Customer inaction can be a major impediment to complex sales

Very often the outcome of enterprise software sales campaigns is simply customer inertia. In these cases there is no outcome. Customers may profess an interest in learning further about a solution, but fail to move on one, regardless of how well the complex sales campaign has been put together. In our experience, selling efforts for new products, services and/or integrated solutions can, very often, produce this type of “let’s go on with the status quo” result. Of course, offerings that are new to enterprise markets are largely unproven; therefore, it is particularly difficult for enterprise prospects to muster much confidence that a new solution will solve an important problem.

Inactivity is also a frequent result of sales campaigns for solutions to problems that have not fully coalesced in the marketplace for enterprise software. In these cases prospects are incapable of clearly identifying what they need. There is a probable problem (for example the recent Bring Your Own Device, BYOD, phenomenon as a type of activity that can expose an organization’s data to malicious attack), but the specific, quantified cost of the problem is not yet clear. Prospects are still determining the impact of the problem on the bottom line. They are not ready to take action, yet, on a solution.

Finally, customer inaction can result from internal organizational issues. Often, in these cases, teams of contacts (ostensible owners of a process as well as any/all related problems) are finally found to lack the authority to act on a remedy. In fact, decision-making at enterprise businesses with this type organizational issue is proven to be the province of someone else at the organization, someone who the sales team has neglected to contact. Once authority has been properly determined (but at a very late stage in a developing opportunity) to reside elsewhere, the prospect, typically, decides to table any discussion and simply proceed as usual.

IMB Enterprises, Inc. has considerable experience addressing the need for enterprise software sales teams to learn to quickly determine the likelihood of prospect inactivity. Let’s face it, time is an irreplaceable commodity. Therefore, it behooves these software sales teams to spend as little time as possible on opportunities where intertia is the most likely outcome.

If you would like to hear how we generally address each of the above examples of prospect inertia, then please contact us. You may telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


The ever elusive right thing and enterprise sales methods

A recent cliche goes like this, “make sure you do the right thing rather than doing things right.” The point of this cliche, as we understand it, is that lots of hard work (“doing things right”) will not necessarily pay off. Rather, figuring out how to do “the right thing”, which amounts to taking the time required to master methods that have been proven, conclusively, to successfully deliver objectives, makes much more sense. Further, mastering these methods may not require all that hard work anyways, so let’s take a collective breath and ease up a bit.

When this cliche is applied to enterprise sales we can understand the usual popularity of sales training leaders as well as the products they market, meaning their books, videos, seminars, etc. In our experience enterprise sales is a challenging activity. Accordingly, we can understand why enterprise sales professionals are always on the look out for some new set of selling methods, a toolbox, as it were, with a very powerful screwdriver that will open any boxed up prospect opportunity.

But we question the usefulness of an ever present attention (that can border upon an obsession) to the latest sales techniques to “hit the market.” Does it really make sense to incorporate yet another method into our engagements with enterprise prospects?

We don’t think so. In sum, we don’t think that the amount of attention spent on continuous sales training is warranted. Further, we have complete faith in the usefulness of hard work. Perhaps the hard work amounts to spending the time required in advance to carefully research and identify contacts who may directly impact on decisions about our products, meaning individuals directly involved with specific business applications at higher probability prospects, rather than carpet bombing, with cold calls, long lists of contacts who are only peripherally involved with relevant enterprise operations.

The hard work may also amount to engaging in correctly timed face-to-face sales calls with contacts rather than relying, entirely, on the telephone as the sales engagement medium. Much can be learned from observing body language during an in person visit that cannot be observed during a telephone conversation, even with the use of a video camera. Nevertheless, the effort required for these activities constitutes hard work, no matter how one considers it.

There is another, older cliche that we think bears some consideration on this topic: “necessity is the mother of invention.” We are eternally optimistic that enterprise sales personnel who, for one reason or another must succeed, will find a way through to their objective. As to which compass they end up using to find the path, well, we do not find much value in that information.

