A great read for anyone involved in sales, though particularly for those in a B2B (business-to-business) environment.
Konrath’s description of the new “frazzled” customer is very accurate, and her strategies for dealing with them are specific and actionable.
Essentially a step-by-step guide for those involved in sales that will be helpful for those just starting out and those with lots of sales experience alike.
Part 1 - SNAP Decisions
In the new world, it’s no longer a numbers game. You need to focus on fewer, high-quality interactions.
You must personally bring value to every interaction you have.
Prospects make 3 decisions:
To meet with you.
If making a change will be worth the disruption.
Selecting the best option for their company.
Simple: make the process easy.
iNvaluable: bring value personally.
Aligned: stay relevant to your client at all times.
Priority: client must want your services urgently.
What Sales Really Is: Sales is an outcome, not a goal.
2 - How Frazzled Customers Think
What causes customers to keep you at a distance/brush you off/stick with status quo?
Complexity grinds them to a screeching halt.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it"
Making risky decisions is career-inhibiting.
Most options seem like near-clones.
They suffer no fools.
3 - Inside the SNAP Factors
With all this swirling in their minds, here’s what they’re asking themselves about you or what you have to offer them:
How simple is it? Will it take lots of time and effort?
Does this person/company provide value?
Is this aligned with what we’re trying to accomplish?
How big a priority is it? What’s the urgency?
4 - SNAP Rules: Simple + iNvaluable + Aligned + Priority
When you do figure out how to deal with frazzled customers, everything changes. They want to work with you. Sales cycles speed up. You have less competition. You’ll be enjoying rich and rewarding collegial relationships, earning a good living, and making a difference — all at the same time. How do you turn this into a reality? Just follow the SNAP Rules.
Rule 1: Keep It Simple
Your goal is to ensure maximum simplicity in everything you do.
You’ll want to ask yourself and your colleagues:
How can we simplify our messaging? Presentations? Proposals? Conversations?
How can we make it easier for customers to understand the value they get from us?
How can we help customers navigate through the decision - making process, avoiding the bumps along the way?
When you keep it simple, you make it easier for customers to buy from you.
Rule 2: Be iNvaluable
Today’s crazy - busy customers want to work with sellers who “know their stuff” and bring them fresh ideas on a regular basis.
Think about how you can become more knowledgeable about:
What’s important to the decision makers you interact with on a regular basis ;
Business processes surrounding your offering ;
What other companies are doing to solve similar problems or achieve similar goals ; and
Your industry — market trends, upcoming challenges, what’s working and what’s not.
When you become invaluable, customers choose you over competitors, are less price conscious, and remain loyal.
Rule 3: Always Align
To ensure alignment, you need to be able to answer these questions:
How does my offering impact my customers ’ primary issues and objectives?
What criteria are important to them as they make their decision?
What do they value in their working relationships?
When you’re aligned with critical business objectives, customers want to work with you.
Rule 4: Raise Priorities
Questions you can ask to stay out of the dreaded D - Zone include:
What are your customer’s current priority projects?
How can you blend your offering’s value into their priorities?
What can you do to maintain momentum and increase the priority status? When you raise priorities, your sales process goes much faster and you get the business with less competition.
5 - What’s Going On Inside Your Customer’s Head
Playing Brain Games
Nothing, I repeat, nothing is more important than your customer knowledge.
Here are the steps you need to take to become effective at getting into your customers’ heads:
STEP 1: Identify the Key Decision Makers.
STEP 2: Complete a Buyer’s Matrix.
STEP 3: Create Customer Personas.
STEP 4: Use a Mind Meld.
The Buyer’s Matrix
Business Objectives and Metrics
Strategies and Initiatives
6 - Your Customer’s Decision-Making Process
The Three Decisions:
Allow access: move them from oblivious to curious.
Initiate change: move them from complacent to committed to a change.
Move them from being open to a wide variety of options to certain that you’re the right resource.
