Sunday, January 5, 2020

On Target Selling: Using a Scope to See Your Target. Successful Selling Through the Lens of Project Manager.

In On Target Selling a salesperson not only sells by hitting bullseye most of the time and in the other quadrants (knowledge, skill, relationships and process) when needed, but they can also hone in on their target with sniper like accuracy and continually track it (the opportunity) because they can also view it through their scope. One of these scopes has the lens of a Project Manager.

Selling like a Project Manager has the sales person focused on the keys to project management during the sales process. This can improve the likelihood of a closing the deal and better yet a successful outcome. A sales person who knows the project is bound by the “Iron Triangle” otherwise known as the project constraints of time, scope and cost has the first major component of selling like a project manager down. Knowing the concept of the Iron Triangle is key not only to project management, but to consultative sales. The Iron Triangle shows us that time, scope and cost are all so closely related and that they impact each other greatly. The triangle shows us that if you change any one side, the entire shape changes. As is with a project, if you change one of these characteristics the others much change. Fr example, if you change the scope, the project will either take longer or it will cost more (because of added resources). Once the sales person knows this, they can help to clearly define these early in the process and lock them in early. If that is the case, they are acting in a role that better serves the customer.

Additionally, one of the first steps in Project Management is to gather all the stakeholders. In the case of selling like a project manager, the same holds true. A salesperson should include all of the needs of all of the customers, including the typical users. As salespeople we sometimes end up selling to the IT influencer and the people of power (C-Level check writers). As long as they can develop a scope of work with us, we can deliver a system, and everyone appears to be happy. Project Managers tend to spend a little more time in the Initiating Phase, gathering ALL of the stakeholders and getting the Voice of the Customer (VoC). When Selling Like a Project Manager your focus should be getting all the stakeholders together including the system’s typical users.

Lastly, an On Target Selling Expert will make sure they keep Quality, Risk and Customer Satisfaction in their sector buy using all of their available Resources. So there you have it, all 7 project management constraints applied to selling: Time, Scope Cost as the Iron Triangle and within it are Quality, Resources, Risk and Customer Satisfaction. Using the Project Manager’s lens in your sniper scope will help you sell better and allow you to focus on the best targets with the keen accuracy and incredible sales efficiency.

Your Sales Bank Account - Post Black Friday Assessment - How is Your Bank Account Looking?

Black Friday is when most retailer’s profits go from that red line to the black and start showing their annual profits. It all profits from here forward for them. So, now that we are past Black Friday, it might be a good time to take a look at your bank account and see if you are in the black too. But the Bank account I am talking about is your relationship bank account. This account does have debits and credits just the one at your financial institution, but these debits and credits come in the form of the way you contribute to or burden the people you interact with in your daily lives. Do you help to make other people’s day better or do you make their day a little harder? Credit or debit?

I used to use this metaphor with my kids. I would explain to them that they have an emotional bank account with other people.  Further explaining that when you sarcastically insult a person (even jokingly) you are making a withdrawal from your emotional bank account with them and if you haven’t made enough deposits (compliments and other ways of building them up) then you are risking becoming overdrawn. Take it a step further and you could even take it to the point of bankruptcy or being cut-off. Thus, the importance of deposits (credits) in your accounts.

So how does this apply to sales?

1.      Doing (and accepting) favors – these are easy credits and are double good. Not only can you build up your relationship account balance, but you can also establish credibility in subject matter expertise or as a trusted advisor. Just as important is allowing other to do favors for you. “Give the gift of giving,” This is a tough thing to do for some people, but allowing people to do favors for you is also a credit in some ways. You are allowing them to contribute to you and that is fulfilling to a lot of people. If you are in need of something and you don’t let your peers help, they can actually debit your relationship account for that.

2.      Empathy – knowing when to be in “sales mode” and when to be a partner and work on the relationship. As sales people, we all have quotas and we don’t have a relationship quota. We need to close. We need to ask for the business. But, you can gain relationship credits when you know when to ask for the business and when not to. I recently visited a customer who was talking to me about the last 3 jobs they lost to their competitor. Had I jumped into a mode where I stated asking where can I get my next sales from them, they would have debited my relationship account with the fact that I wasn’t in tune with the clues that they were struggling to give me business and maybe even needed my help finding some for themselves. I could have even gained a deposit (credit) had I asked where I could plug into their business and assist, as a partner, in helping them to win over this competitor of theirs.