We maintain a high interest in innovative emerging tech businesses focused on enterprise markets who are grappling with methods of motivating a sales force. Please contact us to discuss your case. You may telephone Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Implement Sales Methods that are Appropriate for Targeted Markets to Ensure Success

Software Sales teams targeting enterprise businesses and other large groups of users in the public or not-for-profit sectors can spend months, even years (if funding is available) wandering in a desert of low productivity that results in few, if any sales. Sales does not exist within a vacuum. Every other program with which a business is engaged impacts upon the success of sales efforts, especially marketing. Nevertheless, where marketing is working fine, then the actual sales method plays a dominant role in the success or failure of selling efforts. If this method is wrong there will be few if any sales. End of story.

We could use the remainder of this blog post to beat up on methodology that we think does not work for enterprise software sales. There are lots of these methods on the market today. Nevertheless, focusing on negatives delivers little value to anyone, least of all our precious readers. Rather, we need to focus on what works for us, from which, hopefully, the reader may extrapolate some value. We think that the Complex Sale methodology formulated by Jeff Thull of the Prime Resource Group provides the best method that we know of to deliver successful selling efforts for the type of markets that we are after.

The specific feature of this method that we would like to focus on for the remainder of this post is the “discover” stage of engagement with potential sales prospects. What catches us about this stage is the opportunity it presents to sales — as well as to a prospect — to fairly determine whether or not it makes sense to pursue a particular prospect or not. In the world of enterprise software sales the days of “any prospect represents a sales opportunity” are long gone. Time is in precious short supply; therefore, it makes complete sense to objectively study an opportunity presented by a prospect to determine appropriateness before committing more resources. Further, compiling a portrait of a prospect business in detail (which is, after all, the result of successful completion of this “discover” stage) will provide specific areas of opportunity, as Jeff Thull is careful to point out in his book, “Mastering the Complex Sale” where one’s solution can significantly lower costs for a prospect and, thereby, be worth a prospect’s consideration.

We have excellent recent experience dealing with enterprise markets for software products and services. We welcome opportunities to expand on discussions such as this one. Please contact Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


There’s Networking and then there’s Networking . . .

Unstructured engagement outside of the office makes sense within a coordinated program of marketing and sales activity. However, it is important to operate under the assumption that not all networking opportunities are created equal. Sales management must exercise some discretion as to which networking opportunities make sense, vs opportunities that simply provide sales staff with an excuse to waste time.

We have worked with a client who we found to be very adept at quickly equipping sales staff with the techniques required to transform an ostensible public networking event into an opportunity to gather, first hand, lots of information potentially useful for completed, ongoing and planned sales opportunities. Much of the client’s recommendation was that sales personnel be sure to interject lots of open questions during one to one discussions with contacts to “prime the pump” on information sharing. Further, our client recommended that sales people research legitimate contact names in advance of these meetings so as to have credible information at the ready that can be utilized to obtain additional names from contacts.

With regards to obtaining additional names from contacts, we should note that our client’s objective was to utilize networking opportunities as opportunities to verify apparent roles with prospect businesses. Some of the recommended dialogue included the specific use of some “yes” or “no” questions; for example, along the lines of “So you work with [contact name] in IT?,” or, “Does [contact name] still run quality assurance?” etc. Admittedly, some contacts won’t rise to this bait, but some will.

Once sales staff are armed with information gathering techniques it is not difficult for sales management to determine the specific networking opportunities worth attending. Obviously, if sales staff return from monthly meetings, speed networking events, trade shows and conferences without planned information, then either the chosen networking opportunities are incorrect, or sales staff is not able to effectively implement techniques.

We do not see where it makes sense to simply permit sales staff to leave an office for outside prospect interaction without returning with information. Further, managing unstructured outside contact engagement can enrich the rest of the marketing communications effort with an excellent supplementary source of leads. Sales management should target a flexible management style that will permit unstructured contact engagement, but firmly within the bounds of ongoing intelligence gathering efforts.

If your sales organization is begging for an effective, assertive management effort, then please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com. We will be happy to show you what we’ve got.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


What Constitutes a Valuable Sales Lead?

