This is interesting. It can be argued that there are only seven answers to every sales question (the most obvious two being “yes” and “no”), and bearing that in mind, have you got a strategy to deal with each one? This is obviously an important consideration in face to face sales, but it’s also worth bearing in mind with your website design. Your web pages accommodate the people who want to say “yes” to your proposal (or at least I hope they do) by giving them an easy response or buying mechanism. For the people who say “no”, you might investigate how they got there in the first place, and ensure you’re offering them an alternative. But what about the other five answers? Are you giving the appropriate information to these people too?
Ah, hang on. You’re wondering what the other five answers are. For that you’ll have to head over to S. Anthony Iannarino’s Sales Blog and read The Only Seven Responses to Any Question. Then have a think about the implications.
It’s amusing that one of the longest-lived rock bands ever is called Status Quo. Of course they’re still with us; it says so on the packet. But while the masters of the riff will eventually call it a day, the status quo will always be there as your biggest competitor in sales. Sure, some of your prospects will be new to the market, but the vast majority will be buying someone else’s product already, and the biggest unspoken barrier you need to overcome will be the fear of change. Doing things a different way is often perceived as risky, and who wants to take risks in times of uncertain job security?
So what can marketing do to help sales overcome a prospect’s fear of change? Instead of just talking about features and benefits, maybe we could concentrate more on why changing to our product represents a low risk. That would be helpful. Could we go further though, and start to demonstrate why the status quo is actually the riskier option? Prospects may fear change, but they also want to minimise risk. Perhaps your sales material should be placing greater emphasis on the potential downsides of not using your technology. The Quo will always be with us, after all.
Inspiration/Recommended Reading: The Status Quo: The Most Dangerous Threat to Your Deal on The Sales Blog
A really nice piece called Keep, Start, Stop on The Sales Blog is worth a read while we’re all in New Year’s Resolution mode. As with all these suggested exercises to do with making goals, it’s easy to nod and say: “That’s a good idea”, but much harder to actually do it. However, I reckon any of us who give it a try will have a really good document blu-tacked to our wall for the year.
I found myself nodding in agreement reading An Autopsy Has Never Brought the Body Back to Life (A Note to the Sales Manager) on The Sales Blog. I’m working with a number of clients helping them get better information out of resources such as Google Analytics, but in most cases, the exercise is driven by the need to produce retrospective reports for senior management, rather than to see what the data is predicting about the future.
There’s actually only a fine difference between the two. In the first scenario, producing a report to justify your activities, you’d look at the traffic from a banner advertising campaign and say: “Well, we spent £1000 on that and got 200 people visiting our website” and leave it there, for better or for worse. In the second scenario, where you’re looking to learn something, you’d ask if the traffic from the campaign was increasing or decreasing over the time it ran, whether spending twice as much got you double the traffic, and if there were any trends about banner advertising as a whole. If you’re going to the trouble of preparing a report on what happened, you must always take the next step and also ask why it happened. No great revelation there, but are you actually doing this?
A nice post on The Sales Blog called Respect, Not Fear might make you think about how you’ve come to view your competitors. I talk to so many companies where competitors are viewed with contempt and yet – simultaneously – seen as some sort of infallible sales and marketing machine which must be matched at all costs. The exhibition industry propped itself up for years on the back of this. Get one of a select few companies to take a stand, and all their competitors would flock to book stands too, on the basis that the one company which had signed up knew something they didn’t.
Many years ago, I asked a marketing manager why she seemed so concerned about matching all the initiatives taken by one particular competitor. I pointed out that I knew the marketing director there, and he’d never struck me as being, er, particularly go-ahead. To my surprise, she replied: “I know, I talk to him regularly at our trade association meetings. You’re being rather kind with that description, in my opinion.” So why did she track what he was up to so closely? Fear. Don’t get sucked into it.