The Role of Email in Your Sales Cycle

 

OK, let’s start with this truth – there is no avoiding email.  In our electronic age, email is as real as gravity and despite the impact of text mail and instant messaging, in the sales cycle, email is still king.

There are about 124 billion emails sent each day and an executive can expect to get 150 – 250 every single day.  So, if you love email as part of your sales process, you might want to re-think about its overall impact. It’s just part of the communication map and it’s up to you where to place it in the journey of your sales activity.

 

 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Emails

 

When we started talking about communications and building relationships with million dollar sales professionals we heard about how they think about every form of communication they use, including email.  Their answers, behaviors, and perspectives about communicating formed Secret # 9 – SELL SMART. Here are some things that could help you, a link to a podcast we did on the subject, and some helpful statistics for you to take a peek at. 

 

 

AT THE BEGINNING 

Pinnacle sales performers know the value of the “beginning” of building a relationship.  They set the table when the sales process/relationship building starts. The key question is; tell me how you like to communicate? Let the client open the door for your sales communication strategy.  If the answer is email, a million dollar producer might ask; you must receive hundreds of emails a day, is there anything I can do to gain your attention?  Can I add something to the subject line?  Let the client help design the communication approach.

 

KNOW THE GOAL

In a well-laid plan, every piece has its place. Email fits that description. Email has its place. Think like a million dollar seller; what is the goal of this communication? What is the desired outcome?  Is it a “please do this” or an “ask” for something communique? Think of it as strong and weak actions.  Strong actions probably are best served in person or on the phone, but a weak push, like sending support material can be best served by an email.  Sales professionals THINK, they PLAN and choose the right communication tool to serve the object of the interaction.

 

THE ENERGY OF THE PLACE

A good sales process is about energy and momentum.  Each part of a sale process generates a form of force.  Force can change momentum. It can affect the magnitude and direction of the action.   Email can play a key role in the level of energy you find the relationship developing. Email is a great tool for touching base, checking on an action item or just following up during the sales cycle.  It’s low on the energy scale and can, at times, carry momentum, but it’s really hard for an email to generate momentum. So place your use of email in-line with the momentum of the sale’s progression. Here is a simple rule –  three unanswered emails, pick up the phone or get in the car.


 

The key is not to allow yourself to simply default to an email and consider it a full next step in procuring a sale. An email is simply a communication tool. Million dollar producers have a lot of tools in their toolbox and you won’t find them looking for the easy way through a sale!

Dealing with Objections and the Parade of “No’s”

 

Every great sales person knows this – there is space between cause and effect, between the starting of a sale and the closing of a sale. In essence, this is why it’s called a “sales process.” This is about getting to YES and that space between cause and effect is often separated by a parade of NO’S.

The idea of facing buyer objections is as integrated into any sale and is as common to the profession as the morning coffee. Great producers are all over the idea of NO.

 

Secret #14: Embrace the Dark Side

 

EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE is all about the attitude and behaviors surrounding this core aspect of the sales profession – objections and how top professionals embrace it.

Here is the interesting part, sales people know the types of objections they will face are well ahead of trying to make the sale. Most receive specific training around them.  It’s not a secret or some type of unexpected detour designed to throw you off your game. These are known elements in the sales process and great sales people focus on known elements.

 

The Big 3

 

  • Price: Every pro is ready for this. It’s the start of the classic haggle process. Great sales pros don’t fight their battles here. It’s a losing game. They shift the conversation to defining the objection around value. Here is what makes them million dollar producers; they are subtle about this shift. They LISTEN, before they move the conversation to value. When positioned with the right knowledge, value will win over price. 
  • Complacency:  This is the shoulder shrug. Great producers in the book could see this coming from a mile away. The potential buyer likes the way things are. This is about their current reality. Million dollar producers love using a buyers’ current reality. It allows them to paint a picture of a different future, a future where their product or service will create an impact. Establishing a current reality provides a shared starting point between buyer and seller. It is an opportunity to tell stories of other successes and gives them something REAL to build a sales story around.
  • Fear of Change:  This is a tightly held rope often connected to complacency. It is what the buyer’s shoulders have to bear, accountability for the purchase. It’s the responsibility for rocking the boat and the potential for blame. It’s fear of making the wrong choice. A pinnacle sales performer loves the fear of change. The buyer thinks of themselves as all alone, as an island of possible fault. A million dollar seller immediately creates the shared burden of the deal. Many sales people in the study called this their – “we are in this together” moment. This shared moment forms the foundation of what will become a relationship. The sales person becomes a partner!