An important job for anyone in a sales management position is to define what “valuable” means with regard to leads. Not all leads are the same. Some leads will be very valuable. But other leads will have little value. Therefore, it is safe to say that defining what constitutes a valuable lead is an important job for sales management. Why waste precious time working on leads with little promise? Perhaps leads can be obtained that will support efficient selling efforts and hasten attainment of revenue objectives. If there is a possibility of obtaining valuable leads, then sales management ought to allocate as much time as may be required to formulate a system to capture valuable leads. Further, sales staff should always work on as high value leads as possible.

We should note that sales management engaged in defining value for leads very often will have an opportunity to also define the stages of development for leads that will be typical for the specific business at hand. We spend considerable time working with leads for clients over telephone conversations. Therefore, what follows is specific to telemarketing and, further, very specific to teleprospecting. However, in a subsequent post we will present complementary stages that contribute to lead maturation from raw to high value for electronic media — social and email marketing. The stages for lead maturation from the perspective of teleprospecting include:

  1. Identifying Potentially Useful Contacts within a Prospect Business
  2. Engaging in an Initial Conversation with a Potentially Useful Contact. This first conversation is characterized by the teleprospector gathering information to identify what the prospect needs as well as contacts within the prospect that have the authority to purchase products and services to satisfy needs
  3. Engaging in a Conversation with a Potentially Useful Contact that Expands on the Original Conversation. The teleprospector plans this second conversation to provide the contact with information that can be useful to identify needs and decision makers
  4. Engaging in an Initial Assessment with the contact. A teleprospectors utilizes this third conversation to exchange information with the contact on the needs and decision makers that have emerged from the first and second conversations
  5. Mapping into the Prospect Company. The teleprospector enters into as many additional conversations with other contacts as may be required to identify all of the other contacts from this prospect who need to be included in any subsequent conversation about the needs and decision makers who have been determined from the first three preceding conversations
  6. Vetting Assumptions about Needs and Decision Makers. These conversations provide the teleprospector with the opportunity to establish the credibility of apparent needs and decision makers.
  7. Obtaining Referrals. Authoritative contacts are used by the teleprospector to secure the participation of all of the contacts produced by the mapping exercise in step 5, above in subsequent conversations with the prospect business
  8. An Unqualified Meeting with Unqualified Decision Makers. The teleprospector engages in a group meeting with the contacts who have been identified. The meeting topic is specific to the need assumed to be pressing for the prospect business. The outcome of this meeting will determine any further steps in the development of the sales opportunity

If we find that the sales opportunity has further promise beyond #8, above, we are comfortable turning the lead over to clients for further development as a valuable lead. If you care to learn further about our methods, then please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. We welcome contact. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Rank sales leads by value while tracking position in your lead maturity cycle to obtain a realistic picture of opportunities

We use a lead ranking system built on:

  1. Lead Value and
  2. Lead Maturity, meaning the position of a lead in a specific lead maturity cycle

We implement our lead ranking system to provide clients with a realistic picture of sales opportunities over time.

Let’s look at the second of these factors first, lead maturity. Our maturity plan for leads includes the following stages:

  1. Initial conversation with an unqualified contact
  2. Follow up conversation about some information that has been exchanged with this unqualified contact
  3. A conversation about a point of interest expressed by this unqualified contact. This point of interest is somehow related to information already exchanged
  4. An unspecified number of conversations with additional contacts at the same prospect business to determine whether the unqualified contact is someone who can make a decision about a purchase for your product or service
  5. An unspecified number of conversations with additional contacts at the same prospect business to determine areas of interest as well as potential requirements for products or services offered by your business
  6. Assembling a list of contacts at the prospect business who should participate in a discussion about your product or service as a solution for requirements either formalized or at some informal stage
  7. Meeting with a group of contacts at the prospect business who would like to discuss further points of interest or potential areas of need for your product or service. These contacts should be selected from the individuals unearthed through steps 4 and 5 above
  8. Meeting with a contact, or a group of contacts who have been verified as decision makers for a purchase requirement that has been budgeted by the prospect business that calls for a product or service that corresponds to what your business offers

Once the 8th step in this process has been successfully completed (meaning that the prospect business would like to proceed further with the discussion) then the lead can be said, per our system, to be mature and ready for transition to sales for further development as a bonafide sales opportunity.

