Leveraging research time to increase sales effectiveness

My objective with this post is to help you, the sales professionals, increase your productivity in the final days of 2017.

You want to know what to do next, but it’s hard to tell. Should I send off quick follow up notes? Are the opportunities I’m spending time on worth it? Should I just disqualify some of them because people aren’t getting back to me? What should I be doing? Frustrating, I get it. I’m here to answer what you should do to effectively close out 2017 and set yourself up for success Q1 2018.

The ideal case at this moment is that you know the buyer and the timing is right. Please, please work on those opportunities right now. Meet face to face, call, follow up with that email and put a bow on those deals that fit the criteria. Get them closed!


“The ideal case at this moment is that you know the buyer and the timing is right…put a bow on those deals that fit the criteria. Get them closed!”


Once the above tasks are done, let’s take a step back and get ready for Q1 with a strong start. The next place to start is the folks who you’ve been trying to get a hold of for more than three months and you’ve heard nothing. Lastly, you want to focus on the newer deals. We will bucket these two groups together.

Allow me to set the stage:

I’m sitting here looking at my pipeline of opportunities and leads. Ideally everyone of my main contacts is the buyer in the specific company and I can get everyone of them on the phone and the timing would be right for them to buy. They would also know how I can help and believe I care and understand their problems and goals. This, however, is not the case.

Given in some cases I don’t know them well or they haven’t gotten back to me, what can I do?

  1. Above I addressed closing what you can. However big or small, just close the few opportunities that are almost there and you believe it’s realistic to close them.
  2. Back up, take a breath and study. Study your pipeline – the industries, companies and the people. If you know it’s too much of a stretch and you’ve given it your all disqualify. Here’s what we’re doing to do with the rest.

Landscape

As of today, here are the top FREE mobile communication apps on iOS app store (you’ll find roughly the same on Android and Windows):

Top Charts – Free Apps on iOS as of 12/14/17
  • YouTube – video
  • Messenger – written/video/photos
  • Instagram – photo/short form video/written
  • Snapchat – photo/short form video
  • Facebook – video/photo/written
  • GMAIL – written

With the rise of podcasts – Spotify, SoundCloud and iTunes are contenders for attention. Email and phone are getting less effective, but still in play. Another item to now is that many professionals have LinkedIn and Twitter profiles (some more active than others).

The objective for most sales reps for SaaS companies is to get the buyer on the phone and keep their attention. For some of their deals they may also be focused on getting FaceTime.

With all this context I would stress to if you are relying mostly on automation tools and email, you’re not being resourceful. In fact, you’re straight up being lazy. Yes, there is a case to be made that marketing “should do this”. If you’re going to put your success in someone else’s hands then don’t read further.

I am mentioning the top apps so you are clear that the attention of the people you are looking to reach goes well beyond their inbox. The question you should be asking yourself is: where do I need to be to capture the attention?

Research

Let’s start with LinkedIn. Powerful tool. We’ll begin with the search feature.

LinkedIn – Search name of individual

Here, I simply enter the prospect, or buyer’s name. For this example I’m going to use Robi Ganguly, Co-founder and CEO of Apptentive in Seattle, Washington as the person to research. He needs my help! Let’s take a look at the profile to see if there’s anything of value for me to learn more:

LinkedIn – Key areas of the individual’s profile to examine for research

I’ve highlighted a number of areas where I can focus. Quickly I learn that Robi values relationships. He even writes, “truly meaningful and deep connections that are built over time…investment.” In the top right I see a link to “Show More”: a personal blog or Twitter handle can be of value to me as I take a few minutes to learn about him. I notice the profile has the university listed. Do I know anyone who also went to Pomona College? We happen to not only be connected, but have 107 mutual connections. It just so happens that “Show More” has a personal blog and a Twitter profile. Let’s see what more I can learn from Twitter.

Twitter – Key areas of individual’s profile for research

I like to immediately jump to the bio. Robi tells me he likes to build things. Building things take time, require tinkering, require thoughtfulness. I can assume Robi will have these kinds of characteristics. He’s also passionate about giving customers a voice – quite possibly a strong mission attached to Apptentive. Here, I also learn that he’s active on Twitter with 17.4K tweets and 3.5K likes. We share some followers and the Photos and video tell me he may also be on Instagram, Facebook and/or Snapchat (all top downloaded apps).

In addition to this, I found a great blog post that Appentive turned into a 55-page E-book and through Google News search found a number of articles written about Robi and his company including the last funding round.

