On a recent tour of Alcatraz, I learned the story of the famous Alcatraz escapee, Frank Morris. Despite all odds and having limited resources, he and two others managed to escape the island and were never seen again. In some ways, the story of his research, planning and determination reminded me of a good account manager. Veteran sales reps know that focused research and thorough planning are critical to executing a professional proposal.
This can be a time consuming but exciting step–determine what is important to your customer. Do you know your customer’s business initiatives? Do you know how your customer’s sales are trending? Have you read the CEO’s Letter to the Shareholders? You should!
How many of us have lost a deal and felt this way? You spent months working on the deal and didn’t get it. You felt like the time you poured into the negotiation should account for something, right? WRONG!
I recently was on a business trip. I was traveling with two women who also work in financial sales.
One of our group members, we will call her Mary, was knee deep in a transaction. She still needed several items from her client including a statement from his accountant and a credit card number for the bank appraisal fee. Mary thought the deal was in the bag. She was already counting her commission dollars. Thursday, Friday and Saturday she spoke to the customer reminding him repeatedly of the documents she needed; however, he was dragging his feet.
On Sunday night Mary received a call from her client. While on speakerphone, she rattled off the information she needed to submit his application. By this time, we all knew what he needed to send. The client interrupted her and said “STOP.” Now, Felicia and I knew from experience what was about to happen. Mary’s client told her he was going with another lender who already approved him. (more…)
The son of a close family friend graduated from college this past weekend. I was fortunate to be part of their celebration which included a smorgasbord, liquid refreshments, tears of joy, and lots of laughs. It was a great time. When walking by the table of the congratulatory gifts, cards and stuff, I noticed that one of the gifts was a book called “Oh, the S*** You Don’t Know!” by Antonio Carter.
I picked up the book and started to read it and giggled along with all the words of wisdom. It covered a few of the more typical daily life lessons like taxes, work and relationships. After a good laugh, I put the book down and went back to mingling and catching up with old friends. As the day went on my mind kept drifting back to the title of the book, “Oh, the S*** You Don’t Know!” The book ended as expected with the life lesson that you are not done learning as long as you are open to it.
The next day was a wet and rainy day. A good day to stay inside and get caught up on work. I started to going through some of my unread work emails and got caught up on reading some of the trade magazines that have been piling up on my desk. One of the articles that caught my eye was in the Funding Source Issue of the Monitor Daily, a trade magazine focused on the equipment finance industry. The article was called “Blockchain: The Next Big Thing For Equipment Finance?” by Keith B. Letourneau and Stephen T. Whelan. I had never of heard blockchain or maybe it just wasn’t registering. I quickly realized that I was a couple years behind the learning curve. Oh, the stuff I don’t know…. (more…)
“I never lose—I either win or learn.” That’s one of my favorite mantras and something I remind myself of when things feel like they are about to crash and burn. There is a lesson in everything. When I don’t get the outcome I wanted either personally or professionally, I don’t dwell on not “winning” but take a step back, think through the situation and focus on what I could have done better. I make note of the lesson and carry it with me.
For example, when I started out on my career path in financial sales (gulp, many, many years ago), sales reps would typically engage my colleagues and me when a customer requested some type of financing option. These conversations typically took place near the end of the sale cycle after pricing had been formalized and the deal was close to or completely committed. Inevitably the customer would wait until the last minute to inform the rep of their lack of budget. Typically the customer required a zero percent payment plan because incurring interest costs was not likely to be approved. The end result was an additional discount offered (bad!) or no deal reached (even worse!).
I’ve been involved in many of these scenarios and although it sometimes works out in the end, there is another approach I’ve learned over time. This approach focuses on incorporating financial selling throughout the sales cycle. I promise you don’t need to be a wizard at Excel or in reading financial statements either (although it doesn’t hurt!). I’ll break this approach down into five key inflection points within the sales cycle. (more…)
Your technology sale to a Fortune 1000 customer has been on the forecast for several quarters. The solution is expected to be an on-premises perpetual license (capital budget), including maintenance and professional services (usually operating budget items).
