraints significantly delayed your progress against plan, what would be the impact on you and your team?”

Once you have got answers to these four questions you can determine not only what to sell but more importantly how to sell. Experiment by asking questions in colour at your next customer meeting and you will discover that you gain more and richer information that will help you to make more sales. You will also discover that you will be seen as a valued resource by your customers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ideas That Stick

One of the determinant skills that separates good from great sales people is how great sales practitioners can get across their ideas and then get their ideas permanently embedded in the heads of the people they are talking to. The word “sticky” has become part of today’s business vocabulary and very clearly describes the desired outcome of ‘making a lasting impression’ or ‘creating residual impact’ or ‘moving someone’s position - permanently’. There are 6 simple steps to being able to create “sticky ideas” which is the subject of recent book that I found fascinating.
“Made to Stick. Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, Random House Inc., 2007.
The 6 principles are easy to remember because they make up the word SUCCESs: 1) Simple, 2) Unexpected, 3) Concrete, 4) Credible, 5) Emotional, and 6) Stories. The 6 principles or steps work like this:
SIMPLE: Find the core of your idea and then share the core. Get laser focus on one simple, profound, powerful and concentrated idea.
UNEXPECTED: use surprise to get attention, and then use interest to hold attention.
CONCRETE: help people understand and remember, and then help people coordinate.
CREDIBLE: help people to believe and then agree by using external credibility using authority & anti-authority, and internal credibility using convincing detailed information – statistics, data, reports, etc.
EMOTIONAL: make people care, use the power of association, appeal to self-interest & appeal to identity
STORIES: get people to act. Stories as simulation (tell people how to act). Stories as inspiration (give people energy to act)

Selling is all about getting our ideas to stick. You cannot influence, convince or persuade someone of something without affecting some lasting, permanent change in the thinking or position of the other person. Whether you are in sales or not, we are all “selling” our ideas all day every day to everyone we meet. At work with our colleagues or our Manager, socially with our friends, and at home with our Partner or our children. Sticky ideas are the key to moving people in our direction. Selling is simply a specific transactional application of getting our ideas (sales messages) to stick. Success in selling is and always will be determined by our ability to get our ideas to stick.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Changing People's Minds by Communicating with Emotion

The way to move people to action is through emotion. Whether you want to change someone's mind or get them to take action on something they are already in agreement with. Emotion is the key. Think of emotion as energy in motion. People respond to emotion and make decision based on emotions and then justify their decisions with logic and rational arguments and then defend their decisions with supportive facts. So to change someone's mind you must give them both the emotional reasons and the rational arguments. This will require you to first uncover their true motivations, drivers, desires and wants as well as their needs. Communicating with emotion means using energy and enthusiasm to connect at all levels - mental, emotional and spiritual. Communicating with emotion means demonstrating your conviction in your position, argument or beliefs.
“The height of your accomplishments will equal the depth of your convictions.” - William F. Scolavino
You earn the right to ask questions if they are motivated by your sincere interest to understand other people and their situation. Then listen with your eyes. Yes, with your eyes...

  • 7% Verbal (Words only)
  • 38% Verbal (tone of voice, speed of speech, facial expressions, etc.)
  • 55% Non Verbal (Body language)

If you listen only with your ears you can expected to get 45% of the message at the very best, because the greater part of the information is emotional and is communicated through visually observable indicators like facial expressions and body language.
Great salespeople use emotion to connect and communicate with others, earn the right to ask diagnostic questions and listen with their eyes and hear with their minds.

"Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.”

Friday, January 26, 2007

Becoming A Trusted Advisor

Speaking to the EEMEA sales team at Orange Business Services Sales Kick-Off 2007 in Faro, Portugal. The key ideas presented in "How to Over-Achieve in 2007 by becoming a Trusted Advisor" were:

      • The Sales Cycle vs the Buying Decision Process

      • Stages of Sales Proficiency

      • Building Trust

      • Creating Credibility: Expected vs Exceptional Credibility

      • Engaging Diagnostic Conversations

      • Asking questions with impact

      • Listening with your eyes

      • Sight vs Insight. Sight = seeing with your eyes. Insight = seeing with your mind

      • Communicating in Technocolour

      • Using Emotion = Energy in Motion

      • Creating a Culture of Excellence

      Saturday, January 06, 2007

      How Great Sales Professionals Create and Use Networks

      In the January 2007 edition of Harvard Business Review, there is a great article entitled: "How Leaders Create and Use Networks." What I found extremely insightful and highly applicable to sales was the Three Forms Of Networking:
      1) Operational. where most contacts are internal (within your company) and specific to functions and skills required to getting the current job done.
      2) Personal. here contacts are mostly external and oriented to current interests and potential future interests and also a wonderful source of references.
      3) Strategic. here contacts are internal and external to your organisation often with experience and expertise very different to our own and orientated towards the future.
      I see a huge level of applicability to sales. Let me explain by taking a quote from the article.
      "What differentiates a leader from a manager, research tells us, is the ability to figure out where to go to enlist the people and groups necessary to get there." If we replace "leader" by great sales professional and "manager" by good sales professional, I think you will find that we have captured the single biggest difference between what separates good from great in sales today.
      Success in sales tomorrow will be increasingly dependent on a) our ability to reinvent ourselves, ie. find new ways of defining our role in sales and b) developing new relationships, ie. networking. These two factors will enable us to deliver new levels of value to our customs.