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Capitalize in the VOID – Why Salespeople Fail

Why are so many salespeople struggling? I have answered this several times, each time, a little different. Here is a consolidated response based on those answers…

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

Jack Welch

Selling has not changed at the same rate buying has changed… Does that sound familiar?

That point, when the buyer first engages with the seller is what we call The Void. This is where deals are won or lost. It only takes a fraction of a second for the buyer to make a decision, but Salespeople aren’t equipped with the right messaging or tools to capitalize in The Void. Salespeople use antiquated techniques because that is what they’ve been trained to do by sales trainers. These sales training systems were developed 40+ years ago for a world that no longer exists. The buyer has evolved, but sales hasn’t and it is saddling your sales team with three distinct disadvantages.

Disadvantage #1 – To your prospect, you’re all the same

The first thing to consider is that the buying process has radically changed over the last 20 years. Before today’s age of accelerations, buyers relied on sellers as their source of information. Today buyers ignore salespeople for as long as possible, completing nearly 70% of their buying process before engaging a salesperson. Similar to what we have seen in the retail space where consumers are less reliant on the in-store experience, B2B buyers are using the Internet and other methods of research to form their interpretation and opinions on a narrowed-down list of potential vendors based on their needs before they ever talk to the seller. The bad news: at the point of engagement, they now believe you and your competitors are all the same.

Disadvantage #2 – You get one shot

Once engaged, the seller is now introduced to their 2nd disadvantage, being relegated to a single conversation or meeting in order to get a pass to the next. That means one presentation to make an impact and distinguish themselves from their competitors or risk being eliminated from consideration. RPG refers to this moment of truth, this one or done, as The Void. It is that transition point in the buyer’s journey moving from research to solution consideration. The pressure is on and if sales teams don’t deliver, they’re done.  

Disadvantage #3 – The easiest decision is to do nothing

Can you win the battle and still lose the war?? Absolutely!

It’s one thing to win the “Why you” battle, where you show superior capability and performance against your direct competitors. How is your team at establishing priority? With B2B decision teams now averaging 6.8 people, your salespeople have to contend with each meeting participant bringing their own priorities to the table. Most aren’t capable of winning the “Why now” war.

(CSO Insights)

These 3 disadvantages are the direct result of what we, at RPG, call the Three Deadly Cs: Commoditization, Consensus Decision Making and Compressed Selling Time; everybody looks, sounds and acts the same, decision-making teams keep getting bigger and your salespeople are ignored until the very end of the buying journey.

Your sales team is being sent to the battlefield carrying a plastic knife.

Here’s an epiphany… sales isn’t to fault, not entirely anyway. This is a problem that must be solved by the company. Since the buyer is ignoring or blocking access, for the first 70% of their journey, then marketing holds as much, or more, of the burden of failure as the sales team does. Once sales is allowed in, they’re positioned for failure. They’re stuck with the following:

  • Antiquated training — 7 of 8 sales training programs developed before the Internet or cell phone was invented
  • Wrong messaging to spark curiosity, create differentiation, and drive priority — these are not keywords or website copy!
  • Wrong selling tools to pitch and engage the brain — this should not be created by the marketing team

In order to stay relevant and keep pace with buying committees, your sales team must contend with The Void. The place to start is aligning the entire team so they can quickly and easily articulate “Why you, Why Now?”

Want to learn more about the toolset that targets the way today’s buyer buys? Let’s schedule a 15-minute chat to see if the Revenue Acceleration Program is right for your team.

Top 50 Sales Champion of 2019 Awarded to RPG’s CRO Daren Tomey

Indianapolis, IN – Revenue Path Group’s Chief Revenue Officer Daren Tomey is named one of the Top 50 Sales Champions of 2019 by Sales Hacker. Daren was selected as one of the Top 10 Sales Leaders from over 5,000 nominations.

Daren joined RPG in 2019 to bring the same level of performance, professionalism, and teamwork-oriented strategy that has made him a stand-out success in his over 20-year career.  Daren played key roles in the success of companies like ExactTarget, Compendium, SlingshotSEO, ProofHQ, and most recently, DemandJump. In his career, Daren has mastered the art and science of focusing on and delivering value throughout every customer engagement. Daren’s combination of hands-on application along with his desire to educate and share best practices and lessons learned is a key reason he is excited to be a part of the RPG team.