 

 


 

If NO is the worst thing you can hear and it stops you in your sales tracks, remember that NO creates strategies for a million dollar sellers. It’s not a stop sign but an opportunity to prove their worth, create a relationship, and gather critical data that can be applied to future objections.

Secret # 14, EMBRACE THE DARK SIDE, is about the power that million dollar sellers have discovered in the leverage of NO.

 

Are you a true Professional?

It was a San Francisco elevator ride that started me thinking. I was hired to work with eight different sales teams for a client.  They were scattered around the country and the project was going to take a full three months to get done.  I was in the heart of research that would become my book, The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers.  Each office had three levels of salespeople (my nicknames):

 

  • Up and Comers:  They were young and were just starting to build a book of business.  They were Tier 3 with production numbers in the $250,000 to $400,000.  They were hungry and eager to learn, plus they were under pressure to make the next Tier.  There were also veteran sales folks comfortable in the amount of work and revenue at this level.
  • Solid as a Rock:  These Tier 2 producers were in the $500,000 to $750,000 range.  They were seasoned salespeople and the company hoped they were working hard to make Tier 3.
  • Pinnacle Performers:  These were the elite sales kings and queens.  They were million dollar plus producers and most often industry leaders.

I had the opportunity to work with all three tiers in eight different districts.

OK, back to the elevator.  I was working with a Tier 2 salesperson that so resembled Brad Pitt that I’m sure people asked him for autographs.  We were heading to the offices of an oil and gas executive that the salesman had met at a party. I asked him about his first-time interaction strategy.  He told me; “I work it out on the ride up.” WHAT? “I’ve done this a thousand times.” How many times have you met with this potential client? “First time.” WHAT?

 

What a True Professional Looks Like

 

There are dozens and dozens of definitions of professional and I’m pretty sure a 90 second level of preparation isn’t in any of them.

Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith are the original Broadway stars of the epic hit Wicked (my second favorite musical of all time, next to Les Mis).  Between 2003 and 2005 they did almost 1,000 performances and hundreds of rehearsals. Each performance had to be brilliant. Why? Despite the number of times they sang the same songs, recited the same lines, stood in the same correct spot they knew their jobs;

“ All we ever have is just the next performance.  We aren’t promised anything more. To us, EVERYONE in that audience is seeing Wicked for the first time.  We owe them spectacular.”

Professionals see the big picture and understand the potential of their impact.  They hold themselves personally accountable for their performance. They are constantly building themselves into something better.

That elevator ride pointed me in the prime direction of what is and is not professional. It was an interaction that helped me search for the patterns of pinnacle performers and define what separates and differentiates sales professionalism.   Maybe he was overconfident? Maybe he was on cruise control? Here’s what I immediately knew, Tier 3 was a million miles away!

Stan Lee and Me

When I was 10 years old I had a paper route and delivered the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Twice a month I would go door to door collecting the subscription fees from my customers. Many would provide a young business kid with a tip. I would pocket those coins and head down to a neighborhood grocery store, these have gone the way of the dinosaurs, but Whites Market was a big piece of where I lived. There, at the front of the store was a wire rack and in its slots were comic books. I would peruse the week’s offerings, make my selections, part with some hard earned coins, jump on my Schwinn Sting-Ray bike and head home to lose myself in story.

