Sales Practices: Question and Answer #2

This is a Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

By Dave Kahle

Q. How do you know how far to push a sale without overstepping your bounds and threatening the sale and/or the relationship with the customer?

Push The ButtonA.  First, let me share with you an idea that may be totally opposite of everything you have heard and believe about this question.  It is OK, every now and then, to overstep your bounds.  That helps you understand where the boundaries are. If you never push it to the limit, you’ll never know where the limit is.  Believe me, far more sales people are held back by their fear of overstepping the boundaries than are guilty of doing so.

Let me illustrate with an example from my selling career.  At one time I sold surgical staplers.  I would approach a surgeon in the surgeon’s lounge of an operating room suite, demonstrate the staplers, and then ask to accompany the surgeon into surgery where I’d talk him through the application of the instruments.  Getting into surgery was the absolute essential step to selling our stuff.

In one hospital, the chief of surgery decided that I was too aggressive in approaching his colleagues, and told the Operating Room Supervisor to keep me out. I was devastated.  When I commiserated with my boss, he said, “Don’t feel bad.  Now you know where the limits are.  If you never step beyond them, you’ll always wonder if you could have done more.”

It’s the same idea as losing some business because your price is too high.  If you never do that, you’ll never know if you could have gotten more.  You have to lose some in order to establish the boundaries.

So, it is OK, every now and then, to overstep your bounds.  But you don’t want to do it too often.

With that as a preface, let’s deal with your question.  How do you know if you’re pushing too much?

As a general rule, your customers will tell you.  Now, they may not say it in so many words, but they will communicate to you via their body language, with what they say and what they don’t say, that you are overstepping your bounds and going too far. You’ll see them become uncomfortable and show it.  You’ll see them be a little irritated, and show that.  You’ll see them become personally affronted, and show that.

They key thing for you to do is be sensitive to the communication you receive from your customer.  Consider the possibility that you may be pushing too much, and sensitize yourself to reading those messages from the customer.

Once again we come up against one of the foundational truths upon which effective, professional sales is built: It is far more important to be a good listener than it is to be a good talker.  The best sales people are great listeners and are especially sensitive to the customer.

Probably a better question to ask is this:  How can I prevent pushing too much?

And the simple answer to that question is “dialogue.”  Dialogue is, according to Webster’s, “an open and frank discussion, as in seeking mutual understanding or harmony.”

If you can regularly engage your customer in an “open and frank” discussion of where the customer is in the sales process, and how the customer views your solution, you’ll be equipped to make thoughtful and sensitive decisions about your next step.

One of the best simple techniques to use to keep an ongoing dialogue going is to simply ask for an agreement following every conversation you have with the customer.  That puts the issue on the table, gives you a continuous reading of where the customer is, and ends every conversation with a mutual agreement.  As long as the customer is agreeing to do something, you are not pushing too hard.

Hope this helps.

To help you develop this key sales skill, consider these learning units in The Sales Resource Center ™:  Pod-19: Characteristics of Super Star Sales People, Pod-36: Achieve Instant Rapport with Anyone, and Nugget N-22; Push Too Far.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and seven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, and visit his blog.  For a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses with the purchase of his latest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.

Image by storem, on Flickr available under a Creative Commons license

Two Common Mistakes SMEs Can Avoid When Selecting CRM Software

One of these is not like the otherI think we can all agree that most company executives are not professional software evaluators and as such often overlook some of the key decision criteria that are critical to making the right or the wrong decision.  Selecting the right CRM software requires you to first identify what business challenges you are trying to address and what resources you are willing to invest in to meet those challenges.  Most executives of small to mid-size companies simply do not appreciate that CRM software is not an electronic device that simply addresses your requirements once plugged in.  Those that are unwilling to invest the time to identify their requirements and engage in the decision process with their staff traditionally end up with a common CRM disease called “buyers remorse”.

Buyer’s remorse is the result of executives being part of one of two camps which I call Camp “A” and Camp “B”.

Mistake #1 – Camp  “A” Executives believe the following:

All CRM systems are alike.   So let’s simply select the least costly one.

What management is really saying here is that a CRM solution is just not that important to the business or they just don’t have time for a lengthy evaluation.   There may be no specific business challenge that they are trying to address, but the staff says they need a CRM solution so they are willing to approve one as long as it’s inexpensive and does not tie the company to a long term contract.  Companies that take this path traditionally have very low utilization rates and often discontinue their utilization of the system within a few months.

Executives that are in  Camp “A”  often  discover that they have  gotten exactly what they paid for; a solution with limited functionality, poor customer service and perhaps even uncertainty with regard to where their data is being hosted or how they can  get it in case of an emergency.

Mistake #2 – Camp “B” Executives believe the following:

All CRM systems are alike.  So let’s just pick the most popular one.

What management is saying here is that all CRM solutions are pretty much the same so let’s not waste too much time evaluating systems that we have no interest in. Let’s pick the two most popular ones, the ones with all the “BUZZ” and marketing hype.  I call this the me-too decision. Camp “B” executives make the common mistake of assuming that if everyone else is talking about a specific solution then it must be good and the best one for our business.

The fact is that all CRM solutions are not all alike, but you need to know where to look to uncover the differences.  Most people spend too much time evaluating features, functions and price which is fine, but there’s a lot more to know before selecting the right solution.

Let me offer two examples.  Today’s most popular CRM solutions are hosted or cloud based. Do you know the difference?  Well they are quite significant, yet most vendors utilize the terms interchangeably and get away with it because the consumer just doesn’t know the difference and doesn’t know what to ask.

What about a product’s architecture?  Do any of you remember the popular CRM system called Entellium?  This low cost offering was very popular a few years ago until customers discovered that the system was not designed for scalability.  Generating reports for example, took so long that the vendor instructed customers to only run them at night.  Entellium eventually closed their doors and many customers lost all their data – Ooops!

So what can you do to ensure you don’t get buyers remorse?  First, don’t be a Camp “A” or Camp “B” executive.  CRM software is not a toy.  You will need to invest the appropriate time to identify your business challenges then assess which products can functionally address those challenges. Once this is complete, you are ready to ask the tough questions and narrow down your final selection.  I have written a white paper which I believe will help you with this process and ensure that you don’t get “buyers remorse”.

The attached link will take you to my white paper:

Don’t Make a CRM Buying Mistake – 7 Points to Consider
7 Points to Consider LC2

About the Author: Larry Caretsky, is the president of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of web based CRM software for mid size companies and small enterprises.  Caretsky is the author of several white papers on the subject of CRM software.  They are accessible via the company’s web site at www.commence.com.

Mid-Size Firms Find Commence CRM Features & Pricing Alluring

Be prepared
Easy to use, feature rich solutions

Mid size companies and small enterprises looking for an easy to use feature rich CRM solution are turning their attention to Commence Corporation’s cloud based CRM software.  Commence is no stranger to the CRM sector and has been providing customer management and sales management software to growing businesses for more than two decades.

Better known for their desktop CRM solutions, Commence is an up and comer in the cloud CRM race and is becoming a welcome competitor against high priced competitors like Salesforce.com.

While price is a strong consideration when selecting a CRM system, it’s Commence CRM’s feature set which is attracting new customers.   Right out of the gate users experience a cosmetically appealing user interface that is clean, easy to navigate and easy to use. While most CRM solutions are identical with regard to managing accounts and contacts, Commence offers an array of unique features that quickly differentiate it from competitive products.  One of these features is an account rating system that enables customers to color code their customers based on a set of pre-defined criteria such as revenue, profitability, cost to provide service and growth potential. This provides management and all authorized staff the ability to quickly see who their best customers are by viewing a single screen.

Account Rating Screen
Account Rating Screen

Another unique feature of Commence CRM is an automated organization chart that identifies each member of the organization, their title, e-mail, telephone and who they report to. Sales executives and support personnel have found this extremely useful in identifying who the appropriate person is within the client’s organization.

Organization Chart
Built-in Organization Chart

Commence has also incorporated a Lead Scoring feature in the leads module.  Similar to the account scoring feature above, leads can be rated, scored and color coded based on how qualified they are.  This ensures that the sales team is laser focused on the most promising new opportunities vs. chasing tire kickers.

Lead Qualification and Scoring View zoom
Lead Qualification and Scoring View

Commence CRM software offers a suite of fully integrated applications for account and contact management, sales lead management, marketing and customer support. In addition, the product has a project management application and an accounting interface. Email integration with MS Outlook, Gmail, and Entourage along with full mobile capability is also part of Commence CRM software.  Commence CRM may be deployed on PC’s or Mac in a cloud or on-premise environment.

To learn more about Commence CRM software visit the company’s web site at Commence.com or call Commence Sales at 1-877- 266-6362.

Best Practice #47: Understands, and is guided by, an effective sales process

This is a Sales Best Practices article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

By Dave Kahle

All too often, sales people are directed by the urgencies of the moment:  A lead pops up, a customer calls with a problem, or some paperwork to which you need to attend.  They find themselves busily pursuing an agenda created by other people.  They are busy, but too often with the wrong things.

The best sales people, however, understand that sales happen as a result of methodically managing people through certain well-defined steps in a sales process.  They have refined that process to the specifics of their selling situation, reflecting the uniqueness of their customers and their offerings, while at the same time building it on the infrastructure of the fundamental sales process.  Here is an excerpt from my book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, which describes that sales process.

kahle-way-sales-process

Step One:  Engage with the right people

“Engage” means to interact in some kind of communication.  It can be face-to-face, over the phone, via email, or via a website.  “Right people” means those people who have a need or interest in your product, and for whom the timing is right.

If you don’t engage with the right people, you spend all of your time in the wrong place.  Sort of like trying to plant carrot seeds on a cement sidewalk.  You can do everything else right, but it won’t matter.

Step Two:  Make them comfortable with you

If they are going to believe what you say, you have to be somewhat credible, and they have to feel at least a bit comfortable with you.  If they aren’t comfortable with you, they won’t spend much time with you, and the time  they do spend will be guarded and tentative.  They may be convinced to do business with you because of the fundamental attractiveness of your offer, but if they are not comfortable with you, it will be action taken against the grain.  They will be forever uncomfortable and eager to find a replacement.

On the other hand, if they are comfortable with you, they won’t mind spending time with you.  They’ll be much more open to sharing the information that is necessary for you to do a good job of crafting a solution.  They’ll believe what you have to say.  You’ll get the benefit of the doubt and they’ll be eager to share future opportunities with you.

Step Three:  Find out what they want

Selling is not manipulating people so that they take something they don’t want.  It is, instead, finding out what they already want, and appealing to that interest.  The best sales people excel at this step in the process.

I believe this step is the heart of selling – the essence of what sales is all about.  I know that flies in the face of the routine practices of multitudes of sales people, who believe that the end-all of their focus is to push their product.

You can proclaim the merits of your product to willing and unwilling listeners and web page visitors far and wide, attempting to sway them with the powerful features and advantages which your product offers over the competition.  Or, you can focus on the customer, finding out what motivates him, what issues are important to him, what problems he has, what objectives he is trying to solve, what he looks for in a vendor, etc.  That’s a better way.

Everything that comes before is designed to get to this understanding.  And everything that you do after is based on this step.  It is the fulcrum upon which the entire sales process pivots.

Step Four:  Show them how what you have gives them what they want

Proclaiming your product’s features is the preferred routine of the mediocre sales person.  Personally and individually crafting your presentation to show the customer how what you have gives him what he wants is the mindset that, in part, defines the master sales people.

If what you have doesn’t help them get what they want, you either have the wrong thing, or you are talking to the wrong person.