3.      Making long term investments – just like in finances, the relationship investments you make should be long term ones. This takes aligning of goals and beliefs. It also takes a period of getting to know each other and above all else – LISTENING. If your partner knows you are listening and understanding their needs, you are making regular deposits day in and day out. Sure, it is okay to diversify your investments and have some short term, high risk ones, but that needs to be part of your strategy and not by accident. You very much need to have a healthy amount of long term stable relationships and that takes investing.

Using these and similar bank account building techniques, you will have strong relationships. In fact, you will be rich. The natural result will be increased sales and who knows you may end up being rich in other ways too.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Basic Rifle Marksmanship Training and Sales

Disclaimer: This is not about guns or gun control - I am well aware of the sensitivity of this particular subject. The illustration I am using here is an analogy to help paint a picture and to help people better understand the concept. Haters gonna hate, and I really can’t help that. Please take the time to get past the shallowness of knee jerk reaction to the initial thoughts and emotion that come with your reaction to guns, gun control and similar subjects. This is NOT what this is about. This illustration could use darts, arrows, those little ping-pong balls with Velcro strips on them (and a felt target), and anything else that requires you to hit a target dead center (but that is not my point of reference - I went with what I knew – so try to let it go!)

Here goes: For those who have been in the military or have gone through formal weapon/arms training this will click immediately. For others the analogy will take a bit more, but I believe the connections will get there for sure. When I was in the army, one of the most basic sections of my basic training was basic rifle marksmanship (BRM). I have learned that there are some lessons in BRM that apply really well to sales that I am going to share here.

BRM starts with the four fundamentals; steady position, aiming, breath control, and trigger squeeze. How do these compare to what we do in sales? Good question, I am glad you asked that. First let’s talk about a key to BRM and a key to sales. A key to sales is that we need to be accurate and we need to have 100% perfect timing. Accuracy, meaning hit right where the customer has the most pains and timing should be when they have the available budget. There is a great and easy to remember model called BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timing) that illustrates this. Do they have the budget? Are you working with the person with the authority to make the purchase? Have you uncovered the compelling need or pains? And is your timing right (are they in a buying season/cycle)? This can help us with our BRM concept because BRM training is used to prepare soldiers for combat and accuracy and timing are of paramount importance there.

The fundamentals of BRM are steady position, aim, breath control, and trigger squeeze. To understand how I map the fundamentals of BRM to sales, it will help to understand one of the sales models that I have recently developed. It is important to say that I have never really developed a sales model per se. To me, sales models just seem to happen and then they are documented and optimized, then we repeat the best portions of them and combine a few until we have a catchy way of presenting it to others. I developed this one after observing and documenting some of AV’s best sales people and categorizing what makes them the best in their industry. I call this one On Target Selling. The concept is that there are four major characteristics that make up high performance sales people. They follow process, know stuff, relate and deliver results. The concept of the 4 quadrants is that if a sales person were to plot their skills in the quadrants, the goal would be to hit the bullseye. If you are not On Target, then your development path is to grow in the quadrants that will lead you closer to being On Target. See illustration for more details:

In the above illustration (the 4 quadrants of On Target Selling), I am showing the key characteristics of a high performance sales person. In this model, I first show (bottom left) that I believe a high performance sales person exhibits the characteristics of performance by achieving their target numbers and developing accounts for the long haul. They also follow process (top left) by using established pricing models and creatively implement programs to meet margin goals. High performers also have a high level of knowledge of their products, the market and solutions and systems (top right). Lastly (but not necessarily in order), high performers are great relationship builders, have great rapport and empathy (bottom right).

How do the fundamentals of BRM map to the quadrants in the On Target Selling model? Another great question. I am glad you asked. Let’s breakdown steady position, aiming, breath control, and trigger squeeze and how they fit into the On Target sales model:

Steady position is well worded for this because we are actually using it as the analogy for how we position ourselves in the market. Before you are ready to fire (pull the trigger in sales) you must make sure your pricing and programs match the customer’s needs. Are you selling to the right customer? I like to use three categories to make sure this is on track. Power, Preference, and Influence are these three categories. Have I covered all three of these categories? Then I likely have a steady position. If I have only covered power, then the possibility of someone of influence changing their mind (the IT guy coming in late and changing the spec) can lose me my deal. This would be showing I did not have a steady position.

Aiming gives us the example of being specific and focused. As a sales person, I have caught myself having finished a meeting with a feeling of great accomplishment. The meeting (in my mind) went really well. We had great rapport and the customer seemed to genuinely want to do business with me. After I returned to my office and started my trip report and got to the “subject” portion of the report I realized I may have made a great connection, but I neglected to use my knowledge of products and solutions to discuss the topics we needed to discuss (my products). At some point, it has to become about aiming the conversations and relationship towards to goal of selling or solutions.