“RPG’s mission is to help B2B organizations answer for their prospects Why You, Why Now, and beat the commoditization, compressed selling time, and consensus decision making that is threatening their vitality. Having a person with Daren’s credentials and personality in the role of Chief Revenue Officer is a critical step towards achieving our mission,” comments Bryan Gray, RPG CEO.

Sales Hacker is the leading online community for sales professionals, proving world class thought-leadership, webinars, conferences, online courses, sales training & digital partnerships.

“Most other sales awards end up going to the most popular influencer. The Sales Hacker Top 50 is different. These awards go to practitioners: people who not only did a fantastic job, but also elevated the sales profession through their actions last year.”

The Often Overlooked But Critical Difference Between B2C And B2B Branding

There are a lot of branding agencies out there doing brilliant work when it comes to building websites, creating fonts, designing logos, and organizing brand platforms for Business to Consumer (B2C) environments. Many agencies are applying the same expertise and proven approach in Business to Business (B2B) environments.

The problem is, in the B2B world, there’s a missing link: The Intermediary. 

The Intermediary
The sales person, the business development team, and the seller doer… they’re the ones actually responsible for winning the business. They’re the ones carrying the brand banner and telling the brand story. They’re the ones focused on the last mile.

This is a CRITICAL distinction that has to drive a very different approach to B2B branding. A B2B brand cannot stand alone.

Enhancing your digital presence is a great idea, but are your intermediaries delivering the same message? Can they even clearly articulate what that message is?

Building a great reputation is important, but what specifically does that reputation do to eliminate the threats your prospect faces in their day-to-day business life?

Visibility is critical, but what does your brand mean to your prospect? Is your brand about you or is it about them?

If you’re reading this article you’ve probably spent, or are thinking of spending a lot of money on branding. It’s not uncommon to venture well into six figures for that type of effort. Dedicating such a large portion of your budget should come with a single, pre-requisite question:

“What is my brand accomplishing for me?”

True Story
At a conference recently, a Director of Marketing told me about their firm’s recent re-branding initiative:

“We spent about $150,000 to develop a new logo and website, new colors, business cards, signage… the works. Everything turned out beautifully, but where it really went off the rails was that as the guy was out in the parking lot applying the new logos to our company trucks, there were people walking out the door carrying their boxes because we had to lay them off.”

This is a real, albeit extreme, example to remind you that your resources are finite so it’s critical that everything be working towards building your business.

Alignment
There’s a lot of talk in the business world today about alignment and aligning around your brand; about creating a brand from the inside-out. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be firing on all cylinders and have everyone in alignment?!

Intuitively, it makes sense to create a brand from the inside-out… one that our entire organization can align with, one that truly expresses our cultural values, but…

what if you create a ‘powerful’ inside-out brand and none of your clients or prospects cares?

The problem with inside-out is that the focus is all wrong. None of this is about you. You aren’t in business to serve yourself.

If you have an inside-out brand, what do your intermediaries do? Do they walk around talking about themselves (your inside-out brand) like Cousin Eddie at the family reunion?

What if instead we built a brand focused on the pains, threats, and fears we can eliminate for our clients? I believe this sort of transformative thinking about B2B branding does 3 things:

Transforming B2B Branding
Building a brand around the pains, threats, and fears we eliminate for our clients proves our value in the marketplace. There’s nothing left to interpretation. We’re clearly articulating the valuable solutions we provide to the most pressing problems.

Building a brand around the pains, threats, and fears we eliminate provides a platform for both internal and external alignment. Imagine if we’re known as the firm that eliminates ‘these’ pains, threats, and fears. Potential clients that experience those pains, threats, and fears will seek us out. Talent that we want to recruit can look at those things and say “I’m passionate about those things too. I want to work there.” They come in already aligned.

Building a brand around the pains, threats, and fears we eliminate for our clients provides a brand story for our intermediaries to tell. Nothing will build our businesses faster than a team that’s clearly articulating the same story, especially when that story is focusing outward on providing the emotional lift that comes from eliminating the things that are really standing in the way of our client’s success.

Would You Hire Your Favorite Brand?
Think about your favorite brand. Maybe you’re thinking of Coca-Cola or Ford or Patagonia or Apple. Next ask yourself, if you were on the local school board would you seek out Patagonia to design your new school? If you were the City Engineer, would you hire Coca-Cola to engineer the next phase of infrastructure expansion for your city?

Of course you wouldn’t. That’s not what those companies do, but let’s just say you were curious…

What if Apple did __________ (fill in the blank) for us?