That took me less than 7 minutes. Now, I’ll spend another 5 minutes thinking through how to take the first steps.

To summarize: I know Robi loves relationships and cares about investing in them. I know he loves to build things. He’s also running a startup with about 50-100 people (learned from LinkedIn) so he’s not going to just answer any email or phone call.

Some questions to be thinking about when researching individuals:

  • How well do I know the individual and their role?
  • Do I understand their problems?
  • Has my company solved any problems for people in similar roles?
  • What’s the best way to build rapport with this individual that will allow me to connect with them?

Action

I’ll now spend 20-30 minutes brainstorming what I could do to capture Robi’s attention in Q1 of 2018.

  1. Craft a compelling offer email that shows I understand the challenges of building and growing a startup
  2. Send Robi a holiday gift that could be a puzzle or game requiring building something – maybe a Seahawks puzzle
  3. Start engaging with his Twitter posts that I can genuinely add value to

Rinse and repeat the research steps from LinkedIn. If you reach a dead end use the search features of Google, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. There are so many tools at your disposal. Take advantage of them!

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Guidelines for selling a new product efficiently

The area often critical to a business’ success is selling new products. There are reasons that new product sales are challenging for many companies. From what I’ve observed, the biggest single cause of poor results early in a product’s life can be explained in terms of Features, Advantages and Benefits.

When a product is new, how does product marketing typically communicate it to the sales force? From what I frequently see, the marketing people call the sellers together and tell them about what an exciting new product is coming. They explain all the Features and Advantages – all the “bells and whistles”. And then what do the sales people do? They become excited about the product and go out to sell it. And when they are in front of a customer, how do they behave? They communicate the product in exactly the same way it was communicated to them. Instead of asking questions to develop needs, they jump in with all the exciting Features and Advantages that the new product possesses.

Instead of showing the sellers the product and describing its Features and Advantages, we don’t even let them see what we are selling. It won’t be important. What is important is that this product is designed to solve problems for the customers who use it. We then list the problems the product solves and the needs it meets. Finally, we understand how the Insight product AND a list of questions that can help us uncover those problems.

We can create a list of questions they will ask when working with a prospect.

By launching the product in terms of the problems it solves and how to probe for them, we will shift the seller’s attention away from the product and back to the customer needs.

Instead of giving Features and Advantages when we announce the product, let’s concentrate on explaining the problems the product solves and on thinking up the questions that will uncover and develop these problems. From what I’ve seen, this speeds the growth curve of new-product sales.

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The Ovarian Lottery

I’ve mentioned this in the past and it came to my awareness today. The odds of me being born as me are 400 trillion to 1 (same for you). Most of us should really let that sink in because that’s 400 trillion to 1.

Same odds for you and everyone of us 7 billion humans — let’s call it the Ovarian Lottery.

From a purely quant angle, there is nothing even remotely close to this level of “luck” existing in the physical world. Repeat: nothing remotely close.

The closest is the MegaMillions Powerball @ 175 million to 1.

So, the point??? We already got lucky! I am lucky! You are lucky! You can’t get luckier. The luckiest.

The only thing that can follow this for me are questions: Is what I am currently believing true? What’s next? What will I do with all this luck? How will I embrace my luck? When will you take advantage of it?

I’m building new and empowering beliefs. I’m distracted by my life and creating and living a compelling vision. I’m going to take advantage of every moment. I’m living a life where I’m celebrating, appreciating and grateful all the time. I’m taking advantage of the now.

Cue up your favorite “one shot” anthem (here’s what I’m currently jamming to) because whether you believe you die and it’s game over or you believe you come back, you’ll only get one you as you!!!

Appreciate and be beautiful! ❤️

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How I got serious about my health

We aren’t so different, you and I

You’re busy. I’m busy. Me? I’m in my mid-30s going into my 40s. Last year I flew on 120+ flights. I’ve run companies, funded companies, advised companies, and currently I work for a company — a really cool one actually! My wife and I have a four year old who is a awesome and a ball of energy! I live near my parents, brother and his girlfriend and grandmother. Two years ago I found myself in a challenging health situation: I was tired. Really tired. I thought it would pass, I thought I would outwork my lethargy. Guess what? It didn’t and I couldn’t.

My Story

Here’s the headline: My success had everything to do with my making a decision. One decision. I didn’t like where things were and so I flipped the reality in my head. I spent two years on this project. I now feel like a superman!