 

I saw a skinny kid, whose dream was to serve his country only to be turned down because he was so weak he could hardly carry a rifle. He was just a kid, who readily volunteered for an experimental program that would, if successful, get him into the Army. Successful it was and Captain America was born.\

 

 

I saw a brilliant and rich engineer who had a piece of shrapnel so close to his heart that the slightest movement could have ended his life. He invented a device that would keep that piece of metal at bay and Iron Man was born. I saw a nerdy teenager bitten by a radioactive spider gain untold power but struggle with how to use it until his dying Uncle gave him a now worldly famous sentence of advice – “With great power comes great responsibility.” From those words, Spiderman was born.

An arrogant surgeon with a god-like ego gets into a car accident and his hands are damaged beyond repair. He lost the only thing that gave his life value. While searching for a way to regain his steady hands he stumbles into a Tibetan monastery where he learns that magic is real and trains to become the Sorcerer Supreme. Dr. Strange is born.

Stan Lee the father of Marvel Comics just passed away and though there is always some controversy around who created what, Stan Lee has always been my pusher and provided my weekly comic fix. The sheer volume of the character mythology he was involved in creating boggles the imaginative mind. Just to give you a small feel, let’s isolate the impact on movies:

  • Stan Lee-related characters have appeared in approximately 44 different movies.
  • The adjusted global box office take on those movies is $33,067,097,585.00!

 

Comics are a unique form of literature. They are sequential visual art and provide a rich canvas for storytelling. They captured my imagination and taught me the application of what I would later learn was the narrative arc. This might explain the soft spot in my movie-going heart for superhero genre flicks.

One of my favorite comic writers is the great Warren Ellis who recently described comics:

Comics, at their best, have a purity of intent. There is no visual narrative form that has so few people between the creator and the audience. What you always get is what the creators wanted to say to you.”

I am a comic book fan and for over 50 years I have looked forward to Wednesdays, the traditional day of new comic book releases. Though my eyes have gone weak and I have to enjoy my comic reading via digital downloads, I remain a ten-year-old boy, every Wednesday.

Thanks, Stan. . . .    EXCELSIOR.

 

The ‘That’s OK’ Economy

 

I recently wrote about how companies can provide small, unexpected surprises, based on their normal business practices, to create ‘WOW!’ moments for their clients. Of course, the opposite is true at the other end of the client’s experience spectrum, when you ignore the impact of your daily interactions you can plunge your customers into head-shaking reactions.

 

 

Example

I was at a bakery to buy a loaf of sourdough bread (really good sourdough bread). I waited in a long line for about 15 minutes, an eternity in the right-now-reality of today. Part of the reason, of the three registers, only one was being manned despite the obvious backup of customers (the line was 12 deep). But, the bread was worth it. Even though I had to listen to the customers around me complain about the ridiculous wait, it was worth it. As my turn approached I asked for a loaf of sourdough, thickly sliced. She gave me a legitimate blank stare. I waited and then politely repeated my order. She turned to the racks of bread loaves and asked, “Which one is sourdough?”

Uh Oh! The one with the little beautifully calligraphic sign that said, you guessed it, sourdough. “Can I get it THICKLY sliced?” “Sure.” As she put the properly identified loaf into one of two slicers, I recognized that she put it in the thin slice machine. I said, “No, no, the thick slice machine.” She corrected me, “This IS the thick slice machine.” Though I don’t work for this purveyor of carbohydrates, I could tell by the width of the cutting template which machine was which, but too late to correct. The deed was done and I had a thinly sliced loaf of bread. Oh, by the way, it was the last loaf of sourdough. She apologized and I said, “That’s alright,” and went on my way.

 

 

Example

At the movies, I ordered a medium Diet Coke. That will be $4.11. I gave her a fiver and she counted out the change. She thanked me and said’ “I hope you enjoy the movie.” I stood there and she asked, “Would you like something else?” “No, but I would like my Diet Coke.” What? I gave you the money and you didn’t give me my Diet Coke, thus the transaction is incomplete. She looked at me blankly. We all, unfortunately, are getting used to that look. I politely waited for a reaction and receiving none, I repeated the order of events until she finally perceived that she had yet to complete the transaction. She passed over the drink and as I had a sip on the way to the theater discovered it was a regular coke. “That’s alright,” I figured.