At the very least you’d have some questions. Enter the Intermediary. At the very least you’d want to know more about their approach, their capacity, their qualifications, their experience. You’d want to know if they really could solve your problem and fit it into a sleek, little white box. Enter the Intermediary. In this environment, the Apple brand can’t close the deal without the Intermediary.

In the Business to Business world, our brands cannot stand alone.

You expect your business development team to get into the right conversations, win the room, and close the deal. What is your brand doing to support those expectations? What is your brand doing to help you win the last mile?

If your brand isn’t helping you avoid commoditization and keeping you from becoming irrelevant in your marketplace, connect with me here on LinkedIn. Let’s build a prospect-focused brand that helps you attract the right clients, the right talent, and the right fees.

Three Problems With Relationship-Based Business Development

If you talk to enough architects, you’ll quickly realize there’s a belief in the A/E/C world that relationships are the name of the game. Not that long ago, one respected marketing and business development consultant told me that 80% of new commissions come through relationships.

I don’t want to discount relationships. They’re important to us on a number of levels and, yes, if you run an architecture, engineering, or construction firm, a good portion of your work probably does come to you through some sort of relationship.

As a business development strategy though, you need to understand that things are changing.

First problem with relationships: They go away
It used to be that if you had a good relationship with the right person, all that client’s work flowed your way. In fact, when I was still working in architecture firms, I had a client who made all the facilities decisions for an extremely active and well-funded local organization. For almost 20 years he funneled all that organization’s work to us. Then he retired.

Your relationships are with human beings. They retire, change jobs, get promoted to different positions, basically experience some sort of change that makes that business development relationship less valuable to you. The relationships effectively go away.

Second problem with relationships: They’re just one person
It used to be that if you had a relationship with the right person, you could count on them to award the client’s or the prospect’s work to you. Today, decision making teams are getting bigger. There’s rarely one decision-maker. In fact, the average selection committee today is at least 6 people.

It’s not enough to have a relationship with one person. Now that your oldest, best client has a selection committee, your relationship with the Vice President isn’t enough. Your track record working with that client isn’t enough. There are 5 other people on the selection committee and that means that everyone you’re competing against may have a relationship with someone on the committee. In a simple vote, your relationship with one person on an ever-expanding selection committee loses.

Third problem with relationships: They make us lazy
Back when you had that relationship with the ultimate decision-maker, you could rely on them to advocate for you. They knew you, they’d worked with you, they trusted you and that was probably enough. Today, they’re not the ultimate decision-maker anymore and you haven’t equipped them with the tools they need to persuade the rest of the committee on your behalf.

Relationships are based on trust. In a one-to-one context that trust is usually built on experience over time. You don’t have that time anymore. Today, your clients and prospects learn about 70% of what they want to know about you before you even know they’re interested. What’s worse, you’re trying to gain the trust of a committee instead of the one person you’ve known for years. You can’t sit back and rely on that relationship to go in and carry the room. In a multiple-decision-maker world, where your prospects think you and all your competition looks the same, sounds the same and acts the same, you have to make yourself the clear choice and gain fast trust.

It’s up to you.
Keep building relationships. That still has to be part of your business development strategy. But go in with your eyes wide open. There are three keys to making the most of your business development relationships:

Have a clear message.
You need to clearly state what your convincing advantages are … the reasons why your prospects should choose you. Those advantages have to be clear enough (and stated enough) that those advocating relationships can repeat them just as easily as you can.

It’s not about you.
As experienced and qualified as you are, the decision-makers and selection committees are only interested in the firm that addresses their pains, threats, and fears. In order to gain fast trust, you have to demonstrate that you understand what’s keeping your prospects up at night and make your messaging all about them.

Have a conversation.
What it takes to get in the room is not the same as what it takes to win the room. That old-school relationship may have gotten you to the short-list interview, but now you’re in a room with 5 other people sitting, arms-crossed wondering why they should pick you.

You don’t know them; they don’t know you. Remember when you first met that person that’s now “your relationship”? It started with a conversation. Don’t talk about yourself like everyone else does. Win the room, and the project, by starting a conversation with them, about them. They’ll feel like you understand them, you’ll build fast-trust, and you’ll differentiate yourself from your competition.

Are you relying on old-school relationships or building fast-trust that differentiates your firm and makes you the clear choice for the right projects and the right fees?

If you don’t know how to answer that question, connect with me here on LinkedIn and let’s start winning the room.

How to Use Technology and Trust to Prove Your Convincing Advantages

We, as a society don’t trust.

