You just need one idea

When it comes to succeeding in sales, you simply need to present one (new) idea that matters to your prospect.

One idea, to get the whole damn process rolling.

Just one idea.

For the record, I am not suggesting that’s all it takes to “close the deal,” but I am suggesting that generating one key idea is REQUIRED to get the ball rolling.

I had a killer first conversation with a new prospect today. We only met a few weeks ago. There was one bit of our preliminary conversation that struck me in a meaningful way…

…A way that resonated, for both of us. I hung on to that idea, and let it process in my head.

Off of that one strand of meaningful conversation, an idea developed, one that became the basis for my whole pitch to them about how we could serve their organization.

Today, I presented the one idea.

Boom. It resonated.

And from that, three to four different strings of opportunity presented themselves. Magic was happening. From there, I was no longer pitching my value, we were brainstorming the idea, which lead to scintillating discussion on multiple directions and concepts.

All from one idea…

Too many people think they have to crack the code in the first pitch…

Too many people think they have to close the deal on the first call…

Too many people think they have to convince the decision-maker with the first white paper…

Too many people think the cash register will ring loudly when you mail the brochure…

Doesn’t happen that way. Sorry, but you’ve got to start a conversation about how you can partner and solve their problem.

And that first conversation may be raw. Unformed. Untight.

But for cryin’ out loud, at least get a discussion started.

Here’s the good news:

A positive interaction, one that might lead to a closed deal, can all result from you sharing ONE IDEA that changes their thinking on things…

Easier said than done, I know, but that’s the fun part:

Your job is simply to come up with one cool idea that gets them thinking.

It’s down hill from there…

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More #rants about #sales can be found here.

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Long-term thinking: How and when to do it

I am going to be honest: All I can think about is 2015.

As of this writing, early September 2014, I’ve almost sold as much business for 2015 as I have for all of 2014.

This is very exciting. And explains why I’m so excited about the coming year. And don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with planning for and thinking about the future.

But there are still four months left in 2014. Lots of exciting stuff can still happen now, in the short-term. This is exiting too.

But how to proceed? How to conduct oneself? How to prioritize one’s actions? How much effort do I exert to close business NOW verses the next calendar year?

Now, some big changes and evolutions afoot with the business, most of it centered on changes in how I will approach things this coming year. But I have to be mindful that there is still fruit ripe for the picking…right now.

How does one balance this?

My answer?

Prioritize serving your customers first and foremost. Act in their best interest.

Just this afternoon, I just lost a gig scheduled for late October 2014. But in the same conversation, sold two projects that will pop in 2015.

My client is a winner. But so am I (even though I might have lost a little revenue designated originally for 2014).

What I can promise you is that this mindset won’t always jive with your end-of-month numbers. And if this is a problem, well, then you have bigger problems.

But in the end, you and your prospect will come out winners.

Like I just mentioned, I’ve punted several Q3 and Q4 opportunities to 2015. While this will result in less profit for me in the short-term, it does yield a heck of a good 2015.

Look, always good to close as soon as is practicable. Not arguing that. But if you are operating in the best interest of your potential customers…

…you both will come out ahead.

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Some daily tips to better serve your customer!

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Trust your sales instincts

I worked a sales opportunity about two to three years ago. It was potentially a really cool gig, for a really cool organization.

There was interest. We had several phone conversations. We had several face-to-face meetings.

Plans were sketched out. Timelines were drawn up. I was beginning to build the project into my work flow.

And then all of a sudden…poof.

It was gone.

The fellow stopped returning phone calls. Stopped answering emails. And then one day, quickly, and matter-of-factly, sent an email to say “Leave me alone.”

It was strange, but as we know from our own sales experiences, this happens with some frequency.

But I was frustrated. For two reasons:

1. I had invested a lot of time in my efforts to advance the opportunity.

2. And as I said, it was a really cool organization, and what I had in mind would have both served them well, and been really fun to execute.

It saddened me to update the CRM to reflect the latest news.

But then a funny thing happened:

I later found out that the fellow I had been coordinating efforts with had soured on the organization, and had moved on.

Turns out, he just lost interest in the organization itself. It was NO reflection on what he and I had been working up.

Flash forward to a few months ago, I came to meet the new person installed in the organization that had taken his place, and had the pleasure of running across him at a meeting.

I mentioned some of the ideas that had been bandied about a few years back. And what do you think happened?