Part 2 - The First Decision
7 - First Decision Overview
Your primary competitor is any other use of your customers’ valuable time.
Frazzled customers don’t want to hear about your products or services. They will grant you access only if you pique their curiosity or provoke their thinking with relevant information such as:
How other companies address the same issues;
Business outcomes they’d like to achieve;
Information on industry and competitive trends;
Intelligence about their customers’ wants, needs, trends;
Updates on topics they’re interested in knowing more about; or
Insights into a vexing problem or new priority.
You’ll know a prospect has decided in your favor on the first decision when they say, “Sounds interesting. Let’s set up a time to talk/get together.”
8 - Getting in the Game
Get rid of overused buzzwords and clichés in your messaging.
9 - Aligned: Craft Winning Value Propositions
To gain access, you need to create a gap between your prospects’ status quo and what could be.
Value Proposition Generator
Value Proposition = Business Driver + Movement + Metrics
10 - Priorities: Capitalize on Trigger Events
While value propositions are the foundation of your sales initiatives, “trigger events” are the grand catalysts.
A trigger event is an occurrence that shifts an organization’s priorities. It could be internal or external to the organization.
Types of Trigger Events
Internal Trigger Events: These types of trigger events happen within an organization. Many you can read about in the business press or on your prospect’s Web site.
External Trigger Events: Here are some examples of trigger events that occur outside an organization but still have an immediate impact on the organization’s priorities:
Legislative changes: new laws, regulations
Changes in the competitive landscape
Changes with key customers
Use automated systems to get alerts of trigger events.
12 - Simple: Messages That Matter
To craft a message that can’t be ignored:
Close fo next step
13 - Passing the “Tell Me More” Test
What Customers Are Really Asking
What are you supposed to say when prospects want more information about your company, product, or service?
When you’re in the early stages of working with prospective customers, the answer to “Tell me more” is not a company overview.
They want to know how you achieved those business outcomes, and not in excruciating detail.
To pass the “Tell Me More” test, follow these guidelines:
Expand on the issue.
Share a success story.
Engage your prospect.
14 - iNvaluable: Become Irresistible Right Away
Be the Resource Center
When you initially go after an account, plan on approximately ten touches (via phone, e-mail, and direct mail) spread out over four to six weeks.
Every single communication needs to provide value.
Think about articles, white papers, e-books, case studies, tips booklets, videos, seminars, podcasts, or Webinars with titles such as:
How to Increase...
5 Strategies to...
New Trends Impacting...
How a Similar Firm Achieved...
7 Key Considerations in Selecting...
What the New Legislation Means for...
How to Overcome...
Part 3 - The Second Decision
15 - Second Decision Overview
These are your two primary competitors:
Mindshare. Your customer will constantly be pulled in other directions by everything else they’re expected to do.
In order to keep them engaged and move them to a point where it’s imperative to move away from the status quo, it’s important to:
Go for conceptual buy - in as the critical first step.
Ensure rock-solid alignment with their business goals and objectives.
Provide leadership and guidance to help their decision making.
Provoke their thinking and open them up to new possibilities.
Scope out the potential value of making a change.
Engage multiple people in the decision-making process early.
Uncover any or all obstacles to their making a change.
Continue offering valuable ideas, insights, and information.
Make it easy for your prospects to do business with you.
Working with a prospect at this stage of their decision-making process is all about change. Your product or service is virtually irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether your offering will help them achieve their objectives.
17 - Mind Over Chatter
Your initial meeting is the most important one you’ll ever have with your prospect.
You must prepare for these initial meetings.
Today you need to go beyond consultative selling.
You need to make assumptions based on your research and demonstrate your expertise.
18 - Meetings That SNAP, Crackle, and Pop
Your initial objective is to get them to understand what’s possible if they work with you and your company.
The principles at the core of enrollment may seem like sales heresy to traditionalists, but they’re really the foundation of all good selling.
Let go of the outcome. If you want something badly ( such as a next meeting ), people can smell it.