 

 

 

What’s the Problem

We immediately retreat from our expectations into the realm of ‘that’s alright.’ Neither of these incidents was world-changing, but both were evidence of a lack of face to face attention. This spells a lack of training and it is the core reason for our commonplace low expectations. The basics are a big deal and the basics should be the basics. If it is client facing, it’s NOT basic, it’s fundamentally critical to your desired outcome. Front facing is the empirical identity of your brand.

Check out how you’re greeted by the front facing folks at Chick-Fil-A or the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award winning teams at Rudy’s BBQ (when you’re in Texas). They make you feel like family and they know their stuff because they are well trained.

We expect things to go wrong, for the service to breakdown, for the ‘that’s alright’ experience.

So, if you are looking for WOW moments, look no farther than how your phone is answered, how your receptionist greets someone entering your office, how well those that are your front line warriors represent YOU.  You know what’s important and you can stop the dipped shoulders of a customer saying, “THAT”S ALRIGHT!”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, AND A JOYOUS NEW YEAR!

 

Every December, Laura and I enter our time machine.  It has been stored for a year in the depths of our garage. Surprisingly, it’s contained in a series of plastic interlocking boxes, lighter than one would expect from such a piece of chronological technology.

There is a ceremony that pushes back the pages of our lives and for an evening allows us to journey backward through our years.

The tree is up, the lights are strung and slowly we begin a smile and tear-laced exercise in time travel.

Ornaments are pulled from their protected confines and the strategic placing upon the tree begins.  It is not a haphazard exercise but instead one of planning, reflection, and joy. With a gleam in our eyes and soft smiles on our face we begin.  

“Remember when Colin brought this home from school?”

 

 

“Here is Dylan’s with his sh__eating grin.  Just like his dad.”

 

 

“Oh, our first Christmas together.”  Could that date be right?

 

 

Out comes a silly snowman my dad had made in the 1960s and it still held together.

 

 

Memories flood our living room like the beams of a warm sunrise.

This season is always a special time in any year.  It reminds us of how we became who we are. It locks in the connection we have with family, those here and those who have moved on.   It also provides us a promise of something yet to come, something that should be filled with hope.

Andy tells his friend Red in the film; The Shawshank Redemption;

“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.”

The New Year gives us an opening for us to think about.  We all come with an expiration date and new chances and hope make us reach for the most we can in the time we have.

 

I hope the memories you build this year will find a special place in your time machine.

 

From all of us to all of you, 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND A JOYFUL AND HOPE FILLED NEW YEAR.

Put Your Focus on These 2 Things

Simple drives the universe.  It’s a fact. At the top of the periodic table (you remember that chart from high school chemistry that organizes all the elements we’ve discovered) are two simple elements.  In the first place holder is Hydrogen. It is the lightest of all the elements and has just one proton in its nucleus. Despite its humble structure, Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical substance in the universe, representing 75% of its mass.  Right next to Hydrogen is Helium with an atomic number of 2 (two protons in its nucleus) and it is the second most abundant element in the known universe at about 24%. Simple dominates the known material in the known universe.

 

The idea that simple can be a dominant player in everything from strategy to system and process development has been the foundational principle of Creative Ventures for over 32 years.  We build our platforms and models around a maximum number of three parts. For us, three marks the outside boundary of simple. This takes incrediblediscipline and focus. We also know that if it can be done in two parts, well, that’s exponentially better than three. And, if you’re somehow smart enough to find a way to do something in one step, CONGRATULATIONS, you have a light switch and everyone understands a light switch.

In the recent bestseller by author Lee Child, his hero, Jack Reacher, was in a fight.  A witness told Reacher; “You really were harsh with that guy.” To which Reacher responded; “I only hit him once.  That’s the minimum number of hits.” That’s the Hydrogen of fisticuffs. I love the simplicity of Jack Reachers worldview!