The opportunity has been moving steadily through your sales forecast internally from lead to qualified lead toward close. It has also been making its way through the customer’s approval processes.
You’ve forecasted the deal to close, and the end user has budgeted a reasonable amount in the current year’s capital budget to make the acquisition. Enough budget to get you to Club. Hello Cancun!
As software vendors continue their shift to the cloud, looking for higher stock valuations and lower costs, the shift can lead to delayed sales cycles and unintended outcomes.
Here are some of the reasons cited for sales delays:
Budgets: Most enterprise software sales have long sales cycles. Customers have planned for on-premises solutions which were budgeted for in the prior fiscal year. In the world of perpetual licenses, capital budgets may have been already allocated.
When selling hosted solutions in the cloud, operating budgets–generally larger and more flexible than capital budgets–are being tapped. What’s the issue then? Most customers’ operating budgets are being hit with unexpected costs during the transition. Without a strong business case the sale may be delayed until the next budget year. The cloud is putting pressure on operating budget availability. (more…)
As technology vendors move to software subscriptions as their primary pricing model, it presents new challenges as they attempt to meet customer demands while also managing company objectives. Historically customer finance programs have been used as strategic sales tools for many reasons, not the least of which was reducing the need for large, upfront payments. So is customer finance still relevant in today’s world of subscription-based, pay-as-you-go pricing models?
Pay as you go, utility, consumption, subscription, and the cloud have been the rage during the past several years. As a result, many vendors scrambled to adjust their offerings to meet the perceived needs.
The key drivers of this trend were:
1) OpEx budgets were plentiful in the good old days because most IT products were treated as capital assets. In some ways, operating budgets were easier to sell to than capital ones.
2) The perceived advantages of seemingly lower costs and not having to make a long-term commitment (true only if one compares a one- or two-year cost to owning an asset that can perform over a much longer period, and if there are no costs to switching platforms). Already, early adopters have come to realize that the yearly costs can stack up over time and can far exceed buying and owning your own licenses and IT assets.
3) Some customers have strategically chosen to divest themselves from owning and maintaining their own IT infrastructure. This last point can be a smart option for those customers for whom IT is not a differentiating core competency; however, this may not be the right solution for everyone. (more…)
Some say that solution selling is a dying concept or less relevant than it used to be. I think it is still an important part of the sales process, but its effectiveness relies on having a strong financial acumen and access to a robust financial solutions capability.
Over the years I have attended several annual IT sales kickoff events. I have also participated in hundreds of other sales events including QBR’s, sales training and education programs, and analyst events hosted by the likes of IDC, Gartner, and others. The concept of “solution selling” has seemed to survive the test of time.
It is almost always mentioned or referred to in one form or another. Whether it’s part of the keynote speech on the main stage or included in individual breakout sessions or part of the sales training curriculum. Apparently, solution selling continues to be a relevant part of most sales strategy discussions. (more…)
While sitting in traffic listening to sport updates, I was reminded of my busted NCAA bracket. For the last fifteen or so years, I’ve entered a bracket into my office March Madness pool. Relatively speaking, I’m a late arrival to the excitement of Big Dance. It wasn’t until after college when I was working in Los Angeles that a convincing officemate sat me down to walk me through the selection process (A xeroxed copy of the newspaper-published bracket) and promptly took my $10 entry fee.
My brackets have not improved much over the years. So why do I keep playing every year?
I’ve learned to enjoy the fast-paced nature of the game, the last minute heroics and the unforeseeable upsets.
March Madness is much like quarter-end at many companies: fast-paced, emotionally charged with equal parts excitement and anxiety and full of unexpected turns. I’ve learned that the teams that end up on top of March Madness have a lot in common with the sales reps I’ve known who have been the most successful.