For more than 10 years I led the sales force of the now, leading retail customer analytics company in the country. But when I started there, things were not the same as they are today. In my first attempt at B2B sales I thought it would be simple. I thought I would determine who I wanted to speak with, call them up, and have a conversation about our products and services. I thought I would then determine exactly what their need was, which product would solve that need and close the sale. I was so wrong on so many levels it is hard to know where to start.
The first problem that I encountered was that there were no territories for the sales people at our company. That’s right; there were no geographic territories, no vertical territories, no size territories, and no specifically defined customers. If an article came out in the newspapers, we had two or three different sales people start chasing the same customer. Someone would start chasing real estate, someone else would be working the CFO’s office, and someone else would work the office of the CEO. And, on top of that, none of the sales people would share within our own organization that they were chasing because they did not trust each other. It was the old Wild West come to life. While it made some of the sales people very aggressive, it also made us look unprofessional in front of a few clients.
As I began to see some of the faults of what we were doing, (even though we were growing at a 20% + pace), I knew that I would be able to successfully drive more business if I worked within a territory. So I defined a vertical territory for myself and started to concentrate on that vertical. I got buy-in from senior management and went to work.
By defining which companies I wanted to talk with I was able to learn much more about the industry. Some of the things I researched were:
• Who knew who and where did they come from
• Who were the natural competitors
• Who did the company wake up worry about every morning
• What were the key factors for the success of the industry
• What made this vertical different from all other verticals
• How could our company help this vertical avoid pain
• What were the key points of pain
• How important was growth in the industry
• What was the Return on Incremental Revenue
• What was the cost of build out for a typical unit
• What was the impact of additional competitors in the market place? Was it positive or negative?
I then went back in the archives of our business. I looked to see in this particular vertical if we did a better job in landing the biggest clients, mid-size clients, or small clients? I wanted to know what our sweet spot was. I thought that we might as well fish where the fish had been biting before. The search began to narrow.
So I knew the size and type of company that I would chase. My next step was to put together a list of every company that had the first two characteristics. I was looking to see if there were any geographic clusters that would make sense. If we could set appointments with more than one company in a market, we could significantly lower our cost of appointments. And, surprisingly, companies of the same industry tend to cluster together. Central Florida has more casual dining restaurants headquartered there than any other part of the country. Portland, Oregon has more athletic shoe companies than anywhere else in the US. With all this new found knowledge, I was able to cold call with confidence. I had a plan. I found that it was much easier to make the second appointment in a city once I had the first appointment. People were willing to meet with us if they did not feel the obligation of the financial cost we incurred to visit with them.
Here is something else that I learned along the way; a lesson pushed on me by one of my colleagues. If I worked the phones with my business friends and followed the string I could sometimes find an introduction. Believe me, this was a painful path, because not only did I have to find the right friend, I had to convince them it was in their best interest to introduce me to their friend. But, when I could make that happen the way my colleague did, I would have a great appointment.
The idea of a personal introduction being the best way to get to a prospect is nothing new. My colleague that taught me the beauty of this works at it every day. He is constantly grooming his contact list. He is sending interesting articles to his business friends as well as notes for their birthdays etc. In short, he is probably working harder at his craft than the poor souls that are chained to the desk cold calling…and he is being rewarded with huge sales.
In the competitive world of B2B selling there is now an alternative way of getting that personal introduction. Axcelora is a one of a kind company. A company that has put together a group of professionals with strong Rolodexes that are willing to share them with the right company. These Partners with Axcelora have spent careers in the retail and restaurant worlds. They have access to decision makers and are willing to share that access with professional organizations that will help their friends succeed at their jobs.
This is the new world of selling into the retail and restaurant space. Access to the right people with the ability to present your product or idea with just one phone call. What could be better?
Contact Axcelora today. www.axcelora.com
On average your Sales Force is getting the job done for you. On average they are making budget (whatever that number is). On average they are exceeding last year’s sales. And on average they are driving enough business to keep you in business. So, if you are happy to live with “On Average” then there is no reason to keep reading because this piece only deals with people that are working to be Above Average.
Here are some facts:
• Sales people would rather sell than anything else. They put selling above planning, preparing, ground work, cold calling, paperwork, following up and even final delivery. A good sales person does all of those things, but the one thing they are most passionate about is selling. Don’t ever forget that.
