My experiments with Sales

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It is one of the most error-prone stages in a sales process, and many sales reps find it difficult to get this right. This is mostly due to the fact that majority of the work put into the design of a Pitch happens right in the middle of all the account-planning action. Now, one can't take that factor out of consideration, but one can make things easier by suggesting the way a sales rep should attempt designing of a sales pitch for his/her client.

For everyone who have been selling for sometime now, you may be aware of the build-up to this "event". You have already figured out the people involved in the buying process (or the decision matrix), the buying pattern and behavior, the key-priorities or pain-points, the triggers for buying, etc through the first stages of your sales prospecting process.

I have used the following model for building up a sales pitch and it has worked for any deal size and domain, and I believe this can be used by all sales reps to have the best pitch ready for their clients.

The idea is to check for the following parameters in the pitch while designing it, and ensuring that these parameters are maintained as an important part of the design.

I call it the UMAP model. Which stands for:
U - ease of Understanding
M - Measurable with the right metrics
A - Actionable with the right triggers
P - Promise of the solution as the central theme

Lets understand each of them in detail:

Ease of Understanding-Many sales pitches are not taken forward because of either non-clarity of what the solution actually does, or over-usage of technical details that doesn't resonate well with the knowledge levels at the client side. Buying process, as we already know, has an amount of emotional bit attached to it, and while the client-side-representatives would want to think they made a "better" decision and be emotionally happy for the same, they will throw out anything that they fail to understand - labeling it as non-conforming to their knowledge. With the kind of emotional inconsistency that they may have during the sales pitching process, one can do better by not bringing in artificial bottlenecks into one's pitch. Lack of understanding or non-clarity forces people to behave according to their backup-styles and that's not good news for any sales closure.
Ensure that your pitch reflects the way your client consumes information and the usage of technical vocab is limited to the necessary items only. Clarification (in detail) is required for each action point/trigger that you feel they should consider while deciding on the deal. Don't "dumb down" the pitch document or the presentation. Just ensure that it can be understood in totality by the client-representatives. Put specific information in different sections, use visual representation whenever possible, and provide enough backup data for the important factors so that the client doesn't ever feel that there is an iota of risk involved in their decision.

Measurability is one of the biggest issues in the sales pitching process, and an error in this leads to discounting issues, wrong definitions and estimates of results, and therefore a very dis-satisfied client at the end of the cycle.
Most sales reps avoid this at their own peril. There is a general yet self-defeating idea that the faster one reaches the decision making point, the better it is. To reach to the decision, therefore, the client makes the most safer choice of arguing which solution is cheaper so that if it fails, then it wont hurt much. So to actually expedite the closing process, sales reps inadvertently end up complicating it.
Defining the right measurable factors of the project/solution is the best way to begin. It sets the right expectations, and defines value-additions, measurement-range, etc for the deal and the client can now be motivated to work on these factors rather than negative-price-function-factors (like discounting). A client who knows measurability also understands "why?" they are getting into this association and how results will be coming in or will contribute to the revenues directly. If a sales pitch clearly argues on the measurability and its important definitions, then other bottlenecks are taken care of, and future issues are avoided

A sales pitch should always have the focus to motivate the client towards an "action". The action could be in any form - a final meeting with the economic-decision-maker, a confirmation, submission for finance approval, etc. At all times, a sales rep should design the pitch to ensure that it doesn't waste much decision-making time of the client. For example - if I am aware that the client has a specific need of a component in the pitch to even refer it for final approval, I need to ensure that it is mentioned properly along with the larger plan.
Also, after kind of knowing the budget and their constraints, one cannot pitch something thats really beyond the affordability band of the client. I have seen sales reps practice this to try and close somewhere near the maximum budget that can be afforded by the client (and sometime this is done to get a higher pedestal during the discount negotiation stage - expecting that's going to happen anyways).
Wastage of time is one of the worst things that can happen to a deal and a client will want to avoid that at any cost. A lot many deals are lost because of lack of actionable and doable factors. Either Clients don't get the sense of "call to action" anywhere in the document or the presentation, or they find the whole thing undoable. Give the right triggers throughout a doc or ppt to the client through case studies, improvement graphs (again visual-repn), time-lines, etc that depict what can happen if they act "now". The opportunity cost of not acting needs to be really high and something that can never be ignored.