Breath control the balance required to stay calm and not rush. This is a relationship and not all about the close. Take the time to breath and control the sale. No need to rush to close, but rather walk to solving problems and build towards the long term. But, if you wait too long even the customer gets antsy. Also, focus on the term breath control, not hold your breath. This is not stop everything and risk passing out. This is pace yourself and set a rhythm.

Trigger squeeze is the culmination of it all, but in BRM it is never one and done. It is about making sure you can fire again. Is the weapon well maintained? Did it jam? Did you squeeze the trigger and not pull or jerk it so as to be able to re-acquire your target and re-fire (make another proposal) if needed. It is squeeze not pull, so that you have a much better chance to not inadvertently change your aim (or for sales if you make your first proposal methodically and well detailed you will remain on target). You should also make your proposals (trigger squeeze) part of a flow and part of the rhythm of your sales process (breath control).

On target Selling, like BRM, requires practice. Moreover it is best done (like in the military or other places) with training, coaching and lots of feedback. In the case of BRM in the military, trainers are certified and they are assessed regularly. The bar is set very high for military marksmanship trainers. The major attributes of marksmanship trainers for the military are: knowledge, patience, understanding consideration, respect, and encouragement. These same attributes should be held by AV sales trainers. If you are looking for someone with these attributes to help get your team trained up as a team of expert marksman (making them a Sniper Sales Force) using the On Target Selling model and with 20 years of sales training expertise contact us today at or 775-MAX-AVIT.

Your #1 Competition - May Not Be Who You Think it is.

Let’s try something here, I will bet you get the answer to this question wrong: Who is your #1 competition?

Answer: ________________


Here is what I am thinking: Our industry is in for a big wake up call. Our industry is so busy looking for the competitor within that we do not see that we are about to have our butts handed to us by an outside force. WAKE UP! In my humble opinion, here is the real problem:___________ . When I said that, most people jumped right to I.T. and maybe their response to that was, “got it covered.”

WRONG AGAIN! - Electrical contractors? - WRONG! - Interior Design and business services and office management? -               NOPE, Not even close.

Okay, enough with the suspenseful game play. Your number one competition is most likely, “good enough.” We are constantly hearing “eh, good enough.” I see a poorly aligned and calibrated projector in a sports bar, so when I have the chance to talk to the owner and I ask him about it. I offer to make some adjustments and even point him in the direction of a Pro-AV solutions provider who can do it proper and give him a much higher quality install. His answer: “eh, it’s good enough.”  Think about it. How often do you encounter this phrase? When you are proposing a video conferencing solution with a proper PTZ camera and controls and the customer substitutes in the PC and Logitech desktop camera. When you explain the difference in depth of field and other features their answer is: “eh, it’s good enough.”

So how do we address: “eh, it’s good enough”? Here are my three (stories) strategies for addressing my #1 competition, “good enough”:

1. “I Am So Beautiful to Me, Can’t I See”

2. One of the Greatest Salesmen I’ve Known

3. The Puppy Dog and the Soda Machine

This week I will cover Strategy (Story) #1, next week I will get into Strategy 2 and then the following week Strategy 3. This week’s strategy story is “I Am So Beautiful to Me, Can’t I See” – This strategy is about the need for the customer knowing that you understand them. It is all about them, not you.

This story part of this goes back to when I was about 8 years old and my brother was about 10. At that age, we spend much of our waking hours on our bicycles. One summer day we were riding around in our cul-de-sac and just enjoying the day. My brother started singing. In his normal goofy, “hey, pay attention to me” way, he belted out, “I am so beautiful to me, can’t I see… I am everything I hoped for. I am everything I need. I am so beautiful.” Taking it up a few octaves, he hits the next line, “to me.” As we were riding, he wanted so badly to make sure the attention was on him that he was willing to take his silliness to the limit. It was about him, no matter what. To the point where he went hands-free and interlaced his fingers and put his interwoven downward facing hands under his chin, framing his face (as if showing the world his beauty). At that moment, THE CRASH. What is the point of this story? The customer will do whatever it takes to make it all about them. They will even look ridiculous, crash and burn or accept substandard solutions. All as long as the focus is on them, not you.

The late great Steven Covey wrote (in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People [Habit 5]) seek first to understand, then to be understood. A customer needs to be understood before they can really hear (or understand) anything you have to say. Sometimes, their “eh, it’s good enough”, is a defensive mechanism used because they really do not believe their motivating factors. What is that drives them. A quick way to understand them is to ask questions that get to these subjects. What is their role, what are their interests, values, expectation and requirements? This can be made in the Acronym RIVER (borrowed from the book Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service from Performance Research Associates). Or come up with your own acronym that covers the important things that drive your customer. Once you have done this, then you can walk them into developing a solution that makes better sense together. Help them become the hero according to their RIVER point. Then tie these into Strategy #2.

