Back in the … gulp … late 90s, many software vendors were slow to realize that customer finance (successfully used for providing leasing to grow and accelerate hardware sales) had any utility in their fast growing industry. For a short period of time, it wasn’t even clear that cost justification was required. And then the dotcom bubble burst. Suddenly financial sales execution mattered again—cost justification to help customers understand why they should buy and extended payment deal structures to make it easier to buy.
Fast forward to the present day and everything is feeling a bit cloudy. Offering subscriptions has become a popular bridge to establishing more consistent recurring revenue in the hopes of cranking up a company’s valuation multiplier. And now many software subscription vendors are questioning whether customer finance (successfully used for providing extended payments to grow and accelerate software sales) has any utility in their fast-growing industry.
Albert Einstein famously declared “Dancers are the athletes of God,” and rightfully so. A dancer, a ballet dancer in particular, must possess the strength, endurance, and stamina of a professional athlete all while maintaining the grace, artistry and control that is instrumental to success in the world of ballet. Ballet is not just tutus and pointe shoes–it is physically and mentally demanding. Ballet is no joke.
Many sales managers have a propensity to hire former athletes. However I’d be inclined to seek out a ballet dancer.
Presentation and Preparation
There are many parallels between ballet and top sales reps. Let’s start with an easy one. A strong dancer will convey a story holding command of the audience throughout the performance. A dancer will practice, practice, practice and then practice some more, perfecting each step. They don’t just get up on stage and “wing it.” They’re prepared. Dancers may need to improvise a sequence or two, but regardless when they step on stage, they have a plan and steps (literally) in place to execute. (more…)
I was listening to the news recently, and two political analysts were “unpacking” comments made by a political figure. I thought, when did “unpack” suddenly come to mean something other than taking things out of a suitcase? Turns out it’s good that I’m not an etymologist, because the answer is: more than 100 years ago. According to Merriam-Webster, one of the official definitions of “unpack” is: to analyze the nature of (something) by examining in detail.
I was reminded of this alternate definition in re-reading Denise Garcia’s great blog post on Sales to Service, when she suggests the importance of serving and understanding your customer.
In working closely with hundreds of successful sales professionals over the years, I’ve seen it proven that a clear understanding of what’s really important to you customer is critical to success on both sides of a vendor / customer relationship. This may be intuitive when it comes to the use and application of technology. In my experience, unpacking all of the information your customer provides (or alludes to) is just as important in making your solutions more consumable for the buyer. And making your products consumable for the buyer is essential in reaching your sales goals.
Customers expect a solution that not only quantifies the value of technology, but also integrates that value with the economics of the solution in a way that resonates with multiple stakeholders in their organization including business and financial buyers. Creatively structuring deals, overcoming customer objections, and reinforcing the comprehensive value of a solution is why many of our clients rely on our expertise to help them grow sales and perfect related execution. But what happens when a client is truly not interested in buying, no matter how compelling your solution may be? Is there a more efficient way to identify non-buying signals sooner so you can be more effective in sales?
Helping sales teams properly qualify their deals is a big part of TFP’s DNA and an important part of the sales cycle. As we enter 2017, I would like to take a moment to focus on deal qualification—in particular, how to maximize your time by embracing rejection and getting to “no” faster.
Selling technology to IT buyers is executed in one lexicon, one language. Selling to financial and business buyers (and influencers) requires sales teams to embrace a second language. In a recent conversation with the CFO of a high growth software company, he described one of the management team’s objectives as “reducing sales friction”, a good topic for discussion today.
First, a definition: “Reducing sales friction means reducing the cost for customers to purchase, adopt and use a service/product — reducing the cost of sales and marketing effort required get a customer and generate revenue. The less friction you have in your sales and delivery model, the easier it is to scale. The easier it is to scale the faster and more efficiently you can grow. The lowest friction sale can be a user clicking on a web page and the content owner getting paid for it. The highest friction sale is spending lots of money on marketing and trade shows and having a large, direct sales force of expensive reps pounding the pavement for months trying to close a large deal with an enterprise customer. Follow that with a three-month implementation process to get the customer happy.” Ed Sim’s BeyondVC
Success with financial and business decision makers demands an understanding of business, corporate and financial performance objectives. Sales must put technical solutions into terms that map to a customer’s business objectives. (more…)
When launching a new ROI engagement on behalf our clients, we’re often asked: what part of the process will be the most challenging?
We at TFP have played the ROI rodeo plenty of times; well north of 600 opportunity-specific ROI analyses over the last five years, if you want to know. And we know where the obstacles are.
Is it figuring out how much the customer can improve?
Is it gaining consensus about the purchase decision?
Heck no. Most often the hardest part of the ROI process is figuring out not where the customer can be tomorrow, but where they are today. As Arnold Schwarzenegger so eloquently expressed in Total Recall: “If I am not me, then who the hell am I?”
It sometimes take just days to figure out “who the hell” the customer is. Sometimes it’s weeks, putting the ROI engagement (and the sale) at risk. Why does this happen, and what you can do about it?
At TFP we have delivered field-level deal structuring and value selling support to our technology clients since 2000. In many cases our support included consulting on how to best construct and position a volume sale—some form of an enterprise license agreement (ELA), multi-year subscription or other large transaction that provides purchasing efficiency and effectiveness for procurement and sales.
We are all living in a time where we just cannot move fast enough. We are torn between work demands and home. Our mobile devices consistently vie for our attention and we never shut them down out of FOMO (fear of missing out). Thankfully we have friends to keep us grounded.
One of my friends recently invited me to attend a conference. This wasn’t my normal sales or consulting conference. It was all about living a life of presence with Eckart Tolle. I was pleasantly surprised to find the subject matter resonated with me not only on a personal level but, also in my everyday work life and journey.
With more than 20 years’ experience in high tech sales, I’ve had the privilege of participating in many sales calls with a wide variety of sales teams. These include initial discovery calls as well as calls focused specifically on closing a prospect. I’ve also participated in calls focused on install base customers who already committed to the technology; however, the vendor may be focused on selling a complete platform instead of a single product. I’ve seen vendors be wildly successful in the endeavor as well as dismally fail. Most importantly, I’ve noticed a distinct pattern of behavior on the part of the vendor that ultimately leads to either success or failure.
Depending on the nature of the sale, the stage in the technology lifecycle of the customer, their willingness to adapt or change, the art of the sale involves a delicate balance of educating the customer, moving them out of their comfort zone if necessary and creating a vision that is compelling. How to create that delicate balance really depends on the customer, their environment and their overall objectives in the short and the long term as a business. Therefore, it is critical to understand your customer, their business objectives (both long and short term) and what is top of the mind for the organization…listening to your customer. Successful sales teams and vendors understand that demonstration of listening skills is just as important as (or more important than) presenting information.
If you’re a baseball fan like I am, you know how magical those words can be. You also know that we are at a critical point in the season: the stretch run. The boys of summer are getting ready for it, and while much of what happens is predictable, there are bound to be some surprises as well as disappointments. A number of teams still believe they have a chance at winning the World Series and general managers are reviewing their rosters to determine what additions need to take place in order to give their franchises the best opportunity for success.