Promise of the solution as the central theme-
All through your sales pitch, you can't waver from the central theme - which is actually the "solution" itself. But the commitment of the vendor needs to be mentioned in every possible way throughout your pitch. That will enable the connect to the deal remain constant throughout the discussion of the pitch. There should again be proof that such solutions have helped related organizations in the industry and what were the learnings of your company (vendor) from such projects. This needs to reflect in the suggestions that will form a mainstay of the solutions pitched. No one wants to work with a vendor that hasn't learnt anything previous assignments and hasn't had the maturity to handle such assignments. The promise of the solution therefore, is an important part of the pitch.

UMAP model allows a sales rep to clear out any clutter in the pitch or the pitching process, and focus on those 4 important things that matter. These 4 factors will be appraised by the client-side too, and if they find any of these missing, then the resultant discussions wont go in favor of the sale rep.
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Imagine a sales meeting, wherein a client is aware of every information about your product, every sales technique you would use to get the order, every discount model, and every mind-game trick that you may have. Imagine, the client controlling your actions and making you feel that they can look straight through you.

Yes, that's where you might feel you are "naked" in-front of your client.

There are a lot of things that have contributed to the ways the buying process has changed in the last few decades, but the most important of them would be:

- Internet: and the relevancy of networking, discovery of info and content, online forums that now serve as reference points, etc has had a phenomenal impact on the way sales used to have an advantage in information asymmetry or the way sales techniques were used to close deals (all out in the open now). Add to this the availability of automated enterprise level software

- The lack of evolution in sales processes across the world - mostly in the sales-driven companies that mattered. The very behavior of such practices across these organizations led to an environment wherein people empowered themselves with every kind of info to negate the kind of negative-value sales-reps were adding to the deals/decision making process

The very power of knowledge/information along with the kind of networking strength with early adopters, gives today's clients the edge and the abilities to decide and always have an upper-hand in deal making situations.

So, for a sales rep, who used to thrive on supplying data pointers like - industry trends, competitor data, analysis of problems the client has/had, etc. now has to face a client who is already aware of all these things in totality. The age old sales techniques like - smooth talking, buttering up the conversation/client, consultative selling, coercive selling, discounting strategies to close deals, conversations to wrong-foot the client and close deals, etc are extinct. At most times, these techniqes are a reason behind sales reps losing deals and client. The whole concept about "up-selling" has also now gotten regulated and controlled by clients themselves.

So if you are a sales-rep and you are standing naked in-front of your client, would you be seen as an Old, flabby, non-athletic, paunchy person? or would it be better if you atleast have the body of an athlete that's young, maintained, muscular, toned, and could run the marathon?

If you already know the answer, then the following needs to be done:

- Forget the age old cliched sales techniques. In today's open-info world, you are a facilitator in the buying process at first, and then you can graduate into someone who needs to have strong and impeccable business sense to suggest the "quantum" of your product that needs to be used for a certain delta improvement in productivity/revenue at the client's end

- Reinvent yourself "every-day" (this is key) and understand business requirements of your clients in your domain. Read more about the analytics in business that could be a point of discussion during your meetings with your clients. I always like discussing a good topic with someone who knows what he/she is talking about, and then I would listen to additional inputs from the same person. So if you really want to "sell", then get yourself prepared for having those conversations

- Ditch every coercive technique you might have learnt, and every smooth talking ways you might have mastered. Those techniques might be useful while you bargain in your own domestic buying process, but they scare away clients who will see you as a repulsive being, who cannot be trusted and have no respect for their business or their team

- If you really want to run the marathon with your clients, then let them see that evidently throughout your Account-planning process. They need to know that if they run the marathon with you, you will be there throughout, and not run away right after the deal is inked. Some of the best sales-reps follow
-through with their clients throughout the process wherein the solutions are implemented (How many times have you not heard of clients complaining that the sales rep promised something and I am being given something else now?)

- Understand priorities and the importance of such priorities with the group of people you would be meeting at the clients end. Motivation and power factors, alongside other important issues at clients end need to be studied and then that should reflect in your conversations, presentations, etc. Challenges that they face in internalizing a deal or a decision is a strong factor for your closure. Don't you want to do something constantly to improve their chances internally for a closure?

- Stop being defensive about what you can do or cannot, since they are aware. At most time, your openness to discuss the parameters of improvement that can be implemented in the product you want them to buy can also help them see that you are strong enough to make those changes knowing very well that limitations are a part of every product at any stage

- Participate in all required/related forums, networks, etc wherein your clients might be present for information. It is always better to know their queries, worries, troubles, and opportunities and be respected as someone who has the required expertise to provide insights without being directly involved in the sales process. I already have many such examples in forums like - Quora, Focus, etc.