According to The General Social Survey, since the 1970s, our trust in other’s has dropped by almost 20%. And it’s not just people we don’t trust. Only 12% of Americans trust the press, only 14% trust banks, and only 14% trust government officials. Heck, we don’t even trust those closest to us. Only 42% of people trust their neighbors and only 58% of people trust their co-workers (I’m looking at you Jim, I know you stole my Poptart out of the breakroom).

Yet, here we sit waiting for a complete stranger to pick us up in his personal vehicle to bring us to a restaurant we found on Yelp, scanning Amazon reviews to make sure we buy the right toaster.

Ummm…are we really that skeptical?

In short, yes. But, technology allows us to build trust faster than we would in a traditional relationship. When we meet a person, a business, or a product, one to one, it takes time to build rapport. Technology shortens the time it takes to trust by compiling the data we use to assess trust. Not only does technology allow us to get to know our Uber drive before he shows up at the door, we get peace of mind that Steve is a great Uber driver from 100 other riders. I automatically trust Steve more because of those reviews. I might have received the same feedback talking to 10 friends about Steve’s driving, but that would have taken much more time.

Arun Sundararajan, author of “The Sharing Economy,” explains these technologies have essentially “expedited” the process of gaining trust.

“If you meet a stranger and know nothing about him or her, trust takes time to develop,” he says. “But if you have a digital system that gives you a bunch of info about the authenticity of that stranger, trust can be gained instantly.” (The Hustle)

The same is true for an early interaction with your organization. If I meet you a tradeshow, and you’re an RPG customer so you’re Convincing Advantages and Why are solid, I am really interested in how you can help me. I visit your website, see 10 testimonials, and I’m sold. Now, I really trust what you are telling me.

When we talk to clients about their Convincing Advantages, we stress the importance of relentlessly proving them. One of the best ways to prove your advantages is through testimonials. And testimonials build trust. If you aren’t using trust to prove your advantages, it’s time to start.

How do I get started?

First, identify the best way to communicate trust. Depending on your product or service, you may want to use technology that will solicit user ratings or reviews. Case studies are the perfect vehicle to tell in-depth customer stories. Testimonials about your product or service are also very powerful.

Second, ask, and make it easy for your customers to give feedback. You can request feedback in a number of ways; via email, after a transaction – especially if you are using a technology-driven system-, on social media. You might be surprised by how many people are willing to share.

Third, make it a continuous part a part of your marketing and sales process to gather feedback from customers. And, not just new customers. Revisit current customers and update your stories to show progress.

Lastly, publish the testimonials and reviews where you meet prospects – via an app, on your website, in emails and marketing campaigns, on sales collateral. Harness the power of technology to relentlessly prove your Convincing Advantages with trust. And start winning more customers.

Learn more about developing your Convincing Advantages.

Source: The General Social Survey (1972-2016) NORC, University of Chicago; as reported in The Hustle.

That Time When a Powerpoint Presentation Was the Best SEO Strategy

A while back, a prospect came to us looking for help. Their search traffic had all but disappeared. Leads from the website were halved, and the president of the company had suddenly become embroiled in the details of SEO.

“We only got 13 links last month, and only posted 8 articles about our main keyword. We’re still ranked #27, we need to be doing better. Can you help us?”

We started like we do with most clients, by making a dashboard. In the top left corner, in bold numbers, we showed the revenue that the website was generating. In just three weeks – a relative nanosecond in a busy sales organization – the conversation changed.

“We only converted 10% of our leads last quarter. We need to improve that to make revenue go up. Can you help us?”

You Are What You Measure

The point isn’t that focusing on SEO improvements is the wrong thing to do, but rather that organizations need to improve the metrics they measure. Of course, traffic to your website is good for business, but given the choice between more links or more revenue, there’s a clear winner. After all, what are those links good for, at the end of the day, if not a means to revenue?

In the example above, the sales presentation became the priority because it became clear that it was the fastest thing that would affect the bottom line. But that kind of insight is impossible to gain if you’re measuring links and blog posts, not revenue and expenses.

After the pitch was modernized, the close rate nearly quadrupled. Then, it was time to get to work on filling the top of the funnel, knowing we could close almost 40% of the leads. For this president and her company, the change was fast. For others, it takes a lot more effort, but it all starts with how you classify success, and looking at how you measure it.

Companies that get it wrong confuse activity for achievement. How many emails did we send? How many meetings did we have? How many times did I follow up with that vendor? That prospect? How many pipeline moves did I make?

Companies that get it right focus on results and achievements, however they happen.

What are you measuring?