“Wow, those are great ideas! I like them. I want to explore them further. Where do we go from here?”

Boom. We are having coffee in two weeks.

At the end of the day, trust your sales instincts. Your ideas, your solutions are good.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the person you are pitching them to just has his mind on something else.

I had allowed myself to question whether my ideas just weren’t good enough.

Turns out I was wrong.

Keep after it. Sometimes it is just a matter of the right person hearing your ideas at the right time.

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I am not a salesperson

I sell everyday. And I’ve built a business where I help my customers sell every day.

And yet, I don’t see myself as a salesman.

And by this, I don’t mean that I am embarrassed to call myself a salesman. Frankly, in business, we are ALL in sales. Some, obviously, more directly than others.

But I don’t see myself in the traditional light that many still view salesmen. Instead, I see people helping and serving and advancing.

Rather, I see people who do what I do in these following ways:

Engineers
Tacticians
Thinkers
Problem-solvers
Teachers
Innovators
Artists
Craftsmen
Designers
Thought-leaders
Influencers
Mentors
Architects
Foremen
Directors
Creatives
Strategists

Think about it…

When I think about how I interact with my market, I am not some dude with a briefcase full of carpet and tile samples…

Rather, I am a partner. I am a co-conspirator. I am a collaborator with my customer/prospect to move the needle, to make something interesting happen.

I see a little bit of myself in everything listed above. And how I collaborate, how I interact, how I strategize is all a little bit different case by case.

It is this idea that every scenario plays out a little differently with each opportunity, that keeps my sales work interesting.

It is this idea that I have to use different strengths and skills and mindsets, that keeps my sales work interesting.

I am not embarrassed that I am a salesman. But I also don’t see myself as a salesman.

I see myself as (see list above).

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Tell them you are hitting the road: How to make sales fun again

Todd SchnickWow. Guess I was in a mood Friday.

But there were two business opportunities I’ve been chasing for quite a while, two specific organizations who just haven’t been engaging back with me…not responding to my communications.

And Friday, I decided to let them know I was moving on.

I said something very much along the lines of: “Well, clearly this isn’t a priority for you. I am tired of wasting my time (and yours), so I am throwing in the towel. I sincerely wish you the best of luck, but I am going to focus on some organizations who see value in what I can do for them, and are actively exploring possibilities with me. Do let me know down the road if there is ever any way I can serve you…”

Immediately following those notes, I deleted both records from my CRM. Boom. Gone. Removed from existence.

[Frankly, it was surprisingly therapeutic...]

So, took a deep breath, reorganized the notes on my desk, and set about to tackle the next action item…

You already know what happens next…

I immediately received messages from both (one email, one phone call), asking to set a call for next week to discuss the project.

Ok. So there’s that…

I guess that’s a good thing, right?

Trust me when I tell you, I didn’t pull that stunt move hoping to achieve this very outcome. I am not that smart.

No, frankly, I was exasperated, and fed up. And decided my time was better spent on opportunities that were legitimately interested in learning more about my services, and more importantly, working (and communicating) with me to explore said possibilities.

Full disclosure here: I am not suggesting you send exasperated notes to all the people in your funnel with whom you are, well, exasperated with.

But if you are a instinctual salesman, you just know when someone is legitimately interested, interested but busy and distracted (most), or not interested.

But I have two important questions here:

1. Why do we treat prospects with kit gloves, why are we so afraid of them, why do we gently dance around how they treat us? And why are we so afraid to let them go, especially when they act like they don’t care? [ok, that's several questions]

Which leads to the next question:

2. When did it become ok to treat people who are attempting to sell you something as scum of the earth?

We are rude, we don’t respond to their emails, we don’t return their phone calls, we are annoyed by them and delete their communications with malice…

Let me be clear, with the two opportunities mentioned above, they weren’t ugly to me, they had just stopped acknowledging my communications.

As a salesman, I don’t deserve that. I don’t have to accept that. And most important, it does me no good to keep opportunities like this in my funnel, just so I can tout to my sales manager that I have “thousands and thousands” of opps in the funnel.

So what?

Look, my media company is growing, and I am busier than I have ever been. I have more opportunities to manage than ever before. I have more “scope of work” documents in play than ever before.

I don’t have time to manage the ones who are not acting professional.

It is ok to let them go. Spend your found time working with those who are interested. Spend your found time identifying new opportunities.

Many complain that sales is a hard slog.