• Sales people hate cold calling, especially good sales people. They cold call because they realize cold calling is a necessary evil. They would much rather warm call (call someone they know), wait for a prospect to call them, do paperwork, clean the trash, work a trade show (very close to cold calling but they get to go to exotic places and sit around and commiserate with their fellow sales people about cold calling and standing at trade shows) or clean up their Salesforce.com files than cold call. They simply hate cold calling. But, to get leads, they will do it until they are successful and relying on referrals - the sweetest sound a good sales person has ever heard.
So, is the average Sales Company average because they have their best sales people do something they dislike half their day? I think the answer is yes. That also leads me to the conclusion that they are average because they use too many unqualified sales people just to generate enough leads. When you don’t have qualified leads for your good sales staff to talk with, you demand that they actually talk to unqualified leads thinking it is a numbers game. This effort has you hiring junior sales people because they are a bit hungrier than your senior staff. This also requires either you, or one of your best sales people to train the new folks, go on a few appointments with them, shepherd the deal along if it gets close to closing.
Your Sales Force probably gets the job done you ask them to do, but not the job you either hired them for or they are passionate about. Remember - they love to sell, they want to sell and they are good at selling. .
Why do you have someone that can earn you several million dollars a year in revenue making cold calls? It costs you about $7,000 for every good appointment a sales person makes from a cold call (based on one appointment every week and a one in four close ratio) with a travel expense for each of those appointments. But that is only the hard cost. The bigger cost is the cost of morale. When your Sales Force has a bad meeting they blame it on the product, the Power point, anything except that they made an appointment with the wrong person. So how can they avoid a bad appointment in the future?
There is a new solution to this problem and that solution is Axcelora.
Like the show, Would you like to be a Millionaire, we suggest you Phone a Friend. You say you don’t have a friend at the right company that can make decisions? Axcelora does and we are happy to introduce your company to our friends; a proper introduction and appointment at that.
So what can Axcelora do for you?
• Set appointments with our business friends that are decision makers
• Eliminate your need to make useless cold calls
• Improve your close ratio because you are speaking to decision makers
• Eliminate the cost of unproductive sales people
• Make a happy, more productive Sales Force because they are doing what they love all of the time
• Increase sales
So, if your Sales Force are cold calling for leads, stop them right now and contact Axcelora.
Axcelora will help your Sales Force get the job done you hired them to do…SELL. www.axcelora.com
You have heard the old saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Well I would like to take another look at that saying. I think that “A free lunch is overpriced.”
I have been in the business world for more than 40 years, and if you could see me you can tell that I have had lunch approximately 10,920 times during my working career. During the first 3 years of my working life I ate lunch in the store almost exclusively so that takes us down to 9,620 lunches. So, let’s say that 5% of the time (a little less than 3 times per year for the following 37 years) someone bought me lunch. That would mean that, in my working career, I got a “free” lunch nearly 500 times. Let me give you a few more facts about me. I am not particularly good looking, I am very opinionated, and while I think I am funny all of the time, others might not agree with me. In short, I am not as much fun at lunch as say, Jerry Seinfeld. Heck, I am not as much fun as Jerry Jones.
If you think about this, the people taking me to lunch for free were not taking me for free after all. They were actually putting food in me for other reasons. As I think we can rule out a conspiracy with my cardiologist and the folks at Life Fitness to clog my arteries, then the only thing left is they wanted me to work for them. There was something in it for them and they figured that paying me with food was a less expensive and more expedient way than actually paying me. They looked at me and came to the quick conclusion that a Big Mac, Jumbo Jack, or What-A-Burger with fries was a small price to pay for them to get access to either me or my friends. Instead of “will work for food” they held up a sign that said “we want you to work for fries.” And you know what? I did it…sometimes.
They wanted to just “chat” about a location, a new technology, a new data source, better health care programs, faster communications, unique marketing ideas, or sponsorship of race cars. Heck, in today’s world, drug reps bring lunch to doctors offices nearly every day just so they can have access to the doctors and their staff. So for their free lunch they are pushing the latest new drug that will make you thinner, have more hair, breathe easier, eliminate pain, think more clearly, and all with just minor incontinences like headaches, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. What could be a better deal than that?