Our experience is that telemarketing teams present an excellent opportunity to progress leads through our maturity cycle to step 8. The time required to move a lead through each of these stages in development is a variable. The process can be faster or more retarded depending on the type of product and target market. What is important is that enough information be collected through each of these steps to make a best possible effort to ensure that time is not wasted on what Jeff Thull refers to as “Dry Runs.”

Obviously there are many steps within the progress of a lead through our 8 stages of maturity. We would be happy to elaborate on our model upon request. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com to further a discussion.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Leverage Priority-Centric Selling to Meet Sales Objectives

Priority-centric selling is a method of structuring sales activity around two key variables:

  1. the value of a prospect or customer to the sales and marketing plan and
  2. the stage in the sales cycle represented by a planned activity

With regards to the first of these variables, a prospect profile ought to be at hand. Prospects should be ranked hierarchically from highest value to lowest, generally on a four or five point scale. A usual rule of thumb positions the highest value prospects as those prospects who promise very high rates of repetitive purchases, should a product be implemented as a corporate standard. Further, high value prospects typically have a centralized IT group with the authority to dictate application and systems for specific business functions. High value sales staff are those individuals with the ability to identify opportunities that meet these two criteria along with the contacts within the business with the authority to request that a specific product of service be purchased for a known application.

The recent economic downturn here in the United States, together with a pervasive failure of IT products and solutions to deliver as expected and, in some unfortunate cases, as promised, have contributed to the construction of a wall between high value prospects and marketers. It must also be noted that the pervasive access to enormous amounts of potentially relevant online information has added some very strong cement into this wall the construction of this wall. The effect of all of this is a general consensus that high value prospects pop up much later in a lead generation timeline, generally to collect prices and place orders with solutions already clearly delineated. We are not entirely convinced that this general consensus is the case, but it is not the objective of this post to discuss our alternative view; rather, we simply wish to present some basic tenets of prioritizing sales activity.

With regards to the second of the above noted variables, specifically an assessment of the stage in a sales cycle that corresponds to a planned interaction with a prospect, we think it makes sense to have more experienced sales staff handling early stage engagement with prospects to ensure that a correct assessment of value is established as early as possible within the process, thereby keeping wasted effort and lost time to the barest possible minimum.

We will be happy to elaborate on the above; therefore, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your specific plan, staff and managing lead assessment and ranking. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Use a sales leads rating system to hasten revenue for your tech startup

Tech innovators looking to sell IT products into Fortune 500 business markets and other (mostly public) markets with large groups of users need to implement a sales lead rating system to make best efforts to ramp up selling efforts in a progressive manner. As of the spring of 2012, sales leads rating systems are a commodity. These systems are either available as shrink wrap software or as a time share (so called “cloud based” Software as a Service – SaaS) accessed through an Internet connection via a web browser. A sales leads rating system affords management the ability to plot the position of a sales opportunity along a timeline that matches the typical sales cycle for products and/or services offered by a business.

For tech innovators just starting up, a reliable picture of the length of time required to move an opportunity from the stage of identifying a lead to the moment that payment is received from a customer may not yet be available. Identifying the average length of time required for this process to complete establishes the length of the sales cycle for a product or service.

Nevertheless, the familiar characteristics of each stage in the development of a sale should (and, in fact, must) be discernible to management . Therefore, by analyzing the results of each point of prospect interaction to determine a stage in the development of a sale, management can plot an opportunity along a sales development continuum. This continuum will, eventually, afford management an opportunity to determine what, realistically, constitutes a typical sales cycle. Once an accurate length of a sales cycle has been established, then management can determine the volume of leads required to fund the business on a cash positive basis at some future point. Finally, management will be able to realistically forecast funding requirements based on the probable number of leads, the length of the sales cycle, etc.

We think that sales leads rating systems are worthwhile tools for our clients to utilize. We load a tool with our set of the stages of a sales cycle. The earlier in the business cycle that a sales leads rating system can be implemented, the quicker management will obtain a realistic, predictable sense of the pace of sales revenue along with periodic volume. Of course, all of this data is crucial to business planning.