 

I was sitting in a client meeting where we were helping design the curriculum for a series of five regional sales meetings.  I was astounded at the amount of stuff they were trying to jam into a two-day meeting. Every second was accounted for and the volume of content had my head spinning.  It would be a challenge for anyone participating in the meeting to weed through the density of content to discover real learning value. What information, knowledge or skills could a sales professional grab to improve their performance?  That was one of the main goals of these meetings, to provide the kind of programming that would make their sales force better. I get it, you need to introduce the new software package and that the recent shifts in compliance issues need to be addressed.  I know that an update on how things are going is a good piece, but no one was thinking about THE BIG TWO.

 

Within the apparent infinite amount of stuff on the agenda, no one considered the ONLY TWO THINGS any sales professional can actually control, the two things directly in their sphere of influence.  They can’t impact product mix or development. They can’t impact corporate resource allocation. They can’t impact governmental regulations.  So the question is; what can they impact? What can help them get better? There are ONLY TWO THINGS:

 

  1. How good are you at what you do?  This is about skill sets. What skills can make you better?  What existing skills can you hone to a fine edge?  You want to get better, add new skills and improve your existing skills.
  2. How do you treat your customers/clients?  You are the delivery service for the client experience.  This aspect of what you do is probably your top player is distinguishing you from everyone else.  In a commoditized world, the client experience reigns supreme.

You cannot provide enough of these two fundamental sales elements at any meeting.  If the idea is that your attendees will leave the meeting BETTER than they were when they arrived, then give the right amount of focus to THE TWO.   Teach them great sales skills and provide them innovative, unique, value-driven ideas to create a client experience that creates WOW moments. Hit your sales professionals with a focus on what they CAN control and you will hit your goal. A strong learning experience that makes your sales force better.

The universe treats simple as a dominant force, so should you!

Start with the Purpose and the Rest Will Follow.

 

Let thy speech be better than silence.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus

 

He was a retired NBA superstar and took the stage to a huge round of applause.  It was exciting and I was jazzed. I love studying other speakers with the evil intent of stealing as much as possible.  I had my sketch pad ready and we were off to the races, or so I thought. In my notes, I wrote, what is he talking about?  What is the message? I had ten different ideas on what the purpose of the talk was, but even as he ended, I had no idea. It was a classic scatter-shooting, shotgun approach to content.  He had the public speaking chops, but the heart of the message was hidden in fluff. There was no real purpose to the presentation.

In 1974 we sent the first radio wave message into space.  It was called The Arecibo Interstellar Message. Its design and message were INTENTIONAL, PURPOSEFUL and SIMPLE – “we are here.”  Just in case anyone is looking, “we are here.” In a simple visual form it looked like this:

 

 

On November 4th of this year, a bunch of smart guys at MIT had a better idea.  If the core of the message is just “we are here” you should use lasers.  “If extraterrestrial life exists (see the Fermi Paradox – https://www.space.com/25325-fermi-paradox.html ) somewhere in our galaxy, we should use laser technology.  We can create a celestial front porch light.”

 

 

They knew what the purpose of the communication was.  They created their projects with a purpose at the core of their design.  The purpose of a message is at the heart of a great presentation.  What is the core message? Define it and embrace the message in a story and you have the fundamental beginnings of a well- crafted presentation.

Stage presentations, like stories, have a definable beginning, middle, and end, but without knowing the real and true message, the actual purpose of your actions, you may as well fire a shotgun and see where the pellets land.

Simple Things

Chaos is inherent in all compunded things. Strive on with diligence.

-Buddha

I opened one of the cupboards in my office and looked in with disbelief – it was a chaotic mess.  Impossible!  I had just cleaned all of these out, what, maybe a week ago.  OK, maybe a month ago.  How in the heck had they returned to their cluttered state?

I knew the answer.  We spend almost 80% of our client project time around the idea of simplicity.  I have spent 32 years committed to its strategic impact, so I knew exactly what happened  –   THE CREEP.

 


Keeping an Eye on the Creep

Simplicity is about a small sense of order, not a big one. The universe fights against big order, but you can get away with the success of small order.

