SIMPLE Framework – Positioning: What is Your Positioning Strategy to Move Your Deals Forward

Simple Framework for Sales Effectiveness
Simple Framework for Sales Effectiveness

We have earlier discussed the first 3 steps in the SIMPLE framework for selling – Surprise, Inspire & Motivate. If done well, this will bring your customer/prospect to a situation where they identify with a vision that you have painted for them and are motivated enough to take action to move towards the vision.

Once the customer is motivated to do something about the challenge that you have helped surface, you need to then position yourself or your product/service, such, that the customer feels confident that you will be able to help him resolve the challenge.

This is the 4th step in the SIMPLE framework.

There are 3 positioning strategy that you have in this case:

You position YOURSELF and YOUR expertise.

You should ideally do this when your product is either a commodity or is not known to be a leader in the category in the market. So, you position yourself and your expertise as the key differentiator from other possible options that the customer has. This positioning can work well, as long as we have done the previous three steps well. Through those steps, you have already created a certain amount of trust in your customer by proving that you not only understand their business, but understand it so well that you have been able to surprise them about their own business.

You position your PRODUCT or SERVICE.

You take this positioning strategy, when your product or service is already a market leader in the category and is known in the market to solve the challenges that you have already identified. This can also work if you have a lot of customer testimonials about how your product or service solved a similar challenge for them. This is also one of the reasons why we should always collect testimonials.

You position your USP (Price / Velocity / Support)

If you think that the solution that you have for the customer is a commodity and your expertise doesn’t necessarily count because of this, then you position yourself as the lowest cost provider or the provider who can do this the fastest or as a provider who has excellent support system, based on your organization’s strength.

Ideally, if you are able to use 2 of these strategies in combination and in the order that I have mentioned, it would be really difficult for your competition to take the deal away from you.

Your Turn to get Involved

How do you position your product, service, expertise currently? Please share your tactics and we shall continue the conversation.

PBTO6: How to Turn Yourself into a Sales Rockstar

Paul Castain
Paul Castain

In this episode, we host Paul Castain, who is the Vice President of Rock Star Development for Castain Training Systems,  where he works with organizations and individuals who want to sell more and sell better. He is also the founder of the LinkedIn group “Sales Playbook”, a group with more than 40000 members and one that is totally spam free.

In this conversation, we talk about a lot of important topics for the sales executive and sales leaders:

We talk about how taking action (starting Sales Playbook group on LinkedIn) has been one of the most important decisions that he ever made in his business.

We also talk about some tips to transform yourself into a sales rockstar:

  • The importance of developing different styles of selling and the ability to switch styles (some call it adapting to your customer) based on the feedback you get as you go along.
  • The importance of Empathy (to your customers, to your sales leaders, to your other colleagues) in selling successfully
  • 3 of the most frequent mistakes that sales executives and leaders do and how to avoid them
  • The power of uninterrupted time at the start of the day to do your most important tasks
  • How micro-managing managers destroy the productivity of sales reps & what can they do to get out of this habit
  • The importance of having an always up-to-date CRM system
  • Some of the common traits in highly successful sales leaders
  • Some common mistakes that sales leaders do and how to avoid them
  • Paul’s thoughts on the Sales vs Marketing debate
  • Social selling – what it really is and some tips for the sales reps to excel at it
  • The importance of investing in training

I strongly recommend that you join the Sales Playbook community and start engaging with the great folks there. You can also reach out to Paul on twitter @PaulCastain

You can join the Summer Sales Camp here.

Do You Make this Common Mistake?

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At the start of the year, I had decided that the theme for me this year was “Transformation“, specifically in 5 different spheres of my life. One of it was to transform my relationship with my son and wife – To spend more time with them with complete attention to them.

In a step to achieve that, I tried to reach home earlier than normal yesterday. I reached home and started spending sometime with my 9 year old son. He has exams starting today at school and I was trying to teach him his Maths. In the middle, my phone beeped and I picked it up to check the email. Once I was done responding to the email, I instinctively checked my twitter feed, then the facebook feed and then the blogs feed that i subscribe to. All the while, giving my son maths sums to solve. All of this without realizing that i was doing this.