Strategy 2 (next week) - will be on the greatest sales person I have ever known – I will tell you about one of the characteristics of the late and very incredible Bill Sharer. This trait is about the difference between two scenarios. The first scenario is about telling a prospect what you have and them becoming a customer because they consider what you say. The second and better scenario is about teaching a valued colleague and them becoming a loyal partner for life because you added value and enriched them. Bill was a master at the latter and he mentored and coached me to be a sales person that adds this type of value to my customers rather than, just moving product. Come back and read the details on this strategy/story.  

Selling with Passion and Purpose

Did you know that a sales person who sells with a purpose (a mission or cause) out sells their competition 15:1 (source: Good to Great – Jim Collins)?

Selling with Passion and Purpose:

Why do I sell for Legrand | AV? Because it gives me the chance to give my partners access to over 2500 products, which equates to tens of thousands of SKUs in more than 7 different brands and lines. These are best in class quality and help to make highly innovative communication and collaboration solutions/systems and are supported and serviced by the industry’s leading teams. We significantly and positively contribute to our user’s everyday business endeavors, recreational lives and their domestic experiences. We have the pleasure of significantly impacting their ability to cure diseases, inspire learning and creativity, building wealth, ensuring justice, keeping the peace, solving complex problems, and increasing joy through simplifying and improving communication. Simply put, we transform spaces where people live, work and play. We build amazing experiences.

I don’t sell AV. I cure diseases, inspire learning and creativity, building wealth, ensuring justice, keeping the peace, solving complex problems, and increasing joy through simplifying and improving communication with the use of AV/IT technologies. When I assist an integrator with a design and product specification for a medical application I am curing diseases. When I quote some AV for an education bid I am inspiring learning and creativity. The sell is not the product, it is the experience that the end user has. And sometimes that end user is the student in the class room who struggles with math until they have it shown to them in a new collaborative and interactive way using interactive whiteboards and BYOD. The end user can be the child cancer patient at a Children’s Hospital and that child is looking at a big screen made to look like an aquarium. When that child sees Crush (the sea turtle from Finding Nemo) swimming up to the them and begins talking to them through the magic of AV and that child is the happiest they have been in a long time. If part of their healing process is their positive attitude, then I consider myself incredibly lucky to be “selling” the stuff that makes me part of that. So, what do I sell? I sell a positive impact on home, work and play environments. AND I do it with passion and purpose.

What do you sell?

Back to Basics – Looking Back to Leap Forward

Before I get to my point about looking back to leap forward, I’ll start with a referring to a recent press release that went out about a major personal career announcement for me, I have taken an awesome position with Middle Atlantic Products, Inc. as their Director of Training. This will allow me to focus solely on training and education and doing what is most important to me - serving others in their professional development path through training and education. This also allows me to fulfill the passion and purpose goals in my career path, where my position has true meaning and a high level of contribution to the organization I am a part of. Along with working for a company with the scope size that enables me to make considerable contributions in our industry through a much larger large group of people and diverse channel, this initiative also has visibility at the highest levels at Middle Atlantic and Legrand and therefore leave me feeling empowered and knowing that the impact I can make will drive me to thrive there. With this new opportunity and highly supportive team, I look forward to some great things for many years to come.

In the spirit of bringing in the New Year, this year I have decided that the best way to move forward is going to include taking a look back, way back. About 19 years ago I started training for AVIXA (what was then ICIA and then after that InfoComm). Long before that, I was a Training NCO in the Army. I tell you this to let you know that I have focused much of my professional career in training and have dedicated many years to the development of others. For 2018 and in the spirit of the relaunch of my career and going forward, I have decided to reignite that passion and to work toward that purpose. After all, what are we doing this for if we can’t be passionate about what we are doing and fully commit to the purpose of it all? I was recently reminded in a class in New York that training is where my true passion is and where I truly belong.

Looking back also means “Back to Basics” - I am thinking my approach (the looking back part) can be as basic as three key points: Education, Development and Improvement.

Education – The programs that I intend on developing will focus on the core knowledge needed to grow others in our industry. This will mean growing our internal team and our channel partners. I also will have an opportunity to get back into contributing to the industry as a whole through training for AVIXA. Whether it is product related, solution oriented or general technology understanding directed, the knowledge needed to grow will be key, and I am happy I get to play my role.