The idea of a naked salesman is haunting, and it can also have a humbling effect on anyone who feels that he/she has the charisma to sell anything under the sun. Those days are gone when you would use tricks and be termed as a sales magician. In today's world, wherein there are questions whether field-sales makes sense or not and if companies should invest in internal-sales teams, it is pertinent that we evolve the sales function into a much stronger and defined entity, rather than hold on to the already extinct philosophies that need to be put into coffins sometime soon.

The new age sales rep might actually not be naked. He/she is just not that "ordinary" sales rep anymore.
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As a part of the daily questions that I look into solving for sales, one of the things that I do most is to figure out relationships between non-linear variables/factors and if or how they affect the outcomes of the sales process.

So there could be combos like - "Digital Spend:Sale Amount closed", "Number of months:Response", "Discounting:Sales closure", etc.

The interesting part of running a covariance analysis is that the results throw open possibilities of whether these variables have positive/negative covariance, and how it matters to the sales process.
A lot has been written against the issues of "discounting" that plagues sales closures, and at most times is a question that sales reps would really want to avoid - rather than strategize and win the game.

In my previous post, I have written how a positive price function can be attained using the cue-utilization theory along with value proposition. That has connection to getting the premise right for defining your deliverable to the client. What matters most for a client - is whether he/she is making the right decision and whether the risk can be minimized in any particular way. At most times, we (the sales reps) forget that they (the clients) are emotional human beings trying to look good making an important decision for their company.

So why do many of our sales reps fear the "discounting" trap? Why are they almost always "never prepared?". Is there any proof that large discounts really make things easy for the sales rep to close the account?

As it seems from my analysis, discounting does have a negative co-variance with the number of meetings to close the sale.

The following table will give you an idea of the same:
DiscountsNo of sales meetings


Since there is a negative co-variance, the larger the percentage of discount, lesser should be the number of meetings to close the account. For the purpose of this analysis, I have kept the deal size out of consideration - trying to understand whether only a discount trigger would have any affect on the closures.

Every B-player will tell me - "I told you so", but that's the catch. When I shared this relationship between discounting and meetings, every A-player I spoke to told me that this has no real world validity, and that they personally don't believe that a discounting structure would reduce the number of meetings.

Every sales closure depends on how you do the following properly:

Most players will avoid the first 3 stages (U-D-M) and directly jump to the convincing part wherein they will speak all about how important their product is and how the product would solve all the client's problems, and how savings can be done etc etc. B-players would want to "convince" the clients through a discounting structure that will allow the sales rep to avoid a hard work of going through the grind of checking-off requirements and implementation of each stage thoroughly. Such discounting structure brings about the horrors of a sales process, like - negative perception of the product/service, low-confidence on the product/service, anchoring of a discounting figure for the coming years, wrong definitions on expectations and therefore a disgruntled client, etc.

As I have earlier explained about calculating the "Time" required to close an account, I had stressed upon the fact that a sales rep should understand the "objectives" of each stage and thereafter allocate the required time to finally calculate the total time required to close the account. The calculation also includes the number of people in the levels, number of hours in each meeting, and number of meeting (all budgeted).

Most sales reps today miss out on the understanding that account planning strength will allow for a better closure and therefore a better market share/revenue.

The idea is to now figure out whether there is a co-variance between "Discounting" and "Client satisfaction". I am sure here too, other factors like definitions of results and achievement of the same, servicing, etc have a larger role to play than discounting.

Then the question is - "Why do we break our heads on DISCOUNTING?"

Set the premise right in your sales-account-planning, and then improve chances of conversions through dialogues with your decision-martix along with utilizing cues to allow for a positive price function. Most probably, this will allow for a better client relationship and the resultant improvements on revenues for you each year.
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There exists two separate hypothesis explaining the "positive" or "negative" function of price on decision making (in a sales cycle). The first one is the obvious Value perspective theory, wherein the buyer is told about some sort of "value" being added to his organization or his process if he buys this product or service. The other is the Cue Utilization theory that states - a client will try to overcome the uncertainty and the lack of information (at his end) by selecting one or more "indicators/cues" as a "basis" for their assessment of the quality of the product.