Today, I read about a popular hotel in Israel, Abu Ghosh, is offering a 50% discount on its entire menu, provided the guests agreed to switch off their mobile phones.  The owner, Jawdat Ibrahim says that smartphones have destroyed the modern dining experience. He hopes the generous discount will bring back a more innocent time when going to a restaurant was about companionship, conversation and appreciating the food, rather than surfing, texting or talking to the office.

I had a meeting today with a salesman trying to sell me an apartment at my office. One of my colleagues whom I had not met since the 31st walked in to wish me the new year. In the few minutes that I was talking to my colleague, I saw that the sales executive had taken out his mobile phone and was checking email or something. For that moment, he was totally disconnected with me. And unfortunately, I could not connect back with him for that conversation.

When I was reflecting back on these three different stories, I realized that i have also been guilty of doing the same mistake, both in my personal life and in my professional life.

By checking our phones, while in the company of our family, friends or customers, we disconnect ourselves from them in the moment and might find it difficult to reconnect. There have been many customers who also do the same with us and with their friends, family and customers.

Even though, these mobile phones have enabled us to connect to the world beyond and  stay updated, they have also created a bit of void in personal moments.

As sales professionals, what could we do to balance this constant need to stay connected with being able to give complete attention to whoever we are meeting and wherever we are.

Some suggestions that I intend to follow are as below:

  1. Have clear time slots to check messages and emails on the phones.
  2. When I go to meet a customer, will check the phone before I enter the customers office.  The moment I enter the customer’s office, the phone will be switched off.
  3. If I am to wait for sometime before the meeting starts, I shall spend that time to look at the surroundings. Look at what is being shared on the notice board and talk to the receptionist or anyone else who is present there. I remember, pre-mobile days, these were great sources of information that you could not get from the customers and many a times proved valuable to close a deal.
  4. When I do meet my customer, I shall thank him for meeting me and take out my phone (already switched off) and indicate that the time is very important and would switch off the mobile phone so that there is nothing that could disturb the conversation. Usually, the customers would reciprocate.
  5. When I come out of the meeting, switch on the phone and use the smart phone to make notes about whatever was discussed and what you found out during your waiting period.

Have you made this mistake as well? If yes, what do you plan to ensure that you don’t do this going forward.

If you have found a way to avoid this mistake, do share the same with us so that we can learn from the same. 

You could connect with me on twitterLinkedInFacebookGoogle+.

How Can Children help Sales Executives Regain Control On their Sales Process (B2B)

In the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to interact with sales leaders in India, China, Singapore and Australia. One thing that everyone agrees is that selling, and more importantly, B2B selling is getting more and more challenging. 

Buyers are getting more and more intelligent as they are able to do all the research even before inviting any sales teams in for discussion. This also means that most of the interaction tend to lean towards order fulfilment or what I call “Selling to Specs”. This is a zero sum game with no clear winners at all.

  • The customers tend to believe that they know what they are doing due to all the research they did before connecting with the sales teams. 
  • The sales teams are hard pressed to show value in every interaction with their customers despite not knowing the real challenge that they are trying to help with. 
In the end, the sales teams end up fighting each other on the basis of price and delivery terms and lose profitability.
 
In my experience, I have also seen that most of the customers end-up buying something that they thought will help them solve their challenge but end up with a solution that either partially solves or doesnt solve their challenge.
 
This is due to the fact that most of the times, the challenges that they set out to solve are only symptoms and not the real challenge.
 
They are too close to their own business that they are unable to realize this very important fact. 
 
This is where, sales people need to rediscover their hidden childhood virtue of being curious and inquisitive.
 
Sales executives who are curious and inquisitive enough to question the specs that their customers shove at them, are able to discover insights that have the potential to completely change the direction of their interactions with the customer. By their inquisitiveness, they can help their customers uncover their true challenge and in doing so, win their trust and business. 
 
This habit of being curious and inquisitive has been missing in the sales profession for sometime now. The question is how did this happen and what can we do about it. 
 
Why did this happen:
 
This is the probably the first time in our recorded history that the customer could potentially know more about the product/service that the sales executive is trying to sell, in which case, the only thing that is left for the sales executive do to, to gain a tactical advantage and retain control of the sales process is to find information that his/her customers do not know yet and use that to control and move the sales process.
 