That’s because you are trying to work with prospects who don’t want to hear from you.

Move on.

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Sales requires actually talking to people

create conversationYou all know I do podcasting for a living.

And you all probably know I help my clients leverage podcasting by using the medium to facilitate connections and expediting relationships with prospects important to their business.

Got someone you want to connect with? Invite them to be a guest on a podcast you are involved with. Simple.

Erm… Maybe not.

Was speaking with a prospect today who actually indicated they had tried podcasting as part of their sales and marketing process in the past, and abandoned the strategy, indicating it didn’t work.

When I asked why it didn’t work, here is what he said: “The challenge was because it fell on us to line up the guest. It became a hassle, I’m told.”

Me:

Me:

Now, to clarify, I pitched the idea as a business development strategy. This assumes you have identified prospects you want to close and make customers.

Since the dawn of man, sales works when you connect with people, communicate with them, offer a solution to a challenge they are struggling with, and they buy your solution because you solve the problem.

Works a lot better when you actually speak with the people.

The whole damn point is to invite people…to invite the people YOU WANT TO CONNECT WITH.

There are several clients we’ve sold podcasting services to who failed. Why? Because at the end of the day, they never actually ever invited someone to appear on their podcast.

Makes it hard that way.

Reminds me of a guy I know who flopped at a fundraising gig. When I asked if he ever actually asked anyone for money, his answer was “No.”

That makes fundraising really, really hard.

People… sales are about relationships. You develop relationships when you talk with people.

Sales works when you reach out and actually try to connect with people. Some, like me, invent tactics (my podcasting services) where we try to make this process of connecting with people simple.

Even then, people muss it up.

Why is connecting with someone you can help and serve a hassle, to use the quote above?

If that’s how you view your role and your job, that it’s a hassle to reach out to people, sales is gonna be a real long slog for you.

Find something else to do…

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Drawing by Hugh.

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You should be the strikeout leader too

reggie2Reggie Jackson is the all-time leader in strikeouts.

He has 2,597 of them.

He’s also in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

What a minute…

The guy who whiffed more pitches,

or was caught looking, MORE THAN ANY OTHER PLAYER IN THE GAME…

is also in the Hall of Fame?

Yeah.

Get it?

Through all various and sundry shows out of my Dreamland Radio Network, I spend quality time with countless entrepreneurs and successful business leaders.

They all say something similar to the following:

You must fail.
Better, you should fail fast.
You should not be afraid to fail.
This is how we learn.

Or something to that effect.

Whatever.

At the end of the day, they aren’t wrong. But in my opinion, you are only a success because you’ve had a lot of at-bats…taken a lot of swings.

Like Reggie.

At the end of the day, you might win a few MVP awards, you might win a few World Series rings, you might be called “Mr. October…”

But to do so, you have to swing at a bunch of pitches.

And you will miss more than you connect.

But that’s ok. That’s what real men do. That’s what fearless people do. That’s what Hall-of-Famers do.

Despite a few strike-outs…

They will still be legends…

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CLICK HERE to take more pitches, but still end up in the Hall of Fame!

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Closed a deal with an eight minute sales call

Todd SchnickClosed a deal with an eight minute sales call late last week…

Two years, and eight minutes, actually.

In fact, to recap, the deal I closed today took the following path:

3. Eight minutes to close the deal on today’s call.
2. About 17 minutes from when I first proposed the idea about two months ago. This time included a few emails back and forth, largely spent on arranging last week’s call where we closed the deal.

1. And then, well, two years. Or more.

You see, my point, most deals aren’t really closed in 25 minutes worth of actual work. In my case, this deal involved 25 minutes of acute work, plus 24 months (give or take) of effort.

So, what did this effort entail?

A. Two years worth of engaging with my client’s community.
B. Two years worth of contributing content to my client’s community.
C. Two years worth of supporting (and promoting) other members of my client’s community.
D. Two years worth of actually showcasing both my actual client and members of his community on my various podcasts.
E. Two years worth of promoting my client’s community on my social media networks.
F. And hopefully, two years worth of proving myself to both my new client and his community by observing my work, thus proving I can do the work.

All this stuff wasn’t really direct sales activity.

Or was it?

All I can hope is, first and foremost, that my new client sees my work, and values my work, and is well aware of the contribution I can make to his project.

But let’s be honest, all the effort I put in for two years probably mattered more then anything. There are others who could perform what I was hired to do.