Most of sales literature today focuses on the first theory (that of Value perspective) wherein we are supposed to establish the value of the service/product with the client so that price function remains positive and discount issues etc do not plague the deal.

In most cases (inside a buying process), the product evaluation is connected to the "involvement" of the very people buying the service/product.

The decision making process can be defined as -
fn(Cognitive thinking, Affective thinking), which basically leads us to understand the role of emotions in the buying process. For most humans, there needs to be some trigger in the buying system that makes them feel happy over a given choice.

Generally, the negative price function leads a buyer to believe that the given "price" and the resultant buy will be a "sacrifice" the buyer must make to obtain the product. This "sacrifice" is also linked to the status-quo that the buyer experiences throughout the buying process. For a Value perspective situation, the seller will be trying to establish something of high-value at a good price, but the factor of involvement by the buyer at that time and how he perceives the value will decide on the polarity of the price-function.

This is rampant across B2B deals wherein a complex decision making matrix is active at all points in time. There are people who do not see "value" in the same way the other person in the group does, and therefore it creates multiple-value points for the sales person to establish. In a common meeting, therefore, the final decision will be affected by the collective perception of "value" by all members at the clients end. The essential characteristic of involvement is related or proportional to the perceived
personal relevance of the "value" at that "time".

The Cue Utilization theory, on the other hand allows for a positive price function at all times, because the person (at an individual level) will be trying to tag a cue or indicator other than obvious value of the product, to overcome the uncertainty in the buying process. This gives the sales person an excellent opportunity to define these cues for these people. The cue could be related but not the actual solution that is being pitched. Also, there should be multiple cues arranged for each person in each stage of sales process.

Example - For a Business School, I might be trying to sell usage of a communication platform like over a period of 5-6 months, improving "reach", "brand perception", "multi-channel-attribution" etc. But the cues might be relevant and different at the same time. Certain things like "measurability", "introduction of new and effective medium", "integrated marketing system for the institution", "effects on placements", "high or low risk of use for this medium", "lesser losses in the system", etc can be of importance for the people in the decision-matrix that they may attach to the product or service as an Indicator to cast their vote for the buying process.

Therefore the idea is to always think through the cues that can be given to the buyers at all times to maintain the positive function of price. Since these cues will improve involvement and therefore emotional score to buy the product/service, it will therefore always improve the chances of sales closure at all times.

Such implementations of this theory can also help in dealing with discounting impulses, demand, goodwill for the product that they are going to buy, etc. To have a well thought out strategy for the same (value, Cues) will be pertinent with respect to account planning strategies.
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Today's organizations are striving towards operational efficiency and rationalization of their functions/processes by trying to redefine the parameters and usage of existing processes using new age technology (along with some algo).

While some of the functions have improved by such technological inputs and have been automated to a certain extent, there are a lot of other functions that cannot be fully automated, or need the kind of human-touch to keep exponentially improving their outputs.
Sales teams have seen such changes post SaaS models came into being, wherein most of the sales occured through carefully designed interfaces of online demos, marketing literature, trial period, online buys, etc.

Here was a system wherein if there was a defined set of requirements of a particular domain, then one could design something that would be used by the early adopters and then gain traction as word gets out. The biggest assumption was that power user themselves will ensure that the product gets more sales and no field sales team was required for this business. Trouble happens when cross-functional teams work on projects and such SaaS chosen by technological teams then fail to impress the "other" section about usability or interoperability. Since most of such issues are difficult to trace for automated systems, companies have witnessed abrupt shifts in usage of services, thus affecting business and top-lines. Why did so many companies choose to have a go-to-market strategy without even a small field sales team? Why was Customer-Acquisition-cost the only metric considered whereas there was an equally strong Customer-loss-cost - which was the reality at most times?

There is no debate that SaaS companies chose to define the field sales teams in the same old decadent views of how sales is done. I guess the reason behind this was also the fact that these companies were startups that didn't have a clue as to how they would be able to attract rock-star sales reps who would redesign go-to-market strategies and solve the sales complexities for them. I figure that with a potent field sales team, these SaaS startups could have sealed larger deals with corporations wherein a smaller user group were sold on their services, but the sales-complexity didn't allow for further
growth in getting more users from across functions to use the same service.