We welcome opportunities to learn about emerging tech businesses targeting our markets. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


The Imperative of a Value Proposition for Enterprise IT Sales

Perhaps more than ever before, it is an absolute imperative for IT sales teams focused on enterprise class business customers and large groups of users in the public sector to structure sales offers around value. Further, value can no longer be the amorphous entity of the past, which was coupled specifically to user “benefits”. These benefits were rarely, if ever quantified. On the few occasions where benefits were quantified, the costs were general in nature; therefore, it was next to impossible for the average IT sales engagement with enterprise class prospects to specifically include hard costs in the discussion.

A close look at most of the big deals that have ever been won for this type of product and market since the mid 1980s reveals that hard dollar cost value has always been at the root of these deals. The fact is that enterprise class businesses make purchase decisions on products that will save on the cost of maintaining operations at high levels of performance. Few, if any enterprise buyers will object to maintaining operations at targeted levels, albeit at substantial lower cost. Winning sales teams will quantify the cost savings represented by any additional functionality implicit to new IT systems to ensure the inevitability of a customer order for products or services.

Therefore, it is entirely safe to say that sales teams must be trained and directed to develop conversations, face to face interactions, etc with enterprise class prospects to capture the information required to determine present day hard costs of operations as well as any initiative on the part of prospects to lower costs. There is little, if any leisure time left to coast along with this class of enterprise buyer.

Innovative early stage technology vendors will save substantial cost by purchasing the services they require right now to ensure that sales teams have been properly directed to deliver sales in the type of value intensive environment constituted by enterprise class business prospects. These substantial costs can amount to lost opportunities as the result of poorly trained sales teams failing to work with prospects in a manner that will produce the information required of prospects in the areas of hard costs, along with an identification of budget/program owners who need to make a decision to lower those same hard costs.

We don’t see how innovative technology vendors can waste time training sales teams. IMB Enterprises, Inc can train sales teams to redirect efforts strictly around value. Please call me, Ira Michael Blonder, IMB Enterprises, Inc at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


A word on the role of persuasion in sales

Ever since Xerox Corporation spun off its excellent internal sales group into a separate business peddling “needs satisfaction” sales training, it has been entirely de rigueur to talk up sales that somehow, magically, sell themselves. In fact I’ve written up this approach in this very blog, for example, with reference to what I take to be “broken down” purchase decision making in global businesses that can’t move on seemingly important acquisitions. I have advocated heavy use of information gathering and collaboration with prospects on crafting decisions when and how they “make sense” in an evolutionary manner. In other words, I’ve preached selling without a close, a prescription entirely consistent with my own selling roots in the above mentioned Xerox sales approach.

HOWEVER, there is today, nevertheless, an excellent role to be played by persuasion in sales. But where and how to implement persuasion in the sales process? Look to rhetorical argumentation for useful guidelines as to where and how to commence an effort to persuade sales prospects to move forward on a purchase. Any student of the English language and literature is familiar with rhetoric, rhetorical argument, and how to frame a position in an essay. For this reason, personnel with a background in the humanities and English, in particular, make very good candidates for sales roles. The caveat is that these individuals must also enjoy interacting with prospects–introverts just won’t cut it.

Specifically, it is the “argument from authority” that provides a very useful foundation for persuading prospects to move forware. This argument from authority can be summed up simply as “Well don’t you recognize that everyone else is doing it? therefore might it not be too presumptuous to go against the tide in this area” etc.
I have used this approach successfully to open conversations with prospects and, also, to facilitate successful closure on purchases by prospects. Fact is that some slow progress is disingenuous on the part of prospects, a purposeful retarding of the natural progression of discussion and inquiry into products or services. When I catch wind that things are slowing down without reason, I then put the petal to the metal, bringing an argument from authority to the attention of a prospect to keep the normal progress of discussion on track. Nothing whatsoever wrong about hastening sales along in this manner. In fact, this type of “wake up call” can do wonders for prospects who just can’t seem to move forward despite a rationale to buy that would otherwise be inescapable.

Call us for further information on the above points. IMB Enterprises, Inc. has considerable recent experience selling complex sales of IT products and services to global business. Please telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 to discuss your products and needs. We are particularly interested in technology products–software or hardware–as most of our experience has been garnered from working with software and computer hardware manufacturers.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved