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From Demo to Conversation

Part One – Targeting and Lead Development

Following are the first two of several simple steps designed to assist in the development or improvement of your sales and marketing process. Done well, they can help you move your company away from the worn out pattern of pushing every prospect into a “demo” or a “pitch about features and benefits”; and moving them into a conversation around building value, developing a business relationship and ensuring technical alignment.

Let’s start with Targeting:

First you will need to build the ideal profiles of your target prospect industries and channels. You can begin by segmenting your targets by revenue size, key industries using SIC codes, geographic regions and the number of locations, etc. Buying behaviors, complexity and current dynamics of the industry, among other things, also should be considered.

Once your ideal target profiles are developed, you’re ready for list building. Many make the mistake of buying lists without really understanding the target prospect. The easiest and fastest way, though not always the least expensive, is to purchase lists. There are many cost effective resources available today for B2B marketing such as Hoovers, Jigsaw and D&B.

An alternative to buying a list is building one. For example, we deploy cost effective marketing support professionals in the Philippines that will use a source like Jigsaw to obtain the names of various contacts while using the prospect’s website to validate those names and identify other contacts that may have a role in a company’s decision making process. This approach is a little slower but it works well and ensures high quality data that the support professional can use to jump right into the lead development phase.

Lead Development:

It’s essential to validate, test and score your targets. Before you hand over “leads” to your sales professionals, you should implement a “lead-scoring” process. A very simple approach could be based on the revenue size and region, for example; prospects that are 100M to 500M in revenue plus key industry plus northeast markets gets an “A” because your best customers fit into that simple segment. A simple scorecard can be A thru E and it will help you prioritize your selling efforts while making your marketing follow-up more efficient. There are many tools available today for this purpose. Some are more useful than others as a function of your business model. A few we like include Marketo, Acton and Eloqua.

Lastly, as part of the lead development that many companies forget about is gathering competitor intelligence. Having a few key data points such as top competitors and competitor vulnerabilities will help drive revenue and also help identify trends and opportunities for product development, improving messaging and accelerating sales.

Next we’ll talk about two more keys to moving away from the often punishing demo-oriented selling approach into a productive business conversation that will accelerate sales.

Part Two: Preparing and Engaging in the “Conversation”

Next we will discuss how to initiate and develop effective dialogues with our target markets and the high-priority prospects within them. These days there are many channels one can use to reach these markets and begin what we like to call the “Conversation” – that meaningful, collaborative business conversation that ultimately has the best chance of developing into a business relationship. While there are more ways to communicate with your markets than ever before, it is becoming increasingly noisy and harder to get someone’s attention. In fact, statistics show that at least 7 “touches” or messaging events are required to cause a prospect to any action at all.

In this and the ensuing three posts we’ll discuss four critical paths our clients are finding very helpful in developing fruitful business relationships. All four relate directly to developing and engaging in that effective “Conversation” mentioned above. These are a), Knowing the Conversation Points, b) Aligning Communication Styles, c) The Elevator Pitch, and d) The Diamond Approach.

An important first step to developing and engaging in a business conversation, whether traditional in form like a phone call or new media like Facebook or some other social media tool, should always begin by mapping out your primary conversation points which include 1) the prospect’s typical role/tile, 2) what they are concerned about and 3) how your product or service has helped other companies like your prospect’s company and how it positively impacted individuals in the same or similar roles as your prospect. So let’s talk about three roles.

The Decision Maker

He or she is setting the direction and leading the organization, a business unit or project. They are concerned with strategic and tactical solutions that impact business results, i.e., things that intersect with their key business and personal objectives. So when engaging in the Conversation with a Decision Maker, avoid technical benefits (the most common mistake) and develop conversation points that align your products and services to his/her business objectives and the benefits thereto. Some common examples are increased revenue, increased market share and an improved competitive advantage, to name a few. Also, consider aligning your company’s vision, mission and values to those of the decision maker. A few minutes invested in thinking through these things in advance of your call will give you much greater insight and the ability to advance the Conversation and business relationship.

The Manager

The Manager is concerned with the advantages that your product or service can offer their business. This role is often overlooked, but Managers are charged with execution and implementation of the vision, mission and goals established by the Decision Maker. This individual is charged with making sure that the operations of the business are on budget, on time, the staff is performing and the business overall is on plan. For the Managers, be sure your conversation points are crafted in such a way as to align with this person’s organization and personal objectives.

The Technician

The Technician is concerned about reducing risk and avoiding mistakes as it relates to the technical or functional aspects of your product or services. The Technician will welcome engaging conversations with you and will often seem like a Decision Maker. But 90% of the time they are not a Decision Maker at all. A high percentage of sales people get fooled chasing these folks down the proverbial rabbit hole, learning really nothing about the company or decision making process. Sales people “feel” they are being heard because the technician is always asking for more data. Don’t be fooled!

Technicians are highly risk-averse and their role is to screen, assess or validate your offering. It’s hard to avoid them as they play the roles of effective gatekeepers and influencers. Just don’t start with them. Where possible, have the Decision Maker introduce or refer you to them after the business benefits and advantages have been established.

The End User

End Users are concerned about the features and whether something works well and/or will help them make their job easier. This is an important conversation point because it’s the End User who often will use your product and service and determine if it stays or goes, i.e., you can win or lose here also. End Users are great sources of prospect business and competitive intelligence that can be used for product/service development or positioning, and can help you win against the competition.

If you are interested in this topic and would like to have a free copy of one our sample tools related to it, please Click the Link Here.

Part Three: Aligning Your Conversation to the Audience

In our last post we discussed the importance of preparing and beginning to engage your targets in well conceived conversations. We described the common conversation points and what people in various prospect company roles care about. See our last blog for more details. You can also now download a great tool for building and organizing your conversation points. Just click here.

Today we’ll discuss an often overlooked tactic that will help you better identify and understand your prospects’ primary conversational styles, ask more relevant questions and move the conversation and the sales forward faster and better.

There are four common conversation styles. Each of us has one style that is the most dominant. The four styles, their characteristics and some helpful hints are described below:

People with Dominant Styles tend to be very direct and want to hear the facts, so have your bullet points ready. These prospects are very competitive, confident and primarily focused on results: “I want it done right and I want it done right now” is a good descriptor of this conversational style.

If you’re speaking with someone you think might be decision maker and they are concerned about key business benefits, you will be wise to focus your conversation by being direct, being focused on goals and providing options that will help them make a decision.

(Hint: A person with whom you can engage with this style may just be a decision maker after all!)

So here’s an example conversation point designed for a decision maker: “We have recently helped the ABC Company in your industry reduce operating expenses by 20% resulting in an average savings of X. We have a couple of ways we might help your business with similar or greater benefits.” This type of statement is factual, to the point and will resonate with their style. DO NOT engage in story telling unless 1) you have built currency, 2) have a relationship and 3) only over a beer, a meal or some other casual situation.

People with Extroversion Styles tend to be affable, outgoing and respond more on a raw emotional basis. They are primarily focused on relationships and people. So let’s say you are selling software and you hear this: “Let me tell you what happened to me the last time we tried implementing this (other) software tool.” This is a good example of the type of statement someone with an Extroversion Style might make. It’s emotion-based.

When engaging people with this style, make sure you use illustrations, stories and testimonials coupled with just enough facts to get your value proposition across. Also, always summarize your key points. “Face-to-the market” people tend have Extroversion as their dominate style, by the way.

So if you’re speaking to a manager in the target business who cares about the “advantages” of your product or service, you probably want to be a little more upbeat in your tone. Also, be sure to touch on some emotional factors. Here’s an example: “Our machines not only help save money but the safety rating is the best in the industry. This is because our company has a zero tolerance goal for injuries to your line workers”. Unlike the dominant style, this type of person will enjoy much more story telling.