From B2B dilemma to a B2C problem -

When one buys Facebook Ads, and spends a good amount of $$, one doesn't approach a sales team but uses the interface to buy required inventory and have his campaign online within minutes.
This is the case with ecommerce sites, deals, etc. that have a tendency to practice something known as "Advertising Pulsing". This is a practice wherein a firm or an advertiser switches advertising ON and OFF at a high frequency. Many a times, such advertising pulsing is justified to be an equilibrium advertising practice wherein the advertiser wishes to advertise on the platform on a certain time and then goes off the platform expecting lesser returns of every additional advertising $$ spent.

There is a certain S-curve that is followed by some advertisers as a reference point for deciding when to actually switch ON and OFF their Ads on a platform. This is a curve wherein the first half of the curve is super-linear and then it proceeds to become liner ending with a sub-linear trend.
The question that advertisers ask themselves at most times is that at what value of their $$, the P(Sales response | Advertising) is super linear and how can that threshold effect be replicated over the total time period of advertising?

Hypothetically, advertisers believe that the Advertising effect "decays" over time and therefore "pulsing" is the most effective cost saving device. We are aware that the Advertising response is always a function of individual response and probably an aggregate response calculation for a specific kind of ad/domain. Most firms who believe that advertising effect decays, overlook the fact that to a large extent, advertising influences product demand - which is mostly the long term consequences of advertising and therefore the S-curve isn't the right representation of what is the optimal dynamic advertising strategy. The optimal strategy is actually derived from either the demand side of advertising or the supply side. At most times, advertisers go ahead with linear ROI calculations to judge the potency of an advertising medium and therefore take decisions on advertising strategy, but that is the most incomplete way to go ahead deciding on frequency and presence of advertising in a particular platform.

A more accurate depiction of advertising effort is probably done through the GRP, that captures the typical exposure of people to advertising in each market or each week, along with the intensity (frequency and reach) of advertising each week. But this is hardly used by our advertisers since the measurability definitions are set differently and most of those definitions are set on the premise of pulsing being the most effective strategy. Most of the Ads today provide such an option without asking any question. I am sure that automation of FB ads doesn't solve any of these, and therefore performances of brands using the platform at a given period of time begins to decline due to the strategies they use at their end. There ought to be a certain sales team at FB's end or probably FB can use newer definitions while launching a new Ad-format, to explain this concept with enough data - and to let these advertisers know that if the exposure to ads in a certain threshold period is improved and extended, then there will be improvements in profitability.

To change a premise for people's buying behavior, you will need to change the definitions of their objectives or results. So when I need to understand the success of my advertising in FB, I need to be given the correct understanding and guidance of how my advertising actually worked - in terms of GRP, goodwill, extended product demand, etc and shown a projected value of returns if I continue in a certain mode. It can no longer be only about clicks, or CTR or views, etc. and needs to be a system wherein better metrics are related to profitability over a period of time.

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Some of the best sales reps today are the ones who not only have the ability to solve larger problems in their sales processes, but also should acquire skills that can be defined by a function of "Business acumen" and the knowledge of client's business.

I am into helping my clients identify and implement effective communications strategies (online) and then measure+improve such campaigns with the best practices of marketing2.0.

One of troubles that I saw my sales reps face (in the initial days of selling), is that they used to jump into the cliched sales conversations of how if the client uses our products, they will be making a right call and then get good results etc. The focus was only on solution selling. It works for a certain deal size and a certain client type. But as clients improve and more complexities are added into the buying process (aided by more also-ran companies, services, etc), the need to do more than solution selling becomes important.

Since at most times, my clients use my services to address their marketing needs, I ought to understand how some of the best practices in marketing will help them achieve their objectives. Most A-players are worried about their clients business, else the kind of growth in the revenues-per-client will drop drastically.

I need to underline the following while designing the marketing-prospecting stage for them, along with the conversations that I will have with them:

1) The buyer has changed. The persona of the buyer can now be defined as Buyer2.0. I will need to include this fact at the core of all explanations for my client

2) Marketing2.0 includes the best of 360degree branding options. The client needs to understand these options, their characteristics, measurement metrics, and the time needed to be invested

3) Behind using each marketing channel, there is always a specific strategy in mind. Integration of all marketing channels is important and this will help the client to use the synergy of all activities and communications to get to desired objectives (including brand-connect)

4) Content mapping. This is an important part of my prospecting stage anyways, but it also has an important role to play in my client's communications stages. The client needs to understand how content mapping will help in creating a loop that will in-turn help in engagement with the final users

5) Multi-channel attribution and how the mechanism works. This will give my client the idea of how they should map the responses of online/offline communications and how to make sense of the 360degree structure that they are following. This will allow the client to measure and understand the importance of each of those options used in the campaign

It is no longer just enough to understand the product of the client, or the industry. Its pertinent that I am aware of the process end that the client will realize through my services. This kind of engagement goes beyond the normal definitions of sales, but has now become an integral part of the sales-reps work everyday.