This sounds very simple and the obvious thing to do. However, as with our customers, we are too close to the sales process and under too much stress to close the sale that this doesn’t look obvious to us. 
 
What can we do about this: 
 
  • Train ourselves to be curious and inquisitive, ie, re-learn to be child like. 
  • Learn and practice the art of observation. We need to learn to observe not only our customer in action, but their customers in action, their competitors, their substitutes, try and delve deeper to understand the reason behind the specs that the customers have given us.
  • Learn the difference between information and insight and keep looking until he/she uncovers new insights.

There are different techniques that employ the same process albeit in a little more polished way. One such methodology is “Challenger Selling” or applying the principles of  “Design Thinking” in the sales process. 

One approach that i have found very useful in this scenario is to look at our customers business and their interaction with their ecosystem (including customers, employees, partners, suppliers,etc). If I am able to understand their interaction with their ecosystem and some of the challenges that these members of the ecosystem have with our customer, it provides a very interesting perspective and has immense possibilities for new insights to emerge, which potentially could provide a good discussion point and create a totally different discussion than the one that the customer intended in the first place.

This is exactly what you want as a sales executive. This again puts you in the driving seat and instead of matching specs, you are now in a position to define the challenges along with your customer and pitch in how you could play a part in solving these challenges.

In most cases, some of these challenges can be addressed by your product/services. The other part of the challenge that you are unable to solve, you could either suggest someone who could be of help or allow your customer to figure this out. 

Irrespective of which methodology you use, the ultimate aim should be for the sales teams to learn to uncover insights that their customers are unaware of about their own business/process/challenge and use these insights to drive their sales process and continue to remain relevant and in control. 

Do you agree with my views. Share your views and opinions as comments and we can continue our conversation. 

You could also connect with me at twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+

What can Sales Teams Learn from Performing Arts?

Selling has a lot in common with performing arts than visible at first glance.

One of the most important goal of a performing artist is to take their audience on a journey with them, the more immersive the experience, the more successful is the performance.

The same is with selling. The goal of a sales executive should also be to take the customer on a journey with them. The more immersive this experience, the more successful will be the sales executive.

Some lessons that sales executives can learn from performing artists who are very successful are:

  • Weave a story: There is always a story that flows through any performance. The more interesting the story, the more interesting the story-telling, the more likely that you have a hit performance. So it is with selling. Every sales executive should lead his interaction with his customer with a story and hone is story telling skills.
  • Create and manage emotions: The artists know exactly what they want their audience to feel at any given point of the performance. Emotions are a very integral part of every successful performance. No performance is deemed successful until the audience did not feel about the performance. Selling is not just about logic, value and RoI. It is also about managing the emotions of the buyers. More often than not, it is the emotions that decide the final outcome irrespective of the logic, value or RoI. So, do not ignore this important facet of selling. More important than empathizing with the customer is to take him/her on an emotional journey knowing fully well, what you want them to feel at every stage. 
  • Continuous Experiment & learning: The artists continually experiment with their approach to learn what works best for them and then try to keep improving. So should sales executives. What works with a customer might not work with a different customer. It is always good for the sales executive to know his and his organizations strength and to continue to explore different approaches within these areas to have a repertoire that he can dig into in any given customer scenario.
  • Hidden planning & activity: There is a lot of planning and behind the scenes activity (frenetic) that goes on to enable the performance that is hidden from the audience. All the audience sees is what it needs to see and feel what they need to feel. So should the sales executive manage the performance. He needs to manage the entire show without the customer needing to know about the frenetic activity behind the scene. He/She does not need to know the kind of madness (controlled or otherwise) going on within your organizations.
  • Practice, Rehearse & more practice: It takes enormous amount of practice, rehearsals and fine-tuning to bring to life a good performance. So it should be with sales executives. The sales executives should also put in a lot of practice, rehearsals and fine-tuning before they go in front of their customers. They should also keep fine-tuning their pitch as they get feedback from their interactions with the customers.

These are some lessons that I have taken from being a performing artist & a sales executive myself and they have served me really well so far.

Everything mentioned above for sales executives can also be held true for Customer service executives. They can take similar lessons from the world of performing arts to create a stunning experience for their customers.

What do you think? Do you agree with my observation or do you have a different experience? Do let me know by commenting below or tweeting your thoughts to me at @rmukeshgupta.