Development - Along with knowledge, the development of skill is equally as important. The ability to apply the knowledge or to synthesize the content is key, as well. These first two key points are simply knowing what to do and how to do it. This is where I will focus adding a lot of hands-on and working groups to the programs we develop.

Improvement – this part of the program requires the use of mentors and veteran industry experts to leverage experience. The statement “some things can’t be trained” is partially true. I intend on leveraging field experience. This experience is key, but the good news is that this experience can be shared and simulated through well designed and delivered training and education programs. This is the area I am most excited about. Our industry needs a formal mentoring program and the only way this can happen is as a grass roots effort. Middle Atlantic Products’ sales and business development team has a great mantra “Experts in Creating Experts”. What better place could I be, when the industry needs a mentoring program? So let’s get one going and engage AVIXA to grow this like wildfire.

Keep an eye on Middle Atlantic Products as we hit the industry with a focused and deliberate effort to grow our industry through training and development. As does whenever we look into the future, for me, this year and beyond holds great promise. I hope that all my friends, family and everyone in my professional network sees the promise the future holds that I see ahead of me and that they can join me in a big step forward (with a quick look back) with the Passion and Purpose for what they get to do and who they get to do it for!!!

Stop Feeding the Pig (THE DATA (CRM) PIG) and Enjoy Some Sales BBQ Instead

Speed, quality and complexity are paramount to sales (and just about every other service related business) success. One of the biggest challenges in sales has been on the operations side or with the sales process. For as long as I can remember, we have been looking for ways to improve it. We have been seeking the sales process magic bullet. I can tell you from my experience that many seem to think the magic bullet is the Customer Relations Management System (CRM).

While I agree that the CRM can be a great tool for the sales team to be more effective, I caution that the CRM is all to often the “PIG” in many organizations. The problem is that this “PIG” must be fed at all costs. This pig’s food is data. Executives and sales managers spend much of their time sending email after email telling everyone to feed the pig. Of course, their emails may read that all sales people need to update their sales data (projects and forecasts) in the CRM, but the message is the same: “feed the data pig.” Why do I refer to this as a “Data Pig”? Well, a Data Pig does nothing but consume data. It serves no other purpose. The data is only consumed. Once the data is in the Data Pig it is useless to the sales person. The CRM (Data Pig) was not built with the sales model in mind and it does not provide tools, techniques to outputs that are useful to a salespersons process or needs. This Data Pig (CRM) only serves to provide management what they need to justify numbers (it is a show pig for the county fair). The only time this Data Pig will be useful to the salesperson is when it is put to slaughter. Do your team a favor and see if your CRM is a Data Pig and if it is, put it to slaughter. Enjoy the BBQ and get productive.

If your CRM is actually a tool and has the necessary elements to make your sales team more productive then they will not feel they are feeding the Data Pig, rather they will be using a system that is helping them complete their job more efficiently. The responsibility of the sales manager and sales executive is to provide the tools and techniques necessary to remove the junk from the salesperson’s way, so they can work most efficiently. The CRM system should make them MORE productive and not be a burden. To make it this way, you may have to relook your CRM.

One of the approaches I took was to apply Six Sigma process improvement and apply it to sales. Since sales is a process. Six Sigma is about improving speed, quality and complexity. Speed, quality and complexity are paramount to sales (and just about every other service related business) success and therefore the process of sales (and other service businesses) is an example one that is optimal for Six Sigma improvement.

As we look at what the Six Sigma DMAIC methods will bring us, I feel I need to first tell you what Six Sigma and Process Improvement are and are not. Refer to the table below to see what is and is not Six Sigma Process Improvement:

What I am trying to say is that a CRM system is not a substitute for good processes and process improvement and it is not a substitute for developing your sales force. If you are considering process improvement and deploying a CRM system or if you are re-examining your process and CRM deployment, you need to make sure that the processes and systems support the sales team and not the other way around. I remember working for a VERY large company and one of the people I respect in this industry said, “If a sales person wants to submit a PO on a bar napkin then we need to have a system that supports that.” At that time, I was a gung-ho analytical IT type that was a stickler for the process and the CRM system. I learned then that the needs of the sales force far outweigh the needs of us sales support people (if you are not in sales, then you support sales).  The first and most important aspect of a CRM, reporting and data mining system, is that it supports the needs of the sales team. I have seen too many times where a CRM system is implemented so that upper management had “visibility” and middle management has “accountability.” If your system’s goals are visibility and accountability it just might be missing the most important aspect – usability.  So, fix it and enjoy the ribs, pork chops, and bacon while you are at it.