New models of such engagement with the client need to be designed everyday by sales reps. This is like creating/curating content, and then sharing for better value. Imagine a sales team wherein every person does this creation/curation of content and then shares it with the team everyday, so that each of those solutions can be referred for designing better value for all our clients.
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There are two sides of the story of Sales Compensations - mostly of the ones that are linked to performances.

One side of the story revolves around "you". This is where you are responsible for setting individual targets (probably beyond the targets given to you by the company) to earn a certain commission or bonus. For a certain type of sales people who are driven by such impetus, its possible that they hit the targets pretty well (the ones defined by themselves). They consider this as Success. So what transpires post getting to the targets is a calculation of the amount of bonus and commissions that they are to get for their work.

The second part of the story has the "company" at its core. In this part, the complexities of human thinking and company culture mix together to create a rather difficult situation of growth inside the company - for all such salespeople who have performed well. Almost every company who are operating under the "pay-for-performance" mode and at times @100% commissions only salary structure - subscribe to "capping" the bonuses and commissions for their own sales people. So there is a Level 1 cap that is always in place for such a structure.

The Level 2 is defined by the salesperson's choice of target and probably the kind of money they want to make out of their sales revenues.

The problem arises when Level 2 grows beyond Level 1. This will happen when the salesperson starts making more in bonuses and commissions than some of the top-management folks (and definitely the HR, who controls the process and feels people are getting so much more money unnecessarily), and therefore people running the company start wondering "How much money is
actually good money to be paid to such sales reps?"

So the clash between Level 1 and Level 2 invariably brings the following:
1) Frustration for the sales rep
2) Disbelief amongst the work-force
3) Low sales output
4) Loss of good sales players
5) Overall fall in performance of the company

Managing expectations is difficult when you have performers who will go after the numbers set by you (since you really know Nuts about anything related to human potential to defeat numbers), and therefore such clashes are imminent threats to most of those organizations. Gone are the days of door-to-door typewriter selling where the sales-reps had to be good looking and talk-nice/polite and have amazing charm to sell products. Sales reps in today's world are people with high end cognitive skills and are supposed to be innovators in their own way (in terms of new processes, sales systems, models, etc). Building such a commission based system will defeat the purpose of good sales reps and then the inconsistency of companies to live upto the fact that some people will make a lot more money than the company estimated will open the pandora's box of worms and redefine the worth of a salesman.

Isn't this avoidable? and isn't it worth taking a shot at solving such problems at the outset for an amazing sales organization?
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1) How do you address the complex b2b buying process that can delay deals and hit your sales top-line? How would you design a sales process that will take care of such a complex system and produce conversions?

2) What are the different parameters you would use to identify the market opportunities (market share, revenues, conversions)?

3) What would be your content marketing strategy and how would you map that to the sales prospecting process for your sales-team?

4) What are the important success factors that you would want your sales reps to keep in mind when planning for a quarter? Why?

5) How would you ensure that you provide enough autonomy to your sales reps so that they can plan and implement their own processes with very less deviation from revenue-goals?

6) What would you suggest to your sales team to do for mastering the sales process every-day? How
would you ensure that such a system is scalable?

7) What according to you is the larger purpose for the sales team that should motivate them to go beyond normal performances and strive for brilliant results? How would you define such a purpose?

8) What are the important things that you will check for a sales rep while Hiring?

9) How would you improve on the critical success factors that will affect your top-line, and how will your sales team be involved in this process?
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These are the questions that you can help answer-

1. How much time should one take before making the second call (while cold calling)? Why?

2. How many touchpoints, ideally, are required to get the first meeting with the prospect? Why?

3. How many meetings are required for closing an account? Is there a difference in pattern when considering various types of clients? How many hours ideally needs to be spent behind each prospect and why?

4. What are the best opening lines for large accounts? What are the opening lines for new clients or those that don't value your offering?