But no one else put in the time I did to support both my client and his network.

Over those two years, a few people along the way whispered that the effort wasn’t worth all the trouble. They didn’t understand it. They didn’t see value into putting in that kind of time.

I disagreed.

Last week’s eight-minute sales call proved me right.

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To learn more about my take on sales, check out my book, The Zen of Sales

[Drawing by Hugh]

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Is social selling really about brands?

Todd SchnickLong before it became known that Facebook had altered its algorithms to make it less likely you would see content from pages (not personal FB profiles) you had liked, unless the brand was paying for the privilege, I had really stopped consuming content on brand pages altogether.

Not because I am all knowing, but because 90% of the content there was boring, “all about me,” one-way media.

Let me say this:

I don’t think it is really important for a brand, whether that is Coke or your local plumber, to have a “BRAND” presence on the social networks.

This is my personal opinion, mind you. I am sure others will disagree. But it just doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t move me.

I am not saying it cannot work, for there are a small percentage of examples of brands that do an interesting job. But most of us suck at it. And I don’t think it matters.

This whole concept of social selling in my view has NOTHING to do with brands, or any organization marketing an idea, product, or service.

I think social selling only works when it is about people. Not brands.

I lose interest when someone says “You can find our company on Facebook!”

So what?

I am, however, interested when someone I care about says “let’s you and I connect on Facebook” (or whatever social network they are engaged on).

Stop following the standard marketing checklists that say you have to have a brand presence on all the damn social networks. I don’t think it really works.

What does work is human interaction. The opportunity to connect and dialog with someone around a shared interest. The opportunity to help someone, or TO BE helped by someone.

That is what is interesting to me around social selling. Actually using the space to connect with another human being.

Around a real conversation.

I have ZERO interest in connecting with a restaurant that simply sends me pretty pictures of food and deals-of-the-day.

No, I want to connect personally with the Chef. I want to hear his thinking on spices, on creativity, on trying new things, and healthier eating.

That’s what I want. That’s what ultimately connects me to the brand anyways.

I don’t care about an iPhone advertisement. I care about what cool, new discoveries my online friends tell me about what they learned to do on their iPhone.

That’s what is interesting.

Once, JUST ONCE, have I actually looked at a brand page on LinkedIn. Just doesn’t interest me.

What does interest me is when, through LinkedIn, I learn that a former prospect of mine has started a new gig at a new company. The ability to connect around that, and to see what’s possible…now that is what’s interesting.

Social selling isn’t about brands pushing their one-way content to me. Social selling should be about having a conversation with real people.

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Learn more about my perspective on sales with my book The Zen of Sales.

Drawing by Hugh.

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Your BIG performance usually isn’t a fluke

Bubba WatsonSo, Bubba Watson won his second Masters this afternoon.

If you don’t pay attention to professional golf, Bubba Watson won his first Masters in 2012. Many considered that amazing victory a fluke, a lucky win, a miracle.

But then he won his second green jacket yesterday. His second in three years.

Very, very few golfers have accomplished that feat.

So, why am I writing about this?

A lot of people nail a miracle accomplishment: a big marketing win, a big sale, a best-selling book, and viral video, whatever.

When that happens, many say the same thing they said about Bubba: “It was a fluke, a lucky win, a miracle.”

Whatever.

You and I know better.

You and I both know it was the result of a lot of work, and the result of a lot of preparation.

Not just anyone wins the Masters.

And not just anyone scores a big marketing win, a big sale, writes a best-selling book, or produces a viral video.

No.

Like Bubba, those big wins are the result of years of hard work, years of trial and error, anything but an “overnight success.”

Not just anyone wins the Masters. Even Bubba in 2012. He executed a lot of hard work over DECADES to be in a position to win in 2012.

But that still didn’t quiet the critics.

It wasn’t until this afternoon that people realized he was for real. That 2012 was NO fluke. That this gentleman was the real article.

Three thoughts here:

1. If you are counting on some miracle win to save your day, you are in for a big disappointment. If you think some lucky win will befall you, you are toast.

2. And yeah, to achieve something big, you have to put in the hard work, the labor, the blood, sweat and tears. There is NO getting around that.

3. Finally, if some competitor is saying you got lucky with that recent big deal that just closed, well…

…you know better.

But, despite that, you had better keep working…

…someone is always working harder than you.

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Join the list to keep winning like Bubba!

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