The success I’ve had with my personal health over the last two years had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with anything tactical. It had nothing to do with knowledge (there are many, many people that know a lot more than me about health). It had nothing to do with running with a fad (how I encourage you to stay away from a diet).

The story begins December, 2014, almost two years ago. I had come the realization that with all the impact I wanted to have on the world it would boil down to two things: energy and time. Energy was something I was low on and if things continued as they were I wouldn’t have much time. So I looked at my health; something I hadn’t taken much care of and said, “This isn’t working”. I was sleeping ~5 hours/night, sometimes less; I was dehydrated; my diet was “eat what I see”; and exercise, what was that? Maybe you are, or have been in this boat.

All signs pointed to no recovery of energy and the time line was questionable. Even if I did get all the time I knew my later years would be filled with regret. Nope! Not for me. I started to take note of what my life would look like if everything was the opposite. If I slept the right amount for me, fully hydrated every day, eating food that would support incredible amounts of energy, and exercising the right amount, in the right way. The decision was made then: I was going to live the rest of my life as the most energetic version of myself.

I did a number of things through 2015 and my body started to transform. And then, January 2016 enter Arivale. I joined the company and am completely bought into our vision of helping people live life’s filled with joyful moments. I signed up and started working with the incredible Coach Julia. I explicitly stated my goals were to optimize my energy and the purpose was clear: achieve incredible professional goals and be fully alive and present with my family.

I’m fundamentally a believer in coaching. In fact, my rule is this: if you’re afraid of something, get a coach for it. Simple as that.

In addition to coaching, Arivale has a wide data set personalized to me (it’s all my biological data). My baseline data showed that my “bad” cholestorol markers (LDL and LDL Particles) was higher than optimal, which is a risk factor for heart disease. I also learned that my average blood sugar (A1C) was higher than optimal, which is a risk factor for diabetes. Finally, I learned that my Vitamin D and my essential fatty acids (like omega 3s) were low.

Step 1: I tracked my activity, sleep and resting heart rate with my Fitbit. I worked on hydration — drinking plenty of water and getting adequate sleep to increase my energy levels. The focus was there and after a couple months I could feel the difference. On my own I starting a morning routine that included walking, a gratitude practice, self-reflection and a nourishing breakfast.

Step 2: Julia helped me connect the dots between bio-markers and genetic variants that helped me focus on and modify my diet to improve them. Julia was amazing in supporting me with ongoing education, helping select menu items at restaurants, snacks and meals to pack when traveling to help me continue toward my goals.

Step 3: A saliva test revealed that my cortisol looked great and a microbiome sample showed a high level of gut bacteria diversity. Even with this knowledge the diet shifted to a high amounts of real/whole foods.

Step 4: I increased the activity from nothing to walking to 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week of high intensity interval training. I’ve now been going strong on the exercise more than 100+ days. I’ve never worked out this consistently in my life!

With all these changes over the year my energy was increasing, mental clarity improved and my digestion was getting better (poor digestion would be an entire post! Maybe another time).

Given how much data I received I want to share some highlights:

  1. LDLP improved (35% reduction)
  2. LDLC improved (33% reduction)
  3. LDL small particle size became MORE optimal (80% reduction in small particles)
  4. LDL size became more optimal
  5. TGs became more optimal (47% reduction)
  6. Oxidized LDL became more optimal (38% reduction)

Also, my blood sugars decreased and I optimized my omega 3 status. Without trying, I lost 9 pounds. So after my second year focused on health (and my first in Arivale) I’ve lowered my risk for heart disease and diabetes and my energy levels are close to where they were four years ago!

What Does this Mean for you?

You may point to the tactical stuff assigned to me. I know plenty of people that have the playbook and can’t execute. You may point to my ability to buy the program. Again, I know plenty of people with the financial means who never make it happen. This is 100% about making a decision to take ownership of your health, of your life. That’s what happened in 2014 — I made a decision to live the rest of my life as the most energetic version of myself.

Over the last two years I’ve learned that nothing is more important than your health. In the game of life it’s the foundation for everything. For some, money still may be the bottleneck. To that I say, before you buy that electronic device, book that extra trip, buy something fancy that isn’t a MUST HAVE, it might be worth taking a step back and seeing how you can make a strong commitment to your health. The first step is making a decision. The rest will fall in to place.

Starting now could mean 10, 20, or 30% more energy for you. It could mean 10, 20, or 30 more years of living a joyful life. Isn’t that reason enough? That was reason enough for me.

Would love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Leave a response, or shoot me a message

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