5. What is the schedule of micro-closures that once should plan for in every meeting in the prospecting phase?

6. What are the pitfalls to avoid to not get anchored into price points/discounts? What are the common mistakes?

7. When does one get to understand that the deal is rotting? When should one keep an alarm for such things?

8. What are the steps for educating a non-digital client?

9. What is the ideal "Deal-Exit-time"? (i.e. when do you know that you ought to exit from all communications of this particular deal and it wont make any more sense trying to talk to them?)

10. What are the best followup mechanisms and content?

11. How do you dislodge people from their own status-quo and initiate their buying process?

12. How do you figure out decision makers (without playing around with people's egos)?

13. How do you figure out what to pitch to the client and how do you know if that's the best for the client? Is there a way to design this?
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These are not the 5 "only to do" things in sales, but these 5 points can actually help you solve some of the problems that act as sales-bottlenecks for many campaigns/clients

(1) Establishing the premise of 'Status quo"Most clients I have worked with and have successfully closed had one thing in common - they were worried about "maintaining status-quo and failing". It literally means that they didn't want to carry on doing the same kind of work every year to get to desired outcomes. I agree that it takes a lot of inward-thinking to understand that such a thing is necessary, but the good part is that this can also be counseled into their thought-process. One starts with explaining their current set of problems, maps these problems over the next year and then probably 3 years (with all things remaining the same, and others improving) and then predicts with a good amount of certainty on the Results expected. I have seen such a discussion scare the wits out of them.

(2) Providing the "escape"Like all emotionally tired souls who need an escape, these clients too need their own emotional 'blue-lagoon' that promises them real-time solutions to their set of worries. Now its very important that one defines these things for clients openly - Why are they supposed to be looking at certain business success factors? What is the extent of the solution that the client will have once they decide on choosing me? How will it all look when they finish the first cycle with my solution?
People buy emotionally and it doesn't change much once your standard set of deliverable and value-adds have been discussed and understood. The part of the brain that gets activated when the final moments of the decision is to be made, many of my clients have looked back upon the so called "experience" in the overall buying process/discussions process. The Limbic-system (or the cerebral cortex) fires up during these times allowing your actions (including the consultative sales part, the questions that made them think "Wow", etc) become important along with the set of deliverable.
Since you know this, the "escape" from their problems needs to be presented in an impressive and strong way so that it makes an impact. It's something that will take away most of the stress, risks, worries on new-age-tech, and a whole lot more so that decision is all yours.

(3) Reassure them about the "expertise"What's your image in-front of your client? Are you a sales-rep? Do you do things the same way that your most pathetic competition does when they sell? Do you remind them of the kind of (bad) experience they had with another guy who had something similar as a solution? Considering they will be emotional about all these, you can ruin your chances by not setting course on the "Expert" Mode.

You solve the problem by designing the first set of meetings and their objectives that will provide a game-changing experience for the client. You will probably have a longer Phase-1 of your sales cycle, but your Phase-2 (Closure) will happen quicker and without any pricing issues.

(4) Allow them to see the "passion" in your conversationsMost top quality sales guys care for their clients business. If you really do, then please note that this care and passion needs to come out in all conversations, emails, etc so that they know you are taking this seriously. Your knowledge about their business (for my clients, I need to know their application numbers, channels from where they got specific application numbers, improvements in their numbers YOY, new campuses, new programs, issues with regulatory bodies, etc) will allow them to understand that you are deeply involved in this process and you can be trusted with a plan you design for them.

Why else would anyone really bother to look at your plan?? You can't fake this passion (Sorry!) You will need to really worry to make that thing happen

(5) "Paradise" isn't cheap
Many of my clients have asked for abrupt discounts. At most times, such requests were mostly to figure out if I really trusted in what I was selling. Things like - " I get something like this cheaper from X and Y and Z" and I told them - "I don't price my products on someone else's incompetence in understanding value and business". It is not alien that what comes at a cheaper price is also bundled with other bad things, but people want to feel "emotionally" charged when they get something measurably good for their company. At most times, they are appreciated for that. So when the client doesn't understand anything of my product, the best thing he would do will be to get the best of something that he understands - money!

If you have REALLY done the hard work and taken them through the above pointers/stages, then the conversations are much better. Imagine walking into a laptop store with your mother and all she wants to do is to get a deal of 50% off on something you really have researched and know of. How would you feel? Whats the first thought in your mind? Knowledge and emotion is a heady mix that can give you the best advantage. Paradise isn't cheap for anyone.
Launched LEAP:Learn&Prepare with Friends - worlds first social & free test prep platform
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