Step Five:  Gain an agreement on the next step

Closing the sale is by far the most over-hyped phase of selling.  If you have the right person, and you have uncovered something they want, and you have shown them how what you have gives them what they want, why wouldn’t they take the next positive step?  It’s natural.  You just need to help them define what that is, and commit to it.

In more complex sales, there can be a series of appropriate next steps.  They may need to test it, to evaluate it, to submit it to a committee, etc.

Every sales interaction has an assumed next step.  If you call someone for an appointment, the next step is the appointment.  If you present your solution to a decision-maker, the next step is the order.  In between, there are thousands of potentially different sales calls, and thousands of potential action steps that follow the sales call.

The agreement is the ultimate rationale for the sales call and the aspect that makes it a “sales” call.  A sales call is set apart from the rest of the interactions in this world by the fact that it anticipates an agreement.

Without an agreement, the process has been a waste of time.  It is the ultimate goal of every sales person, and of every sales process, and of every sales call.

Step Six:  Follow up and leverage the transaction to other opportunities

After they buy, you then make sure they were satisfied, and you assume that, because they are satisfied, they will want to do other business with you and will want to let their friends know about you as well.  Sounds simple, and it is.

This is the step of the sales process that is most commonly neglected.  Most sales people are so focused on making the sale they neglect to consider that their real purpose is to satisfy the customer.  And that extends beyond just the sale itself.

The sales follow up call on the customer, made after the sale is complete, delivered and implemented by the customer, is one of the most powerful sales calls available.  In it, the sales person seeks assurance that the customer is satisfied, and then leverages that affirmation to uncover additional opportunities within the customer and/or referrals to people in other organizations.

The best sales people build all of their actions on this module, effectively moving people from one step to the other.  That’s why they are the best.

To learn more about this best practice, consider my book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime. If you are subscriber to The Sales Resource Center, consider course C-2, The Kahle Way® B2B Selling System.

Customers Applaud Commence CRM’s Full Featured Dashboard

 

The highly competitive nature of the CRM software sector has software providers searching for ways to differentiate their product from the myriad of options available. While many focus their attention on adding wiz-bang features that often provide little value, one CRM software provider has focused their attention on the product’s usability and access to customer data.  That CRM software provider is Commence Corporation.

Commence is a feature rich CRM solution that is attracting customers away from industry giants Microsoft CRM and Salesforce.com.  While Commence offers several unique features over the competition, what customers find most alluring about Commence CRM is how easy the product is to use.  Commence has paid close attention to the routine functions that individuals in sales, marketing and customer service perform each day and has incorporated this functionality directly into the product’s dashboard or home page.  With Commence CRM, sales and customer service people can conduct the majority of their daily business without ever leaving the dashboard.  This not only reduces the learning curve, but provides customers with an immediate return on their investment.

Commence customers and resellers have commented about  the clean and efficient deign of the dashboard which is cosmetically appealing and so easy to use that employees immediately become comfortable with the product’s navigation and access to customer information.  “Commence CRM is well designed, has an excellent sales workflow process and enables the user to perform numerous tasks with a single click.” says Nigel Park, managing director of TPS Consulting, an IT consulting firm and reseller of Commence CRM.  “Customers who test the product prefer it every time over the competition.”

Commence CRM Dashboard

commencecrmdashboard

With Commence CRM the user can read and compose email right within the CRM system, add activities, create a new lead or a new account, add a sales opportunity, a service ticket or a project task right from the product’s dashboard.  You can even access both standard text and graphical reports from the reports tab on the left hand tool bar.  No other CRM system offers this level of access to customer and sales data as easily as Commence CRM.

Outlined below is a comparison of the dashboards of Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  You can see for yourself why customers prefer Commence CRM.

Salesforce Dashboard

salesforcedashboard

Microsoft CRM Dashboard

microsoftcrmdashboard

To learn more about Commence CRM and the features that are making Commence one of the most talked about CRM solutions, visit the company’s web site at commence.com or call Commence Sales at 1-877- 266-6362.