Focus on the possibilities.
It’s not about your product or service. It’s all about the difference it can make for them. Tie your idea into what’s happening in their company. Make sure they know this is all about them achieving their results — not you getting a sale.
Extend the invitation. Invite them to figure out how you can work together, what you need to explore next, and who else needs to get involved.
You must prepare for meetings, and you should send an agenda ahead of time.
19 - Aligned: Assessing Business Value
The easiest way to win more sales is to have a strong business case.
Your ability to ask good questions cannot be left to chance. It’s imperative to determine what you’ll ask prior to meeting with prospective customers.
20 - iNvaluable: Become the Expert They Can’t Live Without
Yet both had one thing in common: Even though they felt their offering was significantly different from that of their competitors, their prospects didn’t.
Remember, your prospects can get your products, software, or services anywhere, and probably for much cheaper. But they can’t buy your brain, your knowledge, or your expertise anyplace else.
21 - iNvaluable: Using Your Smarts to Create Change
Creating that $500 Customer Experience
First, kiss your PowerPoints goodbye.
But when you do these presentations, you’re boring. Incredibly and undeniably boring.
Instead, you need to replace your unprepared chatter and PowerPoint presentations with compelling conversations, designed by you.
22 - iNvaluable: Be an Everyday Value Creator
Remember that these frazzled people are looking for a smart, savvy business partner whose expertise they can trust.
“Wrap” questions with information that shows your knowledge or provides context to show your expertise.
Provocation is particularly important to use when your prospects currently don’t have money in their budget for your product or service. Whether you offer a contrarian perspective, fresh insights, new visions of the future, or missing information, it helps crazy-busy buyers see beyond the status quo to what is possible.
These strategies work best when you focus on targeted businesses who have similar objectives and/or challenges as your best customers.
23 - Simple: Cut the Complexity
The stronger your business case is, the more likely your prospects will move forward with a decision to change. The more you’ve allowed them to see “what’s possible,” the harder it is to turn back.
At this point, you must become a leader, guiding them through the complex decision-making process.
Slow things down, share your process and walk them through it, and detail the client’s responsibilities.
Address tough issues up front - funding, engagement and who won’t be happy with this initiative. Make sure to detach yourself from the desire to sell at this point.
Make Everything Easier
Some strategies to make things easier for frazzled customers:
Augment, Don’t Replace: it’s easier to add-on than replace something.
Think and Act Small: focus on how to get started and show quick results, and then build.
Root Out All Complexity
24 - Priorities: Maintain the Momentum
Provide solid educational content to address the issues they’re hung up on, but don’t overwhelm.
Parcel these communications one at a time.
So at some point — after eight to ten contacts — you may decide to let them off the hook. Send your prospects an e-mail stating that you thought they were interested, but perhaps you misjudged the situation, since you haven’t heard back from them in the last six weeks. Believe it or not, this strategy often gets a response and an explanation from a prospect who is feeling guilty about not reconnecting.
If that doesn’t work, reduce your contact frequency. Perhaps you can contact them on a quarterly basis.
25 - Success with the Second Decision
When you start hearing the word “we”, you’re in a good position.
At this point, stop selling. Shift to operating as if you’ve already started the project.
At the same time, be aware the decision could still be delayed. You still haven’t signed the contract.
Part 4 - The Third Decision
26 - Third Decision Overview
By now your prospects have committed to making a change. The status quo is no longer acceptable.
Here’s what these frazzled customers are thinking:
I’m not sure how to choose; there are so many options.
I need to be able to justify my choice to the powers that be.
I’m sticking my neck out; there’s a lot of risk in moving forward. I need to minimize it as best I can.
We’ll be living with the results of this decision for a long time, so it better be a good one.
Stand out from all your competitors (both internal and external) as offering the best possible option for their business issue or opportunity.
In a world of look-alike products and services, crazy-busy buyers would prefer to lump you all together in one category and use price to make their decision, rather than assessing which firm offers the best value.