 

 

Simplicity needs a rather constant level of attention.  If you pass off keeping the simplicity train on track, THE CREEP will step right in. THE CREEP loves and thrives on a lack of attention.  One of the favorite homes of THE CREEP is your garage.  You spend an entire weekend cleaning out all the junk that had a gravitational attraction to the garage.  You stand with hands on hips with a triumphant smile on your face.  You conquered the black hole of order.  A month later, with tears streaming down your face you cannot comprehend how the whole damn mess has returned.

THE CREEP is the creator of operational complexity.  It gives birth to bottlenecks and backward thinking that stops your forward momentum and leaves you asking, “How did this happen?”  Given an empty space, THE CREEP looks to fill it.

 


Simplicity Requires Attention

During a recent project where we were working with a client to simplify their client experience, this happened; he said, “Despite the success of our simplicity work, we just let it get away from us and started adding stuff until we were right back where we started.”  THE CREEP.

If you are genuinely committed to the benefit of a simple approach to anything, PAY ATTENTION.  It takes discipline to become simple and even more to stay simple.

Nothing, and I mean no strategic focus, can gain more impact than a commitment to simplicity and no strategy can collapse faster than simplicity ignored.  We consistently default to our bias for more.  Come on, we can add another feature, another service, we have the capacity and I think our customers really want it.  BOOM, say hello to THE CREEP.

You hear people talk about simple all the time.  It’s EASY, just get rid of stuff.  What?  No, no, no, it’s not about reduction, it’s about THOUGHTFUL reduction and then subtle adjustments until the simplicity you’re searching for fits YOU, fits your culture, fits your company, and fits your clients’ needs. It’s about allowing simplicity to be your lighthouse, providing you direction on your course.

Let it slip and you’ll find yourself loosing another weekend to a garage full of stuff, courtesy of THE CREEP.

I’m a Delighted End User

While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things are extraordinary.

-Matt Bevin

 

Extraordinary customer experiences seem to elude us at every turn. I often wonder if it seems like too monumental a goal to reach for and perhaps that is why we settle so often for mediocrity or words like fine, ok, good, alright, and the like. If you think wowing your end user, client or prospect requires extraordinary effort I’m here to tell you it often doesn’t. Here are three great examples of what I mean.

 

First…

I was sitting in my plane getting ready for the flight from Portland to Austin when I took out my headphone case and realized; DAMN, I left my headphones in the hotel room. I was charging them and they’re black, the nightstand was black and the combination equaled invisible to my standard last minute “do I have everything” room inspection.

I had a backup pair, but I loved those wireless earbuds. I chalked them up to another absent-minded loss. When I landed and turned on my phone, the hotel manager had sent me a text:

 

Mr. Harvill, we found your headphones and have put them in the mail to your Austin address.

 

HUH? WHAT? You’re kidding. I immediately looked up the hotel phone number, called the manager and said, “THANKS!”

 

Next…

I was getting off a flight in Charlotte where I had a two-hour layover before my next flight. As I got off the plane there was an airline representative who asked, “Where are you headed?” I said, “Myrtle Beach in a couple of hours.” She told me the plane at the very next gate was headed to Myrtle Beach in 15 minutes and there were seats available. “Want to head out early?” HUH? WHAT?

 

Then this happened…

I don’t do any banking. My wife handles all the personal stuff and the Dallas team does all the business stuff, but I was in need of 500 pennies. Yeah, 500 penny’s (a common tool we use in our workshops). So, I walked into our local branch and was greeted with a big, “Hi, we’ve got fresh coffee and just baked cookies, want some?” Uh, YEAH! Then I thought, HUH? WHAT?

Every day our meters are set at normal.  Our expectations are for minimum effort and when even the smallest thing shatters our daily hamster-wheel-existence we are stopped in our tracks. We respond with our eyebrows raised in incredulity. What the heck, a twinkle of kindness, an extra step of effort, a simple moment changes things.

The three instances I shared made me write this.

Those minutes are measured in seconds of impact.

It doesn’t take much. The space between ordinary and extraordinary is smaller than you think. It just takes a moment, one available to everyone. It’s what separates and differentiates companies and organizations. It’s about training, accountability, and focus. I mean, how expensive is a smile?