(Hint: Don’t fall into the trap of what we call “howdy conversations” without trying to move the conversation and your sale forward while doing it.)

People with a Patient Styles tend to be very patient of course, loyal and good listeners. Their dominant style is very focused on collaboration or cooperation. “We are all in this together so let’s work as a team” is a comment they might say – certainly an attitude they would often have in working with people. When engaging with this style, make sure you ask good open ended question, wait and listen for the response.

(Hint: Remember the 10 second Rule!)

Be slow, be sensitive to their emotions, support their feelings and continue to be re-assuring. So for example, if you’re speaking to an end-user of your product or service with a Patient Style, you have a great opportunity to 1) get their feedback, 2) gather competitive intelligence, and more importantly, 3) their valuable buy-in if they “feel” like you are a trusted resource and part of their team.

(Hint: Companies that could rely on end-users to collaborate on decisions tend to blow right past them because they are not the “decision maker”. While normally not the ultimate decision makers, they ARE decision breakers.)

People with Compliant Styles tend to be cautious, risk-averse, analytical and “by the book”. Their primary focus is about quality. “Can you provide me some documentation or specs for your product?” is something you might often hear from people with this style.

When engaging with this style, be well prepared, set an agenda, have structured information with logical solutions. Be ready to provide a contrast for the advantages and dis-advantages of your product or service and that of your competitor.

So if you are speaking with the “technical” influencer, be mindful of the reason they ask for information or a demo. They ask to see a demo or more information because that’s their preferred style – NOT because that’s the pathway to a win! Some of our clients make available a self service portal with technical information, videos, etc., that such a person might want. In this way they get what they need on their own time while you can spend more of your one-on-one time with them mapping out the political landscape and discovering key people so you can have the best chance of moving the conversation and the opportunity to a close.

(Hint: Change the rules of the game by staying in the “Conversation” mode which is live and real time. Don’t handicap yourself by focusing on a demo or playing the benefit comparison game like your competitors do. Avoid this “chess through the mail with pawns” unwinnable game and stick to the Conversation which is live, one-on-one, unusual and differentiating.)

If you’re interested in this topic and would like to have a free copy of one our sample tools related to it, please Click the Link Here.

Next we’ll discuss the key points in developing your Elevator Pitch.

Part Four: The Elevator Pitch

This is the 4th of 5 installments in our Rapid Insights Series From Demo to Conversation. Today we’ll be looking at the Elevator Pitch which is a tool every organization and every sales person and company executive should have. It’s one of those foundational tools that sounds easy but is often quite difficult to create. If you would like to learn some best practices around the development of a great Elevator Pitch for your company, watch the video here and listen to Senior Partner Andrew Rauch deliver what I think you will find is a compelling presentation on this topic.

Sales Video: The Elevator Pitch

Until next time, Keep Your Sales in OverDrive!!

4 Comments

  1. Minta Kuhne
    Posted on July 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Excellent approach. I’m glad you don’t base your ideas largely on the idea that risk is negative, when this isn’t the case, and it may be neutral or positive.

    • Bob Howard Says :
      Posted on January 10, 2013 at 5:37 am

      Thanks for your comment. You make an interesting observation. With most clients I like to create conversational scenarios that put the client’s buyer a bit out of balance emotionally so they are be more open to suspending disbelief and thinking differently. Some say this is really risky, and therefore negative but, as you say, I see it as all positive if the customer is helped into making the right buying decision.

  2. Hans
    Posted on July 27, 2012 at 1:45 am

    Finding the right person to speak to is absolutely the most important part of any conversation, especially when it comes to closing sales.

    • Bob Howard Says :
      Posted on January 10, 2013 at 5:40 am

      Important, but it’s usually not one person. Its a map or power/influence grid. What’s that old school saying? “One can say yes, many can say no.”

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