Working with prospects at this stage of their decision making is all about choices and certainty. To win their business, they must determine that:
Your product, service, or solution is the best option for their business needs.
Money spent on your product, service, or solution is the best use of corporate funds.
Your company has the depth of expertise necessary to help them achieve their objectives without any glitches.
Working with your company is the least risky decision of all their options.
What they’re paying for your offering can easily be justified, and even if it costs more, it’s worth it.
27 - Selling to Hot Prospects
The Biggest Goof That Sellers Make
You need to slow things down, ask tough questions, uncovered the decision criteria, and found out about the competitors. Over and over again, sellers expound on their capabilities and benefits and provide detailed information, and do tons of extra work – anything the prospects want. While that puts you into the “nice” seller category, it doesn’t help your prospects make the best decision for their organization.
To be successful at this stage, you should go through these exercises with your typical customer’s decision-making process:
Create a Decision Map: Walk through the decision from their perspective, detailing every likely step in their journey to closure. Add in time frames. Identify the angst they feel.
Landscape the Competition: Identify primary competitors and do your research. Then start comparing yourself and how you’ll win.
28 - Simple: Make the Decision as Easy as Possible
Become your prospects’ guide.
This mostly involves asking lots of questions related to the decision-making process, understanding why they want to change, and areas they’re unsure about and could use guidance.
Make sure to address risks and concerns too, no matter how uncomfortable the discussion.
Understand how your prospects will be assessing competitors and to what extent they know how to make these kinds of decisions.
To help simplify decisions for prospects:
Make a Road Map: a logical and sequential approach to achieving the desired outcome.
Stress What Stays the Same
29 - Aligned: Balancing the Value-Risk Equation
It’s not just about ROI or payback.
You need to tell compelling stories that pull people into what’s possible.
Clarify the Business Value
Ask questions of your prospect to find out how they perceive value.
Ask them about the cost of status quo, and make them verbalize it.
Minimize the Risk
To reduce the perceived risk of doing business with you:
Leverage qualitative data - case studies, assessments, analyst reports, articles, etc.
Engage multiple stakeholders.
30 - iNvaluable: Be the One They Want to Work With
Drop the “sales” mentality, and work with prospects as if they’ve already hired you.
Focus on the prospect and their needs.
Make differentiation easier - help them make decisions.
Be truthful but give context - you want them to succeed, that’s why you’re talking.
31 - Priority: Getting the Business
If you haven’t done this already, this is a good time to for you to:
Arrange conversations with existing customers.
Showcase video testimonials of satisfied, similar customers.
Highlight complimentary analyst’s reports or articles.
Set up site visits to other users ’ facilities or your own corporate offices.
For presentations and proposals, make sure to apply the SNAP rules. Avoid the long, boring PowerPoint presentation where you read bullet points.
32 - Success with the Third Decision
Unfortunately, not everyone can be a winner. Should you lose, be gracious. Thank your prospects for the opportunity and wish them all the best.
If you win, your first official job is to tell them that you appreciate their business.
Making it Happen
Pay attention to detail, constantly monitor progress, and check on satisfaction levels. Make sure your project comes in on time and within budget. Should any changes arise that could alter expectations, deal with them openly and honestly. Your customers don’t want any surprises.
Celebrate Your Customers’ Success
Make sure to identify metrics to track your customers’ success with the project, and share this monitoring with them.
Your first win in a company is, without a doubt, the hardest.
Part 5 – Wrapping it Up
33 Snap to It!
At the foundation of your sales efforts is a solid understanding of your prospects’ business, objectives, strategies, initiatives, and challenges.
Success is a Decision
Success was achieved one decision at a time. When you make that commitment, though, you’re setting yourself up for challenging times. You’ll make dozens of mistakes. You’ll sound like a babbling fool. Sometimes you’ll embarrass yourself beyond belief. And you’ll doubt that success is even possible.