There are actually some real costs to a free lunch. One of the biggest costs is inertia. We all know what inertia is -the lack of energy to get something moving. Like if you have teenage children and YOU want THEM to clean their room and THEY want to sleep in on Saturday morning. They have inertia and you NEED something to motivate them. My dad would just tickle us until we got ourselves in gear. That was his catalyst to our inertia.
Nowadays when someone asks me to do something for them for a free lunch I tend to have inertia. That is, I mean to get to it, but other stuff seems to get in the way. Stuff like sleep, work, free lunch, grandkids, did I mention free lunch. So, while I sometimes get around to getting the free stuff done (just like I get around to my wife's list for me) I don’t ever do it with the same vigor that I do “work.” Work has always been important to me. If someone is going to pay me to do a job, I want to do a good enough job that they will pay me to do it the next time it needs to get done.
So, if this is all true, (and it is) why would someone expect me to be involved in their sales process where they can make tens of thousands of dollars for a “free” lunch? How can they expect me to give them access to one of my most valuable assets (my Rolodex or contact list -for those of you under 40) and not pay me for my time and effort? Either they don’t value my asset (they do or they would not ask to use it), they don’t value me (they do, they take me to lunch after all), or the custom is just wrong.
Taking me to lunch just got more expensive. In my household I am no longer the cheap date I used to be. I won’t settle for a burrito from Chipotle or Orange Chicken from Panda. I want to be driven to do a better job for my friends. If they want access to my Rolodex, I am happy to help them, but I want to be driven to do a good job for them. I want to be driven to learn enough about their business so I can get them an appointment with my friends. I want to make their success my first priority, to represent them instead of just delivering a favor.
And that is the reason that Axcelora was created. A process that is so stunningly simple there is no reason not to engage with Axcelora. Instead of asking one friend that might be able to help, you can now engage a company that has many Partners anxious to help you shorten the sales cycle by making introductions for you because they are not working for a free lunch. They are working for you and the success of your company.
We are a group of executives that wants to help you win your next business deal, but we won’t do it for a free lunch any more. We want to, and must be driven to get the job done. Engage with Axcelora and see the results you have been looking for.
For more information about Axcelora click here
Saw a picture of a two-legged stool on the internet the other day. Apparently it was designed to make us challenge the norm. And, incidentally, like the ball chairs, you can sit on it if you really concentrate. Just what everyone needs to do -- is focus on trying to sit while you are sitting. Isn’t that the opposite of the function of a chair? Isn’t it supposed to make it easier for you to focus on something else, like writing this essay?
Well, all that got me to thinking about why three-legged ideas work better than two-legged ideas. Let’s start with sports. Football teams are more successful if they work on all three phases of the game -- offense, defense, and special teams. If baseball teams only work on pitching and defense, they tend to not score enough runs to win (and the fans don’t come to the games). If, however, they also add offense to the game they become the '27 Yankees, The Big Red Machine, or the current day Giants (yes Red Sox fans, I know you have won as many World Series as the Giants, they just won last year). In politics I think we currently have the same issue. When the three political branches of government (House, Senate, President) work together (Post 9/11 for instance) we have a government that works smoothly. However, as we have seen for the past four years, when only two of the three political branches of government work together we have grid lock. So we can agree that three is better than two in many instances.
So that brings me to my thought of the day, building your net worth. If you are working on the two most common areas of building your net worth, saving and pay, you will do OK -- just like football teams will do OK with just offense and defense with their two-legged stools. However, if you want to maximize your net worth you will also look to monetize all of your assets. If you have a vacation house, wouldn’t you be better off if you could rent it during the time you and your family were not using it? Airbnb is leading the way in developing this impactful tool with room rental. Assets that are sitting idle are all of a sudden being put to use, being monetized. People are renting out their cars and personal tools. You don’t have to loan them to your neighbors with the hope of getting them back some day, you can actually list them for rental on line.
And, that is exactly what Axcelora (www.axcelora.com) is doing today in the B2B world. They are helping their members monetize the biggest assets they have… the relationships they have built throughout the business world over the course of a career. If renting out a room in your house (or your entire house) is now a multibillion dollar business, why shouldn’t leveraging your Rolodex be the same thing? If you can make the relationships you have built become the third leg of your stool, you have taken the next step to financial freedom.
So, the biggest challenge of a two-legged stool is to find the third leg. In today’s world people and companies are looking to maximize all of their assets to get a leg up. Are you?
For more information about Axcelora click here.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.